Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge

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Richard of Conisburgh
3rd Earl of Cambridge
Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge.jpg
Earl of Cambridge
Predecessor Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Spouse Anne de Mortimer
(m. 1408–11; her death)
Maud Clifford
(m. after 1411-15; his death)
Issue Isabel of Cambridge, Countess of Essex
Henry of York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
House York
Father Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
Mother Isabella of Castile
Born c. 20 July 1375
Conisburgh Castle, Yorkshire
Died 5 August 1415 (aged 40)
Southampton, Hampshire

Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge (c. 20 July 1375 – 5 August 1415) was the second son of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and Isabella of Castile. At the age of forty 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.

Early life[edit]

Richard was born about 20 July 1375[1] at Conisbrough Castle, Yorkshire, the second son of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and his first wife, Isabella of Castille. On his father's side he was the grandson of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, and on his mother's side the grandson of Peter the Cruel, King of Castile and Leon, and his favourite mistress, María de Padilla (d.1361). His godfather was King Richard II.[2]

Richard was two years younger than his brother, Edward, and according to G.L. Harriss, since he received no lands from his father, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and was not mentioned in either his father's or his brother's wills, he may have been the child of an illicit liaison between his mother and John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter.[3]

Although the young Richard received no lands or income when his father, Edmund of Langley, made his will on 25 November 1400, before her death on 23 December 1392 his mother, Isabel, had named King Richard II as her heir, requesting him to grant her younger son an annuity of 500 marks. The King complied, providing his godson on 3 February 1393 with an annuity of £100 from the revenues in Yorkshire which Isabel had formerly received, and on 16 March 1393 with a further annuity of £233 6s 8d from the Exchequer. According to Pugh, further largess from the King might have been expected when Richard came of age; however, that was not to be. Richard II was deposed in 1399, and according to Harriss, Richard of York 'received no favours from the new King, Henry IV'. After Henry IV's accession, Richard's annuities, his sole source of income, were either paid irregularly, or not paid at all.[4]

From April 1403 to October 1404 Richard commanded a small force defending Herefordshire against the Welsh rebel leader, Owain Glyndŵr, but otherwise performed no notable military service. However it was during this period, according to Pugh, that Richard established the relationships with the Mortimer and Cherleton families which brought about his marriage to Anne Mortimer.[5] Richard's only other significant appointment during this period came in August 1406 when, together with the Bishop of Bath, Lord Fitz Hugh, and Lord Scrope, he was chosen to escort King Henry's daughter, Philippa, to Denmark for her marriage to King Eric. Richard was knighted in July of that year, perhaps in anticipation of this embassy.[6] Pugh notes that during this three-month embassy to Denmark, Richard would have become well acquainted with Lord Scrope, who married Richard's stepmother, Joan Holland (d.1434), in September 1411, and with whom Richard later became involved in the Southampton Plot of 1415 which cost them both their lives.[7]

Marriages and issue[edit]

Early in 1408 Richard married Anne Mortimer, the eldest of the four children of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, and Eleanor Holland. Anne was a niece of Richard's stepmother, Joan Holland (d.1434).[8]

Anne had two brothers, Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, and Roger (born 23 April 1393, died c.1413), and a sister, Eleanor, who married Sir Edward de Courtenay (d.1418), and had no issue.[9]

The marriage took place secretly, and without parental consent, and was validated on 23 May 1408 by papal dispensation, but brought Richard no financial benefit, as Anne's only income was an annuity of £50 granted for her maintenance in 1406 by Henry IV.[10]

By his first wife, Cambridge had two sons and a daughter:[11]

  • Henry of York.[14]

Anne Mortimer died soon after the birth, on 21 September 1411, of her son, Richard. She was buried at Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, once the site of Kings Langley Palace, perhaps in the conventual church which houses the tombs of her husband's father, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and his first wife, Isabel of Castile.[16]

After Anne Mortimer's death Cambridge married Maud Clifford, the divorced wife of John Neville, 6th Baron Latimer, and daughter of Thomas de Clifford, 6th Baron de Clifford, by Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas de Ros, 4th Baron de Ros of Helmsley.[17] The issue of this marriage was Alice, who married Thomas Musgrave.[18]

