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Edward [Edward of Langley, Edward of York], second duke of Yorklocked

(c. 1373–1415)
  • Rosemary Horrox

Edward [Edward of Langley, Edward of York], second duke of York (c. 1373–1415), magnate, the eldest son of Edmund (1341–1402), the fifth son of Edward III, and Isabella of Castile (d. 1393), second daughter of Pedro the Cruel (r. 1350–69) and his mistress Maria de Padilla, was probably born, like his father, at Langley, Hertfordshire. The Monk of Evesham styles him Edward of Langley. The appellation Edward of Norwich (‘de norwik’) is probably a misreading of ‘d'everwick’ (of York), the appellation regularly used during his father's lifetime. His father's inquisition post mortem suggests that Edward was born c.1375, but as this would make him only two years old when he was knighted at the coronation of his cousin, Richard II, in 1377, most authorities have preferred to date his birth to 1373, the year after his parents' marriage.

Favourite of Richard II

Edward's closeness to the king was apparent by 1390. Numerous royal grants were made at his instance, and on 25 February he was made earl of Rutland. In 1392 he was a member of the royal council. He accompanied Richard on the Irish campaign of 1394–5, and led a number of successful forays. During the campaign he is called earl of Cork, a title he had probably been granted before the army left England and which he continued to use for the rest of his life. In the next few years Rutland emerged as the leading member of the circle of intimates that the king was creating around himself. He was involved in the king's diplomacy in France and the empire. After the death of Queen Anne in 1394 he was one of the three feoffees of her estates (the others being the archbishop of York and the bishop of Salisbury)—a role which allowed him control of a significant amount of patronage. His other gains from royal favour were extensive, including the office of admiral of England, the reversion of the constableship of the Tower of London (which he finally received in October 1397), and the offices of constable of Dover and warden of the Cinque Ports (11 September 1396). His wealth and his status as the king's intended brother-in-law (see below) were reflected in his plans to build a new house outside Temple Bar in 1397, although apparently nothing came of the scheme.

In 1397 Rutland played a leading role in the arrest and trial of the duke of Gloucester and the earls of Warwick and Arundel. In Henry IV's first parliament he was also to be accused of urging Gloucester's subsequent murder, a claim that evidently commanded contemporary belief, although he vehemently denied it. He was given a major share of the forfeitures that followed, including Arundel's lordship of Clun, Shropshire, and Gloucester's lordship of Burstwick in Holderness, Yorkshire. In September 1397 he was made duke of Aumale and succeeded Gloucester as constable of England. As constable he presided over Richard's extension of the jurisdiction of the court of chivalry to include treason and other offences touching the king's dignity. On 10 February 1398, as part of Richard's policy of extending his power in the north of England, Aumale was appointed warden of the west march towards Scotland.

The usurpation of Henry IV

Jean Creton considered that there was no man alive whom Richard loved better. For him (and French opinion in general) Aumale was the Judas who deliberately betrayed his king in 1399. Edward may well have been made uneasy by the exile of his cousin Henry Bolingbroke in 1398, and by the seizure of the Lancastrian inheritance following the death of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. He later claimed that he had not drawn any of the revenues from the great block of duchy of Lancaster lands which had been put in his custody. But there is no evidence that he was conspiring with Bolingbroke, or that there was a treacherous motive behind his advice, when news of Bolingbroke's invasion reached Richard II during his expedition to Ireland of 1399, that John Montagu, earl of Salisbury, be sent immediately to north Wales, while Richard gathered the rest of his forces. Indeed, the advice was arguably sound, since Montagu was able to raise 4000 men, although he was then unable to hold them together long enough for the king to join him. Richard landed in south Wales, and there, inexplicably, left Aumale and most of his men and pressed northwards. Aumale's subsequent movements are unknown, although he was reputedly attacked as he made his way through Wales. He is next reported, by Creton, in the delegation sent by Bolingbroke to Richard at Flint, wearing Henry's livery. During the meeting Aumale 'said nothing to the king, but kept at as great a distance as he could from him' (Webb, 158).

