Edmund "Crouchback," 1st Earl of Lancaster

Born: January 16, 1245

Westminster, London, England

Died: June 5, 1296

Bayonne, France (Age 51)

Lancaster in History

Being the younger son of King Henry III, it comes as no surprise that Edmund Plantagenet did not receive as much attention as his elder brother Edward, the heir to England's throne. Nonetheless, Edmund was provided with a solid upbringing, most likely at Windsor, and was much loved by the king, queen and heir apparent alike. Since he could not provide him with England's throne while Prince Edward was alive, Henry III sought to put his younger son in some other place of power and when names, including Henry III's own brother Richard, were being thrown about by the pope on who should be the new King of Sicily (the emperor Frederick II had been deposed), Edmund's name rose to the top of the list, despite the fact that he was not yet even a teenager. The pope officially invested Edmund with the kingdom of Sicily in 1255, but with other competitors to the throne to deal with and the huge financial burden the kingdom would bring to England, it was decided, by 1263, that Edmund was not to reign as King of Sicily. By this point, a civil war was breaking out in England, led by the king's brother-in-law Simon de Montfort. Though there were a number of reasons why the Second Baron's War erupted, one of them was most certainly the vast amounts of time and money Henry III spent in attempting (and failing) to put Edmund on Sicily's throne. At one point, Montfort had effective control of the government after capturing and imprisoning both Henry III and Prince Edward. Edmund, however, did not play a significant role in subduing of the revolt and spent most of his time with his mother in France, returning in 1265, when the rebellion was effectively over and Montfort was dead.

Edmund was able to share in the spoils in the aftermath of the Second Baron's War and, as a result, began building up the duchy of Lancaster (he became the official Earl of Lancaster in 1276), which would be his crowning achievement. The duchy would be one of the richest portions of lands in England for generations to come, and the house of Lancaster would eventually be seated on England's throne when Henry IV, Edmund's great-great grandson, became king. For the final thirty years of his life Edmund remained extremely active in local and foreign politics. He accompanied his brother Edward on crusade (1271, Prince Edward had departed the year before); he fought in the Welsh wars against Llywelyn and Davydd ap Gruffydd (1282-83); and played a major role in diplomacy in France, a place where he held considerable influence. All in all, Edmund was one of the most loyal subjects to both his father and his brother, who became King Edward I in 1272 (though did not return from crusade until 1274 to be anointed). Edmund's last role in England's government came when he accompanied his brother to France after war broke out in 1294. However, Edmund fell ill and did not end up departing for the continent until early 1296. While in France, Edmund achieved very little, if not nothing, and once again fell ill. This time, the earl would not recover, and he died in June of that year. The king and many others throughout the country were devastated by Edmund's death. Although Edmund did show impressive skills in diplomacy and the military, he will most be remembered as the founding member of the house of Lancaster, the seat of future kings. To this day, he sports the nickname of "crouchback," not because of a physical deformity, as many chroniclers state, but because of the fact that he "crossed back" prematurely after his tenure in the crusades.

Lancaster in Peele

Appears in: Edward I

Edmund "Crouchback," Earl of Lancaster, appears throughout the action of Edward I as a loyal servant to his brother the king. In the play's opening scene, he returns home with his brother from crusade. He also fights for the king in his battles against the Welsh and Scots.


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