To sit in judgement over people who lived hundreds of years ago is risky, and no matter how much you want to, no researcher of amateur historian such as myself will ever hav access to the thoughts and moments which led to actions which thereafter live on and get discussed throughout history. It happened to Richard III and it happened to Henry VIII.
With this said I´m going to do exactly that – because it´s hard to see George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, as anything else than an unstable traitor. Placed in age between his brothers Edward (IV) and Richard (III), he constantly managed to in an outstanding way break the trust he was given.
He was born in Dublin in 1449 just as the conflict between his father, Richard of York and Henry VI was beginning. After Richard of York had been killed at Wakefielf 1460, he actively supported his brother´s claim to the crown, and after Edward ascended the throne he made George Duke of Clarence and Knight of the Garter 1461. It didn´t how ever, take long before there was disaffection between the brothers, and George went against the will of Edward and married Isabel Neville, the oldest daughter of Richard of Warwick, known as Warwick the Kingmaker.
When Warwick, in protest of the power that had ended up in the hands of the Woodville family – the family of the Queen – chose to rebel against Edward he had George by hiss ide. Only weeks after the wedding between George and Isabel, Warwick and Edward met on the battlefield of Edgecoat Moor on the 26th of July 1469. Warwick was victorious and in the following weeks he executed the father of the Queen as well as her son from a previous marriage.
During all of this, George of Clarence was under the impression that it was the intention of Warwick to elevate his son-in-law, George himself that is, to Kingship. It became evident however that this was not the case when Warwick in 1470 had his youngest daughter Anne married off to the son of Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI – Edward of Westminster – during their joint exile in France. George returned to his brothers side and was there at the battle of Barnet when Warwick was killed.
One could think that this would be the end of his treasonous behaviour, but George became more and more unpredictable over the years. After his wife´s death in what is now thought to have been either consumption or the consequences of childbirth, George had her lady-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynho summarily executed on the charge of having poisoned Isabel.
Being more and more mentally unstable, George continued to engage in plots and intended rebellions against Edward, and after having been warned of his behaviour a number of times he was finally placed it the Tower where he was executed on this day in 1478, at the age of 28. According to legend, he was drowned in a butt of Malmsey. In some versions he chose this way of dying because it was his favourite wine, in others because it was the favourite wine of the Queen, and he took pleasure in destroying it for her. Most likely, he was in reality garrotted. He is buried at Tewkesbury Abbey together with his wife Isabel Neville.
George of Clarence and Isabel Neville was survived by two small children, Edward and Margaret who were raised by their Anne Neville, their aunt and wife of Richard III until her death in 1485. Under the rule of Henry VII, Edward was imprisoned in the Tower and executed in 1499, at the age of 24. His sister lived on to become Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who was executed under horrific forms 1541. But she will get a post of her own.