After Cambridge's death in 1415, his second wife, Maud Clifford, is said to have lived in 'great state' at Conisbrough Castle and elsewhere.[19] She died 26 August 1446, and was buried at Roche Abbey, Yorkshire.[20] She left a will dated 15 August 1446 in which no mention is made of her stepchildren.[21]

The Southampton Plot[edit]

In the Parliament of 1414 Richard was created Earl of Cambridge, a title formerly held by his elder brother, Edward, 2nd Duke of York, who had earlier ceased to be Earl of Cambridge either by resignation of the title, or deprivation.[22]

However Richard's creation as Earl of Cambridge in 1414 brought with it no accompanying grant of lands, and according to Harriss, Cambridge was 'the poorest of the earls' who were to set out on Henry V's invasion of France, and lacked the resources to properly equip himself for the expedition.[23] Perhaps partly for this reason, Cambridge conspired with Henry Scrope, 3rd Baron Scrope of Masham, and Sir Thomas Grey to depose King Henry, and place his late wife Anne's brother, Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, on the throne. On 31 July Mortimer revealed the plot to the King, and was on the commission which condemned Cambridge to death. Although Cambridge pleaded with the King for clemency, he was beheaded on 5 August 1415 and buried in the chapel of God's House at Southampton. The fleet set sail for France a few days later on 11 August 1415.

The Southampton Plot is dramatised in Shakespeare's Henry V, and in the anonymous play, The History of Sir John Oldcastle.


Although Cambridge's title was forfeited, he was not attainted, and his four-year-old son, Richard, was his heir. Within three months, Cambridge's elder brother, Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, was slain at Agincourt, and Cambridge's four-year-old son was eventually heir to his uncle's titles and estates as well.[24]

In the parliament of 1461 King Edward IV had the sentence which had been passed on his grandfather, Richard, Earl of Cambridge, annulled as 'irregular and unlawful'.[25]


Arms of Richard, Earl of Cambridge

Richard bore the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a bordure Leon.[26]


  1. ^ Cokayne states he was born about 1375.
  2. ^ Cokayne 1932, p. 450; Pugh 1988, pp. 89–91; Richardson IV 2011, p. 400.
  3. ^ Harriss 2004: Pugh 1988, pp. 90–1; Tuck 2004.
  4. ^ Pugh 1988, pp. 90–2; Harriss 2004.
  5. ^ Pugh 1988, pp. 92–3.
  6. ^ Cokayne 1912, p. 494; Pugh 1988, pp. 92–3; Harriss 2004; Richardson IV 2011, p. 401.
  7. ^ Pugh 1988, pp. 92–4.
  8. ^ Pugh 1988, p. 94.
  9. ^ Cokayne 1932, p. 450; Richardson III 2011, p. 195
  10. ^ Cokayne 1912, p. 494; Pugh 1988, p. 94; Richardson IV 2011, p. 400; Harriss 2004.
  11. ^ Richardson IV 2011, pp. 400–5.
  12. ^ Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 106th Edition, Charles Mosley Editor-in-Chief, 1999 Page: 15, 1222.
  13. ^ Richardson IV 2011, pp. 401–3.
  14. ^ Henry is not mentioned by Pugh.
  15. ^ Richardson IV 2011, pp. 403–11.
  16. ^ Richardson IV 2011, pp. 400, 404; Harriss 2004.
  17. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 507; Richardson III 2011, p. 245; Richardson IV 2011, p. 400.
  18. ^ Template:Collectanea Musgraviana.
  19. ^ Cokayne 1932, p. 495.
  20. ^ Richardson IV 2011, p. 401.
  21. ^ Surtees Society 1855, pp. 118–24.
  22. ^ Cokayne 1912, p. 494
  23. ^ Harriss 2004.
  24. ^ Harriss 2004.
  25. ^ Harriss 2004; Cokayne 1932, p. 495.
  26. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • For the Cambridge conspiracy in The History of Sir John Oldcastle, see [1]
  • Burke's Peerage Retrieved 9 December 2011.


Peerage of England
Preceded by
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Earl,
2nd Duke of York
Earl of Cambridge