1st Earl of Cambridge (1362-1402)
1st Duke of York (1385-1402)
Steward of England (1399)
Born 1341 Died 1402
Edmund was the fifth and fourth surviving son of king Edward III and Philippa of Hainault born at the royal palace at Langley in Hertfordshire on the 5th of June 1341.
At the age of eighteen, together with his three older brothers he accompanied his father on his expedition to France in 1359, which penetrated as far as the outskirts of Paris and which concluded with the Treaty of Bretigny on the 8th May 1360, after which he returned to England. His father Edward III then attempted to marry him to Margaret of Flanders the widow of the recently deceased Philip of Rouvre, Duke of Burgundy, however the French used their influence with the Papacy to refuse the necessary dispensation for that marriage to proceed 1. Denied Burgundy, Edmund had to be content with being invested into the Order of the Garter and the title of Earl of Cambridge which he received on the 13th November 1362.
In 1369 he was sent, together with John Hastings, the Earl of Pembroke, to reinforce Edward, the Black Prince in his campaigns in Aquitaine. Edmund was present at the capture of Bourdeille in Perigord and Roche-sur-Yon in Poitou and was later with the Black Prince at the capture and sacking of the town of Limoges in 1370. He returned to England with his brother Edward in January 1371, but was ordered back to France the next year where he remained for the following three years.
With the death of his father Edward III in 1377 he became a member of the council of regency for his nephew Richard II and was soon occupied dealing with the French, who sought to take advantage of the situation by launching a number of raids on the English coast 2. In 1378 he served under John of Gaunt in France and in the years 1381 to 1382 he led a military expedition to Portugal to assist the king Fernando I against John I of Castile, and later took part in Richard's expedition against the Scots in 1385, after which he was created Duke of York.
As baronial opposition to Richard's rule grew from the year 1383 onwards, Edmund sought to reconcile the two sides and although he was appointed as a member of the commission to reform the king's household in 1386, he thereafter distanced himself from the activities of the Lords Appellant in 1387 and opposed many of the measures of the Merciless Parliament. Edmund therefore stood in relatively good favour with his nephew; he was despatched (together with his brother John) to negotiate with the French in early 1394, and was appointed Keeper of the Realm when Richard II was in Ireland between the years 1394 and 1395 and again in 1399 when Richard departed for Ireland once more 3.
It was during this latter period of absence that Henry Bolingbroke returned from exile, ostensibly to recover the inheritance of his father John of Gaunt which had been denied him by king Richard. For whatever reason Edmund was notably ineffectual in countering the threat posed by Henry's appearance in England and failed to organise any effective countermeasures. Indeed he soon abandoned his allegiance to Richard and on the 27th July 1399 at Berkeley in Gloucestershire he formally made his peace with Henry, who duly went on to replace Richard on the throne as king Henry IV.
Although he was appointed as a privy counsellor after Henry's coronation he retired from court to his favourite palace at King's Langley, where he died on the 1st August 1402.
In accordance with his will he was buried a the Church of the Friary of Langley, next to his first wife Isabel, who had died earlier in 1394, in a tomb of alabaster and black marble. There his body remained until the dissolution when it was removed to the parish church of King's Langley, where it remains to this day.
By his first marriage to Isabel of Castile, daughter of Pedro the Cruel King of Castile, he had two sons and one daughter; Edward of Norwich, who succeeded him as Duke of York, Richard of Conisborough and Constance, who married Thomas Despenser, Earl of Gloucester. He later married Joan Holland, daughter of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, but there were no children from this second marriage.
1 The French had their own ideas on who Margaret of Flanders should marry specifically, Philip the Bold the younger son of the French king John II.
2 Edmund was placed in charge of the defense of the Kentish coast, a suitable appointment since he had held the office of Warden of the Cinque Ports since 1376.
3 Together with the office of Steward of England which he held between the 20th March 1399 and August 1399.
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
George Frederick Beltz Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (1861) http://www.britannia.com/bios/royals/eldkyork.html
A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com