John de Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

Born: September 12, 1415

Died: November 6, 1461 (Age 46)

Norfolk in History

Despite John Mowbray's deep Lancastrian ties, his life would ultimately end as a Yorkist. John was the grandson of Joan Beaufort, a daughter of John of Gaunt, third surviving son of Edward III, and after the death of his father in 1432, it appears John was taken under the wing of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, uncle to King Henry VI. He accompanied Gloucester on several French expeditions during the Hundred Years War and was also a ward of Anne of Woodstock, daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, Edward III's youngest son. There is a fair amount of evidence that Norfolk was a troubled youth, living recklessly and associating with the wrong people, and was kept under a strict regiment. Norfolk quarreled incessantly with William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, a powerful lord in the court of Henry VI and a rival in Norfolk's native East Anglia, and for this reason, remained relatively quiet in politics until Suffolk's downfall, exile and murder in 1450.

That same year, when Jack Cade's rebellion broke out, Norfolk was listed as one of the men that the much hated Suffolk had expelled from the king's presence and was, therefore, considered a wronged man. When tensions arose between the houses of Lancaster (led by Henry VI) and York (led by Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York) in the 1450s, Norfolk remained loyal to the king and the Lancastrian faction, but seemed to dislike the Duke of Somerset, a leading Lancastrian, just as much as York himself did, and took on somewhat of a neutral persona. This persona shined through even further when Norfolk did not involve himself on either side at the Battle of St. Albans (the first battle of the Wars of the Roses), where Somerset was killed. In 1459, the Yorkist lords were attainted and forced to flee England, but returned the following year with an army and defeated the king and his forces at Northampton, taking the king himself prisoner. Once again, Norfolk remained a neutral observer, but had decided, at this point, to switch his loyalties to the Yorkist faction, despite his Lancastrian ties.

The Duke of York was killed in battle at Wakefield at the end of 1460, but the Yorkist cause was taken up by his eldest son Edward, Earl of March (and now Duke of York). Although the Yorkists were defeated at the second Battle of St Albans (under the leadership of Warwick the "Kingmaker"), Edward handed the Lancastrians a brutal and bloody defeat at Towton, after which, he had himself crowned as King Edward IV (the Lancastrians, including Henry VI and his wife and son, were forced to flee). This time, Norfolk was a major participant in the battle and was rewarded with the title of earl marshal (a title his ancestors had previously held), as well as several other important posts. Unfortunately, Norfolk died suddenly in November of that same year at the age of forty-six. It is unclear how Nofolk's career would have turned out had he remained alive. He may very well have remained loyal to the Yorkists, but judging by his past actions of not involving himself in a battle until he knew the clear victor, it is safe to say it is a good possibility that he may have revolted when the Lancastrians briefly came back to power in 1470-71. Norfolk was succeeded in the dukedom by his young son John, who would be the last of the Mowbray dukes.

Norfolk in Shakespeare

Appears in: Henry VI, Part 3

The Duke of Norfolk is a minor character in 3 Henry VI. He appears in the opening scene as a loyal Yorkist just after their victory at St Albans. Though historically Norfolk was still technically allied with the Lancastrians at the time of the Battle of St. Albans, he was allied with the Yorkists by the time York claimed the throne in 1460, making it slightly confusing, given that Shakespeare decides to jump five years into the future from the end of 2 Henry VI to the beginning of 3 Henry VI. Norfolk is seen once more when he fights for the Yorkists at Towton before disappearing from the play completely.


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