On this day, 24 January, in the year 1376, Richard “Copped Hat” FitzAlan passed away. He was my 21st great-grandfather through his granddaughter Alianore Holland and my 20th great-grandfather through his granddaughter Margaret Holland.
Born in Sussex, England circa 1313, Richard was the eldest son of Edmund FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel, and Alice de Warenne. His parents were married in 1305, despite the fact that in 1304, his father was fined for refusing to marry Alice. (Their betrothal had been arranged by Alice’s grandfather, the Earl of Surrey, Edmund’s guardian.) However, Edmund changed his mind after the earl died; Alice was the earl’s heiress presumptive, whose only brother was married to a ten-year old.
Circa 1321, Edmund FitzAlan formed an alliance with Hugh le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester (my 23rd great-grandfather)—a favorite of Edward II (my 21st great-grandfather). As a result of their alliance, Edmund’s son Richard FitzAlan married Isabel le Despenser, Hugh’s granddaughter, on 9 February 1321. Richard was about 15 years old; Isabel was nine years old. Together. Together, they had one son and three daughters.
On 17 November 1326, Edmund FitzAlan was executed and attainted by Queen Isabella (my 21st great-grandmother) and her lover Roger Mortimer (my 23rd great-grandfather) because he supported Isabella’s husband, Edward II. This attainment prevented Richard from succeeding to his father’s estates and titles. However, by 1320, the political winds had shifted; over the course of a few years, Richard was able to regain the Earldom of Arundel, as well as the estates his father had held in Sussex and the Welsh Marches.
In 1334, Richard FitzAlan was made Justiciar of North Wales, High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire, and Governor of Caernarfon Castle. He was one of the most trusted supporters of Edward, “The Black Prince.”
In 1337, Richard FitzAlan was made Joint Commander of the English army in the north. In 1338, he was made Commander. In September 1339, a French fleet appeared off Sluys, determined to engage Edward III’s fleet. When eventually they put to sea on 2 October, they were blown off course by a violent storm. Edward III met with Parliament, and they ordered a new fleet; 70 ships from the west met at Portsmouth on 26 March 1340, to be commanded by their new admiral. Richard FitzAlan, granted the commission on 20 February 1340, was joined by fleets from the north and Cinque Ports Confederation. He joined Edward III on his flagship Cog Thomas, leaving port on 22 1340 June for Flanders. In July 1340, Richard FitzAlan fought at the Battle of Sluys. Summoned by Parliament on 13 July, he bore witness to the victory. By December 1342, Richard FitzAlan had relinquished his post as admiral.
After a short-term as warden of the Scottish Marches, Richard FitzAlan returned to the continent, where he fought in a number of campaigns and was appointed Joint Lieutenant of Aquitaine in 1340. The Flanders campaign was a success. He was also Keeper of the Tower, Guardian to young Prince Edward, and Royal Councilor.
In December 1344, Richard FitzAlan repudiated Isabel le Despenser and was granted an annulment by Pope Clement VI on the grounds that he had been underage and unwilling.
On 23 February 1345, Richard FitzAlan was made Admiral of the Western Fleet and was one of the three principal English commanders at the Battle of Crécy.
On 5 April 1345, he married Eleanor of Lancaster, the daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, and Maud Chaworth. Richard and Eleanor had three sons and three surviving daughters, including Alice FitzAlan (both my 19th great-grandmother and 20th great-grandmother.)
In 1347, he succeeded to the Earldom of Surrey.
He spent much of the following years on various military campaigns and diplomatic missions, including when he went to Winchilsea on 15 August 1350 and set sail on the Cog Thomas on 28 August 1350. In a campaign of 1375, at the end of his life, he destroyed the harbor of Roscoff.
Richard FitzAlan wrote his will on 5 December 1375. In his will, he mentioned his three surviving sons by his second wife, his two surviving daughters Joan, Dowager Countess of Hereford, and Alice, Countess of Kent; and his grandchildren by his second son John; however, he left out his bastardized eldest son Edmund. In his will, Richard requested that his heirs build FitzAlan Chapel at Arundel Castle; his successor complied.
Richard FitzAlan died on 24 January 1376 at Arundel Castle and was buried in Lewes Priory. When Richard FitzAlan died, he was an incredibly wealthy man. He was as astute in business as he had in politics and diplomacy.