John of Gaunt



Family background

John of Gaunt (1,3) Knight of the Garter (7,11) was the 1st (7) Duke of Lancaster. (1,3) He lived during the reigns of (1,5) the Plantagenet Kings of England, (5) Edward III (1,3) and Richard II. (1,5) He was born (1,2) on March (1,6) 6th (2,7) OR June 24th (5) in 1340 (1,2) at the Abbaye De St Bavon, (2,13) OR Baron (11) OR Bavo (17) Ghent, (2,4) Flandre Orientale, (2) Belgium. (2,16) King Edward III and his wife were in Flanders at the time to formally receive homage from the Count of Flanders and to have the cities of Ghent, Ypres, and Bruges proclaim Edward III King of France. (16) On that day also took place the Battle of Sluys at which Edward’s fleet successfully destroyed the French fleet, giving England control of the English Channel. (13) ‘Of Gaunt’ is a nickname derived from his birth place ‘Ghent’, (5,6) then rendered in English as Gaunt, (7,10) and so he is known to History as John of Gaunt. (10) OR The term Gaunt was never employed after he was three years old; but it became the popularly accepted form of his name through its use in Shakespeare’s play Richard II. (6) Owing to his huge wealth, following and rank (8) he was a powerful (5,8) Plantagenet (5) English (4,7) nobleman, soldier, statesman, (7) and prince. (4,5) He was the third (5) OR fourth (6,8) OR fourth1 (3,4) but third surviving (6,7) of five surviving (7) sons (1,3) among the thirteen children (16) of Edward III (1,3) of England (3,5) and Philippa (5,6) OR Phillipa (13) of Hainault. (5) OR Hainaut. (6) John had thirteen siblings. (16) Edward, Prince of Wales – the Black Prince (5,13) born in 1330 (13); his sister Isabella, born in 1332, who married Enguerrand VII de Coucy, 1st Earl of Bedford, had issue Joan (1333/13342 – 1348), who died of the plague on the way to marry Pedro of Castile. (16) William of Hatfield (born and died 1337) (16); Lionel (5,13) of Antwerp, 1st (13) Duke of Clarence (5,16) born in 1338 who married (1) Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster, had issue (2) Violante Visconti, no issue. (16) Edmund, (5,16) of Langley, 1st (16) Duke of York. (5,16) was born on 5th June 1341 at King’s Langley: (13) he married (1) Infanta Isabella of Castile, had issue (2) Joan Holland, no issue. (16) Mary of Waltham (1344 – 1362), married John V, Duke of Brittany, no issue. (16) He had a sister, Blanche (5,16) of the Tower (16), born in March 1342, but she died before she was a month old. (13,16) A daughter Margaret of Windsor, born in 1346, married John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, but they had no children. (16) Thomas of Windsor was born in 1347, but died of the plague the following year, (16) as did William of Windsor, who was born and died in 1348. (16) On 7th January (13) 1355 (13,16) John’s brother Thomas (5,16) of Woodstock, 1st (16) Duke of Gloucester (5,16) was born to Edward and Philippa at Woodstock Palace. (13) Thomas married Eleanor de Bohun, and they had children. (16) Due to his royal ascendancy, advantageous marriages, and some generous land grants, (7) he was rich (5,7) in fact one of the richest and most influential men in his era. (7)


In his infancy, (11) from 1342 to 62 (5) John had the title Earl of Richmond. (5,11) On 12th May, 1343 his elder brother, Edward was created Prince of Wales. (13) John grew up in the household of his elder brother Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) where he received his knightly training, (17) being “soon initiated into the strenuous military traditions of the Plantagenet family”. (17On 10th October, 1344 John’s sister Mary was born to Edward and Philippa at Waltham. (13) In July 1346 John’s father, King Edward III invaded Normandy with a force of 15,000. (13) He took Caen, the main city of Normandy and then marched onwards into France. (13) On 20th July 1346 John’s sister, Margaret, was born to Edward and Philippa at Windsor Castle. (13) On 26th August John’s father Edward, and his brother, Edward the Black Prince, nicknamed after his black armour, scored a decisive victory over the French at Crecy. (13) In the Summer of 1347 John’s brother, Thomas, was born to Edward and Philippa. (13) He died before he was a year old. (13) On 3rd August 1347 Edward III took the French town of Calais. (13) On 23rd April, 1348 the Order of the Garter was founded. (13) John’s father, King Edward, and his brother Edward became members of the newly founded Order of the Garter. (13) In June 1348 The Black Death struck: it killed a third of the population. (13) On 24th June, 1348, John’s brother, William, was born to Edward and Philippa at Windsor Castle. (13) He died before September 1348. (13) During August (17) 1350 (13,15) at the age of ten, John was present at the (15,16) Anglo-Castilian (17) naval Battle of Winchelsea. (15,16) He was with his elder brother, Edward (13,15) on one of his father’s ships (17) that was attacked by (13,15) a huge (15) Spanish ship. (13,15) It is said that his life was saved by Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster, who attacked the Spanish ship. (15) John grew up to be tall, athletically built, (9,15) appropriately gaunt of visage, clever and ambitious. (9) In 1355, (17,19) John accompanied his father to Normandy in what was supposed to be a campaign of conquest (though this is questionable) against the French and their king, now John II. (19) He was knighted at the start of the Norman campaign in July 1355. (17) However, the credit for victory was destined to go to the Black Prince, who the following year would win his great victory over the French at Poitiers. (19) The contingent led by the king, which included John, was forced to return to England when it was discovered that the Scots had captured the important Anglo-Scottish border town of Berwick. (19) He also served with his father in Scotland in 1356. (17,19) John accompanied his father into Scotland and took part in the largely unsuccessful raiding campaign that took place. (19) As a reward for his services, the king granted John an important northern lordship and, more importantly, had him betrothed to Blanche of Lancaster, a co-heiress of Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster, arguably the wealthiest noblemen in England. (19) He was a womaniser (who wasn’t in the fourteenth century, except Edward II, who preferred a Gascon knight?). (9)In 1359, (13,15) at the age of 19, (13) he fathered (7,13) a daughter, Blanche. (13,15) Blanche’s mother was his mistress Marie de St Hilaire (13,15) of Hainault, (13) OR Hainaut (15,18) a lady in waiting to his mother Queen Phillippa. (7,13) This Blanche married Sir Thomas Morieux (1355–1387) in 1381, without issue. (18) Morieux held several important posts, including Constable of the Tower the year he was married, and Master of Horse to King Richard II two years later. (18) He died in 1387 after six years of marriage. (18) By viewing John of Gaunt from the perspectives of his contemporary critic Thomas Walsingham, his eventual brotherinlaw Geoffrey Chaucer, and later playwright William Shakespeare, a wellrounded view of his influence on and reflection of the policies and attitudes of his time, and the generations that followed can be seen. (12) Geoffrey Chaucer, who was personally acquainted with the duke, and later a part of his family denied that Gaunt was a powerhungry villain waiting in the wings; indeed, “there were better sides to his nature. (12) Chaucer praised him as ‘tretable/ Right wonder skilful and reasonable,’” a genuine, courtly, chivalrous man who reflected the ideals of the Order of the Garter, another facet of the 14th century. (12)

Marriage to Blanche 1359-69

On 19th May (13,15) 1359 he married (3,4) OR His father Edward (9,15) OR The Black Prince arranged for him to marry (17) his third (13,15) cousin, (3,4) the fourteen year (15,16) old wealthy heiress (15) Blanche of Lancaster (3,4) great-niece of Earl Thomas of Lancaster. (10) The marriage took place (11,15) in the Queen’s Chapel (16) at Reading Abbey in Berkshire. (11,15) The whole royal family attended the wedding, Edward III presented Blanche with expensive gifts of jewellery. (15) The marriage between John and Blanche is widely believed to have been a happy one. (15) Blanche was a fair haired, beautiful and gracious woman,(15) described by the chronicler Jean Froissart (15,17) as “jone et jolie” (15) (“young and pretty”). (15,17) Geoffrey Chaucer (13,15) wrote an elegy on her death entitled (13) ‘The Boke of the Duchesse’. (13,15) In this book he described “White”, the central figure in his Book of the Duchess, which is believed to have been inspired by Blanche, in such terms as “rody, fresh, and lyvely hewed”, her neck as “whyt, smothe, streght, and flat”, and her throat as “a round tour of yvoire”: she was “bothe fair and bright”, and Nature’s “cheef patron (pattern) of beautee”. (15) Both bride and groom were great great grandchildren of King Henry III. (15,16) Blanche descended from Henry’s younger son, Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster. (15) Blanche’s father was Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, a great-grandson of King Henry III. (16) Thomas of Lancaster was very rich indeed. (10) He was the nephew of King Edward I and three earls at the same time! (10) Thomas had no children, (10) so his brother Henry (8,10) of Grosmont (8,15) Earl (9) and 1st (15) Duke of Lancaster, (9,15) was his heir. (8,10) Henry was richer than the king. (9) He had served the monarchy dutifully, (9,10) fighting so well for Edward III that the King made him a Duke! (10) He was the only Duke in England apart from the Black Prince. (10) Blanche was (8,9) younger of the two daughters and co-heirs (11,16) of Duke Henry (8,9) and his wife Isabel de Beaumont. (15) John became very rich indeed because the marriage laws of that period, (9,10) brought him, straight away, via Blanche, (6,8) half the lands (15,17) of the Palatinate (18) OR earldom (20) of Lancaster. (18,20) OR the vast Lancastrian estates (6,8) in England, (6,11) Wales (6) and France. (16)That fall, John took part in the Rheims campaign – the result of unsuccessful peace negotiations between French and English moderators after the capture of John II at Poitiers three years earlier – and accompanied the force led by his brother, the Black Prince. (19) The English forces did besiege Rheims but were unable to take the city where, for centuries, the Kings of France had been crowned. (19) John did take part in some of the raiding that took place in the areas surrounding Paris, but the Rheims campaign was, overall, ineffective. (19) When John of Gaunt was nineteen-years-old, he commanded, for the first time, his own troops during a gruelling winter campaign in Normandy. (16) Jo hn and Blanche produced (13,15) seven (15,13) three of whom survived infancy: Philippa, Elizabeth and Henry of Bolingbroke. (15,17) Philippa Plantagenet (5,11) OR of Lancaster (15) was born on 31st March, (13,15) 1360 (15,17) who became the Queen consort of John I of Portugal. (11,15) Though John was back in England by the spring of 1360, he returned with his father to English-controlled Calais in the summer to take part in the final ratification of the Treaty of Bretigny, which had put an end to this first phase of the Hundred Years War (though many important details remained ambiguous). (19) John of Gaunt was admitted into the Order of the Garter (11,13) upon the death of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, one of the original knights, (11) In April, 1361. (13)

