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 1432-1461
Predecessor John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Successor John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Born (1415-09-12)12 September 1415
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

Sir John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk KG Earl Marshal (12 September 1415 – 6 November 1461) was a fifteenth-century English magnate who, although only enjoying relatively short career, became an important player in the early years of the Wars of the Roses.

John Mowbray was born the only son and heir of John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his wife Katherine Neville. Born in 1415 while his father was campaigning in France, he inherited his father's titles upon his death in 1432. Still a minor at the time, Mowbray was placed under the protection of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, whom he later accompanied on an expedition to relieve the besieged English garrison at Calais. Shortly after, he reached his majority, and involved himself in royal services to the English crown. In 1437–8 he served a year's term as warden of the east march, and in 1438 he was one of the leaders of an expedition to strengthen the defences of Calais and Guînes.

His youth was troublesome, and eventually required the involvement of the King. He was married to Eleanor Bourgchier in the early 1430s. Almost immediately he became involved in the partisan politics of East Anglia, where he became a bitter rival of other local lords, including the Earl and then Duke of Suffolk. He appears to have taken the law into his own hands on many occasions, and broken it too. These events did not go unnoticed by the Crown; he was bound over for massive sums and imprisoned at least twice in the Tower of London. On the other hand, his tactics were also those of his enemies, particularly Suffolk, who was increasingly despised by the local gentry. They tended to look to Mowbray for defence against the duke, though he was often incapable of providing it, in part because not only was Suffolk a powerful local force, but was a favourite of the King and had his ear.

Amidst the breakdown of law and order in the eastern region at this time was a not unrelated increase in factional politics in central government. Revolts aimed at King Henry VI's unpopular councilors erupted, and Richard of York, the King's cousin with a claim to the throne, became increasingly belligerent at what he saw as his exclusion from government. York rebelled twice - in which Mowbray at times tended to defend the King - but Mowbray eventually drifted into York's camp (with whom he shared some enmities at court, notably the unpopular Suffolk who was murdered by a mob in 1450). Although Mowbray was able to evade direct involvement in the descent into civil war, he eventually threw in his lot with York. Along with York's Neville allies, Mowbray helped put the first Yorkist King on the throne as Edward IV. He probably turned the tide at the vicious and bloody Battle of Towton by his late arrival with reinforcements, and was almost immediately rewarded by the new regime.

Mowbray did not live long to enjoy the benefits of the outcome, however. In November 1461, seven months later, he died at the age of 46. His only son, John, eventually succeeded to the dukedom of Norfolk and remained a loyal Yorkist.

Background and youth

John Mowbray was the only son, heir and namesake of his father, the previous Duke of Norfolk (1392-1432) and his wife and Lady Katherine Neville (1400-1484). John Mowbray was born on 12 September 1415 whilst his father was absent in France campaigning with Henry V. Only sixteen at his father's death, and so still legally a minor, his estates were granted by Henry VI to the king's uncle the Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester for a farm of 2000 marks[1] (approximately £1,667).[2] At the same time his wardship and the right to arrange his marriage had also been sold to Anne of Gloucester, Countess of Stafford for the even greater sum of £2,000. Two years after his father's death, by March 1434, Countess Anne had married Mowbray to her daughter Eleanor Bourgchier.[1] As a young adult he appears to have been raucous and troublemaking, to such an extent that the King imposed a regimen upon him, restricting the company he kept and even dictating the time he went to bed and awoke.[3]

Early career and royal service

On his father's death, John inherited the by-now hereditary Mowbray office of Earl Marshal,[1] although not all of his inheritance. His father had been unable to ever completely control his own estates, due to there being two Mowbray dowagers, who each held a third of the inheritance. When Mowbray inherited in 1432, as Rowena Archer has put it, he was left "with a hopeless legacy."[4] In August 1436 he accompanied the Duke of Gloucester on campaign to France, specifically to raise the siege of Calais. The expedition was a success, the Duke of Burgundy being forced to withdraw his army.[1][5]

