John, Duke of Lancaster


Son of  Edward III and Philippa of Hainhault, father of Henry IV of Engalnd and husband of Blanche of Lancaster

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster was born on 6th March1340. He gained his name "John of Gaunt" because he was born at Ghent . The fabulously wealthy Gaunt exercised tremendous influence over the throne during the minority reign of his nephew, Richard II, and during the ensuing periods of political strife, but took care not to be openly associated with opponents of the King.

John of Gaunt's legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters, included Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. John of Gaunt's illegitimate descendants, who ultimately became legitimate by his marriage to Katherine Swynford in 1396, the Beauforts, later married into the House of Tudor, which ascended to the throne in the person of Henry VII. In addition, Gaunt's legitimate descendants included his daughters Philippa of Lancaster, Queen consort of John I of Portugal and mother of King Edward of Portugal, Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter, the mother of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, and Katherine of Lancaster, Queen consort of Henry III of Castile, a grand-daughter of Pedro of Castile and the mother of John II of Castile.

When John of Gaunt died in 1399, his estates were declared forfeit to the crown, as Richard II had exiled John's less diplomatic heir, Henry Bolingbroke, in 1398. Bolingbroke returned and deposed the unpopular Richard, to reign as King Henry IV of England (1399–1413), the first of the descendants of John of Gaunt to hold the throne of England.

John of Gaunt was buried alongside his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, in the nave of Old St. Paul's Cathedral in an alabaster tomb designed by Henry Yevele (similar to that of his son in Canterbury Cathedral) .

Upon the death of his father-in-law Henry of Grosmont, he received half of Henry's lands, the title Earl of Lancaster, and the distinction as the greatest landowner in the north of England, because of his first marriage to his cousin, Blanche of Lancaster (1359), heiress to the Palatinate of Lancaster. He also became the 14th Baron of Halton. John received the rest of the inheritance only when Blanche's sister, Maud, Countess of Leicester (married to William V, Count of Hainaut), died on April 10, 1362.

Gaunt received the title "Duke of Lancaster" from Edward III on 13 November 1362. John was by then well-established as a fabulously wealthy prince, owning at least thirty castles and vast estates across England and France. His household was comparable in scale and organisation to that of a monarch.

After the death of his elder brother, Edward of Woodstock later known as The Black Prince, John of Gaunt became increasingly powerful. He contrived to protect the religious reformer John Wyclif, for reasons that cannot be determined, but possibly to counteract the growing secular power of the Church. However, Gaunt's ascendancy to political power coincided with widespread resentment at his influence. At a time when English forces encountered setbacks in the Hundred Years' War against France, and Edward III's rule had started to become domestically unpopular, due to high taxation and to the king's affair with Alice Perrers, political opinion closely associated the Duke of Lancaster with the failing government of the 1370s. Furthermore, while the king and the Prince of Wales had the status of 'popular heroes' due to their success on the battlefield, John of Gaunt had never known equivalent military success, which might have bolstered his reputation. Although he did fight in the Battle of Nájera (Navarette), for example, his later military projects, such as his chevauchée of 1373 and his invasion of Castile in 1386, were unsuccessful.

On his marriage to Costanza of Castile in 1371, Gaunt assumed the title of King of Castile and Leon, and insisted that his fellow English nobles henceforth address him as 'my lord of Spain'.

When King Edward III died in 1377 and John's ten-year-old nephew succeeded to the throne as Richard II of England, Gaunt's influence strengthened further. However, mistrust remained, and some suspected him of wanting to seize the throne for himself. Gaunt took pains to ensure that he never became associated with the opposition to Richard's kingship; but as the virtual ruler of England during Richard's minority, he made some unwise decisions on taxation that led to the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, during which the rebels destroyed his Savoy Palace in London.

In 1386, Gaunt left England to make good his claim to the throne of Castile. However, crisis ensued almost immediately, and in 1387, Richard's misrule brought England to the brink of civil war. Only John of Gaunt, upon his return to England in 1389, was able to bring about a compromise between the Lords Appellant and King Richard, ushering in a period of relative stability and harmony. During the 1390s, John of Gaunt's reputation of devotion to the well-being of the kingdom became much restored. Gaunt died of natural causes on 3rd February 1399 at Leicester Castle, with his wife Katherine by his side.

