1st Earl of Kent(1321-1330)
Born 1301 Died 1330
Edmund was the youngest son of Edward I by his second marriage with Margaret of France and born on the 5th August 1301 at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire.
When his older half-brother Edward II became king in 1307, Edmund was naturally too young to be involved in any of the political infighting that occurred during the early part of Edward's reign, but he later became one of the king's loyal supporters and was created Earl of Kent on the 28th July 1321 for his trouble. Edmund was more active during the later revolt of the Contrariants led by Thomas 'the Martyr' Plantagenet, and was placed in command of the force that laid siege to Pontefract Castle and was subsequently one of those who sat in judgement of Thomas and condemned the rebellious earl to death in the March of 1322.
With the death of the former Earl of Lancaster Edmund was appointed lieutenant in the north and in the following year was sent to France on a diplomatic mission to the French court. He was later sent to Aquitaine in 1324 to take command of the Sardos Campaign against the French but was unable to prevent Charles de Valois (the uncle of Charles VII) from taking certain key towns and by August 1324 had retreated to the safety of La Reole castle and was forced to accept a six month truce that left the French in possession of their recent gains.
Attempts to reinforce Edmund's position were hampered by the incompetence of Hugh Despenser and his unwilligness to commit military resources away from England at a time when it was feared that Roger Mortimer, the escaped former Contrariant, was planning an invasion.
Edward's queen Isabella of France arrived in France in March 1325 to negotiate a treaty with the French king (who happened to be her brother) and was later joined by the young Prince Edward in September come to pay homage to the French king for Aquitaine in place of his father. It soon became clear that Isabella had abandoned her husband, becoming both politically and romantically joined with Roger Mortimer and that they both intended to overthrow Edward II in favour of the young Prince Edward.
Edmund, who may well have been feeling let down by the lack of support in Aquitaine as well as being unhappy with the increasing dominance of the government by Hugh Despenser, ignored his brother's summons to return home and joined Isabella and Roger's party. In December 1325 he married Margaret Wake, who was related by marriage to both Mortimer and Thomas of Lancaster and thus consciously allied himself politically with the opposition to his half-brother's government.
In early 1327 Edmund left France with Roger and Isabela and went to Hainault and later sailed with them in the invasion force that landed in England in September of that year and succeeded in deposing Edward II within a month of the landing.
Edmund thereafter became one of the key figures in the new regime; he was one of the signatories of the 26th October declaration of Prince Edward as Guardian of the Realm, served as one of the six judges who condemned both Hugh Despensers to death, and was appointed a member of the council when Edward III was crowned king in 1327. His support was rewarded with the grant of the estates and castle of Arundel (which had come into the possession of the crown due to the execution of his namesake Edmund Fitzalan, 7th Earl of Arundel), together with other estates that were formerly in the possession of the Despeners.
Although he did not appear to have been unduly concerned at the news of his elder brother's death in 1327, Edmund afterwards became disenchanted with the new regime as it soon became clear that it was to be dominated by Roger Mortimer. Together with his brother Thomas of Brotherton who was the Earl of Norfolk and Henry of Lancaster he flirted with the idea of joining Henry of Lancaster in revolt but got cold feet at the last moment. However, believing Edward II to still be alive and in captivity at Corfe Castle, he became involved in a conspiracy to rescue and restore the deposed ruler. The conspiracy became known to Mortimer and indeed seems to have been largely instigated by agent provocateurs in his pay in order to entrap Edmund.
The Earl of Kent was arrested in the February of 1330 and soon condemned as a traitor. Despite his royal blood he was sentenced to be beheaded on the 19th of March 1330 at Winchester Castle in Hampshire, although he had to wait five hours on the scaffold whilst Roger Mortimer frantically searched for an executioner willing to carry out the deed. A prisoner from the Marshalsea Prison was eventually found who was willing and able to carry out the deed and Edmund duly met his end.
Edmund was buried at the church of the Dominican Friars in Winchester] but his remains were later removed and reburied at Westminster Abbey as befitting a royal prince.
Edmund does not appear to have been an unduly likeable person and it is said that the only person who had any regard for him was his nephew Edward III, who genuinely regretted being persuaded to agree to his uncle's execution. Edmund's execution marked the point at which many came to regard the rule of Roger Mortimer as no better than that of the hated Hugh Despenser whom he had effectively replaced. It thus became one of the key factors that inspired the coup of November 1330 by which Roger Mortimer was removed power and found the tables turned as he was himself executed as a traitor.
The children of Edmund of Woodstock
Edmund married Margaret Wake the daughter of John Wake, the 1st Baron Wake of Liddell. Some online sources quote the date of this marriage as 6th October 1325 and the place as Blisworth in Northampton, whereas in truth the 6th October was the date on which the papal dispensation was issued and Edmund was actually in France at the time, which is where the marriage actually took place, very probably in the December of 1325.
Margaret's mother was Joan de Fiennes whose sister was Margaret de Fiennes and mother of Roger Mortimer. Margaret's brother Thomas Wake married a daughter of Henry of Lancaster, brother of Thomas 'the Martyr' Plantagenet.
This marriage produced two sons, Edmund Plantagenet and John Plantagenet, and two daughters Margaret Plantagenet and Joan. Although Edmund had been condemned as a traitor, this condemnation was rapidly reversed once the Earl of March had been removed from power and his elder son Edmund was briefly recognized as Earl of Kent before his death in 1331, after which the title passed to his younger son John.
John was to die childess in 1353 and the estates and title of Kent passed into the hands of the most notable of Edmund's children Joan of Kent, otherwise known as Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, who was eventually to marry her cousin Edward, the Black Prince and became the mother of Richard II.
Earl of Arundel
Some sources show Edmund as an Earl of Arundel basing this assertion on the notion that whoever held Arundel Castle also held the title of Earl. This idea stems from the year 1433 when the crown accepted the claim of John Fitzalan (who was the earl at the time) that the earldom of Arundel "was and always had been vested in the castle of Arundel". As it happens this claim was, and is demonstratably false and in any case has now bearing on the state of affairs a century beforehand. There is no evidence that Edmund was either styled or created as Earl of Arundel.
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for
KENT, EARLS AND DUKES OF
- Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Kent, and his Descendants at
- Ian Mortimer The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330 (Pimlico,2004)
- Alexander Rose Kings in the North (Phoenix, 2003)
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)