John de Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

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John de Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Coat of Arms of Sir John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, KG.png
Arms of Sir John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, KG
Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Nottingham, Baron Mowbray, Baron Segrave
Reign 19 October 1432 – 6 November 1461
Predecessor John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Successor John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Born (1415-09-12)12 September 1415
Epworth, Kingdom of England
Died (1461-11-06)6 November 1461 (aged 46)
Burial Thetford Priory
Spouse Eleanor Bourgchier
Issue John de Mowbray, 4th Duke
House House of Mowbray
Father John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke
Mother Lady Katherine Neville

John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk KG Earl Marshal (12 September 1415—6 November 1461) was a fifteenth-century English magnate who, although he had a relatively short career, became an important player in the early years of the Wars of the Roses. He served the Lancastrian crown in various ways, in both England and France. In the latter, he commanded the defence of England's possessions in Normandy during the ongoing Hundred Years' War. When the Wars of the Roses later broke out, he sided with the rebel House of York. Mowbray's support was instrumental to the eventual Yorkist victory in 1461.

Born in 1415, Mowbray was the only son and heir of John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and his wife Katherine Neville. Mowbray inherited his father's titles upon the latter's death in 1432. As he was still a minor at the time, Mowbray became a ward of the King, Henry VI. The King placed Mowbray under the protection of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, whom Mowbray would later campaign alongside. Mowbray’s behaviour as a young man appears to have been controversial. Although exactly what he did remains unknown, it was sever enough for the King to place strictures upon him and separate him from his followers. Much, of his early career was military, and he held the important wartime office of Earl Marshal.[note 1] In 1437–8 he served a year's term as warden of the east march on the Anglo-Scottish border, and in 1438 he again led a force to Calais.

Mowbray's marriage to Eleanor Bourgchier in the early 1430s involved him in the highly partisan and complex politics of East Anglia. He became a bitter rival of another local lord, the Earl (later Duke) of Suffolk.[note 2] Mowbray prosecuted his feuds with vigour, often taken the law into his own hands—and also breaking it. This drew the ire of the Crown upon him. He was bound over for massive sums and imprisoned twice in the Tower of London. His tactics, though, were also those of his enemies, particularly Suffolk. The local gentry tended to look to Mowbray for defence against the duke and to further their own attacks on him. However, Mowbray was often incapable of providing the good lordship asked of him. Suffolk was not only a powerful local force but was a favourite of the King and had his ear; Mowbray was neither.

While law and order crumbled in eastern England, national politics was becoming increasingly factional. There were popular revolts against the King's unpopular councillors. Richard, Duke of York, who felt increasingly excluded from government became increasingly belligerent. York rebelled twice, and both times, Mowbray defended King Henry. Eventually, though, Mowbray drifted politically towards York (with whom he had shared a enmity of Suffolk. Although Mowbray was able to evade direct involvement in an increasingly fractious political arena, he eventually threw in his lot with York in early 1460. After York's death later that year, Mowbray helped put York's son on the throne as Edward IV. Mowbray was instrumental in helping Edward win Battle of Towton by his late arrival with reinforcements in April 1461. He was almost immediately rewarded by the new regime.

Mowbray did not survive to enjoy the benefits of a Yorkist government. He died seven months later in November, 1461 at the age of 46. His only son, John, eventually succeeded as Duke of Norfolk.

Background and youth

John Mowbray was the only son of John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (1392–1432) and his wife Katherine Neville (1400–1484).[5] His mother was a daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, a powerful magnate in northern England.[6] The younger Mowbray was born on 12 September 1415 while his father was absent in France campaigning with Henry V.[7]

John Mowbray was only seventeen at his father's death, and so still legally a minor. During his minority, his estates were granted by Henry VI to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester for a farm of 2000 marks[5] (approximately £1,667).[8]  Mowbray's wardship, and the right to arrange his marriage, was sold to Anne of Gloucester, Countess of Stafford for £2,000. By March 1434, Countess Anne had arranged for Mowbray to marry Anne's own daughter Eleanor Bourchier.[5]

As a young adult, Mowbray appears to have been raucous and troublemaking, and surrounded himself with equally unruly followers. This eventually drew the King’s attention. Around 1435, Mowbray was summoned before the King and his council. Mowbray was instructed in how to conduct himself henceforth,[5] and a precise regimen was imposed upon him. This even dictated the time he should go to bed at night and rise in the morning.[9][note 3] His  disorderly followers were dismissed, and replaced with those deemed suitable by Henry VI. Their stated role was to turn Mowbray towards "good reule and good governaunce".[5]

Inheritance, early career and royal service

Limited inheritance

On his father's death, Mowbray had inherited the office of Earl Marshal,[5] although not the rest of his inheritance. Mowbray's father, in fact, had never been able to completely control his own estates, as they were encumbered by two Mowbray dowagers, Mowbray's mother Katherine, and his sister-in-law, Constance Holland. They each held a third of the inheritance as their dower. Constance died in 1437, but his mother survived until 1483.[11] Because of this, the historian Rowena Archer—who made one of the few full-length studies of the Mowbray family—described Mowbray as inheriting a "hopeless" and "onerous" legacy. It also had political consequences for the future. As he never personally held much property in the counties where his inheritance was (only holding, for example, seven of the twenty-six manors held by the Mowbrays in Norfolk and Suffolk), his influence was thus restricted there.[11]

