On this day, 30 December, in the year 1460, Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, was killed in battle. He was my 17th great-grandfather.
Born on 21 September 1411, he was the son of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, and his wife Anne Mortimer, daughter of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, and Alianore Holland.
Anne Mortimer was the great-granddaughter of Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence (my 21st great-grandfather), second son of Edward III. This family relationship supplied Anne and her descendants, the Dukes of York, with a claim to the English throne that was stronger by primogeniture than that of Henry VI of the House of Lancaster, who descended from John of Gaunt (my two-times 19th great-grandfather), third son of Edward III. On his father’s side, Richard Plantagenet had a claim to the throne in a direct male line of descent from his grandfather Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, fourth son of Edward III.
Anne died giving birth to Richard Plantagenet. Then, in 1415, his father, Richard of Conisburgh was beheaded for his part in the Southampton Plot against the Lancastrian King Henry V. Although Richard of Conisburgh’s title was forfeited, he was not attainted; therefore, four-year-old Richard Plantagenet became his father’s heir.
On 25 October 1415, his uncle, Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, died at the Battle of Agincourt. Richard Plantagenet inherited his uncle’s title and the lands of the Duchy of York. With much trepidation, King Henry V allowed Richard to inherit his uncle’s title and the lands. The reason for King Henry V’s hesitation was that Edward of Norwich had been proclaimed several times, by factions rebelling against Henry V, to have a stronger claim to the throne than Henry’s father, King Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster.
In 1424, Richard Plantagenet married Cecily Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, and Joan Beaufort. Together they had a nearly a dozen children, including two who would become kings, Edward IV and Richard III, as well as George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence (my 16th great-grandfather.)
On 19 January 1425, the title and estates of the Earldom of March and the Earldom of Ulster also descended to Richard Plantagenet on the death of his maternal uncle Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March and 7th Earl of Ulster. Richard of York already held the Mortimer and Cambridge claims to the English throne; however, once he inherited these titles and lands, Richard Plantagenet became the wealthiest, most powerful noble in England—second only to the king himself.
Nevertheless, Richard Plantagenet continued to serve Henry V faithfully as governor of France and Normandy from 1436-1437 and 1440-1445. Simultaneously, he became an ardent opponent of the powerful Beaufort family, who was gaining control of Henry’s government.
In 1447, the death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Richard Plantagenet was next in line for succession to the throne. Because of this, the Beauforts had Henry VI send Richard Plantagenet to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant.
When Richard returned to England in 1450, he led the opposition to Henry VI’s new chief minister, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. Richard disapproved of Edmund Beaufort’s ruinous policies which led to the loss of almost of all of England’s French possessions.
In July 1453, when Henry VI suffered a nervous breakdown, the queen, Margaret of Anjou, supported by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, assumed the crown. However, her rule was so unpopular that Parliament appointed Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, Protector of the Realm in March 1454.
Margaret despised and feared Richard as she considered him a potential rival to the throne she hoped to obtain for her infant son. Consequently, upon Henry VI’s recovery in December 1454, Margaret persuaded the King to dismiss Richard Plantagenet and restore Edmund Beaufort to power.
Richard Plantagenet immediately took up arms. On May 22, 1455, at St. Albans, Hertfordshire, Richard’s forces killed Edmund Beaufort in battle. Richard once again was in control of the government until Margaret of Anjou gained the upper hand in October 1456.
In late 1459, hostilities between the two sides reopened. In July 1460, Richard Plantagenet’s Lieutenant Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, defeated the Lancastrians at Northampton and captured the Henry VI. A compromise was worked out, allowing Henry VI to remain king; however, upon his death, Richard Plantagenet would ascend the throne. In response to this, Margaret of Anjou, who would never agree to disinherit her son, raised a rebellion in northern England.
Richard’s Plantagenet was attacked by the Lancastrians outside his castle near Wakefield and died on 30 December 1460. His son Edward seized power the following year and was crowned Edward IV.
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