The Honour of Richmond

There was a Breton named Alan le Roux, also known as 'Alan Rufus' or 'Alan the Red', who joined William the Bastard's invasion force of 1066 and was subsequently rewarded with the grant of various estates that had formerly been in the possession of the Earl Edwin.

Amongst these estates was a group of 164 manors in north Yorkshire comprising the wapentakes of Hallikeld, Gilling East, Gilling West, Hang East, and Hang West. It was therefore in north Yorkshire that Alan le Roux established his headquarters and where he built a castle which came to bear the name of Riche-Mont, the 'strong hill' or Richmond. This area of north Yorkshire now under the control Alan le Roux became known as Richmondshire and the whole scattered collection of estates under his ownership became known as the 'Honour of Richmond'.

On the death of Alan le Roux in 1089 the Honour of Richmond passed to his brother Alan le Noir (otherwise known as 'Alan Niger' or 'Alan the Black') and was then inherited by another relation named Stephen, also Count of Penthievre, who was probably Alan le Noir's son (but was possibly another brother). This Stephen died in 1187 and was succeeded by his son, another Alan le Noir. The second Alan le Noir married Bertha, the daughter and heiress of Conan, the Count of Brittany and as a result their son Conan inherited not only the Honour of Richmond but the title Count of Brittany as well.

It appears that most of these Breton owners of the Honour of Richmond called themselves 'Earls of Richmond', although whether this was as a result of a specific grant from the crown or simply because they assumed the title (or had it bestowed upon them later chroniclers) is unclear; as the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica puts it "The title earl of Richmond appears to have been in existence in England a considerable time before it was held in accordance with any strict legal principle."

Constance Countess of Richmond

Conan IV died in the year 1171 and left no sons, leaving his only daughter Constance of Brittany as heiress. Irrespective of the precise legalities of the situation, Constance was styled as the Countess of Richmond (and Duchess of Brittany, Brittany having decome a duchy by now), and each of her three successive husbands claimed the titles of both Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany.

The first of these was Geoffrey Plantagenet, third son of Henry II of England who later died in 1086 as a result of injuries sustained in a tournament; after which Constance was married off to Ranulf de Blundeville, the Earl of Chester. It seems however, as if Constance was unhappy with the choice of husband foisted upon her and eventually ran away from Ranulf and regarded the marriage as null and void on the ground of consanguinity. She therefore felt free to marry her preferred choice of husband in Guy de Thouars, the Viscount of Thouars. Constance herself died in 1201, but her final husband Guy de Thouars continued to assume the title of Earl of Richmond until his death in 1213.

Geoffrey and Constance had produced a son known as Arthur of Brittany who was, technically speaking, the next in line for the English throne after the death of his uncle Richard in 1999. Arthur was however passed over in favour of his uncle king John who in any case made sure of things by means of Arthur's murder in 1203. With Arthur of Brittany out of the way the only heirs were the two daughters that Constance and Guy de Thouars has produced. The elder of these two daughters, named Alice married a Peter de Dreux who therefore adopted the titles of Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond in 1213.

Peter de Dreux retained Richmond until he was faced with an invasion of his Breton territories by the French king, Louis IX in 1235 and therefore decided to make his formal submission to the king of France in order to retain Brittany. As a result of which Peter de Dreux's English honours were declared forfeit and Henry III took the Honour of Richmond into his own hands.

Savoy, Dreux and Gaunt

Richmond remained in Henry's hands until 1241, when he granted the earldom to Peter of Savoy, the uncle of his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, who held till his death in 1268 and appears to have agreed that it would revert to his niece on his death. Henry then granted the earldom to one John de Dreux, the heir to Brittany (and grandson of the Peter de Dreux mentioned above), who had also married Henry's daughter Beatrix.

John who became Duke of Brittany in 1286, was later killed when a wall collapsed on top of him as he was attending the installment of Pope Clement V at Lyons in 1304. Of his two sons Arthur II, the eldest, succeeded as Duke of Brittany, whilst the younger son John became Earl of Richmond.

John the 2nd Earl, also known as John of Brittany, spent most of his life engaged in Edward II's campaigns against the Scots. He was captured at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, but subsequently freed in exchange for the wife of Robert the Bruce and the bishop of Glasgow, but was captured by the Scots once again at the battle of Byland, fending off a surprise Scottish attack whilst Edward II made his escape. This time he was released in exchange for a large ransom which was funded by a levy placed on the tenants of the Honour of Richmond.

He died apparently unmarried in 1333, and the earldom passed to yet another John de Dreux; this one being the son of his elder brother, Arthur and better known as John III, Duke of Brittany. This last John the 3rd Earl retained the earldom until his death in 1341.

De Montfort and Plantagenet

John, the 3rd Earl of Richmond and John III of Brittany was nominally succeeded by his half brother John de Montfort. Although this John succeeded to Richmond, his right to Brittany was challenged by one Charles de Blois, which triggered off the War of the Breton Succession (which lasted until 1364).

John de Montfort died in 1345 leaving his young son and heir in the care of Edward III. However Edward granted the earldom of Richmond to his three year old son John of Gaunt. He held on to the earldom until 1372, when he resigned in order to puruse his ambition of becoming King of Castille.

The earldom of Richmond was then given back by Edward III to the John de Montfort who was the son of the previous incumbent of the same name. This John eventually succeeded in recovering Brittany with English asssistance but in 1397 he agreed to a deal with the French king Charles VI in order to win French recognition for his rights in Brittany. Accordingly his English lands and titles were declared forfeit.

Later creations

With Richmond now back in the hands of the English crown, Richard II granted the Honour alone to Joan a sister of John de Monfort who had recently been widowed. Richard II was however displaced by Henry IV in 1399 and the latter king transferred the Honour of Richmond to his supporter Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, but this grant was similarly was only for life and did not carry with it the title of Earl of Richmond.

On Ralph Neville's death in 1426, Henry VI granted both the honour and the title of Earl of Richmond to his uncle John, Duke of Bedford, but following the latter's death in 1435 the title reverted back to the crown. In the year 1453 Henry VI was therefore able to grant the title to his illegitimate half brother Edmund Tudor. This Edmund married Margaret Beaufort, a direct descendant of the aforementioned John of Gaunt, and his son and heir Henry succeeded to the title at birth on the 28th January 1457, Edmund having died a few months previously. This Henry, known therefore in his youth as the Earl of Richmond was later to successfully challenge for the crown himself and became Henry VII in 1485, at which point the honour and earldom of Richmond was merged with the Crown.

Thereafter the dignity of Richmond was awarded as Dukedom, (Although Ludovic Stuart did hold Richmond as an earldom between the years 1613 and 1623 before being made a duke.) and see therefore Duke of Richmond for subsequent creations.



Earls by right of marriage with Constance of Brittany



DREUX (restored)

  • John de Dreux alias John II of Brittany, 1st Earl of Richmond (1268-1304)
  • John de Dreux, 2nd Earl of Richmond (1304-1333)
  • John de Dreux alias John III of Brittany, 3rd Earl of Richmond (1333-1341)



DE MONTFORT (restored)

  • John de Montfort alias John IV of Brittany, Earl of Richmond (1372-1397)




Thereafter see Duke of Richmond.


  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for RICHMOND, EARLS AND DUKES OF
  • Duchess Constance BRITTANY at
  • Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)
  • Royal Genealogy information held at University of Hull see
  • RoyaList Online at
  • 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)

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