Monday, February 16, 2009

Ralph Neville, 1st earl Westmorland, 1364-1425

© 2009 Christy K Robinson

Who was Ralph Neville?

...Grandson of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland
...Grandson-in-law of Earl of Warwick
...Son-in-law of Earl of Stafford
...Son-in-law of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, King of Castile
...Married to granddaughter of King Edward III of England
...Married to cousin of King Richard II of England
...Brother-in-law of King Henry IV of England
...Grandfather of King Edward IV of England
...Grandfather of King Richard III of England
...Grandfather of Henry Lord Scrope of Bolton

This is a short pedigree of Ralph:
Father: Sir John de Neville, 3rd Baron Neville b. c 1330 d. 17 Oct 1388
Paternal grandfather: Ralph de Neville, 2nd Lord Neville b. c 1291 d. 5 Aug 1367
Paternal grandmother: Alice Audley b. c 1304 d. 12 Jan 1373/74
Mother: Maud de Percy b. c 1335 d. 18 Feb 1379
Maternal grandfather: Sir Henry Percy, 2nd Lord Percy b. 6 Feb 1301 d. 26 Feb 1351/52
Maternal grandmother: Idoine de Clifford b. c 1300 d. 24 Aug 1365

Ralph Neville was my ancestor 21 generations ago on at least three lines. That’s not surprising, considering that he sired 23 children by his two wives. There are millions and millions of Neville descendants.

His Neville pedigree is known for 11 previous generations, going back to Neuville-sur-Touques [48-51'-40.92'' N by 0-16'-55.17" E], France, in the early ninth century. Google Earth shows this site as a long ridge surrounded by farmland.

There are several Ralph Nevilles over several hundred years, and because his son Ralph Neville married his step-sister Mary Ferrers (my ancestor on another line), I was confused about who this Ralph was. So here's a timeline of a very important personage in medieval England.

1364: Ralph Neville, 1st earl Westmorland, was born at Castle Raby, Durham, son of Sir John Neville, KG, 3rd Baron Neville, and Maud de Percy. Ralph was the fifth of eight children.
1380: Knighted by Thomas of Woodstock on Brittany expedition.
1382: Ralph and Lady Margaret de Stafford married, both about 18 years of age.

Margaret de Stafford (1364October 18, 1396) was the second daughter of Hugh de Stafford, 2nd Earl of Stafford and Philippa de Beauchamp, daughter of Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Katherine de Mortimer. Margaret became the first wife of Ralph de Neville. See article on Margaret's grandfather, Ralph Stafford, 1st Earl Stafford, here.

Margaret was a maternal first cousin of the 1st Earl of Worcester and the 13th Earl of Warwick; as well as a maternal aunt of the soldier and commander William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk and a paternal aunt of the military commander Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham.

Lady Margaret, Baroness Raby, had nine children by Ralph de Neville, two of whom are my ancestors:
1. Maud de Neville (d. October
1438), married Piers de Mauley, 5th Baron Mauley
2. Alice Neville, married first Sir Thomas Grey of Heton; married second Sir Gilbert Lancaster
Philippa de Neville, married Thomas de Dacre, 6th Baron Dacre
John de Neville, Lord Neville (d. 1420)
Sir Ralph Neville, married Mary Ferrers, his step-sister, daughter of Sir Robert Ferrers and Joan Beaufort and had issue
6. Elizabeth de Neville, a nun
7. Anne de Neville, married Sir Gilbert
8. Margaret Neville, Baroness Scrope of Bolton, married first
Richard Scrope, 3rd Baron Scrope of Bolton and had issue before he died two years later; married second William Cressoner.
9. Anastasia de Neville

1385: Joint Keeper of the castle and city of Carlisle
1386: Joint warden of west march of Yorkshire with his father.
1388: Ralph, age 24, became the fifth Baron Neville de Raby at the death of his father. Baron Neville de Raby, also referred to as Baron Raby, was an ancient title in the Peerage of England. It was first created around 1295 for his ancestor Ralph Neville, 1262-1331.
1389: Keeper of forests beyond the Trent
1396: Keeper of Wark Castle (Percy territory) until 1425
1396: Wife Margaret de Stafford died Oct. 18, aged 32, after bearing nine children (seven girls, two boys) in 14 years; she was buried in St Brandon’s Church, Brancepeth Castle, Durham.

