George Duke of Clarence

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series House of York

George Duke of Clarence

George 1st Duke of Clarence 1449-1478 George Plantagenet, younger brother of Edward IV and older brother of Richard III at least in name if not by nature. What happened to George’s children in the line of succession? If Edward IV was illegitimate and there is a non-paternity event in the DNA evidence revealed by Leicester University in Richard III’s line were George’s children perhaps more rightfully Monarch’s than Edward or Richard?

Were any of the Yorks Legitimate?

Or were all the Yorks illegitimate and how prevalent was it for noble women to play away whilst their men were off running the country and campaigning? George and his wife Isabel, daughter of Kingmaker Richard Neville and sister to Queen Anne Richard’s bride would leave their children orphaned and subject to the whims of Edward IV and Richard III what happened to them? Their names were Edward, Margaret and Richard (died in infancy) how did their parents come to leave them so young and vulnerable and how did their lives transpire, with no surviving male heirs of Edward or Richard should they have been the next King or Queen?

Was George the only legitimate brother of the York trio?

George Duke of Clarence was the 2nd son of the 3rd Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville. He was therefore of the Plantagenet line, if he was and his father was of course legitimate in relation to his parentage during wedlock. His two brothers Edward IV and Richard III would both be King but subsequent historical research gives grounds for serious doubt about the legitimacy of at least Edward IV and latterly some question about a break in the Plantagenet line from Richard III back up the Plantagenet lines. The problem being where that break falls cannot currently be determined.

It might have been that George was the only legitimate son of Richard Duke of York and Cecily, if that was the case then his claim to the throne may have been greater than his elder brother (in name at least, possibly half brother being Edward IV and certainly by order of precedence a stronger claim than Richard his brother, whether richard was legitimate or not.

Where did George Duke of Clarence go wrong?

But whilst Shakespeare has Richard III making mischief between his elder brothers, the evidence for such malevolence is scant to say the least. George was not particularly politically astute and having sided with the Earl of Warwick when Warwick, the original Kingmaker turned on his friend the King Edward IV following his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, George also fell out with Edward not once but repeatedly and too easily swayed by Warwick eventually it would cost him his life. Edward IV had his brother executed, by popular account drowned in a vat of Malmsey wine, although direct proof and documentary evidence for this is also lacking.

  • Edward IV made him a  Duke when he ascended to the Throne but joined his father-in-law Richard NEVILLE, Earl of Warwick in plotting against the King, whilst married to his Warwick’s daughter Isabel.
  • The failure of the LINCOLNSHIRE RISING and his bid for the throne in 1470 led him to flee to France.
  • He was a treacherous alley switching sides for an against his own brother in time to fight along side him against Henry VII at BARNET and TWEKESBURY.
  • George was Arrested in 1477 for treason convicted by Parliament and executed in the Tower in 1478.
  • George had married Lady Isabel Neville who was the elder daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, and Anne de Beauchamp, 16th Countess of Warwick.  Her sister was Anne Neville who became Richard, his younger brothes wife as well. Warwick had secured his influence on he family by marrying both daughters directly into the Royal family.
  • Clarences had three children Edward Margaret and Richard

    George Duke of Clarence and his Wife Isabel born Neville daughter of the Earl of Warwick

    George and Isabel had three children Margaret of York who married Sir Richard Pole a son Edward Plantagenet and a youngest son Richard. Edward who was not tainted by his father’s execution, Isabel died following shortly after the birth of Richard their third child. edward became the Earl of Warwick  by his uncle Richard III’s decision, as both Isabel and Anne Neville jointly inherited their father Richard Nevilles vast wealth jointly on his death. Life for Edward in a post War of Roses world,would prove difficult when Henry Tudor became jealous of and wary of Edward’s potentially superior claim to the throne he was imprisoned at the age of just 10 years from 1485, impersonated subsequently by Lambert Simpnel and eventually implicated by Perkin Warbeck plot rightly or wrongly, he was eventually tried for and admitted treason and beheaded by Henry VII in 1499.

What became of George’s children Edward Plantagenet and Margaret of York?

What became of George and Isabel’s children? Edward Plantagenet and Margaret of York, later Pole and her line, direct descendants from Edward III via their grand-father Richard 3rd Duke of York? This assumes of course that George was legitimate, which we currently have no evidence to support, given the legitimacy of Edward IV is clearly at least questionable.

