The Honour of Lancaster

At the time of the Norman Conquest there was no county of Lancashire; the land between the Ribble and the Mersey, as it was known, was part of Cheshire and the territory to the north of the Ribble was of an inderminate status. William I gave these lands north of the Ribble to a gentleman variously known as 'Roger of Poitou' or Roger the Poitevin, a younger son of Roger of Montgomery. Roger built a castle on the site of the old Roman fort at Lancaster to administer his lands but was however dispossessed in 1102 thanks to his brother Robert of Belleme who unsuccesfully rebelled against Henry I.

Henry I took Roger's forfeited lands and bundled them together with some other estates and created the Honour of Lancaster, which passed through a number of hands during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

The first House of Lancaster

As it happens the keeper of the Honour of Lancaster was one Robert de Ferrers the Earl of Derby and a supporter of Simon de Montfort, who therefore found himself dispossessed of both his titles and his lands with the eventual failure of the Barons War of 1263-1265.

With the rebel barons defeated and their honours forfeited Henry III wished to place them in safer hands, and none perhaps better than his younger son Edmund who was given de Montfort's title Earl of Leicester as well as the de Ferrers' title of Earl of Derby and all the de Ferrers' lands including the Honour of Lancaster.

By this time (in fact since 1168) Lancashire had finally been created as a county and in 1267 the title of Earl of Lancaster was specifically created for Edmund who therefore held three earldoms together with the office of Steward of England. Since he later married as his second wife Blanche of Artois the widow of Henry I the king Of Navarre, who was the Countess of Champagne and in whose territories lay the town of Provins, famous for its red Damask roses, Edmund adopted the red Provins rose as his personal emblem and which later become irrevocably associated with the House of Lancaster.

Edmund died in 1296 and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas 'the Martyr' who came to regard himself as second in authority in the realm behind the king himself. (Which in his case was Edward II.) Thomas became the leader of the baronial opposition to Edward II, was responsible for the death of Piers de Gaveston and effectively ran the country between the years 1314 and 1318.

Thomas organised a further rebllion against Edward II in 1321 and was eventually defeated at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. He was subsequently condemned as a traitor and executed. Thomas had no children and his nominal heir and successor was therefore his younger brother Henry. Of course Henry was prevented from actually succeeding since Thomas' various titles and lands had been declared forfeit as a result of his ealier treason. He therefore had to wait until Edward II had himself been removed from authority in 1327 before regaining the earldom of Lancaster.

(Note that there is some technical dispute about whether Henry's assumption of the title of Lancaster in 1327 was a restoration of the original creation or an entirely new creation. Henry is therefore variously shown as the 3rd Earl (as shown here) or the 1st Earl.)

Henry however went blind in 1330 and played no part in public life thereafter and it was his son Henry of Grosmont who took over the leadership of the family although he did not succeed to the title of Earl until his father's death in 1345. This latter Henry became one of the leading generals of his age and spent a good deal of his life fighting in France during the Hundred Years War and in Scotland during the Second Scottish War of Independence. In return for this loyal service to the crown he was further created Duke of Lancaster on the 6th March 1352 by Edward III.

Henry married Isabel Beaumont but the marriage produced only two daughters; the eldest Maud married William the Duke of Bavaria, the youngest Blanche married John of Gaunt, the fourth son of king Edward III. Henry died in 1361, Maud died in the following year, and so Henry's wealth and titles passed to his son-in-law John of Gaunt.


THE EARLS OF LANCASTER

PLANTAGENET

Title forfeit in 1322, restored 1327

Henry of Grosmont created Duke in 1352, see Duke of Lancaster thereafter.


SOURCES

The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for
LANCASTER See http://1911encyclopedia.org/index.htm

Royal Genealogy information held at University of Hull see
http://www.dcs.hull.ac.uk/public/genealogy/royal

RoyaList Online at http://www.royalist.info/royalist/index.html

Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)

THE ENGLISH PEERAGE or, a view of the ANCIENT and PRESENT STATE of the ENGLISH NOBILITY London: (1790) see
http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/History/Barons/

Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster and his descendants
http://www.maximiliangenealogy.co.uk/burke1/Burkeindex.htm
which reproduces Burkes Peerage Vol 1 1851

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