Anthony Woodville Rivers - Encyclopedia


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ANTHONY WOODVILLE RIVERS, or Wydeville, 2nd Earl (c. 1442-1483), statesman and patron of literature, and author of the first book printed on English soil, was born probably in 1442. He was the son of Richard de Wydeville and his wife, Jacquetta de Luxemburg, duchess of Bedford. His father was raised to the peerage in his son's infancy, and was made earl of Rivers in 1466. Anthony, who was knighted before he became of age, and fought at Towton in 1461, married the daughter of Lord Scales, and became a peer jure uxoris in 1462, two years after the death of that nobleman. Being lord of the Isle of Wight at the time, he was in 1467 appointed one of the ambassadors to treat with the duke of 1 Rivers and Canals, znd ed. pp. 327-342, and plate 10.

Burgundy, and he exalted his office by challenging Anthony, comte de la Roche, the bastard of Burgundy, to single fight in what was one of the most famous tournaments of the age (see the elaborate narrative in Bentley's Excerpta Historica, 176182). In 1469 Anthony was promoted to be lieutenant of Calais and captain of the king's armada, while holding other honorary posts. His father and brother were beheaded after the battle of Edgecot, and he succeeded in August of that year to the earldom. He accompanied Edward in his temporary flight to the Continent, and on his return to England had a share in the victory of Barnet and Tewkesbury and defended London from the Lancastrians: In 1473 he became guardian and governor to the young prince of Wales, and for the next few years there was no man in England of greater responsibility or enjoying more considerable honours in the royal service. It is now that for the first time we become aware of Lord Rivers's literary occupations. His mother, the duchess, died in 1472, and his first wife in 1473; in 1475 and the following year he went on pilgrimage to the holy places of Italy; from this time forth there was a strong tincture of serious reflection thrown over his character; he was now, as we learn from Caxton, nominated "Defender and Director of the Siege Apostolic for the Pope in England." Caxton had in 1476 rented a shop in the Sanctuary at Westminster, and here had set up a printing - press. The first MS. which he undertook in London was one sent to him by "the noble and puissant lord, Lord Antone, Erle of Ryvyers," consisting of a translation "into right good and fayr Englyssh" of Jean de Teonville's French version of a Latin work, "a glorious fair mirror to all good Christian people." In 1477 Caxton brought out this book, as Dictes and Sayengis of the Philosophers, and it is illustrious as the first production of an English printing-press. To this succeeded the Moral Proverbs of Christine de Pisan, in verse, in 1478, and a Cordial, in prose, in 1479. The original productions of Lord Rivers, and, in particular, his Balades against the Seven Deadly Sins, are lost. In 1478 a marriage was arranged between him and Margaret, sister of King James III. of Scotland, but it was mysteriously broken off. Rivers began to perceive that it was possible to rise too high for the safety of a subject, and he is now described to us as one who "conceiveth well the mutability and the unstableness of this life." After the death of Edward IV., he became the object of Richard III.'s peculiar enmity, and was beheaded by his orders at Pontefract on the 25th of June 1483. He was succeeded by his brother Richard, the 3rd and last earl of the Wydeville family, who died in 1491. Lord Rivers is spoken of by Commines as "un tresgentil chevalier," and by Sir Thomas More as "a right honourable man, as valiant of hand as politic in counsel." His protection and encouragement of Caxton were of inestimable value to English literature, and in the preface to the Dictes the printer gives an account of his own relations with the statesman which illustrates the dignity and modesty of Lord Rivers in a very agreeable way. Rivers was one of the purest writers of English prose of his time.

"Memoirs of Anthony, Earl Rivers" are comprised in the Historical Illustrations of the Reign of Edward the Fourth (ed. W. H. B[lack]). (E. G.) 11VERS, [[Richard Savage, 4th Earl]] (c. 1660-1712), was the second son of Thomas, 3rd earl; and after the death about 1680 of his elder brother Thomas, styled Viscount Colchester, he was designated by that title until he succeeded to the peerage. Early in life Richard Savage acquired notoriety by his dare-devilry and dissipation, and he was, too, one of the most conspicuous rakes in the society of the period. After becoming Lord Colchester on his brother's death he entered parliament as member for Wigan in 1681 and procured a commission in the Horseguards under Sarsfield in 1686. He was "the first nobleman and one of the first persons" who joined the prince of Orange on his landing in England, and he accompanied William to London. Obtaining promotion in the army, he served with distinction in Ireland and in the Netherlands, and was made major-general in 1693 and lieutenant-general in 1702. In 1694 he succeeded his father as 4th Earl Rivers. He served abroad in 170z under Marlborough, who formed a high opinion of his military capacity and who recommended him for the command of a force for an invasion of France in 1706. The expedition was eventually diverted to Portugal, and Rivers, finding himself superseded before anything was accomplished, returned to England, where Marlborough procured for him a command in the cavalry. The favour shown him by Marlborough did not deter Rivers from paying court to the Tories when it became evident that the Whig ascendancy was waning, and his appointment as constable of the Tower in 1710 on the recommendation of Harley and without Marlborough's knowledge was the first unmistakable intimation to the Whigs of their impending fall. Rivers now met with marked favour at court, being entrusted with a delicate mission to the elector of Hanover in 1710, which was followed by his appointment in 1711 as master-general of the ordnance, a post hitherto held by Marlborough himself. Swift, who was intimate with him, speaks of him as "an arrant knave"; but the dean may have been disappointed at being unmentioned in Rivers's will, for he made a fierce comment on the earl's bequests to his mistresses and his neglect of his friends. In June 1712_ Rivers was promoted to the rank of general, and became commander-in-chief in England; he died a few weeks later, on the 18th of August 1712. He married in 1679 Penelope, daughter of Roger Downes, by whom he had a daughter Elizabeth, who married the 4th earl of Barrymore. He also left several illegitimate children, two of whom were by Anne, countess of Macclesfield. Rivers's intrigue with Lady Macclesfield was the cause of that lady's divorce from her husband in 1701. Richard Savage, the poet, claimed identity with Lady Macclesfield's son by Lord Rivers, but though his story was accepted by Dr Johnson and was very generally believed, the evidence in its support is faulty in several respects. As Rivers left no legitimate son the earldom passed on his death to his cousin, John Savage, grandson of the 2nd earl, and a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, on whose death, about 1735, all the family titles became extinct.

See William Coxe, Memoirs of Marlborough (3 vols., London, 1818); Letters and Despatches of Marlborough, 1702-1712, vol. v., edited by Sir G. Murray (5 vols., London, 1845); Gilbert Burnet, History of his own Time (6 vols., Oxford, 1833); F. W. Wyon, History of Great Britain during the Reign of Queen Anne (2 vols., London, 1876); G. E. C., Complete Peerage, vol. vi. (London, 1895).

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