This article is useful for a very short, uncluttered review, particularly for students of Shakespeare. Born in 1367, Henry forced Richard II to abdicate in 1399 and then was crowned shortly afterwards. He was the first Lancastrian king. He died in 1413.
Source: Given-Wilson (see below)
To get the big picture, let’s start with genealogical tables from credentialed Medievalists.
Henry IV begins the later Plantagenets, who will soon divide into the Houses of Lancaster and York (see the post about Henry VI). They will struggle for the throne in what will later be called the Wars of the Roses. The White Rose will come to symbolize the Yorkists, while the Red Rose the Lancastrians.
Did Henry and the Lancastrians have the best claim to the throne? Not really. The Yorkists descend from Lionel, the older brother to John of Gaunt, and from yet another son of Edward III, Edmund of Langley, duke of York. In an age of hereditary laws and beliefs, it rankled the Yorkists that Henry’s line became monarchs, just because he usurped the throne.
The Chronicles of the Wars of the Roses: The Turbulent Years of the Last Plantagenets, Seven Kings from Richard II in 1377 to Richard III in 1485:
Dan Jones, Wars of the Roses:
BASIC FAMILY FACTS
Henry was born at Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire, about 15 Apr 1367. He was the son and heir of his father John of Gaunt’s first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster. John of Gaunt was the fourth surviving son of Edward III.
Henry married (1) Mary de Bohun at Rochford, Essex before 11 Feb 1381. She was the youngest daughter and co-heiress of Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton (he was a descendant of King Edward I), by Joan (descendant of Henry II), daughter of Richard de Arundel, 10th earl of Arundel and 9th earl of Surrey (descendant of Henry III). Mary was born about 1369-70 (aged 3 or 4 in 1373). She died in childbirth at Peterborough Castle, Northamptonshire, 4 July 1394. And was buried in the church of the Newark, Leicester, Leicestershire.
He was crowned king of England 13 Oct 1399. He became King Henry IV.
He married (2) Joan (Jeanne) of Navarre, widow of Jean (John) de Montfort, at Winchester Cathedral 7 Feb 1403. She was born about 1370. She was the daughter of Charles II, king of Navarre, count of Evreux and Longueville.
Henry died at Westminster 20 Mar 1413 and was buried at Canterbury Cathedral. Joan was arrested and charged with witchcraft by her confessor John Randolph. She was deprived of her property and dower without trial, but it was restored.
She died at Havering-atte-Bower, Essex, on 2 9 or 10 July 1437. She was buried at Canterbury Cathedral beside her husband.
Children of Henry IV and Mary:
0. Unnamed child, born about 16 Apr 1382, who died in infancy. However, Anne Curry, in her biography Henry V, says this son did not exist, but was based on a misreading of a financial record (p. 3). So Henry, next, is the firstborn.
1. Henry will become Henry V. For the basics, he was born at Monmouth 16 Sep 1386 (or 1387). Shakespeare named him Prince Hal. He succeeded his father 21 Mar 1412 and was crowned king on 9 Apr 1413.
He married Catherine of Valois, daughter of Charles VI, King of France (descendant of Henry III) on 2 June 1420 at the Cathedral of St. Jean in Troyes (Aube). She was the daughter of Isabeau (Elizabeth) daughter of Stephan III, duke of Bavaria-Ingolstadt (descendant of Henry II). She was born at the Hotel de St. Pol, Paris 27 Oct 1401. She was the sister of Isabel of France, 2nd wife of Richard II of England.
He died of dysentery at Bois de Vincennes 31 Aug 1422. He was buried at Westminster. She remarried (secretly) to Own ap Meredith ap Tudor (ap = son of), clerk of Queen Catherine’s wardrobe. They had three sons: Edmund (ancestor of future Henry VII), Jasper, and Edward (Benedictine monk). She died at Bermondsey Abbey, Surrey, 3 Jan 1437 and was at first buried in the Lady Capel in Westminster Abbey. Her coffin was then moved to Henry V’s chantry in Westminster Abbey. Owen was placed under arrest and sent to Newgate prison from which he escaped in July 1439. He received a royal pardon “for all offences” on 12 Nov 1439. In 1459 he received an annuity of £00 for life by Henry VI.
