The Last Will and Testament of Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers

Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, brother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, was executed on orders of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, soon to be Richard III, at Pontefract Castle on June 25, 1483, having made his will at Sheriff Hutton Castle on June 23, 1483. The will is printed in Excerpta Historica, or, Illustrations of English History (Samuel Bentley, editor).

It has been claimed, falsely, that Anthony named Richard III one of the executors of his will; rather, as the will plainly shows, Anthony named others as his executors and asked that Richard serve as supervisor. Bertram Fields, among others, has suggested that this provision showed Anthony’s confidence in Richard’s integrity. It is more likely, however, that Anthony simply recognized that probate of his will would be impossible without Richard’s cooperation and named him supervisor in hopes that Richard would feel morally bound to allow Anthony’s last wishes to be carried out by his executors. There is no indication, however, that the will was probated. Richard did later order the tenants of Mary Fitzlewis, Anthony’s widow, to make the payments to her that she was entitled to under her jointure (Harleian Manuscript 433), but as Mary was legally entitled to her jointure regardless of whether her husband had been attainted as a traitor, he was doing no more than enforcing the law.

Anthony has been criticized for not including his illegitimate daughter, Margaret, in his will, but he had already provided for his daughter by marrying her to Robert Poyntz. Notably, Anthony was on good enough terms with Poyntz to name him as one of his executors.

The “Lord Richard” Anthony asks to be buried alongside is his nephew Richard Grey, who like Anthony was executed at Pontefract.