In 1359 at Reading Abbey, Gaunt married his cousin, Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of Henry of Grosmont. Blanche died in 1368. It is believed the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, a friend and client of Gaunt, wrote and dedicated his "Book of the Duchess" to her, as the poem not only mentions a "Black Knight," but the "Lady White"; whom we can take to be Blanche, in allegory. At the end of the poem reference is made to Gaunt's marriage to Blanche by playing on the sound of their titles of Lancaster and Richmond in the form of "long castel" (line 1318) and "riche hil" (line 1319). Alternatively, the "long castel" could also refer to Constanza of Castile and the heraldic arms of Castile.

John and Blanche had the following children:

Philippa of Lancaster was born on 31st  March 1360 at Leicester Castle.

Philippa became Queen consort of Portugal by her marriage with king John I, celebrated on 11th February 1387 in the city of Porto. This marriage was the final step in the Anglo-Portuguese alliance, against the France-Castile axis. Philippa is remembered for being a generous and loving queen, and by being the mother of the "Illustrious Generation" (in Portuguese, Ínclita Geraçăo) of princes

Philippa died of plague i on 19th July 1415, a few days before the expedition to Ceuta. She was buried at the Monastery of Batalha.


John born in1362 and died in1365 and was buried at the Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester


Elizabeth Plantagenet born in 1364 in Burford, Shropshire - 24 November 1426)  Some sources list her as having been born after 1st January 1363 but prior to 21st February 1363. On 24th June 1380, at Kenilworth Castle, she married John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. This marriage was annulled in late 1383. On 24th June 1386, at Plymouth, she married John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter. After his death in 1400, she married Sir John Cornwall, 1st Baron Fanhope and Milbroke.

She died on 24th November1426 at was buried at Burford Church, Burford, Shropshire.

Edward born in 1365 and died in1368. He was buried Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester

John born in 1366 and died in1367; He was buried Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester

Henry IV King of England

Isabel born in1368 and died in 1368

In 1371, John married Constance of Castile, daughter of King Pedro of Castile, thus giving him a claim to the kingdom of Castile, which he would pursue. Though Gaunt was never able to make good his claim, his daughter by Constanza, Katherine of Lancaster, became Queen of Castile by marrying Henry III of Castile.

John and Constance had the following children:

Catherine of Lancaster also known as Catherine Plantagenet and as Queen Catalina of Castile and Leon born in 1372/1373

She married Enrique III of Castile in 1393 at Burgos. As her mother was daughter of Pedro of Castile, and had been a claimant to the Castilian throne herself, the marriage helped to restore a semblance of legitimacy to the Trastamara line.

The couple had three children:

Queen Catalina died on 2nd June 1418 at Valladolid of a stroke, possibly precipitated by her great obesity, leaving her thirteen year-old son at the mercy of self-interested courtiers.

John born in 1374 and died in 1375

In the meantime, John of Gaunt had fathered four children by a mistress, Katherine Swynford, whose sister Philippa de Roet was married to Chaucer. Constance died in 1394. He married Katherine in 1396, and their children, the Beauforts, were 'legitimised' but barred from inheriting the throne. Their children were:

John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset born c. 1373 was the first of the four illegitimate children of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Swynford, later his wife.  His surname probably reflects his father's lordship of Beaufort in Champagne, France.

The family emblem was the portcullis which is shown on the reverse of a modern British 1p coin. John of Gaunt had his nephew Richard II of England declare the Beaufort children legitimate in 1390. Gaunt married their mother in January 1396. Despite being the grandchildren of Edward III of England, and next in the line of succession after the Lancasters, their father's legitimate children, by agreement they were barred from the succession to the throne.

In 1396, after his parent's marriage, John and his siblings were legitimated in the eyes of the Church by a papal bull. Early the next year, his legitimation was recognized by an act of Parliament, and then, a few days later, he was created Earl of Somerset pn 10th February 1397).

