Richard, 3rd Duke of York

Richard 3rd Duke of York

The House of York

Richard 3rd Duke of York was the Head of the House of York. His parents were Anne Mortimer and Richard of Cambridge. Both his mother and father were descended from King Edward III. Through his maternal line Richard was a great-great grandson, his great grandfather being Lionel duke of Clarence, Edward III’s second eldest son. On his father’s side Richard was a great-grandson of Edward III. He inherited his uncles title of Duke of York despite his own father, Richard of Cambridge, having been executed and attained as a traitor. His grandfather on his father’s side was Edmund of Langley, Edward III’s fourth eldest son.

When Richard claimed the throne he argued that his descent from Lionel duke of Clarence was a superior line of inheritance to that which Henry VI held. Henry VI was descended from John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, the 3rd eldest of Edward III’s sons. The difference between the claims is that Richard’s paternal line of descent had one generation in which inheritance was through a female, Phillipa, daughter of Lionel duke of Clarence. This led to questions as to whether or not the crown could be inherited via this method.  As the English claim to the throne of France, which it held from 1422, was based on a right being able to pass through a female, it was enough to convince the lords at Council that Richard did have a stronger claim. But as Henry VI had been anointed king, the right to the throne should be deferred until Henry’s death. This Act of Accord therefore transferred inheritance of the crown from Edward of Westminster to Richard 3rd Duke of York and his line.

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Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York

RICHARD, Duke of York (1411–1460), was the only son of Richard of Conisborough, earl of Cambridge (d. 1415) [q. v.], by his first wife, Anne Mortimer, sister of Edmund, earl of March. He was descended from Edward III by both parents; for his father was second son of Edmund of Langley, first duke of York [q. v.], Edward III’s fifth son; while his mother was a daughter of Roger Mortimer (VI), fourth earl of March [q. v.], himself grandson of Lionel, duke of Clarence, Edward III’s third son. Lionel’s daughter and heiress, Philippa, married Edmund Mortimer (II), third earl of March. The latter’s grandson, Edmund Mortimer (the uncle of the subject of this notice), succeeded to the earldom as fifth earl of March in due course, and would have succeeded to the crown after Richard II but for the usurpation of Henry IV. In 1425 he died childless, and his immense possessions and prospective claim to the crown descended to Richard, his sister’s son [see Mortimer, Edmund (IV) de, (1391–1425)].

By the inquisitions, taken on the lands of this Edmund, although there is some disagreement in the findings in different counties (Inquisitiones post mortem, 3 Hen. VI, No. 32), it would appear that Richard was born on St. Matthew’s day (21 Sept.) 1411. Being still in his fourteenth year in 1425, when his uncle died, he was the king’s ward. His uncle’s lands lay in almost every county, from the English Channel to Yorkshire; and besides this great inheritance, notwithstanding his father’s attainder, he could claim the entailed lands of the earldom of Cambridge, and had already succeeded to the dukedom of York, on the death of his father’s brother Edward, who fell at Agincourt [see Plantagenet, Edward, second Duke of York]. Thus he was heir to vast estates through no fewer than three distinct lines. Nor was even this all; for the earldom of Ulster, which Lionel, duke of Clarence, had acquired by marriage, had descended, like that of March, to the house of Mortimer.

During his boyhood under Henry V, Richard was placed under the charge of Robert Waterton. In the early years of Henry VI‘s reign Ralph Neville, first earl of Westmorland [q. v.], obtained a grant of his wardship. On Whitsunday (19 May) 1426 he was knighted at Leicester by the young king Henry VI. In the spring of 1428 the duke received a summons to attend the royal household. In January 1430, though still a minor, he was appointed constable of England, in the Duke of Bedford‘s absence, for a trial by battle, which was to take place at Smithfield. On 23 April he accompanied Henry VI to France, with twelve lances and thirty-six bowmen in the king’s wages. He was still with the king in France in August 1431, when six hundred marks were granted to him out of his own lands as a reward for one year’s labour and expenses in the king’s service. No doubt he returned with the king in February 1432. In the spring of that year he petitioned parliament for livery of his lands on the ground that, by some of the inquisitions taken on the death of the Earl of March, he was already of full age; and he was allowed to enter on possession of his estates on finding security that he would pay in five years 979l. 7s. 2¼d. to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, who had a lease of his Welsh lands from the crown, and one thousand marks to the king. On 20 Nov. following he procured a warrant from the privy council for a special livery of the jointure and other lands of his aunt, Anne, countess of March. Still there were the Irish estates to be looked after, and about two years after this he must have gone over to Ireland to take possession of them. In April and May 1434 he took part in a great council at Westminster. On 8 Aug. 1435 he received a pardon under the great seal of Ireland for intrusion without royal license on the lands of Edmund (late earl of March and Ulster), and those which Edmund’s widow, the Countess Anne, had held in dower. In this document he is described as duke of York, earl of March and Ulster, and lord of Wigmore, Clare, Trim, and Connaught (Patent Roll, Ireland, 13 Hen. VI, No. 81). In January 1436 he was designated to supply the place in France of the regent Bedford, who had died at Rouen in September. He was to be called lieutenant-general and governor of the kingdom of France and duchy of Normandy. On 20 Feb. a grant was made to him under the great seal for ten years of the liberty of Trim in Ireland, which had belonged to Joan, wife of Roger Mortimer, the first earl of March [q. v.], and should have remained hers after his attainder in Edward III’s reign, but had been confiscated with her husband’s property (ib. 14 Hen. VI, pt. i. m. 6).

