1469: Humphrey and Charles Neville, Lancastrians

Add comment September 29th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1469, Lancastrian nobleman Sir Humphrey Neville and his brother Charles were beheaded at York under the eyes of King Edward IV.

These Nevilles — cousins to the Bastard of Faulconbridge, who we have met previously in these pages — lost their heads in the Lancastrian cause during England’s War(s) of the Roses over royal legitimacy.

For the Nevilles, as indeed for the House of Lancaster in general, everything had gone pear-shaped with the 1461 deposition of the feebleminded Lancastrian ruler Henry VI. That seated on Albion’s throne the Yorkist contender Edward IV; the imprisoned Henry’s queen, Margaret of Anjou — who had already been the effective sovereign in view of Henry’s mental incapacitation — retreated to Scotland. Humphrey Neville was among the irreconcilable Lancastrians who went with her; he would be captured raiding into England later that same year of 1461.

The House of Neville being one of the greatest in northern England (and having under its roof adherents to both white rose and red), Neville had his life secured by royal pardon and even received a knighthood from the usurping king — just the messy expediency of court politics.

The problem was that Neville just wouldn’t stay bought. 1464 finds him back in the field on the wrong team when the Lancastrians were routed at the Battle of Hexham; it is said that he hied himself thereafter to a cave on the banks of the Derwent and survived an outlaw, for five long years.

In 1469 Neville reappeared on the scene along with the shattered Lancastrian cause when the “Kingmaker” Earl of Warwick (yet another Neville) turned against King Edward and took him into custody — with the invaluable assistance of various northern disturbances in favor of the Lancastrian cause, a ruckus that Humphrey Neville probably helped to raise.

Warwick, however, found his own position as jailer of the king untenable. Neither could he himself quell the Lancastrian ultras who intended a proper restoration and not merely leveraging the royal prisoner — so to Warwick’s chagrin, he was forced to release King Edward in order to raise the army needed to move against the Lancastrian rebels who were supposed to be his allies.

Neville’s rising, and then Neville himself, were dispatched with ease — but the cost of doing so was the imminent failure of the entire Lancastrian movement.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 15th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,England,Execution,History,Nobility,Power,Public Executions,Soldiers,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1585: William Parry, Vile and Base

2 comments March 2nd, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1585, a Welsh doctor convicted of attempting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I paid the penalty of treason at Westminster.

Not to be confused with William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

Whether William Parry really did so plot is a bit obscure, but as a spy and double agent who made the bread to service his considerable debts by informing on supposed Catholic plots against Her Majesty, he’d been walking a dangerous line for several years.

(Actually, Parry had done well to win a royal pardon — and then a seat in Parliament! — after receiving a death sentence for assaulting one of his creditors several years earlier.)

Parry seemingly attempted to entrap one Sir Edmund Neville* into a proposed “plot” to assassinate the Queen, perhaps intending to then inform upon him. Instead, it seems, Neville ratted out Parry. (Some versions of the tale have Parry actually making the attempt, and losing his nerve at the last moment.)

If the extensive account of the trial given in the public-domain The Lives and Criminal Trials of Celebrated Men is to be credited, Parry remarkably pled guilty to treason — portraying himself as a sort of off-the-wagon Catholic, continually plagued by and resisting the temptation to plant a blade in the queen — and played for clemency.

Death I do confess to have deserved; life I do with all humility crave, if it may stand with the Queen’s honour and policy of the time … Pardon poor Parry and relieve him [of his troubled conscience].

He then embarked on a strange hair-splitting dispute with the judges over whether he had ever really meant to kill Elizabeth.

He was hung, drawn and quartered at Westminster within a fortnight, now maintaining his total innocence — notwithstanding his epigram in doggerel.

It was pittie
One so wittie
Leaving reason
Should to treason
So be bent.
But his gifts
Were but shifts
Void of grace:
And his braverie
Was but knaverie
Vile and base.

* Possibly a relative of fugitive Catholic noble Charles Neville, Earl of Westmoreland.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Doctors,Drawn and Quartered,England,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Notable for their Victims,Politicians,Public Executions,Spies,The Worm Turns,Treason

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