Here is more information about Henry V:
2. Thomas of Lancaster was born at London on 29 Sep 1388. He married by papal mandated dated 16 Aug 1410 (dispensation dated 10 Nov 1412 Margaret Holand, widow of his uncle of his half-blood John Beaufort; she was the daughter of Thomas Holand, 2nd earl of Kent (descendant of King Edward I), by Alice (descendant of King John), daughter of Richard de Arundel. She was born about 1383-86 (aged 22 in 1408 and 26 in 1411, 30 in 1416). The had no issue.
He had a son by an unknown mistress, John, knight.
Sir Thomas of Lancaster, duke of Clarence, was slain at the Battle of Beaugé, Anjou, 22 Mar 1421 and was buried at the cathedral church at Canterbury, Kent, at the foot of his father. Margaret died in the Monastery of Str. Saviour’s, Berrmondsey, Surrey, 29 or 30 Dec (or 8 Jan 1340) and was buried with her two husbands in Canterbury Cathedral.
3. John of Lancaster, duke of Bedford, Earl of Richmond, Harcourt, and Kendal, Count of Maine (etc.). He was born 20 or 21 June 1389.
He married (1) between 17 Apr to 15 May 1423 Anne of Burgundy, daughter of Jean (John), Duke of Burgundy, Count of Flanders, by Marguerite, daughter of Count of Bavaria-Straubing, Count of Holland. She was born at Arras (pas-de-Calais) in 1404. She was made a denizen of England 20 Oct 1423. She died in childbirth at the hotel de Bourbon in Paris, France 14 Nov 1432. She was buried at first in the church of St. Bénigne in Dijon. They had no surviving issue. He married (2) Jaquette de Luxembourg at Thérouanne (pas-de-Calais), France, 22 Apr 1433. She was the daughter of Pierre de Luxembourg (descendant of Henry III), by Margaret, daughter of Francesco (Francis) del Balzo, Duke of Andria (descendant of King John). They had no issue.
By an unknown mistress or mistresses he had one illegitimate son, Richard, Esq. and one illegitimate daughter, Mary.
John died at Rouen Castle, Normandy, France, 14 Sep 1435 and was buried there in the cathedral. His widow remarried.
4. Humphrey of Lancaster. He was born 2 (or 3) Oct 1390. He was present at the Battle of Shrewsbury 21 July 1403.
He married (1) Jacque or Jacoba of Bavaria, duchess of Bavaria, countess of Hainault, Holland, and Zeeland. She was married previously. She was bor at Le Quesnoy 25 July 1401. They had no issue. He abandoned his wife. Pope Marin V ruled that her marriage to Duke John of Bavaria was alone valid and her marriage to Humphrey was void.
He married (2) Eleanor Cobham, daughter of Reginald Cobham (descendant of King John), by his first wife Eleanor, daughter of Thomas Culpepper. Eleanor was born about 1400 and served as his first wife’s attendant. They had no issue.
Humphrey died 23 Feb 1447 and was buried at St. Albans Abbey, Hertforshire. Eleanor died a prisoner at Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales 7 July 1452.
5. Blanche (Blanka) of Lancaster was born spring 1392. She married at Cologne Cathedral 6 July 1402 Ludwig III, count of Palatine of the Rhine (d. at Heidelberg 10 Dec 1436), son of Ruprecht III, King of the Romans, by Elisabeth, daughter of Friedrich V, Burgrave of Nurnberg. They had one son Ruprecht der Englander (born 22 May 1406 and died 20 May 1426. Blanche died at Alsace 22 May 1409 and was buried at Neustadt in Alsace. No living descendants.
