Major players in 1483

Here are a few of the players that would play a leading role in the reigns of Edward V and Richard III. Below you’ll find:  

  1. Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby
  2. Woodvilles
  3. Hastings
  4. Margaret Beaufort
  5. Henry Tudor
  6. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham 
  7. John Morton, Bishop of Ely
  8. Henry Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland
  9. John Howard, Duke of Norfolk
  10. Francis Viscount Lovell
  11. John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln

The Stanleys

Thomas StanleyThe Stanleys came from Cheshire in the North West of England. William Stanley was a violent and nasty Master Forester in the early 14th Century, with sons, William and John Stanley. John liked violence too, and fought in the French wars in Aquitaine. Then in 1376 the brothers pushed their luck too far when they forced entry to Thurstaston Hall and murdered one Thomas Cloxton. Outlawed, things looked black for John Stanley. But with the French wars going on he was too good a man to be thrown away – so a captain hired him for the war in France, and in so doing held off the law. By 1405, John Stanley had made his fortune from the wars and from the Lancastrians, and had risen the heights as king of Mann.

Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby (1433-1504) and William Stanley (1435-1495) were the grandsons of John Stanley. Stanley CoAThomas Stanley was the eldest, and an outrageous and shameless trimmer and turncoat – such as at the battle of Blore Heath. I guess you get to acquire the expression in his portrait when negotiating your way through the Cousin’s War. And the Stanleys defended and enhanced their strength in Cheshire and Lancaster ruthlessly and against all-comers; and this essential strength made them essential for the success of Yorkist rule.

Thomas Stanley married Margaret Beaufort in 1472, after his first wife Eleanor Neville died. Stanley’s children by his first marriage included George Stanley, the Baron Strange (1460-1503). 

In 1483, Thomas Stanley was probably one of those on the council that worked to keep a balance between Gloucester and the Woodvilles. Certainly he was arrested by Richard on 13th June along with Hastings, Rotherham and Morton. But Richard either felt that Stanley was reconcilable, or that the threat of Baron Strange and the Stanley strength in the North West was too much to challenge; Stanley was quickly rehabilitated, confirmed as Steward of the Royal Household, and carried the Mace at Richard’s coronation. His loyalty would be critical to Richard’s success, and was tested in 1483 with Buckingham’s rebellion. For their support, both Thomas and William were well rewarded by Richard.

However; it is unclear whether and why Stanley really held back from supporting his wife Margaret Beaufort in the rebellion of 1483.It is possible he saw the rebellion collapsing, and would not have been keen to support Buckingham. Certainly he appeared to do little to stop Margaret from continuing to plot her son’s return in 1485; and distrust between him at Gloucester could hardly have been clearer in 1485 when Richard held his son, Baron Strange as a hostage. And when Henry Tudor invaded in 1485, there may well have been a pre-agreement for his support for Henry which was to prove so critical. 

The Woodvilles


Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492) has attracted far too much coverage and comment for me to cover her properly here. But in 1483 she had become associated with the pryle of family members, and the ‘scandal’ of her marriage to Edward IV refused to fade, despite her position as queen. In the early council meetings of 1483 she is either clearly a member (as in the first meeting after the death of Edward; but Buckingham and Gloucester object to her having a role. At a council meeting after her flight to sanctuary and after Gloucester was made Protector, she is referenced as present – but it was grimly remarked that she neither spoke nor was spoken to. Elizabeth was of course in a hideous position from sanctuary, trying to protect both her family and her young children – from Elizabeth aged 17 all the way down to Bridget who was just 3. But until the accession of Henry Tudor she remained an essential part of the potential futures; notably negotiating with Margaret Beaufort and Henry Tudor to marry Elizabeth to Henry and thus establish the legitimacy for a new dynasty. 

