Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers

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Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers

Also Known As: "Anthony Woodville", "Anthony Wydville", "Anthony Wydeville", "2nd Earl Rivers", "Lord Scales of Neuselles", "Widvile"
Birthplace: Grafton, Northamptonshire, England (United Kingdom)
Death: June 26, 1483 (42-43)
Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire, England (United Kingdom) (Beheaded at Pontefract Castle)
Place of Burial: Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Countess Rivers
Husband of Mary Neville, Countess Rivers and Elizabeth Bourchier
Partner of Gwenllian Stradling
Father of Margaret Poyntz
Brother of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of England; Anne Woodville, Viscountess Bourchier; Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke; Jacquetta Woodville, Baroness Strange; Sir John Woodville and 10 others

Occupation: 2nd Earl Rivers
Managed by: Daniel Robert May
Last Updated:

About Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers

See Peter Bartrum, Stradling 1 (May 4, 2024; Anne Brannen, curator)

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. [One daughter, Margaret Woodville, by a mistress believed to be Gwenllian Stradling.]


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.


Margaret Woodville b: ABT 1460 in Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire, England


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.

Excerpt of Last Will and Testament:

In the name of our Lord, Amen. I, Antony Widevile, &c. in hole mynd and fressh’ memory, in the Castell of Shiryfhoton’ the xxiij day of Juyn, and the vigill of Seint Joh’n Baptyst, the yere of our Lord M1 cccclxxxiij, make my testament and last will in the forme folowyng. Furst I bequeith my soule unto the grete m’cy of Ih’u Crist, and to his dere moder our Lady Seint Mary, and to the glorious company of hevyn; and my hert to be had to our’ Lady of Pewe beside Seint Stephyns College at Westmynster, there to be buried by thadvyse of the Deane and his brethern’; and if I dy be yend Trent, than to be buried before our’ Lady of Pewe aforseid. Also I will that all such land as was my lord my faders, remayne holy to his right heyres; wt my cupp of gold of columbyne, which was lefte me by bequest to that entent it shuld’ remayne to the right heires of my seid lord my faders: and such londes as were the Lady Scalis my fyrst wyfe, be unto my brother Syr Edward and to his heyris male ; for faut of such heyres male, unto the right heyres of my seid lord my fadre. This is my will and entent therin, to take effecte as ferre as consciens and law will, and that to be sene and determyned by ij doctours of London and ij of Oxford and of Cambrigge, or doctors at the lest, wt ij of the chefe Juges and ij of theldest s’jauntes of the lawe: and if they fynde that this myn entent may not with conscience and lawe, and any part therof, that it be guydid after their’ demyng: and if they think that my seid brother may have it all, or for fawt of hym ony of my seid lord my fadre heires, he that shal have the lond to pay or he have possession v. c. marcas, that to be employed for the soules of my last wyfe Lady Scalys and Thomas hyr brother, and the soules of all the Scales blode, in helping and refresshing hospitalles and other dedes charitable: and if all the land may not be so had, than to pay but aft’ the rate of such lond as I may bequeith.

Last Will and Testament (in full)

Excerpted from:

     Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XXIII. 

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 385.

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.

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

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Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers's Timeline

Grafton, Northamptonshire, England (United Kingdom)
Grafton, Northamptonshire, England (United Kingdom)
June 26, 1483
Age 43
Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire, England (United Kingdom)
All Saints Churchyard, Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England, UK