Untangling family links between the Lords Appellant and Richard II

Richard_II_King_of_England

King Richard II

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.

ThomasWoodstock

Thomas of Woodstock: London, British Library Cotton MS Nero D.VIII, f. 0

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.

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Richard II creating Thomas Mowbray Earl Marshal in 1386. British Library Cotton MS NERO D VI f.85r

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

 

Henry Bolingbroke

Henry IVYoung Henry Bolingbroke was just eleven years old when he carried the ceremonial sword at his cousin Richard II’s coronation. The king was a year younger than Henry.

Henry, named after one of his father’s (John of Gaunt) Lincolnshire castles was also known as Henry of Lancaster. His mother was Blanche of Lancaster and as his father’s heir the title is one that makes sense. However, just to confused things he was also created the Earl of Derby and upon his marriage to Mary Bohun he was created Earl of Hereford – oh yes, then he deposed his cousin and became known as King Henry IV.

 

Henry’s variety of names is confusing enough but his familial relations look like spaghetti rather than a tree. Henry’s grandfather was King Edward III, his father John of Gaunt and his mother Blanche of Lancaster. So, far so good. However, when Henry married Mary Bohun, who was just eleven at the time and remained at home with her widowed mother after the wedding, Henry’s aunt became his sister-in-law! Edward III’s youngest son Thomas of Woodstock was already married to Mary’s older sister Eleanor. They were the co-heiresses of the Earl of Hereford. Henry’s mother-in-law was the widow of the earl and the daughter of Richard FitzAlan third Earl of Arundel.

 

As Richard II grew to manhood he became convinced about the authority of kings. It was this king who introduced the terms ‘Majesty’ and ‘Highness’. It was this king who demanded that anyone entering his presence should bow three times before they approached him. This high handed attitude, not to mention failure to go to war with France, didn’t win him friends within his family. Nor did his preference for ‘new men’ such as his chancellor Michael de La Pole help matters very much.

 

Inevitably there were plots. Eventually in 1387 the Lords Appellant, as they became known, forced Richard to tow the line. He spent some time in the Tower – possibly on the naughty step. Amongst the Lords Appellant were Thomas of Woodstock (Henry’s uncle and brother-in-law) and Richard Fitzalan, the fourth Earl of Arundel (Henry’s uncle-in-law), Thomas Beauchamp (Earl of Warwick), Thomas Mowbray (Earl of Nottingham) and Henry himself.

 

Of course, Richard didn’t take kindly to being told what to do by the nobility even if he was related to most of them. Eventually he regained his power and had Thomas of Woodstock sent to Calais where he ordered his royal uncle to be murdered. The man who organized this was another of Thomas’s nephews ….it’s always nice to see a happy extended family, isn’t it?

Henry’s uncle-in-law, Arundel, was given a show trial and executed. The Earl of Warwick must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when he found himself on a slow boat to the Isle of Man with instructions not to come back. The king seized the estates of all three of these Lords Appellent. Henry and Mowbray seemed, at least for the time being, to have escaped Richard’s wrath.

 

However, Mowbray suggested that the king would do to him and Henry what he’d done to the other three lords. The conversation was not a particularly private one and inevitably word got back to the king that Mowbray was plotting again. Henry denounced Mowbray before he could be accused of being involved.  He went on to challenge Mowbray to trial by combat. The two men were to have met at Coventry on the 16th September 1398. They were just about to attack one another when Richard banned the combat and exiled its combatants: Mowbray for life, Henry for ten years – demonstrating that Mowbray had been right all along.

 

Then John of Gaunt died. Richard changed Henry’s exile to life and claimed Lancaster’s estates as his own.

 

Henry landed at Ravenspur in July 1399. Men flocked to his banner. Richard, who was in Ireland at the time, hurried to meet his cousin but by the time he reached Conway Castle it was evident that Richard had lost his kingdom to his cousin.

 

Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV by popular acclaim. If Richard’s abdication was real rather than forced – and the deposed king was to die very soon afterwards in Pontefract Castle.  The next rightful heir was eight-year-old Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March- and no one wanted another child on the throne.   Henry however, did not claim his right to rule exclusively from his grandfather. He claimed his right to rule through his mother Blanche of Lancaster. Blanche was descended from Edmund Crouchback, the second surviving son of Henry III. Henry IV allowed it to be known that rather than being the second born, Edmund Crouchback was actually the first born child but had been set aside in favour of his brother Edward (King Edward I) on account of his ‘crouchback’.   Given that crouchback meant cross-back it was probably a reference to his crusading zeal rather than any physical deformity.

 

Henry did not have a peaceful reign. Owen Glendower rose with the Welsh in rebellion and the Earl of Northumberland joined in with his son ‘Hotspur’. Hotspur was the husband of Ann Mortimer and therefore uncle to Edmund Mortimer (the child with a better claim to the throne than Henry). It would be nice to think that he was outraged that his nephews Edmund and Roger Mortimer were being imprisoned simply because of their ancestry but it is much more likely that he, together with his father Northumberland, was furious that they hadn’t received what they perceived to be their dues for supporting Henry when he arrived at Ravenspur. They were also expected to guard the border with Scotland more efficiently now that Henry was on the throne.

 

In any event, Henry had to quell rebellions, assassination attempts, deal with financial difficulties, his own heir’s apparent waywardness and his poor health. It was widely reported that he became a leper- he certainly suffered from an unpleasant skin disease of some description. He had difficulty walking and had a fit whilst praying in Westminster Abbey before dying on the 20 March 1413.

 

He left a warrior son to become King Henry V. Unfortunately for England, King Henry died when his own son by Katherine of Valois was an infant.

The Mortimers had not forgotten their claim to the throne (though Edmund and Roger died without children- their sister Ann had married and had children).  Their claim to the throne was  better than baby Henry VI’s. The stage was set for The Cousins War or as we know it, thanks to Sir Walter Scott, the Wars of the Roses – which strange though it may seem given that I’ve cantered through the reigns of both Richard II and his cousin Henry IV,  is what I’m warming up for with this post.