After the bloodletting of the Readeption, Anthony Woodville (1440-1483), then Lord Scales, became the 2nd Earl Rivers. Anthony was the brother of the Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Rivers was a renaissance man – famous jouster, but a man who wore a hair shirt, who went on pilgrimage and crusade. Despite the fury and dislike directed at the Woodvilles, this did not seem to attach itself to Anthony Woodville in quite the same way. Dominic Mancini wrote of him: 

‘Lord Rivers was always considered a kind, serious, and just man, and one tested by every vicissitude of life. Whatever his prosperity he had injured nobody, though benefitting many…’

None the less, Mancini may have been bigging Anthony up to make his death at Richard’s hands all the worse; and modern historians who reviewed the management of his personal affairs and estates uncovered a hard headed, practical businessman. Rivers never quite played the central role in Edward IV’s reign he might have; but in 1483 he had been Tutor to Edward’s son and heir, Edward, setting up his household at Ludlow. After 10 years that relationship between Rivers and the young king was a critical position of influence and power. His half brother, Richard Grey was with him in 1483

Elizabeth Woodville’s sons by her first marriage were Thomas Grey (1455-1501) and Richard Grey Thomas Grey(1457-1483). Thomas was made Marquess of Dorset, and to give him the lands to back up his new dignity, was given in marriage Cecily Bonville, heir to the Bonville and Harington lands in the North and South West. Dorset was in the centre of attention from 1483. His was the feud with William hastings over land, and over influence with Edward IV. On his death bed, Edward had begged them to be reconciled. But Dorset was full of pride at the power of his family at court, and could not imagine their downfall. At the fateful council meeting he declared that they, the Woodvilles, were quite important enough to make decisions without Richard of Gloucester.  

Edward Woodville (c.1454-1488) was Anthony’s brother and unlike him, but like Dorset, was active at court. He went with Edward to France in 1475, and fought in Scotland in 1482 with Gloucester, who promoted him to knight banneret. Like Dorset, Edward was the hated face of the Woodvilles-active at court, seen as a promoter of Edward IV’s vices that Gloucester so despised. 

Richard Woodville (1453-1491) seems to have been far quieter, a local dignitary in the South West; Lionel Woodville was the Bishop of Salisbury (1446-1484); he was in London when Edward IV died, and seems to have fled to Sanctuary with the Queen. 

As members of the king’s council, the Woodvilles were constantly resented as parvenus who had too much influence with the king, whether that was true in fact or not. Warranted or not, Dorset, Richard and Edward attracted great hatred and envy. Dominic Mancini again: 

‘The other three earned the hatred of the populace, on account of their morals, but mostly because of a certain inherent jealousy which arises between those who are of equal birth when there has been a change in their station. They were certainly detested by the nobles, because they, who were ignoble and newly made men, were advanced far beyond those who far excelled them in breeding and wisdom. They had to endure the imputation brought against them by all, of causing the death of the duke of Clarence.’ 

William Hastings

Hastings CoAWilliam Hastings (1430-1483) had been solidly close to Edward from the start. Infamously in pretty much everything – including his lovelife. Jane Shore seems to have been the object of both his and Edward IVth’s admiration. Dominic Mancini described his position: 

‘…Hastings was not only the author of the sovereign’s public policy, as being one that shared every peril with the king, but was also accomplice and partner of his privy pleasures. He maintained a deadly feud with the queen’s son, whom we said was called marquis, and that because of the mistresses whom they had abducted, or attempted to entice from one another. The suborned informers of each had threatened a capital charge against the other.’

 Hastings combined closeness to Edward with the good opinion of pretty much everyone. He was, in the words of Thomas More, an

‘honourable man, a good knight and a gentle … a loving man, and passing well beloved’.

Nonetheless, nice guy or not, as Chamberlain of England, Hastings had that most essential gift – access to the king. If you needed something through patronage or recommendation, you also needed Hastings to be well disposed towards you. King Louis of France gave him a pension of 2,000 crowns, Charles Duke of Burgundy gave him 1,000 ecus – because they knew the strength of Hastings’ influence over Edward.