Claim to the earldom of Arundel

Immediately following his father’s death, Mowbray claimed the earldom of Arundel. This set him against John, Lord Maltravers, who also claimed it.[12] This was an old dispute. Mowbray's father and grandfather had also claimed the earldom, which had blocked Maltravers' father's claim.[13] Mowbray based his claim through his grandmother Elizabeth Fitzalan, Duchess of Norfolk; Maltravers through his great-grandfather Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel. In July 1433 Mowbray personally presented a petition to Parliament (receiving special permission to attend as a minor). Mowbray—"in a rather remarkable decision," says Archer—lost the case.[14] The removal of Suffolk had not increased Mowbray’s power in East Anglia.[24] He still had rivals in the region with wealth and court connections.[18] John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford in particular now wished to extend his landholdings from Essex into Suffolk, [4] and Lord Scales had been granted the remnants of Suffolk's affinity by Queen Margaret[24] It was precisely this lack of political connections (specifically, his exclusion from the King's council) that defeated him against Suffolk.[19] Mowbray was also unsuccessful at influencing local commissions [20] an nominating parliamentary candidates in shire elections.[4] In any case, the county of Norfolk already possessed a strong and relatively independent layer of wealthy gentry; for example, the Pastons, the Howards, and those around John Fastolf. They were equally eager to augment their positions at the expense of their neighbours, even if that neighbour was a lord.[4] 12|[11]]] Maltravers, though, died in May 1435 and so was never summoned to parliament under his new title.[12][note 4]

Mowbray's 1433 petition to parliament over the lordship of Arundel and the right to the earldom of Arundel.

In August 1436 Mowbray accompanied the Duke of Gloucester on a military campaign to relieve Calais, which was under siege by the Duke of Burgundy. The expedition was a success, and Burgundy was forced to withdraw.[5][15] On 13 September the same year, back in England, he received livery of his inheritance, and immediately began a busy period devoted to royal service. In 1437, possibly due to Gloucester's patronage[5] Mowbray was appointed Warden of the Eastern March for a one-year term of office. Although having little experience of the north of England,[16] he was paid wartime wages of £5,000 to prosecute the campaign against the Scots.[17] 1438 saw Mowbray return to Calais and Guînes, leading an expedition to strengthen their defences; Burgundy still presented a threat. Although Mowbray soon returned to England, in June 1439 he was again back in Calais, at Oye,[5] escorting Archbishop John Kemp’s diplomatic mission to the peace conference.[18] Possibly Mowbray disapproved of royal foreign policy (which by then was aimed at making peace with the French rather than waging war), as this was to be  his last expedition.[5]

The 1436 Siege of Calais, as later illustrated in the Vigiles du roi Charles VII

For much of the 1430s, Mowbray had problems in East Anglia, where the bulk of his estates now lay. William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk had become increasingly powerful, both at court and in the region, and was Mowbray’s biggest rival.[5] Mowbray had enough political clout in the 1330s to control parliamentary representation in Suffolk[19] but the increasing local importance of the duke weakened his grasp. Mowbray clashed with increased frequency with Suffolk, and committed many illegalities doing so. These included damaging property of rivals, assaults, false allegations of outlawry (with confiscation of goods), and even murder.

By 1440, Suffolk had become a royal favourite. Mowbray was imprisoned, at Suffolk's instigation,[5] on at least two occasions, in 1440 and in 1448.[20] The first occasion saw him bound over for the then-massive amount of £10,000, and confined him to living within the royal Household,[21] preventing him from returning to seek revenge in East Anglia.[5] Likewise, although he was appointed to commissions of oyer and terminer in Norwich in 1443 (after the suppression of Gladman’s Insurrection) ,he received no other significant offices or patronage from the crown. A recent biographer of Mowbray's, the historian Colin Richmond, has described this as Mowbray's "eclipse". Richmond has also suggested that soon after his last bout of imprisonment, in 1449, Mowbray journeyed on a pilgrimage to Rome; a licence[note 5] for him to do so had been granted three years earlier.[5]

Crime and disorder in East Anglia

Mowbray's predecessors had been very much Midlands magnates based around Lincolnshire estates. Even his father—after he became duke of Norfolk and received his mother's dower lands East Anglia—was often an absentee lord.[26][note 6] Mowbray’s father was thus unable to ever establish a sizeable (or "particularly coherent") regional following there, and this was the situation Mowbray inherited.

