The Wars of the Roses/[A Nevill Feast]/Letter of Richard, Duke of York to Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter


In searching for Cecily Nevill’s letter to Margaret of Anjou, I also found this. I’m assuming that the confusion about its intended recipient is well and truly cleared up. Rawcliffe* thought it was a letter to Edward, earl of March, though it would have been extraordinary if it was. But as she also is prepared to believe that Edward threatened to march on London at the head of an army at the age of ten, her confusion is perhaps not quite so surprising. Bearing in mind that around this time Edward and his brother Edmund sent their father a letter asking for help against the bullying Crofts, I think that if he’d had an army powerful enough to threaten London he’d have been able to sort this out himself! Pugh** (correctly) links it with Henry Holland, duke of Exeter, who was, at the time it was written, fomenting rebellion (or trying to) in the north of England alongside those two well known rapscallions, Thomas and Richard Percy.  (below is the version as found in Rawcliffe.)

The letter is dated 8 May 1454.



Right and myghti prince, right worshipfull and with all my hert enterely welbelovyd cosyn and sone, I recommaunde me un to you. And how be it your beyng late with me at London, I, havyng consideracon in the nyghness where yn we be knet to gedir in nature and alyaunce – which of reson must dryve and stere and so dryveth and stereth me to will and to desire of the good zele and tender affection that God knowyth y have bornne and bere to you and your honour, worship and prosperite – advertisid, moved and exhortid you to ley apart and fore bere the insolent rule and mysgovernaunce which hath been by you usid; and to dryve from youre felship such persons aproved of riottes and unrestfull conversacion as of there condicions and importunes mocions and provocacons have been and been, as it is demed, causers and occasioners of youre insolence. Whereof it is to blasfemously spokyn right largely in greet obliquie of your astate of the people, right hevely aggruggyng, complaynyng and lamentyng youre mysgovernaunce to my greete sorowe to here therof as y doo – to sorowfull and to peteous to be herd or reportid of such a prince of greete astate as blissid be god ye be. Sith that in princes of high and noble blode honour, prowesse, renown, noble and vertu hath be and owe to be by them stabelisship and exercisid, of whom persons of lower astate and degree have takyn, and shull take, ensample of their worshipfull and lawfull rule; and alway to eschire and drede to doo or attempte the contrarie, which settith against rest and felicite. Yat, nathless, y am enformed here that, not oonly by the drawght of people toward you from ferre parts of the land, but also by proviaunce of ordynaunce, defensable araie and habilements of werre in greete substaunce, ye do resort to greete and strong enforcementes, to what entent it is no knowen but mervayled, wherof rennyth a greete rumour and noise thorow this land in every partie. I therfor for myn aquitaille and devoir of faderly and cosynly affection especially exhorte, counseill and avise you to aplie and conforme you to my said advertisements; and to that that mowe sounde to the pollitique and restfull rule of this noble realme, obeyng you in all wise as ye owe to doo the kyng owr soverayne lord and the lawe of this land, which must and owe to be obeied of every his liegeman of what astate, degre or condicion so ever he be; trustyng for certayn that ye so doyng shull do god and to owr soverayn lord greete plesur, deserve of all his subiectes of good duite greete laude and thanke, do to youre self greete honour and prosperite and to me and all your kyn greete ioy and consulacion; and do revers to your greete geoperde and perill. And, for asmoch as y tryst verely that your cosynly favour and affection is such toward me as god knoweth myn is toward you, undre the consideracon abovesaid it will like you if ye be not disposid to drawe you to … of my said advertisements as y have greete hope and trust that ye woll. And therfor, on goddis bihalf, y require you not to take wounder or straungenes if that y put me in devour that y am bounden and owe to put me in to god of the assurence that y have made uppon the holy evaungeles among other lordes of this lande, and also to owre said soverayn lord and to his people of the chargis that y have admittid and taken uppon me by his high and noble commaundement; and thow y be not reymsse nor negligent in thexecucon of the same assuraunce and charge, wheryn y must oonly preferre the drede of god and of oure saverayn lord and refuse the favour and affection of ony other persone erthely, nether takyng regard there of of any persone undre the high astate of our said soverayn lord, the quene oure soverayn lady and my lord the prince, nor the nyghnesse to me of any createur alyve; desiryng and praying you to certifie me in wrytyng bithe bearer of this to what entent that ye enforce you of the said people, ordinaunce and habilementes of werre, and how ye playnly be disposid in the premises, wher un to y may yefe trust; notifieng un to you that my faderly and cosynly devoir in the same, not hid to god, y will open and shew un to the kyng and his counseill, and make to be open and shewid un to all this land to thentent that, what so ever hap here after ward thorow the contynuaunce of the said mysrule, it shall be verely be knowen what diligence y have doon and in what maner to reconsile it to such worshipfull, substantiall and lawfull governaunce that ye owe to use as a prince of this land, and to put your humble obeissaunce to wore said soverayn lord and his lawes. And y beseche oure lord evermore to have you in his kepyng. Wretend undre my sugnet at thabbey of Waltham the viij May
by Richard, duke of York and defensor of England.

There’s a teensy bit of arse covering towards the end, but it’s a strong letter written from a position of authority that illustrates just how seriously York was taking his role.  I wonder if Exeter actually took the time to read it – it’s quite long and (despite the assurances of love, both as cousin and father-in-law) uncompromisingly harsh.

*Rawcliffe, Richard Duke of York, the King’s ‘obeisant liegeman’: a New Source for the Protectorates of 1454 and 1455 (my copy ud)
** Pugh, Richard Duke of York, and the Rebellion of Henry Holand, Duke of Exeter, in May 1454 (my copy nd)

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