Inheritance from Henry of Grosmont

In 1362 John and Blanche had a son John who died when he was 2 in 1364. (15) Duke Henry died (9,10) of the plague in March (19) 1362, (9) OR 1361. (11,15) It was the most significant event of John’s life. (19) John inherited the and all of the vast estates and incomes that went with them, (19) He became Earl (15,17) OR Duke3 (3,4) of Lancaster (15,19). He was earl of Derby, Lincoln (11,19) and Leicester (11) (in addition to his own earldom of Richmond) 14th Baron of Halton and 11th Lord of Bowland (15) and Steward of England. (11) Of less prestige perhaps, but of no less import to the people of Berkshire, he also became Lord of the Manor of Hungerford and to that people of that town he presented his hunting horn and a charter granting them the rich fishing rights on the River Kennet. (11) He was the greatest landowner in the north of England. (17,18) At the age of 22 (9,17) OR 21 (19) John of Gaunt was He was the rightful lord and master of over one third of the lands of England, (12) including some in almost every county in England. (18) He owned thirty castles, (9,16) including Kenilworth Castle inherited from Henry, in which he rebuilt the hall and constructed new grand apartments. (14) He employed a number of troops large enough to compose a small private army. (12) He could have divided the days of the year by thirty-one and spent approximately twelve days in each of his homes – if he had so wished. (9) He was the richest nobleman in England – a status he was to retain throughout his life, (17) His household was comparable in size and organization to that of a monarch and his annual income between £8,000 and £10,000 a year (16) OR about £12,000 (17) which would be several million pounds in today’s terms, (16) at least double the amount enjoyed by any contemporary English magnate. (17) His house called The Savoy (9,15) was considered the grandest nobleman’s townhouse of medieval London. (15) It stood on the banks of the Thames and was every bit as grand and luxurious as the king’s palace at Westminster. (9)

And from Maud, Countess of Leicester

John acquired the rest of Henry’s great estates when (15) Blanche’s (15,16) elder (16) sister, Maud (15,16) Countess of Leicester, died on 10 April 1362. (15) He formally received the title Duke of Lancaster from Edward III on 13th November, (5,15) 1362. (3,4) John’s daughter Elizabeth Plantagenet (5,11) OR of Lancaster was born on 21st February 1364 (15) OR 1363 (17) and married (11,15) firstly John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (15) secondly John Holland, Duke of Exeter, and lastly Sir (11) John Cornwall (11,15) Lord (11) or 1st Baron (15) Fanhope; (11,15) She died on 24th November 1426 (15) Next was Edward (3,15) Plantagenet, (5) who was born in 1365 and died within the year. (15) Another John4 was born in 1366 and also died in infancy. (15) Meanwhile, on 6th January 1367, (13) John’s nephew, Richard (13,16) the future King Richard II (16) was born to Prince Edward (and his wife, Joan (13,16) 4th Countess (16) of Kent, displacing John of Gaunt as heir to the throne. (13,16) On 3rd April, (13,15) 1367 (13,14) John and Blanche had a son, Henry (10,13) Plantagenet (10) Duke of Hereford & Lancaster and Earl of Derby (11) the only surviving son of the marriage (15) who, because he was born in Bolingbroke Castle (10,13) in Lincolnshire,(14) is always called ‘Henry of Bolingbroke’. (10,13) It was he who, after overthowing his cousin, Richard II (15) became Henry IV of England. (5,7) Finally (15) there was daughter Isabella (13,15) OR Isabel Plantagenet, (5) who was born in 1368 (5,15) but died young. (13,15)

John in France and Spain 1367-74

Edward III was in poor health and his son John of Gaunt became an important figure in the royal court. (17) He was also sent on several diplomatic missions. (17) During the 1370s and the 1380s, John was one of England’s principal military commanders, but that his elder brother Edward the Black Prince received. (16) John of Gaunt spent about half his adult life intermittently abroad. (8) From 1365 (10) OR 1367 (6) OR 1369 (13) to 1374 (6) OR 1375 (10) he helped his father (10) and his elder brother (10,15) Edward of Woodstock (15) the Black Prince (10,15) by serving as a commander in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) against France, (6,7) He did not have the success as (7,10) OR never received the acclaim5 that (16) his father and elder brother Edward the Black Prince (heir to the English throne) had enjoyed. (7,16) In 1369, John was sent to Calais with the Earl of Hereford and a small English army with which he raided into northern France. On 23rd August, he was confronted by a much larger French army under Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Exercising his first command, John dared not attack such a superior force and the two armies faced each other across a marsh for several weeks until the English were reinforced by the Earl of Warwick, at which the French withdrew without offering battle. John and Warwick then decided to strike Harfleur, the base of the French fleet on the Seine. Further reinforced by German mercenaries, they marched on Harfleur, but were delayed by French guerilla operations while the town prepared for a siege. John invested the town for four days in October, but he was losing so many men to dysentery and bubonic plague that he decided to abandon the siege and return to Calais. During this retreat, the army had to fight its way across the Somme at the ford of Blanchetaque against a French army led by Hugh de Châtillon, who was captured and sold to Edward III. By the middle of November, the survivors of the sickly army returned to Calais, where the Earl of Warwick died of plague. Though it seemed an inglorious conclusion to the campaign, John had forced the French king, Charles V, to abandon his plans to invade England that autumn.’ (18) He went with his brother the Black Prince to Spain, (8,9) to fight in aid of his ally Pedro the Cruel of Castile: (15) so began his wrong but romantic association with that extraordinary country. (9,11) In April (17) 1367, (8,17) He commanded the vanguard (17) of the Black Prince’s army at the Battle of Najera in Spain, (8,17), and his conduct increased his reputation as a military general. (17) John stood as godfather to Katherine Swynford’s daughter, Blanche Swynford and Blanche had Katherine’s daughter Blanche placed within her own daughters’ chambers and afforded the same luxuries as them. (15) Blanche died (4,6) possibly (16) OR probably (17) of bubonic (15,17) plague (9,13) at the age of 23, (15,16) at Tutbury Castle, (15,18) Staffordshire (15) on 12th September, 1368 (9,13) OR 1369. (4,6) while John was abroad. (15,18) OR away at sea. (16) John was reported to have been grief stricken. (15) Her funeral was held at the Old St. Paul’s Cathedral attended by most of England’s nobility and clergy. (16) John held annual commemorations of Blanche’s death for the rest of his life. (16) In 1369 Charles V of France renewed the war. (13) In July (14) John went to Calais and raided northern France. (13,14) with 2,000 soldiers, destroying towns along the way. (14) On 15th August 1369 John’s mother, Philippa of Hainault, died at Windsor Castle. (13) On 8th October, 1370, John was created Lord of Bergerac and Roche-sur-Yon. (13) He conducted unsuccessful campaigns in France (8,11) in 1369 (11,13) and 1370. (8,11) In the Summer of 1370 John was sent, at the head of a small force, to help his (13) ailing (18) brother, Edward the Black Prince, (13) and his younger brother Edmund of Langley, Earl of Cambridge (18) fighting in Aquitaine. (13) He helped the Black Prince to (8,13) besiege and retake the town of Limoges. (13) He took charge of the siege operations and at one point engaging in hand-to-hand fighting in the undermining tunnels. (18) He took part in the sack of Limoges (8) on 19th September, (13) 1370. (8,13) On 8th October, 1370, John was created Lord of Bergerac and Roche-sur-Yon. (13) When the Black Prince fell ill (9) he surrendered his lordship of Aquitaine and sailed for England (18) and John replaced him as the overlord in Gascony (9) serving briefly as Lieutenant of Aquitaine in 1371. (8) As governor he did not achieve much, (9) beyond holding what small territory the English still controlled, although he attempted to defend the duchy against French encroachment for nearly a year; (18) but this might well be a result of ill-planning, (9) lack of resources and money (18) and unrealistic expectations on the part of his father. (9) In February 1371 the Scottish Parliament discussed the possibility of John of Gaunt succeeding the childless David II as king of Scotland. (17) In September 1371 he resigned the command and returned to England. (18)