Every magnate required a powerbase, and Mowbray had to build one for himself. East Anglia was forced upon him, as his estates there were all that let him to do so: the large chunk of his inheritance in Lincolnshire was his mother's dower.[27][28] Mowbray was very much a newcomer to political society in the region,[27] and had to share influence with others.[29] By the time of Mowbray’s majority, the Duke of Suffolk—with his links to central government and the King—was an established power in the region.[30] He hindered Mowbray's attempts at regional domination for over a decade.[31] Their feud was often violent, and encouraged their retainers to fight. In 1435, one of Mowbray's retainers even murdered one of Suffolk's; Mowbray's intervention later got those responsible royal pardons.[28]

Suffolk fought back violently, with what one contemporary labelled "greet hevyng an shoving." [32] He was successful in doing so. Within a couple of years, Mowbray could not protect his retainers as he had previously done. A Paston letter tells how Robert Wingfield, who was involved in a bitter dispute with one Robert Lyston, "procured and exited the wurthi prince the Duke of Norffolk to putte oute ageyn the seid Robert Lyston" from the latter's Suffolk manors. Lyston, though, with de la Pole's support, repeatedly sued Wingfield in court until in 1441 Wingfield was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1440, Mowbray was able to influence the Exchequer in cancelling Wingfield’s fines; but Mowbray’s success was fleeting. [28] Mowbray was more successful in his support of John Fastolf—in one of the latter's many lawsuits[note 7] in 1441, and was able to impose an advantageous settlement (for Fastolf) in Chancery.[35] Generally, though, says Helen Castor, Mowbray's influence "proved woefully inadequate" to protect and defend his retainers and tenants to the degree they could reasonably expect from their lord.[28] It was his supporters' misfortune, one historian has said, that "Norfolk's power never matched the status attributed to him".[35][note 8]

Mowbray’s situation saw no improvement in the following decade. Sometime between 1440 and 1441[37][21] Mowbray too was imprisoned in the Tower, regarding a dispute with John Heydon,[37] who was close to the Duke of Suffolk.[5] Suffolk’s influence saw Mowbray bound over on 2 July 1440 for the "enormous" sum of 10,000 marks also having to reside in the King’s household, swearing no further  harm to Heydon.

In 1443 Mowbray and Wingfield fell out over Hoo manor. Wingfield had received Hoo from the second duke; the third duke wanted it back.[37] Mowbray reacted violently. Robin Storey tells how

He brought a force of men, with cannon and other siege engines, battered Wingfield's house at Letheringham, forced an entry, ransacked the building and removed valuables amounting to nearly £5,000, according to his victim's evaluation.

— R. L. Storey, [38]
Framlingham Castle, still in a remarkable state of preservation in 2008, was Mowbray's East Anglian headquarters, and from where he directed many of the attacks on his numerous regional rivals and opponents.[39]

Wingfield had by then joined Suffolk's affinity,[40] and in his turn offered a bounty of 500 marks to anyone who brought him the head of a Mowbray retainer. In November 1443 Mowbray was bound over for £2,000 to keep the peace towards Wingfield and instructed to appear before the royal council the following April. The council ordered them to seek arbitration. This found against Mowbray, who had to pay Wingfield 3,500 marks as compensation for the damage the duke caused to Letheringham. He was also had to recompense Wingfield for Hoo before he could get it back. It was presumably as part of these proceedings that Mowbray suffered his second bout of imprisonment in the Tower, which commenced on 28 August 1444. He was, however, released after six days.[38]

In June 1446 one of his father’s retainers, Henry Howard, was murdered in XXXX,[41] probably visiting his sister-in-law (and Mowbray's aunt), Margaret Mowbray,[note 9] at the time, as her house was only 5 miles (8.0 km) away.[41] Howard’s killers appear to have been retainers of John, Baron Scrope of Masham;[note 10] and it is not impossible that Scrope actively aided and abetted them in the killing.[41]  On 18 June 1446 Mowbray oversaw the presentment of an Ipswich jury to examine the killing, but Mowbray's case soon stalled. Scrope had petitioned King Henry that Mowbray's proceedings were "inaccurate and inherently malicious," who ordered the cessation of proceedings against Scrope's men[45] At least five of the thirteen jurors were Mowbray retainers.[46] This may have been the only occasion on which Mowbray personally sat on a local King’s Bench commission as the hearing J.P.[47]

The earlier arbitration between Mowbray and Wingfield had not ended the two men's feud, and in 1447 Wingfield returned to the attack. Along with another ex-Mowbray retainer, William Brandon,[note 11] he assaulted, robbed and threatened Mowbray's staff. on 6 December 1447, Wingfield threatened Mowbray's chaplain. Mowbray—as Justice of the Peace for Suffolk—ordered Wingfield to keep the King's peace; this was ignored. Wingfield was then committed to Melton gaol. Three hours later Brandon broke Wingfield out of prison. Mowbray applied to Chancery for, and received, letters patent ordering Brandon and Wingfield to not come within 7 miles (11 km) of Mowbray.[49] This order too was ignored, and they dwelt at Letheringham (only about five miles from Mowbray's castle at Framlingham), and started breaking into Mowbray's retainers' houses in the area. Mowbray requested a commission of oyer and terminer be organised to investigate Wingfield and Brandon; this was issued in late December 1447.[50]

By the early 1450s Mowbray believed that he alone held East Anglia, describing himself as the "princypall rewle and governance throw all this schir," a Paston letters reports.[5] The Earl of Oxford, another enemy of Suffolk, was desirous of Mowbray's "good Lordship" that year,[51] and in 1451 they collaborated in Suffolk investigating participation in Jack Cade's Rebellion.[52] The region continued to experience disorder: Mowbray's own men were responsible for much of it.[5] This included the destruction of properties belonging to Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk.[53][note 12] The Duke himself fell from power in 1450. In the years following, says Richmond, Mowbray's affinity committed “one outrage after another [and] the duke was either unable to control them, or chose not to do so".[5] Mowbray used devious means to defeat his opponents, including having them charged with outlawry in another county without them knowing, and then claiming their goods as being forfeited to himself.[55] Mowbray also forced the gaoler of Bury St Edmunds to release a man charged with murder into Mowbray's custody. According to the gaoler's later report, he had done so, but only out of "fear and terror" of the Duke of Norfolk.[56] Mowbray spent much of the early 1450s hunting down Suffolk's affinity;[51] R. L. Storey described Mowbray's "methods of argument" as exceptional.[38]

