I’ve posted about Alan the Red before – and his brother, the originally named, Alan the Black. Alan the Black was the kind of baron no one wished to encounter during The Anarchy – he was heavily into ravaging and plunder, even going so far as assaulting the Archbishop of York in Ripon at the shrine of St Wilfred. In about 1145 he granted the town of Richmond its first known charter before going to Brittany where he died in 1146. So far, so good.
Alan was married to Bertha, a cousin of Conan III of Brittany and his heir. After Alan’s death, Bertha remarried to Eudo, Viscount Porhoët who became Duke of Brittany by right of his wife. Alan’s son by Bertha, Conan, became the new Earl of Richmond and well as inheriting of all Alan’s other estates. Obviously Conan should also have become Due of Brittany but he was a minor and Eudo took charge.
In time Conan took control of the honour of Richmond – supported by King Henry II and having crossed the Channel trounced his step-father and became Conan IV of Brittany as well. In 1160 he married Margaret of Scotland, a daughter of Henry Earl of Huntingdon.
A daughter, Constance was born from the union. She eventually married Henry II’s son Geoffrey but the betrothal was a childhood one. After Conan’s death Henry II held Richmond on behalf of his daughter-in-law and son as well as administering Brittany for the 9-year old.
Geoffrey became Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond by right of his wife in 1181 after the marriage was finally celebrated. The couple’s son Arthur would eventually disappear in King John’s custody. Their daughter, Eleanor, would remain in Plantagenet royal custody throughout her life – no one wanting her to take a husband who might attempt to claim the duchy of Brittany and the earldom of Richmond.
After Geoffrey’s death in 1186 in Paris, Constance married Randulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester – who also acquired the Earldom of Richmond. It wasn’t a happy union. Randalf incarcerated Constance for a year. Richard the Lionheart used the excuse to take control of Richmond.
Constance was eventually freed from her unhappy union and married for a third time toGuy de Thouars- The duchess now bore two more children , Alice and Catherine.
After Constance’s death in 1201 – Richmond was divided. Part of it was handed to Robert de Beaumont, 4th Earl of Leicester in the first instance. He died in 1204. Ranulf de Blundeville regained that portion of the honour for a brief time.
Alice’s husband, Peter de Braine, acquired the southern portion of the honour and eventually reunited the earldom. Peter was the son of the Count of Dreux and the marriage to Alice had been arranged by King Philip Augustus of France. Peter became Duke of Brittany by right of his marriage to Alice, irrelevant of the fact that her elder half-sister was still alive. Peter is pictured at the start of this post (Meluzína, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons). In 1215 King John granted him the honour of Richmond in an attempt to build up an army – it was the time of the First Barons War. Philip took the honour but continued to fight on behalf of the French. Ultimately though Peter served whichever side best suited his own aspirations. It left swathes of Yorkshire outside England’s ultimate control – remember John lost his continental lands. Even so it was 1230 before the honour of Richmond was confiscated from Peter and the honour reverted to the Crown.
Peter received some support from Henry III’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, but Peter, who was also kicked out of Brittany, found it sensible to go off on Crusade in 1239 where he was captured and died after his release in about 1250.
So far so good. The Crown now held a large earldom and Henry III knew many men willing to take it on. Peter of Savoy, one of Eleanor of Provence’s uncles, was a man in search of an income and preferment. Eleanor relied on her uncle’s guidance and Henry wanted to please his queen. Peter of Savoy was promptly knighted and granted part of the honour of Richmond in 1240.
Part II to follow.
Morris, David, The Honour of Richmond (York:2000) – an informative and carefully researched text which explains the lineage of the men and women who held the honour of Richmond as well as the political shenanigans that saw them gain or lose a region long important to the stability of the realm.