In 1483, on Edward’s death, hastings main fear was probably of being swept aside from power and influence by the Queen and her relatives. Hastings was Captain of Calais, which gave him access to a standing army ; at he first council meeting, he was forced to threaten that he would run to calais to presumably do just that, unless the Queen moderated the young King’s entourage. Hastings needed Gloucester as a counter weight to the Woodvilles; and he wrote urgently to Gloucester, talking up the  Woodville threat to get Gloucester on his side. In all probability, Hastings  was loyal to the memory of Edward, and in his son, Edward V. 

If you want to know more, there’s another article on the History of England site here

Margaret Beaufort

Margaret BeaufortMargaret Beaufort (1443-1509) was a clever and tough political survivor. Over the next decade she effectively gained the trust of Edward, even while Edward was trying to hunt down and kill her son. Through the 1460’s she’d been protected by her husband, Stafford. At the Readeption of Henry VI, she’d taken her son to see the king, as a Lancastrian restored to influence. But with the return of Edward and then the death of Stafford in 1471 she needed a protector, and although she and Stafford had been close, she had no time to hang around feeling sorry for herself. The man she chose as her protector was Thomas Stanley. Stanley had connections and already had children and so was looking mainly for status, which Margaret brought. So they got hitched, and Margaret began to use his connections to work towards the goal that dominated her life –protecting the rights and life of her only son, Henry Tudor, and to restore him to his father’s patrimony as Earl of Richmond.

Just before Edward IV’s death she had brokered a deal whereby Henry Tudor would return to England as earl of Richmond. Before Richard’s coronation on 6th July 1483, she advanced the same suggestion to Richard – and he appeared open. But both Margaret and Richard were working both ends – Richard applying to Duke Francis of Brittany for the capture of Henry, and Margaret plotting rebellion. 

The rebellion of October 1483 is usually called Buckingham’s rebellion, since he was the only major magnate, and because of the extent of his treachery; but it should better be called Margaret’s rebellion. She encouraged and co-ordinated the rebellion of the disaffected southern lords. She brokered the arrangement with Elizabeth Woodville to have Henry marry Elizabeth’s eldest daughter, adding credibility to Henry’s claim by combining Tudor and York. Although she was supposedly under the lock and key of her apparently loyal husband, Thomas Stanley, after the failure of the rebellion, she appeared to have no difficulty planning and supporting Henry’s further return. 

Henry Tudor

Both Jasper Tudor (1431-1495) and Margaret Beaufort’s son Henry Tudor (1457-1509), heir to the earldom of Richmond, had fled to Brittany, to the tender mercies of Duke Francis. Henry VII v2The Duke knew a valuable political card when he saw one, as he fought to maintain Breton independence from France. So Jasper and Henry were held in comfortable captivity, moved around Brittany to avoid potential assassins, and Francis politiced with Edward and Louis, tempted to throw the Tudors to the wolves if the gain were big enough. Thus Henry Tudor spent his life under constant threat and fear. In 1483, Duke Francis decided to ignore Richard’s requests, and instead support Henry-but the rebellion failed. Henry was helped,though by two things.One was the concept of combing his claim with the line of York in the person of Elizabeth of York; and at Christmas he swore to marry Elizabeth, and the Woodvilles in exileswore  tosupport him as their king. The other was a changing political situation in France, which meant that in 1485 he was able to claim their support and protection. 

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham

Henry StaffordHenry Stafford (1455-1483) was the senior Stafford line. In 1458 his father died, and then his grandfather, great pillar of the Lancastrians, was killed at the hands of the Yorkists in 1460. Buckingham made his peace with the Yorkist regime, marrying Catherine Woodville, sister of the Queen. With income of £3,000 a year, Buckingham was as rich as any other magnate, and after the Readeption was for a while a close member of Edward’s household. 

Buckingham had a particularly fine heritage. He was descended from both John of Gaunt, and Thomas of Woodstock, the latter being the fifth son of Edward III. So he had royal blood, a claim to the throne if a suitable number of people popped their clogs. There’s a rather famous point in 1483 where Buckingham reportedly says that he’d forgotten his royal lineage until John Morton reminds him. Unlikely.

