Why was the Succession of the House of York Contested?
Most people believe that the bloody English civil war, The Wars of the Roses, was fought because the Lancastrian King, Henry VI, was unfit to rule due to mental instability. Secondly, it was because Richard of York had a stronger claim to the throne under the inheritance guidelines commonly called the law of primogeniture. In Part one of this article, primogeniture is explained using an example everyone is familiar with, the Tudor line of succession. While presenting the House of York's line of succession, some troubling issues arose that required further examination. These issues have never been addressed, to my knowledge, so a reexamination of the root cause for this conflict has never been fully understood. In order to maintain the primary topic for this article, we will continue, first, with the York line of succession..
We left off with the list of Edward III's children and we will examine how primogeniture was a method for passing authority down from one ruler to another in a smooth, orderly manner. This was probably designed to avoid the candidates fighting over who would assume the reins of government. In any society, a seamless transfer of authority is in everyone's best interest.
Joan of Kent, England's Helen of Troy
Edward, the Black Prince, Tracking the Elusive Plantagenet Y Chromosome
Joan of Kent
The House of York's Superior Claim to the English Crown
This is where the first article, on the combined questions and answers as to why Richard III's DNA did not match the surviving Plantagenet Y chromosome, and how this fact, while intriguing, was irrelevant in regards to his absolute right to be King Richard III of England. (the usurping of his nephews excepted) under the laws of succession that existed from the time the Normans invaded England and conquered the Bretons, Scots, Irish, and the Welsh peoples.
We left off on the York line of descent examining the succession starting with Edward III's children to make it easier to follow.
Edward III's children are as follows:
- Edward the Black Prince (heir apparent) Died 1376
- Joan of England
- Lionel of Antwerp Duke of Clarence Died 1368
- John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster Died 1399
- Edmund of Langley Duke of York Died 1402
- Mary of England
- Margaret of England
- Thomas Duke of Gloucester Died 1397
We are, of course, starting with the male line of descent that follows the order of birth, whether the first male had any children, and then repeats the same pattern, male heirs in order of birth, then female heirs, in the order of their birth. (To follow this, it is advised that you read Part 1 using the Tudor succession that everyone is familiar with as a guide.)
As noted above, Edward, the Black Prince was the first born son and heir apparent to his father, Edward III. He married Joan Holland, the widow of John Holland, who had children from her previous marriage. Since this bears heavily on the later usurpation of the crown by Henry of Bolingbroke Castle, son of the third born son, John of Ghent, (often mispronounced as Gaunt... the 1st Duke of Lancaster.) Edward and Joan were closely related, as she was first cousin to Edward III, her father-in-law. What little we know is that Joan initiated the relationship. She was known for her exquisite beauty, and, no doubt, would have had another marriage arranged for her by her cousin, Edward III, had she not approached Edward, the Black Prince with a marriage proposal. History tells us that Edward's father, Edward III, and his mother, Philippa of Hainault tried to discourage the marriage for several reasons. Reading the various accounts, it appears that their first objection had to do with Joan, herself. Secondary, no one liked her sons from her first marriage, John Holland and his brother, Thomas Holland. Edward, the Black Prince, was smitten with her beauty and her apparent love for him, so he could not be swayed. A dispensation from the Pope would have been required for the marriage because of consanguinity.
Edward and Joan had one surviving son:
- Richard II Died 1399
Richard did not have any children. He did, however, have several half siblings, from his mother's first marriage. As with the Tudor example, children who did not survive childhood are omitted for simplicity. Joan's children from her first marriage are as follows:
- Thomas Holland Died 1397
- John Holland Died 1400
- Joan Holland Died 1384
- Maud Holland Died 1391
A reminder, the Holland side of the family was NOT in the line of succession. Also, since Richard III and his family claimed the throne through the line of Lionel of Antwerp, that is the only line that will be addressed in this article.
John Holland Half Brother to Richard II
Edward II King of England
Did the British Royal Family Almost Have a House of Mortimer Dynasty? Second Son, Lionel of Antwerp
The next son in the line of succession was Edward III's second son, Lionel of Antwerp. This ancestor of Richard III is the one that gave the House of York their greater claim to the throne and the crown than the Lancastrian claimant, Henry IV of Bolingbroke. The Lancastrians were descended from Edward III third eldest son John of Ghent, Duke of Lancaster. John was the Regent for his nephew, Richard II, as he ascended the throne at ten years of age. (Unlike the Princes in the Tower, Edward and Richard of York) Richard II survived to adulthood.