The first parliament of Henry IV saw a spectacular expression of animosity against Richard's former allies, particularly against Aumale, who, according to Thomas Walsingham, came close to being lynched. Henry resisted demands for the death penalty and restricted their punishment to the resumption of the titles and rewards granted to them since 1397. The process of confiscation had in fact already begun: Aumale had lost the constableship by the time Creton saw him at Flint; he had surrendered the constableship of the Tower of London on 31 August, and Burstwick had been granted to the earl of Northumberland on 12 September.

These losses were substantial, but Rutland (as he now became again), with several of Richard's other allies, did receive marks of favour from Henry after parliament rose. In Rutland's case these included confirmation of his custody of the Channel Islands and of his possession of the Isle of Wight, and the strategic significance of these grants suggests that Henry was confident of his cousin's loyalty. That confidence was probably not misplaced. By the end of the year a group of Richard's former favourites were planning to seize and murder the king and his sons under colour of a tournament to be held at Windsor on twelfth night. According to the Chronicque de la traïson et mort de Richart Deux, roy Dengleterre, Rutland was among the conspirators, but betrayed it to the king, and this version has been generally accepted, although the author of the Eulogium historiarum sive temporis (ed. F. S. Haydon, Rolls Series, 9, 1858) describes the rising and its betrayal with no reference to the earl at all. The Traïson leaves open whether Rutland's betrayal was deliberate, but the evident confidence subsequently placed in his cousin by Henry seems incompatible with any genuine commitment to the conspiracy. Certainly Rutland collaborated in the process of repressing the rebellion, and was rewarded with the restoration of the lordship of Oakham, Rutland, in tail male.

Servant of the Lancastrian kings

In October 1400 Henry IV made Rutland keeper of north Wales with the supervision of all the castles there during pleasure, a significant mark of confidence in him given the unrest in the region. On 5 July in the following year the earl was made Henry's lieutenant in Aquitaine in response to a petition from the archbishop of Bordeaux, who described the earl as the man closest to the king after the king's sons. He remained based in Bordeaux throughout the following year, but had yielded the office by May 1403. He had by then succeeded to the duchy of York, following the death of his father on 1 August 1402.

On his return to England Edward became involved in the Welsh campaign of autumn 1403 and on 15 October was appointed lieutenant of south Wales. Initially the appointment was for one year, but on 12 November York indented to serve for three years from 29 November. The appointment was not a happy one for the duke. The king's inability to meet the cost of the war left York in desperate financial straits. He was still owed substantial sums for his service in Guyenne, although £8000 of the debt had been cancelled in return for the grant, in May 1403, of the wardship and marriage of his nephew Richard Despenser. By June 1404 he had already sold or pledged his plate and faced the prospect of mortgaging his land to pay his troops.

In this situation York's loyalty may have wavered. In February 1405 his sister Constance, Lady Despenser, accused him of involvement in a plot against the crown. After an initial denial York conceded that he had known of the conspiracy and was imprisoned at Pevensey. After seventeen weeks he petitioned for release on the grounds of his 'trouble and heaviness' but it was not until October that there were signs of his return to favour. His land was restored on 8 December, and its issues nine days later. By November 1406 he was sufficiently trusted to be made constable of the Tower—an office he had not held since Richard II's deposition. He also remained active in Wales. In December 1407 the prince of Wales went out of his way to praise the duke's efforts to parliament. York, he said

had served and laboured in such a way as to support and embolden all the other members of the company, as if he had been the poorest gentleman in the realm wishing to serve him in order to win honour and renown.

RotP, 3.611–12

In spite of his military links with the prince, York apparently sided with Henry IV in the dispute over foreign policy that opened up between father and son late in the reign. In 1412 he accompanied Henry IV's second son, Thomas, on the campaign to aid the Armagnacs against the Burgundians. He may have returned to England briefly after the death of Henry IV on 20 March 1413, but in June 1413 he was preparing to go to the defence of Aquitaine. In August he was in Paris, discussing the possibility of a marriage between Henry V and Catherine of Valois. He returned to England late in October, but remained involved in the English end of the diplomacy which filled the months before Henry's invasion of France in 1415.

