Richard (Earl) - Encyclopedia

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RICHARD, earl of Cornwall and king of the Romans (1209-1272), was the second son of the English king John by Isabella of Angouleme. Born in 1209, Richard was the junior of his brother, Henry III., by fifteen months; he was educated in England and received the earldom of Cornwall in 1225. From this date to his death he was a prominent figure on the political stage. In the years 1225-27 he acted as governor of Gascony; between 1227 and 1238, owing to quarrels with his brother and dislike of the foreign favourites, he attached himself to the baronial opposition and bade fair to become a popular hero. But in 1240 he took the command of a crusade in order to escape from the troubled atmosphere of English politics. He was formally reconciled with Henry before his departure; and their amity was cemented on his return by his marriage with Sancha of Provence, the sister of Henry's queen (1243). Henceforward Richard, though by no means blind to the faults of the government, was among the most constant supporters of Henry III. While affecting to remain neutral in the quarrels of the barons with the Poitevins and Savoyards he constantly assisted the king with loans, and thus enabled him to withstand the pressure of the Great Council for reform. In 1257 a bare majority of the German electors nominated Richard as king of the Romans, and he accepted their offer at Henry's desire. He was elected partly on account of his wealth, but also because his family connexion with the Hohenstaufen and his friendly relations with the papacy made it probable that he would unite all German parties. In the years 1257-68 Richard paid four visits to Germany. He obtained recognition in the Rhineland, which was closely connected with England by trade relations. Otherwise, however, he was unsuccessful in securing German support. In the English troubles of the same period he endeavoured to act as a mediator. On the outbreak of civil war in 1264 he took his brother's side, and his capture in a windmill outside Lewes, after the defeat of the royalist army, is commemorated in the earliest of English vernacular satires; he remained a prisoner till the fall of Montfort. But after Evesham he exerted himself, not without success, to obtain reasonable terms for those who had suffered from the vengeance of the royalist party. He died on the 2nd of April 1272. His end is said to have been hastened by grief for his eldest son, Henry of Almain, who had been murdered in the previous year by the sons of Simon de Montfort at Viterbo. The earldom of Cornwall passed to Richard's eldest surviving son Edmund, who was guardian of England from 1286 to 1289. On Edmund's death, in October 1300, it became extinct.


The original sources and general works of reference are the same as for the reign of Henry III. G. C. Gebauer's 11eben and Thaten Herrn Richards von Cornwall (Leipzig, 1744), H. Koch's Richard von Cornwall, 1209-1257 (Strassburg, 1888), and A. Busson's Doppelwahl des Jahres, 1257 (Munster, 1866) are useful monographs.

(H. W. C. D.)

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