John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk KG Earl Marshal (12 September 1415 – 6 November 1461) was a fifteenth-century English magnate who, despite having a relatively short political career, played a significant role in the early years of the Wars of the Roses.
Born in 1415, Mowbray was the only son and heir of John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and Katherine Neville. He inherited his titles upon his father's death in 1432. As he was still a minor, Mowbray became a ward of King Henry VI. The King placed him under the protection of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, whom Mowbray would later campaign alongside in France. His behaviour as a young man appears to have been controversial. Although exactly what he did remains unknown, it was severe enough for the King to place strictures upon him and separate him from his followers. His early career was spent with the military, where he held the wartime office of Earl Marshal.[note 1] Mowbray commanded the defence of England's possessions in Normandy during the ongoing Hundred Years' War. He also fought in Calais in 1436, and from 1437 to 1438 served as warden of the east march on the Anglo-Scottish border, before returning to the fighting in Calais.
Mowbray's marriage to Eleanor Bourgchier in the early 1430s involved him in the highly partisan and complex politics of East Anglia. He became a bitter rival of another local lord, William de la Pole, Earl (later Duke) of Suffolk.[note 2] Mowbray prosecuted his feuds with vigour, often violently taking the law into his own hands. This drew the ire of the Crown. He was bound over for massive sums and imprisoned twice in the Tower of London. Violent tactics were also employed by his enemies, particularly by de la Pole. The local gentry looked to Mowbray for protection against the duke and to further their own attacks on him, but often Mowbray was incapable of providing the good lordship asked of him. De la Pole was both a powerful local force and a favourite of the King and had his ear; Mowbray was neither.
As law and order crumbled in eastern England, national politics became increasingly factional, and there were popular revolts against the King's unpopular councillors. Richard, Duke of York, who by the 1450s was feeling excluded from government, became increasingly belligerent. York rebelled twice, and both times, Mowbray defended King Henry. Eventually, though, Mowbray drifted politically towards York (with whom he had shared an enmity of de la Pole). For much of the decade, Mowbray was able to evade direct involvement in the increasingly fractious political climate, he aligned with York in early 1460 until York's death later that year. In April 1461 Mowbray was instrumental in helping Edward win the Battle of Towton, by his late arrival with reinforcements. Mowbray was almost immediately rewarded by the new regime, but did not live to enjoy his rewards. He died in November 1461, and was succeeded as Duke of Norfolk by his only son, John.
John Mowbray was the only son of John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his wife Katherine Neville, who was a daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, a powerful magnate in northern England.[note 3] The younger Mowbray was born on 12 September 1415 while his father was absent in France campaigning with Henry V. Mowbray was only seventeen at his father's death and still legally a minor. During his minority, his estates were granted by Henry VI to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester for a farm of 2000 marks (approximately £1,667). Mowbray's wardship, and the right to arrange his marriage, was sold to Anne of Gloucester, Countess of Stafford for £2,000. By March 1434, Anne had arranged for Mowbray's marriage to her daughter Eleanor Bourgchier.
As a young adult, Mowbray appears to have been raucous and troublemaking, and surrounded himself with equally unruly followers. This seems to have drawn the King's attention: Mowbray had only recently—with the other lords—swore an oath in parliament not to recruit or welcome villains and wrong-doers into his affinity, nor to maintain them. He was summoned before the King and his council. Mowbray was instructed in how to conduct himself henceforth, and a precise regimen was imposed upon him. Exactly which aspects of Mowbray's behaviour were viewed as were problematic is unknown, but since it resulted in what one historian described "unprecedented" council-imposed restrictions being placed upon him, his conduct must have been deemed "abnormal". These ordinances not only dictated the time he should go to bed at night and rise in the morning,[note 4] but even addressed his demeanour. His disorderly followers were dismissed, and replaced with those deemed suitable by Henry VI. Their stated role was to turn Mowbray towards "good reule and good governaunce," and they were not just to guide Mowbray but also report any disobedience of the council's instructions back to that body.