...after the dethe of Henri Howard the sessions of pees were at Gippeswiche the Saturday next after Trinity Sunday last passed there being oure right trusty and right welbeloved cousin the Duc of Norff... at the wyche tyme the said Duc as it is said seing that he might not doo endite the said lord Scrop nor noone of his maynee for the dethe of the said Howard...
The National Archives, KB 145/6/25.

The removal of Suffolk had not increased Mowbray’s power in East Anglia.[57] He still had rivals in the region with wealth and court connections.[58] John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford in particular now wished to extend his landholdings from Essex into Suffolk,[5] and Lord Scales had been granted the remnants of Suffolk's affinity by Queen Margaret[57] It was precisely this lack of political connections (specifically, his exclusion from the King's council) that defeated him against Suffolk.[59] Mowbray was also unsuccessful at influencing local commissions [60] and nominating parliamentary candidates in shire elections.[5] In any case, the county of Norfolk already possessed a strong and relatively independent layer of wealthy gentry; for example, the Pastons, the Howards, and those around John Fastolf. They were equally eager to augment their positions at the expense of a neighbour, even if that neighbour was a lord.[5]

Later career and political crisis

During the 1450s, English domestic politics was becoming increasingly partisan, fraught, and riven by faction, and this was accompanied by a rise in violence and disorder in the regions. The first major crisis of the decade was the attempted impeachment, exile and murder of the Duke of Suffolk in April 1450. This almost directly led to the rebellion of Jack Cade soon after. Cade's manifesto called for the King to reject favourites (as Suffolk had been) and recall members of the nobility to advise him as his "natural counsellors". Mowbray was one of those explicitly named as such by the rebels as being needed to reform the realm,[61] even though he was firmly in the King's camp. Indeed, he was part of a major royal army which approached Cade's positions in South London from Leicester.[62]

The King was urged "to take about his noble person his true blood of his royal realm, that is to say, the high and mighty prince the Duke of York, exiled from our sovereign lord's person by the noising of the false traitor the Duke of Suffolk and his affinity. Also to take about him his person the mighty prince the Duke of Exeter, the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke of Norfolk ... and he shall be the richest Christian king."[63]
John Stowe's Historical Memoranda on Cade's rebellion.

Although Mowbray might have been expected to gain greatly from the elimination of Suffolk as his closest rival in East Anglia, this does not seem to have been to the extent that he would have wanted. The next major crisis of the reign (the near-rebellion of Richard of York in Autumn 1450, who echoed some of the demands made by Cade)[note 13] saw Mowbray take York's side against the new royal favourite, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.[note 14] Mowbray, Richmond has commented, seems to have been as vehement an opponent of Somerset as York was himself,[5] and has been described as Somerset's "implacable enemy".[65] Thus Mowbray gathered his forces at Ipswich on 8 November (where, for instance, John Paston was ordered to meet him "with as many clenly people as ye may get"), and may have travelled into London with York, who had also been recruiting in the area.[66] Along with other peers Mowbray had arrived in the city for the November parliament with a large retinue, all of whom contributed to the violence there.[67] Norfolk arrived two weeks late with a large and heavily armed affinity; ironically he was, with the Duke of York and Earl of Devon, made responsible for the upkeep of law and order in the City of London.[68] On 1 December 1450, men from Mowbray's retinue, fighting alongside York's own, attacked Somerset's house in London's Blackfriars. Such was the violence that Somerset was lodged in the Tower of London in protective custody.[5] On 3 December the King and his magnates rode through London with up to 10,000 men; Mowbray personally rode ahead with a force of 3,000. This was a show of force designed to quell the remnants of any remaining taste for opposition by Cade's rebels, who by now had been mostly defeated and rounded up.[69]

Certayn notable knyghtis and squyers of this countee theer to have comonyngs with your good Lordshep (the earl of Oxford) for the sad rule and governaunce of this counte, (Norfolk) wych standyth ryght indisposed.[39]
– August 1450, and Mowbray summons his men to parley with him and the Earl of Oxford at Framlingham.

Mowbray's alliance with York was intermittent. When the duke rebelled again in 1452 and ended up confronting the King and a royal army at Dartford, Mowbray was in the King's camp, for which services to the crown he received £200 and a gold cup.[5] It is equally possible that the end of their alliance was the Duke of York's doing, as Mowbray's by-now oppressive behaviour in East Anglia could have been an embarrassment to York, who was at this time presenting himself as a force of law and order in the land.[70] Mowbray's campaign there against Somerset continued unabated. In 1453, with the King incapacitated and York now protector, Mowbray who personally presented charges against Somerset in parliament. These mostly focussed on Somerset's perceived failings to prevent the loss of English territories in France in the previous few years[71] ("the loss of two so noble Duchies as Normandy and Guyenne").[72] As a result, Somerset's was imprisoned in the Tower for the next year.[71] In April 1454, Mowbray was asked to join the York's regency council. Although he swore goodwill to York's government, he claimed to be unable to take up the position on the grounds of ill-health.[5]

In early 1455 the King recovered his health, the protectorate came to an end, and Somerset was swiftly released from the Tower. As a result, suggests Ralph Griffiths, Mowbray may have ("quite rightly") feared for his own safety at the end of York's protectorate.[73]

The Wars of the Roses

The Tower of London; both Mowbray and his archenemy Suffolk were imprisoned here at different stages of their careers.

