Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2011-05 > 1306307156

From: Brad Verity <>
Subject: Re: Alice Nevill
Date: Wed, 25 May 2011 00:05:56 -0700 (PDT)
References: <><><><><><><>

On May 24, 8:57 pm, John <> wrote:

> If I'm reading this correctly (and in conjunction with Terry Booth's
> latest post slightly earlier), this makes a reasonable case for the
> possibility (to say the least) that Alice Neville, mistress and later
> wife of Thomas Tunstall, was the niece, not the daughter, of Robert
> Neville, Bishop of Durham.  If so, she was likely daughter of his
> brother Sir William Neville, Lord Fauconberg and Earl of Kent, and
> widow of Sir John Conyers [the younger] of Hornby.

Yes, I'm starting to think this is a strong possibility.

> Her identity has certainly been confused over the centuries if this is
> the case - but the confusion is perhaps explainable.  The statement in
> the DNB and ODNB bios of her apparent son Cuthbert Tunstall, that she
> was a daughter of Sir John Conyers of Hornby may not be too far off -
> by this hypothesis she was a daughter-in-law, not daughter, of Sir
> John Conyers the elder.  A loose reading of the will of Robert
> Neville, Bishop of Durham, could have suggested that she was his
> daughter (illegitimate, of course).  And then, for unknown reasons
> (perhaps because he was more prominent than his uncle - or simply more
> contemporaneous?), George Neville, Archbishop of York, was substituted
> for his uncle Robert as her supposed father.

This sounds reasonable. Especially as the closer we get to the actual
pedigrees from the 16th century (as opposed to the 19th-century edited
versions), we seem to find Alice wife of Thomas Tunstall merely given
the surname Neville, with no indication of specific paternity.

> I don't know how (or if) this hypothesis can be proved, but at least
> there now seems to be substantial doubt as to whether either Robert
> Neville or George Neville could be the father of Alice - and Sir
> William seems to be the most logical alternative.
> Any further thoughts on this matter?

>From Anthony Pollard's bio of William Neville, Earl of Kent, in the
2004 ODNB:

"He married, before 28 April 1422, Joan (1406–1490), the heir to the
barony of Fauconberg of Skelton in Cleveland, in whose right he was
first summoned to parliament in 1429. She was mentally handicapped,
being described in 1463 as an imbecile (fatua) and idiot from birth.
Her father, Sir John Fauconberg, who was probably also insane, had
died in 1407 when she was a year old, and it is likely that her
wardship had been granted to Westmorland, who used her inheritance to
provide for his second son."

So there is specific 15th-century evidence of Joan Fauconberg's mental
impairment. Joan Fauconberg's mother was Joan Bromflete, who died
when the girl was only age 3. But in addition to her in-laws Ralph
Neville and Joan Beaufort, Earl and Countess of Westmorland, another
relation who likely took an interest in the impaired young heiress was
her maternal uncle, Henry Bromflete. He became a powerful northern
magnate, was created Lord Vessy in 1449, and in 1435 took for his
second wife Eleanor Fitzhugh, widow of Philip Lord Darcy and of Sir
Thomas Tunstall. They were married for 22 years, until her death in
1457. As William Neville's mother Joan Beaufort died in 1440, Eleanor
Fitzhugh Darcy Tunstall Bromflete could well have stepped in to act as
a surrogate mother and noble lady role model for the young daughters
of her husband's mentally impaired niece as they grew up in the 1440s
and 1450s. And has been pointed out, two of these girls, Elizabeth
and Alice, were arranged in marriage to the two grandsons and
(eventual) heirs of Eleanor Darcy Bromflete.

Further from Pollard's bio of William Neville Earl of Kent in the

"William Neville did not return to France for five years. His services
were needed elsewhere. Already, in March 1443, he had been appointed
captain of Roxburgh. Since 1441, too, he had not only been the steward
of Durham, but had also held the military command of the bishopric on
behalf of his brother, Robert Neville. In the autumn of 1443 he took
up these posts in person, even presiding over the Durham halmote
courts in October. For the most part, however, he was absent from
Durham; how much time he devoted to Roxburgh is unknown. In 1448,
however, as the truce came under strain, he returned to France, but
was seriously wounded and captured in May 1449 when Charles VII seized
Pont de l'Arche. He was a prisoner for over three years."

So William Neville was active in Durham in the 1440s and played a
large role in the administration of his brother Robert Neville, bishop
of Durham. It may well be that the siblings Thomas, Ralph and Alice
Neville mentioned in the bishop's 1557 will were William's children
rather than the bishop's own. Especially with William a prisoner in
France in the early 1450s, the bishop would've felt a responsibility
to look after the welfare of his brother's children. Again, Alice
Neville Tunstall naming a son 'Cuthbert' is indication that she felt a
strong spiritual association with Durham. She also named a son
'Brian' - rather unusual and not one occurring in the Neville family,
though curiously it does occur in the Conyers family. Sir John
Conyers of Hornby the elder (the father-in-law of Alice, daughter of
William Neville Earl of Kent) had a half-brother Brian Conyers of

Sir John Conyers of Hornby remained a loyal retainer of the Neville
family throughout the War of the Roses, and played a leading
administrative role in their lordship of Middleham. When Richard duke
of Gloucester married Anne Neville the Kingmaker's daughter, he became
the overlord to Sir John Conyers and rewarded him when he usurped the
throne in 1483 by making him a knight of the body and a knight of the
Garter. Conyers's brother-in-law Thomas Tunstall at the same time was
made an esquire of the body, and it may have been the trusted Conyers
who helped draw Tunstall into Richard III's household.

Nothing definitive or conclusive, but interesting connections

Cheers, -------Brad

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