In the name of our Lord, Amen. I, Antony Widevile, &c. in hole mynd and fressh’ memory, in the Castell of Shiryfhoton’ the xxiij day of Juyn, and the vigill of Seint Joh’n Baptyst, the yere of our Lord M1 cccclxxxiij, make my testament and last will in the forme folowyng. Furst I bequeith my soule unto the grete m’cy of Ih’u Crist, and to his dere moder our Lady Seint Mary, and to the glorious company of hevyn; and my hert to be had to our’ Lady of Pewe beside Seint Stephyns College at Westmynster, there to be buried by thadvyse of the Deane and his brethern’; and if I dy be yend Trent, than to be buried before our’ Lady of Pewe aforseid. Also I will that all such land as was my lord my faders, remayne holy to his right heyres; wt my cupp of gold of columbyne, which was lefte me by bequest to that entent it shuld’ remayne to the right heires of my seid lord my faders: and such londes as were the Lady Scalis my fyrst wyfe, be unto my brother Syr Edward and to his heyris male ; for faut of such heyres male, unto the right heyres of my seid lord my fadre. This is my will and entent therin, to take effecte as ferre as consciens and law will, and that to be sene and determyned by ij doctours of London and ij of Oxford and of Cambrigge, or doctors at the lest, wt ij of the chefe Juges and ij of theldest s’jauntes of the lawe: and if they fynde that this myn entent may not with conscience and lawe, and any part therof, that it be guydid after their’ demyng: and if they think that my seid brother may have it all, or for fawt of hym ony of my seid lord my fadre heires, he that shal have the lond to pay or he have possession v. c. marcas, that to be employed for the soules of my last wyfe Lady Scalys and Thomas hyr brother, and the soules of all the Scales blode, in helping and refresshing hospitalles and other dedes charitable: and if all the land may not be so had, than to pay but aft’ the rate of such lond as I may bequeith. Also I will that all my goodes goo to the paying of my dettes. And all my fee simpill lond, that is to sey the maner of Tyrington hall in Middylton’ with the hundreth of Frebrigge, the man’ of Wolv’ton’ wt thadvowson’ in the counte of Norfolke, the maner of Rokey in Barway in the counte of Hertford; to be sold to the same entent, and for to make an hospitall at Rowchestyr for xiij pou’ folkes, and other dedes of charite, as to pay prisoners fees and small dettes, to visett the prisones of London’, and help to bury the dede, wt other werkes of mercy. And as for my dettes I knowlege I owe to the bisshop of Worcester lx li. which I will he be truely paid. Also I knowlege that I owe a somme of mony to Lomner mercer of London, as it wele apperith both by his billes and by my boke in my closett at London’, which I wyll be content after consciens. Also I knowlege that I owe abowght xl li. to Ocles Mayce goldsmyth, as Butsyde of London’ and Griffith my servaunt can’ tell, which Coles I wilbe truely content. Also I knowlege that I owe to the Mayo’ of Lynne, and to divers creditours in Norfolk, and to Abrey drap of Norwich, s’teyn’ sommes of money, as apperith by warauntes signid by my hand to Fyncham myn’ receyvor, which shuld pay theym of my lyvelode and fees in Norfolk and Suffolk growing from Mychelmas last passid; which warantes I wilbe paid in any wyse. Also I remembre there was a preest claymid to be executor to a boucheer of London’ callid Lamye, as Andrew Dymmok knowith, and that I shuld owe the same bocheer money, which I will in any wyse be paid; and that therbe a preest founde a yere at our’ Lady of Pewe, to pray for the sowle of the seid brocherer and all Cristen soules; and an other for the sowles of Syr Henry Lowes; and a preest to be fowde to syng at the Chapell of the Rodes in Grenewich, to pray for my soule and all Xp’en sowlys: and that my wyfe have all such plate as was the same Henry Lowes, and other of my plate to the valure of asmoche thing as I hadd of his; also that she have all such plate as was geven hyr at our’ mariage, and the sparver of white sylke wt iiij peyre of shetes, ij payre of fustians, a federbed, j chambring of gresylde; and (except that stuffe) all other stuffe of howsehold in the Mote and at my place in the Vyntree, to be to my seid lord my faders heyres, advising theym on Goddes behalve that thabbot of Seint Jamys beside Northampton’, and the Nonnes beside Caunturbury, be allwey dewley answerd of their’ claymes, and Syr Joh’n Gilford to [be] contentet, as it apperith by the evidences that Richard Haute hath. Also I will that Seint Mary of York have my grete gilt basons, and such a somme of money as myn executours shall think goode, to pray for my soule. Also I owe to Syr Thomas Vaughan cc marc’ wherof I have paid xx” marc’ here in the north, and he hath to plegge my balys in colombyne with v. perles. Also I will that all my household serv’ntes in the chekyr roll’ have trewly ther wages for Mydsom’ quarter, and every one a blak gowne. And as I remembyr I owe Willam Butler xx.s’ which I will he be paid. And as for myn evidences, Andrewe Dvmmok knowyth them, and canne shewe how all my lond standith: and if Will’m Aubrey, which was Coferer to the Kyng which now is whan he was Prince, Thomas Wytman, the seid Andrew Dymmok, Butsyde, and Joh’n Gryffyth, know any moo dettes that I shuld owe, I require them for to shew it : and I will myn executours in any wyse to pay to whom it be owyng; and I desire on Goddes behalve that no man int’rupt my seid executours in fulrilling this my will’, as they will answere at the dredefull day of dome: geving to my seid executours power by this my seid will, to take a rekenyng and levy all such sommes of money as is owyng me, of my lyvelod, fees, annuitees, or otherwyse; and they to employe such goodes as shall come to their’ handes, after this will and moost consciens, for the wele of my soule. And I will that all myn aray for my body and my horse harnes, be sold, and with the money therof be bought shyrtes and smokkes to pouer folkes: and my gowhe of tawney cloth of gold I geve to the Priour’ of Royston’, my trapper of blakk cloth of gold I geve to our’ Lady of Walsingham. Also I desire and charge on Goddes behalve and upon’ payne of damnacion’, that my feeffes make none astate nor relese, ne my tenauntes make no retorne but acording to theffect of this my last will. Also I will that all such lond as I purchasid by the meane of Syr Jamys Molaynes preest, remayn’ still wt the man’ of Grafton’ tovvard the fynding of the preest of tharmitage: also the londes that I purchased beside the Mote, to remayne to my lord my faders heyres. Also I will that my Lady Willoughby, late the wyfe of Syr Gerveis Clyfton’, be comond w’ all by myne executours, towching such stuffes as Syr Ewan pson’ of Wolverton’ and other my servantes had awey from hyr place; and she to be delt wt therin and answerid acording to goode right and conscience. And I will in no wyse that the Nonnes of Blakborough’ be hurt in such londes of theires as lieth w’in the Roche Fenne of Myddylton’, which I late closid. Also I will that Syr Jamys Molaynes, and Emson late Attorney of the Duchrie of Lancastre be comond w’, and that it be sene if so be that I have occupied Bradon’ w’out good right, that myn executours se the contentacion’ and reformyng therof acording to right and conscience. And I will that thadvowson’ of the parissh church of Bewdeley remayne the patronacion’ therof to the right heires of my lord my fadre; theym to present to the benefice, whan it shall fawle voyde, an able preest to pray for the sowles of my seid lord my fadre, my lady my modre, my brother S’ Joh’n, me, and all Cristen sowles. Also I wull that Wyttyngton’ College of London’ have a somme of money to pray for my soule: and myn executours see that such tythes as I owt to have made, be answerid in the moost behofefull wyse for my sowle. Also I will that Tybold my barbor have v mark. And I will my s’vant Jamys have xl. s. Also I make myn executours, the Bisshop’ of Lincoln’ Chaunceler of Englond, the Bisshopp of Worcestyr, Husy the Chefe Juge of the Kinges Benche, Bryan the Chefe Juge of the Comyn Place, Will’m Tunstall, Robert Poynz, Richard Hawte, Wil’m Catesby, Andrew Dymmok, and Thomas Thorysby; to which all, and at the lest to thre of them, I geve full auctorite and power, and prey them at the reverence of Ih’u, to see this my will may be fulfillid. Over this, I besech humbly my Lord of Gloucestvr, in the worshipp of Cristes passhion’ and for the meryte and wele of his sowle, to comfort help and assist, as supvisor (for very trust) of this testament, that myn executours may w’ his pleasur’ fulfill this my last will, which I have made the day aboveseid. In wittenes, Syr Thomas Gower knyght, Wil’m Tunstall, Doctor Lovell, Syr John’ Esingwold vicar of Shyryfhoton’, Syr Wil’m Teysedale, Thomas Wawer, preestes, and Richard Lexton’ gentylman’. My will is now to be buried before an Image of our’ blissid Lady Mary, w’ my Lord Richard, in Pomfrete; and Ih’u have mercy of my soule, &c.

