de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, was executed by drowning in a barrel of wine on February 18, 1478.
Victorian picture by an unknown artist
George, Duke of Clarence , younger son of Richard, Duke of York, by his wife Cicely, daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, was born in Dublin on the 21st of October 1449. Soon after his elder brother became king as Edward IV in March 1461, he was created duke of Clarence, and his youth was no bar to his appointment as lord-lieutenant of Ireland in the following year.
Having been mentioned as a possible husband for Mary, daughter of Charles the Bold, afterwards Duke of Burgundy, Clarence came under the influence of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and in July 1469 was married at Calais to the earl's elder daughter Isabella. With his father-in-law he then acted in a disloyal manner towards the king. Both supported the rebels in the north of England, and when their treachery was discovered Clarence was deprived of his office as lord-lieutenant and fled to France.
Returning to England with Warwick in September 1470, he witnessed the restoration of Henry VI, when the crown was settled upon himself in case the male line of Henry's family became extinct. The good understanding, however, between Warwick and his son-in-law was not lasting, and Clarence was soon secretly reconciled with Edward. The public reconciliation between the brothers took place when the king was besieging Warwick in Coventry, and Clarence then fought for the Yorkists at Barnet and Tewkesbury. After Warwick's death in April 1471 Clarence appears to have seized the whole of the vast estates of the earl, and in March 1472 was created by right of his wife Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.
He was consequently greatly disturbed when he heard that his younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was seeking to marry Warwick's younger daughter Anne, and was claiming some part of Warwick's lands. A violent quarrel between the brothers ensued, but Clarence was unable to prevent Gloucester from marrying, and in 1474 the king interfered to settle the dispute, dividing the estates between his brothers. In 1477 Clarence was again a suitor for the hand of Mary, who had just become duchess of Burgundy. Edward objected to the match, and Clarence, jealous of Gloucester's influence, left the court.
At length Edward was convinced that Clarence was aiming at his throne. The duke was thrown into prison, and in January 1478 the king unfolded the charges against his brother to the parliament. He had slandered the king; had received oaths of allegiance to himself and his heirs; had prepared for a new rebellion; and was in short incorrigible. Both Houses of Parliament passed the bill of attainder, and the sentence of death which followed was carried out on the 17th or 18th of February 1478. It is uncertain what share Gloucester had in his brother's death; but soon after the event the rumour gained ground that Clarence had been drowned in a butt of malmsey wine.
Two of the duke's children survived their father: Margaret, countess of Salisbury (beheaded in 1541), and Edward, earl of Warwick (1475-1499), who passed the greater part of his life in prison and was beheaded in November 1499.