The now-extinct title of Earl of Richmond was created many times in the Peerage of England. The earldom of Richmond was initially held by various Breton nobles associated with the Ducal crown of Brittany; sometimes the holder was the Breton Duke himself, including one member of the cadet branch of the French Capetian dynasty. The historical ties between the Ducal crown of Brittany and this English Earldom were maintained ceremonially by the Breton dukes even after England ceased to recognize the Breton Dukes as Earls of England and those dukes rendered homage to the King of France, rather than the English crown. It was then held either by members of the English royal families of Plantagenet and Tudor, or English nobles closely associated with the English crown. It was eventually merged into the English crown during the reign of Henry VII and has been recreated as a Dukedom.
The title Earl of Richmond is associated with the now extinct Earldom, the earlier Lords of Richmond who held the Honour of Richmond, one of the most important fiefs in England, and eventually the Dukes of Richmond. The title of Earl predates the French-Breton-Norman title of Count (Comte), but the two became interchangeable in the time of William the Conqueror.
From their first creation, the Lords and Earls of Richmond were leading members of the ruling class of post-Conquest England, as defined by Keats-Rohan as "[those holding fiefs, (the right to collect fees)] held in some relationship in the feudal chain from the king of England, whether the holder be Norman, Breton, Manceau, Poitevin, Fleming or Anglo-Saxon."[a] " In William I's Conquest of England in fact "the regional origin of [the Conquerors] ...was not exclussively Norman, ... and the size of the Breton contingent ..is generally agreed to be the most significant." . Until the late 12th century, all the Earls of Richmond were Breton noblemen.
The Earldom of Richmond was frequently associated with the accumulation of great wealth within England.
The title Earl of Richmond was frequently known in the courts of the Kings of France and the Dukes of Brittany as Comte de Richemont[b] or other spelling variations, where in the courts of England and Brittany, French was frequently used.
The Honour of Richmond preceded the Earldom of Richmond. The Honour conveyed, among other things, economic rights to the holder. The Honour of Richmond was reputed to be among the wealthiest in England. It appears to have been in existence in England from 1071 shortly after the Harrying of the North, a military campaign which followed the Battle of Hastings (1066). This was before the title Earl of Richmond was held in accordance with any strict legal principle. It was initially awarded to Breton nobles from the ducal family of Brittany by the King of England. It represented, among other things, the close association of England and Brittany.
Early holders of the honour of Richmond were sometimes known as Lords of Richmond rather than as Earls. The Honour of Richmond and the title Earl of Richmond, were held principally by Breton nobles, and often by the Duke of Brittany, except for two periods from 1241 to 1268 and from 1286 to 1372. In 1435 the title was granted to the House of Plantagenet, before the Duchy of Brittany was permanently annexed to the crown of France. The title was definitively returned to crown during the reign of the Tudor kings. It was first granted to Alan Rufus in 1071 by William the Conqueror.[c] The honour, which was assessed for the service of 60 knights, was one of the most important fiefs in Norman England.[d][e]
The 1st Earl of Richmond was the Breton warrior Alan Rufus (c. 1040-1093).[f] He was related to both the Duke of Normandy and the Duke of Brittany. He was a grandson of Duke Geoffrey of Brittany and Hawise of Normandy and the second son of Odo, Count of Penthièvre. He most probably took part in William the Conqueror's invasion of England, after which he obtained grants of land in various parts of England, including manors formerly held by Earl Edwin in Yorkshire. Alan Rufus would be the first of as many as four brothers to constitute the Breton Richmond-Penthievre family in England. He built the Richmond Castle in Richmond. As he was William the Conqueror's double second cousin, Keats-Rohan would describe him a member of the English 'nobility', that is the holder of a fief who are also a member of a kin-group, albeit a member of the Breton contingents within William's conquering army. The Bretons within William's army were composed of three groups, and at one time one of those contingents, led by Ralph de Gael revolted; as Lord of Richmond, Alan's lands would be expanded by some of those forfeited by Ralph. This is taken by historians as symbolic of the loyalty that Alan Rufus displayed to William, and from this time Richmond would remain in the hands of the most loyal of English kings' nobles and also represent a means for the King to allocate wealth to his closest "kin-group" in the sense defined by Keats-Rohan. Alan Rufus emerged as the wealthiest and most important of the Breton nobles around William I, was a key supporter of William II in the events preceding, during and following the Rebellion of 1088 and may have participated in the invasion of Normandy in 1091.
Alan Rufus died on 4 August 1093 due to an unknown cause. His succession settled quickly upon his younger brother, another Alan, nicknamed "Niger" (The Black), who seems to have died by 1098. Stephen, their younger brother, inherited Richmond. Stephen died between 1135 and 1138, and was succeeded in Brittany by his eldest son, Geoffrey Boterel II, a supporter of the Empress Matilda, and in England by a younger son, Alan, also nicknamed The Black,[g] who was an ally of King Stephen during The Anarchy.
The Penthièvre brothers who held the territorial designation as Lords of Richmond are often reckoned as de facto 'earls of Richmond', though they were not so in the later strictly legal sense. Through the reign of King Henry I few earldoms had been created. King Stephen's reign was marked by the creation of several new earldoms.
Stephen of Tréguier's son Alan (c. 1116-1146), was the first of these lords to be styled 'Earl of Richmond' in a strictly legal sense. King Stephen also created Alan 1st Earl of Cornwall although this title would be forfeit in 1141 after the Battle of Lincoln. Alan of Brittany is recorded as riding at King Stephen's side in the Battle of Lincoln. Alan Rufus, Stephen of Tréguier, and Alan were members of "the Richmond-Penthievre... [family, and this family]... maintained its rivalry with its ducal cousins [in Brittany] into the next century.".[h]
Alan married Bertha, daughter and heiress of Conan of Brittany. Alan died in 1146 at which time his wife, the dowager Countess of Richmond Bertha, returned to Brittany. Their son Conan (c. 1138-1171) married Margaret of Huntingdon, sister of Malcolm IV of Scotland. Conan asserted his right to Brittany, and with it Richmond; he transferred the title Earl of Richmond during his lifetime to his daughter Constance (c. 1161-1201).
Constance married three times, and each of her husbands in turn assumed the title of earl of Richmond jure uxeris, in conjunction with that of Duke of Brittany (also jure uxeris). They were: Geoffrey Plantagenet (1158-1186), son of Henry II of England; Ranulph de Blondeville, Earl of Chester (c. 1172-1232) ;[i] and Guy de Thouars (d. 1213), who survived his wife for twelve years. The only son of the first marriage, Arthur (1187-1203), was styled Earl of Richmond in his mother's lifetime. On his likely murder at the hands of his uncle, King John (Jean sans Terres), the earldom's possession was disputed. Arthur's legal heir, his full elder sister, Eleanor, is sometimes considered to have succeeded him as Countess of Richmond, but due to her claims to England, Brittany, Anjou and Aquitaine, King John kept her imprisoned from 1202.
To complicate matters, Constance of Brittany had two daughters by her third marriage, the elder of whom, Alix, was proclaimed Duchess of Brittany by the Breton lords and given in marriage to Pierre Mauclerc by Philip Augustus of France, in 1213. Alix used the title Countess of Richmond from 1203 to her death in 1221. As a result of his marriage to Alix, Pierre was styled Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond, but the latter title was only officially proclaimed in 1218, during the reign of Henry III, while Eleanor, who would still be kept imprisoned till her death in 1241, was apparently deprived of her last title. Pierre Mauclerc was the founder of the Breton House of Dreux. The title would continue in the House of Dreux for some time, although from time to time, it was forfeited, or it reverted to the crown. About 1235 Pierre Mauclerc renounced his allegiance to England, and consequently suffered forfeiture of his English estates.
In 1241 Henry III granted the estates of Richmond to Peter of Savoy (1203-1268), uncle of his queen consort, Eleanor of Provence. Peter was thereafter described as Earl of Richmond by contemporary chroniclers. By his will, Savoy left Richmond to his niece, Eleanor, who transferred it to the crown. That year, 1268, Henry III granted the earldom to John I, Duke of Brittany (1217-1286), son of Pierre Mauclerc. The title was recreated for John I's heir, John II, Duke of Brittany. In 1306 the title was granted to his son John of Brittany who entered into the service of Edward I and Edward II of England. As an earl, John of Brittany was particularly inattentive to English politics. He had a distinguished record as a diplomat working on behalf of these Kings of England and was a frequent warrior in their military quests, both on the continent and in Britain. Upon John of Brittany's death, the title passed to his nephew, John III, Duke of Brittany.