In 1483, Buckingham had some gripes. One was his claim on the Bohun inheritance. There had been two famous heiresses Mary and Eleanor. Mary Married Henry IV, and sister Eleanor had married Thomas of Woodstock, and her half of the lands had come down to Buckingham. So, when the Lancastrian line came to an end at Tewkesbury, Buckingham claimed the balance. This was a dispute never resolved -as far as edward was concerned, the land was irretrievably part of the royal lands. But the main problem was his distance from the power and influence that as a royal duke he would have expected. But in 1475 he appeared to fall out of favour with Edward IV, sent home early from France, and from then was excluded from real political power under Edward, despite a brief re-appearance as High Steward to oversee

Although Buckingham was married to a sister of queen Elizabeth, he had been married when he was but 10 years old, and when Catherine was 14; from there he’d spent his wardship in Elizabeth Woodville’s household. For some reason, Dominic Mancini reports that Buckingham was livid at having been made to marry a Woodville, such an appallingly lowborn person; so low born she’d not bought a dowry with her. This assertion is rather difficult to deal with; we have absolutely no other evidence to support the claim; he and Katherine have plenty of off spring, there’s no obvious sign of estrangement. There’s a titchy bit of support for the statement in the fact that Katherine wasn’t at the coronation of Richard in which Buckingham played such a leading role.

Nonetheless, Buckingham appears to have seen Gloucester as the main route back to the limelight in 1483, and to have been keen to  see the Woodvilles unseated from power and influence. 

In terms of his personal characteristics, it is of course hard to judge. But volatile might be one; the suspicion he flared up and stormed off in France and wasn’t forgiven. He appeared to find it difficult to hold on to loyalties and inspire confidence, but none the less appears to be a good and persuasive speaker. But these are just stabs in the dark – we can’t be sure. 

If you want to know more,there’s a very good article here

John Morton, Bishop of Ely

John MortonMorton had been a fierce adherent of the Lancastrian cause, returning with Margaret after Towton to Northumberland in 1463-3. But after the Readeption, Edward IV recognised his talent, and brought him into the administration. Along with Hastings and Rotherham, he was the driving force of Edward’s administration; as the chroniclers of the time described: 

‘Now these men being in age mature, and instructed by long experience of public affairs, helped more than other councillors to form the king’ policy, and besides carried it out’

 ‘…he was of great resource and daring, for he had been trained in party intrigue since King Henry’s [VI] time;and being taken into Edward’s favour after the annihilation of King Henry’s party, he enjoyed great influence’

Like Hastings Richard knew his loyalty would have been first to Edward V, which may be why Richard acted against him on June 13th.But his decision to allow Morton to be placed under the custody of Buckingham was to prove a mistake, as Morton fueled Buckingham’s fears and ambition in the 14483 rebellion. Morton fled to exile and the court of Henry Tudor; and was to be become one of Henry VII’s partners in tyranny. 

Morton is an interesting and impressive chap; I’ve done a longer article here

Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland (1449-1489)

The Percies had a chequered relationship with York; brought low by Edward IV with the death of the 3rd Earl and imprisonment of the 4th after Towton.  But Henry’s tacit support for Edward after the Readeption led Percy Lionto their rehabilitation and restoration by Edward. However, the situation during Edward’s second reign was complicated. Even Percy, with estates generating £3,200 plus offices of £800, were outgunned by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Gloucester’s estates were more attractive and slowly Percy began to lose some of his affinity to Gloucester; in 1474 the two were called in front of Edward, and the result was an indenture between them; Percy retained his sphere of influence but was forced to accept Gloucester’s supremacy. None the less Percy and Gloucester seemed to work together amicably. And this was borne out by Percy’s critical support for Gloucester in 1483; he raised troops to support Richard, and he would have hoped to regain his complete dominance in the north, and become the king’s lieutenant there when Gloucester became Richard III. 

In this though he was disappointed; Richard was not blind to the value of Percy’s support, and rewarded him with land grants, but Richard decided to retain direct control of his own lordship there. So Percy continued to lose a little ground amongst the regional networks and gentry. This was to prove critical; in 1485, Percy responded to Richard’s call to arms, but held back his contingent at the critical time. Percy demonstrated  the most important skill of the Wars of the Roses – who to back and when.  

