The Other Players

AMAZING as it seems the Woodville family did not progress far beyond 1500. The fact that there were no recognised male heirs to a family of 16 children, seven of whom were males, suggests either a major genetic problem or the likelihood that the family decided it was better to be officially without legitimate issue to protect the family from more royal reprisals.

Some of the Woodvilles or Rivers as they were now known, actually had better claim to the English throne than Henry VII. To round off this section we should list the 16 children of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers and Jacquetta of Luxembourg.

  • Elizabeth (c 1437-1492), married Edward IV.
  • Lewis (1438), possibly died in infancy.
  • Anne (1439-1489), married first William Bouchier, Viscount Bouchier, and second George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent.
  • Anthony (1442-1483), second Earl Rivers, married Elizabeth Scales, 8th Baroness Scales.
  • Mary (1443-1481), married William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke.
  • Jacquetta (1444-1509), married John le Strange, 8th Baron Strange of Knockin.
  • John (1445-1469), Sir Knight, married 65 years-old Catherine Neville, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk when he was 20 years-old.
  • Lionel (1447-1485), Dean of Exeter 1478, Bishop of Salisbury 1482-1484) , first person in history to be conferred an Honorary university degree (Oxford Uni. 1477)
  • Martha (1450-1500), married Sir John Bromley.
  • Eleanor (1452-1512), married Sir Anthony Grey.
  • Richard (c 1453-1491), 3rd Earl Rivers.
  • Margaret (1454-1490), married Thomas Fitzalan, 17th Earl of Arundel.
  • Edward (1455-1488), Sir Knight
  • Catherine, married first Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, second Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford.
  • Agnes (d 1506) married William Dormer.
  • Thomas, married Anne Holland.

Of the seven males, three are unlikely to have sired any little Woodvilles to carry on the name. Lewis appears to have died at a young age, Lionel became a Catholic priest, and John, who married an elderly woman and then predeceased her when he lost his head, is also unlikely to have had legitimate children. Anthony is listed as having no issue despite having two marriages before losing his head, and his younger brothers Richard,  Edward and Thomas, also have no acknowledged issue and it is from these brothers that the Rivers Alias Comber line is likely to eminate.

It has been suggested that the children of several of these heirless Rivers males (note heirless does not necessarily mean childless) may have been brought up in the households of some of their sisters who all married well. To differentiate between these sisters' own children, the nephews and nieces who lived with them could have been known as Comber. As the political climate improved these children might have wanted their rightful heritage known and retook the Rivers name as "Rivers alias Comber." Why Comber? We may never know.

As a final aside, their niece Elizabeth of York had a great role in European royalty. As well as being the mother of Henry VIII, she was the mother of Margaret who married James IV of Scotland (the grandfather of James VI who eventually became James I of England when the Stuarts replaced the Tudors) and mother of Mary who married Louis XII of France. Historian Nick Cesar produced a booklet called The Comber Connection in 1982 which is a collection of source material back to the 15th Century regarding the Comber and Coomber family links back to the Woodvilles and Rivers. I had some correspondence with Cesar in the 1980s but did not obtain a copy of the booklet. Another book which also highlights the link is The Comber Family with Notes on the Various Families of the Surname Rivers by Geoffrey B. Barrow, which was published by Research Publishing about 1980.  

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