It was not till 24 May that Richard formally agreed by indenture to serve the king in France for one year, when the wages of the second quarter for himself and his retinue were paid to him in advance, his own being 13s. 4d. a day (Devon, Issue Roll, pp. 428–9), and he only landed near Harfleur in June, some weeks after Paris had been recovered by the French. They had just before recovered great part of Normandy, and the Duke of Burgundy had not only gone over to their side, but was laying siege to Calais. York succeeded in recovering Fécamp and some others of the captured places in Normandy. But the difficulties of his position increased as time went on, and in 1437 he insisted on being recalled, notwithstanding urgent letters from the council asking him to prolong his stay beyond the terms of his agreement. The war was draining the pockets of everybody. York himself had advanced 1150 marks for it, which was not duly repaid, and the taxation of the conquered country could be carried no further. Richard de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick [q. v.], who was appointed to succeed him as lieutenant-general, crossed the Channel on 29 Aug., and York returned later in the year. In February 1438 the privy council, with the king’s assent, offered him some of the royal jewels in pawn for the loan that he had advanced for the war, repayment of which had been long overdue. It was probably in the course of this year that he married Cicely, daughter of Ralph Neville, first earl of Westmorland [q. v.]; the eldest child of their large family, Edward (afterwards Edward IV), was born in August 1439.

On 30 April 1439 Warwick died at Rouen, and the chief command in France devolved for a time on John Beaufort, earl (and afterwards duke) of Somerset [q. v.], a nephew of Cardinal Beaufort. But York was again appointed the king’s lieutenant on 2 July 1440. Owing, however, in all probability, to the disputes between the cardinal and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, to whose party York belonged, nearly a year passed away before he crossed to France. He insisted on his own conditions. His term of office was to be five years, the king agreeing to grant him 20,000l. a year from the second year, out of the revenues of England, for defence of the English conquests in France; besides which he demanded thirty-six thousand francs for his own household, which was twelve thousand francs less than the Duke of Bedford had, but six thousand more than Warwick’s allowance. One great difficulty that he foresaw was from the number of posts that had been granted away in reversion, and he demanded that he should have the power to appoint efficient men without regard to such claims.

During this last stay in England he obtained letters from the king (18 Jan. 1440) to the sheriffs of Northumberland and Yorkshire to remove the armed forces from Barnard Castle and the manor of Gayneford, and deliver these places to the custody of himself, the Earl of Salisbury, and others, during the minority of Henry de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick’s son and heir (Patent Roll, 18 Hen. VI, pt. ii. m. 25 d; cf. royal letter of 12 May 1441, misdated 1438 in Stevenson, ii. 438; Collections of a London Citizen, Camden Soc. p. 183; Privy Council Proceedings, v. 142, 145–6). At length, in June 1441, when the continued success of the French had plunged the English council at Rouen into despair, York landed at Harfleur, and, joining Talbot, relieved Pontoise in July. He failed to provoke Charles VII to a pitched battle, and, being unable to feed his men in the country, returned to Rouen on 1 Aug. The English hold on Normandy was irreparably shaken.

In 1442 the French succeeded in recovering the greater part of Guienne, and York received a commission to treat on 9 Sept. He also made efforts for a renewal of the old understanding with Burgundy, the duchess negotiating with him in behalf of her husband; and after much communication with the government at home, he concluded a truce with the duke through her agency on 23 April 1443. The council at home, however, appointed Somerset, who was now raised to the dignity of duke, lieutenant and captain-general of Guienne. They intimated to York that there was no intention in this to interfere with his authority, and asked him to ‘take patience’ for a time as to his demand for the stipulated 20,000l. to be sent over to him, considering the great charges the king had incurred in setting forth a new army under Somerset. York sent over the Earl of Shrewsbury and others to demand fuller explanations. Somerset explained to the council that he would attempt nothing to York’s ‘disworship.’ He crossed to Cherbourg in August with a much larger force than had been placed at the command of York, the money for which was advanced by his rich uncle, Cardinal Beaufort. Passing through the confines of Brittany, he, to the great disgust of York, pillaged La Guerche, a town of the friendly Duke of Brittany, and thereby incurred a severe reprimand from the home government; then, after wasting two months in an ineffectual siege, Somerset returned to England, where he died next year.