Lionel of Antwerp would have been king after the death of Richard II, but Lionel was poisoned by person or persons unknown in 1368. His only child was a daughterl, Philippa, named after his mother. As Philippa was an orphan and a minor, she was required to have a guardian. This was a tremendous opportunity for whoever was appointed. Philippa's guardian chose the husband for the 14 year old ward. Since Philippa was both an heiress and first in descent to the throne after Richard II, her hand was much in demand. Philippa was married to Edmund Mortimer. (The Mortimers, as a family, will be looked at in a later article) Edmund Mortimer seemed an odd choice for such a momentous union. After all, she was the heir apparent to Richard II, so any children she had would be in the next immediate line of succession to the throne. Edmund Mortimer died in 1378, Philippa Plantagenet died in 1382.
Philippa and Edmund had four children:
- Elizabeth Mortimer
- Roger Mortimer
- Edmund Mortimer
- Philippa Mortimer
Roger Mortimer was the only viable heir. As he was six years old when he was orphaned, he, too, became a ward of the court, over which Richard II reigned. While Philippa's inheritance netted Edward III 4ooo pounds a year. Richard II, at his mother, Joan Holland's suggestion, appointed Joan's son, Thomas Holland, by her first marriage, as guardian to the new heir presumptive. Richard II received several thousand marks a year from the estates held by Thomas Holland. When it was time to choose a wife for young Roger, Thomas Holland chose his own daughter, Eleanor Holland. That brought Thomas Holland's future grandchildren into the line of succession.
The Infamous Roger Mortimer Who Murdered Edward II and Slept With his Wife, the Queen
British Royal Family: The House of Mortimer and the Line of Succession of the House of York
Roger Mortimer and Eleanor Holland, (Eleanor being the half niece of Richard II, and the granddaughter of Joan Holland, widow, now, of both Thomas Holland Senior and Edward, the Black Prince) had the following children:
- Edmund Mortimer 1391 - 1425
- Roger Mortimer Died - 1411
- Anne Mortimer 1390 - 1411
- Eleanor Mortimer Died 1418
Richard II was deposed in 1399. By the year 1399, the second son of Edward III. Lionel, had died, his daughter, Philippa, had died, Philippa's son, Roger Mortimer, had died. Roger Mortimer's son, Edmund Mortimer, was a child, just eight years of age. Edmund Mortimer's father, Roger Mortimer, had died in 1398, before the death of Richard II. This sequence can be summarized as Edmund Mortimer, a child, who was the great-great-great-grandson of Edward III, is the only heir apparent following the laws of primogeniture. Edmund Mortimer is descended from the female line, so, interjecting modern science into the succession means that he would carry only the X maternal chromosome, not the paternal Y chromosome. Henry of Bolingbroke Castle, who usurped the crown, carried both the X chromosome and the Y chromosome. Henry was a Lancastrian, the legitimate son of John of Ghent (Gaunt) who was the legitimate third surviving son of Edward III. That makes King Henry IV the grandson of King Edward III. Who was the rightful heir? It is clearly Edmund Mortimer, who, at the tender age of eight, should have been crowned King Edmund I of the House of Mortimer or the House of March, as he was the fifth Earl of March. A more practiced form of inheritance, from earlier times when a King was required to fight to defend his kingdom, This form of primogeniture had the succession only through the male line for practical reasons. The fact that Henry IV was a more direct descendent of the Plantagenet line, he carried both the Y and the X chromosomes, so, genetically, Henry the IV was the most qualified successor. Edmund of Mortimer, although only a Great-Great-Great-Grandson, and carrying only the X chromosome, was the legal, rightful heir to the throne.
Henry IV Duke of Lancaster, Grandson of Edward III
History for Children
British Royal Family:Richard III's DNA and the Succession
Since Edward, the Black Prince, died before his father, in 1377, his father remained king until 1378, it is said that he never got over his beloved son's death. (Edward died of a wasting disease, presumed to be dysentery, but not known. Lionel was poisoned ) Richard II, the son of Joan and Edward, was only a child. Edmund Mortimer, too, was a child. Henry IV had the weaker claim as far the laws of primogeniture, but, genetically, he had the better claim as the grandson of Edward III. Edmund was the Great-Great-Great Grandson of Edward III. Henry IV inherited the X and Y chromosomes while the Yorks inherited only the X Plantagenet chromosome. Edmund died in 1425. His sister, Anne Mortimer, (died 1411) who married Richard III's grandfather, Richard of Conisburgh, who was the Great-Great-Great-Great grandson of Edward III was executed for trying to regain the crown. His son, an infant when he died, was Richard of York, the Great-Great-Great-Great-Great grandson of Edward III. His sons, Edward IV, George, and Richard III who were the Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great grandsons of Edward III were the ones legally entitled to the throne. Edward, Prince of Wales, Great-Great-Great grandson of Edward III, seventeen years old, was beheaded after the Battle of Tewkesbury, allegedly by George of Clarence, Richard III's brother.
Edward, Lancastrian Prince
"According to some accounts, shortly after the rout of the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, a small contingent of men under the Duke of Clarence found the grieving prince near a grove, and immediately beheaded him on a makeshift block, despite his pleas". Paul Murray Kendall, a biographer of Richard III, accepts this version of events.
This is a direct quote from Wikipedia.
Consanguinity or Inbreeding Creates Many Genetic Disorders
Richard III University of Leicester
Rosalyn Murray on October 31, 2020:
I think the most fascinating angle is exactly what we will never know: what was going through these people’s minds. Did they put their trust in some herbal or barrier method of birth control? Did they believe God—who had forbidden sex outside of marriage—would protect them? Did they feel that men will do what they want and women must deal with the consequences?
Life was confusing enough in the 20th century. It must have been dizzying back then!
Stephanie on October 02, 2020:
I read this article 7 mths ago and posted I am a relative of Richard the III. I wasn't even thinking at the time about other aspects of my lineage. My great great grand father was named Edward Holland born in England, my father's side had a family lineage going back to the Dulfane (?)Livingstone and said we where related Ssome how to Mary Queen of Scots. Then the 23 and me said i was a relatve of Richard III. Very interesting.
Stephanie on February 17, 2020:
I did 23 and me DNA testing and it cam back Richard the third and I are related through a female lineage
Cathy work on January 29, 2020:
I am a descendant of both King Edward 1V as well of King Richard 111 So tell me what you think????
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on November 22, 2019:
Lynn, hello. I suppose you know that when Richard's father, Richard Duke of York campaigned in France his wife Anne had an affair with an English archer in the Low Countries. Their son was named Edward and a very low-key christening ceremony took place (Ghent, I think), compared with the other two sons. This was the Edward who defeated Henry VI's larger force at Towton during a blizzard on Palm Sunday, 1461. His sons Edward and Richard were declared bastard by Richard in a bid to protect them - should the worst happen to him and Henry of Lancaster win - but it didn't work, did it. They were murdered in the Tower. It would have broken the consanguinity issue and we wouldn't have been stuck with an increasingly intolerant Tudor dynasty, that gave way to an equally intolerant Stuart dynasty -with the possible exception of William & Mary and Anne.
Did you know that some of Harold II's blood runs through Elizabeth II's veins? Not that it shows in her sons. I think Anne would've made a great queen, like her mother.
Me, I'm an oddball - raised in Yorkshire with the name Lancaster and a dyed-in-the-wool Yorkist Does it get any funnier?
