Thomas Neville

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Thomas Neville
Viscount Fauconberg
Noble family House of Neville
Father William Neville, 1st Earl of Kent
Born 1429
Died 22 September 1471 (aged 42)
Middleham Castle, Yorkshire

Thomas Fauconberg or Thomas Neville, sometimes called Thomas the Bastard, or the Bastard of Fauconberg (1429 – 22 September 1471), was the natural son of Sir William Neville, 1st Earl of Kent who fought with distinction and valour during the Hundred Years' War alongside Lord Talbot and others. In his youth Thomas was a notable sailor, receiving, in 1454, the freedom of the City of London for his work in eliminating pirates from the Channel and the North Sea.

Wars of the Roses

Originally a Lancastrian, Thomas switched allegiance in 1460 to support the Yorkists with his cousin Warwick, the Kingmaker. Fauconberg's support for the Yorkist claimant Edward IV was significant enough that, according to the chronicler Jean de Waurin, Edward honoured him as "a friend and a father" shortly before he was crowned in 1461.

In the late 1460s when tensions arose between his cousin Warwick and Edward IV Thomas sided with his cousin. When Warwick rebelled in 1469 and was forced into exile Thomas joined him with several armed ships. While Warwick was in France negotiating an alliance with Margaret of Anjou Thomas took command of his cousin’s ships and raided English shipping.[1]

Restitution of Henry VI

In 1471 Thomas was back at sea for the Lancastrians, in the service of the Earl of Warwick, and zealously supported the earl's attempt to reinstate Henry VI. He was appointed the captain of ‘Warwick's navy,’ and was directed to patrol the Channel between Dover and Calais to intercept Edward, who was in Burgundy.

When Edward landed at Ravenspur, avoiding Thomas, Warwick sent him orders to return from sea and raise the county of Kent on behalf of Warwick and Henry VI. He was to bring reinforcements from Kent in support of Warwick at the battle of Barnet. He only received these orders after the Battle of Barnet and was absent when his cousin was killed.[2]

With his cousin dead he landed at Sandwich. He sent the ships to sail around Kent and up the Thames Estuary. In the meantime he personally gathered a small army in Kent as he marched to London. He received support from Canterbury and its major Nicholas Faunt. On 14 May Thomas, who was in Southwark, wrote to the city government of London asking for permission to march through the city in an effort to support Margaret of Anjou who was then leading an army in the West Country against Edward. The London city government was, however, uneasy about letting an army inside their walls. The refused him entrance and in frustration he burned Southwark.[2]

When London still refused him entrance he prepared a three prong assault on London. He removed the artillery from the ships and placed it on the south bank of Thames so he could bombard the city.[3] Most of Thomas’ army was sent upstream to cross the river and come back to attack London at Aldgate and Bishopsgate. A third party would try and cross London Bridge.

His assault ultimately failed. His bombardment failed to weaken the will of the London defenders. The party at London Bridge was beaten back by the fire of artillery placed by the Londoners at their end of the bridge.[4] The attack on Bishopsgate was disrupted by the Earl of Essex who arrived as it was underway. The party that had the most success was the one at Aldgate. They managed to force the gate open but a counterattack from the defenders beat them back.[5] Pursued, the Bastard and his army retreated as far as Stratford and Blackwall where they boarded the ships and crossed back into Kent.

He then made his way westward to Kingston upon Thames in pursuit of Edward IV. Lord Scales, who held London for Edward, recognized the king's danger, for the Bastard's army was estimated at twenty thousand men, and recruits were stated to be still coming in. Scales sent word to the Bastard that Edward IV was quitting England, and thus induced the Bastard to return to Blackheath. From there the Bastard journeyed with six hundred horsemen to Rochester and Sandwich where he learned that Warwick's cause was lost. Edward marched on Sandwich and captured thirteen ships with most of the Bastard's immediate followers. Fauconberg himself escaped to Southampton, where the King took him prisoner.


He was then taken to the Middleham Castle, Yorkshire, and beheaded on 22 September 1471. His head was set on London Bridge, ‘looking into Kentward’.[6] A brother is stated to have been a prisoner at the same time, but he managed to take sanctuary at Beverley.[6]

Kentish Rebellion in Literature

Among the occupants of London during the attack was Sir Thomas Malory imprisoned in Newgate Prison either for Lancastrian sympathies or common crimes. There is a literary parallel between Fauconberg's attack on London, with Edward's queen in the tower, and Mordred's assault on Arthur's queen Guinevere in the tower in Chapter 1 of Book XXI of Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur.


  1. Kendall, Kingmaker, p. 302.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Arrivall, p. 21.
  3. Arrivall, p. 35; Hammond, Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, p. 107.
  4. Arrivall, p. 36.
  5. Arrivall, p. 36–37. Hammond, Barnet and Tewkesbury, p. 108.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner, iii. 17
  • Hammond, P.W. “The Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.
  • ”Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV, in England and the Finall Recouerye of His Kingdomes from Henry VI. A.D. M.CCCC.LXI.” Published for the Camden Society, 1938.
  • Kendall, Paul Murray. “Warwick the Kingmaker.” New York: Norton and Company, 1958.
  • The Plantagenet Encyclopedia edited by Elizabeth Hallam ISBN 1-85501-732-6
  • The Princes in the Tower by Elizabeth Jenkins.

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