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Edmund of Langley
Duke of York
Edmund of Langley remonstrating with the King of Portugal - Chronique d' Angleterre (Volume III) (late 15th C), f.186r - BL Royal MS 14 E IV.png
Edmund of Langley before King Ferdinand I of Portugal, from Jean de Wavrin's Chronique d'Angleterre
Born 5 June 1341
Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, England
Died 1 August 1402 (aged 61)
Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, England
Burial Kings Langley, Hertfordshire
Spouse Isabella of Castile
Joan Holland
Issue Edward, 2nd Duke of York
Constance, Countess of Gloucester
Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge
House Plantagenet (by birth)
York (founder)
Father Edward III, King of England
Mother Philippa of Hainault

Edmund of Langley, Duke of York (5 June 1341 – 1 August 1402) was the fourth surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. Like many medieval English princes, Edmund gained his nickname from his birthplace: Kings Langley Palace in Hertfordshire. He was the founder of the House of York, but it was through the marriage of his younger son, Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, to Anne de Mortimer, great-granddaughter of Edmund's elder brother Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, that the House of York made its claim to the English throne in the Wars of the Roses. The other party in the Wars of the Roses, the incumbent House of Lancaster, was formed from descendants of Edmund's elder brother John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, Edward III's third son.

Early years

On the death of his godfather, the Earl of Surrey, Edmund was granted the earl's lands north of the Trent, primarily in Yorkshire. In 1359, he joined his father King Edward III on an unsuccessful military expedition to France and was made a knight of the Garter in 1361. In 1362, at the age of twenty-one, he was created Earl of Cambridge by his father.

Military career

Edmund took part in several military expeditions to France in the 1370s. In 1369, he brought a retinue of 400 men-at-arms and 400 archers to serve with John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, on campaigns in Brittany and Angoulême. The following year, he first joined Pembroke again on an expedition to relieve the fortress of Belle Perche and then accompanied his eldest brother Edward, the Black Prince, on a campaign that resulted in the siege and sack of Limoges. In 1375, he sailed with the Earl of March to relieve Brest, but after some initial success, a truce was declared.

In the 1370s, English envoys entered into an alliance with Ferdinand I of Portugal, where Portugal promised to attack Castile with the Lancastrian army. As a consequence of the Caroline War in France, John of Gaunt was forced to postpone the invasion of Castile. In 1381, Edmund finally led an abortive expedition to press John's claim to Castile, joining with King Ferdinand in attacking Castile as part of the Fernandine Wars. After months of indecisiveness, a peace was again declared between Castile and Portugal, and Edmund had to lead his malcontented troops home.

Edmund was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports on 12 June 1376 and held office until 1381. On 6 August 1385, he was elevated to Duke of York. Edmund acted as Keeper of the Realm in 1394/95 when his nephew, King Richard II of England, campaigned in Ireland and presided over Parliament in 1395. He was also keeper of the realm in 1396 during the king's brief visit to France to collect his child-bride Isabella of Valois. The duke was left as Custodian of the Realm in the summer of 1399 when Richard II departed for another extended campaign in Ireland. In late June of that year, the exiled Henry Bolingbroke landed at Bridlington in Yorkshire. He raised an army to resist Bolingbroke, then decided instead to join him, for which he was well rewarded. He thereafter remained loyal to the new Lancastrian regime as Bolingbroke overthrew Richard II to become King Henry IV.

Later life

Richard II's 1399 will refers to his successor without naming him, while appointing Edmund as one of the overseers. Some believe Richard intended to make Edmund his heir despite the stronger claims of Henry of Bolingbroke and Edmund Mortimer. This was not due to any preference Richard had for Edmund, but rather a desire the king had to set Edmund's son, Edward, on the throne. Towards the end of his life, in 1399, he was appointed Warden of the West March for a short period. Otherwise, from 1399 onward he retired from public life.

All Saints Kings Langley Edmund tomb 2018
The tomb of Edmund of Langley in All Saints' Church, Kings Langley. The tomb was brought to the church in 1575 after the nearby King's Langley Priory had been dissolved.

Edmund of Langley died in his birthplace and was interred at King's Langley Priory; however, his tomb was relocated to the nearby All Saints' Church, Kings Langley in 1575 after the priory had been dissolved. When the tomb was moved again during church restoration work in 1877, three bodies, one male and two female, were found inside. His dukedom passed to his eldest son, Edward. He was the last of his siblings to die, and lived the longest out of all of them.


Langley's first wife, Isabella, was a daughter of King Peter of Castile and María de Padilla. She was also the sister of the Infanta Constance of Castile, the second wife of Langley's brother John of Gaunt. Langley and Isabella were both descendants of Henry II of England.

They had two sons and a daughter:

After Isabella's death in 1392, Langley married his second cousin once removed Joan Holland, whose great-grandfather Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent, was the half-brother of Langley's grandfather Edward II; she and Langley were thus both descended from King Edward I. The young Joan was the granddaughter of his late sister-in-law Joan of Kent. The marriage produced no children.

Shakespeare's Duke of York

Arms of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
As a son of the sovereign, Edmund bore the arms of the sovereign, differenced by a label argent, on each point three torteaux.

Edmund, the 1st Duke of York, is a major character in Shakespeare's Richard II. In the play, Edmund resigns his position as an adviser to his nephew Richard II, but is reluctant to betray the king. He eventually agrees to side with Henry Bolingbroke to help him regain the lands Richard confiscated after the death of Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt. After Bolingbroke deposes Richard and is crowned Henry IV, Edmund discovers a plot by his son Aumerle (Edward of Norwich) to assassinate the new king. Edmund exposes the plot, but his wife Isabella convinces Henry to pardon her son.

See also

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