On his father's death in 1432, Mowbray inherited the office of Earl Marshal, but not yet his father's lands or titles. Mowbray's father, in fact, had never been able to completely control his own estates, as they were encumbered by two Mowbray dowagers, Mowbray's mother Katherine, and his sister-in-law, Constance Holland. They each held a third of the inheritance as their dower.[note 5] Constance died in 1437, but Mowbray's mother survived until around 1483.[note 6] Because of this, the historian Rowena Archer—who made one of the few full-length studies of the Mowbray family—described Mowbray as inheriting a "hopeless" and "onerous" legacy. It also had political consequences for the future. As he never personally held much property in the counties where his inheritance was (only holding, for example, seven of the twenty-six manors held by the Mowbrays in Norfolk and Suffolk), his influence was thus restricted there.
Immediately following his father's death, Mowbray claimed the earldom of Arundel. This set him against John, Lord Maltravers, who also claimed it. This was an old dispute. Mowbray's father and grandfather had also claimed the earldom, which had blocked Maltravers' father's claim. Mowbray based his claim through his grandmother Elizabeth Fitzalan, Duchess of Norfolk; Maltravers through his great-grandfather Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel. In July 1433 Mowbray personally presented a petition to Parliament (receiving special permission to attend as a minor). Mowbray—"in a rather remarkable decision," says Archer—lost the case. Maltravers, though, died in May 1435 and so was never summoned to parliament under his new title.[note 7]
In August 1436 Mowbray accompanied the Duke of Gloucester on a military campaign to relieve Calais, which was under siege by the Duke of Burgundy. The expedition was a success, and Burgundy was forced to withdraw. On 13 September the same year, back in England, he received livery of his inheritance, and immediately began a busy period devoted to royal service. In 1437, possibly due to Gloucester's patronage Mowbray was appointed Warden of the Eastern March for a one-year term of office. Mowbray clearly had had little experience of the north of England, but was paid wartime wages of £5,000 to prosecute the campaign against the Scots. 1438 saw Mowbray return to Calais and Guînes, leading an expedition to strengthen their defences; Burgundy still presented a threat. Although Mowbray soon returned to England, in June 1439 he was again back in Calais, at Oye, escorting Archbishop John Kemp's diplomatic mission to the peace conference. Possibly Mowbray disapproved of royal foreign policy (which by then was aimed at making peace with the French rather than waging war), as this was to be his last expedition.
For much of the 1430s, Mowbray had problems in East Anglia, where the bulk of his estates now lay. William de la Pole had become increasingly powerful, both at court and in the region, and was Mowbray's biggest rival. Mowbray had enough political clout in the 1330s to control parliamentary representation in Suffolk but the increasing local importance of the duke weakened his grasp. Mowbray clashed with de la Pole, and committed many illegalities doing so. These included damaging property of rivals, assaults, false allegations of outlawry (with confiscation of goods), and even murder.
By 1440, de la Pole had become a royal favourite. Mowbray was imprisoned, at de la Pole's instigation, on at least two occasions, in 1440 and in 1448. The first occasion saw him bound over for the then-massive amount of £10,000, and confined him to living within the royal Household, preventing him from returning to seek revenge in East Anglia. Likewise, apart from an appointment to commissions of oyer and terminer in Norwich in 1443 (after the suppression of Gladman's Insurrection), he received no other significant offices or patronage from the crown. A recent biographer of Mowbray's, the historian Colin Richmond, has described this as Mowbray's "eclipse". Richmond has also suggested that soon after his last bout of imprisonment, in 1449, Mowbray journeyed on a pilgrimage to Rome; a licence[note 8] for him to do so had been granted three years earlier.
Mowbray's ancestors had been largely Midlands magnates based around Lincolnshire estates. Even his father—after he became duke of Norfolk and received his mother's East Anglian dower lands—was often an absentee lord.[note 9] Mowbray's father was thus never able to establish a sizeable (or "particularly coherent") regional following there, and this was the situation Mowbray inherited.
Every magnate required a powerbase, and Mowbray had to build one for himself. The choice of making East Anglia the locus of his landed authority was somewhat forced upon him since this was where the bulk of his estates were: much of his Lincolnshire inheritance was held by his mother as dower. Mowbray was very much a newcomer to political society in the region, and had to share influence with others. By the time of Mowbray's majority, de la Pole —with his links to central government and the King—was an established power in the region. He hindered Mowbray's attempts at regional domination for over a decade, and the feud between the two lasted from the moment Mowbray became Duke of Norfolk to the murder of de la Pole in 1350. Their feud was often violent, and this encouraged clashes between their respective followers. In 1435, Robert Wingfield, Mowbray's steward of Framlingham, led a group of Mowbray retainers who murdered James Andrew, one of de la Pole's men. When local aldermen attempted to arrest Wingfield's party, the latter rained arrow fire upon the aldermen. Mowbray secured royal pardons for those responsible.
