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The Death of Isabel Neville: The Poor Plantagenet Family
Isabel Neville was the daughter of the Kingmaker, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. She died on December 22, 1476 either of consumption or childbed fever, as it was a few weeks after the birth of her fourth and final child, Richard. After her death, it seemed her family fell apart, leading to the execution of her husband and surviving two children over the next seven decades.
Isabel Neville: Wife of a Duke
Isabel Neville married George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, on July 11, 1469. It was against King Edward IV’s wishes, who feared that her father was getting far too close to the throne. George was the eldest of the King’s two younger brothers, and at the time Edward had no son to take after him—just four daughters.
There were claims that Edward IV was an illegitimate child of Cecily Neville and a soldier, rather than Richard, Duke of York, which made him ineligible for the throne. George argued that he was the rightful King of England, and Warwick wanted his elder daughter to marry this man. The two married in Calais in secret, and George worked with his new father-in-law to help put Henry VI back on the throne, with the promise of being named heir after Henry’s own son, Edward of Westminster.
The marriage led to Isabel being caught between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Once George realised that he was never going to become king by putting Henry VI back on the throne, he went back to ask for his brother’s forgiveness. However, Warwick stayed to help Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s wife, and offered his younger daughter, Anne Neville, as a bride for Edward of Westminster. Isabel had to choose between her father and sister or her husband. Once Edward deposed Henry VI for a second time, the old King died and her father died at the Battle of Barnet, Isabel realised that her husband was the safest of choices.
The Children of Isabel Neville and George, Duke of Clarence
Isabel had four children with her husband. The first was on the way to Calais, when the ship hit a storm. The baby, said to be a girl by most, died within a few days of life. The second was also a girl, but would grow up to be Margaret Pole. Margaret seemed to get away from the bad luck of her family until she was 67-years-old and Henry VIII decided to have her executed.
The third child was Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick. He would be given the titles and lands that his father had before his execution by Richard III. However, he was executed in 1499 by Henry VII after trying to escape from the Tower of London. Despite being barred from the line of succession, Henry VII always feared that he would be a pawn for rebels.
The final child was another son, but would only live for three months. He was Isabel’s final pregnancy and died just two weeks after her death. They were buried at Warwick together.
Isabel Neville’s Death: The Start of the Family’s Bad Luck
The family seemed to be in good favour with the king. Despite George attempting to overthrow Edward IV, George was welcomed back at court. Once the House of Lancaster was brought down and Anne Neville, now the Dowager Princess of Wales, was arrested, George and Isabel became her guardians. George used this chance to try to secure all the Warwick estates—they had been split between the two sisters up until this point.
However, Anne fought back and eventually married Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester. He was the youngest brother of the King, and someone George never wanted his sister-in-law to marry. Edward IV agreed to the marriage, though, and the Warwick lands were split between the two brothers.
George’s mental state was never quite altogether. He was involved in various plots and schemes, but Isabel always kept him somewhat level-headed. All that changed after her death. She was no longer that mellow and level voice in his head, and his mental state quickly deteriorated further. She was the start of the downfall for this Plantagenet family.
You can read Phillipa Gregory's version of Isabel's story, and those surrounding her, in her novel The White Queen, part of The Cousins' War series.
Conspiracies Around Isabel Neville’s Death
George was sure that his wife’s death was not due to natural causes. He blamed witchcraft, and one of his wife’s servants was the person to gain all his anger. The second York brother accused Ankarette Twynyho of murdering his wife, and she was convicted in a very unfair court. George had his wife’s lady-in-waiting murdered for her crimes, despite the King of England not agreeing to it.
Edward IV didn’t believe that his sister-in-law’s death was due to witchcraft. In fact, contemporary reports state the death was either consumption or childbed fever; two very common causes of death at the time. Edward IV gave a full pardon to Roger Twynyho, the victim’s grandson.
However, George became involved in another rebellion, which would lead to his arrest and eventual execution. Had Isabel still been alive, she may have been able to stop him from trying to seize power from Edward again.
Isabel Neville died December 22, 1476, just two and a half months after giving birth. Her two surviving children, after the execution of their father two years later, went to live with Isabel’s sister, Anne Neville and her husband Richard III.
Catch glimpses of the story of Isabel Neville and George Plantagenet with The Kingmaker's Daughter by Phillipa Gregory. It is mainly about Anne Neville, but does include glimpses of her sister Isabel.