john neil on June 25, 2019:
a very fascinating history have been studying this for over fifty years lets read much more
Lynn Weisen (author) from South Amboy on April 18, 2018:
Stoneford-I apologize for not responding sooner...Some of your questions may be answered in the other comment I just posted. There is contemporary reference to the child of Isabelle of Castile that we know as Richard of Conisburg. Edmund of Langley's other son with Isabelle, Edmund, bore a strong resemblance to the Plantagenet line. John Holland had blonde hair,as did Richard of Conisburg; images of Conisburg, compared to Joan of Kent (John Holland's mother) are very telling. I don't know if you are a male or a female, but it is important to note that the X chromosome we inherit is an amalgamation of ALL our female ancestors; the Y chromosome is passed through the MALE line undiluted, pure. Father to son... If you go to Pinterest, you can look at the boards I have posted under 'Linda Wiesen', and compare the inherited traits in the York Holland Plantagenet Beaufort lines. DNA doesn't lie. We can look at our own families and see inherited traits, ears, eye shape, eyebrows, etc. I have recently uncovered some other images of Froissart that I believe to be of John Holland, other than the one above, showing Holland in a turban. Think about this, though, The X Plantagenet chromosome would ONLY carry the accumulated X chromosomes of Lionel Plantagenet's female ancestors (which is the line of descent for the Yorks) I always marvel at the emphasis placed on PLANTAGENENT since Plantagenet was, in essence, only a consort, as the husband of Matilda, daughter and heir of Henry I; even King Stephen did not carry the Y chromosome of William the Conqueror, as, again, that would be in the direct male line. Out of curiosity, I searched for images of those men that carried the Y chromosome of Matilda's son, Henry II, that would include all ancestors of John of Gaunt, 3rd son of Edward III, through the so-called legitimate line, and the Beaufort-Somerset illegitimate line. The images speak for themselves. Even the posthumous images were based on the existing effigies, created when that individual died, by those who had seen them in life. Edmund of Langley disinherited his blonde son, Richard. All of Edmund of Langley's brothers did not accept him, either. Richard II had blonde hair, same as John Holland, as they shared the same mother, Joan of Kent. Her grandfather was Edward I, so she carried the Plantagenet X chromosome through the female line. Additionally, other descendants of John of Gaunt were found in Australia and other places AFTER the initial DNA tests of Richard III, so they did not receive much press. Their Y chromosome matched the Beaufort Somerset Y chromosome of the British Somersets. I hope this explains my views on this matter and answers your questions. I hope you enjoyed my other articles as well.
Lynn Weisen (author) from South Amboy on April 18, 2018:
Sher- Henry IV 'Bolingbrook' was the son of John of Gaunt, 3rd son of Edward III. Edward III stipulated that the crown should pass through the male line. (And, as we know now, the Y chromosome passes undiluted in the MALE line only) York's claim to the throne was in the female X chromosome line. His mother was the daughter of Lionel, 2nd son of Edward III. So, by Edward III's will, Henry IV was the rightful heir. Richard II put the female in the line of ascent. No female would carry the Plantagenet Y bloodline. Henry VII Tudor fought Richard III, and won by conquest, but many historians believe that Henry Tudor's biological father was a Lancaster, named EDMUND Beaufort. Henry's grandmother, Catherine Valois, was known to have had an affair with Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset; he died in the War of the Roses. If true, Catherine was pregnant by Beaufort; and married Owen Tudor, who was in charge of her wardrobe. It would also mean that her son, EDMUND, was Somerset's and not Owen Tudor's, and that Edmund Tudor married his 1st cousin, Margaret Beaufort. If you go to Pinterest, and look at the images of the York and the Lancaster line, it is pretty easy to see the DNA evident in the appearance of both lines. If you compare John Holland with Richard of York,(father of Richard III) the resemblance is remarkable. You can see the inherited traits in the Lancasters, even the recent ones, who were tested for DNA. Later tests, that didn't receive as much press, had traced other Beaufort Y descendants in Australia. And, Edmund Langley disowned his blonde haired 'son,' born at a time when Edmund of Langley was out of England at the time he was conceived. Convoluted, isn't it?
Sher on April 17, 2018:
Great article...perhaps I am confused but I thought henry iv. came to the throne by right of conquest and not by primogeniture?
stonelord on December 16, 2016:
The thing is, we don't as yet know where in the line the 'anomaly' took place. People frequently assume it happened when Richard's ancestor, Isabella of Castile (wife of Edmund of Langley) had an affair with John Holland...but there was never any contemporary mention of a child, though the actions of Langley towards the youngest son may be telling. That could be Langley's suspicions more than actuality, of course; he DID acknowledge the child, after all.
The break in the Y-Dna may not be on Richard's side, of course; there are many, many more generations of Beauforts where a break might have taken place. The late 1600's and 1700's for instance seemed to be an era when many high profile affairs took place.