A love story…

Richard FitzAlan and Eleanor of Lancaster

Tomb of Eleanor and Richard.

Richard FitzAlan was married when he was just a child to Isabel le Despenser, not an unusual event fore the time period. Together they eventually they had at least one son. After several years together as husband and wife Isabel’s father was executed as a traitor by the Crown. Isabel had become political poison for Richard, which was fortuitous for him, now he could get rid of his wife whom he didn’t love and marry the women he had been having an adulterous affair with for a few years. Although, that is not the reason he gave the Pope when he requested an annulment, he claimed that he was underaged and unwilling at the time of his marriage.

Eleanor of Lancaster, the women with whom he had been having an affair was his true love. Further complicating matters was that Eleanor and Isabel were first cousins, which meant that they had to have special papal dispensation to marry. Which they did get.

King Edward attended the wedding, as he was a kinsman of Eleanor’s, but he was also very interested in the vast wealth Richard had rebuilt for his family. This wealth was probably what greased the wheels of the church in granting him his dispensation. This was Eleanor’s second married, her first husband had been killed in a tournament in 1342 after 12 years of marriage.

Eleanor died about 1370. Her husband survived her by four years, and was buried beside her. In his will Richard requested to be buried “near to the tomb of Eleanor de Lancaster, my wife; and I desire that my tomb be no higher than hers, that no men at arms, horses, hearse, or other pomp, be used at my funeral, but only five torches…as was about the corpse of my wife, be allowed.”

FitzAlan died an incredibly wealthy man, despite his various loans to Edward III. Adjusting his fortune to modern standards, FitzAlan was worth about $118 billion (in our dollars), making him the fifteenth richest person in history.

They have a beautiful tomb, which is much visited today and is the subject of the Philip Larkin poem,  An Arundel Tomb.

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