C.P. Addition: Death date of Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Oxford (died 1473)

Skip to first unread message


May 30, 2019, 4:43:13 PM5/30/19
Dear Newsgroup ~

Complete Peerage 10 (1945): 237–239 (sub Oxford) includes a good account of John de Vere, 10th Earl of Oxford (died 1462). Regarding his marriage, the following information is provided:

"He married between 22 May and 31 August 1425, Elizabeth (born circa 1410), daughter and heiress of Sir John Howard, by Joan, sister and heir of Sir Richard Walton, and daughter of John Walton ... He was beheaded on Tower Hill, 26 Feb. 1461/2, and was buried in the church of Austin Friars. His widow was forced to surrender her property in 1475 to the Duke of Gloucester. She died soon after Christmas (1475 or later), apparently in Stratford Nunnery, and was buried in Austin Friars' Church, London." END OF QUOTE

As we can see, Complete Peerage is not very specific regarding the date of death for Elizabeth Howard, dowager Countess of Oxford, other than to say it was at Christmas in 1475 or later.

In footnote j on page 238, the reader is directed to several sources regarding Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Oxford, none of which apparently give an exact date of her death:

"Close Roll, 13 Edward IV, m. 1 d; Cal. Chancery Proceedings, Eliz. (Rec. Comm.), vol. i, pp. xc, xci; Rolls of Parl., vol. vi, pp. 282, 473, 474; Chancery Miscellanea, 87/7/131." END OF QUOTE.

In Complete Peerage 14 (1996): 518, the reader is directed to further information regarding Countess Elizabeth:

"The circumstances surrounding this surrender, and the documents, were discussed by M. Hicks,"The Last Days of Elizabeth Countess of Oxford," English Hist. Review, vol. 100, 1988, pp. 76-95." END OF QUOTE.

The article by Hicks is available on the JSTOR website. The same material is published in Hicks' book entitled Richard III and his Rivals (1991): 297, et seq. A partial view of the book may be seen at the following weblink:


In his article and book, Hicks states the following:

"What actually happened is that Elizabeth and her feoffees under three enfeoffments released their rights in her estates to [Richard, Duke of ] Gloucester, his heirs and assigns in three deeds dated 9 January 1473, that Gloucester's attornies took physical seisin of the lands and received the attornment of the tenants on 22 February following, that the feoffees alone confirmed the duke's title on 9 February 1474, by which time Elizabeth was dead, and that they acknowledged the enrolled deeds in chancery on 25 June following." END OF QUOTE.

As we can see, Mr. Hicks specifically states that Countess Elizabeth was living 9 January 1473, and was dead before 9 February 1474. Curiously Hicks fails to give a specific date of death for the Countess. But he includes six depositions regarding the last events of Countess Elizabeth's life. In one of them, the deponent specifically states that Countess Elizabeth was living on Saint Thomas's Eve, i.e., 20 December, year uncertain, and died about eight days later, and her body was afterwards buried in the Austin Friars. Although the deponent was uncertain as to the exact year, given Hicks' other evidence, it would necessarily place the Countess' death as about 28 December 1473. This date would agree with Hicks' statement elsewhere that the Countess died before 9 February 1474.

Below is a partial quotation of the deposition in question:

"Furthermore this deponent seith that apon Seynt Thomas Eves Eve afore Cristmas afore [20 December] the dicease of the seid Countes but what yere this deponent remembir nott this deponent was atte Stratford aforeseid within the Place in the Nonery there where the Countes thenne was in her Chaumber by her bedside and thenne and there the seid Countes shewde to this deponent/that she was seeke and grevously desesid ... she sent hym goddis blessyng and hers which Countes died within eight daies after. Also this deponent seith that the seid/Countes within ij daies next after as he remembrith was buryed in the Church of freres Augustines in London afore the high auter there at which burying this deponent was thenne and there present also the seid duke the lord Howard and other. " END OF QUOTE

Mary Erler in her book, Women, Reading, & Piety in Late Medieval England (2006): 164, footnote 83 picks up on the significance of the deposition regarding Countess Elizabeth's date of death and also indicates that she died testate. She writes:

“Oxford, Magdalen College MS lat. 41 was probably bequeathed to Barking in the will which the countess made but which does not survive; see Michael Hicks, “The Last Days of Elizabeth, Countess of Oxford,” EHR 103 (1988), 76–95. According to a deposition printed by Hicks she died about December 27, 1473, so the inscription records the transmission of the book to Barking either two months after her death (February 26, 1474 or four years late (1477). For her life, see Anne Crawford, “Victims of Attainder: The Howard and de Vere Women in the late Fifteenth Century,” Reading Medieval Studies 15 (1989), 59–74. The Elizabeth de Vere who gave Oxford, Magdalen College lat. 41 to Barking was married to John de Vere, 12th earl of Oxford.” END OF QUOTE.