  • Richard of York died in infancy (6 October 1476 – 1 January 1477), born at Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, he died at Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, and was buried there.
  • Margaret’s story was a much more involved tale, we should remember that from the House of York line, with no surviving children of Richard III, then she could by right have been Queen of England, and would have been a threat like her bother to the Tudors. So how does she survive?

Margaret of York married and became Margaret Pole what happened to her as potentially a Queen of England?

Margaret of York was only three years old, when her mother died following the birth of her youngest brother Richard who died in infancy. She was just 10 when her Uncle Edward IV died and Richard of Gloucester declared Edward’s sons and marriage illegitimate and invalid. Richard also debarred any of Clarence’s children from the throne on the basis of George’s attainder. Richard her uncle became King and her mother’s sister was Queen. Richard and Anne’s only legitimate son died they had no heir. Margaret and her brother were held by Richard in a castle in Yorkshire. Henry Tudor claimed the throne and strengthened his claim by marrying the late Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth. The lives of Margaret and Edward were tenuous and Edward remained imprisoned, eventually being executed by Henry VII (Henry Tudor.)

Margaret of York married Henry’s cousin Sir Richard Pole

Margaret was given in marriage to Sir richard Pole whose mother was related (half-sister) to his own mother Margaret Beaufort. It was a clever move making it difficult for others to use Margaret’s name as  cause or banner for a counter claim to the throne. Her husband Sir richard Pole continued to serve Henry VII. he was Chamberlain to Henry VII’s son Arthur, the Prince of Wales and when he married Catherine of Aragon then Margaret became one of her Ladies-in-waiting. When Prince Arthur died Catherine’s retinue was dispersed. To make matters worse for Margaret her husband died in 1504 and she was widowed with little reserves and five children in 1504. Potentially desperate she committed her son Reginald to the Church which he would subsequently bitterly resent and would pursue a career including time as a Papal Legate and future Archbishop of Canterbury.

Margaret Pole becomes Lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon

The future Henry VIII was married to his brother’s wife Catherine, Margaret became one of her ladies and bought back some of her brother’s confiscated lands and the Earldom of Salisbury alone, the Warwick and Despencer lands were retained by the King. Remarkably Margaret Pole managed her lands profitably and became one of the richest peers in England. He remaining children became established;

  • Henry Pole became Baron Montagu and attended the House of Lords.
  • Arthur Pole became one of the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber and escaped the repercussions of his own patron Stafford, Duke of Buckingham when he was restored despite Stafford’s conviction for treason. Arthur died Young but his wife remained single and preserved the inheritance for her children.
  • Ursula Pole was married to the Duke of Buckingham’s son Henry but they retained only fragments of the estate following the Duke’s demise.
  • Reginald (3rd son) was dean in Exeter and Dorset and Canon in York, he worked for Henry VIII persuading theologians in France to support the case for Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine.
  • Geoffrey her youngest son married well and inherited  Lordington via the daughter of Sir Edmund Pakenham.

Life for Margaret Pole was far from safe and certain under the patronage of the Tudors

From very tenuous beginning Margaret had fought back and sought to preserve and improve the lives of her children but life under the partonage of Henry VIII contiued to be precarious. When mary was declared illegitimate Margaret offered to serve mary at her own cost and reused o surrender valuables of mary’s back to Henry. She was a principled woman it would seembut was once again out of favour at Henry’s court although she returned briefly after Boleyn’s arrest.

Her son Reginald became a Cardinal but acted against the King denying his supremacy and was remonstrated by his mother for this folly.He sought to organise the installation of a Catholic government in England, he was no supported by Rome in these efforts or by Francis I or the Emperor. Reginald had embroiled his younger brother Geoffrey in these machinations. geoffrey was arrested and interrogated by the infamous Thomas Cromwell. Inevitably the family were implicated and his other brothers and their mother were arrested. Life was not getting any easier for Margaret Pole.

Somehow Geoffrey was pardoned and escaped with his life but not without the price of her son henry and his cousin being tried for treason and executed. The customary attainment ensued for Margaret and her son Heny, meaning land and titles were again lost to them mainly from the South of England. Thomas Cromwell produced evidence symbolising the Catholic sympathies of Margaret, and her son Reginald and support for Mary.

Time ran out for Margaret Pole as the madness of Henry VIII’s rule took a grip of the remains of her life

Margaret was sentenced to death and subject to the King’s will, she spent a further two and a half years in the Tower. But peculiarly Margaret and her grandson were held together and supported by the King including servants clothing and living. In between Cromwell was now out of favour and the Clarence’s daughter was sill hanging onto life whilst Cromwell had already been executed.