Death and reputation

The army's departure, early in August, was overshadowed by the discovery of a conspiracy headed by Edward's brother Richard, earl of Cambridge, but there is no suggestion that York himself was involved. The duke was present at the siege of Harfleur, where he made his will on 17 August, describing himself as 'of all sinners the most wretched and guilty' (Register of Henry Chichele, 2.64). He commanded the van on the march through northern France, and was killed on 25 October at Agincourt, where he commanded the right wing of the English army. Accounts of his death differ, one tradition ascribing it to a head wound, another (later followed by John Leland) blaming it on 'much heat and pressing'. His bones were brought back to England and interred, as he had wished, under the step to the choir in the church of Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire, where he had established a college of priests. The present monument was erected on the orders of Queen Elizabeth, after the choir had fallen derelict.

For most later writers Edward's career is tainted by suggestions of treachery, and the numerous occasions in the reign of Henry IV when his loyalty was publicly stressed suggest that contemporaries, too, felt that he had a reputation to live down. But he was evidently a man of considerable ability. Richard II reputedly considered resigning the crown to him, as 'the most able, wise and powerful man that he could think of' (Given-Wilson, 211), and the chronicler of Godstowe regarded him as a 'second Solomon' (Hearne, 242). He carried heavy responsibilities under three kings, apparently with success. On two occasions he took on major office when the previous holder had felt unable to continue, replacing Somerset in south Wales in 1403 and Bedford as warden of the east march in September 1414. He also gave serious attention to his office of master of the king's game. He was an authority on hunting, and particularly, it seems, on hunting-dogs. His Master of Game, dedicated to the prince of Wales, translated the Livre du chasse of Gaston Phébus, count of Foix, with the addition of several extra chapters of his own.

Family life

Edward did not marry until late in Richard's reign. He had been betrothed to Beatriz of Portugal on 29 August 1381, as part of an Anglo-Portuguese alliance against Castile; but in the following year Portugal and Castile came to terms, and Beatriz was betrothed instead to a son of Juan I of Castile. As Edward rose in Richard's favour, the king seems to have taken over the job of finding him a suitable bride. During the first Irish campaign Richard suggested a marriage between Rutland and a sister-in-law of Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan (r. 1378–1402). At the same time he was exploring the possibility of marrying him to one of the three kinswomen of Charles VI of France who had been proposed as suitable wives for Richard himself. The most serious proposal, however, was that Rutland should marry Jeanne, the younger sister of Isabelle de Valois, for whose hand Richard was negotiating from July 1395, in spite of Jeanne's earlier betrothal to Pierre de Montfort. On the strength of the proposed match Edward was referred to in English sources as the king's brother—a title used as late as April 1399, although by then the plan had fallen through and Edward had married (by October 1398) Philippa Mohun, the third (not, as is usually claimed, the second) daughter of John Mohun of Dunster (d. 1375) and Joan Burghersh (d. 1404). It was a surprising marriage for someone who must have been the most eligible aristocratic bachelor of his day. Philippa would bring him none of the Mohun land, her mother having sold the reversion to Elizabeth Lutterell. Philippa's date of birth is unknown, but she is likely to have been some twenty years older than Edward. She had had children by neither of her previous husbands (Walter Fitzwalter and John Golafre), and although York apparently had hopes of an heir in 1401, this marriage too was childless and York's heir was his nephew, Richard. Philippa outlived York, apparently spending her widowhood in Carisbrooke Castle. She died on 17 July 1431, and was buried in the chapel of St Nicholas in Westminster Abbey, where her monument survives.

According to William Worcester, Edward also had a mistress, who subsequently married the Charlton killed at Verneuil in 1424. This seems to have been Walter Charlton of Wiltshire. His first wife, Elizabeth, had died in 1414, and by his death he had remarried. His new wife's name was Joan; she outlived him and is presumably the woman Worcester had in mind; but she cannot be identified further.


  • RotP, vol. 3
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