Tuesday 21 June 2011

Richard, Duke of York (1411-1460)

            My apologies for such lax posting, but I figured everyone was getting more than their fair share of dick news thanks to the Anthony Weiner scandal. We wouldn’t want to overload the internet, now would we?
            As a follow-up to my last post on Richard, earl of Cambridge, and as part of a multiple-month build-up to the birthday of Richard III (which is a holiday of epic proportions in my world), I present the brief facts of life on Richard, duke of York.
            Richard, duke of York was the only son of Richard, earl of Cambridge, and his wife Anne Mortimer. The younger Richard, thanks to his parents, had a double claim to the English throne. His mother was a descendant of the second son of Edward III, while his father was a descendant of the fourth son of Edward III. It was Richard’s maternal heritage that provided the basis for his later claim to the crown.
            Although Richard’s father was executed for treason, his uncle Edward died without children, allowing Richard to inherit the title. Several years later, Richard also inherited estates from his maternal uncle, making him extremely wealthy. In 1429 he married Cecily Neville, the youngest of her parents’ twenty-three children. With Cecily, Richard had twelve children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Of his four surviving sons, two became kings of England: Edward IV and Richard III.
            Throughout the 1430s and 1440s, Richard held a bunch of government posts, being stationed in France and Ireland. While all these activities were no doubt fascinating, I’m really not that interested in them so I assume you all aren’t either. Things really get exciting in the 1450s, when King Henry VI went insane and Richard served as Protector of the Realm. Henry recovered, Richard retreated, then Henry became ill again, and Richard came to the forefront of politics again. Fighting had occurred in between Richard’s bouts as Protector, but shit was about to get real. Richard claimed the throne, arguing he had a better claim to the throne than the current king, Henry VI. An agreement was reached which would allow Richard to succeed Henry (bypassing Henry’s young son), but this agreement was not satisfactory to Henry’s wife and her supporters. Civil war ensued, and Richard was killed in December 1460. His claim to the throne then passed to his son, who became King Edward IV in 1461.
            After Richard was killed at the battle of Wakefield, Queen Margaret of Anjou had his head cut off, put on a spike, and placed above Mickelgate bar in York. To add insult to injury, a paper crown, mocking Richard’s pretensions, was added to the decapitated head.
            Although he never became king, Richard, duke of York jump started the Yorkist cause that put two of his sons on the throne. Without Richard of York, there would not have been a Richard III, and that would have been tragic.