On 18 March 1445 York met Margaret of Anjou at Pontoise, and conducted her to the coast on her way to England to be married to Henry VI. He himself was in correspondence with Charles VII for the marriage of his own eldest son, Edward [see Edward IV], to whom Charles offered his infant daughter, Madeleine, though York would have preferred her elder sister, Jeanne. The correspondence lasted the whole year; towards the close of it York was recalled to England, on the pretext, though his five years’ term had in fact expired, that his presence was wanted in a coming parliament. No parliament, however, assembled until 10 Feb. 1447, when he was present at the opening of parliament at Bury. On 25 May he attended the council at Westminster Palace at which Suffolk was exonerated from blame for the cession of Anjou and Maine. Meanwhile he received several grants from the crown. On 18 Oct. 1446 the castle and lordship of Hadleigh in Essex were conferred upon him (Patent Roll, 25 Hen. VI, pt. ii. m. 8); and on the 26th he had a life grant of the abbey and town of Waltham. On 25 Feb. 1447 he had a grant of the manor of Great Wratting in Suffolk, of which Duke Humphrey had died owner just two days before, on the ground that it was his own ancient inheritance (ib. m. 37). On 14 July he was appointed steward and justice itinerant of all the royal forests south of Trent.

On 29 Sept. 1447 he was ‘retained’ in the king’s service as his lieutenant in Ireland for ten years. His formal appointment, however, was only dated 9 Dec. (Patent, 26 Hen. VI, pt. ii. m. 3). Ireland was a convenient place of banishment. York delayed his departure for more than a year and a half. Before going he insisted, among other things, that during his tenure of office he should receive all the king’s revenues there without giving any account of them, and that he should further have out of England four thousand marks for the first year, of which 2,000l. should be paid in advance, and for the other nine years 2,000l. a year. At length he landed at Howth on 6 July 1449, and his arrival was hailed with enthusiasm. The chieftains came in ‘and gave him as many beeves for the use of his kitchen as it pleased him to demand’ (Annals of the Four Masters, iv. 965; cf. Cott. MS. Titus B. xi. 21). He afterwards made a successful expedition into O’Byrne’s country, compelling that chieftain to swear allegiance and promise to learn English.

On 16 Oct. he opened a parliament at Dublin at which some important acts were passed. On 24 April 1450 he held another at Drogheda, in which further useful measures were passed. On 15 June he wrote to his brother-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury, that MacGeoghegan, one of the Irish chiefs who had submitted, with three or four others and a number of English rebels, had again revolted and burned his town of Rathmore in Meath. He urged that the king’s payment should be hastened to enable him to quell these disturbances, otherwise he could not keep the land in subjection, and would be obliged to come over and live in England on his ‘poor livelihood.’ But the home government, troubled at that very time with Cade’s rebellion, was in no condition to send him money.

York was at Trim as late as 26 Aug. (Some Notices of the Castle, &c., of Trim, by R. Butler, dean of Clonmacnoise, p. 79, 3rd edit. 1854), but immediately afterwards crossed to Wales and landed at Beaumaris, in spite of orders to prevent his being even revictualled. He was denounced as a traitor responsible for recent disturbances, and gangs of men were set to waylay him in Cheshire and on the way to London. He gathered his retainers on the Welsh marches, and wrote to friends in England to meet him on the way. William Tresham [q. v.], speaker of the last parliament, who set out to join him in Northamptonshire, was waylaid and murdered, and Sir Thomas Hoo, who met with him in approaching St. Albans, was attacked by a body of western men. He, however, continued his progress, accompanied by four thousand armed men, till he came to the royal presence, and at the last ‘beat down the spears and walls’ in the king’s chamber before he could secure an audience. When he saw the king he simply petitioned for justice and impartial execution of the laws, complaining of the attempts made to seize him. Henry excused the measures taken against him, but acknowledged that he had acted like a true subject, and said that he would not have wished him opposed. He also agreed to appoint a new council, in which York should be included. The duke about the same time seized two members of the old council, Lord Dudley and the abbot of St. Peter’s, Gloucester, together with the keeper of the king’s bench, and sent them prisoners to his own castle of Ludlow (Stow, Chronicle, p. 392). Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset [q. v.], a brother of the incompetent general who had been associated with York in France, meanwhile had come over from that country, where he had held command since 1448 with disastrous results to English predominance. York, in view of a parliament which had been summoned to meet on 6 Nov., arranged with his wife’s nephew, the Duke of Norfolk, at Bury, on 16 Oct., who should be knights of the shire for Norfolk. In parliament, where the chief lords had armed men in attendance, disputes between York and Somerset ran high, and on 1 Dec. the latter was arrested. His house and those of other court favourites were robbed, but one of the rioters was beheaded in Cheapside, and York, riding through the city, proclaimed that summary justice would be done on any who committed like outrages. The day following the king himself rode from Westminster through London with York and other lords in great array.

Though the commons petitioned for Somerset’s removal, he was soon after Christmas made by the king captain of Calais, and exercised the highest influence. York meanwhile, on 14 Dec., received a commission to try Cade’s followers in Kent and Sussex. But the king himself, accompanied by Somerset, saw the final proceedings at Canterbury and Rochester in February, when a ‘harvest of heads,’ as the Kentish people called it, was sent up and placed on London Bridge. The treason imputed to the sufferers was ‘talking against the king, having more favour unto the Duke of York.’ They doubtless thought like Young, member for Bristol, who, in this session of parliament, was lodged in the Tower for proposing that, as the king and queen were childless, York should be declared heir to the crown.

