George Plantagenet: The Controversial Duke of Clarence

George Plantagenet, the Duke of Clarence, was a prominent figure in the dynastic conflict between the Plantagenet factions known as the Wars of the Roses.

Born on October 21, 1449, in Dublin, George Plantagenet was the sixth son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville.

He was also the brother of two English kings, Edward IV and Richard III.

Switching Sides

Despite being a member of the House of York, George Plantagenet switched sides to support the Lancastrians before reverting to the Yorkists. This switch in allegiance was just one of the many ways in which George contributed to the Wars of the Roses.

He played a crucial role in the conflict, and his actions have been chronicled in many historical accounts, as well as in William Shakespeare‘s plays, Henry VI, Part 3, and Richard III.

Life and Accomplishments

George Plantagenet was appointed as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1461, the same year that his elder brother Edward became King of England. He was a potential claimant to the crown, having survived his father, who died in 1460.

He actively supported his elder brother’s claim to the throne, and in 1469, he married Isabel Neville, the daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was also known as “the Kingmaker.”

George Plantagenet: The Controversial Duke of Clarence
Image: Richard Godfrey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

However, when Warwick deserted Edward IV to ally with Margaret of Anjou, consort of the deposed King Henry, Clarence supported his father-in-law. As a result, he was deprived of his office as Lord Lieutenant.

Clarence joined Warwick in France, taking his pregnant wife with him. She gave birth to their first child, a girl, but the child died shortly afterwards.

Henry VI then rewarded Clarence by making him next in line to the throne after his own son, justifying the exclusion of Edward IV both by attainder for his treason against the House of Lancaster as well as his alleged illegitimacy.

Realizing that his loyalty to his father-in-law was misplaced, Clarence secretly reconciled with Edward. Warwick‘s efforts to keep Henry VI on the throne ultimately failed, and Warwick was killed at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471.

Edward IV restored his brother Clarence to royal favour by making him the Great Chamberlain of England. As his father-in-law had died, Clarence became jure uxoris Earl of Warwick. In 1475, Clarence‘s wife Isabel gave birth to a son, Edward, later Earl of Warwick.

Death and Legacy

George Plantagenet: The Controversial Duke of Clarence
Image: Unidentified painter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Clarence‘s mental state deteriorated after he judicially murdered one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynyho, whom he was convinced had poisoned Isabel.

This led to his involvement in yet another rebellion against his brother Edward. Edward summoned Clarence to Windsor, accused him of treason, and ordered his immediate arrest and confinement.

Clarence was imprisoned in the Tower of London and put on trial for treason against his brother Edward IV. He was convicted and “privately executed” at the Tower on February 18, 1478.

Although George Plantagenet‘s life was full of turmoil and controversy, his actions played a significant role in shaping the history of England.

Despite his turbulent life and the many accusations against him, he remains an important figure in English history.