Soon after his return to England, Mowbray was granted livery of his inheritance on 13 September 1436, and with it commenced a busy period of royal service for Mowbray. In 1437, possibly as a result of Gloucester's continuing patronage[1] (as a result of their recent expedition together), he was appointed Warden of the Eastern March for a term of one year. Although clearly inexperienced to the north of England,[6] he was paid about £5,000 in war wages, as the campaign against the Scots continued (until May 1438).[7] When his term of office expired in 1438, Mowbray was again despatched to Calais on royal service, this time leading an expedition to the strengthen that town's and Guînes' defences, as the duke of Burgundy continued to threaten them. Although Mowbray returned to England, in 1439 he had returned to Calais (specifically Oye[1]), leading, with Archbishop John Kemp, an embassy to the peace conference; they landed in June.[8] Possibly due to the fact that he did not approve of royal foreign policy at this time (which was aimed at making peace with the French rather than war), this was to be Mowbray's last official expedition abroad.[1]

In the meantime, Mowbray was also facing problems at home. His biggest rival for supremacy in East Anglia (where the bulk of his estates lay), William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, had become increasingly powerful, both at court and in the country.[1] Mowbray until this point was important enough to control all the parliamentary representation in his county,[9] but the increasing importance of Suffolk lessened his authority. He began to clash repeatedly with Suffolk in the early 1430s, and appears to have breached the law several times. His offences included damaging the property and tenants of rivals, assaults, false allegations of outlawry and confiscation of goods, and even murder. When Suffolk became a royal favourite, Mowbray was imprisoned by him[1] on at least two occasions, in 1440 and in 1448.[10] On the first occasion in 1440 he was bound over for the then-massive amount of £10,000 to stay with the King and not return to East Anglia.[11] The cause of this seems to have been Mowbray's desire to seek revenge on certain of the Earl of Suffolk's affinity who had previously been in Norfolk's retinue but whom had subsequently deserted him for Suffolk.[1] Likewise, although he was appointed to commissions of oyer and terminer in Norwich between 1440 and 1443 (the city had experienced serious disturbances) he received no other significant offices from the crown. A recent biographer of Mowbray's, historian Colin Richmond, has described this as being John Mowbray's "eclipse." Richmond has also suggested that soon after his last bout of imprisonment, in 1449, Mowbray journeyed on a pilgrimage to Rome; certainly a licence for him to do so had been granted in 1446.[1]

Later career and political crisis

By the 1450s English domestic politics was becoming increasingly partisan and riven by faction, with a rise in violence and disorder in the regions. The first major crisis of the decade was the attempted impeachment, exile and murder of Suffolk in April 1450. This almost directly led to the rebellion of Jack Cade in 1450. Cade's manifesto called for the King to reject favourites (such 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,[12] even though he was firmly in the King's camp and was part of a major royal army which approached Cade's positions in South London from Leicester.[13]

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

Although Mowbray might have been expected to gain greatly from the elimination of his closest rival in East Anglia, this does seem to have been to the extent that he would have wanted. In 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) saw Mowbray take York's side against the new royal favourite, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. Mowbray, Richmond has commented, seems to have been "as bitter an opponent" of Somerset as York himself, and on 1 December 1450 men from his retinue, fighting alongside York's own, attacked Somerset's house in London's Blackfriars. Such was the violence in London that Somerset was lodged in the Tower of London in protective custody;[1] Mowbray had 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 the Duke of York, who had also been recruiting in the county of Norfolk.[14] along with other peers had arrived in the city for the November parliament with a large retinue with, all of whom contributed to the violence there.[15] Norfolk arrived two weeks late with a large and heavily-armed affinity; ironically he was, with the Duke of York and Earl of Devon responsible for maintaining law and order in the City of London.[16] 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 opposition remaining.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

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 his services to the crown he received £200 and a gold cup.[1] It is equally possible though that this 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.[20] Mowbray's campaign against Somerset, however, continued unabated, and in 1453, during the protectorate of the Duke of York, he appears to have been personally responsible for bringing charges against Somerset in the 1453 parliament, mainly over Somerset's perceived failings to prevent the loss of English territories in France in the previous few years. This resulted in Somerset's subsequent imprisonment for a year.[21] Early the next year, however, the King recovered his health and York's regime came to an end. Mowbray was requested to join the royal council on 3 April 1454, but, although he swore goodwill to York's government, he claimed to be unable to take up the position on the grounds of ill-health.[1]

The fact that Somerset had also been released from the Tower, suggests Griffiths, indicates that Mowbray probably ("quite rightly") feared for his own safety at the end of the protectorate.[22]

Crime and disorder in East Anglia

John Mowbray's father had been very much a midlands magnate whose interests were concentrated around his Lincolnshire estates, although he undoubtedly became a significant- if somewhat absentee- player in East Anglian politics and society after 1425 when he received his father's dukedom of Norfolk and his mother's dower lands in the region.[citation needed] However, he never established a sizeable- "nor a particularly coherent"- regional following there, and this is the situation his son John II inherited. John Mowbray though had "little choice" to focus his efforts on East Anglia for the purposes of building a powerbase, since his mother's dower occupied most of the Lincolnshire estates of his inheritance.[23] By the time he attained his majority, Suffolk- with his close links to central government- was already an established power in the region[24] and as it turned out, would stymie Mowbray's attempts at regional domination for over a decade.[25] From the start, Mowbray had to compete. This rivalry degenerated into open confrontation, and was picked up on by their retainers, which resulted in one of Suffolk's retainers being murdered by one of Mowbray's.[24]

In the early 1450s Mowbray swore to the King that he alone held the region against the King's enemies- being the "princypall rewle and governance throwh all this schir" as one of the Paston letters reports. This was clearly not the case, and Mowbray's own men seem to have been responsible for much of the local disorder the region experienced that decade.[1] This even included attacks upon and the destruction of Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk's properties in Norfolk.[26] Especially in the years following Suffolk's fall, Richmond has said, Mowbray's own affinity were "committing one outrage after another [and] the duke was either unable to control them, or chose not to do so."[1] Suffolk, meanwhile, was fighting back with what one contemporary labelled "greet hevyng an shovyng,"[27] Mowbray resorted to devious means to overcome his opponents, including having them charged with outlawry in another county without them knowing, and then claiming their goods forfeit to himself.[28] On another occasion he forced the gaoler of Bury St Edmunds to release a man charged with the murder of one Alice Lowell into Mowbray's own hands; according to the gaoler he did so, out of "fear and terror" of the duke of Norfolk.[29] Mowbray spent much of the early 1450s "bringing Suffolk's affinity to justice"- which, Griffiths comments, was "widely approved" of (although he also notes that Mowbray used similar methods in doing so as Suffolk had done).[30] For example, he dispossessed his ex-retainer Wingfield- who had joint Suffolk's affinity- and then disobeyed a council imposed arbitration in June 1452.[31]

He did not always get his way As Roger Virgoe put it, Mowbray "was not without rivals... of almost equal wealth and with more influence at court."[32] Indeed, R. A. Griffiths has described him as being forced to play "second fiddle" to Suffolk particularly on account of the fact that Mowbray was not a member of the royal council.[33] He was unable to successfully have his candidates returned to parliaments during shire elections[1] (the 1453 Suffolk election he officially disputed on the grounds that the electors were not residents of the county).[34] To make matters worse for his own authority, although after 1450 Suffolk was gone, the Earl of Oxford, who held lands in Essex, was also encroaching into the area.[1] Ironically, whilst Suffolk was alive, he had been both Mowbray's and Oxford's mutual opponent in the region; indeed, the latter was desirous of Mowbray's "good Lordship" in 1450,[30] and the following year they worked closely together in Suffolk investigating treasonous participations in Cade's rebellion.[35] 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 John Fastolf) who were also ever-keen to augment their positions.[1] Even worse from Mowbray's point of view- and doubtless to his chagrin- the removal of Suffolk did not give him a clear run in the region. Even without the jockeying of the Earl of Oxford, Mowbray was quickly displaced (again) by Lord Scales, a retainer of Queen Margaret, who installed him in the region as the head of what remained of Suffolk's affinity.[36]