That summer the new earl was one the noblemen who helped Richard II free himself from the power of the Lords Appellant. As reward on 29th September he was created Marquess of Dorset, and sometime later that year he was made a Knight of the Garter and appointed lieutenant of Ireland. In addition, two days before his elevation as a marquess he married the king's niece, Margaret Holland, brother of the 3rd earl of Kent, another of the counter-appellants.

He remained in the king's favour even after his half-brother Henry, later Henry IV, was banished. In February 1397 he was appointed admiral of the Irish fleet, as well as constable of Dover and warden of the Cinque Ports. In May his admiralty was extended to include the northern fleet.

After Richard II was deposed by Henry IV in 1399, the new king rescinded the titles that had been given to the counter-appellants, and thus John Beaufort became merely Earl of Somerset again. Nevertheless, he proved loyal to his half-brother's reign, serving in various military commands and on some important diplomatic missions.

His marquessate was rescinded in 1399 after the accession of his elder half-brother Henry IV, and afterwards he was merely Earl of Somerset. In 1404 he was Constable of England.

He and his wife had six children; his grand-daughter Lady Margaret Beaufort married a descendant of Catherine of Valois by Owen Tudor, creating a powerful branch of the Lancastrian family and enabling Henry VII to claim the throne in spite of the agreement barring the Beaufort family from the succession.

Somerset died on 16th March 1410 in the Hospital of St. Katherine-by-the-Tower. He was buried in St. Michael's chapel in Canterbury Cathedral

Henry Beaufort born c.1375 was an English clergyman.

He was born in Anjou, France, in about 1374 and educated for a career in the Church. In about 1390 their cousin Richard II of England declared him and his two brothers and one sister legitimate. (There is some confusion on this point; there seems to have been another such procedure in 1397, involving Parliament.) In 1398 Henry Beaufort was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln. When his half-brother deposed Richard and took the throne as Henry IV of England, he made Bishop Beaufort Chancellor of England in 1403. Beaufort resigned that position the next year to become Bishop of Winchester.

Between 1411 and 1413 Bishop Beaufort was in political disgrace for siding with his nephew, the Prince of Wales, against the king, but then when Henry IV died and the prince became Henry V of England, he made his uncle Chancellor again; however, Beaufort resigned the position in 1417. Pope Martin V offered the Bishop a cardinal's hat, but Henry V would not let him accept it. Henry V died in 1422, shortly after making himself heir to France by marrying the French king's daughter, and their infant son became Henry VI of England. Bishop Beaufort and the baby king's other uncles were regents, and in 1424 Beaufort became Chancellor once more, but was forced to resign again in 1426 because of disputes with the king's other uncles.

The Pope finally made him a cardinal, and in 1427 made him Papal Legate for Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia. Beaufort continued to be active in English politics for years, fighting with the other powerful advisors to the king and always managing to extricate himself from the snares they set for him. He died on 11th April 1447 and was laid to rest in a tomb in Winchester Cathedral. He suffered from delirium on his deathbed and, as he hallucinated, offered Death the whole treasury of England in return for living a while longer, according to legend.

During his youth, most likely while studying at Cambridge, Henry had an affair with Alice Fitzalan (1378 - 1415), the daughter of Richard Fitzalan and Elizabeth de Bohun. The union produced an illegitimate daughter, Jane Beaufort, in 1402. In 1424, Jane Beaufort married Edward Stradling.


Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter born  in 1377. He was an English military commander during the Hundred Years' War, and briefly Chancellor of England.

After the accession of his half-brother Henry IV, Beaufort was made a Knight of the Garter. In the following years he held various military posts: Constable of Ludlow in 1402,  Admiral of the fleet for the northern parts in1403, Captain of Calais in1407, and Admiral of the northern and western seas for life in1408/9). His most notable action during this decade was commanding the forces against the northern rebellion of 1405.

He was made Chancellor of England from 31st January1410 untiol 5th January 1412) during a time when King Henry was having trouble with the clergy, and then returned to military matters. Later in 1412 he was created Earl of Dorset.