5 thoughts on “The Last Will and Testament of Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to post these wills for us. I think they are a good insight into the minds of these people and it is very interesting to read. That being said, I think reading a person's last will, particularly when they are facing execution, is particularly poignant.

  2. Mirella Sichirollo Patzer

    I'm always amazed at just how much information we can research throug our various sources. Thanks so much for sharing this. It was truly fascinating.

  3. Hello, Susan!

    The horrific year of closing my school is finally over and I have time to return to the things I love and enjoy- like reading your books, writing my blog, and reading your blogs!

    I just ordered "Hugh and Bess" for my Kindle! I am filling it up with books to take to the shore for 6 weeks- while I LOVE my "real" books, the joy of taking one small gizmo to the tiny cottage rather than bags and boxes of heavy books is significant! "Hugh and Bess" will be early on my list, as I loved "The Traitor's Wife".

    PS- I also clicked the "I would like to read this book on Kindle" button for "The Stolen Crown"- hope it's ready while I am away!

    I am very happy to be back to my blog reading and look forward to all the wonderful new information you will be sharing with all of us!

  4. I wonder sometimes if writing a will before knowing (or at least strongly suspecting) one is going to be executed isn't somehow a calming strategy. Not so much about 'preparing yourself for death' because I wonder who can under those circumstances, more about having a sense that you have control over something, at least for as long as it takes to write.
    I'm not the world's greatest Wydeville fan, but I do find these executions, and this will, very poignant. Thanks, Susan.

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