Family of Queen Katherine: Lady Margaret, Countess of Oxford

Redrawn effigy of John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford and Lady Margaret before it was destroyed; original illustration was by Daniel King, Colne Priory Church, destroyed c. 1730. Redrawn effigy of John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford and Lady Margaret before it was destroyed; original illustration was by Daniel King, Colne Priory Church, destroyed c. 1730.

Margaret Neville, Countess of Oxford (c.1443[1]-after 20 November 1506/1506[1][2]) was the daughter of Sir Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury and Lady Alice [Montague], suo jure 5th Countess of Salisbury [in her own right]. Margaret was born in her mother’s principal manor in Wessex.[1] She was the last of six daughters and ten children.[1] Margaret’s godmother and namesake may have been after Margaret Beauchamp (1404 – 14 June 1468), eldest daughter of Sir Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and his first wife Elizabeth Berkeley. Beauchamp was wife to John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury [a brother to Mary Talbot, Lady Greene, the maternal 3x great-grandmother to Queen Katherine Parr and thus a 4x great-uncle]. Margaret Talbots’s sister, Anne, suo jure 16th Countess of Warwick would marry Margaret Neville’s brother, Richard, and he would inherit Anne’s title through marriage making him the 16th Earl of Warwick.

The Neville family was one of the oldest and most powerful families of the North. They had a long standing tradition of military service and a reputation for seeking power at the cost of the loyalty to the crown as was demonstrated by her brother, the Earl of Warwick.[5] Warwick was the wealthiest and most powerful English peer of his age, with political connections that went beyond the country’s borders. One of the main protagonists in the Wars of the Roses, he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, a fact which later earned him his epithet of “Kingmaker”.

By her paternal grandmother, Lady Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland, Margaret was the great-great-granddaughter of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. Lady Joan Beaufort was the legitimized daughter of Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine, and his mistress, later wife, Katherine Roët Swynford. As such, Margaret was a great-niece of the Lancastrian King Henry IV. Margaret’s paternal grandfather was Sir Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, the second husband of Lady Joan. One of their daughters (Margaret’s aunt), Lady Cecily, became Duchess of York and mother to the York kings, Edward IV and Richard III. Margaret’s mother, Lady Salisbury, was the only child and sole heiress of Sir Thomas Montacute, 4th Earl of Salisbury by his first wife Eleanor Holland [both descendants of King Edward I].  Margaret’s grandmother, Lady Eleanor, was the granddaughter of Princess Joan of Kent, another suo jure Countess (of Kent) and Princess of Wales. Princess Joan was of course the mother of the ill-fated King Richard II making Eleanor Holland his niece. Princess Joan herself was the daughter of Prince Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent; son of Edward I by his second wife, Marguerite of France.

Margaret married to John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, the second son of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, and Elizabeth Howard. Oxford was one of the principal Lancastrian commanders during the English Wars of the Roses. Margaret was the last of the sisters to marry. It was her brother, Warwick, who secured the marriage between Margaret and Oxford.[3] Margaret had 1000 marks to offer as a dowry which had been settled upon her in her father’s will in 1460. The financial gain for Oxford was important, but with Margaret he gained a whole family of political advantage; as Margaret was the sister of Warwick. Oxford’s family had been on the Lancastrian side. His father had been executed after trying to replace Edward IV with Henry VI.

At the battle of Bosworth and Stoke, Oxford is recorded as fighting beside the Stanleys’ (husband and son of Oxford’s sister-in-law, Eleanor Neville) on behalf of the House of Lancaster.

As for the wives of rebels, Richard III did indeed give the Countess of Oxford, Margaret Neville, £100, but this was a continuation of a grant from Edward IV, who is not given any particular credit for generosity. In any case, as David Baldwin notes, Richard had been given the Earl of Oxford’s estates following the Battle of Barnet and could presumably afford to part with £100. Back in the 1470′s, the young Richard had bullied Margaret Neville’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth de Vere, the dowager Countess of Oxford, into giving him her own estates for an inadequate consideration, but this inglorious episode doesn’t find its way into Kendall’s biography.


  1. David Baldwin. The Kingmaker’s Sisters: Six Powerful Women in The War of the Roses, Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2009.
  2. Douglas Richardson. “Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families,” 2nd Edition, 2011. p. 274. (“She was living 20 Nov. 1506.”)
  3. Anne Crawford. “The Yorkists: The History of a Dynasty,” Continuum International Publishing Group, Apr 15, 2007. p. 78, 98, 108.
  4. James Ross. “John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford (1442-1513): The Foremost Man of the Kingdom,” Boydell Press, Mar 17, 2011. p. 51.
  5. Linda Porter. “Katherine the Queen; The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII,” Macmillan, 2010.