George was the third son of Richard Plantagenet 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville, brother to kings Edward IV and Richard III. When George was born in 1449 in Dublin, his father was beginning to challenge Henry VI’s rule.
Following his father's death and the accession of his elder brother, Edward, to the throne, George was created Duke of Clarence in 1461 and invested as a Knight of the Garter.
In 1469, George married Isabel Neville, elder daughter of Richard Neville 16th Earl of Warwick. George had actively supported his brother’s claim to the throne but he shared Warwick’s concerns over his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.
Allegations surrounded the legitimacy of Edward’s birth and the validity of his marriage to Elizabeth. Sensing an opportunity to take the throne for himself, George joined Warwick in France and supported his alliance with Margaret of Anjou and plans to restore Henry VI.
Before long, George realized that Warwick planned to bypass him and returned to Edward, who forgave him.
When Warwick was killed by Edward’s army, George inherited the Warwick fortune, but his plans to control the entire estate by taking his now widowed sister-in-law Anne Neville into his care were thwarted by his younger brother Richard Duke of Gloucester, who married Anne, claiming his half of Warwick’s lands.
George’s wife Isabel had given birth to a stillborn child on a boat at sea, off Calais. Her second child, Margaret, was healthy and survived. Her third child Edward also survived, but may have had learning difficulties. Isabel gave birth to another child by George, but she died soon after labour. Her child, named Richard, survived only days before following her to the grave.
At the time, George was convinced Isabel had been poisoned and accused one of her ladies-in-waiting of having murdered her. He had the lady, Ankarette Twynho, tried, found guilty and hanged, and alleged that King Edward’s wife Elizabeth Woodville was guilty of witchcraft.
Edward was forced to take action against George. He was imprisoned and charged with treason. He was found guilty and was privately executed at the Tower on 18 February 1478, allegedly by drowning in a barrel of malmsey wine. It may be myth, but a portrait thought at one time to be of his daughter Margaret Pole showed her wearing a silver barrel on her charm bracelet.
Isabel wears a gown of brilliant white silk with cloth-of-gold sleeves. I walk behind her carrying her ermine cloak, wearing white and silver. She has a high headdress draped with a white veil of priceless lace that makes her look six feet tall, a goddess, a giantess. George, the bridegroom, is in deep purple velvet, the colour of emperors. Almost everyone from the English court is here. If the king did not know of the secret wedding he will have realised it when he woke this morning to find half his court is missing. His own mother, Duchess Cecily, waved off the wedding party from Sandwich, blessing the plans of her best-loved son George over the plans of her disobedient son Edward.
From The White Queen
The headsman does it, leaving his axe to one side but wearing his black mask over his face. He is a big man with strong big hands and he takes his apprentice with him. The two of them roll a barrel of malmsey wine into George’s room and George the fool makes a joke of it and laughs with his mouth open wide as if already gasping for air, as his face bleaches white with fear.
Image: Armorial of Plantagenet