Wydeville, Anthony, Earl Rivers

, a very accomplished nobleman of the fifteenth century, was the son of sir Richard Wydeville, by Jaqueline of Luxembourg, duchess dowager of Bedford. He was born about 1442, and in his seventeenth year accompanied his father, who was now created lord Rivers, to Sandwich, where he had been sent to equip a strong squadron, in order to deprive Richard Nevil earl of Warwick, of his government of Calais but that | nobleman contrived to surprize lord Rivers in port, and took him and all his ships, together with his son Anthony, to Calais, where they were for some time detained as prisoners. From this it appears that both father and son were engaged in the interest of the house of Lancaster, and in opposition to that of York. But king Edward IV. being raised to the throne, and afterwards espousing lady Elizabeth Gray, daughter to lord Rivers, and sister to Anthony Wycleville, the former attachment of the Wydeville’s to the Lancastrian interest was forgotten, and they began almost solely to engross the favour of king Edward.

Anthony Wydeville distinguished himself both as a warrior and statesman in king Edward’s service. The Lancastrians making an insurrection in Northumberland, he attended the king into that country, and was a chief commander at the siege of Atnwick castle; soon after which he was elected into the order of the garter. In the tenth of the same reign, he defeated the dukes of Clarence and Warwick in a skirmish near Southampton, and prevented their seizing a great ship called the Trinity, belonging to the latter. He attended the king into Holland on the change of the scene, returned with him, and had a great share in his victories, and was constituted governor of Calais, and captain-general of all the king’s forces by sea and land. He had before been sent ambassador to negociate a marriage between the king’s sister and the duke of Burgundy; and in the same character concluded a treaty between king Edward and the duke of Bretagne. On prince Edward being created prince of Wales, he was appointed his governor, and had a grant of the office of chief butler of England; and was even on the point of attaining the high honour of espousing the Scottish princess, sister to king James III.; the bishop of Rochester, lord privy-seal, and sir Edward Wydeville, being dispatched into Scotland to perfect that marriage.

A remarkable event of this earl’s life was a personal victory he gained in a tournament, over Anthony count de la Roche, called the bastard of Burgundy, natural son of duke Philip the Good. This illustrious encounter was performed -in a solemn and most magnificent tilt held for that purpose in Smithfield. Our earl was the challenger; and from the date of the year, and the affinity of the person challenged, this ceremony was probably in honour of the afore-mentioned marriage of the lady Margaret, the king’s | sister, with Charles the Hardy, last duke of Burgundy. Nothing, lord Orford observes (whose narrative we follow), could be better adapted to the humour of the age, and to the union of that hero and virago, than a single combat between two of their near relations. A long account of this affair is given in a note in the Biog. Brit. art. Caxton, vol. III. new edit. It may be sufficient for our purpose to say that Wydeville was victorious.

On the death of king Edward, the queen sent a messenger to her brother earl Rivers, desiring him to assemble a body of troops in Wales, and with them to bring the young king immediately to London to be crowned; but this design was defeated by the intrigues of Richard duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III. who by treachery got possession of the earl’s person, as well as that of the young king, and next day earl Rivers, with lord Richard Gray, and sir Thomas Vaughan, was conveyed as a prisoner to the castle of Pontefract. They were all soon after beheaded by order of the usurper, and without any form of trial, on the very same day that lord Hastings was by the same order beheaded in the Tower of London.

Earl Rivers was at this time (1483) in the forty-first year of his age. He was without dispute one of the most accomplished noblemen of his time. Sir Thomas More asserts that Vir haud facile discernas, manuve aut consilio promptior, equally able to advise, and to execute in affairs of state. Lord Orford observes, that “the credit of his sister (the queen), the countenance and example of his prince, the boisterousness of the times, nothing softened, nothing roughened the mind of this amiable lord, who was as gallant as his luxurious brother-in-law, without his weaknesses; as brave as the heroes of either Rose, without their savageness; studious in the intervals of business, and devout after the manner of those whimsical times, when men challenged -others whom they never saw, and went barefoot to visit shrines, in countries of which they scarce had a map.

The works of this gallant and learned nobleman were (with the exception of a ballad in Percy’s collection) translations, published in the infancy of English printing by Caxton: 1 “The Dictes and Sayinges of the Philosophers, translated out of Latyn into Frenshe by a worshipful man called Messire Jehan de Teonville, sometyme provost of Parys,” and thence rendered into English by lord Rivers. | It is supposed to have been the second book ever printed in England by Caxton. The date is Nov. 18, 1477. 2. “The morale Proverbes of Christyne of Pyse.” 3. “The boke named Cordyale or Memorare novissima,” a third translation from the French, the original author not named, dated 1480. Caxton says that lord Rivers “made divers babdesayenst the seven dedely synnes.” All these curiosities will be found amply described in Mr. Dibdin’s “Typographical Antiquities.” Hume says that earl Rivers “first introduced the noble art of printing into England,” but this is evidently a mistake. He did indeed countenance and employ Caxton, and appears to have introduced him to Edward IV.; and both he and Tiptoft, earl of Worcester (See Tiptoft), contributed very much, by their example and patronage, to the restoration of learning in this kingdom. From various causes, however, England was long behind other nations on the continent in real learning, or a wish for it; and we have no great pleasure or pride in contemplating the productions of our first printers. 1

1 Biog. Brit. vol. III. art Caxton. Park’s edition of the Royal and Noble Authors. Dibdin’s Antiquities, vol. I.