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Arms of Edward Neville, 1st Baron Bergavenny, St Peter's Church, Barton upon Humber

Edward Neville, 1st Baron Bergavenny (d. 1476)

EDWARD NEVILLE (d. 1476), first Baron of Bergavenny or Abergavenny (a form which appeared in the sixteenth century and was not definitely adopted until 1730), was the sixth and youngest son of Ralph Neville, first Earl of Westmoreland, by his second wife, Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

His father had arranged, before his death in 1425, the match which made his youngest son the founder of the house which alone among the Neville branches has been continued in the male line to our own day, and is now represented by the Marquis of Abergavenny.1 The lady was Elizabeth Beauchamp, only child and heiress of Richard, Earl of Worcester, who died in April 1422 of wounds received at the siege of Meaux. Worcester's father, William Beauchamp, fourth son of Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (d. 1369), by Catherine, daughter of Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March, inherited the castle and lands of Bergavenny or Abergavenny on Usk on the death of the last Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, whose father, being on the maternal side a nephew of William Beauchamp's mother, had (16 April 1372) placed his cousin next in the entail.2

In 1392 he was summoned to parliament as a baron, under the title either of Lord Bergavenny or (perhaps more probably) of Lord Beauchamp of Bergavenny. Elizabeth Beauchamp's mother was Isabel le Despenser, daughter, and eventually sole heir, of Thomas, sixth Baron le Despenser, Lord of Glamorgan and Morgaunoe, and for a moment Earl of Gloucester, whose dignities were forfeited by rebellion in 1400. Worcester married her in July 1411, two months after his father's death, when he was still simply Richard Beauchamp, Lord Bergavenny or Beauchamp of Bergavenny, and Elizabeth was born at Hauley Castle, Worcestershire, on 16 Dec. 1415.3 On the death of her mother, who held them in jointure, Edward Neville in 1436 obtained possession of her father's lands, with the exception of the castle and lordship of Abergavenny, which was occupied, under an entail created in 1396 by Worcester's father, by his cousin Richard, Earl of Warwick (d. 1439), who also by papal dispensation married his cousin's widow, Isabel.

But Neville was known as Lord of Bergavenny, and when, after the death of Henry, Duke of Warwick, son of Richard, Earl of Warwick, and Isabel le Despenser in 1445, the Warwick inheritance devolved upon his infant daughter, Anne Beauchamp, who was a ward of the crown, Neville and his wife forcibly entered on the castles and lands, but were driven out.4 It was not until after the death of Anne Beauchamp on 3 June 1449 that Neville obtained the royal license (14 July 1449) to enter on the lands, &c., of Abergavenny.5 Nevertheless he did not get possession of them, for they passed into the hands of his nephew, Richard Neville, who succeeded to the Warwick estates in right of his wife, Anne Beauchamp, sister of Henry, Duke of Warwick, and called himself Lord of Bergavenny.6

Edward Neville was summoned to parliament as Baron of Bergavenny in September 1450, but it was not until the time of his grandson that the castle and lordship were definitely acquired by the holder of the title.7 Henry VIII restored them to George Neville, third baron Bergavenny. The history of the barony of Abergavenny is marked by more than one anomaly, but, if those were right who have maintained that it was held by the tenure of the castle, this would be the greatest. Edward Neville was the first person who was undoubtedly summoned to parliament under the express style of 'Lord of Bergavenny,' and Sir Harris Nicolas was inclined to think that he ought to be considered the first holder of the Abergavenny barony.8

He made very little figure in the stormy times in which some of his brothers and nephews were so prominent. In 1449 he had seen some military service in Normandy, and his son had been one of the hostages for the performance of the conditions on which the English were allowed to march out of Rouen in October of that year.9 In the civil strife he followed the lead of the heads of his family. When, in 1454, his brother-in-law, the Duke of York, became Protector of the Kingdom, and his eldest brother, the Earl of Salisbury, Chancellor, Abergavenny, with other Neville peers, sat pretty regularly in the privy council.10 Northampton is the only battle of the civil war in which his presence is mentioned.11