In the summer of 1451 Somerset stood as high in the king’s favour as ever, and was continually poisoning his ear with tales that York was a traitor. York wrote to the king from Ludlow, on 9 Jan. 1452, a letter stating that he had called the bearers, the bishop of Hereford and his cousin the Earl of Shrewsbury, to hear a solemn declaration of his loyalty, which he was ready to confirm by oath in the presence of the king himself. On 3 Feb., however, he wrote to the town of Shrewsbury, desiring them to provide men when he should call for them, as it was clear that Somerset, who had already caused the loss both of Normandy and Guienne, and even imperilled the safety of Calais, was using his influence with the king to procure his ruin. ‘About Shrovetide’ he, with the Earl of Devonshire and Lord Cobham, sent a herald to London for permission to pass through the city, which was refused. They accordingly crossed the Thames by Kingston Bridge, and took up a position at Dartford on 1 March. They seem to have had with them a body of field artillery, and seven ships on the river were filled with their baggage, while a royal army, which had marched through London against them, encamped upon Blackheath. Bishop Waynflete and some others from the council were sent to know the duke’s demands. York protested he had no ill intentions against the king, but insisted that Somerset should be committed to custody till he should answer the accusations he was prepared to bring against him. To this the king consented, and York ordered the dismissal of his men, and repaired to the king’s tent unarmed. But there he found Somerset still about the king, so that he himself was virtually a prisoner.

The council, however, without preferring any distinct charge against him, were content to let him go on his making a solemn oath at St. Paul’s never to do anything henceforth against the king, or gather people except with the king’s license or for his own defence. On Good Friday, 7 April, the king proclaimed a general pardon to all who would apply for patents under the great seal, and York and some thousands of others took advantage of the privilege shortly afterwards. With the same peaceful object, doubtless, the king went a progress into the west in summer, and visited York at Ludlow on 12 Aug. On 18 Dec. following the duke, then at Fotheringhay, pledged some jewels to Sir John Fastolf for a sum of 437l., to be repaid at midsummer.

Apparently he was not called to council again till October next year. The parliament which met at Reading in the spring of 1453 passed an act to quash the indictments found ‘under the tyranny’ of Jack Cade’s rebellion, and attainted York’s friend, Sir William Oldhall, as a fomenter of those disturbances. But in the summer the king fell ill at Clarendon, and remained in an imbecile condition for a year and a half. On 13 Oct., after eight years of barrenness, the queen bore him a child. On the 24th it was felt necessary to summon a great council, and York’s friends insisted that he should not be left out. When it met, on 21 Nov., the duke complained that other old councillors of the king had been distinctly warned not to give attendance, and the lords present unanimously agreed that there should be no such warnings in future. This resolution was afterwards (6 Dec.), at the duke’s instance, attested under the great seal. A bill of articles by the Duke of Norfolk was presented against Somerset in the council, demanding that his conduct in France should be investigated according to the laws of France, and his conduct in England according to those of England, by special commissions. Shortly before Christmas he was sent to the Tower.

During the king’s illness and the prorogation of parliament, which did not meet again till 11 Feb. 1454, the queen demanded the whole government of the realm and the appointment of the chief officers of state. Her friends all over the country were preparing for a struggle. Among them was Thomas Thorpe [q. v.], speaker of the commons, who was one of the barons of the exchequer. Against him York, having a private complaint, obtained damages of 1,000l. for trespass, on which he was committed to the Fleet. On the reassembling of parliament at Reading, on 11 Feb. 1454, it was again adjourned to the 14th, to meet at Westminster, a commission being given to York on the 13th to hold it in the king’s name.

On 19 March the commons petitioned for the appointment of a governing council. On the 22nd Cardinal Kemp died, and the see of Canterbury and the chancellorship were both left vacant. On the 23rd twelve lords were deputed to wait on the king at Windsor, to see if any communication were possible on public affairs. They reported that the king understood nothing whatever. The lords then, on 27 March, elected the Duke of York protector and defender of the kingdom. The duke accepted the office under protest that he did so only as a matter of duty, requesting that they would notify his excuse to the king whenever he was restored to health. He also demanded that the terms on which he was to act should be distinctly specified, and his formal appointment was made by patent on 3 April. He appointed his brother-in-law, Richard, earl of Salisbury, lord chancellor. His enemies the Duke of Exeter and Lord Egremont soon after raised men in the north, and York had to go thither in May to suppress disturbances. He made a most satisfactory expedition, staying some time at York, and returned to London in the beginning of July. The Duke of Exeter meanwhile had come up incognito, and taken sanctuary at Westminster, from which he was removed by the council and committed to the custody of York, who again went northward with him, and placed him in Pomfret Castle. On 18 July York was appointed captain of Calais for seven years in place of Somerset. A question arose the same day in a great council whether the latter, who had not yet been tried, should be liberated on bail. York only insisted that the opinion of the judges should be taken; and the result was that Somerset was left in prison. On the 19th York was appointed keeper of the king’s mines in Devonshire and Cornwall for ten years from the preceding Easter (Patent Roll, 32 Hen. VI, m. 9). On 1 Dec., owing to the death of his deputy in Ireland, Sir Edward Fitzeustace, he obtained a confirmation of his own original appointment as lieutenant of Ireland for ten years (Patent, 33 Hen. VI, pt. i. m. 14).

