The Tudor Society

10 March – John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford and his role in the Wars of the Roses

On this day in Tudor history, 10th March 1513, magnate John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, died at his home at Castle Hedingham in Essex.

Oxford was a key figure in the Wars of the Roses and played an important role in the Battle of Bosworth Field. As I talk about his life and career, you'll see just how complicated this civil war was.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 10 March 1524, King Henry VIII suffered a jousting accident . Find out exactly what happened in last year's video:

Also on this day in Tudor history:

  • 1526 – Marriage of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Isabella of Portugal. Their children included Philip II of Spain, who went on to marry Mary I.
  • 1538 – Birth of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, eldest son of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and Frances de Vere, at Kenninghall Palace in Norfolk. Like his father before him, Howard was executed as a traitor, being beheaded on 2nd June 1572 for plotting to marry Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • 1572 – Death of William Paulet, 1st Marquis of Winchester, nobleman and administrator. His offices under Henry VIII included Lord Treasurer, Great Master of the Household and Lord Great Chamberlain, and he served under Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.


On this day in Tudor history, 10th March 1513, magnate John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, died at his home at Castle Hedingham in Essex.
Let me give you some facts about this Earl of Oxford, who was a key figure in the Wars of the Roses…
• John de Vere was born on 8th September 1442, and was the second son of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, and his wife, Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Sir John Howard.
• His father and his older brother were executed for treason in 1462, but Oxford did not suffer, being granted licence of entry on his father’s lands and being created Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s queen consort, in 1465. He also served as great chamberlain of England and the queen’s chamberlain at the proceedings.
• In November 1468, Oxford was imprisoned in the Tower of London for plotting with Lancastrians, but was released in early 1469 and pardoned in April 1469.
• In the summer of 1469, he plotted with George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, against King Edward IV, who was then captured at the Battle of Edgecote Moor on 26th July following the defeat of his royal army. However, Edward was released in September 1469 and took back his throne.
• Oxford was obviously unpopular with the king now and so fled into exile at the court of Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI. There, he joined Warwick, Clarence and the Lancastrians in planning and English invasion to put Henry VI back on the throne. They were successful in restoring Henry to his throne and on 13th October 1470, John bore the Sword of State before King Henry VI in a procession to St Paul’s. On 15th October, he presided over the trial of John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, who was condemned for high treason. I wonder how Oxford felt presiding over the trial of the man who, as Lord High Constable, had presided over the trials of his father and brother.
• Oxford helped prevent the landing of the former king, Edward IV, in Norfolk in 1471 and commanded the force that defeated that of Lord Hastings at the Battle of Barnet on 14th April 1471. However, after this initial victory, bad visibility due to mist caused Oxford’s badge, with its star with rays, to be confused with Edward IV’s sun in splendour badge, and Lord Montagu’s men, who were actually on the same side as Oxford, attacked Oxford’s force, causing them flee in panic. Edward’s Yorkist side had the final victory, and Oxford fled to Scotland and then France, where he focused on privateering, or piracy for a time.
• In September 1473, Oxford was able to seize St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, but was forced to surrender on 15th February 1474 after a siege and having been hit in the face by an arrow.
• Oxford was imprisoned at Hammes Castle, in the Pale of Calais, and attainted for treason. In 1478, Oxford either tried to escape, or attempted suicide, by scaling the walls of the castle and jumping into the moat. In 1484, the new king, Richard III, ordered him to be transferred from Calais to England, but Oxford had escaped, and he and his gaoler, James Blount, joined Henry Tudor who was planning an invasion of England. Oxford helped Henry by bringing a force from Hammes.
• Henry Tudor and his forces met those of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485 with Oxford commanding Henry’s archers and his vanguard against Richard’s vanguard led by John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, who was killed in the battle. Henry and his forces were of course victorious in the battle, Richard III was killed, and Henry became King Henry VII.
• King Henry VII rewarded Oxford’s loyalty with offices including included Lord Admiral, Constable of the Tower of London, Captain of the Yeoman Guard and Lord Great Chamberlain of England. He was also a member of the king’s council and was elected a Knight of the Garter in 1486. He also stood as godfather at Prince Arthur’s christening in 1486 and commanded the vanguard at the 1487 Battle of Stoke.
• In 1489 and 1497, Oxford led forces against the Yorkshire and Cornish Rebellions, and in 1499, he presided over the trial of Edward, Earl of Warwick. Oxford was a powerful man in East Anglia, holding many offices there.
• Oxford was married to Margaret Neville, sixth daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, and sister of Warwick the Kingmaker. His wife was adversely affected following the Battle of Barnet in 1471, when her husband’s estates were confiscated. Things didn’t improve until 1482, when she was granted an annuity. Margaret died in 1506 and Oxford went on to marry again, marrying Elizabeth Scrope, daughter and co-heir of Sir Richard Scrope, and widow of William, 2nd Viscount Beaumont.
• Oxford died on this day in 1513, in the reign of King Henry VIII, leaving his wife, Elizabeth, but no children. He was buried alongside his first wife, Margaret, in the Lady Chapel of Colne Priory, the traditional burial place of the de Veres, on 24th April 1513.

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  1. M

    What an interesting man! Thank you! Michelle t

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10 March – John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford and his role in the Wars of the Roses