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House of York

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House of York
As descendants of King Edward III in the male line, the first three Dukes of York bore the arms of that King (adjusted for France modern) differenced by a label of three points argent each bearing three torteaux gules. The 4th Duke, later King Edward IV, abandoned his paternal arms in favour of new arms emphasising his descent via female lines from the royal line of Clarence/de Burgh/Mortimer, senior to that of the House of Lancaster
Parent familyHouse of Plantagenet
Founded1385; 639 years ago
FounderEdmund of Langley
Current headExtinct
Final rulerRichard III of England
Coat of arms of King Edward IV of England (as Duke of York), adopted in lieu of his paternal arms: Quarterly of 4: 1: Lionel, Duke of Clarence (royal arms of King Edward III, undifferenced); 2&3: de Burgh; 3: Mortimer. This emphasised his claim to seniority over the House of Lancaster

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.

Descent from Edward III[edit]

The fourth surviving legitimate son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, was created earl of Cambridge in 1362 and the first duke of York in 1385. Edmund's first marriage was to Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York, daughter of Peter of Castile and María de Padilla, and sister of Constance of Castile, second wife of Edmund's older brother John of Gaunt. Through this marriage Edmund had two sons, Edward, 2nd duke of York and the younger Richard of Conisburgh. His second marriage was to Joan Holland, whose sister Alianore Holland was mother to Anne Mortimer, the great-great-granddaughter of Edward III via Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, second surviving son of Edward III, and the elder brother of John of Gaunt. Richard of Conisburgh married Anne Mortimer, the marriage producing two children, Isabel of Cambridge and Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York. It was through Anne Mortimer's lineage that the Yorkists derived their main claim to the throne.

Following Edmund of Langley's death in 1402, his son Edward succeeded to the dukedom but had no issue before he was killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.[1] His other son Richard had been executed for treason earlier in the same year following his involvement in the Southampton Plot to depose Henry V in favour of Edmund Mortimer, Richard's brother-in-law. The dukedom therefore passed to Richard's son, who became Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York. Being descended from Edward III in both the maternal and the paternal line gave Richard a significant claim to the throne if the Lancastrian line should fail, and by cognatic primogeniture arguably a superior claim.[2] He emphasised the point by being the first to assume the Plantagenet surname in 1448. Having inherited the March and Ulster titles, he became the wealthiest and most powerful noble in England, second only to the king himself. Richard married Cecily Neville, a granddaughter of John of Gaunt, and had thirteen or possibly fifteen children:[3]

Wars of the Roses[edit]

Despite his elevated status, Richard Plantagenet was denied a position in government by the advisers of the weak Henry VI, particularly John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and the queen consort, Margaret of Anjou. Although he served as protector of the realm during Henry VI's period of incapacity in 1453–54, his reforms were reversed by Somerset's party once the king had recovered.

The Wars of the Roses began the following year, with the First Battle of St Albans. Initially, Richard aimed only to purge his Lancastrian political opponents from positions of influence over the king. It was not until October 1460 that he claimed the throne for the House of York. In that year the Yorkists had captured the king at the battle of Northampton, but victory was short-lived. Richard and his second son Edmund were killed at the battle of Wakefield on 30 December.

Richard's claim to the throne was inherited by his son Edward. With the support of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ("The Kingmaker"), Edward, already showing great promise as a leader of men, defeated the Lancastrians in a succession of battles. While Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou were campaigning in the north, Warwick gained control of the capital and had Edward declared king in London in 1461. Edward strengthened his claim with a decisive victory at the Battle of Towton in the same year, in the course of which the Lancastrian army was virtually wiped out.

Reigns of the Yorkist Kings[edit]

The early reign of Edward IV was marred by Lancastrian plotting and uprisings in favour of Henry VI. Warwick himself changed sides, and supported Margaret of Anjou and the king's jealous brother George, Duke of Clarence, in briefly restoring Henry in 1470–71. However, Edward regained his throne, and the House of Lancaster was wiped out with the death of Henry VI himself, in the Tower of London in 1471. In 1478, the continued trouble caused by Clarence led to his execution in the Tower of London; popularly he is thought to have been drowned in a butt of malmsey wine.

On Edward's death in 1483, the crown passed to his twelve-year-old son Edward V. Edward IV's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was appointed Protector, and the young king, and his brother Richard, were accommodated into the Tower of London. The famous Princes in the Tower's fate remains a mystery. As today it is unknown whether they were killed or who might have killed them. Parliament declared, in the document Titulus Regius, that the two boys were illegitimate, on the grounds that Edward IV's marriage was invalid, and as such Richard was heir to the throne. He was crowned Richard III in July 1483.

Defeat of the House of York[edit]

Though the House of Lancaster's claimants were now the Royal Houses of Portugal and Castile through the Duke of Lancaster's two legitimate daughters, who had married into those houses, Henry Tudor, a descendant of the Beauforts, a legitimized branch of the House of Lancaster put forward his claim. Furthermore, some Edwardian loyalists were undeniably opposed to Richard, dividing his Yorkist power base. A coup attempt failed in late 1483, but in 1485 Richard met Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth Field. During the battle, some of Richard's important supporters switched sides or withheld their retainers from the field. Richard himself was killed. He was the last of the Plantagenet kings, as well as the last English king to die in battle.

Henry Tudor declared himself king, took Elizabeth of York, eldest child of Edward IV, as his wife, claiming to have united the surviving houses of York and Lancaster, and acceded to the throne as Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty which reigned until 1603.

Later claimants[edit]

At the point Henry VII of England seized the throne there were eighteen Plantagenet descendants who might today be thought to have a stronger hereditary claim. By 1510 this number increased with the birth of sixteen Yorkist children.[5] However, Henry VII married Elizabeth of York the eldest daughter of Edward IV. This made their children his cognatic heirs.[6] Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy—Edward's sister and Elizabeth's aunt—and members of the de la Pole family—children of Edward's sister Elizabeth and John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk— continued in attempts to restore a Yorkist line.[7] Margaret's nephew Edward, Earl of Warwick, the son of her brother George, was imprisoned in the Tower of London, but in 1487 Margaret financed a rebellion led by Lambert Simnel pretending to be Warwick, or "Edward VI". John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln, joined the revolt and was killed in the suppression of the uprising at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487.[8] Warwick was implicated in further failed invasions supported by Margaret by Perkin Warbeck claiming to be Edward IV's son Richard of Shrewsbury and executed on 28 November 1499. With this both the houses of Plantagenet and York went extinct in the legitimate male line.[9]

Family tree[edit]

House of York family tree
King of England
Edward III
r. 1327–1377
Edward of Woodstock
Prince of Wales
The Black Prince
of Antwerp
Duke of Clarence
Duke of Lancaster
of Gaunt
Duke of Lancaster
Duke of York
of Langley
1st Duke of York
King of England
Richard II
r. 1377–1399

Earl of March
Countess of Ulster
House of Lancaster
House of
Duke of York
of Norwich
2nd Duke of York

Earl of March

Earl of March
de Mortimer
of Conisburgh
Earl of Cambridge
Duke of York
3rd Duke of York
King of England
Edward IV
4th Duke of York
r. 1461–1470, 1471–1483
Earl of Rutland
Duke of Clarence
King of England
Richard III
r. 1483–1485
King of England
Henry VII
r. 1485–1509
of York
King of England
Edward V
r. 1483
Duke of York
of Shrewsbury
1st Duke of York
Earl of Warwick
of Middleham
Prince of Wales
c. 1473–1484

Prince of Wales
King of England Henry VIII
Duke of York
r. 1509–1547





Dukes of York[edit]

Duke Portrait Birth Marriage(s) Death
Edmund of Langley
(House of York founder)
Edmund of Langley 5 June 1341
Kings Langley
son of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault
Isabella of Castile
3 children

Joan de Holland
c. 4 November 1393
no children
1 August 1402
Kings Langley
age 61
Edward of Norwich
Edward of Norwich 1373
son of Edmund of Langley and Isabella of Castile
Philippa de Mohun
c. 1397
no children
25 October 1415
age 42
Richard Plantagenet
Richard Plantagenet 21 September 1411
son of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge and Anne de Mortimer
Cecily Neville
12 children
30 December 1460
age 49
Edward Plantagenet
Edward Plantagenet 28 April 1442
son of Richard Plantagenet and Cecily Neville
Elizabeth Woodville
1 May 1464
10 children
9 April 1483
age 40

Edward Plantagenet became Edward IV in 1461, thus merging the title of Duke of York with the crown.

Yorkist Kings of England[edit]

Name Portrait Birth Marriage(s) Death
Edward IV
4 March 1461 –
3 October 1470

11 April
Edward IV 28 April 1442
son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville{[12]
Elizabeth Woodville
Grafton Regis
1 May 1464
10 children[citation needed]
9 April 1483
Westminster Palace
age 40[13]
Edward V
9 April–25 June 1483[14]
Edward V 2 November 1470
son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville<[15]
unmarried c. 1483
age about 12 (presumed murdered)[16]
Richard III
26 June
Richard III 2 October 1452
Fotheringhay Castle
son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville[18]
Anne Neville
Westminster Abbey
12 July 1472
1 son[19]
22 August 1485
Bosworth Field
age 32 (killed in battle)[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 111–113
  2. ^ Watts 2011
  3. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 134–139
  4. ^ "Family tree". University of Leicester. 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  5. ^ Weir 2008, p. 148
  6. ^ Starkey 2009, p. 305
  7. ^ Jones 2008
  8. ^ Horrox 2004
  9. ^ Ulwencreutz, Lars. Ulwencreutz's the Royal Families in Europe V (2003), p. 202
  10. ^ Horrox 2011
  11. ^ Weir 2008, p. 139
  12. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 13–135
  13. ^ Weir 2008, p. 143
  14. ^ Horrox 2013b
  15. ^ Weir 2008, p. 141
  16. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 143–145
  17. ^ Horrox 2013
  18. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 134–141
  19. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 144–145
  20. ^ Weir 2008, p. 145


External links[edit]

House of York
Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet
Preceded by Ruling house of the Kingdom of England
Succeeded by
Ruling house of the Kingdom of England
Succeeded by