Richard duke of York arguing with the duke of Somerset in front of King Henry VI
Richard of York and the duke of Somerset arguing in front of Henry VI

At Christmas the king recovered from his long illness, and after the new year (1455) he was capable of attending to business. On 9 Feb. apparently, York’s protectorship was revoked. On the 5th four of the council became bail for Somerset, who, on 4 March, at a council before the king at Greenwich at which York was present, complained of his long imprisonment; he offered, if any one would accuse him, to defend himself like a true knight. The king replied that he was assured of his loyalty, and his bail was discharged, he and York being both bound in recognisances of twenty thousand marks to abide the award of eight other councillors in the matters in dispute between them. Then on the 6th the government of Calais was taken from York and given to Somerset; on the 7th the great seal was taken from Salisbury and given to Archbishop Bourchier; on the 19th the Duke of Exeter was sent for from Pomfret Castle. Everything was to be reversed. A council was called at Westminster, to which York and his friends were not invited; and another was summoned to meet at Leicester, professedly for the surety of the king’s person.

York, who was in the north, joined the Earl of Salisbury and his son the Earl of Warwick, afterwards the famous ‘king-maker’ [see Neville, Richard, Earl of Salisbury, 1400–1460, and Neville, Richard, Earl of Warwick, 1428–1471]. Together the three lords came with a considerable following to Royston. Thence, on 20 May, they despatched an urgent letter to Archbishop Bourchier, declaring that they were as ready as any to defend the king’s person if necessary; but hearing that their personal enemies aspersed their loyalty, they wished him to remove suspicions in the king’s mind, and also to fulminate ecclesiastical censures at Paul’s Cross against all who should attempt anything against the king’s welfare. Next day they wrote from Ware to the king himself, with strong protestations of loyalty and complaints of being shut out from his presence. The archbishop, on receipt of the letter addressed to himself, sent it by a special messenger, who overtook the king at Kilburn on his way to Leicester. It was read by Somerset, but he did not deliver it to Henry. The second letter also, though addressed to the king himself and received for him by the Earl of Devonshire, was in like manner withheld from his knowledge. The result was that when the king came to St. Albans on the 22nd there was an appearance of a hostile army outside the town. A conflict, however, was deferred for nearly three hours, during which York and his friends not only strove to represent to the king the perfect loyalty of their intentions, but also insisted that certain persons, whom they would accuse of treason, should be delivered into their hands, as past experience unfortunately did not allow them to trust mere promises, even confirmed by oaths. The king in reply threatened the death of traitors to all who opposed him, and said he would give up no man; on which York told his friends that they were threatened with destruction whatever course they took, and had better fight it out. A short engagement followed; but while Lord Clifford fought obstinately to keep the Duke of York out of the town, young Warwick broke in by a side attack, and the king’s forces were defeated. Somerset, Clifford, and the Earl of Northumberland were among the slain, and the king himself was wounded. After the battle, York and the two earls, Warwick and Salisbury, knelt humbly before the king to ask forgiveness, assuring him that it had been quite against their will to do him injury. The king ‘took them to grace.’

York brought the king up to London next day, and lodged him in the bishop’s palace. The duke was made constable of England, and Warwick captain of Calais. Parliament was called to meet on 9 July, and the Yorkists certainly did their utmost to influence the elections. When it met there was much angry dispute about the responsibility for the conflict, but York and his friends were exonerated. They, however, went about continually in armour, and their barges were full of weapons. In October following the king, who had certainly been ill since the battle but had opened parliament in person, relapsed into his old infirmity. The parliament then stood prorogued till 12 Nov., and on the 11th York again obtained a commission to hold it in the king’s name. On the 17th, after repeated appeals from the House of Commons that they would name a protector, the lords again chose York for the office. But he now undertook the protectorate on more specific conditions. He was to have a paid council to assist him; his salary and travelling expenses for the period when he was protector before were to be made over to him (he had not received a shilling yet), and the salary was to be increased from two to three thousand marks. Moreover his tenure of the office was not again to terminate merely at the king’s pleasure, but only with the consent of the lords in parliament. The appointment dated from the 19th; but it was not till 9 March next year that an assignment was made to him on the customs of Ipswich and Boston for his overdue salary and expenses (Patent Roll, 34 Henry VI, m. 19).

Parliament was prorogued on 13 Dec. to enable the protector to quell disturbances at Exeter between the Earl of Devon and Lord Bonville. It met again on 14 Jan. 1456, and next month the king was in better health. York and Warwick, fearing a change, came to Westminster with strong retinues. On 25 Feb. York was discharged of his protectorship by the king in parliament; but Henry was willing to retain him as chief councillor, and, though the queen was strongly opposed to him, he still knew how to make his influence felt. On 12 May he obtained a twenty years’ lease from the crown of all the gold and silver mines in Devonshire and Cornwall at a rent of 110l. (ib. m. 8). After a visit to his castle of Sandal in Yorkshire, he wrote from Windsor, on 26 July, a fiery answer in the king’s name to James II of Scotland, who had sent Henry a message that he would no longer abide by the truce. He again turned northwards to chastise James’s insolence, and, writing from Durham on 24 Aug., reproached him for making raids unworthy of a king or a ‘courageous knight.’ At a later date, when the court desired better relations with Scotland, this letter which he had written in Henry’s name was disavowed. But it was authorised by the council at the time (see Bain, Calendar IV, No. 1277, Register House Series).

