Thomas Lord Scales, Father-in-Law to Anthony Woodville

    We are taking a break from Henry VIII’s wives feature this Saturday for a special guest post from Danielle Burton, Archive Assistant, creator of Voyager of History blog and currently writing a book on Antony Woodville. Here she talks about Anthony’s father in law, Thomas Scales.                       

My connection with Thomas Scales began when researching into the family of Anthony Woodville’s first wife, Elizabeth Scales. As the date of Anthony and Elizabeth’s marriage is uncertain, it’s not known how long Thomas Scales was Anthony’s father-in-law for. The marriage is believed to have taken place at some point between August 1458 and March 1461.[1] With this time scale, Thomas would have been a father-in-law for less before his death in July 1460. The connection between the Woodville and Scales families lay far beyond that though as Thomas Scales was a friend of Richard Woodville, Anthony’s father.

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Middleton Towers in Norfolk, home of Lord Scales, passed onto his son-in-law, Anthony Woodville. This is now a private home. (Author’s own image)

As a Knight of the Garter from 1425, Thomas Scales had a certain standing in society.[2] With this status he was able to nominate Richard Woodville to also become a Knight of the Garter in 1450.[3] The reason for this nomination was because the pair had been brothers-in-arms during Cade’s Rebellion, a rebellion against the Hundred Years’ War and the King Henry VI’s advisors, meaning the men has come closer in friendship and had both helped defeat the rebellion in the name of the King.[4] With this in mind, it is clear how well the two families would have known each other, even before the marriage of Anthony and Elizabeth Scales.

Despite the connection to the Woodvilles, Thomas Scales was an interesting figure himself. He was most well known for his part in fighting in France during the Hundred Years’ War. He served under the Duke of Bedford from when he first went to fight in 1422.[5] By 1428, he was promoted to a position equal to William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk and John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, despite only being a Lord and being of inferior social status to them, showing just how capable he was militarily.[6] He was also given captaincy of many French places in English possession during the conflict. This new appreciation for his military talents was soon noticed by the famous Joan of Arc.

Jules Eugène Lenepveu, Jeanne d’Arc au siège d’Orléans (1886), Pantheon du Paris Collection

In a letter dictated to a scribe by Joan of Arc, stating who she was and her intentions to help relieve Orleans from being besieged by the English, even offering the English a chance to surrender without being harmed.[7] This letter named Lord Scales, William de la Pole and John Talbot as “lieutenants of the said Duke of Bedford”, asking them to return to their own country or face Joan as the one “sent hither by God the King of Heaven”.[8] Of course the English didn’t listen and the battle to relieve Orleans has gone down in history as Joan of Arc’s first victory. It was rumoured that Scales may have been captured during this time. If he was, he was quickly ransomed and was fighting in an unsuccessful attempt to relieve Beaugency in June 1429.[9] From then on, he stayed in France fighting until all English possessions, other than Calais, were lost.[10]

With all the adventure Thomas Scales obviously had whilst in France, you’d have thought that would have been enough, but when the Wars of the Roses started, he chose the Lancastrian side and continued his loyalty to Henry VI. In return for this loyalty he was appointed, alongside Lord Hungerford, to hold London in 1460.[11] This position was vital to protect the city following the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Northampton and the threat of Edward, Earl of March (future Edward IV), together with the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury, who had come back from exile determined to gain power.[12]

Little did Lord Scales know that this would be the beginning of the end for him. On the 2nd of July, the Lancastrians were forced to retreat to the Tower of London as the Yorkists began to take the City.[13] They had underestimated the Yorkists’ popularity as the citizens denounced Scales as their captain in favour of the incoming Yorkists.[14] Unlike in France, Scales was now the one being besieged, not the one attacking. By the 19th of July, the Lancastrians were forced to surrender as they needed food. An escape plan was devised for Scales and three others to leave by boat at night, but they were tipped off by an unknown woman.[15] All the men were attacked and murdered but only Scales’ body was later found. He was left naked in the grounds of St Mary Overy Church in Southwark, rumoured to have been found by Edward, Earl of March.[16]

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‘The Tower of London’ from Poems of Charles, Duke of Orleans (circa 1500), British Library, https://www.bl.uk/

A contemporary chronicle by the unimaginative name An English Chronicle reported of the affair at the time, suggesting that the real reason for Lord Scales’ escape was to seek sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, a common practice for rebels or political enemies at the time.[17]

It described his death as “a grete pyte it was, that so noble and so worshypfulle a knyghte, and so welle approued in the warrys of Normandy and Fraunce, shuld dy so myscheuously”.[18] Or to put it into modern English “a great pity it was, that so noble and so worshipful a knight, and so well approved in the wars of Normandy and France, should die so mischievously (i.e. murdered)”.

Upon his death, his daughter Elizabeth inherited his estate. Unfortunately, as married women couldn’t inherit, the title of Lord Scales and the estates that came with it were passed on to her husband Anthony. Following Elizabeth’s own death in September 1473, aged around 24, Anthony kept these for himself.[19]

You can find Danielles blog at https://voyagerofhistory.wordpress.com/


[1] Pidgeon, L., Brought Up of Nought: A History of the Woodville Family (Fonthill Media, 2019), p. 205.

[2] George Smith (ed) Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville: Queen Consort of Edward IV on May 26th 1465 cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family (Stroud: The History Press, 2013), p. 78.

[3] George Smith (ed) Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville: Queen Consort of Edward IV on May 26th 1465 cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 78.

[4] I. M. W. Harvey, Jack Cade’s Rebellion of 1450 cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 78.

[5] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm

[6] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm

[7] Harrison, K., Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured (New York: Doubleday, 2014), p. 123.

[8] Harrison, K., Joan of Arc, p. 123.

[9] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm

[10] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm

[11] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm

[12] Schofield, The Life of Edward IV cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 79.

[13] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm

[14] Pidgeon, L., Brought Up of Nought, p. 144.

[15] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm; Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 79.

[16] Luminarium: Encyclopaedia Project, ‘Thomas de Scales, 7th Lord Scales’, http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales.htm; Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 79.

[17] Davies, J. S. (ed) An English Chronicle (Camden Society, 1856), p. 99.

[18] Davies, J. S. (ed) An English Chronicle, p. 99.

[19] James Gardiner (ed)The Paston Letters, no. 90, Part 1 cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 78.

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