YORK, duke of (Protector of England)

Richard Plantagenet

b. 21/22 Sep 1411 [1]
d. 30 Dec 1460, near Wakefield, Yorkshire

Title: Protector & Defensor ac Principalis Consiliarius noster (Protector and Defender, and [Our] Chief Councilor)
Term: 3 Apr 1454 - Feb 1455
Chronology: 27 Mar 1454, the Lords in Parliament voted the appointment of York as Protector
  3 Apr 1454, the royal patent on appointment of York issued [5]
  Feb 1455, protectorship revoked by the king's Council (?); York tendered his resignation to the king at Greenwich
Term: 19 Nov 1455 - 25 Feb 1456
  19 Nov 1455, the royal patent on appointment of York issued [5]
  25 Feb 1456, dismissed by the king's written order [5]
Names/titles: styled Duke of York [from 24 Feb 1425]; received livery as Duke of York, Earl of March, Earl of Cambridge, Earl of Ulster, in the peerage of Ireland [from 12 May 1432; attainted 20 Nov 1459; attainder reversed Oct 1460]

Richard was the son of Richard of Conisburgh, Earl of Cambridge, and a descendant of Lionel Duke of Clarence, third son of King Edward III. When he was four, his father was beheaded for conspiring against King Henry V (5 Aug 1415). York was knighted by King Henry VI in 1426 and obtained livery of his lands in 1432. He was lieutenant-general of France and Normandy in 1436-1437 and 1440-1445. As a descendant of the Duke of Clarence, York had a hereditary claim to the throne that was stronger, by primogeniture, than that of Henry VI, who was descended from Edward's fourth son. After the death of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester (23 Feb 1447), York became the next in line for succession to the throne.

In 1447 York was sent to Ireland to serve as lord lieutenant and did not return to England until 1450, when he opposed the king's chief advisor, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. The birth of a son to Henry VI undermined York's claim, but when the king's mental health broke down, Parliament passed an act appointing York protector, followed by the royal patents [2] (3 Apr 1454) confirming the appointment. The king recovered by Christmas 1454 and the king's Council, influenced by the faction of Queen Margaret, made decisions, which brought about the revocation of York's protectorship. In 1455 York's forces marched against Somerset and defeated him at St. Albans, Hertfordshire (22 May 1455). Somerset was killed in battle and York was again appointed protector (19 Nov 1455), but was dismissed in three months. The truce with the Queen's party lasted until November 1459, when York and his supporters were attainted in the Coventry Parliament. After the Battle of Northampton (10 Jul 1460), Henry VI was captured by the Yorkists and York presented to Parliament his claim to the kingship (16 Oct 1460) [3]. Parliament recognized him as Henry VI's heir (31 Oct 1460) and proclaimed this decision on 8 Nov 1460. However, Margaret, who would never agree to the disinheritance of her son, Edward, raised a rebellion. York was attacked by the Lancastrians outside his castle near Wakefield and killed in battle. Biography source: [4]

[1] Sources vary on the date of Richard's birth: it fell on either feast of St Matthew (21 Sep 1411) or feast of St Maurice (22 Sep 1411) [4].
[2] The patents of 3 Apr 1454 appointed both York and the king's young son, Edward, to the positions of "Protector & Defensor ac Principalis Consiliarius noster" with a provision that Edward will assume the office "when he comes to years of discretion." The patent of 19 Nov 1455 also dealt with appointments of both York and Edward.
[3] Richard claimed the throne in the name of "Richard Plantaginet [sic], commonly called Duke of York", thus creating a precedent for official use of the surname Plantagenet.
[4] "Duke Richard of York 1411-1460", by P.A. Johnson (Oxford, 1988).
[5] "Fœdera, conventiones, litterae et cujuscunque generis acta publica, etc. etc. etc.", ed. by Thomas Rymer (London, 1704), vol. xi, pp. 346, 369, 373.
Last updated on: 13 Mar 2010 01:48:50