Dorothy NEVILLE

(C. Oxford)

Born: 1515/6

Died: 1547

Father: Ralph NEVILLE (4° E. Westmoreland)

Mother: Catherine STAFFORD (C. Westmoreland)

Married: John De VERE (16º E. Oxford) 3 Jul 1536, Holywell, Shoreditch, Middlesex, England

Children:

1. Catherine De VERE (B. Windsor)


Dorothy Neville was born about 1516, the second daughter of Ralph Neville, 4th Earl of Westmoreland, and Catherine Stafford, daughter of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Two of her younger brothers, Cuthbert and Sir Christopher Neville, would be future leaders of the Northern rebellion of 1569, demonstrating the importance of her northern lineage.

Dorothy married John De Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford, in a dynastic triple marriage, in the same ceremony that her sister Margaret married Henry Manners, heir of the Earl of Rutland and her brother Henry married Anne Manners, also daughter of Rutland. The Visitation of Yorkshire in 1563 and 1564 suggests she was about 20. Oxford, too, was about 20 when they married, both significantly older than the other 2 couples, who were only about 9 to 11 at the time. Henry VIII attended the festivities with her new queen, Jane Seymour, just 6 weeks after beheading Anne Boleyn.

In about Jan 1546, "the vnkynde [unkind] dealing of the earl" led Dorothy to leave the marriage. The Duke of Norfolk ordered the Earl to attempt a reconciliation, but Dorothy said she "wold never goe home agayne amongst such a bad companye as were about the Earle of Oxforde at that tyme". On about 31 May of the same year, De Vere married Joan Jockey of Earls Colne at White Colne Church. Dorothy wrote to the Earl's comptroller "to knowe yf it were true, that said Iohan [Joan] were mayyed to the same Earle", and when her fears were confirmed, Dorothy took it "verey greviouslie".

De Vere "kept" a second mistress named Anne at Tilbury Hall, 4 miles from his residence, Hedingham Castle, a servant of the gentleman who leased the manor. It's likely there were additional women, since witnesses in a later case brought to determine whether De Vere's marriage to Margery Golding was legitimate used the word "all", rather than "both" when they reported that "all theise women were shaken off by the same Earle ... before the said lady Dorothie dyed" just 2 years after their separation.

Dorothy surely would've heard about the violence that preceded her husband's decision to break off his "marriage" to Joan Jockey. Though Joan survived the attack, the Earl definitively 'put her away'. She was thought to be still alive some 38 years later in 1585 when members of the Earl's household testified in the case regarding his marriage to Golding.

Dorothy Neville appears to have had the good sense to stay away. She died ABT 6 Jan 1548, at a parsonage located a half mile from distant Salisbury. In a deft powerplay just 3 weeks later, Lord Somerset extracted a promise from De Vere that Catherine, then a 9-year-old future heiress, would marry his son Henry, then 7. The contract was enforced by a bond dated 26 Feb, with a penalty of £6,000; it was further enforced (but eventually reversed) by subsequent acts of Parliament. The size of the bond is staggering. On 22 Jan 1553 the indenture of 1548 was revoked, thus voiding the requirement that Catherine must marry Henry, Lord Seymour, but Catherine was still under her father's control. Just a month earlier on 21 Dec 1552, Oxford signed his second (first extant) will; it put Catherine "on notice that she must not contract a marriage distasteful to her father".

The goddaughter of the Countess of Oxford, Dorothy Fosser or Foster (d. ABT 1556/7) came from Haverhill, Suffolk. She was, possibly, named after the Countess, and had served as her maid and as a lady-in-waiting for Catherine de Vere. Dorothy Fosser also became romantically involved with the Earl of Oxford and after the death of his wife in Jan 1548, their relationship came to the attention of the Duke of Somerset. At 27 Jun 1548, a letter from Sir Thomas Darcy to (probably) William Cecil, Somerset's secretary, indicates that Oxford had already been questioned about his engagement with this "lady with whom he is in love" and that the Prohibitions for her marriage had been summoned two of the three required times, but not before witnesses. Somerset apparently favored marriage between Oxford and one of Lord Wentworth's daughters. Darcy further reported that "Mrs. Dorothy" had left Castle Hedingham and was living at Sir Edward Green's home, Stampford Hall. However, less than a week later, her Dorothy was at Haverhill, waiting to marry the Earl of Oxford in his parish church. Instead, on Thursday, 1 Aug, Oxford married Margery Golding, at the Goldings' home on Belchamp St. Paul. Had Somerset remained Lord Protector, Oxford could have faced serious penalties for this irregular marriage. He paid Dorothy £ 10 a year for breach of contract. She later married one of Oxford's employees, John Anson (b. 1525-d. AFT 1585). In 1556/7, they lived in Felsted, Essex.

Sources:

Childs, Jessie: Henry VIII´s Last Victim: The life and times of Herny Howard, Earl of Surrey -

Green, Nina: The Fall of the House of Oxford - Originally published in Brief Chronicles Vol. 1 (2009), pages 41–95 https://shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/fall-house-oxford/

Nelson, Alan H. (2003). Monstrous Adversary: The Life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Liverpool University Press

 

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