Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers (1440 - 1483) MP

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Nicknames: "Anthony Woodville", "Anthony Wydville", "Anthony Wydeville", "2nd Earl Rivers", "Lord Scales of Neuselles"
Birthplace: Grafton, Northamptonshire, England
Death: Died in Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire, , England
Cause of death: Beheaded at Pontefract Castle
Occupation: 2nd Earl Rivers
Managed by: Daniel Robert May
Last Updated:

About Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers

ANTHONY WOODVILLE, 2nd EARL RIVERS, or Wydeville, statesman and patron of literature, and author of the first book printed on English soil, was born probably in 1442. He was the son of Richard de Wydeville and his wife, Jacquetta de Luxemburg, Duchess of Bedford. His father was raised to the peerage in his son's infancy, and was made Earl of Rivers in 1466. Anthony, who was knighted before he became of age, and fought at Towton in 1461, married the daughter of Lord Scales, and became a peer jure uxoris in 1462, two years after the death of that nobleman. Being Lord of the Isle of Wight at the time, he was in 1467 appointed one of the ambassadors to treat with the Duke of Burgundy, and he exalted his office by challenging Anthony, Comte de la Roche, the bastard of Burgundy, to single fight in what was one of the most famous tournaments of the age (see the elaborate narrative in Bentley's Excerpta Historica, 1761). In 1469 Anthony was promoted to be Lieutenant of Calais and Captain of the King's Armada, while holding other honorary posts. His father and brother were beheaded after the battle of Edgecot, and he succeeded in August of that year to the earldom. He accompanied Edward IV in his temporary flight to the Continent, and on his return to England had a share in the victory of Barnet and Tewkesbury and defended London from the Lancastrians: In 1473 he became guardian and governor to the young prince of Wales [Edward V, and for the next few years there was no man in England of greater responsibility or enjoying more considerable honours in the royal service.

It is now that for the first time we become aware of Lord Rivers's literary occupations. His mother, the duchess, died in 1472, and his first wife in 1473; in 1475 and the following year he went on pilgrimage to the holy places of Italy; from this time forth there was a strong tincture of serious reflection thrown over his character; he was now, as we learn from Caxton, nominated "Defender and Director of the Siege Apostolic for the Pope in England." Caxton had in 1476 rented a shop in the Sanctuary at Westminster, and here had set up a printing-press. The first MS. which he undertook in London was one sent to him by "the noble and puissant lord, Lord Antone, Erle of Ryvyers," consisting of a translation "into right good and fayr Englyssh" of Jean de Teonville's French version of a Latin work, "a glorious fair mirror to all good Christian people." In 1477 Caxton brought out this book, as Dictes and Sayengis of the Philosophers, and it is illustrious as the first production of an English printing-press. To this succeeded the Moral Proverbs of Christine de Pisan, in verse, in 1478, and a Cordial, in prose, in 1479. The original productions of Lord Rivers, and, in particular, his Balades against the Seven Deadly Sins, are lost.

In 1478 a marriage was arranged between him and Margaret, sister of King James III of Scotland, but it was mysteriously broken off. Rivers began to perceive that it was possible to rise too high for the safety of a subject, and he is now described to us as one who "conceiveth well the mutability and the unstableness of this life." After the death of Edward IV, he became the object of Richard III's peculiar enmity, and was beheaded by his orders at Pontefract on the 25th of June 1483. He was succeeded by his brother Richard, the 3rd and last earl of the Wydeville family, who died in 1491.

Lord Rivers is spoken of by Commines as "un très gentil chevalier," and by Sir Thomas More as "a right honourable man, as valiant of hand as politic in counsel." His protection and encouragement of Caxton were of inestimable value to English literature, and in the preface to the Dictes the printer gives an account of his own relations with the statesman which illustrates the dignity and modesty of Lord Rivers in a very agreeable way. Rivers was one of the purest writers of English prose of his time.

(Edmund Gosse)

Excerpted from:

     Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XXIII. 
     Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 385.


Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers was born between 1440 and 1442.1 He was the son of Richard Wydevill, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta de Luxembourg.1 He married Mary FitzLewes, daughter of Sir Henry FitzLewes.1 He married Elizabeth Scales, Baroness Scales, daughter of Thomas de Scales, 7th Baron Scales, circa 1460. He died on 26 June 1483 at Pontefract Castle, Pontefract, Yorkshire, West Riding, England, executed.

    Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers was invested as a Knight, Order of the Garter (K.G.).2 He gained the title of 2nd Earl Rivers.1

Child of Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers

1.Margaret Woodville+3 d. b 1520


1.[S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 124. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Family.

2.[S35] Peter Townend, editor, Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 18th edition, 3 volumes (London, England: Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1965-1972), volume 1, page 579. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Landed Gentry, 18th ed.

3.[S35] Peter Townend, Burke's Landed Gentry, 18th ed.


Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers (c. 1440 – 25 June 1483) was an English nobleman, courtier, and writer.

He was the eldest son of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. Like his father, he was originally a Lancastrian, fighting on that side at the Battle of Towton, but later became a Yorkist. He succeeded his father in 1469.

Rivers became very influential at the royal court after his sister Elizabeth married Edward IV. He joined the king in his temporary exile in 1470, and returned with him the next year , where he was wounded at the Battle of Barnet.

He was married to Elizabeth de Scales, Baroness Scales in her own right, daughter of Thomas de Scales, 7th Baron Scales, and widow of Henry Bourchier, younger son of Henry Bourchier, 1st Earl of Essex.

In 1473 King Edward IV appointed Rivers Governor of the Prince of Wales' household, and Rivers went with the prince to Ludlow Castle. His duties included the administration of justice throughout the principality. When the king died in 1483, he accompanied the Prince, now King Edward V, on the way back to London. However, they were waylaid by the Duke of Gloucester, who imprisoned the Earl and then had him beheaded at Pontefract Castle on 25 June 1483 as part of his path toward becoming king (as Richard III).

After his wife's death in 1473, Anthony was summoned to Parliament in her right as Baron Scales.

Rivers was evidently quite learned, and no doubt had learned excellent French from his mother. He had met with the earliest English printer William Caxton when in exile in Bruges, and there in 1475-6 Caxton published Cordyale, or Four last thinges, Rivers' English translation from the French of Jean Miélot of Les quattres choses derrenieres, itself a translation of the Cordiale quattuor novissimorum. After both of them had returned to England, one of the first, if not the first, books printed in England was Rivers' translation from French of the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, printed by Caxton at Westminster in 1477.[1]. Lambeth Palace Library has a manuscript illustration showing Rivers presenting a copy of this book to Edward IV.

Anthony was succeeded by his brother, Richard, as Earl Rivers.


The information given here is consistent with Michael Hicks: Woodville , Anthony, second Earl Rivers (c.1440–1483), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008). Accessed 25 June 2010.

1.^ Caxton exhibition


The Encyclopaedia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences ..., Volume 23 By Hugh Chisholm Pg.385


Knight: noble warrior of England, 1200-1600 By Christopher Gravett Pg.93


The picturesque beauties of Great Britain: a series of views from original ... By Thomas Wright Pg. 83



Beheaded. --------------------,_2nd_Earl_Rivers

ANTHONY WOODVILLE, 2nd EARL RIVERS, or Wydeville, statesman and patron of literature, and author of the first book printed on English soil, was born probably in 1442.

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Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers's Timeline

Grafton, Northamptonshire, England
Age 15
Iron Acton, Gloucestershire, , England
December 22, 1462
Age 22
Grafton Regis, Northampton, England
June 26, 1483
Age 43
Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire, , England