Richard (January 5, 1209 – April 2, 1272) was an English prince who was King of the Romans from 1257 until his death in 1272. He was the second son of John, King of England, and Isabella, Countess of Angoulême. Richard was nominal Count of Poitou from 1225 to 1243, and he also held the title Earl of Cornwall from 1225.
Richard was one of the wealthiest men in Europe and joined the Barons’ Crusade, where he achieved success as a negotiator for the release of prisoners and assisted with the building of the citadel in Ascalon.
He was born January 5, 1209 at Winchester Castle, the second son of John, King of England, and Isabella, Countess of Angoulême. He was made High Sheriff of Berkshire at age eight, was styled Count of Poitou from 1225 and in the same year, at the age of sixteen, his brother King Henry III gave him Cornwall as a birthday present, making him High Sheriff of Cornwall.
Richard’s revenues from Cornwall helped make him one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Though he campaigned on King Henry’s behalf in Poitou and Brittany, and served as regent three times, relations were often strained between the brothers in the early years of Henry’s reign. Richard rebelled against him three times and had to be bought off with lavish gifts.
After the death of Emperor Friedrich II in 1250, the German kingdom was divided between his son Conrad IV (died 1254) and the anti-king, Willem of Holland (died 1256). Conrad’s death was followed by the Interregnum, during which no king could achieve universal recognition, allowing the princes to consolidate their holdings and become even more independent as rulers.
Pope Innocent IV offered Richard the crown of Sicily, but according to Matthew Paris, he responded to the extortionate price by saying, “You might as well say, ‘I make you a present of the moon—step up to the sky and take it down.'” Instead, his brother King Henry III attempted to purchase the kingdom for his own son Edmund.
Elected King of Germany, 1256
Richard was elected in 1256 as King of Germany by four of the seven German Electoral Princes:
Conrad von Hochstaden, the Archbishop of Cologne;
Gerhard I von Dhaun [de], Archbishop of Mainz;
Ludwig II, the Count Palatine;
Ottokar II, King of Bohemia.
His candidacy was opposed by Alfonso X of Castile, who was supported by three electors:
Albrecht I, Duke of Saxony;
Johann I, Margrave of Brandenburg;
Arnold II of Isenburg, Archbishop of Trier.
Pope Alexander IV and King Louis IX of France favoured Alfonso, but both were ultimately convinced by the powerful relatives of Richard’s sister-in-law, Eleanor of Provence, to support Richard. Ottokar II of Bohemia, who at first voted for Richard but later elected Alfonso, eventually agreed to support the Earl of Cornwall, thus establishing the required simple majority.
So Richard had to bribe only four of them, but this came at a huge cost of 28,000 marks. On May 27, 1257, Conrad von Hochstaden, Archbishop of Cologne, himself crowned Richard King of the Romans in Aachen; however, like his lordships in Gascony and Poitou, his title never held much significance, and he made only four brief visits to Germany between 1257 and 1269.
Later life, death and successors
Richard joined his brother King Henry III in fighting against Simon de Montfort’s rebels in the Second Barons’ War (1264–1267). After the shattering royalist defeat at the Battle of Lewes, Richard took refuge in a windmill, was discovered, and was imprisoned until September 1265.
Richard bought the feudal barony of Trematon in 1270.
In December 1271, he had a stroke. His right side was paralysed and he lost the ability to speak. On April 2, 1272, Richard died at Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire.
Richard was buried next to his second wife Sanchia of Provence and Henry of Almain, his son by his first wife, at Hailes Abbey, which he had founded.
After his death, a power struggle ensued in Germany, which only ended in 1273 with the emergence of a new Roman King, Rudolph I of Habsburg, the first scion of a long-lasting noble family to rule the empire and to hold a royal title, but he was never crowned emperor. After Rudolf’s death in 1291, Adolf and Albrecht were two further weak kings who were never crowned emperor.
In Cornwall, Richard was succeeded by Edmund, son of his second wife Sanchia of Provence (c. 1225 – 9 November 1261) was the third daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence, and Beatrice of Savoy.