6. Philippa of Lancaster was born 4 July 1394. She married at Lund Cathedral 26 Oct 1406 Erik of Pomerania, King of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, son and heir of Wartislaw VIII, Duke of Pomeria Stolp, by Maria, daughter of Heinrich III, Duke of Mecklenburg. They had one stillborn child. She ordered a naval attack while he was away, and it failed. Philippa retired to a convent at Wadstena, where she died in the night 6 Jan 1430 and was buried the next day in the chapel of St. Anne at Wadstena.
Illegitimate child of Henry and unknown mistress:
7. Edmund le Boorde, clerk, born about 1401 (aged 11 in 1412). He took holy orders. He died shortly before 19 Dec 1419.
BASIC FACTS AND STORIES
- His name Bolingbroke (Bolingbrook) came from his birthplace.
- He did not have the strongest claim to the throne when he overthrew his cousin Richard II in 1399.
- Richard descended from Edward III’s eldest son, while Henry was the son of Edward’s third surviving son, John of Gaunt. The throne should have gone to seven-year-old Edmund Mortimer, son of Edward’s second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp.
- However, Henry was the better man for the job than young Mortimer.
- Richard and Henry were about the same age and as boys played together.
- As Henry grew, he became a champion jouster and demonstrated his piety by going on a crusade in Eastern Europe.
- In the early years Richard’s government was in the hands of Henry’s father, John of Gaunt. When he left for Spain in 1386, Henry joined the Lords Appellant, Richard’s opposition.
- John of Gaunt returned, and Richard forgave Henry by making him duke of Hereford.
- Henry crusaded against pagans of Lithuania (1380) and Prussia (1392). He went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1393.
- Richard II created an atmosphere of fear by executing and exiling many barons. One illustration of this took place when Henry made an offhand remark about Richard’s rule to Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk and once his fellow-Lords Appellant.
- “Holy Mary, cousin! What is our cousin the king up to? There will soon be nobody left. He shows quite clearly that he does not want to advance the fortunes of the kingdom.”
- Norfolk accused Henry in the king’s hearing of treason.
- Richard II ordered them to battle it out in combat, but at the last moment the king stopped it and instead exiled them
- In Henry’s absence, his father John of Gaunt died in 1399. Richard II showed his rigid and heartless rule when he confiscated all of John’s estate that Henry was to inherit from his father as duke of Lancaster.
- While Richard was away on campaign against Ireland, Henry returned to England. Did Henry just want to recover his land, or did he intend to become king?
- He received much popular support from England, which must have convinced him to go all the way to kingship.
- He succeeded on 30 Sept 1399, when Henry forced Richard’s abdication, and parliament confirmed Henry’s claim to the throne.
- Richard was detained in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, where he died a year later, possibly on Henry’s orders.
- Henry was crowned on 13 Oct 1399. He made his address in English, rather than French, the first time since the Norman conquest in 1066.
- Henry knew how to compromise with parliament and was an effective administrator of the realm, though he brought debt on the country.
- However, just because he was effective does not mean no one opposed him. Richard II’s allies still roamed the land. What about Edmund Mortimer?
- Also Owen Glendower, a wealthy landowner in Denbighshire in northeast Wales, may have sensed weakness. He rallied his countrymen and revolted against English rule.
- On 16 Sep 1400 Owen declared himself Prince of Wales. By 1405 he liberated the country against England, despite Henry’s series of campaign against him.
- In 1401 he arranged the marriage of his daughter to Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, who had been Richard II’s heir apparent before Henry’s coup.
- In 1403 Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, turned against Henry and supported Edmund Mortimer.
- Scotland and France supported Edmund, but Scotland was defeated at Homildon Hill in Northumberland in 1402, France sent a force that landed in Wales in 1405-06.
- On 21 July 1403 Glendower suffered defeat at Shrewsbury, along with Archibald, earl of Douglas, and Percy’s son, Sir Henry Percy (“Hotspur”). Prince Henry (future Henry V) fought bravely and took an arrow to the face.
- Percy was slain. It was said that Henry wept over the corpse, but displayed it anyway instead of burying it properly.
