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Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York (September 21, 1411 – December 30, 1460), also named Richard Plantagenet, was a leading English magnate and claimant to the throne during the Wars of the Roses. He was a member of the ruling House of Plantagenet by virtue of being a direct male-line descendant of Edmund of Langley, King Edward III’s fourth surviving son.

Richard of York was born on September 22, 1411, the son of Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge (1385–1415), and his wife Anne Mortimer (1388–1411). Both his parents were descended from King Edward III of England (1312–1377): his father was son of Edmund, 1st Duke of York (founder of the House of York), fourth surviving son of Edward III, whereas his mother Anne Mortimer was a great-granddaughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward’s second son.

After the death in 1425 of Anne’s childless brother Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, this ancestry supplied her son Richard, of the House of York, with a claim to the English throne that was arguably superior to that of the reigning House of Lancaster, descended from John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III.

Richard, 3rd Duke of York also inherited vast estates and served in various offices of state in Ireland, France and England, a country he ultimately governed as Lord Protector during the mental illness of King Henry VI.

Richard’s mother, Anne Mortimer, died during or shortly after his birth, and his father Richard, the Earl of Cambridge was beheaded in 1415 for his part in the Southampton Plot against the Lancastrian King Henry V.

Within a few months of his father’s death, Richard’s childless uncle, Edward, 2nd Duke of York, was slain at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, and so Richard inherited Edward’s title and lands, becoming 3rd duke of York. The lesser title but greater estates of the Mortimer family, along with their claim to the throne, also descended to him on the death of his maternal uncle Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, in 1425.

Once Richard, 3rd Duke of York inherited the vast Mortimer estates, he also became the wealthiest and most powerful noble in England, second only to the King Henry VI himself. An account shows that York’s net income from Welsh and marcher lands alone was £3,430 (about £350,000 today) in the year 1443–44.

In 1450, the defeats and failures of the English royal government of the previous ten years boiled over into serious political unrest. In January Adam Moleyns, Lord Privy Seal and Bishop of Chichester, was lynched. In May the chief councillor of the king, William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, was murdered on his way into exile. The House of Commons demanded that the king take back many of the grants of land and money he had made to his favourites.

In June, Kent and Sussex rose in revolt. Led by Jack Cade (taking the name Mortimer), they took control of London and killed James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye and Sele, the Lord High Treasurer of England. In August, the final towns held in Normandy fell to the French and refugees flooded back to England.

On September 7, Richard, 3rd Duke of York landed at Beaumaris, Anglesey. Evading an attempt by King Henry VI to intercept him, and gathering followers as he went, the Duke of York arrived in London on September 27. After an inconclusive (and possibly violent) meeting with the king, York continued to recruit, both in East Anglia and the west. The violence in London was such that Somerset, back in England after the collapse of English Normandy, was put in the Tower of London for his own safety.

York’s public stance was that of a reformer, demanding better government and the prosecution of the “traitors” who had lost northern France. Judging by his later actions, there may also have been a more hidden motive—the destruction of Somerset, who was soon released from the Tower. York’s men made several attacks on the properties and servants of the Duke of Somerset, who was to be the focus of attack in Parliament.