When Edward IV became king, Abergavenny served in the north under his nephews against the Lancastrians in the autumn of 1462, and more than once occurs as a commissioner of array in Kent, where he probably resided at his first wife's manor of Birling, close to Maidstone.12 Abergavenny did not change his king with his nephew Warwick, died on 18 Oct. 1476, and apparently was buried in the priory church at Abergavenny, where there is a monument of a warrior, at whose feet is a bull, the crest of Neville.13

By his first wife, Elizabeth Beauchamp, he had two sons and three daughters. The eldost son, Richard, died during his father's lifetime, and was buried in Staindrop Church, the ancient Neville mausoleum by the gates of Raby Castle.14 Raby was now in the hands of the elder family of Ralph, Earl of Westmorland, which was, by 1440, on the worst of terms with the younger. But George, the second son who succeeded his father as Baron of Abergavenny, is said to have been born at Raby. The direct male line of Edward Neville ended with his great grandson, Henry Neville, who died in 1587, leaving only a daughter, married to Sir Thomas Fane.

Henry Neville's cousin, Edward Neville (d. 1589), obtained the castle and lordship of Abergavenny under an entail created by Henry's father. Edward Neville's son and namesake claimed the barony in 1598 as heir male, but a counter-claim was raised by Lady Fane as heir-general. The matter was settled by a compromise in 1604, when Lady Fane was allowed the barony of LeDespenser and the barony of Abergavenny was confirmed to Edward Neville.... The arrangement was a most anomalous one. According to all modern peerage law the writ of 1604 must have created a new barony. The four subsequent occasions on which the barony has been allowed to go to heirs male would in strictness equally constitute new creations....15

Abergavenny's second wife was Catherine Howard, daughter of Sir Robert Howard, and sister of John Howard, first Duke of Norfolk. His first wife is said to have died on 18 June 1448,16 and he then married Catherine Howard. But he was excommunicated for doing so on the ground that they had had illicit relations during his wife's lifetime, and were within the third degree of consanguinity. Pope Nicholas V was, however, persuaded to grant a dispensation for the marriage. Dugdale gives 15 Oct. 1448 as the date of the bull, which, supposing the date of Elizabeth Beauchamp's death to be correct, does not leave much time for the intermediate proceedings. Both dates are irreconcileable with the age (twenty-six) which Dugdale (from the Escheat Roll) gives to her second son at his father's death in 1476. Sir Harris Nicolas gives thirty-six as his age, and, if this is a correction and not an error, it will remove the worst difficulty. It is certainly most unlikely that George Neville should have been born at Raby Castle in 1450.17

The children of the second marriage were two sons, Ralph and Edward, who died without issue, and three daughters: Margaret, who married John Brooke, Baron Cobham (d. 1506); Anne, who married Lord Strange (d. 1497), father of the second Earl of Derby; and Catherine, who married Robert Tanfield. Besides his manors in Kent, Abergavenny left lands in Sussex, Norfolk, Suffolk, and other counties.



1. Wills and Inventories, Surtees Society, i. 71.
2. Nicolas, Historic Peerage, ed. Courthope; Complete Peerage, ed. G. E. Cokayne, p. 14.
3. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 242.
4. Cokayne, p. 16.
5. Doyle, Official Baronage; Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, ed. Nicolas, v. 283; Dugdale, i. 309.
6. Dugdale, i. 307.
7. Swallow, De Nova Villa, Newcastle, 1885, pp. 229-30; Nicolas, Historic Peerage, p. 16; Inquisitiones post mortem, Record Commission ed., iv. 406.
8. Nicolas, Historic Peerage.
9. Stevenson, Wars of the English in France, Rolls Series, ii. 611-12, 628.
10. Ord. Privy Council, vol. v.
11. English Chronicle, 1377-1461, ed. Davies, Camden Society.
12. Doyle; Swallow, p. 287.
13. ib. p. 230.
14. Surtees, History of Durham, iv. 130; cf. Dugdale, i. 309.
15. Cokayne, pp. 20-4.
16. Doyle; Swallow, p. 231.
17. cf. Paston Letters, i. 397.




      Excerpted from:

      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. XIV. Sidney Lee, ed.
      New York: The Macmillan Co., 1909. 248-250.




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