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Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall: Wikis


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Richard Plantagenet
King of the Romans
Reign 13 January 1257 – 2 April 1272
Coronation 27 May 1257
Predecessor William II of Holland
Successor Rudolph I of Germany
Earl of Cornwall
Successor Edmund, 2nd Earl
Spouse Isabel Marshal
m. 1231; dec. 1240
Sanchia of Provence
m. 1243; dec. 1261
Beatrice of Falkenburg
m. 1261; wid. 1272
Henry of Almain
Edmund, 2nd Earl of Cornwall
Richard Cornwall
House House of Plantagenet
Father John Lackland, King of England
Mother Isabella of Angoulême
Born 5 January 1209(1209-01-05)
Winchester Castle, Hampshire
Died 2 April 1272 (aged 63)
Berkhamsted Castle, Hertfordshire
Burial Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire

Richard of Cornwall (5 January 1209 – 2 April 1272) was Count of Poitou (from 1225 to 1243), Earl of Cornwall (from 1225) and German King (formally "King of the Romans", from 1257). One of the wealthiest men in Europe, he also joined the Sixth Crusade, where he achieved success as a negotiator for the release of prisoners, and assisted with the building of the citadel in Ascalon.




Early life

He was born on 5 January 1209 at Winchester Castle, the second son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême. He was made High Sheriff of Berkshire at the age of only eight, was styled Count of Poitou from 1225 and in the same year, at the age of sixteen, his brother King Henry III gave him Cornwall as a birthday present. Richard's revenues from Cornwall provided him with great wealth, and he became one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Though he campaigned on King Henry's behalf in Poitou and Brittany, and served as Regent three times, relations were often strained between the brothers in the early years of Henry's reign. Richard rebelled against him three times, and had to be bought off with lavish gifts.

Marriage to Isabel, 1231-40

In March 1231 he married Isabel Marshal, the wealthy widow of the Earl of Gloucester, much to the displeasure of his brother King Henry, who feared the Marshal family because they were rich, influential, and often opposed him. Richard became stepfather to Isabel's six children from her first husband. In that same year he acquired his main residence, Wallingford Castle in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), and spent much money on developing it. He had other favoured properties at Marlow and Cippenham in Buckinghamshire. Isabel and Richard had four children, of whom only their son, Henry of Almain, survived to adulthood. Richard opposed Simon de Montfort, and rose in rebellion in 1238 to protest against the marriage of his sister, Eleanor, to Simon. Once again he was placated with rich gifts. When Isabel was on her deathbed in 1240, she asked to be buried next to her first husband at Tewkesbury, but Richard had her interred at Beaulieu Abbey instead. As a pious gesture, however, he sent her heart to Tewkesbury.

On Crusade and marriage to Sanchia, 1240-43

Later that year Richard departed for the Holy Land. He fought in no battles but managed to negotiate for the release of prisoners and the burials of Crusaders killed at a battle in Gaza in 1239. He also refortified Ascalon, which had been demolished by Saladin. On his return from the Holy Land, Richard visited his sister Isabella, the empress of Frederick II. Shortly after his return on 28 January 1242, King Henry and his wife Eleanor brought up the idea of a marriage with Eleanor's sister Sanchia. On his journey to the Holy Land, Richard had met her in the Provence, where he was warmly welcomed by her father Raymond Berenger V and had fallen in love with this beautiful girl. Richard and Sanchia (whom the English called Cynthia) married at Westminster in November 1243. This marriage tied him even more closely to the royal party.

Poitou and Sicily

Richard's claims to Gascony and Poitou were never more than nominal, and in 1241 King Louis IX of France invested his own brother Alphonse with Poitou. Moreover, Richard and Henry's mother, Isabella of Angouleme, claimed to have been insulted by the French king. They were encouraged to recover Poitou by their stepfather, Hugh X of Lusignan, but the expedition turned into a military fiasco after Lusignan betrayed them.

The pope offered Richard the crown of Sicily, but according to Matthew Paris he responded to the extortionate price by saying, "You might as well say, 'I make you a present of the moon - step up to the sky and take it down'."[1] Instead, his brother King Henry purchased the kingdom for his own son Edmund.