1397: Feb. 3, Ralph Neville married Joan Beaufort Ferrers, daughter of Katherine Roet Swynford and John of Gaunt (son of King Edward III).

Joan de Beaufort was born about 1375. Joan, although granddaughter of a king, and daughter of the Duke of Lancaster, was illegitimate at the time of her first marriage to Robert de Ferrers, Baron Wemme, descendant of the earls of Derby, her third cousin once removed.
Along with her three brothers, Joan was privately declared legitimate by their cousin King
Richard II of England in 1390, but their father secured another declaration from Parliament in January 1397. Joan was already an adult when she was legitimized by the marriage of her mother and father with papal approval. The Beauforts were later barred from inheriting the throne by a clause inserted into the legitimation act by their half-brother, King Henry IV. Soon after this declaration, on/before 3 February 1397, Joan (widow of Robert Ferrers, my ancestor) married Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, who had also been married once before. Ralph and Joan married at Chateau de Beaufort, says the genealogical rumor mill, as that was Joan's surname, and a property of her father, John of Gaunt. However, it doesn't seem logical or likely that they'd take that trip in the winter for some romantic notion.

Ralph Neville had fourteen children by Joan Beaufort (who already had two Ferrers daughters):
Lady Katherine Neville, married first on January 12, 1411 John Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk; married second Sir Thomas Strangways; married third John Beaumont, 1st Viscount Beaumont; married fourth Sir John Woodville (d. August 12, 1469).
Lady Eleanor Neville (1398-1472), married first Richard le Despencer, 4th Baron Burghersh, married second Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland
Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury (1400-1460)
Robert Neville (d. 1457), Bishop of Durham
William Neville, 1st Earl of Kent (d. 1463)
Edward Neville, 1st Lord Bergavenny (d. 1476)
7. Anne Neville (1414-1480), married
Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Cecily Neville (1415-1495) ("Proud Cis"), married Richard, 3rd Duke of York; mother of Kings Edward IV of England and Richard III of England
George Neville, 1st Baron Latymer (d. 1469)
10. John Neville, died young
11. Cuthbert Neville, died young
12. Thomas Neville, died young
13. Henry Neville, died young
14. Joan Neville, a nun

Joan Beaufort, Countess Westmorland, died 13 Nov. 1440 at Howden, Yorkshire; Joan’s effigy is with those of her husband Ralph Neville and his first wife Margaret Stafford at Staindrop church, Raby, Durham, but she is actually buried at Lincoln Cathedral with her mother, Katherine Roet Swynford, third wife of John of Gaunt. The Lincoln Cathedral tombs were vandalized in 1640 during the Civil War, but the tomb boxes remain on the south side of the chancel.

1397: Ralph created 1st Earl of Westmorland. Held castles of Raby, Brancepeth, Middleham, Sheriff Hutton. Given lordship of Richmond for life.
1399-1412: Earl Marshal of England. The Earl Marshal is the eighth of the Great Officers of State, with the Lord High Constable above him and only the Lord High Admiral beneath him.
1402: He was made a Knight of the Garter, taking the place left vacant by the death of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York. Neville was a supporter of King Henry IV of England, his wife’s half-brother.
1403: Helped put down Percy revolt regarding Henry IV’s usurpation of throne. His mother was a Percy, so of course he was closely allied with them.
1403: Became warden of Richard Scrope, 3rd Lord Scrope of Bolton, aged 10, my ancestor. Richard Scrope married Margaret Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville and Margaret Stafford. Richard was killed in battle 1320, leaving two-year-old son Henry Scrope, who also became ward of Ralph Neville, his grandfather.
1403-1414: Warden of Carlisle and the Western March
1405: Parleyed with Archbishop Scrope and Thomas Mowbray to stop hostilities with Henry IV. They were seized and executed.
1405: Negotiated with Scots and kept peace on borders.
1408: Ralph was granted the license to found a college at Castle Raby's Staindrop St Mary's church, with an endowment the equivalent of today’s £300,000.
1415: Ralph decisively defeated an invading Scottish army at the Battle of Yeavering. The Battle of Yeavering (or Battle of Geteryne) was fought on July 22, 1415 between English and Scottish forces near Yeavering in Northumberland. A small English force consisting of 440 men led by Ralph Neville Earl of Westmoreland defeated 4,000 Scots. Fought in the same year as Henry V's Battle of Agincourt which famously established the efficacy of the longbow against cavalry, it is notable that the English side at Yeavering consisted mostly of archers.
1415: member of the Council of Regency, during King Henry V's absence abroad.
1425: Oct. 21 Ralph died at Castle Raby, Durham, aged 61, leaving 23 children. Buried in nearby Staindrop Collegiate Church, with alabaster effigies of himself and two wives, both of whom are buried elsewhere (Margaret at Brancepeth, Durham; and Joan at Lincoln Cathedral with her mother). The alabaster effigies came from a quarry owned by John of Gaunt.

When Ralph de Neville died in 1425, his lands and titles should by law have passed to his eldest surviving son from his first marriage to Margaret Stafford, her son Ralph de Neville (the son). Instead, while the title of Earl of Westmorland and several manors were passed to Ralph the younger, most of the senior Ralph's estate went to his surviving wife, Joan Beaufort*. The result was years of conflict between Joan and her nine step-children, who fiercely contested her acquisition of their father's lands. Joan however, with her royal blood and connections, was far too powerful to be called to account, and the senior branch of the Nevilles received little redress for their grievances. Inevitably, when Joan died [13 Nov. 1440 at Howden, Yorkshire], the lands were inherited by her own children.
The Neville Tower at
Raby Castle, Durham

Ralph sired 23 children. And his wives carried 9 and 16 pregnancies to term, respectively. (No telling the miscarriages that may have taken place.) Margaret died at age 32. Joan lived 25 years after her 16th child was born.

At least the Neville children were born on the right side of the blanket. King Henry I of England had more bastards than Ralph Neville had legitimate sons and daughters. Several of those bastards are my ancestors, as well as legitimate descent through his daughter Matilda and her son Henry II. But Henry II put both legit and illegit into my family tree. Whatever, that's a lot of indoor sport.
* Joan Beaufort's effigy is at Staindrop, but her tomb is at Lincoln Cathedral with that of her mother, Katherine Roet Swynford, Countess of Lancaster. For information on Joan's and Katherine's tombs, visit the Katherine Swynford blog here.
For detailed research on
The Nevills of Middleham
, please
consult the 2016 book by
my friend K.L. Clark,
found at this link:

Christy K Robinson is the author of this Rooting for Ancestors blog, the William and Mary Barrett Dyer historical blog,  and is the author of several books (see blog margin).


  1. Enjoyed your article on Ralph Neville. I too am doing genealogy and the Nevilles are part of it. Very interesting. I am wondering if you know anything about the Radcliffe genealogy. I seem to keep finding that William Radcliffe (b. abt 1280) was married to Cicley Mortimer, then I will find some who have him married to a Katherine Burrell. Do you know? Thanks, for any and all info. tanya

  2. Tanya, thanks for your comment. I'm at work right now, with files at home. I haven't researched Radcliffes (if I have them), but I have oodles of Mortimers.

    I only began this blog a few months ago, and have little time to devote to it. My plan is to breathe some life back into names and dates by finding their stories.

  3. Hi Christy! Thanks for the wonderful article on Ralph Neville. I am a decendant of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort. Your article helped me figure some things out. I'm new at researching my geneology and it can get a little sketchy! So, I guess we are related, right? I'd love to sit down and figure out exactly how. I'm becoming obsessed. I need to go to England and check it all out. Thanks again for all your research. It sure made it easier for me!!

  4. Hi, Karin,
    Thanks for your comment. This Neville article and the related one on Staindrop Church get the most searches and hits of any on my blog. Which means we must have a LOT of cousins!