In 1541 Margaret was brutally executed, she resisted forcefully to the last denying any guilt or crime, although of course real guilt was not needed when law was at the King’s whim. She was subsequently beatified by the Pope in the late 19th Century. Lady Margaret was buried in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London along with so many whose only crime was to have caused some offence to the King’s person, certainly far less than a heinous crime could cost the life of even the King’s most trusted members of his court.

Margaret Pole was her claim to the Throne Superior to the Tudors and both her Uncles?

Margaret Pole had fought long and hard to recover from a doomed childhood, arguably her claim to the throne was stronger than her King’s and the tenuous claim of Henry VII her King’s father. But the intriguing element goes back further and continues to unravel as the DNA analysis from the exhumation of Richard III begins to reveal. Margaret was quite a woman, beatified by the Pope and surviving all the savage machinations of two Tudor Kings but was she rightfully more than that? Did she have a rightful and superior claim to the throne than either of her Uncles Edward IV or Richard III as well?

Her son Reginald regarded his mother’s death as that of a martyr and the Catholic church would concur much later. It was a sad and tragic start in life for Margaret of York inherited following the demise of her father and death of her mother when she was just three. She fought her way back and her line was a direct potential threat to the Tudors, her life and that of her children swung like a pendulum from the fateful time when she was born as the daughter of George Duke of Clarence and his wife Anne Neville to her brutal death at the hands of Henry VIII.

Was Margaret Pole the Rightful Queen that could have stopped the Tudors?

Margaret Pole was the only surviving child of the Clarences, perhaps the only legitimate link ironically to the crown that the Yorks possessed? If Edward IV, as seems quite plausible now, was illegitimate and recent DNA evidence casts doubt on the Plantagenet line from Richard III’s perspective she may well have been the only York who had a real claim to the throne. But if there was doubt about Edward and Richard was there also doubt about George?

The latest DNA evidence (suggests a non-paternal event occurs that scientists believe is at least statistically 1 to 2 percent incidence in DNA and genealogical analysis ) may have consequences beyond Richard and his line and impact across not only the Yorks but further back-up the Plantagenet line. Could they all be illegitimate?

With hindsight and the benefit of recent scientific and archaeological research about her uncle’s line (King Richard III) with the work of Leicester University , we cannot as yet be certain what the patterns of the DNA trail will eventually unravel. Who would have believed that in the 21st Century we would find a 500 years dead king and inter his remains in Leicester Cathedral, afterall? Were all the Yorks illegitimately, were they even Plantagenets and if they were and George the executed brother was actually perhaps legitimate should his daughter Margaret Pole have been Queen?

Richard III certainly thought it likely, he had the children of George declared as barred from holding the throne and went to some lengths to exclude them from public life and their birthrights. If they were a threat and Richard had murdered the Princes in the Tower why does he not dispose of Margaret as well as her brother much earlier in proceedings? The more you delve into this family genealogy the more questions it raises. If Kings were omnipotent and could so easily remove troublesome and inconvenient relatives why did Richard III not finish the job, having already disposed of Edward’s children whom he had publicly tainted as illegitimate?

Richard did not deny he had murdered the Princes in the Tower but he never admitted it either? He completely discredits Edward IV and perhaps that explains why he does not act savagely against George’s children, at least immediately. George was charged and executed by Edward IV’s command, was it just not politically expedient therefore for Richard not to extinguish the threat of George’s children at that time. Did he really care what the court thought at least if not the common people?

Margaret survives so many trials and tribulations only to finally be brutally executed by an unjust king Henry VIII who arguably had less of a claim to the throne than she and her children might have. Henry VIII knew from the outset that Margaret was a threat as a daughter of George and Isabel, loyal to the Catholic cause and his daughter Mary. having served his first wife Catherine of Aragon. But he repeatedly finds ways to bring Margaret back into court and favour and still treats her courteously even when incarcerated in the Tower. The accounts of her execution show that to the very last she fights and resists he unjust murder. Margaret as a daughter of George and Isabel and their only surviving child certainly restores some credit to the family. George is largely cast a s malevolent fool in history but the character of this woman makes me wonder whether there is more to what happens to George than perhaps we will ever be able to discover, she certainly was a spirited tenacious soul who survived much longer than could have been expected when she was just 3 and alone in the world except for he sibling brother.

Another intriguing woman, perhaps underestimated by her male contemporaries including a few Kings along the way. There is a further line of enquiry to explore later, how true was it that Elizabeth I was influenced by and respected Margaret Pole? 

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