Marriage to Constanza of Castile

In 1369 (3) OR in 1371 (6) OR in 1372, (4,10) John’s ambition for the restoration of Pedro, King of Castile, induced him to direct his views towards (11) the elder of the two (11,16) daughters (3,4) and heiresses to the (7,8) Castillian (7) OR Castilian (8) Kingdom (7,8) of the exiled (9) OR lately slain Peter (11,15) OR Pedro the Cruel of Castile (3,4) & Leon. (11,15) John of Gaunt wanted the throne of Castilla, known to English historians as ‘Castile’ which is French, though Castilla and Aragon were two of the largest and most important regions of Spain (with Portugal) and had no connections with France apart from the odd marriage. (9) Pedro had been murdered (11,15) in 1369 (17) by the followers of (19) the illegitimate (11,17) son of Alfonso XI (17) Pedro’s half (15,16) brother, Henry (11,15) of Transtamare (11) OR Trastamara (3,11) OR of Castile. (15,17) Henry usurped the throne of Castile (15,16) and León, (16) under the title of Henry II. (11) Just before leaving Aquitaine, (18) he married the Infanta (16,18) Constance (3,4) OR Constanza (9,13) at Roquefort (13,15) near Bordeaux, in Guienne (15) OR Guyenne (18) in France, (13,15) on 21st September, 1371 (13,15) OR 1372, (11) as his second wife. (15) On the basis of the marriage he assumed the title of King of Castile (3,4) and León. (16) Under Spanish law, the husband of a female heir to the throne was the rightful king, John impaled his arms with those of Castille, and so, following his marriage to Constanza, John’s fate was inextricably interwoven with that of the Iberian peninsula. (15) Upon his marriage to Constance, John assumed the title of King of Castile and León in right of his wife, and insisted his fellow English nobles henceforth address him as ‘my lord of Spain’. (18) He impaled his arms with those of the Spanish kingdom. (18) From 1372, John gathered around himself a small court of refugee Castilian knights and ladies and set up a Castilian chancery that prepared documents in his name according to the style of Peter of Castile, dated by the Castilian era and signed by himself with the Spanish formula ‘Yo El Rey’ (“I, the King”).’ The duke was formally authorized to use the Castilian royal titles by Edward III on (17) 29th (18) OR 30th (10) January 1372, (17,18) and the honours were ascribed to him in the writs of summons to Parliament. (11) However he failed to make good his claim (3,7) by his expeditions to oust his rival Henry of Trastamara. (36) The Hundred Years War had started up again. (10) During 1372 John supported his father, Edward III in an attempt to invade France, (13,18) and a plan was made to send a (17,18) large (18) invasion force but due to (17,18) three months of (18) unfavourable winds (13,18) the plan was cancelled in October 1372. (17) The marriage between John and Constanza was loveless, (15) but nevertheless produced two children, (5,15) a daughter, Catherine (9,11) OR Catalina (5) who was born (13,15) in the Autumn of (13) 1372 (13,15), and a son John, Plantagenet, (5) born (13,15) in 1373 (13) OR 1374 (15,16) who died in infancy, (15) in 1375. (16) Sometime after the death of Blanche of Lancaster in 1368 and the birth of John and Katherine’s first child, John and Katherine began an affair which produced four children. (16) In 1373 (16) their son, also named John, was born to John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. (13) He was given the surname Beaufort. (13) Suffering from repeated attacks of what was probably dysentery, the Black Prince was forced to return to England. (17) John of Gaunt, was now asked to replace him in France. (17)

The Chevauchée of 1373

In August, (13,18) 1373 John made another unsuccessful intervention in France, (8,10) planning a 1600 km (10) OR 550 mile (885 km) (16) OR 900 kilometre campaign to relieve Aquitaine by the landward route. (18) In April 1373 (17) his army of around 9,000 (13,18) mounted7 (18) OR 6,000 men departed from Dover. (17) He invaded and marched (13,16) from Calais on the English Channel (13,16) on a great chevauchée from north-eastern to south-western France. (10,18) He was unopposed (16) OR ‘Beset on all sides by French ambushes’. (18) Stiff French resistance kept the English forces away from the Paris basin and forced (17) John of Gaunt and his raiders (18) to march eastwards (17,18) through Champagne (18) to Rheims and Troyes, (17) into Burgundy (18) and then southwards (17) across the Massif Central, (18) through the mountains of (11) the Auvergne (11,17) OR Marching in winter across the Limousin plateau, huge numbers of the army, and finally down into Dordogne, (18) in Aquitaine. (10,13) Bertrand du Guesclin stalked and harried the English force, (10) picking off stragglers. (18) They were plagued by disease (13,18) cold and starvation. (18) The journey was long and arduous and a considerable number of his followers (11,13) and even larger numbers of horses, (18) died. (11,13) Unable to attack any strongly fortified forts and cities, (18) the raiders plundered the countryside, which weakened the French infrastructure, (17,18) but the military value of the damage was only temporary. (18) At the end of the five (10) OR four (13,18) month march, a pitiful remnant (10) reached Aquitaine. (10,13) This was probably John’s most notable feat of arms, a bold stroke that impressed contemporaries, but it achieved virtually nothing. (18) He had been no match for Bertrand. (10) During the raid, John made contact with Guillaume Roger, brother and political adviser of Pope Gregory XI, to let the pope know he would be interested in a diplomatic conference under papal auspices. (18) They had lost at least one-third of their force in action and another third to disease. (18) They staggered into Bordeaux (10,16) on 24th (18) December, (13,18) too weak to be of further use. (13) Upon arrival in Bordeaux, many more succumbed to the bubonic plague that was raging in the city. (18) Sick, demoralised and mutinous, the army was in no shape to defend Aquitaine, and soldiers began to desert. (18) John had no funds with which to pay them, and despite his entreaties, none were sent from England, so in April 1374, he abandoned the enterprise and sailed for home. (18) The disaster rendered him very unpopular (11) on his return to England (10,11) in 1374. (13,18) All Guienne and Gascony, with the exception of the towns of Bordeaux and Bayonne, had been lost, and (11) a short-lived (18) suspension of hostilities was negotiated at Bruges, by the Duke and others, with the Duke of Anjou, before the end of 1375. (11,16) This conference was the result of the peace initiative which John had made during his raid. (18)

John’s role in the last years of his father’s life, 1374-77

His father’s and brother’s health deteriorated, and (7,9) on his return from France (6,11) in July (11) OR April (17) 1374 (6,11) OR 1375. (10) His father was seriously ill (8,14) OR infirm (11) OR senile. (9,10) John of Gaunt had to preside in their stead (8,9) OR helped Alice Perrers (10) as the virtual ruler of England, though not a popular one. (9,10) Thanks to his father’s support (6) John of Gaunt acquired a marked ascendency in the royal council (11) and he became the most influential person in the realm (1,4) between 1374 and 1377. (17) He took a more decisive and persistent role in the direction of English foreign policy. (18) He returned to England (8) for the good Parliament (8,18) to find (8,10) that things were going badly. (10,17) The parliament had been called, (17,18) in (8,17) April (17) 1376. (8,17) in desperate need for money to fund the war, (17) to grant massive war taxation to the Crown, but it turned into a parliamentary revolution, with the Commons (supported to some extent by the Lords) venting their grievances at decades of crippling taxation, misgovernment, and suspected endemic corruption among the ruling classes. (18) John of Gaunt was the royal family’s representative as both his father and elder brother were too ill to attend (17) English forces had experienced setbacks in the Hundred Years’ War, (15,16) particularly John’s chevauchée (15,16) and the Battle of La Rochelle. (15) The fact that he became identified with the attempts to make peace added to his unpopularity at a period when the majority of Englishmen believed victory would be in their grasp if only the French could be defeated decisively as they had been in the 1350s. (18) Edward III’s rule was becoming unpopular due (15) to high taxation. (15,17) Alice Perrers, (8,10) a woman whom the king loved, (10) OR the king’s mistress (8,15) was ruling for him, (10) and the Black Prince (8,9) and his wife (10) were seriously ill, (8,9) with dropsy. (10) John was left isolated (even the Black Prince supported the need for reform) and the Commons refused to grant money for the war unless most of the great officers of state were dismissed and the king’s mistress Alice Perrers, another focus of popular resentment, was barred from any further association with him. (18) Many people hated Alice. (10) They said she was just using her position to make herself rich. (10) John became unpopular because he helped Alice. (10) There was much slander, especially in the city, of Alice Perrers, Edward III’s and other figures. (8) His vast estates made him the richest man in England, and his great wealth, ostentatious display of it, autocratic manner and attitudes, enormous London mansion (the Savoy Palace on the Strand) and association with the failed peace process at Bruges combined to make him the most visible target of social resentments. (18) Members of the House of Commons complained about the heavy incidence of taxation and the consistent lack of military success. (17) But even after the government acceded to virtually all their demands, the Commons then refused to authorise any funds for the war, losing the sympathy of the Lords as a result. (18) Political opinion closely associated John with the failing government of the 1370s, (15) and he became the focus of (7,8) extreme (6,7) popular discontent. (7,8) On June 8th (13,16) 1376 (11,17) John’s eldest brother and heir to the throne, (16) Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) died (11,16) at the age of 45. (16) The onset of Edward III’s last illness at the closing of Parliament on 10th July left John with all the reins of power. (18) He immediately had the ailing king grant pardons to all the officials impeached by the Parliament; Alice Perrers too was reinstated at the heart of the king’s household. (18) John impeached William of Wykeham and other leaders of the reform movement, and secured their conviction on old or trumped-up charges. (18) By the rules of inheritance the throne would now have to pass to (10,14) the Black Prince’s (10,13) only surviving child (16) his son Richard II, (10,13) who was only nine (10,16) OR ten (13,14) and too young to rule unaided. (14) Some believed that one of King Edward III’s younger sons should succeed instead. (16) There were three still alive: John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; Edmund of Langley, Duke of York; and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. (16) The leading magnates (17) and Parliament (16) feared that John of Gaunt would claim the throne. (17) The magnates therefore supported the idea that his ten-year-old grandson should become king. (17) The ‘Bad Parliament’ of 1377, (18) which was in a dispute with John of Gaunt at that time, supported Richard’s accession to the throne. (16) OR The parliament of 1377 was John’s counter-coup: crucially, the Lords no longer supported the Commons and John was able to have most of the acts of 1376 annulled. (18) He also succeeded in forcing the Commons to agree to the imposition of the first Poll Tax in English history — a viciously regressive measure that bore hardest on the poorest members of society. There was organised opposition to his measures and rioting in London. (18) By this time, too, some of his possessions were taken from him by the Crown. (18) For example, his ship, the Dieulagarde, was seized and bundled with other royal ships to be sold (to pay off the debts of Sir Robert de Crull, who during the latter part of King Edward III’s reign had been the Clerk of the King’s Ships, and had advanced monies to pay for the king’s ships . (18) There were attacks on John of Gaunt in 1377, when the Londoners paraded (12) with his arms reversed (12,18) or defaced wherever they were displayed, and protestors spread (18) scurrilous rumours and (7) lampoons that he was actually the son of a Ghent butcher (7,18), perhaps because Edward III was not present at the birth. (7) This story always drove him to fury. (7) Richard was accordingly proclaimed heir. (14) Although John of Gaunt was grown up, and rich and powerful, he could not be king. (10) The King died a few months (8,10) OR a year (14) later (8,10) on 21st (13) June (13,14) in 1377, (10,13) having suffered a stroke. (13,15) at Sheen. (15) Edward was buried in Westminster Abbey in a tomb designed by Henry Yevele. (14)

Regent under Richard II

The Accession

John of Gaunt and his two brothers were excluded from councils which ruled during Richard’s minority, but as the uncles of the king, they still held great informal influence over the business of government. (16) OR John of Gaunt maintained his position (1,6) OR sought no position of regency for himself and withdrew to his estates (18) after the accession of (1,6) his ten-year-old (13,14) nephew, (3,6) Richard II, (1,6) in 1377 (10,13) during the King’s minority. (1,7) OR was already in charge (8,9) Richard’s (8,16) magnificent (8) coronation took place on July 16th 1377 (8,16) at Westminster Abbey, just eleven days after his grandfather’s funeral. (16) It was stage managed by John of Gaunt. (8,16) Thomas Walsingham described it as “a day of joy and gladness…the long-awaited day of the renewal of peace and of the laws of the land, long exiled by the weakness of an aged king and the greed of his courtiers and servants.” (17) At King Richard II’s coronation, John acted as High Steward, carried the Sword of Mercy, and carved at the coronation banquet. (16) Henry Percy was created Earl of Northumberland at the ceremony in recognition for his services as a soldier leading troops against the French. (14)The speed with which all this happened was certainly affected by the controversial succession of a child king whose father had not been the king. (16) Many of the responsibilities of government fell upon John of Gaunt, (7,11) who acted as regent for his young nephew. (13) John’s activities were not particularly successful (8) due to the numerous economic and military problems facing England (7) and his home reputation suffered accordingly. (7,8) At one point he was forced to take refuge across the Thames, while his Savoy Palace only just escaped looting.’ (18) He was now the uncle of a young king not the son of an old one, (8) and was supposed by some to be aiming at the Crown, (4,18) whereas in fact he never wished to be king of England. (9,18) Gaunt was not the “ambitious, greedy, restless baron… in search of a crown” that Walsingham and other chroniclers portrayed. (12) He could have easily attacked Richard II’s claim to the throne, having the power, money, and military forces to do so, (12) but he chose to remain loyal. (9,12) It is an odd fact, given the history of England as we know it, that Gaunt never sought the throne, and he served the new young king Richard II as faithfully as he had served the old one. (9) It was good that he was a very loyal person. (10) Moreover he was caught in a dilemma: it was necessary to re-establish the Royal prestige in the interests of his family and himself but his own interests required the cooperation of the government’s critics. (8)

The War

The war was going badly. (8) The English had been consistently losing territory to the French since 1369. (16) King Richard II wanted to negotiate peace with France, but much of the nobility wanted to continue the war. (16) The war, and his negotiations in Flanders to end it went badly. (8) The French attacked the coast. (8) John’s final campaign in France took place in 1378. (18) In the Summer (13) of that year (8,13) John planned a ‘great expedition’ of mounted men in a large armada of ships to land at Brest (18) and take control of Brittany. (13,18) Not enough ships could be found to transport the horses, and the expedition was tasked with the more limited objective of capturing St. Malo. (18) OR to try to take Brittany, (13) but his attack on St Malo was an unpopular disaster. (8,18) The English destroyed the shipping in St. Malo harbour and began to assault the town by land on 14th August, but John was soon hampered by the size of his army. (18) He was unable to feed his large force due to the French occupation of the countryside. (13,18) French armies under Olivier de Clisson and Bertrand du Guesclin occupied the surrounding countryside, harrying the edges of his force. (18) In September, the siege was simply abandoned and the army returned ingloriously to England. (18) John of Gaunt received most of the blame for the debâcle. (18) The difficulties of paying for it increased the sensitivity of the war issue. (14) Partly as a result of these failures, and those of other English commanders at this period, John was one of the first important figures in England to conclude that the war with France was unwinnable because of France’s greater resources of wealth and manpower. (18) John was himself a delegate to the various conferences that eventually resulted in the Truce of Leulinghem in 1389. (18)

Internal problems

John of Gaunt exercised a moderating influence in the political and constitutional struggles of the reign of Richard. (3,6) He contrived some public reconciliations. (8) Westminster Abbey was closed for several months after a murder took place in the Choir. (14) The Abbey was not reopened for services until it was reconsecrated. (14) Two knights called Schakell and Hawle had taken a Spanish Count prisoner whilst fighting with the Black Prince. (14) As usual a ransom was required for the release of the Count. (14) The Count was allowed to return to Spain to organise the ransom leaving his son as a hostage to ensure the ransom was paid. (14) At this time John of Gaunt was in the process of acquiring the crown of Castile and the saga with the Count’s son was an embarrassment. (14) When the two knights refused to release their prisoner they were arrested and sent to the Tower of London. (14) They managed to escape from the Tower and fled to Westminster Abbey and sanctuary, but this was ignored by a group of soldiers led by the Constable of the Tower, Alan Boxhall. (14) Schakell was captured but Hawle and a monk were murdered in the Choir. (14) Several of those involved were excommunicated meaning that they could not be buried after their deaths. (14)

John of Gaunt and Wycliffe

In 1371, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and chancellor, asked for supplies for war. (14) Parliament petitioned the king to stop the practice of ecclesiastics having positions of power and not being liable to account for their actions, and that non-clerical laymen should replace them. (14) An important supporter of this action was John of Gaunt, (14) which made him enemies among a group of powerful prelates (6,9) who aspired to hold state offices. (6) This bad relationship with the church worsened when, to finance his foreign goals, he sought greater access to the hoarded riches of the church which reduce ecclesiastical power in politics. (8) During 1372 (13) OR Following the death of Edward, the Black Prince in 1376, (15) John became sympathetic to the teachings of the (8,13) religious (6) reformer (6,9) John (6,8) Wycliffe. (4,6) Wycliffe was leader of an increasingly popular move against Bishops and Archbishops having power in government. (13) He also believed that every man had the right to read the Bible in his own language and to interpret it according to his own convictions. (13) Wycliffe’s followers were known as Lollards and they preached in the streets. (13) To regain popularity with the nobility (9) and counter the hostility (6) and growing power (15) of the clergymen (6) of the Roman Catholic Church (15) he formed a curious (6) alliance with (4,6) Wycliffe, whom he protected, (4,15) espousing his views on church poverty, (8) and making himself even more unpopular with powerful churchmen. (9,14) Anne Hudson has argued: “Wycliffe’s teaching at this point seems to have offended on three matters: that the pope’s excommunication was invalid, and that any priest, if he had power, could pronounce release as well as the pope; that kings and lords cannot grant anything perpetually to the church, since the lay powers can deprive erring clerics of their temporalities; that temporal lords in need could legitimately remove the wealth of possessioners.” (17) John of Gaunt was at feud with the wealthiest interests in the state namely the city (8) and the Bishops who had, in his association with Wycliffe, a handle against him. (6,8) Gaunt used his position to infringe upon the judicial liberties of the people in order to overcome criticism of the crown. (12) In February, 1377, Wycliffe was (14,17) told to appear before Archbishop Simon Sudbury (17) OR the bishop of London (14) and charged with seditious preaching. (17) He was tried for heresy at the court of the bishop of London at St. Paul’s. (14) Wycliffe was supported by John of Gaunt and the trial failed to convict the religious reformer ending in riots and chaos. (14)

The Peasants’ Revolt

The Poll Taxes

Things got worse. (10) In 1377 (17,18) the hostile and potentially disloyal (12) Parliament (10,18) OR John of Gaunt generated (12,15) OR was blamed for generating (15,17) a flat‐rate tax (12,17) the first (18) poll tax, (12,15) in English history, (18) by which four pence was to be taken from every man and woman over the age of fourteen. (17) It was a viciously regressive measure that bore hardest on the poorest members of society. (18) This was a huge shock: taxation had never before been universal, and four pence was the equivalent of three days’ labour to simple farmhands at the rates set in the Statute of Labourers. (17) Edward III died soon afterwards. (17) The poor people were angry about the (10,12) heavy (10,17) taxes, (10,12) which were to pay for the war. (10) John of Gaunt’s government did not seem to be using the money well. (10) John’s supporters were accused of fraudulent transactions. (9) In 1379 Richard II called a parliament to raise money to pay for the continuing war against the French. (17) After much debate it was decided to impose another poll tax. (17) This time it was to be a graduated tax, which meant that the richer you were, the more tax you paid. (17) For example, the Duke of Lancaster and the Archbishop of Canterbury had to pay £6.13s.4d., the Bishop of London, 80 shillings, wealthy merchants, 20 shillings, but peasants were only charged 4d. (17) OR the poor were disproportionately charged by the tax. (12) They also did not feel that the tax was offering them any benefits: the English government seemed to be unable to protect people living on the south coast (17) from French raiders. (10,17) There were no more great victories in France (10) and there were other restrictive policies, which led to riots against the duke. (12) In 1380 John of Gaunt and his army were sent north to deal with problems on the northern border. (17) The trouble began when pirates operating out of Hull and Newcastle had captured a Scottish ship. (17) The Scots reacted to the loss by breaching the border, terrorising the northern counties and looting Penrith. (17) According to Dan Jones “protecting the northern border certainly held some private interest for John of Gaunt; but he was also a champion of the rights of the Crown – a trait that often saw him unfairly characterised as having personal ambitions to the throne.” (17) While he was away, Simon Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggested a new poll tax of three groats (one shilling) per head over the age of fifteen. (17) There was a maximum payment of twenty shillings from men whose families and households numbered more than twenty, thus ensuring that the rich paid less than the poor. (17) A shilling was a considerable sum for a working man, almost a week’s wages. (17) A family might include old persons past work and other dependents, and the head of the family became liable for one shilling on each of their ‘polls’. (17) This was basically a tax on the labouring classes. (13) The peasants felt it was unfair that they should pay the same as the rich. (17) Most peasants at this time only had an income of about one groat per week. (17) This was especially a problem for large families. (17) For many, the only way they could pay the tax was by selling their possessions. (17) John Wycliffe gave a sermon where he argued: “Lords do wrong to poor men by unreasonable taxes… and they perish from hunger and thirst and cold, and their children also. (17) And in this manner the lords eat and drink poor men’s flesh and blood.” (17) John Ball toured Kent giving sermons attacking the poll tax. (17) When the Archbishop of Canterbury, heard about this he gave orders that Ball should not be allowed to preach in church. (17) Ball responded by giving talks on village greens. (17) The Archbishop now gave instructions that all people found listening to Ball’s sermons should be punished. (17) When this failed to work, Ball was arrested and in April 1381 he was sent to Maidstone Prison. (17) At his trial it was claimed that Ball told the court he would be “released by twenty thousand armed men”. (17) In 1381 the people rose up against the government in the ‘Peasants’ revolt. (10,15)


