Richard, Duke Of York - Encyclopedia

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RICHARD YORK, DUKE OF (1411-1460), was born on the 21st of September 1411, the son of Richard, earl of Cambridge, second son of Edmund of Langley, duke of York. By the death of his uncle Edward at Agincourt he became duke of York, and on the death of Edmund Mortimer in 1425 he succeeded to his claims as representing in the female line the elder branch of the royal family. He had been kindly treated by Henry V., and his name appears at the head of the knights made by the little Henry VI. at Leicester on the 19th of May 1426. York's first service was in France during 1430 and 1431. In 1432 he obtained livery of his lands and afterwards went over to Ireland to take possession of his estates there. In January 1436 he was appointed lieutenant-general of France and Normandy, but did not enter on his command till June. He showed vigour and capacity, and recovered Fecamp and some other places in Normandy. Probably he was not supported cordially by the home government, and in 1437 applied to be recalled. One authority alleges that his council thwarted him in his desire to relieve Montereau, because he had been discharged from his office (Chronicles of London, 143). York returned to England in the autumn of 1437. From this time at all events he attached himself to the war-party of which Humphrey of Gloucester was head, in opposition to the government under Cardinal Beaufort. By his marriage in 1438 to Cicely, sister of the earl of Salisbury, he allied himself to the rising family of the Nevilles. On the 2nd of July 1440 York was again appointed to the French command. His previous experience made him stipulate for full powers and a sufficient revenue. He did not, however, go to Rouen till June 1441. During his second governorship York maintained, if he could not improve, the English position in Normandy. He was again hampered by his political opponents at home, and at *the end of 1446 was recalled, on the pretext that his term of office had expired. The death of Humphrey of Gloucester in February 1447 made York the first prince of the blood. Suffolk, now Henry's chief minister, found a convenient banishment for a dangerous rival by appointing York to be lieutenant of Ireland for ten years (9th of December 1447). York, however, contrived to put off his departure for eighteen months. During his absence in Ireland English discontent came to a crisis in Jack Cade's rebellion. The use made of the names of Mortimer and York, however unauthorized, shows the trend of popular opinion. In September 1450 York landed in Wales. His opponents endeavoured to waylay him, but he came to London with an armed retinue and forced himself into the king's presence. Nevertheless he declared his loyalty and that he desired only justice and good government. He took part in the punishment of Cade's supporters, and discountenanced a proposal in parliament that he should be declared heir to the crown. In March 1452 he came once more in arms to London, and endeavoured to obtain Somerset's dismissal. On a promise that his rival should be held in custody he disbanded his men, and thus outwitted found himself virtually a prisoner. However, a nominal agreement was concluded, and York accepted the king's pardon. The situation was changed by the birth of a prince of Wales and the king's illness in October 1453. After a struggle with the queen and Somerset, York secured his recognition as protector on the 27th of March 1454. He declared that he accepted the post only as a duty, and, though he put his own friends in power, exercised his authority with moderation and on the side of good order. But at the end of the year the king's sudden recovery brought York's protectorate to an end. When it was clear that the queen and Somerset would proceed to extremities, York and his friends took up arms in self-defence. Even when the two armies met at St Albans, York endeavoured to treat for settlement. The issue was decided by the defeat and death of Somerset on the 22nd of May 1455. York used his success with moderation. He became constable of England, and his friends obtained office. This was no more than a change of ministers. But a return of the king's illness in October 1455 made York again for a brief space protector. Henry recovered in February 1456, and Margaret, his queen, began to assert herself. Finally, at Coventry, in October, the Yorkist officials were displaced. Still there was no open breach, and in March 1458 there was even a ceremonial reconciliation of all parties at St Paul's in London. York would not again accept honourable banishment to Ireland, but made no move till the queen's preparations forced him to act. In September 1459 both parties were once more in arms. York protested that he acted only in self-defence, but the desertion of his best soldiers at Ludlow on the 12th of October left him helpless. With a few followers he escaped to Ireland, where his position as lordlieutenant was confirmed by an Irish parliament, and he ruled in full defiance of the English government. In March 1460 the earl of Warwick came from Calais to concert plans with his leader. York himself only landed in England on the 8th of September, two months after Warwick's victory at North ampton. All pretence of moderation was put aside, and he marched on London, using the full arms of England, and with his sword borne upright before him. On reaching Westminster, York took up his residence in the royal palace, and formally asserted his claim to the throne in parliament. In the end a compromise was arranged, under which Henry was to retain the crown for life, but Richard was to succeed him. On the 8th of November he was accordingly proclaimed heir-apparent and protector. Meantime the queen was gathering her friends, and early in December, Richard went north with a small force. He kept Christmas at Sandal Castle near Wakefield. There, on the 30th of December, he was hemmed in by a superior force of Lancastrians. Declaring that he had never kept castle in the face of the enemy, Richard rashly offered battle, and was defeated and slain. His enemies had his head cut off, and set it up on the walls of York adorned with a paper crown.

Richard of York was not a great statesman, but he had qualities of restraint and moderation, and might have made a good king. He had four daughters and four sons. Edmund, earl of Rutland, his second son, was killed at Wakefield. The other three were Edward IV., George, duke of Clarence, and Richard III.

See The Paston Letters with Dr Gairdner's Introduction; Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles, and Collections of a London Citizen (published by the Camden Society); Chronicles of London (ed. C. L. Kingsford, 1905); J. S. Stevenson's Wars of the English in France (Rolls Series). The French chronicles of Matthieu d'Escouchy, T. Basin and Jehan Waurin should also be consulted (these three are published by the Societe de l'Histoire de France). For modern accounts see especially Sir James Ramsay's Lancaster and York, and The Political History of England, vol. iv., by Professor C. Oman.

(C. L. K.)

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