Richmond, North Yorkshire

Richmond in North Yorkshire was an ‘honour’ that incorporated Richmond Castle. The Castle’s origins are not entirely clear but it is widely thought that construction was begun by Count Alan Rufus of Penthièvre c1070. By the 15th century the castle was not in the best state of repair, having been attacked several times in the 14th century. Richmond and the administrative area, however, remained very significant in relation to defence of the northern marches and its location was important with regards the feuds that happened between the powerful Percy and Neville families in the years leading up to the Wars of the Roses. Richmond, and its castle, are perhaps unusual in that the honour and castle have close links to the Lancastrian crown and to the Neville family, showing that even in times of crisis and ‘loyal opposition’ there remained patronage from the King to subjects who were embroiled in violent disputes.

Richmond’s Royal and Neville Links

When Henry Bolingbroke seized power in 1399 he granted the honour and castle of Richmond to Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland. The Earl held the lands until 1414 when King Henry V reversed the grant and gave Richmond to his brother, John Duke of Bedford: though the Earl of Westmorland remained in physical possession of the castle until his death in 1425. At that point the Duke of Bedford took control of the Honour of Richmond which he held until his death in 1435, when the heirless Duke’s holding of Richmond reverted to the Crown. King Henry VI then granted two parts of the Honour of Richmond and the castle to Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. The remaining third was held by Jaquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford. It is worthy of note that at the time of this grant to the the Earl of Salisbury, there was no dissention from his branch of the Neville family, and it predates the violence of the Percy-Neville feud. King Henry VI amended the grant of Richmond in 1452. The King wanted to provide for his half-brother, Edmund of Hadham, and chose to award him with the Earldom, Honour, and Castle of Richmond. Edmund, better known as Edmund Tudor, died in 1456 and the Earldom and Honour of Richmond passed to his infant son, Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII.

By G. T. Clark – Clark, G. T. (1886), “Richmond Castle”, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 9: p.39, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

The Neville Link Explored

Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, had been awarded two thirds of the Honour and Castle of Richmond in 1435. He held it until the King utilised the lands to proide for his half-brother, Edmund Tudor. This means that the Neville’s of Middleham held two thirds of Richmondshire, from the crown, whilst embroiled in the Percy-Neville feud. It also means that the Neville’s retained the landholding for a perod of time after they altered their political allegiances to ally with Richard 3rd Duke of York  in factional opposition to those in the affinity of Queen Margaret and the Duke of Somerset. The remainder of the honour had remained held in Dower by the Duchess of Bedford until the reallocation of the honour to Edmund Tudor. This illustrates that allegiances did not neccessarily result in an immediate change of land grants: some forms of political opposition were tolerated.

The regranting of lands and rights did not mean the end of Neville interests within the Honour of Richmond.  As with most areas, there were properties and assets within the Honour that were not owned by the noble to whom the estates were assigned. This meant that the Neville family retained an economic interest in the Richmond area long after the lands were reverted then granted to Edmund Tudor. For example, Richard Earl of Warwick owned mills within the Honour of Richmond, which were not redistributed (to Richard Duke of Gloucester) until 1475, some four years after the Kingmaker had perished in the Battle of Barnet.

Richmond following the accession of Edward IV

At the time of the Battle of Towton and the subsequent coronation of Edward IV as King the honour and Castle of Richmond was held by Henry Tudor, then a young child. Clearly Henry Tudor had played no role in the battles between the Lancastrian and Yorkist armies to this date, so was not attained, nor viewed as a major threat to the Yorkist regime. He was, however, a figure of note within the Lancastrian affinity. His family background were enough to make his holding of an Earldom, so close to the Lancastrian enclave holding out on the Northumbrian coast, rather unpalatable for the new King. And the new king had his own family and supporters to reward for their role in securing the crown for the House of York. And so in 1462, the grant was reversed. Not once, but twice. King Edward initially granted the Honour and Castle of Richmond to his youngest brother, Richard. He then amended the grants to his closest kin and one month later granted the exact same to George, Duke of Clarence, who took possession of the two thirds holding granted: the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, despite being a Lancastrian herself, retained the third that was allocated as part of her dower.