De la Pole fought back violently, with what one contemporary labelled "greet hevyng an shoving."  He was successful in doing so. Within a couple of years, Mowbray could not protect his retainers as he had previously done. A Paston letter tells how Robert Wingfield, who was involved in a bitter dispute with one Robert Lyston, "procured and exited the wurthi prince the Duke of Norffolk to putte oute ageyn the seid Robert Lyston" from the latter's Suffolk manors. Lyston, though, with de la Pole's support, repeatedly sued Wingfield in court until in 1441 Wingfield was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1440, Mowbray was able to influence the Exchequer to quash Wingfield's fines; but Mowbray's success was fleeting.  Mowbray was more successful in his support of John Fastolf—in one of the latter's many lawsuits[note 10] 1441, and was able to impose an advantageous settlement (for Fastolf) in Chancery. Generally, though, says Helen Castor, Mowbray's influence "proved woefully inadequate" to protect and defend his retainers and tenants to the degree they could reasonably expect from their lord. It was his supporters' misfortune, one historian has said, that "Norfolk's power never matched the status attributed to him".[note 11]
Mowbray's personal and political situation did not improve over the following decade. Between 1440 and 1441 he was imprisoned in the Tower following a dispute with John Heydon, who was close to de la Pole. Mowbray was bound over on 2 July 1440 for the "enormous" sum of 10,000 marks also having to reside in the King's household, swearing no further harm to Heydon.
In 1443 Mowbray and Wingfield fell out over Hoo manor. Wingfield had received Hoo from the second duke, but the third duke wanted it returned to his possession. Mowbray reacted violently. R. L. Storey called Mowbray's "methods of argument" exceptional, writing how Mowbray:
Brought a force of men, with cannon and other siege engines, battered Wingfield's house at Letheringham, forced an entry, ransacked the building and removed valuables amounting to nearly £5,000, according to his victim's evaluation.— R. L. Storey, 
Wingfield deserted Mowbray in light of the latter's continuing attacks on him over Hoo, and offered a bounty of 500 marks for the head of a Mowbray retainer. In November 1443 Mowbray was bound over for £2,000 to keep the peace with Wingfield and instructed to appear before the royal council the following April. The council ordered them to seek arbitration. This found against Mowbray, who had to pay Wingfield 3,500 marks as compensation for the damage the duke caused to Letheringham. He was also had to recompense Wingfield for Hoo before he could get it back. It was presumably as part of these proceedings that Mowbray suffered his second bout of imprisonment in the Tower, which commenced on 28 August 1444; he was released six days later.
In June 1446 one Mowbray's father's retainers, Henry Howard, was murdered in Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk. He was probably visiting his sister-in-law (and Mowbray's aunt), Margaret Mowbray,[note 12] at the time, as her house was only five miles (8.0 km) away. Howard's killers appear to have been retainers of John, Baron Scrope of Masham;[note 13] and it is not impossible that Scrope actively aided and abetted them in the killing. On 18 June 1446 Mowbray oversaw the presentment of an Ipswich jury to examine the killing, but Mowbray's case soon stalled. Scrope had petitioned King Henry that Mowbray's proceedings were "inaccurate and inherently malicious," and as a result, the King ordered that proceedings against Scrope's men cease. At least five of the thirteen jurors were Mowbray retainers. This may have been the only occasion on which Mowbray personally sat on a local King's Bench commission as the hearing J.P.
The arbitration between Mowbray and Wingfield did not resolve their feud, and in 1447 Wingfield returned to the attack. Along with another ex-Mowbray retainer, William Brandon,[note 14] he assaulted, robbed and threatened Mowbray's staff. on 6 December 1447, Wingfield threatened Mowbray's chaplain. Mowbray—as Justice of the Peace for Suffolk—ordered Wingfield to keep the King's peace; this was ignored. Wingfield was then committed to Melton gaol. Three hours later Brandon broke Wingfield out of prison. Mowbray applied to Chancery for, and received, letters patent ordering Brandon and Wingfield to not come within 7 miles (11 km) of Mowbray. This order too was ignored, and they dwelt at Letheringham (only about five miles from Mowbray's castle at Framlingham), and started breaking into Mowbray's retainers' houses in the area. Mowbray requested that a commission of oyer and terminer be organised to investigate Wingfield and Brandon, and this was issued in late December 1447.