The Peasants’ Revolt marked a new involvement of the poor and labouring class in the affairs of the country, and an increase in their awareness of the actions of the aristocracy. (12) In May 1381, Thomas Bampton, the Tax Commissioner for the Essex area, reported to the king that the people of Fobbing were refusing to pay their poll tax. (17) It was decided to send a Chief Justice and a few soldiers to the village. (17) It was thought that if a few of the ringleaders were executed the rest of the village would be frightened into paying the tax. (17) However, when Chief Justice Sir Robert Belknap arrived, he was attacked by the villagers. (17) Belknap was forced to sign a document promising not to take any further part in the collection of the poll tax. (17) According to the Anonimalle Chronicle of St Mary’s: “The Commons rose against him and came before him to tell him… he was maliciously proposing to undo them… Accordingly they made him swear on the Bible that never again would he hold such sessions nor act as Justice in such inquests… And Sir Robert travelled home as quickly as possible.” (18) After releasing the Chief Justice, some of the villagers looted and set fire to the home of John Sewale, the Sheriff of Essex. (17) Tax collectors were executed and their heads were put on poles and paraded around the neighbouring villages. (17) The people responsible sent out messages to the villages of Essex and Kent asking for their support in the fight against the poll tax. (17) Many peasants decided that it was time to support the ideas proposed by John Ball and his followers. (17) It was not long before Wat Tyler, a former soldier in the Hundred Years War, emerged as the leader of the peasants. (17) Thomas Walsingham described him as a “cunning man, endowed with much sense if he had applied his intelligence to good purposes”. (17) Tyler’s first decision was to march to Maidstone to free John Ball from prison. (17) “John Ball had been set free and was safe among the commons of Kent, and he was bursting to pour out the passionate words which had been bottled up for three months, words which were exactly what his audience wanted to hear.” (17) Charles Poulsen, the author of The English Rebels (1984) has pointed out that it was very important for the peasants to be led by a religious figure: “For some twenty years he had wandered the country as a kind of Christian agitator, denouncing the rich and their exploitation of the poor, calling for social justice and freeman and a society based on fraternity and the equality of all people.” (17) John Ball was needed as their leader because alone of the rebels, he had access to the word of God. (17) “John Ball quickly assumed his place as the theoretician of the rising and its spiritual father. (17) Whatever the masses thought of the temporal Church, they all considered themselves to be good Catholics.” (17) On 5th June there was a revolt at Dartford and two days later Rochester Castle was taken. (17) The peasants arrived in Canterbury on 10th June. (17) Here they took over the archbishop’s palace, destroyed legal documents and released prisoners from the town’s prison. (17) More and more peasants decided to take action. (17) Manor houses were broken into and documents were destroyed. (17) These records included the villeins’ names, the rent they paid and the services they carried out. (17) What had originally started as a protest against the poll tax now became an attempt to destroy the feudal system. (17) The peasants decided to go to London to see Richard II. (17) As the king was only fourteen-years-old, they blamed his advisers for the poll tax. (17) It is at this time that contemporary chroniclers of political life turned on John of Gaunt. (12) Thomas Walsingham, in particular, shows a great bitterness towards the duke, accusing him of acting “with unbridled malice and greed, fearing neither God nor man, and… subverting the liberties of the city of London”. (12) While Walsingham’s criticisms may have been bolstered by a personal vendetta against Gaunt, it was clear that his views reflected at least a fraction of the public opinion. (12) This opinion, both among “members of elite groups (magnates, courtiers, knights… in parliament, London citizens) or… wide sections of the commons” only grew more negative in Gaunt’s time as an advisor to and the de facto power behind the tenyearold king. (12) Although he lacked a formal political position, Gaunt held pervasive, informal power as a counsellor to the young Richard II. (12) But even his lack of formal office and his powerful status as a nobleman did not stop the public outcry about many of his policy decisions. (12) The peasants hoped that once the king knew about their problems, he would do something to solve them. (17) The rebels reached the outskirts of the city on 12 June. (17) It has been estimated that approximately 30,000 peasants had marched to London. (17) At Blackheath, John Ball gave one of his famous sermons on the need for “freedom and equality”. (17) Wat Tyler also spoke to the rebels. (17) He told them:

Remember, we come not as thieves and robbers. We come seeking social justice.” Henry Knighton records: “The rebels returned to the New Temple which belonged to the prior of Clerkenwell… and tore up with their axes all the church books, charters and records discovered in the chests and burnt them… One of the criminals chose a fine piece of silver and hid it in his lap; when his fellows saw him carrying it, they threw him, together with his prize, into the fire, saying they were lovers of truth and justice, not robbers and thieves.” (17)

Charles Poulsen praises Wat Tyler as learning the “lessons of organisation and discipline” when in the army and in showing the “same pride in the customs and manners of his own class as the noblest baron would for his”. (17) They marched to London. (10) The main target of the angry revolt was not the young king. (12) “It became clear… that it was John of Gaunt whom the common people chiefly blamed, for the military failings and financial exactions of government which inspired the revolt. (12) OR was among those named by the rebels as a traitor to be beheaded as soon as he could be found. (18) This was in spite of the fact that he held no formal office. (12) The peasants demanded John’s arrest and execution. (12) At the time of the revolt (13) part of the English Army was at sea bound for Portugal whereas the rest were with John of Gaunt. (17) He was (17) abroad (13) OR ‘away from London’ (13,15) OR still in Scotland (17) OR on the March of Scotland (18) with the English Army when these events took place. (17) King Richard II sent a message to bring his soldiers, an estimated 20,000 men, back to London. (17) However, the message did not arrive in time for him to take effective action. (17) OR Nominally friendly lords and even his own fortresses closed their gates to him, and John was forced to flee into Scotland with a handful of retainers and throw himself on the charity of King Robert II of Scotland until the crisis was over. (18) Some four hundred miles from the worst crisis of order the country had ever known, the most experienced and powerful noble in the land was left (17) exiled (17,18) and impotent. (17) Richard II gave orders for the peasants to be locked out of London. (17) However, some Londoners who sympathised with the peasants arranged for the city gates to be left open. (17) When the rebels entered the city, the king and his advisers withdrew to the Tower of London. (17) Thomas Walsingham tells us that the king was being protected in the Tower by “six hundred warlike men instructed in arms, brave men, and most experienced, and six hundred archers”. (17) Walsingham adds that they “all had so lost heart that you would have thought them more like dead men than living; the memory of their former vigour and glory was extinguished”. (17) Walsingham points out that they did not want to fight and suggests they may have been on the side of the peasants. (17) Many poor people living in London decided to join the rebellion. (17) Together they began to destroy the property of the king’s senior officials. (17) They also freed the inmates of Marshalsea Prison. (17) Jean Froissart claims that some 40,000 to 50,000 citizens, about half of the city’s inhabitants, were ready to welcome the “True Commons”. (17) John of Gaunt had avoided the wrath of the rebels, (15) but his property, especially the Savoy Palace, was gutted. (8,9) What the peasants could not smash or burn was thrown into the river. (15) John Ball sent a message to Richard II stating that the rising was not against his authority as the people only wished only to deliver him and his kingdom from traitors. (17) Ball also asked the king to meet with him at Blackheath. (17) Archbishop Simon Sudbury and Robert Hales, the treasurer, both objects of the people’s hatred, warned against meeting the “shoeless ruffians”, whereas others, such as William de Montagu, the Earl of Salisbury, urged that the king played for time by pretending that he desired a negotiated agreement. (17) Richard II’s biographer, Anthony Tuck, has pointed out: “Richard’s own part in the discussions is almost impossible to determine, though some historians have suggested that he took the initiative in seeking to negotiate with the rebels, despite the fact that he was only fourteen when the rebellion occurred. (17) Even before the Kentish rebels entered London, Richard had apparently suggested negotiation with their leaders at Greenwich, but the talks had broken down almost as soon as they began.” (17) Richard II agreed to meet the rebels outside the town walls at Mile End on 14th June, 1381. (17) Most of his soldiers remained behind. (17) Charles Oman, the author of The Great Revolt of 1381 (1906), pointed the “ride to Mile End was perilous: at any moment the crowd might have broken loose, and the King and all his party might have perished… (17) nevertheless, though surrounded all the way by a noisy and boisterous multitude, Richard and his party ultimately reached Mile End”. (17) The little King (10) met the rebels at 8.00 a.m. (17) Richard bravely spoke to the peasants. (10) He asked them what they wanted. (17) Wat Tyler explained the demands of the rebels. (17) This includes the end of all feudal services, the freedom to buy and sell all goods, and a free pardon for all offences committed during the rebellion. (17) Tyler also asked for a rent limit of 4d per acre and an end to feudal fines through the manor courts. (17) Finally, he asked that no “man should be compelled to work except by employment under a regularly reviewed contract”. (17) The king immediately granted these demands. (17) Wat Tyler also claimed that the king’s officers in charge of the poll tax were guilty of corruption and should be executed. (17) The king replied that all people found guilty of corruption would be punished by law. (17) The king agreed to these proposals and 30 clerks were instructed to write out charters giving peasants their freedom. (17) In this way he persuaded them to go home, (10) and after receiving their charters the vast majority of peasants did so. (17) This was one of the very few good things that King Richard did, (10) though G. R. Kesteven, the author of The Peasants’ Revolt (1965), has pointed out that the king and his officials had no intention of carrying out the promises made at this meeting, they “were merely using those promises to disperse the rebels”. (17) However, Wat Tyler and John Ball were not convinced by the word given by the king and along with 30,000 of the rebels stayed in London. (17) While the king was in Mile End discussing an agreement with the king, another group of peasants marched to the Tower of London. (17) There were about 600 soldiers defending the Tower but they decided not to fight the rebel army. (17) Simon Sudbury (Archbishop of Canterbury), Robert Hales (King’s Treasurer) and John Legge (Tax Commissioner), were taken from the Tower and executed. (17) Their heads were then placed on poles and paraded through the streets of cheering Londoners. (17) Rodney Hilton argues that the rebels wanted revenge on all those involved in the levying of taxes or the administrating the legal system. (17) Roger Leggett, one of the most important government lawyers was also killed. (17) “They attacked not only the lawyers themselves – attorneys, pleaders, clerks of the courts – but others closely associated with the judicial processes… (17) The hostility to lawyers and to legal records was not of course peculiar to the Londoners. (17) The widespread destruction of manorial court records is well-known” during the rebellion. (17) The rebels also attacked foreign workers living in London. (17) “The commons made proclamation that every one who could lay hands on Flemings or any other strangers of other nations might cut off their heads”. (17) It has been claimed that “some 150 or 160 unhappy foreigners were murdered in various places – thirty-five Flemings in one batch were dragged out of the church of St. (17) Martin in the Vintry, and beheaded on the same block… (17) The Lombards also suffered, and their houses yielded much valuable plunder.” (17) It was agreed that another meeting should take place between Richard II and the leaders of the rebels at Smithfield on 15th June, 1381. (17) William Walworth rode “over to the rebels and summoned Wat Tyler to meet the king, and mounted on a little pony, accompanied by only one attendant bearing the rebel banner, he obeyed”. (17) When he joined the king he put forward another list of demands that included: the removal of the lordship system, the distribution of the wealth of the church to the poor, a reduction in the number of bishops, and a guarantee that in future there would be no more villeins. (17) (43) Richard II said he would do what he could. (17) Wat Tyler was not satisfied by this reply. (17) He called for a drink of water to rinse out his mouth. (17) This was seen as extremely rude behaviour, especially as Tyler had not removed his hood when talking to the king. (17) One of Richard’s party shouted out that Tyler was “the greatest thief and robber in Kent”. (17) The author of the Anonimalle Chronicle of St Mary’s claims: “For these words Wat wanted to strike the valet with his dagger, and would have killed him in the king’s presence; but because he tried to do so, the Mayor of London, William of Walworth… (17) arrested him… (17) Wat stabbed the mayor with his dagger in the body in great anger. (17) But, as it pleased God, the mayor was wearing armour and took no harm.. (17) he struck back at the said Wat, giving him a deep cut in the neck, and then a great blow on the head. (17) And during the scuffle a valet of the king’s household drew his sword, and ran Wat two or three times through the body… (17) Wat was carried by a group of the commons to the hospital for the poor near St Bartholomew’s, and put to bed. (17) The mayor went there and found him, and had him carried out to the middle of Smithfield, in the presence of his companions, and had him beheaded.” (44) The peasants raised their weapons and for a moment it looked as though there was going to be fighting between the king’s soldiers and the peasants. (17) However, Richard rode over to them and said: “Will you shoot your king? I will be your chief and captain, you shall have from me that which you seek “ He then spoke to them for some time and eventually they agreed to go back to their villages. (17) Chroniclers such as Henry Knighton and Thomas Walsingham suggested that these events were unplanned and unexpected. (17) However, modern historians have doubts about this version of events. (17) Anthony Tuck has argued: “The rapid arrival of the militia suggests some element of advance planning, and those around the king, even perhaps the king himself, may have intended to create an opportunity to kill or capture Tyler and separate him from the main body of his followers. (17) If this is so, it was a risky strategy, as the Mile End meeting had been, and again Richard’s personal courage is not in doubt.” (46) This initial revolt, although accomplishing relatively little, marked the beginning of a struggle for a rise in the circumstances and involvement of the lower class. (12)

After the Peasants’ Revolt

An army, led by Thomas of Woodstock, John of Gaunt’s younger brother, was sent into Essex to crush the rebels. (17) A battle between the peasants and the King’s army took place near the village of Billericay on 28th June. (17) The king’s army was experienced and well-armed and the peasants were easily defeated. (17) It is believed that over 500 peasants were killed during the battle. (17) The remaining rebels fled to Colchester, where they tried in vain to persuade the towns-people to support them. (17) They then fled to Huntingdon but the townspeople there chased them off to Ramsey Abbey where twenty-five were slain. (17) King Richard II did not always agree with the council that was running England on his behalf and his uncle John of Gaunt was one his main opponents. (14) John’s opposition to court extravagance now involved him in quarrels with royal favourites and the King himself; nevertheless his attempt to liquidate existing wars by success or negotiation served their interest as well as his own. (8) John’s administration of public affairs is said to have been stained by several acts of violence. (11), In February 1382 the citizens of London pointedly requested that they should have only one king and be ruled by him alone. (12) At a session of Parliament held in 1384 both John of Gaunt and Thomas of Woodstock argued with Richard about the way in which the country was being run, his finances and the influences of his advisors. (14) Unfortunately Richard had become, as a result of his magnetic success in the Peasants Revolt, uncontrollable and unreliable. (8) He was bossy and mean, (10) and not a very successful military commander. (17) His biographer, Peter Earle, points out: “Richard, son of the Black Prince, inherited only his father’s outward appearance and none of his skills at war. (17) Not that he was the coward or weakling of legend – on many occasions in his reign he was to display outstanding courage – but his was the courage of pride, not military prowess.” This was reflected in a failed military expedition to Scotland in 1385. (8,17) Richard’s failure in Scotland encouraged the French to consider invading England. (17) Charles VI assembled the largest force so far raised by either side during the Hundred Years War. (17) This induced widespread panic and insecurity in England. (17) Parliament met in October 1386, to consider the request from the chancellor, Michael de la Pole, for an unprecedented quadruple subsidy to cover the cost of defence against the threatened invasion. (17) This was refused. (17) Many Lords of England were angry with him (6,10) and began to question the way Richard was ruling the country. (17) It was like King John and the Magna Carta again. (10) From 1381 to 1386 John of Gaunt mediated (6,10) between the King’s party and the opposition group led by John’s younger (6) brother, (4,6) Thomas Woodstock, (6) earl of Gloucester. (4,6) At first Parliament blamed Richard’s advisors and his chancellor was impeached by the House of Commons on charges arising out of his conduct in office. (17) De la Pole was found guilty and condemned to imprisonment, but Richard set aside the penalty and he retained his freedom. (17) “Parliament then established a commission which was to hold office for a year and which was to conduct a thorough review of royal finances. (17) It was to have control of the exchequer and the great and privy seals, and Richard was required to take an oath to abide by any ordinances it made.” (49) John of Gaunt had left England in 1386 to seek the throne of Castile, claimed by right of his second wife, Constance of Castile, whom he had married in 1371. (16) The potential conflict between Richard II and John of Gaunt came to an end when John set sail from Plymouth in 1386 to take the Castilian throne. (14)

Radcot Bridge

But his departure led to a greater conflict between the king and Thomas Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester. (6, 14) In 1386, Parliament blamed Richard’s advisers for the military failures and accused them of misusing funds intended for the war. (16) Parliament authorized a commission of nobles (16) known as the Lords Appellant (8,15) to take over management of the kingdom and act as Richard’s regents. (16) Richard raised an army against Parliament. (17) Led by Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland it was said to contained no more than 4,000 men. (17) Rumours began to circulate that Richard had agreed to accept military support from France, and that he would place England under French military occupation. (17) Civil war had nearly broken out (6,15) between the followers of King Richard II and the followers of Gloucester, (6) OR In 1387, there was an armed rebellion. (16) Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, and several other nobles, including Henry of Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, mobilized an army of their retainers numbering 4,500 and marched on de Vere’s army. (17) The king’s army was defeated (16,17) by the Lords Appellant (16) at the Battle of Radcot Bridge (16,17) outside Oxford (16) on 19th December 1387. (17) In John’s absence, owing to Richard II’s mishandling of affairs (15) Richard was arrested and Woodstock threatened to have him executed because of his dealings with France. (17) They eventually decided against it and instead (17) maintained Richard as a figurehead with little real power, (16) forcing him to call a session of Parliament. (17) Henry Knighton described it as the Merciless Parliament (16) as it resulted in almost all (16) OR several of (17) Richard’s leading advisors, (16,17) including Sir Nicholas Brembre, Simon de Burley and Robert Tresilian (17) being convicted of treason (16) and executed. (16,17) A few were exiled. (16) Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York, Robert de Vere and Michael de la Pole, all managed to escape to France where they died in exile. (17) Gaunt was placed in a dilemma because his (7,8) eldest (7) son and heir, Henry Bolingbroke. (6,7) joined the growing opposition to Richard II (8) Too open support of activities like that might be construed as treasonable, which could jeopardize Katherine and the Beauforts as well as John himself and Bolingbroke. (8)

