Constance of York

Conisburgh Castle – An English Heritage property.

Constance was the only daughter of Edmund of Langley and Isabella of Castile. She was born at Conisburgh Castle – probably in 14374. Four years later she was betrothed to Edward le Despenser – who inconveniently died so she promptly became the betrothed of his brother Thomas. The pair were the great-grandson’s of Isabella of France’s lover – the ones who toppled Edward II from power – despite this they were still one of the wealthiest families in the country. Richard II gave Thomas the title Earl of Gloucester but this was stripped from him by Henry IV – leaving him as Baron Despenser of Glamorgan.

In 1392 Isabella of Castile died and Edmund of Langley married a bride who was younger than his daughter – Joan Holland (I’m starting to think that there must be at least one Holland in every post.) And just so we’re clear about this she was the daughter of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent but the niece of John Holland who I mentioned in the previous post as being Isabella of Castile’s lover…not sure how that’s covered by papal dispensation.

The couple had several children but not all survived until adulthood. Richard survive to marry a cousin – Eleanor Neville the daughter of Joan Beaufort and the Earl of Westmorland – who I have posted about previously: https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/04/03/joan-beauforts-descendants-eleanor-neville-countess-of-northumberland/ He died without heirs. His title passed to his sister Isabella (a posthumous child) who was married twice, firstly to the Earl of Worcester and secondly to the Earl of Warwick – both men were called Richard Beauchamp. The latter marriage produced a daughter Anne. Anne was a wealthy heiress with both Despencer and Beauchamp lands. She married one of her Neville cousins who took the title of Earl of Warwick by right of his wife. History knows him as the Kingmaker. Constance’s great grand daughter Anne became queen of England when her husband the Duke of Gloucester (yet another cousin) became Richard III.

Just as Edmund of Langley and his sons were loyal to Richard II, so was Constance and her husband Thomas le Despenser. Unfortunately this meant that when Henry of Bolingbroke deposed his cousin that Constance’s family were left rather disgruntled. Thomas took part in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 and was executed in Bristol where he was captured as he attempted to flee – leaving Constance as the wife of an attainted traitor and totally reliant on her cousin Henry IV. There was also the fact that Constance’s brother Edward of Norwich was probably the person who betrayed the plot to Henry IV.

In 1405 Constance who had attained a position as governess to her Mortimer relations (Edmund Mortimer the young 5th Earl of March and rightful king in the eyes of many and his younger brother) absconded with them from Windsor to take them to their uncle in Wales.The refugees were recaptured a week later and the Earl of March found himself in closer confinement. Constance also implicated her brother Edward of Norwich in the plot – he was imprisoned for seventeen weeks. Again, this is recapping events which readers of the History Jar may well remember from earlier posts: https://thehistoryjar.com/2014/09/16/edmund-mortimer-5th-earl-of-march-from-the-house-of-mortimer-to-the-house-of-york/

There is another child – Constance had an affair with Edmund Holland the 4th Earl of Kent – her step-mother’s brother. A daughter resulted. Eleanor, was born at Kenilworth Castle in about 1405. She later married James Touchet, Lord Audley. Throughout her life she insisted that she was legitimate – that Constance and Edmund had married just as Joan of Ken had married by a verbal exchange of vows followed by consummation. The Holland family utterly refused to accept this.

I’ve posted about Constance before: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/constance-of-york/

Next the descendants of Thomas of Woodstock. As for the descendants of Edmund of Langley it is apparent from their histories that the Wars of the Roses in the Fifteenth Century which people at the time called the Cousins War had been simmering for three generations.

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