- Contrary to Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV Part II, “Prince Hal” did not kill him.
- In 1405 King Henry’s old adversary Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, and Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, joined Glendower, Mortimer, and Northumberland in rebellion. They agreed to divide England between them.
- Mowbray and Scrope were lured to a meeting with Henry and were arrested and immediately executed. Percy escaped to Scotland. Henry received widespread criticism for executing the archbishop.
- The Long Parliament met in Mar 1406 and sat for 130 days. They complained that the king was squandering his money and failing to protect the sea routs to Gascony, in southwest France (trade) and the English south coast.
- At the Long Parliament the Commons compelled Henry to accept thirty-one articles that required him to take steps to improve. Example: He had to meet with his council that the Commons purged of people they did not like.
- In other words, Henry IV did not win widespread loyalty across the land, for people knew he was a usurper.
- Percy returned at the head of an army, but was killed at Branham Moor, Yorkshire, on 19 Feb 1408.
- Since King Henry had usurped the throne on a tenuous claim and had to fight a succession of rebellions, he had to compromise with parliament on royal expenditures and appointments. He did so out of pragmatism, but maintained a lot of royal power. He left the country in heavy debt, however.
- Glendower’s rebellion fizzled, and he himself disappeared.
- All the rebellions broke Henry’s health. Prince Henry (later Henry V) took effective power in 1410.
- In 1411 recovering his health a little, King Henry reasserted his authority, but he had a skin disease that some said was leprosy, but it probably came from syphilis. He suffered a series of attacks, probably strokes. Many believed it was God’s vengeance for killing the archbishop.
- During Henry’s declining health, a power struggle broke out in court in two factions: (1) the King and Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury and (2) Prince Henry and Thomas and Henry Beaufort, two sons of John of Gaunt. Prince Henry’s side won, but without complete success.
- Shakespeare dramatized the struggle by placing the king’s crown next to him in bed. The prince took the crown and placed it on his own head. Prince Henry had to wait until his father died before the younger took charge.
- It had been prophesied that Henry would die in Jerusalem, but the capital of Israel? No, there was a chamber at Westminster called the Jerusalem Chamber, where he actually died on 20 Mar 1413.
The years denote their reigns.
Henry IV (1399-1413)
Henry V (1413-1422)
Henry VI (1429-1461, 1470-1471)
Edward IV (1461-1470, 1471-1483)
Edward V (1483)
Richard III (1483-1485)
Eleanor of Aquitaine (duchess of Aquitaine, queen, and Henry II’s wife)
Eleanor of Provence (wife of Henry III and mother of Edward I)
Eleanor of Castile (married Edward I)
Matilda, Empress (Henry II’s mother). The post has links to her Norman ancestors!
Christine Carpenter, The Wars of the Roses: Politics and Constitution in England c. 1437-1509, Cambridge Medieval Textbooks (Cambridge UP 1997).
Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (New York: Metro Books, 2006).
The Chronicles of the Wars of the Roses: The Turbulent Years of the Last Plantagenets, Seven Kings from Richard II in 1377 to Richard III in 1485, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam (CLB 1997).
Anne Curry, Henry V: Playboy Prince to Warrior King, Penguin Monarchs (Allen Lane Penguin, 2015).
The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, gen. ed. Norman Cantor (Viking 1999).
John Gillingham, The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England (Louisiana State U 1981).
Chris Givens-Wilson, Henry IV, Yale Monarchs (Yale UP 2016).
Michael Hicks, The War of the Roses, 1455-1485, Essential Histories: (Osprey 2013).
Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (New York: 2014).
—, The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors (Penguin 2014).
Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).
A. J. Pollard, The Wars of the Roses, 2nd ed. British History in Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan 2001).
The Plantagenet Encyclopedia: An Alphabetical Guide to 400 Years of English History, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (Crescent Books, 1996).
Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols. (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).
Desmond Seward, The Demon’s Brood: A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty (Pegasus, 2014).