The Castilian enterprise

Meanwhile John of Gaunt was in Spain. (16) He had hatched several schemes to make good his claim with an army, but for many years these were still-born due to lack of finance or the conflicting claims of war in France or with Scotland. (18) He now went to pursue his own claim (6,8) to the kingship of (6,9) Castile (6,13) OR Castilla8 (9) and Leon (6) based upon his marriage to Constance of Castile. (6,14) One of the motives that John had for seeking peace with France was his conviction that it was only by making peace with France would it be possible to release sufficient manpower to enforce his claim to the throne of Castile. (18) He felt that English resources should be mobilised to gain him a Spanish Kingdom which would be friendly to the English in Aquitaine. (8) In the Spring (14) of 1386, (6,14) following the death of King Pedro of Castile (13) and the defeat of the Castilians by the king of Portugal, James of Aviz, (14) Lancaster now organised his long-cherished Castilian expedition. (8) He asked Richard for a loan to be repaid once he had the throne. (14) It seemed a good moment, since French troops which had been in Scotland had gone home. (8) Richard was pleased to pay the loan: (14) he was glad to get rid of him (4,8) because he distrusted him, (4) and he was criticising Richard’s handling of finances and his choice of advisors. (14) On the 16th June 1386, “at the palace of John of Gaunt, King of Castile & Leon, in the convent of the Friars Carmelites, at Plymouth” (where he was then sojourning prior to his embarkation for Spain), he gave his remarkable testimony in favour of the right of Sir Richard Scrope to the arms borne by him in the celebrated controversy between Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor. (11) On July 8th (14) OR 9th (18) 1386 John departed (4,6) from Plymouth (11,14) for Spain (4,6) as a diplomatic envoy (4,8) on another attempt to (4,18) claim the Castillian throne in right of his wife. (15) OR secure a treaty9 for the marriage of his daughter Catherine to the future King of Castile, on behalf of King Richard II. (4)OR with a huge Anglo-Portuguese fleet carrying an army of about 5,000 men plus an extensive ‘royal’ household and his wife and daughters. (18) Pausing on the journey to use his army to drive off the French forces who were then besieging Brest, he landed at Corunna in northern Spain on 29th July. (18) It was only in 1386, after Portugal under its new King John I had entered into full alliance with England, that he was actually able to land with an army in Spain and mount a campaign for the throne of Castile (that ultimately failed). (18) The Castilian king, John of Trastámara, had expected John would land in Portugal and had concentrated his forces on the Portuguese border. (18) He was wrong-footed by John’s decision to invade Galicia, the most distant and disaffected of Castile’s kingdoms. (18) From August to October, John of Gaunt set up a rudimentary court and chancery at Ourense and received the submission of the Galician nobility and most of the towns of Galicia, though they made their homage to him conditional on his being recognised as king by the rest of Castile. (18) The expedition failed. (6,8) In the military aspect, because (6) Lancaster was no soldier: (8) he had gambled on an early decisive battle, but the Castilians were in no hurry to join battle, and he began to experience difficulties keeping his army together and paying it. (18) John, (6,8) who was no statesman either: (8) in November, he met King John I of Portugal at Ponte do Mouro on the south side of the Minho River and concluded an agreement with him to make a joint Anglo-Portuguese invasion of central Castile early in 1387. (18) The treaty was sealed by the marriage of John’s eldest daughter Philippa to the Portuguese king. (18) A large part of John’s army had succumbed to sickness, however, and when the invasion was mounted, they were far outnumbered by their Portuguese allies. (18) The campaign of April–June 1387 was an ignominious failure. (18) The Castilians refused to offer battle and the Galician-Anglo-Portuguese troops, apart from time-wasting sieges of fortified towns, were reduced to foraging for food in the arid Spanish landscape. (18) They were harried mainly by French mercenaries of the Castilian king. (18) Many hundreds of English, including close friends and retainers of John of Gaunt, died of disease or exhaustion. (18) Many deserted or abandoned the army to ride north under French safe-conducts. (18) “Our Lord of Lancaster has brought us to Spain to die. Curses on this campaign”10. He seems to want to make sure that no Englishmen will want to serve him again.” He then allowed himself to be bought off (6,8) in 1388. (6,11) Shortly after the army returned to Portugal, (18) John made (11,15) a secret treaty (18) with King John I (11,15) OR of Trastámara (18) of Castile & Leon, the son and successor of Henry of Trastamara (11,15) under which he and (18) his wife renounced all claim to the Castilian throne (15,18) in return for a large annual payment. (18) Catherine, John’s only daughter by Constance, was to be betrothed to Henry, John I’s heir-apparent. (11,15) Pursuant to this agreement, in September 136811, (13) he did marry his daughter (6,8) Catherine (13,4) to his rival, (6,8) the young nobleman (6) King (13) OR who eventually became King (4,6) Henry (9,18) OR Enrique (16) III (9,16) of Castilla, (9) OR Castile (16) and Leon (6,16) OR Prince of Asturias. (11) The crown was settled upon the issue of that alliance, (11) thereby uniting these two rival claims. (15) Catherine of Aragon is descended from this line. (18) This should have meant something, (9) but it was too much in the private interest of John’s family compared with what the national interest required. (8) John left Portugal for Aquitaine (8,18) as lieutenant (8) and he remained in that province until, (8,18) because of the crisis in England (16,18) he returned thither (8,18) in November (18) 1389. (8,18)

England 1389-99

John’s absence in Spain and France had effectively kept him off the scene while England endured the major political crisis of the conflict between Richard II and the Lords Appellant. (18) On 3rd May 1389 Richard had been allowed back on the throne. (17) This time he made no attempt to revive the style of government which had brought about the crisis of 1387 and for the time being no new inner circle of courtiers emerged to enjoy Richard’s favour and patronage. (17) John returned England (4,6) in November (17) 1389 (4,6) and pledged his support to Richard. (17) He resumed his role as peacemaker (6,7) between the king and his opponents. (7,8) King Richard II was then able to rebuild his power gradually (16) The atmosphere of peace was to last for six years, until 1397. (16,17) John was highly influential (3,15) OR had some success (7) in this role, (3,7) reconciling Richard to (11,15) John’s younger brother, Thomas of Woodstock, (15,18) the Duke of Gloucester. (4,15) Four months after his return to England from Spain (15,18) John of Gaunt was made Duke of Aquitaine (3,6) by Richard (3) in 1389 (11) OR on 2nd (13) March (13,15) 1390, (3,6) thus providing him with the overseas territory he had long desired. (18) He did not immediately return to Aquitaine, but remained in England and mainly ruled through seneschals as an absentee duke. (18) This ushered in a period of relative stability, (15) but made the barons jealous of him. (10) His administration of the province was a disappointment, and his appointment as duke was much resented by the Gascons, since Aquitaine had previously always been held directly by the king of England or his heir; it was not felt to be a fief that a king could bestow on a subordinate. (18) In 1394–95, he was forced to spend nearly a year in Gascony to shore up his position in the face of threats of secession by the Gascon nobles. (18) He was sent on several embassies to France, (3) and had some diplomatic success. (17) This included a settlement in Ireland in 1394 and two years later negotiated a truce with France. (17) His power increasing, he proffered, in open parliament, a claim to the succession for his son, Henry Bolingbroke (later King Henry IV), as son to Blanche, great-granddaughter of Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster, whom, he pretended, had been elder brother to King Edward I, but set aside on account of his deformity. (11) The weakness of this pretension, which, if established, would have been fatal to the reigning monarch, was opposed, without difficulty, by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, who, as son and heir of Philippa, the daughter and heir of his elder brother, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, had, by the laws of the empire, an indisputably prior right and was, accordingly, declared the presumptive heir to the crown. (11) For the remainder of his life, John of Gaunt occupied the role of valued counsellor of the king and loyal supporter of the Crown. (18) King Richard and he agreed on one important matter. (10) The war with France should be ended. (10) There was a series of French truces and the kingdom was in increasing disorder. (8) In 1393 Lancaster had to put down a rebellion in Cheshire (8) while yet managing French negotiations. (8,18) These resulted in a four-year truce in 1394 when he departed again for Aquitaine until 1396. (8) He was one of England’s principal negotiators in the diplomatic exchanges with France that led to the Truce of Leulingham in 1396, and he initially agreed to join the French-led Crusade that ended in the disastrous Battle of Nicopolis, but withdrew due to ill-health and the political problems in Gascony and England. (18) The 28 Year truce and Marriage Treaty of the latter year was the origin of Richard II’s fall. (8) The King and John made a truce with the French in March 1398. (10) Unfortunately the peace was not popular in England, especially as many Lords thought that he was going to bring over French forces to make them behave. (10) Parliament had already complained about the amount of money King Richard was spending on his friends at court, and the king had executed two great lords on suspicion of treason. (10)

Declining years with Katharine Swynford

Throughout Gaunt’s marriage with Constance (9,15) he was carrying on an affair with an English lady of the Court (3,4) Catherine (11) OR Katherine Swynford (3,5), daughter of Sir Paine Roet, (11,15) Guienne King of Arms, (11) and widow of Sir Hugh Swynford (11,13) a knight (11,15) of Lincolnshire (11) OR Lancastrian12. (18) The affair between John and Kathryn began in 1572. (13) Katherine had joined the household of John of Gaunt (15) OR of the Duchess Blanche (11) as governess to the daughters of his first marriage (8,9) Elizabeth and Philippa (9,11) during their minority. (11) Kathryn’s sister (12,15) Philippa de Roet, who was a lady of Queen Philippa’s household, (15) married Geoffrey Chaucer. (12,15) The adulterous relationship endured until 1381, when it was broken out of political necessity. (18) Following the death (11,16) at the age of 40 (16) of Duchess (11) Constance of Castile (3,6) at Leicester Castle on 24th March (13,15) 1394: (3,6) she was buried at Newark Abbey (13,15) OR at the Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke (16) in Leicester, (15,16) where several of the Lancasters were buried. (16) John married Kathryn (3,4) shortly (15) OR 21 months (13) after Constanza’s death, (15) on 13th (13,16) January (10,13) 1396 (4,5) at Lincoln Cathedral. (13,15) The pair had already had three sons (3,5) before their marriage. (6,10) These were John Beaufort, (5,11) born in 1373 (13) Earl of Somerset, Marquis of Dorset, and Knight of the Garter, (11) John’s son, Henry, Henry, Beaufort, (5,11) born in 1375 became Dean of Wells Cathedral in 1397, (13) and Bishop of Lincoln (11) on 14th July 1398. (13) He was later translated to Winchester, and, at length, became Cardinal and Chancellor of England, (11) and Thomas Beaufort (5,11) born in January 1377 (13) 1st (5) Duke of Exeter, (5,11) and Knight of the Garter; (11) He also had a daughter, Joan Beaufort, (5,11) born in 1379. (13) She married Sir Robert Ferrers of Worn and Oversley; and then Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, (11) thus becoming Countess of Westmorland. (5,11) Because these children were born before John and Katharine were properly married, they were ‘illegitimate’, and had no surname. (10) They were given the name Beaufort, (5,6) OR “De Beaufort,” (11) the name of one of Gaunt’s (9,11) former (16) estates in (9,11) in Champagne, (15) in France (9,11) in the castle of which Katharine lived. (10) It had devolved to the House of Lancaster by the marriage of Blanche of Artois with Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. (11) Illegitimate people were not allowed to inherit land, become church leaders or be kings. (10) When Constance died the children, (9) by this time adults, (5) were legitimated (4,5) by the Church (13,15) by a papal decree (7,13) of Pope Boniface IX (16) on 1st September, 1396 (13) and (16) OR by Richard II (7,15)OR by Parliament (10,11) on 9th February (11) 1397. (4,11) by royal decree. (7) They could now inherit land and be church leaders, (10) but after John’s eldest son deposed his first cousin King Richard II in 1399, the new King Henry IV inserted a phrase (16) (on dubious authority, (18) excepta regali dignitate (“except royal status”) in the documents which legitimized his Beaufort half-siblings which barred them from the throne, (16) so that neither they nor their issue had any right to inherit the English throne. (9,10)

