The relationships between the children of Edward III, their spouses and their descendants ultimately resulted in the Wars of the Roses. During the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV various families with royal blood in their veins jockeyed for power, position and wealth. Some of this vying for power was through political negotiation. There were the inevitable marriages for land and to tie families together and of course there were rebellions.
There are so many strands that it’s difficult to know where to start.
This evening I shall take a “random” look at the Lords Appellants who sought to impeach Richard II’s favourites in 1386 and ultimately managed to control the king as a figurehead without any real power until Richard’s uncle John of Gaunt returned to England in 1389 having been absent during the period of turmoil. There were five Lords Appellant. The three primary appellants were Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester; Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel and Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.
Thomas of Woodstock was the youngest surviving son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainhault – Richard II’s uncle. He was also the uncle of the fourth Appellant Henry of Bolingbroke Earl of Derby and Hereford. Henry was John of Gaunt’s son. He and Richard were first cousins. Indeed there was only three months between them so as Ian Mortimer says in his biography of Henry IV the two of them must have been well acquainted.
Richard FitzAlan, the Earl of Arundel‘s mother was Eleanor of Lancaster, a great grand-daughter of Henry III. He was also related though the maternal line to the Beauchamps. His wife was Mary de Bohun’s aunt. Mary de Bohun was married to Henry of Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby. I’m not going to work out the exact relationship but there’s a tangled knot of cousinship and in-lawship – so best to describe him as part of the extended kinship of Richard II.
Thomas Beauchamp, the 12th Earl of Warwick was the son of Katherine Mortimer. His grandfather was Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March who became Isabella of France’s lover and deposed her husband King Edward II. So far so good, however, the Mortimers had married into the Plantagenet family when Edward III’s granddaughter Philippa, Countess of Ulster married Edmund Mortimer. Edmund was the grandson of Roger Mortimer mentioned earlier in this paragraph.
Feeling slightly dizzy? Well just to knot the families even more firmly together Philippa and Edmund Mortimer had four children. One of these children (the great grandchildren of Edward III), was a daughter also called Philippa (she was first cousin once removed of Richard II if you want to be picky). She became the second wife of Richard FitzAlan, the Earl of Arundel…yes, the Lord Appellant. Elizabeth de Bohun died in 1385. The marriage to Philippa took place in 1390 after the Lords Appellant had been forced to allow Richard to regain his power. The marriage was without royal licence and the earl was fined for not asking the king for Philippa’s hand first.
For neatness sake the fifth Lord Appellant was Thomas Mowbray, the Earl of Nottingham. He was descended from Edward I – so another cousin of sorts. His wife was the Earl of Arundel’s daughter Elizabeth by his first wife Elizabeth de Bohun – making her a first cousin of Henry of Bolingbroke’s wife Mary de Bohun. You might find it helpful to draw a diagram!
If nothing else it becomes apparent that everyone powerful during this period was related to the other leading families in the land either through blood or through marriage. Interactions between historical figures of this period lay in the overlap between familial interaction and political interaction – the one influencing the other.
With that in mind I shall spend the period between now and Christmas exploring familial Plantagenet links – preferably with diagrams and possibly a large gin! You can read the posts with a drink of your choice in hand!
Mortimer, Ian. The Fears of Henry IV
Weir, Alison. British Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy