By Dan Spencer
In 1415 Conisbrough Castle belonged to Edward, duke of York, who also held the lordship of Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire and married Alice Deincourt sometime before August 1422.
Aged eighteen in 1415, he did not indent directly with the crown, but served in the company of Edward, duke of York. As a member of York’s retinue, he bought no men with him for the Agincourt campaign. He served again in 1416 and 1417 and throughout the 1420s and into the 1430s. His military career only ended in 1450 when he was a member of a force raised to protect London from Jack Cade’s Kentish rebels. He died in 1455.
York indented to serve with a retinue of 400 men for the expedition, consisting of himself, one banneret, four knights, 94 men-at-arms and 300 archers. Twenty-four men were invalided home during the siege of Harfleur and two men-at-arms and six archers were left behind to garrison the town after its surrender. The remaining members of the retinue later fought with their commander at the battle.
The castle was also the birth place of Edward’s brother, Richard, earl of Cambridge, who was later beheaded for his participation in the Southampton Plot in August 1415. Cambridge had indented to provide a retinue of 210 men for the expedition, consisting of himself, two knights, 57 men-at-arms and 150 archers. Unlike their leader, they served in France but the details of this service are unknown.
Conisbrough Castle was built by William, earl of Warrenne, after the Norman Conquest of 1066. In the twelfth century its great cylindrical stone tower was constructed (an unusual form for English castles). Conisbrough later reverted to royal control and was granted by Edward III to his youngest son, Edmund Langley (father of Edward suke of York). His great-grandson, Edward, earl of March, became Edward IV in 1461 and it became a royal castle. Conisbrough gradually fell into disrepair and was described as being ruinous in a survey carried out during the reign of Henry VIII. It was for this reason that it escaped destruction or ‘slighting’ by Parliament after the English Civil War.
The castle inspired Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel Ivanhoe, set during the reign of Richard I. The site is now owned and managed by English Heritage.
This information came from Stephen Johnson, Conisbrough Castle (English Heritage, 2013) and Rosemary Horrox, ‘Edward, second duke of York (c.1373–1415)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22356, accessed 30 Sept 2014]
Photographs of Conisbrough Castle were taken by Dan Spencer