Biography: Richard Duke of York

richarddukeofyork-243x300Also known as Richard Plantagenet. (Born September 21, 1411- Died December 30, 1460). Son of Richard Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. Married to Cecily Neville. Father of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV, King of England, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard III, King of England. Richard Duke of York was the one who became Lord Protector to Henry VI, but when he didn’t get the respect he thought he deserved, challenged the king and claimed that he should be king, and started the Wars of the Roses.

Richard of York was born on 21 September 1411. He was the son of Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, by his wife Anne de Mortimer, the daughter of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March. Anne Mortimer was the great-granddaughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the second surviving son of King Edward III. After the death in 1425 of Anne’s brother Edmund, the 5th Earl of March, this supplied Richard, of the House of York, with a claim to the English throne that was, under English law, arguably superior to that of the reigning House of Lancaster, descended from John of Gaunt, the third son of King Edward III. On his father’s side, Richard had a claim to the throne in a direct male line of descent from his grandfather Edmund, 1st Duke of York, fourth surviving son of King Edward III and founder of the House of York. Richard’s claim through his mother made him more eligible to be king than Henry VI, thus he adopted the last name “Plantagenet” in 1448 to mark his claim to the throne.

Richard’s mother is said to have died giving birth to him and his father was executed  in 1415 for his part in the Southampton plot that tried to remove Henry V from the throne and replace him with Edmund Mortimer. His father’s titles were forfeited, but not attainted, which meant that Richard at 4 years old, became his father’s heir. A few months later, Richard’s uncle Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, was slain at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25, 1415. Henry V decided to give the lands of the Duchy of York to Richard.

Richard was an orphan and he was considered property of the crown. His wardship was a very valued gift of the crown and it was granted to Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland. Ralph Neville had a large family, 20 children who survived infancy,  with many daughters who needed husbands, so in 1424, Neville betrothed Richard to his daughter Cecily Neville. On February 2, 1425, Richard was created Duke of York, after his uncle Edmund Mortimer died. In October 1425, Ralph Neville died and his widow Joan Beaufort was given the wardship of Richard, which was even more valuable since Richard was now the Duke of York. On May 19, 1426 he was knighted at St Mary de Castro in Leicester by John, Duke of Bedford, the younger brother of King Henry V. In October 1429 or earlier, Richard and Cecily were married. York was there for Henry VI’s coronation on November 6, 1430 and he was also at Henry VI’s coronation in France when he became king of France on December 16, 1431. Finally, on May 12, 1432, York was finally given full control over his estates.

York was loyal to Henry VI and the Lancasters in the beginning. He worked with John Duke of Bedford, who was the English regent in France. Bedford died in 1435 and York took on the responsibility of being governor of France and Normandy from 1436 to 1437 and 1440 to 1445. At this time, York  was neutral in politics, but he seemed to have sided with Humphrey Duke of Gloucester in the idea of continuing the war with France. York wanted to apart of Henry VI’s council, but he was not allowed. On his return to England in 1450 York was seen as the opponent of the Duke of Somerset. He was as popular as Somerset was not and York had powerful allies in the Nevilles. In 1451, there was a claim in Parliament that York should be the next heir to the throne because the king did not have a son. This claim was not taken seriously and the one who proposed this was imprisoned.  

In 1452, York declared that he wanted to be the next heir to the throne so he summoned an army to march on London. It didn’t go well and York was placed on house arrest for two weeks and then he was forced to give an oath of allegiance to the king and promised that if he did want to pursue his claim, he would do it in a legal manner.

In the summer of 1453, York had lost all hope of becoming king and changing the government for the better as Margaret of Anjou became pregnant and the king’s half brother Edmund Tudor married Margaret Beaufort. Then in August of 1453, Henry VI had his first bout with mental illness reared its ugly head. He heard about the Battle of Castillon in Gascony, which ended the English hopes of winning the Hundred Years’ War, sending him into an unresponsive state. The Council decided to elect York as Lord Protector and one of the first things he did was to have Somerset arrested and placed in the Tower. In October of the same year, the son of Henry VI and Margaret Beaufort, Edward of Westminster Prince of Wales, was born dashing York’s chances of becoming the heir by peaceful means. York remained Lord Protector until 1455 when Henry VI recovered. Henry VI released Somerset and basically reversed every decision that York had made while he was Protector. This was the last straw for York.