By the early 1450s Mowbray believed that he alone held East Anglia, and described himself as the "princypall rewle and governance throw all this schir," a Paston letter reports. John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, another enemy of de la Pole, was desirous of Mowbray's "good Lordship", and in 1451 they collaborated in Suffolk investigating participation in Jack Cade's Rebellion. The region continued to experience disorder: Mowbray's own men were responsible for much of it. This included the destruction of properties belonging to Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk.[note 15] The Duke of Suffolk himself had fallen from power and been murdered in April 1450. In the years following, says Richmond, Mowbray's affinity committed "one outrage after another [and] the duke was either unable to control them, or chose not to do so". Mowbray used devious means to defeat his opponents, including having them charged with outlawry in another county without them knowing, and then claiming their goods as being forfeited to himself.
Mowbray also forced the gaoler of Bury St Edmunds to release a man charged with murder into Mowbray's custody. According to the gaoler's later report, he had done so, but only out of "fear and terror" of the Duke of Norfolk. Mowbray spent much of the early 1450s hunting down de la Pole's affinity;
The removal of de la Pole had not increased Mowbray's power in East Anglia. He still had rivals in the region with wealth and court connections. The Earl of Oxford in particular now wished to extend his landholdings from Essex into Suffolk, and Lord Scales had been granted the remnants of de la Pole's affinity by Queen Margaret. It was precisely this lack of political connections (specifically, his exclusion from the King's council) that had defeated him against de la Pole. Mowbray was also unsuccessful at influencing local commissions  and nominating parliamentary candidates in shire elections. In any case, the county of Norfolk already possessed a strong and relatively independent layer of wealthy gentry; for example, the Pastons, the Howards, and those around John Fastolf. They were equally eager to augment their positions at the expense of a neighbour, even if that neighbour was a lord.
The 1450s saw English politics become increasingly partisan and factional, with a rise in violence and local disorder. Jack Cade's rebellion in 1450—directly aimed at royal favourites like de la Pole—had explicitly named Mowbray as one of the King's "natural counsellors" necessary to reform the realm. Even so, Mowbray was part of a major royal army which eventually defeated the rebels.
During the next crisis—the near-rebellion of Richard of York in Autumn 1450[note 16]—Mowbray took York's side against the new royal favourite, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.[note 17] York canvassed Mowbray for support, as Mowbray was one of the few nobles openly critical of the court. For the former, this was a logical alliance, as Mowbray was as bitter an enemy of Somerset as York was. Mowbray gathered his forces at Ipswich on 8 November (having ordered John Paston to meet him there "with as many clenly people as ye may get"), and may have travelled into London with York, who had also recruited locally.[note 18] Thus, when he arrived for the parliament it was with a large, heavily armed force. Mowbray was appointed, with the Duke of York and Earl of Devon, to maintain law and order in the City of London for the duration of the parliament, though in the event his retinue caused as much trouble as it prevented. For example, on 1 December, they joined with York's force to attack Somerset's house in Blackfriars. Such was the violence that the beleaguered duke was lodged in the Tower of London in for his own protection. Two days later the King and his magnates rode through London with up to 10,000 men. Mowbray personally rode ahead with a force of 3,000. This show of force was designed to quell any remnants of support for Cade's rebels, who by now had been mostly defeated and rounded up.
Mowbray's alliance with York was intermittent. The latter rebelled again in 1452, confronting a royal army at Dartford; Mowbray was with the King. For his service he later received £200 and a gold cup. York may have abandoned the alliance because of his objection to Mowbray's violent behaviour in East Anglia, as York was, after all, presenting himself as the candidate of law and order. Mowbray's campaign against Somerset, meanwhile, continued unabated. In 1453, with the King now incapacitated and York protector, Mowbray personally presented charges against Somerset in parliament, attacking his failure to prevent the loss of the "two so noble Duchies" of Normandy and Guyenne" in France. As a result, Somerset was imprisoned in the Tower for the next year. In April 1454, Mowbray was asked to join the York's regency council. Mowbray swore goodwill to York's government, but claimed to be too ill to attend.