Please see the weblink below for the above reference:


Josephine Wilkinson in her book, Richard III: The Young King to be (2008): Chapter 14 includes a long discussion regarding Countess Elizabeth's unhappy dealings with Richard, Duke of Gloucester [future King Richard III]. Wilkinson makes it clear that Countess Elizabeth was living as late as 9 July 1473:

"As the near year of 1473 dawned, Richard Gloucester's business with Countess Elizabeth of Oxford took an unexpected turn. The course of events can be determined from a series of depositions made by six witnesses who had been called upon to present Countess Elizabeth's point of view ... At about Christmas-time 1472-73, Richard Gloucester, who was staying with his household at a house belonging to Sir Thomas Vaughan at Stepney in London, went to Stratford to visit Elizabeth of Oxford at her abbey there. Richard informed Elizabeth that he had been granted custody of her and her possessions by King Edward. This news upset the countess so much that she wept. Sir John Pilkington, chamberlain to Richard, asked Elizabeth for the keys to her coffers, which were duly given. The coffers as well as her lodgings were then searched ... Henry Robson reported that, after the deeds had been sealed and handed over to the Duke, the countess told him that she was sorry for having saved her life by disinheriting her heirs. Robson comforted her, saying that the lands were for the most part entailed, which was a matter of record, and that whatever she had done against her will would be undone by her heirs ... Several days after the events described in the depositions, on 9 January 1473, Elizabeth and six of her enfeoffees released their rights in her estates to Richard and his heirs and assigns in three deeds. At this point, Elizabeth seems to have returned to her abbey at Stratford. A few weeks afterwards, Richard's attorneys took phyiscal seisin of the lands and received the attornment of the tenants ...Elizabeth's dealings with the royal family did not end there, however. On 21 March, she was ordered to a meeting before Edward IV, which she was bound to attend daily at Easter 1473 on pain of her own recognizance of £3,000 and sureties of £8,000. The purpose of the order was 'to answer certain matters pending against her.' ... On 9 July Countess Elizabeth was discharged from the order of 21 March, having 'in nowise failed in her appearance.' Unfortunately for all concerned, it would not be the end of the matter. Elizabeth changed her mind about her releases and told her feoffees that she had made them only under coercion, As such, some of the feoffees also refused to release their deeds to the Duke, one of whom was William Paston." END OF QUOTE.

Bradbury and Adams, Medieval Women & Their Objects (2016): 177 also discusses Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Oxford:

"There is little direct evidence as to how Elizabeth de Vere weathered the storms of her late life, apart from her reported distress at the enforced surrender of her lands to Richard of Gloucester. But the book she gave to Barking can be usefully considered against the savage and rapid changes that could occur in elite women's lives and those of their families .... Oxford, Magdalen College MS lat. 41 was made in France, most probably in Paris, in the late fourteenth century, and arrived at Barking, on the evidence of its own memorandum of donation, shortly after Elizabeth de Vere's death in late 1473 and early 1474." END OF QUOTE.

Bradbury and Adams may be viewed at the following weblink:


Finally, I find that James Ross, Foremost Man of the Kingdom: John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford (2015) states Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Oxford, died 28 December 1473. He cites as his source: B.L., Cotton Vesp. B xv, fol. 75v.

Please see the weblink below for a partial view of Ross' work:


Reviewing the above material, modern historians taken as a whole indicate that Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Oxford, was living as late as 9 July 1473, but died before 9 February 1474. One contemporary deposition places her death as occuring about 28 December, which given the other pieces of evidence must be in the year 1473. Significantly, the historian James Ross specifically states she died 28 December 1473, and cites as his source B.L., Cotton Vesp. B xv, fol. 75v.

Best always, Douglas Richardson, Salt Lake City, Utah
Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages