By S. Cunningham
Northern History, Volume 32 (1996)
Introduction: Henry VII’s most pressing problems in the seven years following his victory at Bosworth on 22 August 1485 originated, arguably, amongst those former servants of Richard III who actively sought the return of a Yorkist monarchy. The greatest concentration of ex-Ricardians was found in the North-East of England (specifically the North Riding of Yorkshire), and consequently Henry VII’s early security policy focused on the containment of Yorkist sympathizers in this region. Richard’s northern dominance had stemmed from his acquisition, while still Duke of Gloucester, of the Neville estates forfeited by Richard, ‘the Kingmaker’ Earl of Warwick, following his defeat at Barnet in April 1471. The vast Neville affinity was concentrated around the castles ofPenrith in Westmorland, Barnard Castle in south-west Durham and Middleham and Sheriff Hutton in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and Richard received all but the Durham lordship immediately.
By the summer of 1471 Richard was retaining senior Neville servants such as Sir John Conyers of Hornby, who remained steward of Middleham. The transfer of Warwick’s retainers into service with Gloucester expanded as more Neville properties, including Barnard Castle, were acquired during Edward IV’s second reign. This continuity was further consolidated by the marriage of Richard to Warwick’s co-heiress Anne Neville at Easter 1472, and also by exchanges in the land market during the 1470s. It was an indenture of July 1474, between the Duke and Henry Percy, fourth Earl of Northumberland, however, which established Gloucester as the pre-eminent noble in Yorkshire. By this agreement Northumberland became Richard’s servant and the Duke promised to retain no Percy clients. Nevertheless, the distinction between the affinities of the two lords became less obvious as they co-operated throughout Edward IV’s reign and in June 1483, when Northumberland commanded an amalgamated force which descended upon London to enforce Richard’s seizure of the throne. Yet once Richard became king, he was, as Dr Hicks has shown, free to ignore the constraints of this indenture and began to recruit Percy retainers, such as Sir Christopher Ward, Sir John Everingham, and Sir Marmaduke Constable, directly into the royal retinue. The encroachment upon Percy independence, unavoidable with a King and royal retinue rooted in the North-East, was possibly a factor in Northumberland’s failure to repeat at Bosworth the loyalty he had shown during the usurpation of 1483.