1st Earl of Cambridge (1414-1415)
Born c1375 Died 1415
Also known as Richard of York, Richard, Earl of Camridge and Richard Plantagenet
Richard was the younger son of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York and therefore a grandson of Edward III. Most sources indicate that he was born around the year 1375 at Coningsburgh Castle in Yorkshire, although the evidence for this is scant and some have suggested he might have been born as many as ten years later in 1385.
Richard's life was to be dominated by the Lancastrian usurpation of 1399, when one Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt deposed and later killed the incumbent Richard II and was himself crowned as king Henry IV. Although Richard II was generally unpopular and regarded as a tyrant, this opinion was not universal and many opposed the Lancastrian takeover of 1399. Henry IV was to experience much opposition to his seizure of the throne and an undercurrent of opposition to this rule continued in some quarters during both his reign and that his son and successor Henry V.
Richard of Conisborough was to be numbered amongst these dissidents and became involved with what is known as the Southampton plot, which was a conspiracy to capture and kill Henry V and his brothers at Southampton where the English army was gathering in preparation for an invasion of France. The plot was however betrayed, and Richard was captured and executed for treason at Southampton Green on the 5th August 1415 and later buried at the Chapel of God's House in Southampton.
Although Richard himself appears as a rather inconsequential historical figure in himself, he remains notable for the fact that in May 1406 he married Anne Mortimer, daughter of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March.
Since both he and Anne were cousins a Papal dispensation was required and duly obtained in 1408. They were cousins since Anne's mother was Phillipa Plantagenet the only daughter of Lionel of Antwerp the second of Edward III's sons.
The significance of this marriage was that with the elimination of Richard, son of Edward, the Black Prince the eldest son of Edward III, arguably the next in line to the throne was Anne's brother Edward Mortimer, 5th Earl of March due to his descent from the aforementioned Lionel of Antwerp. As it happens this Edward Mortimer displayed little interest in pursuing his claim to the throne and was in any case to die childless in 1425.
The Mortimer estates and their claim on the throne therefore passed to the son of Richard of Conisborough, also named Richard. And since his uncle Edward of Norwich also died without issue at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 the estates and titles of York passed to this younger Richard. He therefore became the 3rd Duke of York, possessor of the estates of both York and Mortimer, pointedly adopted the surname of Plantagenet thus becoming Richard Plantagenet and set forth to make good his theoretical claim to the throne. Which is where the War of the Roses began.
Richard of Conisborough's marriage to Anne Mortimer also produced a daughter named Isabella who married firstly a Thomas Grey and later Henry Bourchier, 1st Earl of Essex. After Anne Mortimer died in 1411 Richard was later married a Matilda Clifford in 1414, although this marriage failed to produce any offspring.
Richard was created Earl of Cambridge on the 16th May 1414 being granted the title previously held by his elder brother Edward of Norwich - Peerage law was somewhat loosely defined at the time and therefore permitted peers to effectively resign their titles at will (with the agreement of the sovereign naturally).
- Alexander Rose Kings in the North (Phoenix, 2003)
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- Edmund Plantagenet Earl of Cambridge and Duke of York and his Descendants
From Burkes Peerage Vol 11 1851 reproduced at
- A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com