    I don't have access to any original sources, so my research is mostly from googling names and dates, then compiling what I find in individual Microsoft Word documents. I've made 4 trips to UK (from Arizona and California) to see the places my ancestors lived and died, but using that precious time there to research would be too expensive even for my blue blood. :) So my tiny bits of advice are to research the heck out of everything you can while at home, THEN travel and have a blast at the castles and cathedrals and broken-down abbeys; and get to know some historian/writer friends on Facebook: Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Helen Hollick, etc. They have wonderful blogs, and you'll get to know the regular comment-makers and become friends with them, as well. It's all good! Good luck with your research. Wish I had more time to work on this blog, but that's life in the 21st century.

  5. Thank you so much for this article! I've only just discovered that Ralph Neville is my 19th great grandfather through his daughter Lady Eleanor. I love archaeology and geneology as well and can't wait for whatever new discovery awaits me just around the next corner!

  6. Do you have a source for Ralph marrying Joan at Chateau Beaufort? I am curious as I am a Katherine Swynford researcher (http://katherineswynford.blogspot.com). Thanks, Judy

  7. Buttercup/Judy: No, I don't have access to primary sources. I've seen that comment about Chateau Beaufort repeated numerous times on the Web, but if it's a mistake, all it took was one error to replicate on thousands of genealogy sites. As far as I can tell, Beaufort was just one of thousands of properties owned by John of Gaunt, and I've seen no proof that his children by Katherine were born there and took the place name as their surname, as I've often seen asserted. It could be that John and Katherine were NOT married at Beaufort, and that's just a genealogy myth. Hmmm, would like to know!

  8. Looks like a gathering of cousins! Nice article. I descend from no less than 2 sons of Ralph: Richard AND Edward...one line to my mother's mother (goes through the CALVERTs of Lord Baltimore fame) and the other to my mother's father (via a well documented TILGHMAN / TILLMAN line). Tom W.

  9. More than half the visits to this blog hit this Neville article and the one on Staindrop Church (where Ralph Neville sleeps). Our ancestor is one popular guy! Or he had 20-some children who had children who had children... Potentially, there could be millions of Ralph Neville descendants.

    Ralph is my ancestor through both his wives, as you see in the article. That actually happened frequently in the Middle Ages, when families allied themselves through their large broods.

  10. Ralph Neville & Margaret Stafford were my greats-- daughter Alice Neville married grandfather Thomas Gray--beheaded during Southampton Plot 1415
    greetings cousins

  11. Curious if anyone on your list has the rare royal blood disorder Porphyria?

  12. Ms. Robinson,

    Thank you for your excellent work. I am another of your distant cousins as Edward Neville was my 15th maternal line, great-grandfather via the Elizabeth Beauchamp union. Will continue to read your wonderful blog!

  13. Glad you like the Neville-related posts. They've certainly received the most traffic on my site. I just had the evil thought that I should add "Neville" in every label or keyword in this blog, and my other (meditations) blog. :) That would be very naughty, though. My mama raised me better than that.

  14. Seems Ralph dDe Neville is also my 19th Great Grandfather also,the family line carrying down through the Greys,Husseys,Forsters ,Thornes to the Birdsalls........Bill Birdsall

  15. Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort are my 16th great grandparents. Do I get a tiara? Enjoyed reading your work and can appreciate the amount of time it took to research.

  16. I enjoyed reading about the Nevilles. I have traced my family to Eleanor Neville, Ralph Neville's sister, their parents being John Neville and Maud de Percy. Your blog has made me want to go to England and see these places for myself! As Bill did above, I have listed my family line from the Nevilles. Neville to Lumley to Chideoch to Arundel to Nance to Whitlock to Wood to Hill. -Barbara Hill

  17. I tried many times with the non-robot symbols but none accepted.
    I, too, descend from Ralph thru his Stafford son Ralph & Mary Ferrers,
    plus from Ralph and Joan Beaufort thru daughter Eleanor & Percy, thru from both lines, to Gasgoigne, Dymoke, Westebank, Reade, into VA to the Warner/Lewis Family. Looking for those with similar line, as mine all
    direct grand parent to grandparent.

    1. Martha, your three entries got through to my email, but I'm only publishing this latest one. I was away from the computer, so I couldn't approve the comments right away. On this blog, I need that process to screen out spammers.

      My lines descend similarly to Gascoigne, then to Plumpton.