Richard II and the Appellants

As soon as he felt strongly enough, Richard fought back against those who were responsible for ousting him from power. (17) In 1397 (15,17) he reasserted his authority and (17) struck back against the Lords Appellant. (15,17) He destroyed the principal three men among the Lords Appellant. (17) He ordered the arrest of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester (17) who was imprisoned in Calais to await trial for treason (15) and murdered soon afterwards (15,17) on his nephew Richard’s orders. (15,18) He did not even protest, it seems, when his younger brother Thomas was murdered at Richard’s behest. (18) Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel, was executed on 21st September, 1397. (17) Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick made a full confession to attempting to overthrow the king, was banished for life to the Isle of Man. (17) John of Gaunt was presumably maintaining his posture of loyalty to protect his son Henry Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV), who had also been one of the Lords Appellant, from Richard’s wrath. (18) During 1397 John’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, became Dean of Wells Cathedral. (13) There was enmity between the king and Bolingbroke. (7,8) Trouble had arisen between Henry Bolingbroke and another lord, (10,13) Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. (13) King Richard ordered the two men to settle the quarrel using ‘trial by battle’. (10) On 16th September, 1398, (13) OR 1397, (8) John of Gaunt went to Coventry to watch it. (13) But when the two men turned up for the fight (10) the King intervened (10,13) and forbade it. (10,13) He then banished both men (10,13) branded them as traitors, and (7) and took away their lands. (10) John of Gaunt was very sad to find (10) his son being disinherited (7,10) and banished for treason (7,8) for life. (7) Gaunt retired from public affairs. (8) His nephew King Richard II visited John before his death. (16) He died (1,2) in his bed (9) of natural causes (18) on February 3rd (2,5) 1399 (1,2) in London (6) OR Leicester Castle, Leicestershire, England. (2,11) with his third wife Katherine by his side. (18) He died a disappointed man. (10) He was 58 (2,10) OR 59 (9) years old. (2) Conforming to his will, dated the same day (11) he was buried in London. (2,11) His body was interred (11,15) in the choir of (15,18) OR before the high altar (11) of Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. (11,13) Despite the fact that he married two more times, he was buried (16) near the remains of Blanche, his first consort (11,13) in the tomb Henry Yevele had been commissioned (14,18) in 1374 (14) to design (14,18) for him and Blanche, (14) and executed between 1374 and 1380 at a total cost of £592. (18) This double tomb (14,16) featured their two alabaster effigies with their hands joined13. (15,18) Richard II immediately14 confiscated the Lancastrian estates, (6,7) thereby preventing them from passing to (6,18) John’s son and heir, Henry Bolingbroke, (6,7) and made Bolingbroke’s banishment perpetual. (15) In this way the Duchy of Lancaster eventually became a possession of the British Crown, as it remains today. (16) The Duchy of Lancaster is one of the two royal duchies in England and is held in trust for the Sovereign to provide income for the use of the British monarch. (16) The other royal duchy is the Duchy of Cornwall which provides a similar purpose for the eldest son of the reigning British monarch. (16) The monarch, regardless of gender, has the style of Duke of Lancaster. (16) The duchy comprises of 46,000 acres and includes urban developments, historic buildings, and farmland in many parts of England and Wales, and large holdings in Lancashire. (16) At the end of March 2013, the Duchy of Lancaster had £428 million of net assets under its control. (16) The Sovereign is not entitled to the capital of the Duchy’s portfolio or to capital profits. (16) Revenue profits are distributed to the Sovereign and are subject to income tax. (16)


Henry Bolingbroke returned from exile shortly after to reclaim his inheritance, (7) and deposed Richard (6,7) and in September (6) 1399 ascended the throne as King Henry IV (6,7) (1399–1413), the first of the descendants of John of Gaunt to hold the throne of England. (7) The importance of John of Gaunt for the Wars of the Roses is that the children of the marriage between him and Katharine Swynford became the backbone of the Lancastrian side. (10) Katherine Swynford, John’s widow, survived him for four years, dying May 10, 1403. (16) She was buried at Lincoln Cathedral. (16) Due to his title Duke of Lancaster, Gaunt was the thus founder of the House of Lancaster. (7) His male heirs would rule England from 1399 until the time of the Wars of the Roses, when the English crown was disputed with the House of York (formed by the descendants of his younger brother Edmund, Duke of York). (7) John is also quite important in royal genealogy. (16) His daughter Catherine of Lancaster married King Enrique III of Castile, which made John the grandfather of King Juan II of Castile and the ancestor of all subsequent monarchs of Castile and a united Spain. (16) His daughter Philippa of Lancaster married King João I of Portugal making all future Portuguese monarchs descendants of John. (16) Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and her predecessors since King Henry IV are descended from John of Gaunt. (16) In fact, most European monarchies are descended from John. (16) The Houses of Lancaster, York, and Tudor were all descended from John of Gaunt’s children: King Henry IV (Lancaster: father of King Henry V, grandfather of King Henry VI) Joan Beaufort (York: grandmother of King Edward IV and King Richard III) John Beaufort (Tudor: great grandfather of King Henry VII) He was the ancestor of the three 15th Century (3,6) Lancastrian (6) kings Henry IV, V, and VI. (3,6) Via Joan Beaufort John was also a progenitor of the Yorkists, as her grandsons included Richard, Earl of Warwick ‘the Kingmaker,’ Kings Edward IV and Richard III. (11) His eldest daughter (7,9) Philippa, married Juan (son of Pedro I of Portugal) (9) so all Portuguese monarchs starting in 1433 descend from him. (7,9) Through his other daughter (5,7) Philippa (5) he had among his descendants all (7,9) seven (11) monarchs of Castile from 1406, and subsequently those of a united Spain (7,9) until King Charles II, who died in 1700. (11) Thus the purest Plantagenet blood entered the bloodlines of both Spain and Portugal. (9,11) Finally, John of Gaunt is also an ancestor of the Habsburg rulers who would reign in Spain and much of central Europe. (7) On the site of John’s ‘Savoy Palace’, was eventually built a luxury hotel with the same name – The Savoy. (9)

Importance of Beaufort children

The formidable (8) Beaufort family (6,8) sons (4,5) and Joan, (5,6) played an important part in 15th Century politics. (6,10) Through Kathryn (5,10) he even engendered the first of the Tudors, (3,10) for which haters of this dynasty cannot forgive him. (10) The eldest Beaufort, called John, became (5,10) 1st (5) Earl of Somerset (5,10) in 1397. (10) From the eldest Beaufort (3) descended Henry VII (3,5) and the other Tudors, (5,7) the greatest Kings and Queens of England. (5) In the end, when there were no more direct descendants of John of Gaunt left, the Beaufort claim was the one which Henry VII quoted in his successful takeover in 1485, (10) though eminent historians doubt the constitutional legality of the crowning of Henry VII after the battle of Bosworth Field because of the condition attached to the legitimating of the Beauforts. (9) The second son, Henry, (5, 10) became Bishop of Winchester (10) and a Cardinal. (5) He was the first Tudor, an Earl of Pembroke, descended from John, Earl of Somerset, the eldest of the Beauforts. (9) Henry became king via an act of war, not because he had a legal right to the monarchy. (9) This means that in practice Henry had usurped the throne just as Richard III had. (9) A usurper had replaced a usurper. (9) Through the Beaufort offspring, John was ancestor to all Scottish monarchs beginning in 1437, and of all English monarchs during the Wars of the Roses15. (7) He is therefore an ancestor of all subsequent kings of England, (7)



Foreign & Military

Experience of war at 10 at Winchelsea; Gaunt’s military incompetence; Guesclin; Castilian fleet; failure of Castilian scheme;

Religion & Ideas

Legitimating of Beaufort Children; support of Wycliffe; hostility of bishops; Bellicosity caused rejection of Gaunt’s pacifism. Egalitarianism of Ball

Economic & Financial

Massively wealthy; Problems of financing the war. Poll tax – issues of waste. Gaunt recognised impossibility of Eng Victory


Affair; Deaths of relatives from plague; Knightly education in a castle old medieval idea.


Inheritance rules; Inheritance rules in Castile; Lords Appellant; Dynastic and political marriages contribute to Wars of Roses.

Individual and Random

Love for Blanche and Katherine, but not Constanza; His pacific instincts chimed in with R2 and Charles the Mad; unpopularity of Alice Perrers; Early death of Black Prince;


1 Spurious corroboration, see note 3 below.

2 Sic? she would only have been 2!

3 No, not till 1362

4 But not if there were seven in total

5 But see book 17 on his conduct a Najera, below.

6 Suspiciously identical 3 and 4 : stop corroborations here

7 Chevauchée implies their being mounted.

8 Castilla, known to English historians as ‘Castile’ which is French.

9 This looks like a rationalisation based on what actually happened.

10 My Revision pamphlet on 100 Years’ War p. 18

11 Must be 1388!

12 Probably implies the he was of John’s retinue, not geographical.

13 Unfortunately, the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed Old St. Paul’s Cathedral and the magnificent tomb of Blanche and John. (16)

14 Two days later (15)

15 Except Edward IV and Richard III and Edward V?


[bibliography of sources available upon request]

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