Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, the persona assigned to Cal in Knights of the Blackdowns, was a full-on jousting legend and bibliophile, from a family with Devon roots. And, by the way, do you think he looks a bit like superstar Javier Bardem?
He was the oldest surviving son of the first Earl Rivers, but before he inherited the title from his father he had married his first wife, Baroness Elizabeth Scales. She brought a title with her, the baronetcy of Scales, and so he was first known as Lord Scales.
He was accidentally reported among the dead under this title, fighting for the Lancastrians, after they lost against the Yorkists at the Battle of Towton on 4 April 1461. Afterwards, at least when his older sister Elizabeth married the Towton victor Edward IV, in 1464, the family switched allegiance to the winning side.
The celebrated tournament with Antoine, bastard of Burgundy took place in June 1467 over two days. The visit to England by the Bastard was essentially a diplomatic mission, but was almost fouled up by the joust between him and Anthony. On the first day, in a “joust of war” a single pass with sharp spears, they both missed. They followed up with a mounted sword fight, in which the Bastard’s favourite horse was killed and pinned him to the ground. The fight thus ended, but the Bastard suggested cheating and that led to a row which had to be smoothed over. On day two, the two pursued their duel on foot with pollaxes, rather too violently. Woodville gained the upper hand, and the king tried to end the fight before one of them got killed, and they had to be pulled apart. They were forced to agree never to duel again.
Anthony became the second Earl five years later, at the age of 27, in 1469, when Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (a.k.a. Warwick the Kingmaker) and Edward IV’s brother Clarence rebelled against Edward and restored Henry VI to the throne, briefly. Anthony’s father and a brother were arrested and executed by the rebels without a proper trial. As Earl Rivers, Anthony helped Edward to regain his throne, and he was wounded at the Battle of Barnet in 1470.
Before helping Edward to recapture his throne however, in exile in Bruges, he met William Caxton and became a patron. Later, he translated The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers into English and had it printed by Caxton, probably the first printed book produced in England.
Shortly after Edward IV’s death, in the subsequent power struggle, Anthony was seized by the Duke of Gloucester (the future Richard III) and beheaded outside Pontefract Castle.
Anthony had outlived his first wife Elizabeth and remarried, but left no heirs by either marriage. He had had one illegitimate daughter. His title passed to his younger brother on his death.
The title of the Earldom “Rivers” was based on a familial name, coming from the family of Richard de Redvers, who probably accompanied William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066. Redvers’ son became the first Earl of Devon. The Rivers baronetcy was created in 1448 for Anthony’s father Richard, who married above his station to Jacquetta of Luxembourg (the widow of the Duke of Bedford) and subsequently climbed the ranks of aristocracy. Eventually, in 1466 he was raised to 1st Earl Rivers.
Richard Woodville’s own connection with Devon was through his parents Richard Woodville snr. and Joan Bittlesgate, who owned Knightstone manor and estate near Ottery St Mary. Richard himself was born in Maidstone in Kent and (like his father Richard) was in the service of the Duke of Bedford.
Return to the List of Historical Characters