Woodville Family Coat of Arms
Woodville Family Coat of Arms

Character Information
Woodville is the captain of the guards at the tower. He refuses to let Gloucester in on Winchester’s orders. This may imply that Woodville is loyal to Winchester, and not Gloucester, who should have more authority than Winchester. While the Woodville family did exist, they had not yet risen to fame. The family rose to power when Edward IV, son of Richard Duke of York married Elizabeth Woodville. The use of the name here most likely is a nod to the fact, like the Yorks, Winchester is working against the King, and not for him.

Historical information
The following information is quoted from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, written by Michael Hicks.

Woodville [Wydeville], Richard, first Earl Rivers (d. 1469), magnate, founded his fortunes on two remarkable marriages, one of which was to make him father-in-law of Edward IV. The Woodvilles were modest Northamptonshire gentry who failed in the male line on the death about 1435 of Thomas Woodville, esquire, whose heirs were two sisters rather than his half-brother, Richard, father of the future Earl Rivers. As a younger son, the elder Richard Woodville (d. c.1441) pursued a distinguished military and administrative career that became the model for future generations of the family. Allegedly brought up with Henry IV he was in the garrison of the king's son Thomas at Guînes in 1411, was captain on Henry V's campaigns of 1415 and 1417, and later served the regent, John, duke of Bedford. He was in English France almost continuously from 1417 to 1435 as captain and bailiff, as seneschal of Normandy (1420), chamberlain of the regent, and treasurer of finances (1423), lieutenant of Calais in 1427 and again in 1435, and councillor of France; he was employed in positions of trust in England in 1425 and 1436. Returning to England, where he already held the Mote estate at Maidstone and where his brother bequeathed him Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire, he was MP for Kent in 1433, constable of Rochester, and sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1437, before his death about 1441. He was never knighted and married his daughter no higher than the ranks of the Kentish gentry.

The younger Richard Woodville added only a little to his father's modest estates. He was on Northamptonshire commissions from 1441, JP for Northamptonshire from 1448, and for Kent from 1454. His military career followed the pattern of that of his father. A captain in 1429, he was retained in royal service in France (1433) and was a knight of the regent, Bedford, in 1435. He was at Gerberoi in 1435, served under William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, in 1435–6, Somerset and Shrewsbury in 1439, and the duke of York in 1441–2, when he was made captain of Alençon and knight-banneret, and was among the escort bringing Margaret of Anjou, who was connected with his wife, to England in 1444. With such a background he was an obvious choice as seneschal of Gascony in 1450, as lieutenant of Calais in 1454–5, and to defend Kent against invasion by the Yorkist earls in 1459–60. But Woodville was never in command and was not notably successful: he apparently suffered capture at Gerberoi in 1435, he failed to reach Gascony before its fall in 1453, and suffered humiliating capture at Sandwich in 1460. His joust against the Spaniard Pedro de Vasquez at Smithfield in 1440 anticipated the distinction in tourneying of his sons and grandson.

The elder Richard's Lancastrian connections account for the knighting of the younger Richard by Henry VI in 1426 and for his presence in 1435 at the regent's court, where he encountered Jacquetta of Luxembourg, duchess of Bedford (d. 1472), whom, following the duke's death in 1435, he had married secretly by 1437. For Jacquetta marriage to a mere knight was a shocking mésalliance, which was disapproved of both by her Luxembourg relatives and by Henry VI. Hence Woodville was fined £1000 for marrying her without licence and for possession of her dower. However, the match made Woodville's fortune. It made him kin to the house of Lancaster, to his wife's family, the Luxembourg counts of St Pol, and through them to international royalty and nobility, including Margaret of Anjou and the dukes of Burgundy. Jacquetta's dower greatly increased his income, presumably to at least 2000 marks, albeit only for her life, and enabled him to support a noble lifestyle and to marry his children into the lower nobility: thus his son Anthony Woodville was married to Elizabeth, Lord Scales's heir, his daughter Elizabeth to Sir John Grey, heir to Lady Ferrers of Groby, and another daughter, Jacquetta, to John, Lord Strange of Knockin. Woodville's royal connections were a further justification for his election as knight of the Garter in 1450 and his creation as a baron on 9 May 1448. His mysterious choice of title, Lord Rivers, and his addition of a griffin to his arms, which imply links with earlier barons that cannot be traced, suggest that he felt the need for a lineage separate from that of his wife: his dependence on her was disparaged by the Neville earls in 1460. Even with her lands and his barony, which raised him far above his birth and patrimony, his commands, offices, and status were decidedly of second rank. Without Jacquetta's dower his heir might have found it hard to support the dignity of a baron.