In August the queen removed her husband from the unfriendly atmosphere of London into the midlands, where the court remained for about a twelvemonth. A council was convoked at Coventry on 7 Oct., to which York and his friends were summoned. The chancellor and treasurer were changed. But the Duke of Buckingham, as spokesman of the council, merely censured York’s past conduct, and urged the king to take him into favour. This Henry was willing to do, but Margaret was still hostile. York and his two friends were warned that their safety could not be guaranteed in a place like Coventry. The duke accordingly withdrew to Wigmore, Salisbury to Middleham, and Warwick to Calais.

Early next year (1457) York was summoned to a great council at Coventry on 14 Feb., and there seems little doubt that he attended. According to one chronicle, a peace was made at Coventry in Lent between the Yorkist lords and young Henry, duke of Somerset, the son of the duke slain at St. Albans. As the chronicle in question is rather confused in its chronology, the writer may have been thinking (as Sir James Ramsay supposes) of what took place next year in London. But there is nothing against the supposition that the king endeavoured, even at this time, to remove the newly excited suspicions of the Yorkists, and to effect a reconciliation between them and Somerset. Moreover, we should naturally suppose York to have been at Coventry on 6 March, when his appointment as lord-lieutenant of Ireland was renewed for another ten years by a patent of that date, though his indenture to serve was formally dated at Westminster on 7 April following. That he could still negotiate with the court is further evident from the fact that he at this time resigned in favour of the king’s half-brother, Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke [q. v.], the offices of constable of Caernarvon, Aberystwith, and Caerkeny Castles, which had been granted to him (practically by himself) on 2 June 1455, just eleven days after the battle of St. Albans (Patent, 33 Henry VI, pt. ii. m. 8), and received in compensation an annuity of 40l. He probably attended another council at Westminster in October following (Pecock, Repressor, Rolls Ser. Introd. p. xxxvi). This council was adjourned to 27 Jan., with an intimation that no excuse would then be allowed for non-attendance.

The king took care to be at Westminster by the time appointed. York also arrived on 26 Jan., ‘with his own household only, to the number of one hundred and forty horse.’ His friend Salisbury had arrived before him, on the 15th, with four hundred horses and eighty knights and squires in his company, and Somerset arrived on the 31st with two hundred horses. Warwick, detained for some time at Calais by contrary winds, arrived on 14 Feb. with six hundred men in livery. York went to his city mansion of Baynard’s Castle, and Salisbury and Warwick to their city houses; but the city would not admit the Lancastrians, who they feared meant to disturb the peace, and Somerset and his friends lodged outside the walls, between Temple Bar and Westminster. A strong body of trained bands rode about the city daily, and a strong watch was kept at night. Conferences were held every morning at the Blackfriars, and every afternoon at the Whitefriars, in Fleet Street; and terms of peace and friendship were at last agreed to. The king pronounced the final award on 24 March. York and the two earls were required to endow the abbey of St. Albans with 45l. a year, to be spent on masses for the soul of Somerset and the other lords slain on the king’s side at St. Albans, and to make some pecuniary compensation besides to their sons and widows. The agreement was accepted by both parties, and the day following there was a great procession to St. Paul’s, in which the king walked crowned, followed by the queen and the Duke of York, the other rival lords leading the way hand in hand.

So long as this hollow peace endured York must naturally have been predominant in the king’s counsels. Even before it was made they had not been able to do without him, and so late as 17 Dec. preceding his name had been placed at the head of three of the commissions issued in different counties for the levying of the thirteen thousand archers granted by the Reading parliament (Patent, 36, Hen. VI, pt. i. membs. 7 and 5 in dorso). The only person of greater influence than himself was the queen, for support against whom it seems that even in May following the grand reconciliation he made overtures to Charles VII of France. These Charles declined to entertain; but in June there arrived at Calais an embassy from the Duke of Burgundy, which probably laid the foundations of some rather mysterious negotiations between England, France, and Burgundy, which went on till January following. In these it was proposed at first to marry King Henry’s son to the Duke of Burgundy’s granddaughter, York’s son to a daughter of the House of Bourbon, and Somerset’s son to a daughter of the Duke of Gueldres; but they led ultimately to no result.

Later in the year the old feuds were revived. On 26 Aug. summonses were sent out for a council to be held at Westminster on 21 Oct., and both York and Warwick received notice to attend. York’s loyalty was still so fully recognised that a commission of array for Essex was directed to him and others on 5 Sept. (Patent, 37 Hen. VI, pt. i. m. 16 d). But on 9 Nov. an attempt was made to murder Warwick as he left the council-chamber, and he with difficulty escaped to his barge on the river.

