History Headstones: Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall

Richard, the 1st Earl of Cornwall, was born on 5 January 1209 at Winchester Castle and named in honour of his uncle King Richard the Lionheart by his parents King John and Isabella of Angouleme,

His father died when he was six years old, and his older brother succeeded to the throne. From 1225 when he turned 16, he was styled Count of Poitou, His brother King Henry III also created him Earl of Cornwall.

The massive revenue created by Cornwall saw Richard become one of the wealthiest men in Europe. If there were a Forbes list back then, he likely would be in the top five.

Richard went on to marry Isabel Marshal, the daughter of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Isabel de Clare and the widow of the Earl of Gloucester in 1231. King Henry was not too pleased with his brothers choice, not because her family was wealthy, but the Marshal family were powerful and on more than one occasion voiced their opposition of the King.

Following his marriage, Richard was granted Wallingford Castle in Berkshire. He would spend a vast amount of money to renovate his beloved home including a grand hall for which he threw quite extravagant parties for which he was a legend.

Everything changed though when Richard almost downed at sea. He had an epiphany and vowed to spend his money on the Church.

Wallingford castle ruins
The ruins of Wallingford Castle
Richard and his wife Isabel went on to have four children. They had three sons, John, Nicholas and Henry as well as a daughter Isabel. Sadly it was only Henry who would live to adulthood.

In 1228 Richard was adamant against the marriage of his sister Eleanor to Simon de Montfort. He was one over though when his brother curried favour with gifts and some cash. So much for being dedicated to the church after his drowning scare.

In 1240, he lost his wife to liver failure and his son Nicholas during childbirth. As Isabel was in her final moments, she requested to be buried at Tewkesbury Abbey next to her first husband Gibert de Clare. Richard instead had her heart sent to Tewkesbury and her body interred at Beaulieu Abbey.

Richard would join the Sixth Crusade to The Holy Land later that year. He was successful in negotiating the release of prisoners and crusaders who died in the Battle to Gaza to receive a proper burial.

King Henry wanted his brother’s continued loyalty, so he proposed Richard marry the sister of Queen, Eleanor of Provence. Richard met Sanchia of Provence during his journey to the Holy Land when he stayed there as a guest of Sanchia’s father, Raymond Berenger IV.

In November 1243 they couple married at Westminster Abbey. They would have two children, a son who died after a month and Edmund of Almain, 2nd Earl of Cornwall.


Sanchia of Provence

Following being chosen by four of the seven German Electoral Richard became King of Germany in 1256. But there would be a hiccup with Richard becoming King. Alfonso X of Castile persisted and was elected by Saxony, Brandenburg and Trier. The Pope and King Louis IX of France supported Alfonso, but both were eventually persuaded to support Richard by the influential relatives of his sister-in-law, Eleanor of Provence.

After convincing Ottokar II of Bohemia to change his support him back to Richard, the required majority was met. On 27 May 1257 The Archbishop of Cologne crowned Richard “King of the Romans” in Aachen.

Sanchia of Provence, died 9 November 1261 at Berkhamsted Castle and buried in Hailes Abbey.

Following fighting for his brother’s side against Simon de Montfort in the Second Barons’ War (1264-67), then being imprisoned for a few years after the Battle fo Lewes defeat, Richard took a third wife in 1269.

He married Beatrice of Falkenburg, daughter of Dietrich I, Count of Falkenburg on 16 June at Kaiserslautern. Beatrice was sixteen years old at the time of the marriage, and their marriage did not produce any children. That did not stop Richard though from sowing his oats with another woman. He had five additional children with his mistress Joan de Valletort.

Richard’s eldest son Henry of Almain joined his cousin Edward (future King Edward I) on Crusade, Edward sent him back from Sicily to subdue the unruly province of Gascony.

During a mass at Chiesa di San Silvestro in Viterbo on 13 March 1271, Henry’s cousins Guy and Simon the younger de Montfort, sons of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, murdered Henry in retaliation for the beheading of their father and brother at the Battle of Evesham in 1265.

Richard suffered a stroke in December 1271. Leaving his right side was paralysed and unable to speak. He died on 2 April 1272 ar Berkhamsted Castle. He was buried next two Sanchia of Provence his second wife and his son Henry of Almain at Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire.

Photo Credit: By Otto Posse (1847-1921) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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