George Plantagenet, like most of his contemporaries, lived a dramatic life through turbulent times. Born in 1449, his life almost precisely lines up with the years of the Wars of the Roses. On June 10, 1477, he was sent to the Tower on the order of the King, George’s brother, Edward IV.
This arrest came as a surprise to some, who had observed Edward tolerate more serious crimes perpetrated by his impetuous, glory seeking brother. Was this the final straw for the tolerant older brother or did he truly see George as a threat to his throne?
George would have done well to have been content with his lot in life as the king’s heir. Until the birth of Prince Edward in 1470 that is the role George had filled, though he had consistently strived for more. With the birth of two princes ahead of him in the line of succession, George seems to have had thrown caution aside and determined that he could grasp more.
George had been convinced to join the Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, who would later become known as the Kingmaker, in revolting against Edward. Both were looking to create a regime in which they could have more power. Whether Warwick ever planned on truly giving George a better position than he already had as the Duke of Clarence, one can only guess. In the end, George lost his nerve and turned his coat once again to join his brother in 1471.
However, George was not arrested until 1477, so Edward forgave his brother his betrayals and difficulties until the death of Isabel Neville. The daughter of Warwick had been married to George against Edward’s wishes, but this is another crime that George had been forgiven for. When she succumbed to childbed fever, George seems to have lost any small amount of self-control he once had.
With his household in mourning, George ordered the execution of Isabel’s servant, Ankarette Twynho, claiming that she had poisoned her mistress. George’s mental state continued to deteriorate in the following months, reportedly consulting necromancers and bristling over his brother’s refusal to approve a foreign bride for him. Finally after six months of George causing havoc wherever he went, Edward had him arrested for treason.
Some have hypothesized that George had learned of the precontract that Richard III would later use to disinherit his nephews, and that this is the true reason that Edward felt that he must be eliminated at this time. George’s actions of 1477 are disturbing but not as serious as those in his past. Was Edward’s decision simply based on the accumulation of George’s sins?
George would be held in the Tower for eight long months while his brother agonized over what to do with him. His execution finally took place on February 18, 1478. His execution was performed privately, but it is widely believed that he chose to be drowned in a butt of malmsey, making George’s death as dramatic as his short life had been.
George left behind two children, Edward and Margaret. Edward inherited his grandfather’s title and became Edward of Warwick. He would be imprisoned for over half of his life before being executed by Henry VII due to the threat of his Plantagenet blood. Margaret was awarded an old family title of Countess of Salisbury by Henry VIII decades before he, too, decided that her Plantagenet blood was too great a threat. She was beheaded on Henry’s orders on May 27, 1541 at age 67.