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The builders of Raby Castle in the 12th century and one of the most powerful families in the North.
The First Nevill of Raby
It is with the great house of Nevill that Raby is most associated, which came about in this way: in 1131 the Manor of Raby was granted to Dolfin, son of Uchtred (and descendant of Malcolm II, King of Scots), by the Prior of Durham. This Dolfin married Adelicia, niece of Bishop Flambard, who built Durham Cathedral; their son, Maldred was the father of Robert Fitzmaldred who married Isabel Nevill, a great Norman heiress, who eventually inherited the Manors of Sheriff Hutton near York and Brancepeth, together with lesser lands and manors.
Their son, Geoffrey Nevill, taking his mother's name, was the first Nevill owner of Raby, and it continued in the possession of this family, at one time the most powerful in England, until 1569.
Ralph, the Black Douglas & the Battle of the Neville's Cross
The next owner of Raby, Robert Nevill, d. 1282, was Castellan, during Henry II's war with the Barons, of Bamburgh, Scarborough and Newcastle. He was succeeded by his grandson, Ranulf, 1st Lord Nevill, whose father, Robert, had married Mary, daughter of Robert FitzRanulf.
This Ranulf, who died in 1331, was in turn succeeded by his second son, Ralph, whose brother Robert Nevill, known as the Peacock of the North, was slain at Berwick in 1319 by the Black Douglas. Ralph, 2nd Baron Nevill, was also captured by the Black Douglas in the same fray, but was ransomed and fought in further campaigns against the Scots, and was the victor of the Battle of Neville's Cross at which he took prisoner, David II, King of Scotland. He was a great benefactor of the Church, and when he died in 1367, was the first layman to be buried in Durham Cathedral.
John, Governor of Aquitaine
Ralph was succeeded by his eldest son, John, 3rd Baron Nevill, KG, who completed the building of the present castle, having obtained a licence to crenellate in 1378, although this probably meant adding fortifications to an existing building. He was a great captain, being appointed Governor of Aquitaine, 1378-81, Lord Warden of the Marches and Joint Commissioner for treating for peace with Scotland. He died in 1388 and was buried in the Nevill Chantry in Durham Cathedral, where his tomb was much mutilated by Scottish prisoners during the Civil War in 1650.
Ralph, Earl of Richmond and Cicely, the "Rose of Raby"
John, Lord Nevill, was succeeded by his son, Ralph, mentioned by Shakespeare in Henry V, who was created Earl of Westmoreland in 1397, the first to hold this title, by Richard II, but he afterwards joined the Lancastrians and was instrumental in placing his brother-in-law, Henry IV, on the throne. In return the King created him Earl of Richmond, a Knight of the Garter and Earl Marshal of England. His first wife was Lady Margaret Stafford, by whom he had seven children, and his second Lady Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt, by whom he had a further fourteen children.
Their youngest daughter, Cicely, the "Rose of Raby", married Richard, Duke of York, and was the mother of Edward IV and Richard III. Through her granddaughter Elizabeth of York, Queen of Henry VII, she is an ancestress of the Royal family. The Earl's youngest son, Edward, was created Baron Bergavenny and his descendant, the Marquess of Abergavenny, is the present head of the Nevill family. The Earl was a great church builder, and his alabaster tomb in Staindrop Church, where his effigy lies between that of his two wives, is regarded as being among the finest monuments in the North. He died in 1425.
The 2nd and 3rd Earls
His successor, his grandson, Ralph, 2nd Earl of Westmorland, who died in 1484, engaged in inconclusive private warfare with his uncles of the Earl's second marriage over the Middleham Estates, which had been left to them through the influence of their mother, until both sides were commanded by Henry VI to keep the peace.
He was succeeded by his nephew, Ralph, 3rd Earl, whose father was killed fighting for the Red Rose (Lancastrians) at the Battle of Towton, 1461. The 3rd Earl, who fought in Scotland against Perkin Warbeck, died in 1523, and again was succeeded by a grandson, also Ralph, another energetic warrior against the Scots. He was present at the Field of the Cloth Gold, and was a signatory to the letter of Pope Clement asking for the divorce of Queen Catherine of Aragon.
The Rising of the North
Before his death in 1549, the Earl was created a Knight of the Garter. His successor, Henry, 5th Earl, as a boy took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace. He was a staunch supporter of Queen Mary Tudor and under her held high office.
The family adhered firmly to the Old Faith, and his son Charles, 6th and last Nevill Earl of Westmorland, was leader, with Thomas Percy, of the ill-fated rebellion, the 'Rising of the North', in support of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1569. He fled to Holland where he died in poverty in 1601.
Thus ended the Nevill ownership of Raby, which had lasted for nearly four hundred years. The Castle was held by the Crown until 1626 when it was purchased by Sir Henry Vane the Elder.