Langley, Edmund de (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 32
Langley, Edmund de, first Duke of York

by Charles Lethbridge Kingsford

LANGLEY, EDMUND de, first Duke of York (1341–1402), was fifth son of Edward III by Philippa of Hainault. He was born at King's Langley, Hertfordshire, on 5 June 1341. In 1347 he received a grant of the lands beyond Trent formerly belonging to John de Warren, earl of Surrey. In the autumn of 1359 he accompanied his father on the great expedition into France which immediately preceded the treaty of Brétigny in the following year. Edmund was one of those who swore to the alliance with France on 21 Oct. 1360. Next year, probably in April, he was made a knight of the Garter. On 13 Nov. 1362 he was created Earl of Cambridge; a week later he had a grant for the repair of his castles in Yorkshire (Fædera, vi. 395). In the previous February proposals had been made for a marriage between Edmund and Margaret, daughter of Louis, count of Flanders (ib. vi. 349); the business did not proceed further at this time, but two years later Edmund and his brother, John of Gaunt, made a visit to the count at Bruges, and a treaty of marriage was agreed upon in October 1364 (ib. vi. 445). The pope, however, under the influence of the French king, refused to grant a dispensation, and the project was finally abandoned in 1369 (Froissart, vii. 129, ed. Luce). There was another matrimonial proposal in 1366, when negotiations were opened for a marriage between Edmund or his brother Lionel and Violanta, daughter of Galeazzo Visconti, duke of Milan (Fædera, vi. 509; see under Lionel, Duke of Clarence).

At the beginning of 1367 Edmund joined his eldest brother in Aquitaine, and accompanied him on his expedition into Spain. After the return of the Black Prince Edmund came back to England, but in January 1369 was once more sent out in company of John Hastings, second earl of Pembroke [q. v.], in command of four hundred men-at-arms and four hundred archers. They landed at St. Malo, and marched through Brittany to Angouléme, where the Prince of Wales then held his court. In April the two earls were sent on a raid into Périgord, where, after plundering the open country, they laid siege to Bourdeilles. Alter eleven weeks the town was taken by stratagem, and the expedition returned to Angouléme. In July Edmund accompanied Sir John Chandos to the siege of Roche-sur-Yon, and was present till its capture in August. In January and February 1370 Edmund was employed once more, in the company of Pembroke, in effecting the relief of Belle Perche. Later in the year he shared in the great raid which culminated in the sack of Limoges. When the Prince of Wales went home next year, Edmumd was left behind in Gascony (Walsingham, Hist. Angl. i. 312). In 1372 he returned to England, and shortly afterwards married Isabel of Castile, the second daughter of Pedro the Cruel.

On 24 Nov. 1374 Edmund was appointed, conjointly with John de Montfort, duke of Brittany, to be the king's lieutenant in that duchy (Fædera, vii. 49). Early next year they sailed from Southampton in command of a strong force, with the intention of attacking the French fleet before St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte. Contrary winds, however, compelled them to disembark near St. Mathieu. This town captured and its garrison put to the sword, the English marched against St. Pol de Léon, which they took by storm. Then they laid siege to St. Brieuc; but they soon departed to assist Sir John Devereux [q. v.], who was besieged by Oliver de Clisson in the new fort near Quimperlé. The fort was relieved, and the French in their turn besieged at Quimperlé. Operations, however, were soon afterwards terminated by a truce, concluded at Bruges on 27 June. Edmund then returned home with the English fleet. On 1 Sept. he was one of the commissioners to treat with France (ib. iii. 1039, Record ed.), and on 12 June 1376 was appointed constable of Dover, an office which he held till February 1381. On the accession of his nephew as Richard II, Edmund became one of the council of regency. In June 1378 he joined his brother John in in expedition to Brittany. After crossing the Channel they laid siege to St. Malo. Du Gueaclin marched to its rescue, but would not be induced to risk an engagement, though Edmund endeavoured to provoke him to one. Eventually the English went home without effecting anything.