      Best wishes on your genealogy searches. I'm interested in the stories and "who" the ancestors were, more than the acquisition of names, probably because I'm an amateur at the hobby, but have found so many date mistakes, impossibilities, and misconceptions in the genealogy files that now I'm skeptical of quite a lot!

  18. I think I once heard it said that the Nevilles were so prolific that almost everyone must have a Neville in their genealogy somewhere! A bit over the top maybe... We, in our collective family - cousins, etc. - are descended from no fewer than seven of Ralph Neville's children! Is this a record, I wonder!

  19. This is a great page!! I came here looking for the Joan Beaufort image with her kids. However, now I'm going to recommend this page to my blog readers (History Behind Game of Thrones).
    I only wish I'd found this post before I'd written this post(http://history-behind-game-of-thrones.com/2013/06/lordfrey/) about how Ralph Neville may be the historical basis for Lord Walder Frey in Game of Thrones.
    BTW, distant cousins, don't get mad at me when you read the Walder Frey post. Ralph Neville doesn't come off very well. (I'm also a Neville ancestor - I am descended through Stafford line through Phillipa - so I'm tarring my own roots with the same brush!)

    1. Thank you for your compliments, Jamie. Doing this timeline helped me sort out which Ralph I was reading about. And doing a grid of timelines (in MS Excel) has been absolutely invaluable in researching and writing the complicated historical novel I'm nearly finished with, on Mary Barrett Dyer, the Quaker martyr of 1660. My head is trapped in the 17th century from 2011 to the foreseeable future.

      I haven't seen or read Game of Thrones, so I'll have to trust you on the references and parallels.

  20. Hi cousins! I was born Helen Lucy Neville. Although we haven't yet gone far enough back in our genealogical research, it has always been accepted in our family that we are descended from these above mentioned Nevilles. Which ones exactly I hope I can find out! Christy, you have some fabulous information! The work you must have put in! Well done. Regards Helen

    1. Thanks, Helen. I hope you find the connection. For my blog articles, I used resources that are commonly available in history and genealogy sites, then arranged them on a timeline. In that way I can discard the myths that don't fit with history, and I can discover the person's place in contemporary politics, religion, culture, etc. It really helps fill in the probable motives for their actions, which helps bring them "alive" in our thoughts. It makes them seem human, not just names in a book.

  21. Here's another Neville cousin who stumbled on your blog. At present count, I am descended from 3 of Ralph's children, 1 of them by his first wife & 2 by Joan. I'm also descended from Joan's daughter, Elizabeth Ferrers.

  22. Tim WestmorelandJuly 19, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    Thank you for posting this information. I've been researching the Neville family for years and at first couldn't believe how well documented the family was until I started realizing the royal connections. I enjoyed every bit of what you've researched and written.

    -Tim Westmoreland- Texas

  23. I am another Neville descendent through Joan Beaufort and Warwick 'the Kingmaker's illegitimate daughter, Margaret Neville who he married off to the Huddleston family. I intend to visit Staindrop in late July so have appreciated your blog. Read the books by Alison Weir and Anne O'Brien, they bring these people to life.
    Barbara Chivers, Cheltenham , England.

  24. I am a Neville descendant (of Georgia) living in Lafayette, Louisiana. I have the first and surname of both my great grandfather and grandfather, who both died in the same decade. All of the men on that side die quite young. Any musings known re.: the curse against the Neville's made by Queen Elizabeth (the White)?

    1. Dear Anonymous friend who has been reading Philippa Gregory novels or watching TV series based on them,
      I have consulted with a fellow author, K. L. Clark, who researched and wrote the NONFICTION book, The Nevills of Middleham. The book can be found on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Nevills-Middleham-Englands-Powerful-Family/dp/0750983442/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
      She writes, in response to your question: "Ah, that would be the well known non existing curse not placed upon the Nevills by a woman not known as Queen Elizabeth (the White). I don't remember it well! And it, of course, is the entire whole reason why a man and his father died in the same decade hundreds of years later."
      I encourage you to read Ms. Clark's book if you're looking for facts, rather than a novel and TV series meant only to entertain. In my opinion, facts are fascinating entertainment!


All comments are moderated. Reasonable, thoughtful comments are encouraged. Impolite comments will be 'moderated' to the recycle bin.