In early 1455 the King recovered his health, the protectorate came to an end, and Somerset was swiftly released from the Tower. As a result, suggests historian Ralph Griffiths, Mowbray may have (and "quite rightly," he says) feared for his own safety, with Somerset now free.
Following the collapse of the 1454 – 1455 protectorate, the Yorkist lords[note 19] retreated to their estates, and Mowbray distanced himself from factional politics. An uneasy peace existed between the court and the Yorkists until April 1455, when the King summoned a Great Council to meet at Leicester the following month. The Duke of York feared that the purpose of this council was to destroy him once and for all; several chroniclers of the day also suggest that Somerset was poisoning the King's mind against him. The duke and his Neville allies proceeded to raise an army from their northern estates. The King and a small force left London on 20 May; the Yorkists approached from the north with a speed calculated to surprise. In a pre-emptive strike, York and his allies intercepted the King at the first Battle of St Albans. Mowbray managed to avoid involvement in the fighting, even though, as Earl Marshal, his heralds were used during negotiations between the two camps. It is uncertain at what point Mowbray joined the battle, or if he even reached the King in time to take part. The fighting lasted only a short time, and though there were very few fatalities among the soldiery, the Earl of Northumberland, the Duke of Somerset and Lord Clifford were killed. They were not only three of the King's most loyal supporters, but Percy and Somerset at least were bitter enemies of the Nevilles and York. After the battle Mowbray threatened to hang the Royal Standard bearer, Sir Philip Wentworth, at the news that Wentworth "cast it down and fled" the battlefield (as one of William Worcester's correspondents informed him). Whatever part, if any, Mowbray played in the fighting, by now contemporaries viewed him as being sympathetic to York. It is likely that Mowbray was—probably deliberately—vacillating.[note 20] He did not attend York's victory parliament in 1455, and sources suggest that he pilgrimaged again: he is known to have walked to Walsingham in 1456, and over the next two years may have travelled to Amiens, Rome or even Jerusalem.
Following After four years' uneasy peace, civil war again broke out in September 1459 when the Yorkist Earl of Salisbury fought off a royal ambush at the Battle of Blore Heath, but was then, along with York and his supporters, driven into exile by the King's army. Mowbray took neither side, but with the Yorkists exiled, when a parliament was called at Coventry, Mowbray attended. Here the Yorkists were attainted, and on 11 December 1459 Mowbray took an oath of loyalty to keep Henry VI on the throne.[note 21] He received a number of royal commissions in the final months of Lancastrian rule.
The Nevilles and the Earl of march had spent their exile in Calais, while York and his other son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, retired to Dublin. The Neviiles returned to England first: they landed at Sandwich, Kent, in late June 1460. They were soon admitted into London, from where they could plan their assault on the King's army, which was based in Northampton. On 10 July the Yorkist army under Warwick and March defeated the royalist army at the Battle of Northampton, and once again the King was captured. Of Mowbray's activity, Colin Richmond says that he "is more likely to have observed from a safe distance than participated" in it.
York himself returned from exile in October 1460; much to the consternation of his allies, he almost immediately claimed the throne. Mowbray's attitude to this is uncertain, as the chroniclers omit mention of him. What is clear is that at some point between the Yorkists' return from exile in June and early December, Mowbray threw in his lot with them. The precise cause of Mowbray's change of loyalties remains unknown. Colin Richmond argues that the Lancastrian defeat at Northampton in June 1460 was fundamental, and Mowbray lost friends and colleagues. It is also possible that King Henry's capture there encouraged him to desert the King. Christine Carpenter puts it down almost solely to Mowbray's failure to improve his position in Norfolk under Henry, while Castor points to the October 1460 Yorkist parliament being the turning point for Mowbray: possibly he believed that the attempted settlement contained in the Act of Accord was the best possible outcome.
The King and Queen still had support from much of the nobility, and they withdrew to the north where they commenced a campaign of ravaging York and the Nevilles' estates. This forced York, Salisbury and Rutland to go north on 9 December and suppress the Lancastrians. Mowbray remained in London with Salisbury's and York's sons, the Earls of Warwick and March. York and Salisbury's expedition ended in disaster. Choosing to engage a Lancastrian army outside the duke's castle at Sandal, the Yorkists were crushed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December. York Rutland and Salisbury, died in or soon after the battle. The Queen's army made its way south, intending to enter London. Mowbray, Warwick, and his brother John Neville, Lord Montagu, marched out of London, intending to intercept the approaching Lancastrians. Mowbray brought King Henry with them. The two armies clashed on 17 February 1461 just outside of St Albans, where the Yorkists were defeated. Abandoning the King to his wife and her supporters, Mowbray and Warwick swiftly retreated to London before the victorious Lancastrian army could reach the city.
