The title Earl of Richmond (Richemund from the original French) dates from shortly after the Norman Conquest (1066) and initially was honorary or stylistic in nature rather than legal. (The image above is from the famous Bayeaux tapestry).
The lands, manors and possession that came to be known as the honour of Richmond were wrested from the English following the Norman Conquest in 1066. For more than three hundred years the honour was then controlled by the dukes of Brittany or their relatives. What is clear is that the various earls and dukes of Richmond were in general close to sources of power within the kingdom. Today one can but speculate at the intrigue and politics that lay behind the decisions taken by the regent of the day in his appointment of various successors.
Eudon, brother to Alan III, Duke of Brittany (997 to 1040) disputed the ducal title. The dispute continued when the Dukedom passed to Conan II (1040 to 1066) but was resolved with the partition of the family's lands and the creation of a separate title the "Count of Brittany". Two of Eudon's sons both "counts of Brittany" took part in the Norman invasion of England. One of these was Alan Rufus the other was Alan Niger (d. 1093).
William the Conqueror rewarded Alan Rufus (shown in the Great Hall at Richmond Castle) with grants of land and manors that formerly had been in the possession of Earl Edwin in Yorkshire. The estates were formed into the honour of Richmond.
In the years following the Norman Conquest William although crowned as King of England was unable to fully subjugate the country. The people of the North were not so ready to accept Norman rule and put up a strong resistance often with the aid of Danish invaders. After the south was secured however William sent a force of experienced soldiers with orders to quell all resistance. The campaign through its sheer ferocity and aggression crushed the rebels completely.
Simon of Durham described the scene in Yorkshire as one of utter devastation:
"So great a famine prevailed that men, compelled by hunger, devoured human flesh, that of horses, dogs, cats.....others, while about to go into exile, fell down in the middle of the journey and gave up the ghost. It was horrific to behold human corpses decaying in the houses, the streets and the roads: for no one was left to bury them in the earth.....The stench was abominable and an extensive solitude prevailed all around. In the towns wild beasts were running in the streets."
Alan Rufus had the full confidence of William. He immediately established himself as absolute ruler and ruthlessly stamped out any pockets of Saxon resistance. The only diplomacy he understood was that of the sword. His methods, even by the standards of the time, were brutal and extreme. The Saxons were denied even elementary rights and Richmond Castle was constructed as an object of fear to overawe the Saxons and to serve as a stronghold against any future attempts at rebellion.
On the death of Rufus his brother Alan Niger claimed the honour which in turn was inherited by his younger brother Stephen (d. 1135 or 1136). Stephen succeeded to all the Breton lands that previously had been divided amongst the Eudon's sons. Although these three "counts of Brittany" are sometimes referred to as the "earls of Richmond" they were not earls in the strict and later sense.
The first to formerly style himself the earl of Richmond was Stephen's son Alan III Niger (d. 1146). This Alan married Bertha the daughter and heiress of Conan III the reigning Duke of Brittany. Alan left no sons and the honour of Richmond passed to a niece Constance (d. 1201). Bertha's brother became Conan IV (d. 1171) and married Margaret a sister of Malcolm IV of Scotland. During his lifetime Conan IV transferred his rights to Brittany to his daughter Constance.
Constance married three times. The first was to the son of Henry II, King of England, Geoffrey Plantagenet (1158 to 1186); then to Ranulf de Blundervill, earl of Chester (1172 to 1232).
Ranulf was a noted warrior who sided with King John against the barons over Magna Carta, fought with the young King Henry III against the French and particpated on the 5th Crusade. In the vision of "Piers Plowman" an allegorical verse his name is linkd with that of Robin Hood.
Ranulf probably was not at home very often and Constance treated her marriage to Ranulf as null on the grounds of consanguinity (related by blood) and finally married Guy the brother of the viscount of Thouars. The first two husbands both for a time took the title of earl of Richmond whilst Guy for a period acted as if he held the honour. Arthur of Brittany ( 1187 to 1203) was the only son of the first marriage and during his mother's lifetime was styled earl of Richmond.
Arthur was unlucky enough to have King John as an uncle for he was murdered by him at the young age of 16 (although there are those who claim Arthur's death was misadventure). On his death the earldom was resumed by the crown.
Constance by her marriage to Guy had two daughters. In 1212 Alice the elder was given in marriage by Philip II Augustus King of France to Peter of Braine (Peter of Dreux or Pierre Mauclerc) after which (a wedding present?) Peter was styled Duke of Brittany. In 1219 Peter received seisin (possession) of the lands of the earldom of Richmond. In 1235 however he renounced his allegiance to the the king of England and his earldom was forfeit.
Five years later in 1240 Henry III granted the honour of Richmond to Peter Savoy (1203 to 1268) the uncle of Queen Eleanor. (Henry's seal is shown in the image). Peter by contemporary chroniclers was referred to as the earl of Richmond although the title seems not to appear in any official documents. On his death the honour was gifted by his will to his niece, the queen consort, who transferred it to the crown. Presumably she was instructed to do so for in the same year Henry III granted the earldom specifically to John duke of Brittany (1216 to 1286) and the son of Peter of Braine. The earldom broadly continued in the same family until 1342 when it was granted by Edward III to his son John of Gaunt until 1372 when it was surrendered and given to John de Montfort, duke of Brittany. On his death in 1399 it was seized by the crown.
This marks the point at which the earldom finally became separated from the duchy of Brittany. Nonetheless the dukes of Brittany continued to assume the title for a much longer period.
From 1414 to 1435 the earldom was held by John Plantagenet, duke of Bedford and in 1452 was conferred on Edmund Tudor, brother to King Henry VI. When Edmund Tudor's son Henry ascended the throne as Henry VII in 1485 the earldom of Richmond merged in the crown.
In 1525 Henry Fitzroy the son of Henry VIII (shown left) and Elizabeth Blount was created duke of Richmond and Somerset and earl of Nottingham. All of these titles however became extinct on his death without children in 1536.
The Scottish connection resurfaces in 1613 when Ludovic Stuart, 2nd duke of Lennox was created earl of Richmond and duke in 1623. The titles once again became extinct on his death the following year. In 1641 however his nephew James, 4th duke of Lennox was created duke of Richmond thus reuniting the Scottish and English dukedoms.
Charles, 3rd duke of Richmond and 6th duke of Lennox married a celebrated beauty "La Belle Stuart" from the court of Charles II.
A few years after the duke's death Charles II awarded the dukedom to his illegitimate son on whom the king bestowed the name Lennox. The title continued to be held by his descendants. (The image left is a portrait of Charles II). The 2nd duke through his marriage with Sarah, daughter of 1st Earl of Cadogan, was the father of Lady Caroline Lennox who eloped with Henry Fox, becoming the mother of Charles James Fox (British statesman and orator 1749-1806). A second daughter was the celebrated Lady Sarah Lennox (1745-1826) with whom George III fell in love and contemplated marriage. By her second marriage she was mother to two Generals, Sir Charles and Sir William Napier.
The various dukes that followed have been prominent in politics and have generally moved in high circles. The 5th duke (1791 to 1860) fought with Wellington at Waterloo . What is not so clear is whether any of them have been to Richmond! In 1836 on inheriting the estates of a maternal uncle, the 5th duke of Gordon, the name Gordon was assimilated into the family name which became Gordon-Lennox.
Chronology of earls & dukes
Offsite link to Kelly Crispin's excellent Tudor History site
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Primary source Britannica