2. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, became known as the ‘Kingmaker’ as he had enough power and wealth to decide who sat on the throne of England
In mid-15th-century England, the King of England was not the most powerful man in the country. That honor fell to a man named Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick. Not only was he immensely rich, he was hugely influential, too. So much so, in fact, that he became known as ‘The Kingmaker’. While his own bloodline meant he had no claim on the throne himself, the Earl of Warwick held such power that he could pick and chose who would be king – a power he was all to happy to wield.
Richard Neville was actually born the Earl of Salisbury in 1428. His father, also the Earl of Salisbury, was one of the richest men in the country, owning huge amounts of land around the historic cathedral city. When he was just six, Richard became engaged to the daughter of the Earl of Warwick. This meant, when the Earl of Warwick’s male heir died, Richard inherited the title, and along with it, immense wealth. So, when his own uncle, the Duke of York, argued that he should be king instead of the Lancastrian Henry VI, the Earl of Warwick and his father rallied to their relative’s side.
The battle for the throne developed into the War of the Roses. Richard’s father, the Earl of Salisbury, fell in one battle, passing his land onto his son. Overnight, Richard was the richest man in all of England. He was more powerful too. As such, when the Duke of York also fell in battle, Richard backed the Duke’s son, Edward. After several notable military victories, the House of York won. Richard appointed Edward the King of England. Foolishly, the young monarch tried to reign on his own, ignoring Richard’s advice. As a result, Richard had him kicked off the throne and ‘the kingmaker’ brought Henry VI back to rule over England once again.
The Earl of Warwick’s status as the power behind the English throne was short-lived, however. The ousted Edward managed to raise an army and challenged the Kingmaker on the field of battle. At the Battle of Barnet in 1471, Richard was killed. His naked body was then paraded through the streets of London – a warning that no man should try and meddle in affairs of the crown.