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George Neville

Bishop of Exeter
Archbishop of York
Born: 1433, probably at Middleham, North Yorkshire
Died: 8th June 1476 at Blyth, Northumberland

George Neville, younger brother of the great Earl of Warwick, was one of those Englishmen of noble houses by whom the high places of the Church were, at this time, for the most part, filled. This was partly, it would seem (and especially in the case of the primacy), as a result of the deliberate determination of the Pope and the Crown to band together the Church and the nobles "against the spiritual and civil democracy, on one side of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, on the other of the extreme followers of Wycliffe." Neville is a striking representative of the feudal churchman. When only fourteen years old, the nobility of his descent induced the Pope, Nicholas V, to grant him a dispensation for holding a canonry in the Church of Salisbury, together with one in that of York. He was nominated Bishop of Exeter at the age of twenty-three (1455); but, as he could not be consecrated until he was twenty-seven, a papal bull was granted him for receiving the profits in the meantime.

Portions of the chapter-house at Exeter were erected by him and by his predecessor: In the year 1465, Neville was translated to the See of York, on which occasion his installation-feast, presented one of the most marvellous culinary displays on record, famous in the annals of gastronomy. The list of provisions, included 330 tuns of beer, 104 tuns of wine, 80 fat oxen, 1004 sheep, 3000 geese, 100 peafowl, 4000 woodcocks, besides 8 seals and 4 porpoises.

The Archbishop, like his great brother, more than once changed sides during the strife of the Wars of the Roses. After the final defeat and death of Henry VI, he was detained in custody for a month or two and was then suffered to resume all his honours. Within the year, however (1472), he was again seized at the More, in Hertfordshire, a magnificent palace which he had himself built and furnished with the utmost splendour. The King, Edward IV, had agreed to visit the Archbishop there, for the sake of hunting; but, the day before his intended arrival, sent thither to seize Neville and to take possession of all his treasure, among the rest a "precious mitre" of enormous value, from which a royal crown was afterwards constructed. For four years, Archbishop Neville was detained in prison at Calais and at Guines and, soon after his release, in 1476, died at Blithfield in Staffordshire.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Southern Division" (1903).

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