George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence (1449 – 1478) was one of history’s more problematic siblings. He was the younger son of Richard, Duke of York, whose struggle to secure power precipitated the Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster. He was also the younger sibling of King Edward IV of England, who by all accounts was the soul of generosity towards his kid brother. George repaid that with a series of ill-advised conspiracies, which invited bad karma and resulted in his doom. After his brother broke the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton in 1461, deposed the Lancastrian king Henry VI, and had himself crowned in his place as Edward IV, George was made Duke of Clarence.
A year later, Edward made the thirteen-year-old George Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. As he grew into early manhood, George idolized and came under the influence of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known as “The Kingmaker”. He wed Neville’s daughter in defiance of his brother’s plans to marry him into a European royal family to secure a dynastic alliance. Neville had been instrumental in the deposition of the prior Lancastrian King Henry and his replacement with Edward. He eventually fell out with Edward and deserted to the Lancastrians. George rewarded his brother’s earlier generosity with betrayal and took his father-in-law’s side. Although he was a member of the York family, George switched his support to the Lancastrians.
With the Kingmaker’s machinations, George’s brother Edward IV was deposed and forced to flee England in 1470. The once-deposed Lancastrian King Henry VI was restored to the throne. However, George began to mistrust his father-in-law, the Kingmaker, and switched his support back to his brother. Edward IV returned to England in 1471, defeated the Lancastrians in a battle in which the Kingmaker was killed, and was restored to the throne. To ensure that the twice-deposed Henry VI would trouble him no more, he had him murdered after he had already executed Henry’s son and sole heir. Edward pardoned his younger brother George and restored him to royal favor.
George could not keep his nose clean, however. In 1478, he once again betrayed his elder brother and was caught in a plot against the king. Finally fed up with his wayward sibling, Edward IV ordered George arrested and jailed in the Tower of London, and had him put on trial for treason. The king personally conducted the prosecution of his brother before Parliament. He secured a conviction and Bill of Attainder against George, who was condemned to death. On February 18th, 1478, karma finally caught up with George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence. He was executed by being dunked into a butt, or big barrel, of Malmsey wine, and forcibly held under its surface until he was drowned.
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