York and his Neville allies, including Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick, marched to St. Albans where they faced off against Somerset and the Lancastrian forces that supported the king. Somerset was killed during the  First Battle of St Albans on May 22, 1455, and shortly after, the king had another bout of mental illness. York was declared Lord Protector yet again, but was removed from his post when the king recovered in 1456, but the king had accepted York and the Nevilles as an important part of the government. This reconciliation would not last long.

It was then that Margaret of Anjou took up her husband’s cause. She encouraged the new duke of Somerset Henry Beaufort to fight against York. The battlelines were being drawn. The Yorkists were led by Richard duke of York, Richard Neville earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville earl of Warwick. The Lancastrians were under Henry VI, but led by Margaret of Anjou, Somerset, and Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland. In 1459, at the battle of Ludlow, the Lancastrians won and sent the Yorkists into hiding; however the Yorkists came back with a vengeance at the battle of Northampton.

In 1460 York officially declared his claim to the throne. After much discussion, it was agreed that after the king died, York and his sons would be the heirs to the throne, removing Edward of Westminster from the line of succession. Henry VI seemed to have been okay with this arrangement, but Margaret was beyond upset. She led the Lancastrian forces to face off against York at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed in the battle. York was beheaded, his head was put on a spike wearing a paper crown and was displayed over Micklegate Bar at York.

Biography: King Richard II

mw05302(Born January 6, 1367- Died on or about February 14, 1400). Son of Edward the Black Prince and Joan 4th Countess of Kent. Married to Anne of Bohemia and Isabella of Valois. He had no children.

Richard II was the second son of Edward the Black Prince, but when his older brother Edward died when Richard was three, Richard became second in line to the throne after his father. When Edward the Black Prince and Edward III died, Richard II became king at the tender age of 10. There was no formal regent that could help guide Richard II, but his uncle John of Gaunt did the best that he could, taking a more active political role.

Richard II and his government decided to start taxing the people with poll taxes to pay for the wars in France and the campaigns in Scotland. At first, they were tolerated, but then the people got mad. In June 1381, a man named Wat Tyler had enough and killed a tax collector and raised a force of around 100,000 to march against the king. When the two forces finally met, Wat Tyler was killed by the Lord Mayor of London William Walworth. Richard at the age of 14 stopped the Peasants’ Revolt by promising the people reforms that he, in the end,  did not fulfill the reforms.

He was the champion of England, but inside his court, things were more divisive. Richard II had two very close advisors, Robert de Vere earl of Oxford and Michael de la Pole. He granted favors upon the two men, causing anger in the court. Richard also sought military glory in Scotland, which ended up being a disaster. To top it all off in 1386, Richard made Robert de Vere duke of Ireland and Michael de la Pole was made a chancellor, without consulting Parliament first. This was the last straw for those who opposed Richard II. They decided to act. Five of his strongest opponents; Thomas duke of Gloucester,  the earl of Arundel, Thomas Beauchamp, the earl of Warwick, Thomas Mowbray, and Henry Bolingbroke the son of John of Gaunt, became known as the Lords Appellant. They took over the country and they tried to convince Richard to give up his courtiers.

He did comply for a little while, until he became of age. His first wife Anne of Bohemia died in 1394 from the plague, leaving Richard heartbroken. He married his second wife Isabella of Valois as part of a peace treaty with France, strengthening his position in his own country. He went after the Lords Appellant. Most of them were killed, except for Mowbray and Henry Bolingbroke. Mowbray was exiled for life while Henry was exiled for ten years. During his reign “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer was published and literature was on the rise.