Following the collapse of the 1454-5 protectorate, the Yorkist lords[note 15] had retired to their northern and Welsh Marcher estates, and Mowbray appears to have deliberately effaced himself from factional politics. When civil war finally erupted in May 1455, with York and his allies ambushing the King at the first Battle of St Albans, Mowbray managed to avoid becoming involved in the fighting.[75] As Earl Marshal, in fact, his heralds were utilised to conduct negotiations between the two camps.[76] It is likely that he either deliberately arrived after the fighting had ended (in what admittedly was a short and sharp encounter), or, even, was in the town's environs whilst the battle was in progress.[5] It is known that when Sir Philip Wentworth—who had carried the Royal Standard—"cast it down and fled" (as one of William Worcester's correspondents informed him), Mowbray later threatened to have him hanged.[77] Notwithstanding his absence from the field, contemporaries seem to have viewed him as generally sympathetic to York,[75] an attitude he maintained for much of the remainder of the decade. Not only did he not attend the Duke of York's victory parliament after St Albans, but he may have gone on further pilgrimages: certainly, he walked to Walsingham in 1456. It is likely, too, that he travelled further afield for the same purpose over the next two years, although whether his destination was Amiens, Rome or even Jerusalem (all of which have been among the suggestions) is unknown.[5]

Mowbray was also not associated with the renewed outbreak of war in September – October 1459, when the Yorkist Earl of Salisbury beat off a royal ambush at the Battle of Blore Heath, but was then, along with York and their supporters driven into exile by the King's army.[78] After the Yorkists had left the country, a parliament was called for Coventry at which the Yorkists were attainted.[79] Mowbray did attend this parliament, and with the attendant peers, took an oath of loyalty to keep Henry VI on his throne on 11 December 1459.[5][note 16] He was also active on various royal commissions throughout these last months of Lancastrian rule.[81]

Yet at some point between the Yorkists' return from exile in June 1460 and early December, he had clearly thrown in his lot with them, as when York, Salisbury and Rutland left for the north on 9 December, Norfolk remained in London with Salisbury's and York's sons, the Earls of Warwick and March. York and Salisbury's journey north ended in disaster: choosing to engage a far larger Lancastrian army outside the duke's castle at Sandal, they went down to a crushing defeat at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December. York, Salisbury and Rutland died in or soon after the battle.[82][83]

In early March 1461, Mowbray, along with a small group of Yorkist loyalists, chose York's son, Edward, Earl of March to replace Henry VI on the throne.[84] On 3 March 1461 Mowbray attended what Charles Ross describes as a "hastily assembled" great council at Baynard's Castle at which is was agreed to offer March the throne.[85] The precise cause for his sea change in the duke's loyalty is unknown. Colin Richmond posits that a number of factors were probably influential, including the Lancastrian defeat at Northampton (where, he says, Mowbray may have lost friends and colleagues). It is also possible that King Henry's capture encouraged him to throw in his part firmly with York's son.[5] Christine Carpenter, on the other hand, puts it down almost solely to Mowbray's failure to improve his position in Norfolk.[81] The duke fought for the Yorkists at the Second Battle of St Albans, which they lost.[86]

Battle of Towton

Battle of Towton - Engagement

Within a month York and Lancaster met in what was one is seen as one of the longest and bloodiest battles ever fought on British soil, at the Battle of Towton, on 29 March 1461—Palm Sunday. Certainly the bloodiest of the wars yet, it was "fought in bitter Yorkshire weather and no less bitter spirit",[87] says Charles Ross. He describes Mowbray as departing London with Edward of York and the bulk of a new army and advancing with deliberation northwards;[87] indeed, it may even have been on Mowbray's own advice that Edward took the war north.[88] Mowbray's force was to constitute the Yorkist rear-guard.[89] Ross also, though, notes that Mowbray arrived towards the end of the battle with a fresh contingent of troops.[90] The latter scenario is the generally accepted course of events. A contemporary describes Mowbray as having been despatched to East Anglia "with all diligence to prepare for the war on the party of King Edward".[91] As such, he was probably not part of the main Yorkist army, rather arriving with reinforcements at a much later, although crucial point.[87] His separation from Edward's army, it has been suggested, may have been caused by a difficulty in mustering troops in East Anglia; equally possible is the fact that—since he died only a few months later—he may have been too ill to have kept up with the main force.[91] At Pontefract, in fact, Mowbray may have handed over command of his army to Sir John Howard, his cousin and retainer, in the knowledge that time was of the essence and that yet, whilst he was with them, his soldiers could only march as quickly as he could travel.[92] In any case his prolonged absence, after a day's bitter fighting, must have been a growing worry for the Yorkists, especially as they may have thought him up to a day's march away.[93] The situation without Mowbray was acute for the Yorkist army; Philip A. Haigh describes them, by four o'clock in the afternoon, as doomed without him.[92] His arrival in later afternoon (on the eastern edge of the battlefield, along the modern A162 road),[94] has been described by a contemporary chronicler thus:

And about four o'clock at night [i.e., 4  am] the two battles joined and fought all night till on the morrow in the afternoon. About noon the aforesaid John, Duke of Norfolk, with a fresh band of good men of war came to the aid of the newly elected King Edward...[95]

— The Hearne fragment, Thomas Hearne's Thomae Sprotti Chronica[96]

Mowbray's arrival enabled him to make a decisive attack on the Lancastrians flank, turning them left.[87] He brought, after all, a force something in the region of 5,000 men.[97] His arrival had the effect of both reinvigorating the Yorkist army and crushing Lancastrian morale with his surprise attack.[94] Either way, his late arrival eventually gave the victory to York.[98]

Under the Yorkists

The ruins of Thetford Priory, Norfolk, in 2006, where John Mowbray was buried.

As Earl Marshals, previous Dukes of Norfolk had played an important role (in fact they officiated) at coronations. Mowbray was no different, and on 28 June 1461, he oversaw the coronation of King Edward IV at Westminster Abbey. By July he had received a number of lucrative offices.[5] His comital county, though, remained restless, with rampaging mobs during the first parliamentary elections of the new reign. It is not unlikely that Norfolk was encouraging this; he is certainly a candidate for ordering the murder of the country coroner, one Thomas Denys, in the August following Edward's coronation.[81] And although Mowbray was a confirmed supporter of the new Yorkist regime, he still met with strong opposition from the East Anglian gentry in the first year of the reign, even though he was backed by Sir John Howard[58][note 17] (by now one of Mowbray's senior retainers and described as Mowbray's "right well-beloved cousin and servant")[19] now Sheriff of Norfolk,[99] and (at least in theory) the King.[58]


Mowbray was not to enjoy the fruits of the Yorkist victory for long. On 2 November 1461, his retainer John Howard was arrested by the new Yorkist regime.[100] Not quite 46 years old, Mowbray himself died four days later died on 6 November 1461 and was buried at Thetford Priory. He was succeeded by his only son, John.[5] His mother, Katherine Duchess of Norfolk, also survived him, living until 1484 and taking two more husbands in Mowbray's own lifetime and another after his death.[101][102][note 18]

Marriage and issue

Mowbray married Eleanor Bourgchier, daughter of William Bourgchier, Count of Eu and Anne of Gloucester, Countess of Buckingham. She was the sister of his successor as Justice in Eyre, Henry Bourgchier. A contemporary story suggests that there was a close bond between them: whilst travelling in May 1451, so it was said, Mowbray temporarily dispensed with his retinue to enjoy (as Colin Richmond describes it) "a private tryst" with his wife.[5] They had one child, also a John, who in 1448 Mowbray married to Elizabeth, daughter of John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.[5] Young John was seventeen when his father died in 1461, and had to wait another four years to inherit.[103]

Character and legacy

Ralph Griffiths has suggested that when Archbishop John Kemp died in 1453, it may have at least in part been due to the bullying and threats he had recently been subjected too: "notably by Norfolk himself".[104] Indeed, one modern historian has placed much of Suffolk's success in the region, which antagonised Mowbray so much, as being down to Mowbray's own "crass incompetence" in being "ineffectual" at assisting those members of the political community who would expect to rely on a lord of his stature's protection.[81] J. R. Lander called Mowbray "a disreputable thug",[105] while Richmond concludes that Mowbray was "cavalier with the rights of others to a safe life and a secure livelihood". Fundamentally, says Richmond, whilst "many medieval aristocrats were irresponsible men ... Mowbray's individuality lay in the thoroughness of his irresponsibility."[5] On a more positive note, says Michael Hicks, the quality of honour was clearly very important to Mowbray, as his pursuit of Somerset (for that duke's abject performance in France) shows. Likewise, as Earl Marshal, he must have possessed a good understanding of chivalry and its application, as it was fundamental to the office.[106]

Cultural depictions

John Mowbray is a minor figure in the play King Henry VI, Part 3 by the Elizabethan dramatist William Shakespeare.[107][108][note 19] He appears in act I, scene i, and act II, scene ii as a supporter of the Duke of York;[110] the first time just after the Battle of St Albans, and is portrayed "conspicuously associated with opposition."[111] This is ahistorical, as Mowbray was still loyal to King Henry at this point. His second appearance in the play is at the Battle of Towton.

