Friday 27 May 2011

Richard, Earl of Cambridge (1385-1415)

            In extremely-belated honor of the royal wedding, I present a brief history of Richard, Earl of Cambridge, a Dick who held the honor of Cambridge many years before Prince William did.
            Richard was the younger son of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York. This meant Richard was a grandson of Edward III and a member of the royal family. His godfather was his cousin King Richard II, who provided Richard with an annuity when his own father and brother failed to.
            In 1408 he married Anne Mortimer, sister to Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March. Anne died in 1411 after giving birth to a son, Richard (later to be the duke of York). Richard, the father, remarried, but his second marriage was to prove fairly short lived.
            It was not until 1414 that Richard was actually granted the title Earl of Cambridge by King Henry V. While this title acknowledged his place in the royal family, it did not come with any lands or money. With any empty title, Richard was probably easily won over to a treasonous plot.
            The 1415 Southampton Plot planned to overthrow Henry V and replace him with Edmund Mortimer, Richard’s former brother-in-law. The plot was discovered, Richard confessed his guilt, and begged Henry V to spare him. The king did not, and Richard was beheaded in August 1415. Since the earl had not been attained, his son was allowed to inherit. Later in 1415, Richard of Cambridge’s elder brother died childless at Agincourt, which made Cambridge’s four-year-old son, Richard, Duke of York.
            Richard, Earl of Cambridge was not a particularly important magnate. He was executed at age 30, barely making a mark on public life. His main contribution was his marriage to Anne Mortimer and his siring of Richard, Duke of York. In Richard of York, the blood of the second and fourth sons of Edward III was joined, giving him a powerful claim to the throne. In time, Richard of York would use this claim to attempt to take the throne from Henry VI (descended from the third son of Edward III) and thereby start the Wars of the Roses.
            So here’s hoping Prince William proves less worthless than this earlier magnate of Cambridge!

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