The queen now kept ‘open household’ in Cheshire, and made her little son give ‘a livery of swans’ to all the gentry. It was said she designed to get her husband to resign the crown in the lad’s favour. The king called for armed levies to be with him at Leicester on 10 May 1459. No overt act was imputed to the Yorkists, but they believed that as Warwick was at Calais the queen intended to attack his father, the Earl of Salisbury, and Salisbury thought it best to seek the king’s presence to clear himself. On his way he overthrew at Bloreheath (23 Sept.) a force under Lord Audley that sought to stop him, and thereupon joined the Duke of York at Ludlow. Thither the Earl of Warwick came from Calais, and the three lords wrote a joint letter to the king on 10 Oct., full of solemn protestations of their loyalty and desire to avoid bloodshed, declaring that they had only been driven to take up arms in self-defence. But the king came up with a much larger army, in a more martial mood than usual, and he replied simply by an offer of pardon to all who would lay down their arms within six days, excepting only a few persons who were proclaimed after the death of Lord Audley at Bloreheath. On the 12th the Yorkists were deserted by Andrew Trollope and a number of the best soldiers of Calais. Seeing that it was hopeless to fight next day, York, with his second son, the Earl of Rutland, withdrew into Wales, breaking down the bridges behind them, while his eldest son, the Earl of March, with Salisbury and Warwick, made their way into Devonshire, where they found shipping for Guernsey, and afterwards for Calais. York left his duchess and younger children at Ludlow in the power of the royalists. The lady of course submitted to the king, who placed her and her children in charge of her brother-in-law and sister, the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham, by whom ‘she was kept full strait’ for nine months after, with ‘many a great rebuke.’ But the king on 20 Dec. following granted her a considerable portion of her husband’s lands for her life (Pat. Roll, 38 Hen. VI, pt. ii. m. 9).

The Duke’s town of Ludlow was sacked by the royal forces. A parliament was hastily and irregularly summoned to Coventry on 20 Nov. A long bill of attainder was passed against York, March, Salisbury, Warwick, and their adherents. But the Yorkists were by no means crushed. York crossed from Wales about the end of the year to Ireland, where he was all powerful. Even in Wales, moreover, after he had left the country, Denbigh Castle held out for him till March against Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke. In Ireland, though attainted by the Coventry parliament, he held a parliament at Drogheda on 7 Feb. 1460, in which his office of lord-lieutenant was confirmed, and it was made high treason to attempt anything against his life (Liber Hiberniæ, vi. 3). The authority of English writs to arrest traitors in Ireland was disallowed.

About the end of February Warwick arrived from Calais to take counsel with the duke about future action, and the two sailed together with twenty-six ships to Waterford, where they landed on 16 March (Carew, Cal. Miscell. p. 471). After arranging a plan of action, Warwick returned to Calais, while York remained in Ireland until after his allies, the Earls March, Warwick, and Salisbury, won the battle of Northampton (10 July 1460). His name was at the head of the manifesto put forth by the earls on setting out, and after the king was brought to London the earls procured commissions for him ‘to sit in divers towns coming homeward,’ among others in Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Leicester, and Coventry, and punish law-breakers. The Duchess of York, released after the battle from her sister’s custody, occupied the town house of the recently deceased Sir John Fastolf in Southwark until her husband’s arrival. The parliament summoned by the earls in the king’s name met at Westminster on 7 Oct., and on the 10th the duke arrived with a body of five hundred armed men. He had landed near Chester about the Nativity of Our Lady (8 Sept.), and had gone on to Ludlow, and reached London through Abingdon, where he ‘sent for trumpeters and clarioners to bring him to London, and there he gave them banners with the whole arms of England, and commanded his sword to be borne upright before him.’ On reaching the king’s palace at Westminster he entered, with his armed men behind him, and with great blowing of trumpets. Passing on into the great hall where parliament was assembled, he advanced to the throne, and laid his hand upon the cushion as if about to take possession. Archbishop Bourchier went up to him, and asked if he desired to see the king. He replied that he knew of no one in the kingdom who ought not rather to wait on him. Then passing on to the king’s apartments, he broke open doors and locks, the king having retreated into the queen’s chambers, and settled himself in Westminster Palace for some days.

He had thus at last shown that he claimed the crown as his own by right. On the 16th he laid before the lords the particulars of his hereditary title, showing how the Mortimer family had been unjustly set aside by Henry IV. On the 17th he requested that they would give him their opinion on the subject. The lords went in a body to the king, who desired them to consider what could be objected to the duke’s claim. On the 18th they sought the advice of the judges, who, with the crown lawyers, declined to give any. The lords drew up a set of objections, to which the duke replied. They then admitted that his title ‘could not be defeated,’ but were unwilling to dethrone a king to whom they had all sworn allegiance, and on Saturday, 25 Oct., the lord chancellor proposed a compromise, which the lords agreed he should press upon the king himself, viz. that Henry should retain the crown for life, the duke being assured of the succession to himself and his heirs immediately after. Henry had no mind to resist, and the settlement was solemnly ratified in parliament on the 31st. The attainders of the Coventry parliament were reversed, and an assignment was made to the duke during the king’s lifetime of the principality of Wales with lands to the value of ten thousand marks (6,666l. 13s. 4d.), of which one half the revenues were to go to himself, three thousand six hundred marks to his eldest son, the Earl of March, and one thousand marks to his second son, Edmund, earl of Rutland. The duke then withdrew from Westminster Palace to his own mansion in the city.