The Lancastrian army marched on London, but the city refused it entry. On 3 March 1461 Mowbray attended a great council at Baynard's Castle organised small group of Yorkist loyalists, and agreed to offer Edward, Earl of March the throne. The following day—indicating the urgency for resolution felt by the Yorkists by this stage— Mowbray was despatched into East Anglia to raise his country "with all diligence to prepare for the war on the party of King Edward". The Lancastrian army had returned to the north where, on 29 March 1461, York and Lancaster met at the Battle of Towton. It was to be one of the longest and bloodiest battles fought on British soil, and "fought in bitter Yorkshire weather and no less bitter spirit", says Charles Ross. On Mowbray's advice, says Ross, Edward followed the Lancastrian army north with a new army.
Mowbray seems to have recruited successfully in the region, as one of the Paston letters says that "every town hath waged and sent forth." Mowbray left East Anglia via Cambridge on 17 March 1461, where John Howard and his own force of men joined Mowbray's; Howard also brought with him a gift of money from Bury St Edmunds Abbey. The force that Mowbray was raising may have constituted the Yorkist rearguard and so not part of the main Yorkist army, intending to join with it later. He was still not with Warwick's and March's council of war held at Doncaster in late March. There are different explanations for Mowbray's delay. Possibly he faced difficulty in mustering troops; the army recently raised to fight at St Albans had been dispersed. This would require re-mustering. Also possible is the fact that—since he died only a few months later—Mowbray may have been too ill to have kept up with the main Yorkist force. At Pontefract Mowbray transferred command of his army to Sir John Howard, his cousin and retainer, knowing that time was of the essence for the Yorkists and that yet, whilst he was with them, his soldiers could only march as quickly as he could travel. If Mowbray was ill, then it is unlikely that he fought personally; Boardman observed that "a sick man would never have survived such a strength-sapping ordeal, especially a noble in armour-plate." If his contingent was also tasked with bringing up Yorkist artillery, this would have further slowed them down—they may have abandoned armoury en route in order to increase their speed.[note 22]
Mowbray arrived late to the battle but at a crucial point. His prolonged absence after a day's bitter fighting must have been a growing worry for the Yorkists, especially as they may have thought him up to a day's march away. Mowbray's absence presented an acute problem for the Yorkist army; Philip A. Haigh describes them, by four o'clock in the afternoon, as doomed without him. There must have been much messaging between Edward and Mowbray throughout the day, but battle fatigue had almost certainly set in on both sides by the time Mowbray's troops arrived on the eastern edge of the battlefield. A contemporary chronicler described the situation thus
And about four o'clock at night [i.e., 4 am] the two battles joined and fought all night till on the morrow in the afternoon. About noon the aforesaid John, Duke of Norfolk, with a fresh band of good men of war came to the aid of the newly elected King Edward...
Mowbray's army launched a decisive attack on the Lancastrian flank, turning them left. He brought, after all, a force something in the region of 5,000 men. His arrival had the effect of both reinvigorating the Yorkist army and crushing Lancastrian morale with his surprise attack and led rapidly to a Lancastrian rout and gave the victory to Edward IV.
Earls Marshal played an important role in coronations. Like his predecessors, Mowbray officiated at the coronation of Edward IV at Westminster Abbey Edward's on 28 June 1461. Within two months he had received a number of lucrative offices. Public order was a problem for the new King from the beginning of his reign, and East Anglia was no exception. Mobs rampaged during that year's parliamentary elections.. Norfolk may have encouraged this; he is certainly a candidate for ordering the murder of the country coroner, one Thomas Denys that August.
Even though Mowbray was a confirmed supporter of the new Yorkist regime, he still met with strong opposition from the East Anglian gentry in the first year of the reign. This was despite (theoretically, at least) having the support of the King in government, and backed though he was by John Howard in the shires.[note 23] Howard was by now one of Mowbray's senior retainers —described as Mowbray's "right well-beloved cousin and servant"— and Sheriff of Norfolk. By November, however, he had been arrested by the new Yorkist regime.
