- Richest of the Rich position: 15
- Birth/Death: 1355-1397
- Origin of wealth: Land
- Wealth: £60,000
- Net National Income: £3m
- Net National Income Percent: 2%
- In Today’s Money: £22.19 billion
The Duke of Gloucester’s life was one long intrigue which eventually proved fatal, against his nephew Richard II. The son of a he was born rich, married even richer and, given the nature of the times, was murdered by royal courtiers, who thought they had acted for the king until he caught and executed them.
To understand this Duke of Gloucester one has to know the Plantagenets. They were the royal house of England between 1154 and 1455, and descendants of the Empress Maud and her second husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. One of the most important Plantagenets, and one of the founders of the family wealth was Thomas of Woodstock, the seventh son of Edward III, the 7th Plantagenet King. As the son of the king he had all sorts of minor wealth, but his father saw to it that in one step, that of marriage, he became one of the richest men in the Kingdom.
It was the Sovereign’s prerogative in those days to dispose of estates and their female owners where there was no male heir. One of the greatest of all estates arising from the Conquest, next only to that of Odo of Bayeux, was that of Bohun. In 1374, when he was 20, Edward affianced his son to Elinor, one of two daughters of the last Bohun. By 1380, Thomas had charge of his wife’s estates and also those of her sister. In 1377, he carried the sceptre at the coronation of his nephew, Richard II, who eventually made him Duke of Gloucester. He spent most of the years between 1385 and 1388 either conspiring against the king or actually holding him de facto captive. But he paid the price. In 1397, he was personally arrested by his nephew at his Essex castle and transported to Calais where he was found dead some days later.
His huge lands and possessions were worth £60,000 at his death and came to 2.0% of net national income, which at the time was £3m. His nephew confiscated all his lands, but that merely meant that one Plantagenet took from another to redistribute to yet a third Plantagenet. All the lands were back in the hands of Gloucester’s descendants within a few years.