Elected King of Germany, 1256

Although Richard was elected in 1256 as King of Germany by four of the seven German Electoral Princes (Cologne, Mainz, the Palatinate and Bohemia), his candidacy was opposed by Alfonso X of Castile who was elected by Saxony, Brandenburg and Trier. The pope and king Louis IX of France favoured Alfonso, but both were ultimately convinced by the powerful relatives of Richard's sister in law, Eleanor of Provence, to support Richard. Ottokar II of Bohemia, who at first voted for Richard but later elected Alfonso, eventually agreed to support the earl of Cornwall, thus establishing the required simple majority. So Richard only had to bribe four of them, but this came at a huge cost of 28,000 marks. On 27 May 1257 the archbishop of Cologne himself crowned Richard "King of the Romans" in Aachen [2]. However, like his lordships in Gascony and Poitou, his title never held much significance, and he made only four brief visits to Germany between 1257 and 1269.

Later life, death and successors

He founded Burnham Abbey in Buckinghamshire in 1263, and the Grashaus, Aachen in 1266.

He joined King Henry in fighting against Simon de Montfort's rebels in the Second Barons' War (1264–67). After the shattering royalist defeat at the Battle of Lewes, Richard took refuge in a windmill, was discovered, and imprisoned until September 1265.

In December 1271, he had a stroke. His right side was paralyzed and he lost the ability to speak. On 2 April 1272, Richard died at Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire. He was buried next to his second wife Sanchia of Provence and Henry of Almain, his son by his first wife, at Hailes Abbey, which he had founded.

After his death, a power struggle ensued in Germany, which only ended in 1273 by the emergence of a new Roman King, Rudolph I of Habsburg, the first scion of a long lasting noble family to rule the empire. In Cornwall, Richard was succeeded by Edmund, son of his second wife Sanchia.

Marriages and issue

He married three times:

Firstly, on 30 March 1231, at St Mary's Church at Fawley in Buckinghamshire, to Isabel Marshal, widow of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, and daughter of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. She died in childbed 17 January 1240. Isabel bore him four children.

John of Cornwall (31 January 1232 – 22 September 1233), born and died at Marlow, Buckinghamshire, buried at Reading Abbey
Isabella of Cornwall (9 September 1233 – 10 October 1234), born and died at Marlow, Buckinghamshire, buried at Reading Abbey
Henry of Almain (2 November 1235 – 13 March 1271), murdered by his cousins Guy and Simon de Montfort, buried at Hailes Abbey.
Nicholas of Cornwall (b. & d. 17 January 1240 Berkhamsted Castle), died shortly after birth, buried at Beaulieu Abbey with his mother

Secondly, on 23 November 1243, at Westminster Abbey, to Sanchia, daughter of Raymond Berenger IV, Count of Provence. She died 9 November 1261. Sanchia and Richard had three sons.

Edmund, 2nd Earl of Cornwall (1249–1300) but he died childless
Richard Cornwall, infant who died within a month of his birth.
Richard de Cornwall (1252–96) who married Joan Saint Owen (born 1260) and had children. He, however, died at the siege of Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1296.

Thirdly, on 16 June 1269, at Kaiserslautern, to Beatrice of Falkenburg, daughter of Dietrich I, Count of Falconburg. There were no children. She was aged about sixteen to Richard's sixty, and was said to be one of the most beautiful women of her time. Beatrice died 17 October 1277 and was buried at the Church of the Friars Minor in Oxford.

Richard had the reputation of being a womanizer. His mistress, Joan de Valletort, was certainly the mother of at least two of his illegitimate children.

Philip de Cornwall, was a cleric in 1248
Joan de Cornwall, in 1258.
Walter de Cornwall, was granted lands by his half-brother Edmund, and died in 1313.


Richard and his first wife, Isabel Marshall, appear as characters in Virginia Henley's historical novels, The Marriage Prize and The Dragon and the Jewel.



  1. ^ Craik, George L, & Macfarlane, Charles, The Pictorial History of England, p.657
  2. ^ Goldstone, Nancy (2008). Four Queens; The Provençal Sisters who ruled Europe. Pinguin Books, London, p. 213.
Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall
Born: 5 January 1209 Died: 2 April 1272
Preceded by
William of Holland
King of Germany
(formally King of the Romans)

13 January 1257 – 2 April 1272
(contested by Alfonso of Castile)
Succeeded by
Rudolf I
English royalty
Preceded by
Henry of Winchester
Heir to the English Throne
as heir presumptive

19 October 1216 – 17 June 1239
Succeeded by
Edward Longshanks
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Otto IV of Brunswick
Count of Poitiers
1209 – 1225
Succeeded by
Alphonse of Toulouse
(under the crown of France)  
New creation;
Ultimately Henry Fitz-Count, 1st Earl of Cornwall
Earl of Cornwall
1227 – 1272
Succeeded by


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