That evening the king and duke and a large number of the lords heard evensong at St. Paul’s, and there was a procession next day in the city, the king occupying the bishop of London’s palace, whither he had been removed from Westminster against his will. On the following Saturday (Fabyan dates it 9 Nov., but the 9th was Sunday) the duke was proclaimed heir-apparent and protector; parliament, it is said, had reappointed him to his old office, though the fact does not appear in the records. Parliament also, according to one writer, had ordained that he should be called Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester, but this is not recorded either. Margaret, however, who had withdrawn into Wales for security, had been sending messages abroad to her own adherents for a general meeting in the north. Lord Neville, brother to the Earl of Westmorland, obtained a commission from the Duke of York to chastise the rebels. He raised men but carried them over to the enemy, and, in conjunction with the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Clifford, oppressed the tenants of the Duke of York and Lord Salisbury in Yorkshire; while the young Duke of Somerset from Corfe Castle, with the Earl of Devonshire, passed through Bath, Evesham, and Coventry to York. The Duke of York, with the Earl of Salisbury, left London on the 2nd, or, as another writer more probably says, on 9 Dec., to put down this rebellion. They were attacked on reaching Worksop by a body of the Duke of Somerset’s men, and sustained great losses, but they succeeded in reaching York’s castle of Sandal, near Wakefield, on the 21st, and kept Christmas day there; while the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Northumberland occupied Pontefract with much larger forces. A truce was taken till Thursday after Epiphany (8 Jan.). But the enemy resolved to cut off York’s supplies and besiege him in his castle. On 30 Dec. they had nearly closed him in, but he had sent for his son Edward, earl of March, then at Shrewsbury, and was strongly counselled not to risk anything by prematurely meeting his enemy in the field. This advice he scorned, saying he had never kept castle in France even when the Dauphin came to besiege him, and he would not be caged like a bird. He led his men in good order down the hill on which the castle stands, and, turning at the base to meet the enemy, found himself surrounded. He fell fighting. The engagement was known as the battle of Wakefield. The spot where York was killed is still pointed out. His vindictive enemies cut off his head, crowned it with a paper crown, and stuck it on the walls of York, where that of Salisbury, who was taken alive in the battle, kept it company.

By his wife Cicely, sister of Richard, earl of Salisbury, York had four sons and three daughters. Of the sons, two, Edward, the eldest, and Richard, the youngest, became kings of England as Edward IV and Richard III. The second son, Edmund, earl of Rutland, was killed with his father in 1460 at the battle of Wakefield; and the third son, George, duke of Clarence, was put to death in 1478 [see Plantagenet, George]. Of the daughters, Anne, the eldest, married Henry Holland, duke of Exeter; Elizabeth, the second, married John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk [q. v.]; and Margaret, the youngest, married Charles the Bold of Burgundy. The Duchess of York died on 31 May 1495.

[A short biography of Richard, Duke of York, will be found in Sandford’s Genealogical History; but, though based on authentic documents, it is very imperfect. Much further information as to his public career will be found in modern histories, especially Sir James Ramsay’s Lancaster and York; Beaucourt’s Histoire de Charles VII; Gilbert’s History of the Viceroys of Ireland; Leland’s History of Ireland. Of earlier authorities the Chronicles of Hall and Fabyan contain the substance of what is generally known about him, and Campion’s Historie of Ireland has some slight notices. But the details of his life are mainly drawn from contemporary sources, of which the chief (besides unedited records) are the Paston Letters; Historiæ Croylandensis Continuatio in vol. i. of Fulman’s Scriptores; Stevenson’s Wars of the English in France, Riley’s Registrum Johannis Whethamstede, Wavrin’s Chron. (the last three in the Rolls Ser.); W. Wyrcester’s Annales, ed. Hearne; Rotuli Parliamentorum; Nicolas’s Privy Council Proceedings (Record Commission); Chronicle of London; Incerti Scriptoris Chronicon, ed. J. A. Giles; An English Chronicle, ed. Davies, Collections of a London Citizen, and Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, ed. Gairdner (these three last Camden Soc.); Chronique de Mathieu d’Escouchy, Basin’s Hist. des Règnes de Charles VII et de Louis XI, Wavrin’s Anchiennes Croniques, ed. Dupont (these three published by the Soc. de l’Histoire de France); Jean Chartier’s Chronique de Charles VII.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 48
Richard (1411-1460) by James Gairdner

Image Credits

James William Edmund Doyle – Doyle, James William Edmund (1864) “Henry VI” in A Chronicle of England: B.C. 55 – A.D. 1485, London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green. Via Wikimedia. Public Domain stated.

Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York.  Unknown Artist- Medieval manuscript. Via Wikimedia. Public Domain stated.