Rivers took part in the suppression of Cade's rebellion and was apparently considered as a possible constable of England. Indicted in Kent as a member of the court in 1451 and closely associated with successive Beaufort dukes of Somerset in the 1450s, he was employed abroad and thus escaped some of the major crises. Rivers was not retained as lieutenant of Calais by Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, after 1456 and from 1457 occurs frequently on commissions in Northamptonshire and Kent. In 1457 he became constable of Rochester. Following the flight of the Yorkist earls to Calais he was preparing an expedition against them at Sandwich when he was surprised and borne off there as a prisoner. He later fought on the Lancastrian side at Towton, but was allowed to submit to the new Yorkist regime on the grounds that the Lancastrian cause was irretrievably lost. Like other erstwhile Lancastrians, he was required to serve against the northern rebels. Not only did he escape attainder, but he was again employed on royal commissions and from 1463 on the royal council. That his influence remained limited emerges from his daughter Elizabeth's use not of him but of the king's chamberlain to obtain access to Edward IV in pursuance of her suit for jointure from her late husband, Sir John Grey of Groby.

Elizabeth's secret marriage in 1464 to Edward IV was a second remarkably unequal and inappropriate match that greatly advanced the Woodvilles and especially Rivers himself. He and his family constituted a numerous addition to the royal kin: with Jacquetta he had fourteen or fifteen children, of whom five sons and six daughters achieved maturity; there were also Haute, Dyve, and other cousins. Edward IV felt himself obliged not only to provide for them all, but to do so extremely generously. Rivers himself was appointed treasurer of England on 4 March 1466, created Earl Rivers on 25 May 1466, and became constable of England on 24 August 1467. Altogether his royal offices brought him an income, admittedly for life only, of £1586 a year. Although already provided for, his elder children were not ignored; Lionel Woodville ultimately became a bishop; John became prior of St John and married the dowager duchess of Norfolk; and Elizabeth's eldest son, Thomas Grey, married Anne Holland, heir of the duke of Exeter. Most striking of all were the matches arranged for Rivers's remaining daughters: between 1464 and 1467 Katherine Woodville [see under Stafford, Henry] married Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, and Margaret, Anne, Mary, and Eleanor were married to Thomas, Lord Maltravers, William, Lord Bourchier, William Herbert, Lord Dunster, and Anthony Grey of Ruthin, the heirs respectively of the earls of Arundel, Essex, Pembroke, and Kent. These matches constitute one of the most remarkable series of arranged marriages in late medieval England. They were not merely incidental to Elizabeth's elevation as queen, but were actively promoted by Earl Rivers and the king. It was the king himself who broke an earlier agreement for Anne Holland's hand. He was the initiator of the contract between Pembroke and Rivers, in which Rivers agreed to put Pembroke's demands to the king and secure his compliance. Edward endowed both the Bourchier and Arundel matches directly. Not only were these marriages generally at royal expense, but in some instances Edward had to recover grants from others to patronize the Woodvilles. In Rivers's own case, the offices of treasurer and constable were surrendered by existing holders in return for inducements: the earl of Worcester actually sold the constableship, so that Edward could bestow it on Rivers.

Such rapid advancement in such a short time was bound to cause resentment; the Woodville marriages in particular thwarted the legitimate aspirations of others, especially those of the earl of Warwick for his daughters and male heir. Warwick and the Nevilles also found themselves superseded in influence at court, particularly after the dismissal of Archbishop Neville as chancellor in 1467. Their advancement also signalled a change in foreign policy, from pro-French to pro-Burgundian, which certainly the Crowland continuator saw as the main source of political division between Edward IV and the Nevilles. Jacquetta's Burgundian connections were a factor here: in 1467 her son Anthony had a celebrated joust with Antoine, count of La Roche, the Bastard of Burgundy, and in 1468 Edward IV's sister Margaret married the duke of Burgundy himself.

Hence in 1469 Earl Rivers was among the royal favourites whom Warwick, Archbishop Neville, and Clarence determined to destroy as the essential preliminary to their recovery of power. They supported a manifesto denouncing evil government and the king's upstart favourites supposedly issued by the Yorkshire rebel Robin of Redesdale, whose defeat of Pembroke's army at Edgcote (27 July) led to Warwick's capture of the king and hence of the government. Rivers was not at Edgcote, but he and his son Sir John Woodville were seized at Chepstow, taken to Kenilworth, and executed there on 12 August 1469. Charges of sorcery against the Duchess Jacquetta were withdrawn after Edward IV's recovery of power.

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