Early in May 1380 a Portuguese embassy came to appeal for aid against the king of Castile, and as a result Edmund was despatched at the head of five hundred lances and as many archers. Accompanied by his wife and son, he sailed from Plymouth in July 1381, having hastened his departure, so it is said, for fear the rising under Wat Tyler should prevent his going (Froissart, viii. 29, ed. Buchon). Sir Matthew de Gournay [q. v.], the Canon of Robertsart, and others, took part in the expedition. The English reached Lisbon after a stormy voyage of three weeks' duration. In accordance with a treaty already concluded, Edmund's young son Edward was married to Beatrice, the daughter of King Ferdinand of Portugal. Edmund then went to Estramos, but most of the English were under the Canon of Robertsart at Villa Viciosa, whence during the winter they made an attack on Higueras against the wishes of the king of Portugal. In April 1382 the English, weary of inaction, remonstrated with Edmund, who could only reply that he must wait for his brother John. Shortly afterwards the English made a fresh raid, and captured Elvas and Zafra. Thereupon Edmind came to Villa Viciosa; but the English, now thoroughly discontented, threatened to turn free-lances, and fight on their own account, unless some action was taken. Under pressure from his followers, Edmund then went to Lisbon to remonstrate with the king, and obtained from him a promise to take the field. But Ferdinand was now, as previously, intriguing with the Spaniards, and presently, before any fighting took place, made peace without reference to his English allies. Edmund would have attacked the king of Portugal if be had felt strong enough, but as it was he had no choice except to return to England, where he arrived in October 1382 (Fædere, iv. 156, Record ed.) The king of Portugal soon after remarried his daughter to the infant of Castile. Nevertheless, Edmund did not give up his hopes of securing a footing in that country, and in 1384 opposed the Scottish war for fear that it would interfere with his projects. In the summer of 1395 he took part in the king's expedition to Scotland, and was rewarded for his services by a grant of 1,000/. (ib. vii. 474, 482). On 6 Aug. of the same year he was created Duke of York (Rot. Parl. iii. 205). In the troubles of his nephew's reign, Edmund, who cared little for state affairs, only played a small part. He was content to follow the lead of his brother John, duke of Lancaster, or in his absence that of Thomas, duke of Gloucester. In 1386 he was at Dover, waiting to repel a threatened French invasion, and he was also one of the fourteen commissioners appointed by parliament to receive the crown revenues (ib. iii. 221). At this time Edmund supported Gloucester in his opposition to the king's favourite, Robert de Vere, and was with Gloucester when he defeated De Vere near Oxford in 1387 and when he met the king at Brentford. Three years later his elder brother was back in England, and Edmund now followed his guidance in seeking for peace with France, against the wishes of Gloucester. Consequently, in March 1391, the dukes of Lancaster and York went to Amiens to conduct the negotiations for peace.

When Richard went to Ireland in September 1394, Edmund was appointed regent, and in this capacity held the parliament of January 1395 (ib. iii. 330). In September 1390 he was again regent during the king's absence on his visit to France to wed the Princess Isabella. During these years Edmund was under the guidance of his elder brother. Thomas of Gloucester, however, as Froissart says, made no account of him during his intrigues, and Edmund took no part in the events which attended his younger brother's death in 1397. When Richard went to Ireland in March 1399, Edmund was for the third time made regent. Personally, no doubt, he was loyal to his nephew, but it was his lack of vigour which made the success of Henry of Lancaster so easy. Edmund, indeed, prepared to oppose Lancaster, but finding little support, shortly went over to his side, and accompanied him in his progress to Bristol. Afterwards Edmund came forward for once as a statesman, and he has the credit of having suggested that Richard should be induced to execute a formal resignation of the crown previous to the meeting of parliament. After the coronation of the new king Edmund retired from the court, and the only other incident of interest in his life was his discovery of his son Rutland's plot in January 1400. He died at Langley on 1 Aug. 1402, and was buried in the church of the Dominicans there by the side of his first wife. His tomb was removed to King's Langley Church about 1574, and since 1877 has stood in a memorial chapel in the north aisle.

Edmund was the least remarkable of his father's sons. He was an easy-going man of pleasure, who had no care to be a 'lord of great worldly riches.'

When all the lordes to councell and parlyament Went, he wolde to hunte and also to hawekyug.

But he was a kindly man, and 'lived of his own' without oppression. In appearance he was 'as fayre a person as a man might see anywhere' (Harding, pp. 19, 340–1). There is a portrait of him in Harleian MS. 1319, which is engraved in Doyle's 'Official Baronage.' His will, dated 25 Nov. 1400, is printed in Nichols's 'Royal Wills,' p. 187.

Edmund was twice married: (1) in 1372 to Isabel of Castile, who died 3 Nov. 1393; and (2) in 1395 to Joan, daughter of Thomas Holland, earl of Kent [q. v.], who, surviving, married three other husbands, and died in 1434. By his first wife he had two sons: Edward, who during his father's life was earl of Rutland and duke of Aumale, and succeeded as second duke of York; and Richard, earl of Cambridge (d. 1415), through whom he was great-grandfather of Edward IV. He had also a daughter, Constance, wife of Thomas le Despenser, earl of Gloucester [q. v.], a woman of an evil reputation, who died on 28 Nov. 1416.

[Froissart, ed. Luce, vols. vi–viii. (Soc. de l'Hist. de France), and Buchon, vols, vii–xiv. (Collection des Chroniques); Walsingham's Hist. Anglic. (Rolls Ser.), Chron. Angliæ, 1328–88 (Rolls Ser.); Chronique de la Traison et la Mort de Richart Deux (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Trokelowe, Blansford, &c. (Rolls Ser.); Chron. du Ral. de St-Denys (Documants inédits sur l'Histoire de la France); Hardyng's Chronicle, ed. 1812; Rymer's Fædera, original edition, except when otherwise stated; Dugdale's Baronage; Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 741–2; Archæologia, xlvi. 397–328, giving an account of the opening of his tomb in 1877; Stubbe's Const. Hist. vol. ii.; other authorities as quoted.]

C. L. K.