On the accession of Henry V Beaufort was appointed Lieutenant of Aquitaine in 1413 and then Captain of Harfleur in 1415. He spent the next years in Normandy, being Lieutenant of Normandy in1416. He was created Duke of Exeter for life, in 1416.

Beaufort was back in England in 1417, while the king was in Normandy, but had to deal with problems in Scotland. In 1418 he went back to Normandy with a large force, taking part in the sieges of Evreux, Ivry, and Rouen. After the fall of Rouen in 1419, he was captain of the city, and conquered more of the smaller Norman cities. Finally in 1419 he took the great fortress of Chateau-Gaillard, midway between Rouen and Paris, after a six month siege.

During this time Henry V had a policy of creating Norman titles for his aristocrats, and thus Beaufort was created Count of Harcourt in 1418.

In 1420 Beaufort helped negotiate the treaty of Troyes. The next year he was captured at the Battle of Baugé where his nephew Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence was killed.

Beaufort was one the executors of Henry V's will, and so returned to England in 1422. He served on the governing council for the infant king Henry VI, though it's likely he spent some time in France as well.

He married a Margaret Neville (there were a lot of Margarets and a lot of Nevilles around the royal circle then, but this one was the daughter of Sir Thomas Neville of Horneby). They had only one child, Henry Beaufort, and he died young.

The character of Exeter in Shakespeare's play Henry V is based on Beaufort, although Beaufort was not actually created Duke of Exeter until after the battle of Agincourt.

Thomas died on 31st December 1426

Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland born c.1379. She was the fourth child and only daughter of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford. She was born at the Chateau de Beaufort in Anjou, France from where the Beaufort children derive their surname. In 1391, at the age of 12, Joan married Robert Ferrers, 3rd Baron Ferrers of Wemme, and they had two daughters before he died in about 1395. Along with her three brothers, Joan had been privately declared legitimate by their cousin Richard II of England in 1390, but for various reasons their father secured another such declaration from Parliament in January 1397. Joan was already an adult when she was legitimized by the marriage of her mother and father with papal approval. The Beauforts were later barred from inheriting the throne by a clause inserted into the legitimation act by their half-brother, Henry IV. Soon after this declaration, on 3rd February 1397, when she was 18, Joan married Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, who had also been married once before.

When Ralph de Neville died in 1425, his lands and titles should, by law of rights, have passed on to his eldest surviving son from his first marriage, another Ralph de Neville. Instead, while the title of Earl of Westmorland and several manors were passed to Ralph, the bulk of his rich estate went to his wife, Joan Beaufort. Although this may have been done to ensure that his widow was well provided for; by doing this, Ralph essentially split his family into two, and the result was years of bitter conflict between Joan and her step-children, who fiercely contested her acquisition of their father's lands. Joan however, with her royal blood and connections, was far too powerful to be called to account, and the senior branch of the Nevilles received little redress for their grievances. Inevitably, when Joan died, the lands would be inherited by her own children.

Joan died on 13th November 1440 at Howden in Yorkshire. Rather than be buried with her husband Ralph, who was buried with his first wif, she was entombed next to her mother in the magnificent sanctuary of Lincoln Cathedral. Joan's is the smaller of the two tombs; both were decorated with brass plates — full-length representations of them on the tops, and small shields bearing coats of arms around the sides — but those were damaged or destroyed in 1644 during the English Civil War. A 1640 drawing of them survives, showing what the tombs looked like when they were intact, and side-by-side instead of end-to-end, as they are now.

Joan Beaufort was the grandmother of Edward IV of England and Richard III of England, whom Henry VII defeated to take the throne.

John of Gaunt's legitimate son from his first marriage, Henry Bolingbroke, proved less of a diplomat than his father; and Richard II banished Henry from the kingdom in 1398. When John of Gaunt died in 1399, his estates were declared forfeit to the crown. This caused Bolingbroke to return. He deposed the unpopular Richard, to reign as King of England (1399–1413).

John died on 3rd February 1399


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