Richard Remains Found, Part 3
Okay, for the real hardcore Plantagenet buffs out there, here’s some last juicy tidbits. I mentioned earlier that Richard II was the son of Edward III’s first son. He had no children, so that line ends with him. John of Gaunt was Edward III’s third son, and the Lancastrian Kings Henry IV, V, and VI come from that line. The York line is descended from the fourth son of Edward III, and the Wars of the Roses are always referred to as being between the Houses of York and Lancaster. So the obvious question is; what about the second son of Edward III? Who was he and did he have any living male descendants? If he did, according to the rules of primogeniture, they would be the legitimate Kings of England. (Note for the truly hardcore: yes, there’s another son in there that makes all these numbers technically one off. But he died young and had no place in the history of the family or the times, so I’m ignoring him, because it’s my article and I can. So there.)
Well, the second son’s name was Lionel, Duke of Clarence, whose daughter married into the Mortimer family. Their male descendants were therefore, according to the rules, the rightful Kings. You may remember this in 2010’s Henry IV, Part One, where Edmund Mortimer joined up with his wife’s father Glendower and his sister’s husband Hotspur to try to take the crown. By the time of Henry V and Henry VI, however, the heir to the Mortimer family and to Lionel Duke of Clarence was another Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March. (The previous Edmund’s nephew.) He remained loyal to the Henrys and never tried to take the throne for himself. Remember the revolt by three English nobles who plotted to kill Henry V last year? Shakespeare told us they were in the pay of the French. He did that to tie this otherwise unattached plot thread to his main story. They were actually doing it to try to put the rightful king, Mortimer, on the throne, because one of the conspirators, the Earl of Cambridge (played by Ted Deasy), was Mortimer’s brother-in-law. And you know who turned them in to King Henry? Mortimer! Who apparently wanted no part of treason against a sitting king and was willing to piss off his wife by snitching on her brother Cambridge in order to be clearly and demonstrably innocent. Don’t you just love the Plantagenets? I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up. And now it’s about to get really twisted up!
Since this Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March had no children, his sister Anne’s children become the heirs to Lionel, Duke of Clarence. (Remember him, that all important second son of Edward III?) She and Cambridge have a son, who, despite his father being executed for treason by Henry V in 1415, is restored to the family fortune by Henry VI. His name is Richard, and just guess who he and his father Cambridge actually are. They are the descendants of Edmund, Duke of York, the fourth son of Edward III. But through his mother, Anne Mortimer, Richard is also the heir to Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the all-important second son. Got that? He is actually the heir to both the second and fourth lines. He fails in his attempt to win the crown, dying during the Wars of the Roses, but his two sons defeat Henry the VI and become King Edward IV and King Richard III.
But wait, it gets even better! Edward and Richard’s grandmother is Anne Mortimer, heir to the Clarence branch of the family, right? Their father is Richard, Duke of York, heir to the York branch, right? Wondering who their mother could be? I’m glad you asked. Their mother is Cicely Neville, called the Rose of Raby because of her upbringing at Raby Castle. Where does she come from? Remember all those Beauforts, those illegitimate children of John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster) and his mistress Catherine Swynford? Remember how from their son John Beaufort we eventually got to Henry VII? Now let’s look at their daughter Joan Beaufort. (Yes, they really did name their children John and Joan.) Joan married a guy named Ralph Neville, and they had a daughter, you guessed it, Cicely Neville, who married her cousin Richard of York. Sooo, Edward IV and Richard III are descended from all three warring branches of the Plantagenet family. Every family line they’ve got on either side of their family traces back to Edward III. And since Henry VII marries Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth, their son Henry VIII and his daughters Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I also share that descent from all three lines. And since James Stuart descends from Henry VIII’s sister, the Stuart line also shares that descent. And since the first Hanoverian king, George I, got the crown because his mother was a Stuart, the Hanovers also share this descent. And the Hanovers became the Saxe-Coburgs when Victoria became queen, then changed their name to Windsor because Saxe-Coburg sounded too Germanic, so Elizabeth II, Charles, William and little baby whoever he or she will be also share this descent. Every ruling monarch of England from Henry IV on descends from John of Gaunt, and everyone from Edward IV on comes from his love match with Catherine Swynford. Whose sister, by the way, was married to Geoffrey Chaucer! So every monarch of England since Edward IV is related by marriage to the greatest poet of the English language before Shakespeare. Like I said, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.