Enter our competition to win a biography of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, who was one of 13th-century Europe’s richest men

Friday 13th May 2022 1:30 pm
Part of the cover design of Michael Ray’s biography of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall
Part of the cover design of Michael Ray’s biography of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, who owned many of Cornwall’s castles, including Launceston, Trematon, Restormel and Tintagel, and was so wealthy that the great King Edward I relied upon him for loans. (Picture: Pen & Sword publishers )

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IN this week’s Cornish & Devon Post we are running a competition in which two lucky readers can each win a copy of a new biography has been published about Edmund, 2nd Earl of Cornwall, who was a key figure during the reign of King Edward I in the late-13th century.

Exactly 750 years ago, Edmund became the richest man in England as heir to his father Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, who had been a son of King John of Magna Carta fame as well as being crowned King of the Romans, ruler of the German states.

Pen & Sword say they are delighted to have published Edmund’s story in Edward I’s Regent: Edmund of Cornwall, The Man Behind England’s Greatest King, penned by Michael Ray.

Edmund owned four major castles in East, Mid and North Cornwall:-

- Launceston Castle, with a tall round tower built by Richard of Cornwall. It declined in importance when Edmund moved his administration of the earldom to Lostwithiel.

- Restormel Castle, a highly unusual circular design that was largely the creation of Edmund. It had luxurious quarters and a piped water supply.

- The romantic ruin of Tintagel Castle was owned by Edmund for nearly 30 years.

- Trematon Castle, overlooking the River Lynher near Saltash, was acquired by Richard of Cornwall, but it too was owned by Edmund for nearly 30 years. Today it is still owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

Also in Cornwall, at Lostwithiel, Edmund built a Great Hall now known as the Stannary Palace (and today owned by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust) which was the base for the stannaries, administering the tin industry. Its remains have been recently restored.

As Regent of England, Earl of Cornwall and richest man in the land, Edmund of Almain – to give him another of his titles - was a powerful and leading force, as he was the man who funded the crown.

This book explores Edmund’s life and character, the sources and expenditure of his wealth, his landholdings, his service to the king including three years as regent, his piety and his activities in the local communities in which he had a presence.

Born at Christmas 1249, Edmund was nephew to King Henry III and cousin to the conqueror and castle builder of Wales, King Edward I. Edmund’s eventful childhood took him to Germany when his father was elected King of the Romans there.

Later, after returning to England, he was captured in Sussex at the battle of Lewes and imprisoned for more than a year at Kennilworth Castle in the Midlands before going abroad once again.

Then, while returning from a crusade, he witnessed the brutal murder in Italy of his half-brother, which left him both as heir to his father Richard and as the richest man in the kingdom.

Throughout his life, Edmund played a crucial role in medieval England. As Regent of England at time when King Edward I was fighting abroad, he was a leading force in the kingdom.

This book considers Edmund’s life and how he used his wealth to lend money to the king and other leading figures and to be a major benefactor of monasteries. His piety saw him found two new religious houses, rebuild another and bring the Holy Blood relic from Germany to Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire which his father had founded.

His record as Regent of England for three years is also assessed in the book. The wide spread of his lands, which included 13 castles and more than 800 places in 27 counties, and his tenants are set out, as is his place in the local community.

The basis of his wealth and its sources, including money from his lands but also from tin mining and marine dues in Cornwall, is explored and his knightly affinity and his close associates and officials are considered. On a personal level, the book also examines his unsuccessful, childless marriage with the sister of the Earl of Gloucester.

Edmund was a key figure at an important time in the Middle Ages which saw a King of England conquering Wales and also launching campaigns in Scotland and France and in this insightful account, the man behind England’s ‘greatest king’, as King Edward I has been termed, is at long last brought to the fore.

To find out how you can be in with a chance of winning one of our two copies of Michael Ray’s book Edward I’s Regent: Edmund of Cornwall, The Man Behind England’s Greatest King, pick up a copy of this week’s Post, on sale now.


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