Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Yorkist Ladies

We are now pretty much at the end of the first phase of the House of York (although, in my untidy way, I may well come back to this era from time to time) but it remains to say what happened to the surviving ladies of the family.

Constance of York, Lady Despenser, only briefly survived her brothers, dying on 28 or 29 November 1416, probably at Caversham. She was buried before the high altar of Reading Abbey, and later joined in her tomb by her great-granddaughter, Anne Beauchamp, daughter of Henry Duke of Warwick. Her son Richard had pre-deceased her, but she left two daughters, Isabelle Despenser and Alianore Holland.

Isabelle was already married (1411) to Richard Beauchamp of Abergavenny, created Earl of Worcester by Henry V. He died in 1421. They had one daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir Edward Neville, Lord Bergavenny. Isabelle next married her first husband's cousin, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. By him she had a son, Henry, later Duke of Warwick, and a daughter, Anne Beauchamp, later wife of Warwick the Kingmaker and mother of Anne and Isabelle Neville. (Ring any bells, Ricardians?)

Alianore Holland claimed to be the legitimate daughter (and heiress) of Edmund, Earl of Kent. She and her husband (James, Lord Audley) made every attempt to prove this via the spiritual courts, but a petition of her Holland relatives to Parliament in 1431 had the effect of preventing her from inheriting lands and title, irrespective of the findings of the spiritual court. After Alianore's birth Kent married the Lady Lucia of Milan, and the 'other side' alleged Constance had been present at the wedding banquet and made no protest. By 1431 of course Constance was long dead, and scarely in a position to give evidence, one way or the other. However it is interesting to note that in this case the much vaunted power of the spiritual court in these matters was simply ignored as irrelevant.

James and Alianore had many children and their descendants are legion.

Joan Holland, Duchess of York

Joan (or Joanne) Holland, second wife of Edmund of Langley, married three further times, though she had no children by any husband. Her second husband was William, Lord Willoughby. She had a running quarrel with her stepson after Willoughby's death over items of property he claimed she had taken without right.

The third was Henry, Lord Scrope of Masham, who was involved in the Southampton Plot and consequently executed. Scrope was a wealthy man, and he and Joan seem to have been equally grasping. At one point Joan arranged to have herself 'abducted' decamping with various valuables, worth £5000. Scrope bargained with her in his will that she could choose £2000 worth of his belongings providing she let go any right she might have to one third or one half of his goods. Of course, as he died a traitor, his goods were all forfeited anyway!

Joan consoled herself with a new, younger husband, Henry Bromflete, (much) later created Lord Vesci. He outlived her by many years, Joan dying 12 April 1434, but Bromflete not until 1469.

Philippa Mohun, Duchess of York

It is sometimes stated, even in otherwise respectable tomes, that Philippa married Henry Bromflete, but both duchesses simply cannot have done and it appears Joan was the one who did.

Like Joan, Philippa had no children by any of her husbands. The first of these, Lord Fitzwalter, died as far back as 1386. It seems that Philippa may have been born circa 1363, but if you check out her parents' date of marriage even this seems a bit of a stretch unless she and her younger sister were late additions.

Anyway, we can assume she was about 52 at the time of Edward's death and as she lived on until 17 July 1431 she would be at least 68 at the time of her death at Carisbrooke, a very respectable age for the era. Thrice dowered, and with a decent share of York's goods left to her in his will, I think we can assume she had a comfortable retirement, maybe mostly in the Isle of Wight over which she enjoyed lordship. She has a fine tomb in Westminster Abbey.

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