03 October, 2016

The Tangled Family of Richard II

Richard II, king of England from June 1377 to September 1399, was born in Bordeaux on 6 January 1367, the feast of the Epiphany or the Three Kings. He was the second son of Edward of Woodstock, prince of Wales and Aquitaine, born on 15 June 1330 as the eldest child of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, and Joan of Kent, countess of Kent in her own right. Richard of Bordeaux's elder brother Edward of Angoulême died when he was five or six, and Richard's father died in June 1376, so that when his grandfather Edward III died on 21 June 1377, Richard succeeded him as king of England, at the age of ten.

It all starts to get most confusing when you realise that Richard's mother Joan of Kent, who married Edward II's eldest grandson Edward of Woodstock in 1361, was also Edward II's niece: she was the daughter and ultimate heir of Edward's half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent (1301-1330). This means that a granddaughter of Edward I married a great-grandson of Edward I. It means that as well as being Richard II's great-grandfather, Edward II was also Richard's great-uncle. It means that the maternal grandfather of Richard II was the uncle of his paternal grandfather. And it gets even more confusing. Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, was the son of Marguerite of France, Edward I's second queen. Marguerite was the half-sister of Philip IV of France, and Philip IV's daughter Isabella married Edward II and was the mother of Edward III and great-grandmother of Richard II. Isabella's aunt Marguerite was also Richard II's great-grandmother.  Edward I was both Richard II's great-grandfather and his great-great-grandfather, and Philip III of France was both Richard's great-great-grandfather and his great-great-great-grandfather. Trying to design family trees to take all this into account requires lines going all over the place! It is interesting, though, to note that although Richard II was born in Bordeaux, he was more of English origin than most medieval English kings, and is one of the group who had an English mother (his cousin and usurper Henry IV, Henry V, the brothers Edward IV and Richard III, and Henry VII are the others I can think of - do let me know if you think of more).

It also strikes me that the English nobility of the late fourteenth century were more inter-related than their grandparents and great-grandparents in Edward II's reign had been. At least in Edward's time, you had some marriages abroad which brought new blood in, e.g. the earls of Lincoln (d. 1311) and Arundel (d. 1326) both had Italian mothers. Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1315) married the rather obscure noblewoman Alice Toeni, and Edward II's cousin Henry, earl of Lancaster (d. 1345) married Maud Chaworth, also faintly obscure (though both Alice and Maud were heiresses). This is rarely the case a few decades later when the same families inter-married constantly, and you end up with impossibly mad situations like Richard II's half-niece Joan Holland, b. c. 1380, marrying Richard's uncle Edmund of Langley, duke of York, a man forty years her senior, when she was about twelve or thirteen. So, the king's niece became his aunt. Joan Holland, as well as being the king's half-niece, was also the niece of the earl of Arundel whom Richard had executed in 1397, the sister-in-law of the earl of March who was a cousin of Richard II and his heir male, and a first cousin of Eleanor de Bohun who was married to Richard II's uncle Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester (Edmund of Langley's brother). In his will of 1392, the earl of Arundel (who had an Italian great-grandmother, as mentioned above) mentioned 'my mother of Norfolk'. This was Margaret, countess and later duchess of Norfolk, sometimes called Margaret Marshall, who was Edward II's niece, the daughter and heir of his other half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk (1300-1338). I had to work that one out: Margaret's grandson and heir Thomas Mowbray, earl of Nottingham, was married to Arundel's daughter Elizabeth. Arundel's first wife Elizabeth de Bohun was the sister of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Northampton (d. 1373) and a great-grandson of Edward I, and a much younger half-sister of Roger Mortimer, second earl of March (1328-1360).  Arundel's sister Joan married Humphrey de Bohun and was the mother of Eleanor de Bohun mentioned above, and their other sister Alice married Richard II's half-brother Thomas Holland and was the mother of Joan Holland above. And that's only a tiny part of the inter-relations. Your head could explode trying to figure it all out.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kathryn, I've read this twice and my mind is befuddled - I suppose that all this inter-marrying was quite normal(no English brides of 'good enough stock' or no suitable foreign princesses/queens available). Plus 'keep it in the family' so to speak, should be a lesser chance of inter-fighting presumably. Henry II had an English mother - Matilda (daughter of Henry I) I think: I'm not sure if that counts as I don't know when the medieval period 'started' exactly but understand that scholars agree it ended in 1485 with Richard III's death. I believe that Richard II was obsessed with his ancestor Edward II and tried unsuccessfully to have him canonised. Amanda

Kathryn Warner said...

Amanda, you're definitely not alone in the befuddlement. :-) Have to admit I'd left out Maud/Matilda as I think of her as Norman not English, but you're right, she was born in England.

Yes, Richard made strenuous efforts to have Edward canonised - funny :D

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you may post (obviously) but my understanding is that Richard II had a rather nasty end to his life possibly suspicious but I do have to say that I've only read a couple of books about him. This is because in my humble lay-man opinion he was either a thoroughly nasty piece of work or was not very mentally well(poor man). He didn't have the charisma and humour of Edward II who I find appealing and a joy to read about - so please keep posting. It is very enlightening to read about this era so many centuries ago as their customs and 'what was acceptable' in their society was so different to the world we live in. Amanda

Kathryn Warner said...

I'm writing a bio of Richard II, as well as the book about Edward II's death in 1327, but this blog will continue to be almost exclusively about Edward II and his times. :-)

John Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Brilliant news Kathryn. My ignorant knowledge of Richard II's reign: I really look forward to your forthcoming book about it. With 2 books to compile you are going to be very busy. Amanda

Anerje said...

Erm, totally can't get my head round this! Well done in unraveling this!

Gabriele Campbell said...

That makes the Roman Julio-Claudian family connections look bland in comparison. :-)