The children of Earl Ralph's first wife had made good marriages to local nobility, but his Beaufort children married into much greater families. Three of Richard's sisters married dukes (the youngest Cecily, marrying Richard, Duke of York), and Richard himself married Alice Montacute, daughter and heiress of the Earl of Salisbury.
The date of Richard and Alice's marriage is not known, but it must have been before February 1421, when as a married couple they appeared at the coronation of Queen Catherine of Valois. At the time of the marriage the Salisbury inheritance was not guaranteed, as not only was Earl Thomas still alive, but in 1424 he re-married (to Alice Chaucer, granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer). However, this second marriage was without issue, and when Earl Thomas's uncle Richard died in 1429, Richard Neville and Alice were confirmed as Earl and Countess of Salisbury. From now on Richard Neville will be referred to as Salisbury.
Salisbury came into possession of greater estates than, as a younger son, he could reasonably have expected. Strangely, his elder half-brother John apparently agreed to many of the rights to the Neville inheritance being transferred to Joan Beaufort — Salisbury would inherit these on her death in 1440. He also gained possession of the lands and grants made jointly to Ralph and Joan. Ralph's heir (his grandson, also called Ralph) disputed the loss of his inheritance, and although the younger Ralph agreed to a settlement in 1443, it was on unequal terms — Salisbury kept the great Neville possessions of Middleham and Sheriff Hutton, as well as the more recent grant of Penrith. Only Raby returned to the senior branch. The Neville-Neville dispute was later to become absorbed into the destructive Percy-Neville feud. Salisbury's marriage gained him his wife's quarter share of the Holland inheritance. Ironically, his Salisbury title came with comparatively little in terms of wealth, though he did gain a more southerly residence at Bisham Manor in Berkshire.
At the end of 1443, from his principal seat at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, Salisbury could look with some satisfaction at his position. He was a member of the King's Council and Warden of the West March. His brother Robert was the Bishop of Durham, and another brother, William, had the custody of Roxburgh castle. He had seven children, four boys and two girls. In 1436 the two oldest children, Cicely and Richard, had made excellent marriages, to the son and daughter of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick.
However, it was becoming apparent that the rise of the Nevilles was coming to an end. The king, who during the late 1430s had started to exercise personal rule, was more concerned to promote the fortunes of his closest relatives - and Salisbury was only related by a junior, illegitimate and female line. In this context, the local rivalry between the Nevilles and the Percies in the north of England was likely to take on greater importance. A strong and capable ruler would be able to control such feuds, or even profit by them. A weak king could find the disputes spreading from local to regional or national conflict.
The Percies had lands throughout northern England, while the Nevilles northern lands were concentrated in north Yorkshire and in Durham. However, as Warden of the West March, Salisbury was in a position to exert great power in the north-west, in spite of holding only Kendal and Penrith. The Percies resented the fact that their tenants in Cumberland and Westmoreland were being recruited by Salisbury, who even with the reduced grant of 1443 still had great spending power in the region. The senior Neville line (now related by marriage to the Percies) still resented the inequitable settlement of their inheritance dispute.
The fifteenth century could be regarded as the peak of 'bastard feudalism' - when every subject needed a 'good lord'. In return for a commitment by the retained man to provide (usually) military support, the lord would give his retainer a small annual fee, a badge or item of clothing to mark his loyalty (livery) and provide help for him in his disputes with his neighbours (maintenance). Northern England was a long way from Westminster, and rapid legal redress for wrongs was impossible. With his economic power as warden, Salisbury could provide better support for Percy tenants than Northumberland, unpaid for the East March for years, could hope to.
In 1448, during the renewal of the war with Scotland, Northumberland took his forces through Salisbury's West March - a grave breach of etiquette. Northumberland was defeated, and his son Lord Poynings was captured. The fact that Salisbury lost 2,000 horses trying to respond to this attack, and was then excluded (along with Northumberland) from the subsequent peace negotiations can only have inflamed relations between the two families. Over time, the ill will might have receded, but Northumberland's second son, Lord Egremont, spent the next few years stirring up trouble in Yorkshire - particularly York, situated between the Percy estates of Spofforth and Healaugh, and Neville's castle at Sheriff Hutton.
In August 1453, Egremont assembled a force perhaps as large as 1,000 strong, intending to waylay Salisbury as he made for Sheriff Hutton. Salisbury had been attending the wedding of his son Thomas in Lincolnshire, and although his escort would have been smaller, it would have been better armed than Egremont's York tradesmen. Salisbury and his retinue arrived unscathed at Sheriff Hutton, but the episode marked the beginning of what was virtually a private war.
His alabaster effigy is in Burghfield Church in Berkshire. He was buried first at Pontefract, but his son transferred his body to the family mausoleum at Bisham Priory and erected this effigy. It was brought to Burghfield after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The effigy of a lady alongside him wears a headdress which is not thought to be of the right date to be his wife, but she may be one of the earlier Countesses of Salisbury buried at Bisham.