The Wars of the Roses

Following the collapse of the protectorate, the Yorkist lords had retired to their northern and Welsh Marcher estates, whilst 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 fighting,[37] although, as Earl Marshal, his heralds were utilised to conduct negotiations between the two camps.[38] It is likely that he either deliberately arrived after the fighting had ended (in what admittedly was a short and sharp encounter), or, even, "hovering in the vicinity" of the town's environs whilst the battle was in progress.[1] Notwithstanding that, contemporaries still seem to have viewed him as generally sympathetic to York.[37] This seems to have been an attitude he kept up 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 is unknown.[1]

In any case, Mowbray was 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. After the Yorkists had left the country, a parliament was called for Coventry at which the Yorkists were attainted. Mowbray did attend this parliament though, and with the attendant peers, took an oath of loyalty to keep Henry VI on his throne on 11 December 1459.[1] He was also active on various royal commissions throughout these last months of Lancastrian rule.[39]

Yet by early March 1461, Mowbray, along with a small group of Yorkist loyalists, chose the son of the by-then dead Richard of York, Edward, Duke of York to replace Henry VI on the throne. The precise cause for his sea change in loyalty is unknown. However, Colin Richmond posits a number of factors were probably influential, including the Lancastrian defeat at Northampton (and the possibility that he lost friends and colleagues there) and King Henry's capture perhaps "no doubt steeled him to change his allegiance."[1] Christine Carpenter, on the other hand, puts it down almost solely to Mowbray's "abject failure" to improve his position in Norfolk.[39] He fought for the Yorkists at the Second Battle of St Albans, which they lost.[40] 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. Although he was not part of the main Yorkist army, he seems to have arrived with reinforcements at a much later, although crucial point, and made a decisive flank attack on the Lancastrians, which eventually gave the victory to York.[41]

As Earl Marshal, like previous dukes of Norfolk, he played an important role (he officiated) at the new king's coronation on 28 June 1461, and on the following July he was appointed to a number of lucrative offices.[1] His comital county, though, remained restless, with rampaging mobs during the first parliamentary elections of the new reign. It is possible that Norfolk encouraged this; he is certainly a candidate for ordering the murder of the country coroner, one Thomas Denys, in the August following Edward's coronation.[39] And although Mowbray was a confirmed supporter of the new Yorkist regime, he still met with strong opposition within East Anglia in the first year of the reign, even though he was backed by Sir John Howard[32] (by now one of Mowbray's senior retainers and described as Mowbray's "right well-beloved cousin and servant")[9] the Sheriff, and (at least in theory) the King.[32]

Death

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

Mowbray was not to enjoy the fruits of the Yorkist victory for long, however. On 2 November 1461, his retainer John Howard was arrested by the new Yorkist regime; Mowbray himself died four days later.[42] Not quite 46 years old, he died on 6 November 1461and was buried at Thetford Priory. He was succeeded by his only son, John.[1] 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.[43][44]

Marriage and issue

He 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- describes Richmond- "a private tryst" with his wife.[1] They had one child, John, who in 1448 Mowbray married to Elizabeth, daughter of John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.[1] He was seventeen when his father died and had to wait another four years to inherit.[45]

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."[46] 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.[39] J. R. Lander has called Mowbray "a disreputable thug,"[47] with Richmond concluding 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."[1] On the other hand, the quality of honour was clearly very important to him, as his pursuit of Somerset (for that duke's abject performance in France) indicates, said Hicks. Likewise, as Earl Marshal, the understanding and application of chivalry was fundamental to the role.[48]

See also

References

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  42. ^ Castor, H. (2004). Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century. Chatham: Faber & Faber. pp. 151–2. ISBN 0571216706. 
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  44. ^ Archer, R. E. (2004). "Neville , Katherine, duchess of Norfolk (c.1400–1483)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 
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Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Earl Marshal
1432–1461
Succeeded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Arundel
Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent

1461
Succeeded by
The Earl of Essex
Peerage of England
Preceded by
John Mowbray
Duke of Norfolk
1st creation
1432–1461
Succeeded by
John Mowbray
Earl of Norfolk
3rd creation
1432–1461
Earl of Nottingham
2nd creation
1432–1461
Baron Mowbray
1432–1461
Baron Segrave
1432–1461
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