Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers

Anthony Woodville
2nd Earl Rivers

Quartered arms of Sir Anthony Woodville,
2nd Earl Rivers, KG
Earl Rivers
Tenure 1469–1483
Predecessor Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers
Successor Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl Rivers
Spouse Elizabeth de Scales, Baroness Scales
Mary Fitz-Lewis


Margaret Woodville (Illegitimate)[1]
Father Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers
Mother Jacquetta of Luxembourg
Born c. 1440
Died 25 June 1483
Pontefract Castle
Arms of Woodville: Argent, a fesse and a canton conjoined gules

Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers KG (c. 1440 – 25 June 1483) was an English nobleman, courtier, bibliophile and writer. He was one of the leading members of the Woodville family, which came to prominence during the reign of Edward IV of England. After Edward's death he was arrested and then executed by Richard, Duke of Gloucester as part of a power-struggle between Richard and the Woodvilles.

One of the first books to be printed in England was written by Rivers.[2]

Early life

He was the eldest son to survive childhood of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. Like his father, he was originally a Lancastrian, fighting on that side at the Battle of Towton, but later became a Yorkist.

The Woodvilles became very influential at the royal court after his sister Elizabeth Woodville married Edward IV and became queen. Anthony was made a Knight of the Garter. He is known to have been a great tournament champion, who once fought a two-day "duel" with Antoine, bastard of Burgundy.[3][4]

The Yorkists, fighting for Edward IV, were defeated at the Battle of Edgecote Moor, on 26 July 1469, and Richard Woodville and his second son John were taken prisoners at Chepstow. After a hasty and controversial trial, they were both beheaded at Kenilworth on 12 August 1469 and Anthony succeeded his father in the earldom.

He married Elizabeth de Scales, Baroness Scales in her own right, daughter of Thomas de Scales, 7th Baron Scales, and widow of Henry Bourchier, younger son of Henry Bourchier, 1st Earl of Essex. Before succeeding to the earldom, Anthony was summoned to Parliament in her right as Baron Scales. After Elizabeth's death in 1473, he married Mary FitzLewis, daughter of Henry FitzLewis. He had only one child, an illegitimate daughter named Margaret, the wife of Sir Robert Poyntz (d.1520) of Iron Acton, Gloucestershire.

As Earl Rivers

He joined the king in his temporary exile in 1470, and returned with him the next year, where he was wounded at the Battle of Barnet, as a result of which Edward regained the throne.

In 1472, the king sent Rivers and his younger brother Edward Woodville to Brittany at the head of 1000 archers to help the Bretons fend off a threatened French invasion of the duchy. The French withdrew when faced with determined resistance.[5]

Also in 1473, King Edward IV appointed Rivers Governor of the Prince of Wales' household, and Rivers went with the prince to Ludlow Castle. He was also appointed High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire for life. His duties included the administration of justice throughout the principality. When the king died suddenly in 1483, Rivers was ordered by his sister to bring the Prince of Wales, now King Edward V, straight back to London under an armed guard. They were intercepted by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who arrested the Earl, along with his nephew Sir Richard Grey, the young king's half-brother.[6] Both men were imprisoned and then beheaded at Pontefract Castle on 25 June 1483 as part of the duke's path towards kingship (as Richard III).

Anthony was succeeded as earl by his brother, Richard. The Scales lands inherited from his wife were bequeathed to his younger brother Edward, but Richard III ignored Anthony's wishes as Edward had joined Henry Tudor.

Literary interests

Anthony Woodville (kneeling in livery, second from left) and William Caxton (in black) presenting the first printed book in English to Edward IV

Rivers was evidently quite learned, and no doubt had learned excellent French from his mother. He had met the earliest English printer William Caxton when in exile in Bruges, and there in 1475-6 Caxton published Cordyale, or Four last thinges, Rivers' English translation from the French of Jean Miélot of Les quattres choses derrenieres, itself a translation of the Cordiale quattuor novissimorum. After both of them had returned to England, one of the first, if not the first, books printed in England was Rivers' translation from French of the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, printed by Caxton at Westminster in 1477.[7] Lambeth Palace Library has a manuscript illustration showing Rivers presenting a copy of this book to Edward IV.


  1.  Gosse, Edmund (1911). "Rivers, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 385.
  2. White, Geoffrey H., ed. (1949). The Complete Peerage, Volume XI. St Catherine's Press. p. 22.
  3. "TimeRef – Medieval". Archived from the original on 8 November 2010.
  4. Ross, Charles, Edward IV, University of California Press, 1974, p.206
  5. Chalmers' Biography, vol. 32, p 351
  6. Caxton exhibition Archived 6 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.


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Peerage of England
Preceded by
Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers
Earl Rivers
Succeeded by
Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl Rivers
Political offices
Preceded by
John Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
Chief Butler of England
Succeeded by
Francis Lovell, 1st Viscount Lovell
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