Mowbray did not live long enough to benefit from the Yorkist victory. Mowbray died on 6 November 1461, aged 45, and was buried at Thetford Priory. He was succeeded by his only son, John. His mother, Katherine Duchess of Norfolk, survived him and lived until 1484. She had already taken two more husbands during Mowbray's own lifetime, and took another after his death.[note 24]
Mowbray married Eleanor Bourgchier, the daughter of William Bourgchier, Count of Eu and Anne of Gloucester, Countess of Buckingham. Eleanor was the sister of his successor as Justice in Eyre, Henry Bourgchier. They appear to have shared a close bond: while travelling in May 1451, Mowbray supposedly dispensed with his retinue to enjoy, according to Colin Richmond, "a private tryst" with his wife. The couple had one child, also John, who in 1448 married Elizabeth, daughter of John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. The son was seventeen when his father died in 1461, and inherited the estate four years later.
Ralph Griffiths has suggested that when Archbishop John Kemp died in 1453, it may have at least in part been due to the bullying and threats he had recently been subjected too: "notably by Norfolk himself". One modern historian has placed much of Suffolk's success in the region, which antagonised Mowbray so much, as being down to Mowbray's own "crass incompetence" in being "ineffectual" at assisting those members of the political community who would expect to rely on a lord of his stature's protection. J. R. Lander called Mowbray "a disreputable thug", while Richmond concludes that Mowbray was "cavalier with the rights of others to a safe life and a secure livelihood". Fundamentally, says Richmond, whilst "many medieval aristocrats were irresponsible men ... Mowbray's individuality lay in the thoroughness of his irresponsibility." On a more positive note, says Michael Hicks, the quality of honour was clearly very important to Mowbray, as his pursuit of Somerset (for that duke's abject performance in France) shows. Likewise, as Earl Marshal, he must have possessed a good understanding of chivalry and its application, as it was fundamental to the office.
Mowbray, as "Duke of Norfolk", is a minor figure in the play King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare.[note 25] He appears in act I, scene i, and act II, scene ii as a supporter of the Duke of York; the first time just after the Battle of St Albans, and is portrayed "conspicuously associated with opposition." This is ahistorical, as Mowbray was still loyal to King Henry at this point. His second appearance in the play is at the Battle of Towton. The play has been adapted for the screen several times. In the 1960 BBC TV serial An Age of Kings, the character appears in the episode "Henry VI: The Morning's War" portrayed by Jeffry Wickham. In 1965 the BBC again adapted the history plays for television, this time based on the 1963 theatre production The Wars of the Roses. Here the character appears in the episode "Edward IV" portrayed by David Hargreaves.
In the Elizabethan play The Merry Devil of Edmonton, though Mowbray does not appear as a character on stage, the comic character Blague repeatedly claims that: "I serve the good Duke of Norfolk." Exactly what period the play is set in is the subject of a discussion amongst scholars. Suggestions range from the reign of King Henry VI (1421–1471) to the 1580s (in Queen Elizabeth I's reign). The 20th-century Shakespeare scholar W. W. Greg places it in the reign of King Henry VI, basing his conclusion in part on Thomas Fuller's posthumously published History of the Worthies of England (1662). If this is the case then the "Duke of Norfolk" referred to in the play would be Mowbray. According to J. M. Bromley, the play evokes "the similarities between poaching and treason", and the anonymous author deliberately links this Duke of Norfolk to both. Rudolph Fiehler noted how Blague's service to the duke was very much based upon the unsavoury characteristics of "cowardice, poaching and thievery". It has also been suggested that his comic catchphrase was deliberately intended to invoke Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare's best known characters, for the audience. In Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2, Justice Shallow refers to Falstaff as having once been a page to "Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk", Mowbray's grandfather. Falstaff, of course, is commonly considered to be a fictional representation of either Sir John Oldcastle or Sir John Fastolf—or possibly an amalgamation of the two—both of whom are variously associated with Mowbray.
The Duke of Norfolk
The Duke of Norfolk
The Earl of Arundel
|Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent
The Earl of Essex
|Peerage of England|
|Duke of Norfolk
|Earl of Norfolk
|Earl of Nottingham