Sunday, 7 February 2016

Constanza, Duchess of Lancaster

In this excellent blog post Kathryn Warner refreshes our understanding of Constanza, Duchess of Lancaster, with her usual eye for false myth.

However, one particularly interesting fact arising from the post (in that it relates to the House of York) is that Pedro I, King of Castile, (Constanza's father) was six feet tall with light blond hair!

This will be a shock to those who mistakenly believe that all Spaniards are dark-haired. (They are not and never have been.) It is also an indication that Catherine of Aragon's light colouring may not have come purely from her Lancastrian ancestors, but also from her Spanish ones.

Moving lightly on, we should recall, of course, that Constanza's sister, Isabella, or Isabel, married Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York. So the House of York will have inherited these genes as well. (It seems likely that Langley himself was also blond or auburn-haired and he was almost 6ft tall himself.)

It seems strange then that it is often assumed that Edward IV inherited his (supposed) blond colouring and stature from the Nevilles. Especially as I have yet to see evidence that the Nevilles were particularly tall or particularly blond.


Bryan Dunleavy said...

Inherited characteristics do not always follow a linear pattern. We have a 19th century description of Richard of Conisborough's headless skeleton as "gigantic" which I would take to mean very tall. Unfortunately nobody bothered to take precise measurements before the skeleton was re-interred. His son, Richard of York was certainly much shorter, possibly showing Mortimer traits, but we also know that Edward IV was 6'4", but his other brothers were under 6". So it was of some interest to read that Pedro the Cruel was also a tall man and possibly passed that gene to his grandson Richard through Isabella.
And this is even more interesting as there is now a strong case for claiming that Richard of Conisborough was not the son of Edmund of Langley and not a Plantagenet after all!

Brian Wainwright said...

Just picked this up, sorry. I'm not sure of the source of the "gigantic" skeleton, but W.E, Hampton in Memorials of the Wars of the Roses, describes just such a skeleton in the case of Henry, Duke of Warwick, who was buried at Tewkesbury. Henry was, of course, Edmund of Langley's great-grandson through Constance of York.

I agree that inherited characteristics do not necessarily follow a neat flow from one generation to the next. My point was that Edward IV's stature is often assumed to come from the Nevilles, but on very scant evidence. Though of course the Nevilles in question also had Plantagenet ancestors, notably John of Gaunt.

As an aside I have my doubts about the assessed height of Clarence judged from the alleged bones at Tewkesbury, as I am far from convinced that the said bones are his.