Richard Neville was born in 1400 at Raby Castle in County Durham. Although he was the third son (and tenth child) of Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, Richard Neville was the first son to be born to Ralph's second wife, Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmoreland. The Neville lands were primarily in Durham and Yorkshire, but both Richard II and Henry IV (Joan's cousin and half-brother respectively) found the family useful to counterbalance the strength of the Percys on the Scottish Borders. This led to Earl Ralph's title, granted in 1397, and his appointment as Warden of the West March in 1403. Ralph's marriage to Joan Beaufort, at a time when the distinction between royalty and nobility was becoming more important, can be seen as another reward; as a granddaughter of Edward III, she was a member of the royal family.
The children of Earl Ralph's first wife had made good marriages to local nobility, but his Beaufort children married into even 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 Thomas Montacute, 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 remarried (to Alice Chaucer, granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer). This second marriage was without issue and when the Earl Thomas Montacute died in 1428, Richard Neville and Alice were confirmed as the Earl and Countess of Salisbury. From this point 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 Castle returned to the senior branch. The Neville–Neville feud 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.