Shakespearian scholar W. W. Greg has suggested that Mowbray is the Duke of Norfolk of The Merry Devil of Edmonton, of whom the comic character Blague, the Innkeeper, repeatedly—no less than fifteen times in fact— says "I serve the good Duke of Norfolk."[111][112]

See also


  1. ^ Along with Constable of England, the marshalcy was one of the two great military officers of the medieval English crown,[1] and has also been described as being of the "utmost importance in matters of ceremony and frequently involved questions of precedence," as well as being responsible for the marshalling of parliament.[2] She also notes, however, that "specific instances of the earl [marshal] undertaking tasks arising from his office are extremely rare."[3]
  2. ^ William de la Pole had entered East Anglian political society in 1431, after fifteen years campaigning in France. His increasing power in East Anglia, which so continually thwarted Mowbray's ambitnions, was not confined to regional politics. Under such a weak King as Henry VI, de la Pole "virtually governed the country."[4]
  3. ^ There was a religious focus to this regimen. Specific restrictions on Mowbray included having to rise between 6 am and 7 am each morning, attend matins, prime and the lesser hours with his own chaplain, then attend the morning mass. Much the same pattern was then to be repeated in the evening, with prayers to the Virgin before a 10 pm curfew.[10]
  4. ^ Since the next parliament was in October 1435. Rowena Archer considers this as "proof that at a critical moment there was no substitute for the personal, determined stance of an adult lord" when it came to defending a family's privileges, and compares John Mowbray, the second Duke's success in doing so with the failure of his son, who of course was still a minor when parliament came back to the issue in 1433.[14]
  5. ^ From the fourteenth-century, concerned at "the potential loss of resources, in terms of men, valuables, currency and horses," [22] English governments made increasingly concerted efforts to control pilgrimage[23] ("sainte vouage").[24] Licences were therefore made mandatory for both those wishing to travel on pilgrimage, and those who would transport them.[22] By the mid-fifteenth century licensing had become part of a "package tour" system of pilgrimage, although it would increasingly fall out of use by the end of the century.[25]
  6. ^ Helen Castor says of the second Duke of Norfolk, he "spent a considerable proportion of the years between 1415 and 1425 serving in France, but that on his periodic returns to England, he seems to have visited East Anglia relatively rarely, dividing his time instead between London and Epworth".[26]
  7. ^ John Fastolf's adversaries were always those in the affinity of the Duke of Suffolk, and Fastolf spent a lot of time and more money on prosecuting them;[33] likewise, Mowbray was "the lord to whom Fastolf usually turned" for assistance.[34]
  8. ^ Historian Michael Hicks notes that "Bastard Feudalism existed for the mutual advantage of lords and retainers...Bastard feudal lords were expected to support their retainers in their just causes" and that this could mean that "the lord backed his man in all his quarrels, just or not, took his side, if necessarily backed him by force and/or in the courts, and was ultimately drawn into conflict with his opponent's lord".[36]
  9. ^ The Howard family at this time has been described by one modern historian as "one of the wealthiest and most prestigious gentry lines in England", and Sir Robert Howard (John Howard's father) had married Mowbray's aunt, Margaret some years before.[42] Robert himself had long been a member of Mowbray's father's household.[43]
  10. ^ John Scrope, 4th Baron Scrope of Masham was the brother of Henry, Lord Scrope, who had been executed by King Henry V for his treasonable role in the Southampton Plot.[44]
  11. ^ At some point before 1461, Brandon married Wingfield's daughter Elizabeth.[48]
  12. ^ Granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, she had married William de la Pole sometime between 1430 and 1432 as her third and last husband.[54]
  13. ^ York had felt himself increasingly isolated from court, even though he was the King's closest blood relation, and was, at the time, the royal heir. However, Suffolk's fall merely led to the rise of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset as the new royal favourite, further eclipsing the duke. York resorted to arms.[64]
  14. ^ In 1443, Somerset had been promoted from earl to duke, and with it, received not only an annuity but precedence over Mowbray in the peerage. In fact, although Mowbray (according to Michael Hicks) "prided himself on being royal himself", two other royal dukes were also created in the 1440s, apart from Suffolk.
  15. ^ York had become allied with the Neville family, which consisted primarily of Mowbray's uncle, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and his son, the premier earl in the land, Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. The alliance had begun sometime in the early 1450s, and had been cemented during the protectorate, when York had appointed Salisbury his Lord Chancellor.[74]
  16. ^ Charles Ross notes that this was in spite of his family relationship with York ( and also, indeed, that he was not the only one of the duke's kinsmen to do so. His cousins the Duke of Buckingham, Viscount Bourchier, and Lord Bergaveny, also attended the Coventry parliament and likewise took the oath to Henry VI.[80]
  17. ^ The Howard family at this time has been described by one modern historian as "one of the wealthiest and most prestigious gentry lines in England", and Sir Robert Howard (John Howard's father) had married Mowbray's aunt, Margaret some years before.[42] Robert himself had long been a member of Mowbray's father's household.[43]
  18. ^ In fact, she outlived all her Mowbray descendants, and this meant that no Mowbray duke of Norfolk ever received his full inheritance, due to her lengthy tenure of her dower.[27]
  19. ^ Mowbray's grandfather Thomas, 1st Duke of Norfolk, also appears in Shakespeare's Richard II, but is a far more pivotal character with a much greater role.[109]


  1. ^ Squibb 1959, p. 1.
  2. ^ Archer 1995, p. 104.
  3. ^ Archer 1984b, p. 168.
  4. ^ Richmond 2005, p. 203.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Richmond 2004.
  6. ^ Hicks 1998, p. 13.
  7. ^ Archer 2004c.
  8. ^ Davis 2011, pp. 17–19.
  9. ^ Harriss 2005, p. 115.
  10. ^ Orme 2003, p. 208.
  11. ^ a b Archer 1984a, p. 29.
  12. ^ a b Given-Wilson et al. 2005a.
  13. ^ Archer 1984b, p. 103.
  14. ^ a b Archer 1984b, p. 116.
  15. ^ Vaughan 2014, pp. 80–83.
  16. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 404.
  17. ^ Griffiths 1981, pp. 162–63.
  18. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 448.
  19. ^ a b Crawford 2010, p. 14.
  20. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 587.
  21. ^ a b Castor 2000, p. 110.
  22. ^ a b Dyas 2001, p. 138.
  23. ^ Morrison 2000, p. 54.
  24. ^ Webb 2001, p. 166.
  25. ^ Stopford 1999, p. 133.
  26. ^ a b Castor 2000, p. 104.
  27. ^ a b c Castor 2000, p. 105.
  28. ^ a b c d Castor 2000, p. 108.
  29. ^ Castor 2000, p. 56.
  30. ^ Castor 2000, p. 114.
  31. ^ Harriss 2005, p. 203.
  32. ^ Castor 2000, p. 109.
  33. ^ Rose 2006, pp. 53–54.
  34. ^ Smith 1984, p. 62.
  35. ^ a b Smith 1984, pp. 62–63.
  36. ^ Hicks 2013, pp. 150–51.
  37. ^ a b c Storey 1999, p. 226.
  38. ^ a b c Storey 1999, p. 227.
  39. ^ a b Ridgard 1985, p. 5.
  40. ^ Hicks 2012, p. 96.
  41. ^ a b c Ross 2011, p. 80.
  42. ^ a b Ross 2011, pp. 75–76.
  43. ^ a b Castor 2000, p. 107.
  44. ^ Pugh 1988, p. 119.
  45. ^ Ross 2011, p. 83.
  46. ^ Ross 2011, p. 84.
  47. ^ Ross 2011, p. 86.
  48. ^ Gunn 1988, p. 47.
  49. ^ Castor 2000, pp. 114–15.
  50. ^ Castor 2000, p. 117.
  51. ^ a b Griffiths 1981, p. 591.
  52. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 649.
  53. ^ Castor 2004, p. 93.
  54. ^ Archer 2004b.
  55. ^ Maddern 1992, p. 38.
  56. ^ Maddern 1992, p. 157.
  57. ^ a b Harriss 2005, p. 626.
  58. ^ a b c Virgoe 1997, p. 58.
  59. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 586.
  60. ^ Castor 2000, p. 111.
  61. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 638.
  62. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 611.
  63. ^ Ross 1974, p. 12.
  64. ^ Watts 2004.
  65. ^ Grummitt 2013, p. xxxii.
  66. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 690.
  67. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 565.
  68. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 647.
  69. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 648.
  70. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 592.
  71. ^ a b Griffiths 1981, p. 721.
  72. ^ Burley, Elliott & Watson 2007, p. 14.
  73. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 723.
  74. ^ Pollard 1990, pp. 257–58.
  75. ^ a b Griffiths 1981, p. 798.
  76. ^ Hicks 2012, p. 110.
  77. ^ Giles 1845, p. lv.
  78. ^ Gillingham 1990, pp. 107–08.
  79. ^ Given-Wilson et al. 2005b.
  80. ^ Ross 1974, p. 22.
  81. ^ a b c d Carpenter 1997, p. 158.
  82. ^ Gillingham 1990, pp. 119–22.
  83. ^ Goodman 1996, pp. 42–43.
  84. ^ Ross 1974, p. 30.
  85. ^ Ross 1974, p. 34.
  86. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 872.
  87. ^ a b c d Ross 1974, p. 35.
  88. ^ Kaufman 2004, p. 67.
  89. ^ Haigh 2001, p. 65.
  90. ^ Ross 1974, p. 36.
  91. ^ a b Boardman 1996, p. 78.
  92. ^ a b Haigh 2001, p. 86.
  93. ^ Fiorato, Boylston & Knüsel 2007, p. 19.
  94. ^ a b Haigh 2001, p. 87.
  95. ^ Kaufman 2004, p. 68.
  96. ^ Myers 1996, p. 284.
  97. ^ Goodwin 2011, p. 152.
  98. ^ Castor 2004, p. 143.
  99. ^ Pollard 2011, p. 10.
  100. ^ Castor 2004, pp. 151–52.
  101. ^ Jacob 1993, p. 464.
  102. ^ Archer 2004a.
  103. ^ Castor 2004, p. 152.
  104. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 724.
  105. ^ Lander 1980, p. 2.
  106. ^ Hicks 2012, p. 88.
  107. ^ Quennell & Johnson 2002, p. 148.
  108. ^ Shakespeare 2001, p. 181.
  109. ^ Saccio 2000, p. 128.
  110. ^ Dobson & Wells 2001, p. 321.
  111. ^ a b Bromley 2011, p. 125.
  112. ^ Fiehler 1949, p. 364.


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Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Earl Marshal
Succeeded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Arundel
Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent

Succeeded by
The Earl of Essex
Peerage of England
Preceded by
John Mowbray
Duke of Norfolk
1st creation
Succeeded by
John Mowbray
Earl of Norfolk
3rd creation
Earl of Nottingham
2nd creation
Baron Mowbray
Baron Segrave
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