A Woodville Abroad: Anthony, Earl Rivers, in Italy

Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan. Did Anthony visit him? While abroad, did he develop a taste for parti-colored hose?

In the autumn of 1475, following Edward IV’s entry into the Treaty of Picquigny with Louis XI of France, Anthony, Earl Rivers, decided to do some traveling. Already he had gone on pilgrimage to Santiago: this time, his destination was Italy.

Edward IV, Anthony’s brother-in-law, paved the way. On October 1, 1475, he wrote a letter to Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, informing him that Rivers, “one of his chief confidants and the brother of his dear consort,” would be traveling to Rome and would like to visit Milan and other places belonging to the duke, as well as the duke himself if it were convenient. Was Edward IV planning to have his brother-in-law conduct a little diplomacy?

Sadly, we do not have a detailed description of Anthony’s travels, or an account of whom he visited, but several years later, William Caxton, whose printing press Rivers patronized, recalled in his epilogue to The Cordyale (translated by Rivers) that Anthony had been on pilgrimage to Rome, to shrines in Naples, and to St. Nicholas at Bari. He had also obtained a papal indulgence for the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew at Westminster, where Anthony hoped to be buried.

Gentile da Fabriano, Pilgrims at St. Nicholas at Bari

All did not go smoothly for the English traveler, however. On March 7, 1476, Francesco Pietrasancta, Milanese Ambassador to the Court of Savoy, reported to the Duke of Milan that all of Rivers’ money and valuables had been stolen at the Torre di Baccano and that Queen Elizabeth was sending a royal servant to Rome with letters of exchange for 4,000 ducats. The ambassador took the occasion to ask the unnamed servant about Edward IV’s lifestyle. “The king devotes himself to his pleasures and having a good time with the ladies” was the reply.

Anthony’s misadventures had also come to the attention of John Paston, who wrote on March 21, 1476, that Lord Rivers “was at Rome right well and honorably” and had traveled twelve miles outside the city when he was robbed of all of his jewels and plate, which were worth at least a thousand marks.

The saga of Anthony’s jewels did not end there, however. On May 10, 1476, the Venetian Senate issued this sinister-sounding decree:

That for the purpose of ascertaining the truth as to this theft, in the neighbourhood of Borne, of the precious jewels and plate belonging to Lord Anthony Angre Lord Scales, brother of the Queen of England, and for the discovery of the perpetrators and of the distribution made of the property,—Be the arrest of Nicholas Cerdo and Vitus Cerdo, Germans, Nicholas Cerdo, and Anthony, a German of Schleswick, dealer in ultramarine, (arrested by permission from the Signory,) ratified at the suit of the State attorneys; and as they would not tell the whole truth by fair means, be a committee formed, the majority of which to have liberty to examine and rack them all or each; and the committee shall, with the deposition thus obtained, come to this Council and do justice.

Three days later, the Senate issued another decree, showing that when traveling abroad, it was extremely helpful to have royal connections:

Lord Scales, the brother-in-law of the King of England, has come to Venice on account of certain jewels of which he was robbed at Torre di Baccano, near Borne. Part of them having been brought hither and sold to certain citizens, he has earnestly requested the Signory to have said jewels restored to him, alleging in his favour civil statutes, enacting that stolen goods should be freely restored to their owner. As it is for the interest of the Signory to make every demonstration of love and good will towards his lordship on his own account, and especially out of regard for the King, his brother-in-law,—Put to the ballot, that the said jewels purchased in this city by Venetian subjects be restored gratuitously to the said lord; he being told that this is done out of deference for the King of England and for his lordship, without his incurring any cost.

As the affair is committed to the State attorneys.—Be it carried that they be bound, together with the ordinary councils, to dispatch it within two months, and ascertain whether or not the purchasers of the jewels purchased them honestly. Should they have been bought unfairly, the purchasers to lose their money. While, if the contrary were the case, Toma Mocenigo, Nicolo de Ca de Besaro, and Marin Contarini shall be bound as they themselves volunteered to pay what was expended for the jewels, together with the costs, namely, 400 ducats. These moneys to be drawn for through a bill of exchange by these three noblemen on the consul in London, there to be paid by the consul and passed by him to the debit of the factory on account of goods loaded by Venetians in England on board the Flanders galleys (Ser Antonio Contarini, captain,) on their return to this city; and in like manner to the debit of the London factory here, on account of goods loaded on board the present Flanders galleys (Ser Andrea de Mosto, captain), bound to England, on their arrival in those parts. If the attorneys and the appointed councils fail to dispatch the matter as above, they shall be fined two ducats each; yet, on the expiration of the said term, the said three noblemen shall be bound to pay the moneys above mentioned.

Having recovered part of his jewels, Anthony resumed his travels. (As his stay had been an expensive one, it may be that the Venetians were not entirely sorry to see him on his way.) In June, he arrived at the camp of Charles, Duke of Burgundy, who was preparing to fight the Swiss. Giovanni Pietro Panigarola, the Milanese ambassador, reported on June 9 that Anthony planned to stay two or three days before returning to England. On June 11, however, he wrote, “M. de Scales, brother of the Queen of England, has been to see the duke and offered to take his place in the line of battle. But hearing the day before yesterday that the enemy were near at hand and they expected to meet them he asked leave to depart, saying he was sorry he could not stay, and so he took leave and went. This is esteemed great cowardice in him, and lack of spirit and honour. The duke laughed about it to me, saying, He has gone because he is afraid.” Whatever Anthony’s motives—it may simply be that he realized this was not his fight—his decision was a fortunate one, for at the battle of Morat that ensued on June 22, the duke lost thousands of men, and would lose his own life at the battle of Nancy six months later. Anthony’s decision to shirk this one battle meant that he would return to England with his life, if not all of his goods, intact.


