Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York

Last updated

Edmund of Langley
Duke of York
Edmund of Langley remonstrating with the King of Portugal - Chronique d' Angleterre (Volume III) (late 15th C), f.186r - BL Royal MS 14 E IV.png
Edmund of Langley before King Ferdinand I of Portugal, from Jean de Wavrin's Chronique d'Angleterre
Born5 June 1341
Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, England
Died1 August 1402 (aged 61)
Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, England
(m. 1372;died 1392)

(m. 1393)
Issue Edward, 2nd Duke of York
Constance, Countess of Gloucester
Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge
House Plantagenet (by birth)
York (founder)
Father Edward III, King of England
Mother Philippa of Hainault

Edmund of Langley, Duke of York (5 June 1341 – 1 August 1402) was the fourth surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. Like many medieval English princes, Edmund gained his nickname from his birthplace: Kings Langley Palace in Hertfordshire. He was the founder of the House of York, but it was through the marriage of his younger son, Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, to Anne de Mortimer, great-granddaughter of Edmund's elder brother Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, that the House of York made its claim to the English throne in the Wars of the Roses. The other party in the Wars of the Roses, the incumbent House of Lancaster, was formed from descendants of Edmund's elder brother John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, Edward III's third son.


Early years

On the death of his godfather, the Earl of Surrey, Edmund was granted the earl's lands north of the Trent, primarily in Yorkshire. In 1359, he joined his father King Edward III on an unsuccessful military expedition to France and was made a knight of the Garter in 1361. In 1362, at the age of twenty-one, he was created Earl of Cambridge by his father. [1]

Military career

Edmund took part in several military expeditions to France in the 1370s. In 1369, he brought a retinue of 400 men-at-arms and 400 archers to serve with John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, on campaigns in Brittany and Angoulême. The following year, he first joined Pembroke again on an expedition to relieve the fortress of Belle Perche and then accompanied his eldest brother Edward, the Black Prince, on a campaign that resulted in the siege and sack of Limoges. In 1375, he sailed with the Earl of March to relieve Brest, but after some initial success, a truce was declared.

In the 1370s, English envoys entered into an alliance with Ferdinand I of Portugal, where Portugal promised to attack Castile with the Lancastrian army. As a consequence of the Caroline War in France, John of Gaunt was forced to postpone the invasion of Castile. In 1381, Edmund finally led an abortive expedition to press John's claim to Castile, joining with King Ferdinand in attacking Castile as part of the Fernandine Wars. After months of indecisiveness, a peace was again declared between Castile and Portugal, and Edmund had to lead his malcontented troops home. [2]

Edmund was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports on 12 June 1376 and held office until 1381. On 6 August 1385, he was elevated to Duke of York. [3] Edmund acted as Keeper of the Realm in 1394/95 when his nephew, King Richard II of England, campaigned in Ireland and presided over Parliament in 1395. He was also keeper of the realm in 1396 during the king's brief visit to France to collect his child-bride Isabella of Valois. The duke was left as Custodian of the Realm in the summer of 1399 when Richard II departed for another extended campaign in Ireland. In late June of that year, the exiled Henry Bolingbroke landed at Bridlington in Yorkshire. He raised an army to resist Bolingbroke, then decided instead to join him, for which he was well rewarded. He thereafter remained loyal to the new Lancastrian regime as Bolingbroke overthrew Richard II to become King Henry IV.

Later life

Richard II's 1399 will refers to his successor without naming him, while appointing Edmund as one of the overseers. Some believe[ citation needed ] Richard intended to make Edmund his heir despite the stronger claims of Henry of Bolingbroke and Edmund Mortimer. This was not due to any preference Richard had for Edmund, but rather a desire the king had to set Edmund's son, Edward, on the throne. [4] Towards the end of his life, in 1399, he was appointed Warden of the West March for a short period. [5] Otherwise, from 1399 onward he retired from public life. [6]

The tomb of Edmund of Langley in All Saints' Church, Kings Langley. The tomb was brought to the church in 1575 after the nearby King's Langley Priory had been dissolved. All Saints Kings Langley Edmund tomb 2018.jpg
The tomb of Edmund of Langley in All Saints' Church, Kings Langley. The tomb was brought to the church in 1575 after the nearby King's Langley Priory had been dissolved.

Edmund of Langley died in his birthplace and was interred at King's Langley Priory; however, his tomb was relocated to the nearby All Saints' Church, Kings Langley in 1575 after the priory had been dissolved. When the tomb was moved again during church restoration work in 1877, three bodies, one male and two female, were found inside. [7] His dukedom passed to his eldest son, Edward. He was the last of his siblings to die, and lived the longest out of all of them.