The earldom was then passed to Jean de Montfort, John III's half-brother. John III had no issue and upon his death the inheritance of the Duchy of Brittany became disputed. John III's niece, Joanna of Penthievre claimed the Duchy without apparently claiming to be hereditary Countess of Richmond. John III's half-brother, Jean de Montfort, the Earl of Richmond disputed Joanna's claim to the Duchy and their dispute was initially adjudicated by the French King in a court of peers in Conflans, France. In that adjudication, Charles of Blois, Joanna's husband, gained recognition as Duke of Brittany and Jean de Montfort fled. The Breton War of Succession ensued. The French king's adjudication raised the question of whether the Duke of Brittany and separately the Earl of Richmond, whether one and the same or not, owed homage to the French king as vassal. Jean de Montfort fled Conflans in order to regain his troops who occupied many fortified castles in a line from Nantes to Brittany. The French King raised an army to defend the interests of Charles of Blois and seized the county of Montfort from Jean de Montfort. The king then proposed to Jean de Montfort that he would permit him to retain the Earldom of Richmond if Jean accepted the adjudication of Conflans and returned to the French court as a loyal vassal.[j] Edward III reacted by supporting Jean de Montfort.
In 1342, the title reverted to Edward III and would remain for a time behind the "shield of England" as the competing claims of the French and English crowns were played out, first in the Breton War of Succession and then across the Hundred Years' War. Edward III granted the Earldom to his son John of Gaunt, who then surrendered it in 1372. The earldom was then given to John V, Duke of Brittany, but on his death or possibly at an earlier date through forfeiture, it reverted to the crown and was to remain behind the "shield of England" and away from any attempts of the French crown to acquire it and the related properties.[k]
From 1414 to 1435 the earldom of Richmond was held by John Plantagenet, Duke of Bedford. In 1453 it was conferred on Edmund Tudor, half-brother to King Henry VI. When Edmund's son Henry ascended the throne as Henry VII in 1485, the earldom of Richmond merged in the crown, and for the next forty years there was no further grant of the title.[l][m] After Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, became King Henry VII of England, the title Duke of Richmond was created by the Tudor Dynasty, and over time generally overtook the use of the title Earl of Richmond. The earldom has not been recreated since.
There was a close association with the Duchy of Brittany from the inception of the honours and titles associated with Richmond until the reign of John V. After John V, the English crown ceased to recognize the Breton rulers as Earls of Richmond and the crown frequently assigned the Honour of Richmond to English nobles. In Brittany, the Dukes who succeeded John V continued to use the title Earl of Richmond, or in French, Comte de Richemont. Francis II was the last Duke of Brittany associated with the courtesy title. He waived all rights to holdings in England an assigned them to Henry Tudor, in advance of Henry's armed invasion of England. After Henry's attainment of the English throne, the Earl of Richmond and the Honour of Richmond were merged with the English crown.
Edmund Tudor had been educated by Catherine de la Pole, the Abbess of Barking, who brought him to Henry VI's attention. Upon attaining adulthood, Edmund joined Henry VI at court. In 1449 Henry VI knighted him and then circa 1452 summoned Edmund to parliament as the Earl of Richmond. He had one son, Henry VII who was born posthumously circa 1456.
The Earldom of Richmond was replaced by the Dukedom of Richmond which was named after Richmond and its surrounding district of Richmondshire. It has been held by members of the royal Tudor and Stuart families. The current dukedom of Richmond initially maintained the historic ties of Richmond to Brittany when it was created in 1675 for Charles Lennox: he was the illegitimate son of King Charles II of England and a noble bretonne, Louise de Penancoët de Kérouaille.[n]
From 1341, the title and honour were separated permanently. Members of the Montfort family of Brittany regained the honour in 1372, lost and regained it in 1381, lost it again in 1384, regained it briefly in 1420, but lost it permanently in 1425 when Arthur, second son of John IV of Brittany, joined the French side and became constable of France in the final phase of the Hundred Years War. The family continued to use the title until the merger of the line into the French royal family in 1547.
Titular Montfort earls: