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Richard York, duke of

York, Richard, duke of, 1411–60, English nobleman, claimant to the throne. He was descended from Edward III through his father, Richard, earl of Cambridge, grandson of that king, and also through his mother, Anne Mortimer, great-granddaughter of Lionel, duke of Clarence, who was the third son of Edward III. Richard was brought up as a royal ward, having become duke of York on the death of his uncle Edward in 1415. He inherited (1425) the vast estates of another uncle, Edmund de Mortimer, 5th earl of March, which made him the richest landholder in England. He served in the retinue of Henry VI in France (1431) and was lieutenant general of France and Normandy (1436–37). In 1438 he married Cecily Neville, daughter of the earl of Westmoreland. He served again as lieutenant general in France from 1441 to 1445 but became increasingly discontented with the English government, which diverted men and funds from his operations to those of John Beaufort, 1st duke of Somerset. The death of the king's uncle Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, in 1447 made York heir presumptive to the throne, and the government, to get him out of the way, promptly ordered him to Ireland as lieutenant. He did not go until 1449 and returned in 1450 to struggle against the growing power of Queen Margaret of Anjou and Edmund Beaufort, 2d duke of Somerset. In 1453 a son born to Henry VI displaced York as heir to the throne, but the onset of the king's insanity enabled York to secure control of the government as protector (1454). Dismissed when the king recovered, York resorted to arms (see Roses, Wars of the) and, with the help of his wife's relatives, most notably Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, won the first battle of St. Albans (1455), in which Somerset was killed. After this victory York once more became protector, but by 1456 the queen's faction had regained power. Forced to flee to Ireland in 1459, York returned after the victory of his supporters at Northampton (1460) and for the first time laid claim to the throne. A compromise was arranged by which York was recognized as protector and heir apparent to the throne, but Margaret (whose own son had thus been disinherited) gathered her forces and defeated the Yorkists at the battle of Wakefield, in which York was slain. His son, Edward of York, however, was to secure the throne as Edward IV.

See E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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