In 1399, John of Gaunt died and instead of pardoning his son Henry Bolingbroke, Richard banished him for life. Richard left later that same year to quell the unrest in Ireland and Henry Bolingbroke took his chance to invade. Richard’s support dwindled and on August 19, 1399, Richard II forfeited to Henry and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The next in line for the throne, since Richard II had no children, was Edmund Mortimer earl of March, who was only 8 years old at the time. Parliament did not want a similar situation than the one that they were in, so they forced Richard II to abdicate and on September 29, 1399, Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV. Richard II was moved to Pontefract Castle and on or around February 14, 1400, he died. Some believe that he starved to death as there was no evidence of a physical murder.

With Richard II’s abdication and Henry IV’s accession came the rise of the House of Lancaster.

 

Book Review: “The Wars of the Roses” by Alison Weir

911GmwfEpdLThe Wars of the Roses was a series of wars from 1455 until 1487 for the throne of England. It is traditionally taught that it was between the houses of York and Lancaster, yet there were a lot more players involved than these two families. In fact the conflict started much earlier with the children of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. The Lancasters were the descendants of John of Gaunt and his wife Blanche of Lancaster while the Yorks were descendants of Edmund of Langley Duke of York. This was a series over the question of who had the strongest claim to the throne. This question and the series of wars that would try to answer it is explored in depth in Alison Weir’s book “The Wars of the Roses”.

Alison Weir explains the struggle of studying this time period and what she is trying to accomplish in her book:

Sources for this period are meagre and often ambiguous, yet much research has been done over the last hundred years to illuminate a little for us what is often described as the twilight world of the fifteenth century. Many misconceptions have been swept away, yet even so the dynastic conflict still confuses many. My aim has been throughout to eliminate that confusion and try to present the story in chronological sequence, clarifying the problems of the royal succession in an age in which no certain rules of inheritance applied. I have also tried to bring the world of the fifteenth century to life by introducing as much contemporary detail as space permits, in order to make the subject relevant to any read, academic or otherwise. Chiefly, however, I have tried to re-tell an astonishing and often grim story of power struggles in high places that involved some of the most charismatic figures in English history. (Weir, xix).

Weir begins her book by explaining  what England in the fifteenth century was like before diving into the history of Edward III and the Plantagenets in the late 1300s. This may seem a little complex since there were many sons of Edward III, but the throne first went to Richard II, but when he was forced to abdicate, the throne went to Henry of Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV. He was the son of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. John of Gaunt and his third wife Katherine Swynford had children who would become known as the Beauforts. They would become important later on.

Henry IV’s son would become Henry V who was married to Katherine of Valois. When Henry V died, their son Henry VI became king; he was a baby. His mother would remarry a Welsh man named Owen Tudor and they would have a few children, including Edmund and Jasper Tudor. Henry VI would marry Margaret of Anjou. Richard Earl of Cambridge, the son of Edmund of Langley, would have a son with his wife Anne Mortimer named Richard Plantagenet Duke of York. He would marry the “Rose of Raby” Cecily Neville and they would be the parents of Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III.

This all may seem a bit complex, but it is important to understand how all of the players in the Wars of the Roses were connected. Henry VI was a weak king who was known for his madness and so someone had to lead the government. Richard Duke of York believed that he should have been Lord Protector, however Margaret of Anjou and her party at court had other ideas. The beginning of this conflict was a battle between court factions, but eventually it escalated rather quickly into a full on rebellion by Richard Duke of York. This was now a battle between the Yorks and the Lancasters. When Richard Duke of York died at the Battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460, his son Edward took on the Yorkist cause and would become king after the battle of Towton on March 29, 1461, the bloodiest battle on English soil. After Towton, it was a battle between Edward IV and those who supported Henry VI, until 1471 when Edward IV ultimately won, thus ending the conflict between the Yorks and the Lancasters.

Weir chooses to end her book here at 1471 even though the Wars of the Roses will pick back up with the death of Edward IV in 1483 when his brother Richard becomes Richard III. Weir truly brought this time period to life. I have been studying the Wars of the Roses for a few years now and I have to say this book really simplified this complex family struggle in a way that makes sense. I love this book and I have read it several times. If you really want a great book that explains the causes of the Wars of the Roses, I highly recommend this book, “The Wars of the Roses” by Alison Weir. It is a fantastic introduction to this tumultuous time period.