The Birth of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence: A Promising Life Thrown Away

by AlexandriaIngham

On October 21, 1449, the third son of Richard, Duke of York was born. George Plantagenet had a promising life but threw it all away.

George Plantagenet was born on October 21, 1449. He was the third son of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville and one of the “Three Sons of York”. After his brother, Edward, became King of England, George started to show his true colours and threw away his promising life as Duke of Clarence.

It seems like he was somewhat mentally unstable. While there is no proof, it would explain his downward spiral after the death of his wife, Isabelle, in 1476.

The Birth of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence

George Plantagenet was born in Dublin, Ireland. His father was Lieutenant of Ireland at the time.

Duke of Clarence, George PlantagenetGeorge was born in Ireland since that was where his father was serving. Through both his parents’ sides he had a claim to the throne but this was behind his older brothers, Edward and Edmund. It didn’t seem to bother George at first. It wasn’t until Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, started working against Edward IV that George switched sides.

George was the third son of Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville. He also had three older sisters, Anne, Elizabeth and Margaret. In fact, there was just one child younger than him—his brother, Richard, who became Richard III of England in 1483.

It was around George’s birth that Richard, Duke of York had started to challenge the rule of Henry VI. Henry IV had only become King of England after deposing Richard II; however, there were children of Lionel of Antwerp who should have been king before Henry. Henry then had Henry V, who then had Henry VI. Richard was a descendent of Lionel and started looking at his eldest son’s right to the throne.

The Early Life of George Plantagenet

George wasn't originally part of the Wars of the Roses. He stayed at Middleham Castle with his younger brother Richard, while his father and older brothers fought.

George was raised at Middleham Castle with his younger brother. This was the home of Richard Neville, so George grew up very close to Richard’s daughters, Isabelle and Anne. Whether George really loved Isabelle or not, the two grew close and he did choose her as his bride years later.

Richard, Duke of York, and Edmund Plantagenet, the second son of the couple, died in 1460 but it wasn’t in vain. George’s eldest brother, Edward, defeated Henry VI at the Battle of Towton and became King of England. George was invested into the Knight of the Garter and given the title Duke of Clarence.

Everything was on the way up. Richard Neville was Edward’s right-hand man and started organising a betrothal. However, Edward changed it all by falling in love and marrying a commoner: Elizabeth Woodville. Richard was furious and soon found his wishes put aside for the wishes of the Woodvilles. He decided to switch from the York cause to the Lancastrian one.

Edward IV: The Illegitimate Child

There are still debates over whether Edward IV was legitimate and this was a strong point for those who supported George being King of England.

Rumours spread that Edward IV was illegitimateGeorge also started to have doubts about his new sister-in-law. By July 1469, George had married Isabelle Neville—despite Edward not wanting that to happen so he could set something up that would be more politically gaining for him—and decided that they would join Richard Neville in removing Edward IV from the throne. Henry VI rewarded George’s new loyalty by placing him second in line to the throne, behind his own son, Edward of Westminster.

Why could George be placed in line before Edward? There were rumours that Edward IV was an illegitimate child of Cecily Neville and a soldier in France. He wasn’t Richard, Duke of York’s son and, therefore, didn’t have such a strong claim to the throne. Cecily was a descendent of Joan Beaufort; a child of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford, whose line had been barred from the throne by Henry IV.

George was definitely a son of the couple. This meant he was definitely heir to the throne after the death of his elder brother, Edmund. For the first time, George realised the true possibility that he could become King of England.

If making the English people believe that Edward was illegitimate wouldn’t work, Henry VI made it clear that Edward would be deemed a traitor. He would lose his right to the throne through a bill of attainder.

George Plantagenet Switches Sides Again

It seems that George had no idea which was the best side and made a habit of switching--something that served Lord Stanley and his brother well.

A drawing of Isabelle NevilleGeorge soon realised that he shouldn’t have trusted his father-in-law. By joining his cause in France, his had lost his first child. Isabelle was heavily pregnant at the time that they sailed to France and gave birth while onboard. The baby died the next day. While the gender wasn’t confirmed, many historians believe it was a girl who they named Anne.

George changed sides at the right time. Richard Neville went to battle and died. Margaret of Anjou was also defeated at the Battle of Tewkesbury; where Edward of Westminster was killed. George became the Earl of Warwick after Richard’s death since Isabelle inherited the estates, along with her sister. Anne Neville had been declared a traitor after marrying Edward of Westminster and George used that to his advantage to gain all the Warwick estates.

The second of the Three Sons of York was invited back to court with open arms, despite Elizabeth Woodville’s anger at his betrayal. Edward owed it to his brother to try and make amends and forgive him.

George and Richard Plantagenet at War

The two younger brothers found themselves at each other's odds because of the Warwick estates. George wanted them all while Richard simply wanted to marry Anne Neville.

Soon after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, Anne Neville was under house arrest under the care of her sister and brother-in-law, Isabelle and George. George found that he could have Anne sent to a nunnery, where she would never marry. He would have control of all the Warwick estates. It seemed perfect except that Anne was extremely cunning and had a love of her own: Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester.

Richard wanted to marry Anne Neville but George was not going to let him. The two brothers found themselves at war and Edward was caught in the middle. Edward welcomed the marriage of Richard and Anne and it happened on July 12, 1472. George was furious that Richard would now own half of the estates. It didn’t help that Richard had gained permission to remove Isabelle and Anne’s mother from sanctuary and place her under house arrest. They also gained the right to live at Middleham Castle.

Children of George Plantagenet and Isabelle Neville

There is one child of George and Isabelle who stands out in history, Margaret. She became Margaret Pole and was executed by Henry VIII at the grand age of 67.

As well as the infant from the ship, George and Isabelle had three other children together. One is known for being executed at the age of 67, under the orders of Henry VIII—Margaret Pole. The second was a boy, Edward, who later became Earl of Warwick. The third was named Richard.

It was Richard’s birth that led to Isabelle’s death. Just two months after his birth, Isabelle died either of consumption or childbed fever. Richard died shortly after that and mother and baby were buried together.

George was certain that their deaths were due to poison. Unlike in BBC’s The White Queen, George believed a lady-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynyho was responsible for the death of his wife. She was killed in April 1477 but it was not a legal procedure. The jury used to find her guilty was bullied into this conviction, along with the conviction of John Thursby.

George’s mental state deteriorated from here and the relationship between George and Edward became strained. George asked to marry Charles, Duke of Burgundy’s daughter, Mary, but Edward refused this, fearing George would gain too much power. George started moaning and complaining about Edward and they would talk through messengers who would pass their angry notes to one another.

George was eventually arrested and executed on February 17, 1478. It could have all been avoided had George simply followed his brother’s wishes and stayed out of trouble. Their brother Richard proved the benefit of loyalty but that is another story for another day.

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Updated: 10/21/2013, AlexandriaIngham
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