Calendar of State Papers, Milan

Calendar of State Papers, Venice

Norman Davis, ed., The Paston Letters

Cora Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward IV

11 thoughts on “A Woodville Abroad: Anthony, Earl Rivers, in Italy”

  1. I found this absolutely fascinating and I am impressed by the scholarly research here. I am reading the Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory and have reached this exact date. She quotes lots of good secondary sources in her bibliography but no primary sources. It is good to see the depth of research in this piece.

  2. thanks for an informative article. I am attempting to work on a biography of Antony Woodville, Lord Scales of Newscelles and the Isle of Wight, 2nd Earl Rivers… and all of this helps no end with this section, the travelling.

    One point, though, he is ANTONY not AntHony, as the H did not appear in hi the name Antony until the 16th century. It is very likely he was named for St Antony of Padua, in accordance with the practice of the times, name the child after the godparents or a saint.

  3. Sue

    What a coincidence! You’ll never guess which family I’ve been reading up on today before and after Wikipeida- the Orisin family .the most powerful family in medieval and Renaissance Rome purveyors of Popes and Cardinals and both descendants and ancestors of our royal family. The mother of Margherita del Balzo aka Marguerite de Baux Anthony’s maternal grandmother was Sueva Orsini and it’s through the Orsini family the Woodvilles inherited their royal genes their ancestor being King John no less. I’ve also picked up quite a bit on the Del Balzo (de Baux) family as well quite a powerful family in Southern Italy at the time. As for Anthony’s paternal great – grandmother she was Mary de Beauchamp one of the Somerset rather than the Warwick Beauchamps but so what a Beauchamp is a Beauchamp is a Beauchamp. Who says the Woodvilles were mere commoners?

    Head of the ecclesiastical branch of the Orsini family at the time of Anthony’s visit was Cardinal Latino Orsini who died in 1477. Latino was very well in with Pope Sixtus IV so I’ve no doubt he was the one who arranged for Anthony’s audience with said Pope and I’d be rather surprised if Anthony didn’t reside with his Roman cousins while he was in Rome – I’m working on it. Much of the info is in Italian but no problemo.

    I’d no idea that there was so much to Wiki until today and Andrew the Wikipedia guy is a jolly nice chap. Next week Iis the technlcal workshop so I’m hoping he’ll be able to help me update the entries on not only EW as I promised Arlene but the 2nd Battle of St Albans.as well.

    Have a nice weekend. Mine will be spent drafting out exactly what I want to post.



  4. Lord Rivers “was at Rome right well and honorably” and had traveled twelve miles outside the city when he was robbed of all of his jewels and plate, which were worth at least a thousand marks.

    Robbers targeting tourists — plus ca change! I wonder just how bulky all of his “jewels and plate” were and how exactly they got them; making off with unattended boxes or would they have used more aggressive means? It’s not the work of a moment like grabbing someone’s purse.

  5. @Trish
    The Orsinis descended from King John through Guy de Montfort, who is sadly notorious for butchering his cousin Henry of Almain in a church in Arezzo while clinging to the altar, killing a priest in the process and dragging then the corpse outside to mirror the fate of his father’s body. He married Margherita, sole heiress of count Ildebrando XIII Aldobrandeschi and all-round unlucky lady; their younger daughter Anastasia – suo jure Countess of Nola – married Romano Orsini after his death. Their descendent was Sveva, not Sueva, del Balzo.
    The kinship was wll known: when Virginio Orsini visited England he was greeted by Queen Elisabeth as a “cousin” (and features in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night). *His* father was that Paolo Giordano Orsini whose long and loving marriage to Isabella de Medici is still subject to bestselling rehashes of century-old slanders.

  6. Yes I know all about naughty Guy and dad Simon and mother Eleanor.

    For the record Anastasia was the elder daughter -she would never have been suo jure Countess of Nola if she had been the younger.

    Just checked the genealogical records -still showing Sueva Orsini, mother also Sueva.

  7. Hi Trish,

    sorry to answer so late.
    Tommasa di Monforte was first born, around 1280. Her mother married her off at ten to Pietro di Vico, against the will of her father and more important of Charles d’Anjou, king of Naples. She then lost all feudal rights in the Kingdom and her younger sister Anastasia became countess of Nola.
    Sveva is a common name, still in use. It honours the house of Hohenstaufen, dukes of Sweben (Italian, Svevia) and kings of Naples.
    Sveva means ‘from the house of Svevia’. You’ll find Sveva del Balzo here; http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sveva_del_Balzo with all her family.
    Sueva is the latin form from the latin name of Sweven, Suebia.

  8. This is so interesting! I just finished reading The Queen of Last Hopes and now I am starting The Stolen Crown. Reading these books has made history come alive for me. I can now put faces (well, characters) with people that have lived years before us. Thank you so much!


    Fashion and Beauty Finds

  9. Greetings! I’ve been following your website for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic work!

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