Langley's first wife, Isabella, was a daughter of King Peter of Castile and María de Padilla. She was also the younger sister of the Infanta Constance of Castile, the second wife of Langley's brother John of Gaunt. Langley and Isabella were both descendants of Henry II of England.

They had two sons and a daughter:

After Isabella's death in 1392, Langley married his second cousin once removed Joan Holland, whose great-grandfather Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, was the half-brother of Langley's grandfather Edward II; she and Langley were thus both descended from King Edward I. The young Joan was the granddaughter of his late sister-in-law Joan of Kent. The marriage produced no children.

Shakespeare's Duke of York

As a son of the sovereign, Edmund bore the arms of the sovereign, differenced by a label argent, on each point three torteaux. Arms of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York.svg
As a son of the sovereign, Edmund bore the arms of the sovereign, differenced by a label argent, on each point three torteaux.

Edmund, the 1st Duke of York, is a major character in Shakespeare's Richard II . In the play, Edmund resigns his position as an adviser to his nephew Richard II, but is reluctant to betray the king. He eventually agrees to side with Henry Bolingbroke to help him regain the lands Richard confiscated after the death of Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt. After Bolingbroke deposes Richard and is crowned Henry IV, Edmund discovers a plot by his son Aumerle (Edward of Norwich) to assassinate the new king. Edmund exposes the plot, but his wife Isabella convinces Henry to pardon her son.


  1. Cokayne, G. E. (1912). Gibbs, Vicary (ed.). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct or dormant. Vol. 2 (2nd ed.). London: The St. Catherine Press. p. 494.
  2. Goodman, Anthony (1992). John of Gaunt: The Exercise of Princely Power in Fourteenth-Century Europe. London: Routledge. ISBN   97-8058-20981-38..
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica Edmund of Langley First Duke of York
  4. Sumption, Jonathan (2009). The Hundred Years War III: Divided Houses. London: Faber & Faber Ltd. p. 855. ISBN   9780571138975.
  5. Dodd, Gwylim (2003). Henry IV: the establishment of the regime, 1399–1406. ISBN   9781903153123 . Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  6. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "York, Edmund of Langley, Duke of"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 925–926.
  7. Page, William, ed. (1908). "'Parishes: King's Langley', A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2, pp. 234–245". british-history.ac.uk. British History Online. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  8. Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family


Edmund of Langley
Born: 5 June 1341 Died: 1 August 1402
Political offices
Preceded by Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by Justice of Chester
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
New creation Duke of York
1st creation
Succeeded by
Earl of Cambridge
2nd creation

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard II of England</span> King of England from 1377 to 1399

Richard II, also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. He was the son of Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales, and Joan, Countess of Kent. Richard's father died in 1376, leaving Richard as heir apparent to his grandfather, King Edward III; upon the latter's death, the 10-year-old Richard succeeded to the throne.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry IV of England</span> King of England from 1399 to 1413

Henry IV, also known as Henry Bolingbroke, was King of England from 1399 to 1413. His grandfather King Edward III had claimed the French throne as a grandson of Philip IV of France, and Henry continued this claim. He was the first English ruler since the Norman Conquest, over three hundred years prior, whose mother tongue was English rather than French.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John of Gaunt</span> 14th-century English prince, Duke of Lancaster

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster was an English royal prince, military leader, and statesman. He was the third surviving son of King Edward III of England, and the father of King Henry IV. Due to Gaunt's royal origin, advantageous marriages, and some generous land grants, he was one of the richest men of his era, and was an influential figure during the reigns of both his father and his nephew, Richard II. As Duke of Lancaster, he is the founder of the royal House of Lancaster, whose members would ascend the throne after his death. His birthplace, Ghent in Flanders, then known in English as Gaunt, was the origin of his name. When he became unpopular later in life, a scurrilous rumour circulated, along with lampoons, claiming that he was actually the son of a Ghent butcher. This rumour, which infuriated him, may have been inspired by the fact that Edward III had not been present at his birth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Lancaster</span> Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet

The House of Lancaster was a cadet branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. The first house was created when King Henry III of England created the Earldom of Lancaster—from which the house was named—for his second son Edmund Crouchback in 1267. Edmund had already been created Earl of Leicester in 1265 and was granted the lands and privileges of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, after de Montfort's death and attainder at the end of the Second Barons' War. When Edmund's son Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, inherited his father-in-law's estates and title of Earl of Lincoln he became at a stroke the most powerful nobleman in England, with lands throughout the kingdom and the ability to raise vast private armies to wield power at national and local levels. This brought him—and Henry, his younger brother—into conflict with their cousin King Edward II, leading to Thomas's execution. Henry inherited Thomas's titles and he and his son, who was also called Henry, gave loyal service to Edward's son King Edward III.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of York</span> Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet

The House of York was a cadet branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet. Three of its members became kings of England in the late 15th century. The House of York descended in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III. In time, it also represented Edward III's senior line, when an heir of York married the heiress-descendant of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward III's second surviving son. It is based on these descents that they claimed the English crown. Compared with its rival, the House of Lancaster, it had a superior claim to the throne of England according to cognatic primogeniture, but an inferior claim according to agnatic primogeniture. The reign of this dynasty ended with the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. It became extinct in the male line with the death of Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, in 1499.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward, 2nd Duke of York</span> 14th-century English noble

Edward, 2nd Duke of York, was an English nobleman, military commander and magnate. He was the eldest son of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and a grandson of King Edward III of England. He held significant appointments during the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, and is also known for his translation of the hunting treatise The Master of Game. He was killed in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt, whilst commanding the right wing of the English army.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge</span> 14th/15th-century English noble

Richard of Conisbrough, 3rd Earl of Cambridge was the second son of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York. He was beheaded for his part in the Southampton Plot, a conspiracy against King Henry V. He was the father of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and the grandfather of King Edward IV and King Richard III.

Anne de Mortimer was a medieval English noblewoman who became an ancestor to the royal House of York, one of the parties in the fifteenth-century dynastic Wars of the Roses. It was her line of descent which gave the Yorkist dynasty its claim to the throne. Anne was the mother of Richard, Duke of York, and thus grandmother of kings Edward IV and Richard III, great-grandmother of Edward V.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland</span> 14th/15th-century English nobleman

Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of WestmorlandEarl Marshal, was an English nobleman of the House of Neville.

John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, 1st Earl of Huntingdon, KG, of Dartington Hall in Devon, was a half-brother of King Richard II (1377–1399), to whom he remained strongly loyal. He is primarily remembered for being suspected of assisting in the downfall of King Richard's uncle Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester (1355–1397) and then for conspiring against King Richard's first cousin and eventual deposer, Henry Bolingbroke, later King Henry IV (1399–1413).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March</span>

Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and jure uxoris Earl of Ulster was the son of Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March, by his wife Philippa, daughter of William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Catherine Grandison.

Constance of York, Countess of Gloucester was the only daughter of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and his wife Isabella of Castile, daughter of King Peter of Castile and his favourite mistress, María de Padilla.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Plantagenet</span> Angevin royal dynasty that ruled England in the middle ages

The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The family held the English throne from 1154 to 1485, when Richard III died in battle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Scrope, 1st Earl of Wiltshire</span> Earl of Wiltshire

William le Scrope, Earl of Wiltshire, King of Mann was a close supporter of King Richard II of England. He was a second son of Richard le Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Despenser, 1st Earl of Gloucester</span> English noble

Thomas Despenser, 2nd Baron Despenser, 1st Earl of Gloucester KG was the son of Edward le Despenser, 1st Baron le Despencer, whom he succeeded in 1375.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York</span> Duchess of York

Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York was the daughter of King Peter and his mistress María de Padilla. She accompanied her elder sister, Constance, to England after Constance's marriage to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and married Gaunt's younger brother, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Issue of Edward III of England</span> Descendants of English monarch

King Edward III of England and his wife, Philippa of Hainault, had eight sons and five daughters. The Wars of the Roses were fought between the different factions of Edward III's descendants. The following list outlines the genealogy supporting male heirs ascendant to the throne during the conflict, and the roles of their cousins. However to mobilise arms and wealth, significant major protagonists were Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset, and Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland, and their families. A less powerful but determining role was played by Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, and Elizabeth Woodville and their families.

Alianore Holland, Countess of March was the eldest daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent, and the wife of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, heir presumptive to her uncle, King Richard II. Through her daughter, Anne Mortimer, she was the great-grandmother of the Yorkist kings Edward IV and Richard III. She was governess to Richard II's wife, Isabella of Valois.

Sir Walter Blount, was a soldier and supporter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. He later supported John's son and heir Henry Bolingbroke in his bid to become King Henry IV and in later battles against his enemies. At the Battle of Shrewsbury he served as the royal standard-bearer, was mistaken for the king and killed in combat.