The 3rd Earl of Cambridge, Richard of Conisburgh, was born amidst the historic walls of Conisbrough Castle, Yorkshire, on 20th July 1385. Being the second son of Edmund of Langley, the 1st Duke of York, and Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York, Richard of Conisburgh was of significant lineage.
On both paternal and maternal sides, his lineage is traced back to royalty. Moreover, his godfather was none other than King Richard II, who held a significant presence around the time of Richard of Conisburgh’s birth.
Questioning Richard of Conisburgh’s Lineage
The life of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, was surrounded by an air of mystery. His noticeable absence from his father’s and brother’s wills raised many questions.
Historians, like G.L. Harriss, proposed that Richard of Conisburgh might have been the offspring of an illicit affair between his mother and John Holland, the king’s half-brother. This theory was further fuelled by the DNA studies on the remains of Richard III in 2014.
Royal Support for Richard of Conisburgh
Although his father appeared indifferent, Richard of Conisburgh received support from his mother, Isabella. Prior to her death in 1392, she declared King Richard II as her heir and requested that her younger son, Richard of Conisburgh, be granted an annuity of 500 marks.
King Richard II complied, providing him with an annuity from the revenues of Yorkshire. However, the deposition of King Richard II and the succession of Henry IV put Richard of Conisburgh in a precarious situation. His annuities, his sole source of income, were paid irregularly or often ignored.
The Beginnings of Richard of Conisburgh’s Military and Political Life
Between 1403 and 1404, Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, had a brief military tenure, leading a small force against Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndŵr in Herefordshire.
This period was significant as it allowed him to forge influential relationships with the Mortimer and Cherleton families. In 1406, Richard of Conisburgh was appointed to escort King Henry’s daughter Philippa to Denmark for her wedding to King Eric, which further bolstered his alliances.
The Southampton Plot: Richard of Conisburgh’s Downfall
In 1414, Richard of Conisburgh was bestowed the title of Earl of Cambridge, formerly held by his elder brother, Edward. Despite this, the earldom brought no financial benefits, leaving Richard of Conisburgh ill-equipped for Henry V’s planned invasion of France.
As a result, Richard of Conisburgh, along with Lord Scrope and Sir Thomas Grey, conspired against King Henry V. The plot was eventually unveiled, leading to Richard of Conisburgh’s execution on 5th August 1415. This notorious event has been immortalised in Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and the anonymous play “The History of Sir John Oldcastle.”
Preserving the Legacy of Richard of Conisburgh
Despite his execution, the legacy of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, lived on through his progeny. His son Richard inherited his titles and estates, becoming the 3rd Duke of York. The descendants of Richard of Conisburgh included King Edward IV and King Richard III, underscoring the 3rd Earl of Cambridge’s lasting influence on the English royal lineage.
Personal Life and Progeny of Richard of Conisburgh
Richard of Conisburgh led an intriguing personal life. In 1408, he wedded Anne de Mortimer in a clandestine ceremony. Their union resulted in two sons and a daughter. Following Anne’s death, Richard of Conisburgh married Maud Clifford, who enjoyed a prosperous life at Conisbrough Castle following his demise.
The rich tapestry of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge’s life, woven with intriguing episodes of conspiracy, mystery, and a lasting legacy, continues to captivate historians and readers alike.
*Feature Image: Basher Eyre / Magnificent stained glass window within St Laurence, Ludlow