Readeption and the Return of Edward IV

The political changes of 1470/71 resulted in many land grants being reversed during the readeption, then returned to the pre 1470 state of affairs following Edward IV’s victories in 1471. Richmond was little different. Whilst George Duke of Clarence was part of the Readeption court, his brother needed to reaffirm the landholding in 1472 following George’s return to the Yorkist fold and participation on his brothers side in the campaigns of 1471. However, the Duke of Clarence’s holding was now granted for his lifetime only, it would not automatically pass to his heirs as had previously been the case.

Richmond and the Duke of Clarence

George Duke of Clarence took possession of the entire honour of Richmond in 1472, as the renewal of grants enabled him to take control of the nw deceased Duchess of Bedford’s third of the honour and castle. As England prepared to invade France in 1475 the Duke of Clarence was permitted, as was typical of nobles about to serve in an overseas campaign, to make a settlement on his holding of the honour of Richmond. This would take effect in the event of his death on campaign and provided some funding for him in lieu of his military contribution to the invasion force. The invasion of France resulted in no battles, as the French were willing to negotiate terms that led to the Treaty of Picquiny. The Duke’s fall from grace and execution led to the next change in the holding of Richmondshire and the Castle.

Richard Duke of Gloucester / King Richard III

Following the execution of the Duke of Clarence the Earldom, Honour, and Castle of Richmondshire were once again available for the crown to distribute as it saw fit. The matter was addressed quite quickly. Edward IV chose to grant Richmondshire and its liberties to his brother, Richard, then Duke of Gloucester. This consolidated the Duke’s power base in the north, adding the wealthy honour to his already large landholdings across Yorkshire and the North East. In doing so, King Edward IV made Richard’s overlordship of the North more secure and as Richard had proven his loyalty to Edward IV on numerous occasions, it was a decision that would act to limit the likelihood of northern uprisings and revolts. Holding Richmondshire would not only ensure that lands once associated with the Lancastrians and Neville families were firmly within Yorkist control, but also added to the Duke’s ability to maintain security on the Anglo-Scottish border.

Richmondshire and the Tudor Victory

As King, Richard noted the claim that Henry Tudor had to the Honour of Richmond. The attainder notes of Henry that he was ‘calling himself Earl of Richmond’.  As Richard III died in the battle of Bosworth at the hands of the army of Henry Tudor, not only did his crown pass to the new king but so too did the Honour of Richmond to which both men had a claim and had, in name if nothing more, held for several periods [Henry Tudor’s inheritance being recognised by Henry VI and therefore, presumably though I am yet to find a document stating it, also during the Readeption. Richard had as noted earlier been granted the Honour albeit briefly at the beginning of Edward IV’s reign followed by his actual holding of the area from 1478 to his death in 1485].

Under King Henry VII Richmond, the Earldom, the Honour, and the Castle, reverted to the Crown. It was held as a Crown property until King Henry VIII awarded it to his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. This grant was later amended through exchanges of estates and rights which saw the Honour return to the full control of the Crown, which has retained the Honour of Richmond ever since.

Links: The Honour of Richmond and Richmond Castle in the Wars of the Roses

British History Online. ‘The honour and castle of Richmond’, in A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1, (London, 1914) pp. 1-16.

Historic England – official listing of Richmond Castle.

English Heritage – history of Richmond Castle.

Wessex Archaeology – an overview of Archaeological surveys undertaken at Richmond Castle. Not specific to the Wars of the Roses but of interest in relation to the history of the Castle.

Featured Image Details

A view of Richmond Castle from the South. The image is an edited and cropped version of an image on Wikimedia. Original photograph by By Phil Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0 [Link]

Leave a Reply