John Howard, Duke of Norfolk (c.1425-1483) 

John HowardJohn Howard was one of the household knights of Edward IV who through service and loyalty to Edward gained in land, influence and power. His roles were typical of Edward’sinner household, a soldier and fighter, and administrator and diplomat. By the time of Edward’s death he had  used his position and marriage to build a substantial land holding, particularly in East Anglia. With the death of Anne Mowbray, the only heir of the Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk, he also had a claim to the Dukedom, though by act of parliament, Edward IV had set aside his claim in favour of his son Richard. In 1483, Gloucester recognised him as an influential and talented man to be won over to support his new reign; as Protector, he rewarded him with grants of land; and as king he set aside Edward’s provision, and created him Duke of Norfolk. In this case, Richard’s efforts were well rewarded; Howard became his loyal supporter, helping break Buckingham’s rebellion on 1483, and fighting at his side at Bosworth. This despite the message he received on the eve of the battle: 

Jack of Norfolke, be not to bolde
For Dykon thy maister is bought and solde

Francis Lovell, Lord Chamberlain

Francis Lovell came from a noble family that was part of the Neville affinity, holding lands in Yorkshire and Cheshire. After the Kingmaker died at Barnet, Lovell was given in ward to John de la Pole, assuming his majority in 1477. 

Lovell was quickly part of Richard’s inner circle. Her served in the Scottish Campaign in 1481, and clearly a bond was formed there as he was given the title of Viscount. As Protector, Richard quickly rewarded Lovell with lands in the Midlands and south and offices, such as chief butler of England; at Richard’s coronation, Lovell carried the  third sword of state., and soon after was made Chamberlain, replacing Hastings in that role. Like other northerners, he struggled to embed himself in his southern lands, watching William Stonor, for example, join the rebels in 1483.But he was Richard’s loyal captain up to and during the Battle of Bosworth. 

Richard’s enemies recognised his importance to Richard, as demonstrated in the famous couplet 

The Cat, the Rat and Lovell our Dog
Rule all England under the Hog.
He was to carry that loyalty into a new reign after Richard’s death. 

John de La Pole, Earl of Lincoln (1462-1487)  Lincoln

John Suffolk (1442-1492), 2nd Duke of Suffolk,  played a peripheral part in Richard’s reign, though apparently loyal; even suffering at the hands of Richard’s favourite Francis Lovell. However his son, John de la Pole (1462-1487) – created Earl of Lincoln in 1467,  and knighted with Edward IV’s sons, was better favoured. After the death of Richard III’s only son Lincoln became head of the Council of the North, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Lincoln was descendant through his mother from Richard of York;  and with these appointments, it looked as though he would be made Richard’s designated heir. 

4 thoughts on “Major players in 1483

  1. Just thought I would drop you a message to say how much I am enjoying your podcast on the History of England.
    The mix of historical information, facts, humour and wit are a great companion for me while I drive the motorways of the midlands.
    My interest in history was sparked by the TV series Vikings, and I originally only wanted to listen to that period of your podcast. However, you have gripped me with the really good way in which the podcasts are done and the fun and enthusiasm you bring, and as such I am now on episode 162 (I think – War of the roses / Cousins War is half way through)
    I look forward to listening to the other podcasts you offer in your list above.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Andy – hopefully I’ll manage to drag you a bit further into medieval England. Thanks very much for getting in touch, it’s lovely to have feedback

  2. Hello Mr C,

    I found your podcast at the end of last year and it has been a joy particularly whilst bedbound after an op. You and the Rest is History are my mainstays and I regularly regale my wife and children with things I’ve learnt or remembered having forgotten. Sadly my raconteuring skills don’t match yours. Just reached the Cousins War and now see you have another on Anglo Saxon England (is that a rehash?) and one on films!

    Keep buggering on!

    1. Hi Adam, and thank you! Glad you are enjoying it. The ASE podcast was an old project to replace my original episodes on the history of England…but I am going to publish a few new ones into it soon, so watch this space! And RiH is rather good…

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