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Portrait of John of Gaunt

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399)

JOHN OF GAUNT, DUKE OF LANCASTER, fourth son of Edward III and Queen Philippa, was born in March 1340 at Ghent, whence his name. On the 29th of September 1342 he was made Earl of Richmond; as a child he was present at the sea fight with the Spaniards in August 1350, but his first military service was in 1355, when he was knighted. On the 19th of May 1359 he married his cousin Blanche, daughter and ultimately sole heiress of Henry, Duke of Lancaster. In her right he became Earl of Lancaster in 1361, and next year was created Duke. His marriage made him the greatest lord in England, but for some time he took no prominent part in public affairs.

In 1366 he joined his eldest brother, Edward the Black Prince, in Aquitaine, and in the year after led a strong contingent to share in the campaign in support of Pedro the Cruel of Castile. With this began the connexion with Spain, which was to have so great an influence on his after-life. The Battle of NajeraJohn fought in the van at Najera on the 3rd of April 1367, when the English victory restored Pedro to his throne. He returned home at the end of the year. Pedro proved false to his English allies, and was finally overthrown and killed by his rival, Henry of Trastamara, in 1369. The disastrous Spanish enterprise led directly to renewed war between France and England. In August 1369 John had command of an army which invaded northern France without success. In the following year he went again to Aquitaine, and was present with the Black Prince at the sack of Limoges. Edward's health was broken down, and he soon after went home, leaving John as his lieutenant.

For a year John maintained the war at his own cost, but whilst in Aquitaine a greater prospect was opened to him. The Duchess Blanche had died in the autumn of 1369 and now John married Constance (d.1394), the elder daughter of Pedro the Cruel, and in her right assumed the title of King of Castile and Leon. For sixteen years the pursuit of his kingdom was the chief object of John's ambition. No doubt he hoped to achieve his end, when he commanded the great army which invaded France in 1373. But the French would not give battle, and though John marched from Calais right through Champagne, Burgundy and Auvergne, it was with disastrous results; only a shattered remnant of the host reached Bordeaux.

The Spanish scheme had to wait, and when John got back to England he was soon absorbed in domestic politics. The king was prematurely old, the Black Prince's health was broken. John, in spite of the unpopularity of his ill-success, was forced into the foremost place. As head of the court party he had to bear the brunt of the attack on the administration made by the Good Parliament in 1376. It was not perhaps altogether just, and John was embittered by reflections on his loyalty. As soon as the parliament was dissolved he had its proceedings reversed, and next year secured a more subservient assembly.

There came, however, a new development. The duke's politics were opposed by the chief ecclesiastics, and in resisting them he had made use of Wycliffe. With Wycliffe's religious opinions he had no sympathy. Nevertheless when the bishops arraigned the reformer for heresy John would not abandon him. The conflict over the trial led to a violent quarrel with the Londoners, and a riot in the city during which John was in danger of his life from the angry citizens. The situation was entirely altered by the death of Edward III on the 21st of June. Though his enemies had accused him of aiming at the throne, John was without any taint of disloyalty. In his nephew's interests he accepted a compromise, disclaimed before parliament the truth of the malicious rumours against him, and was reconciled formally with his opponents.

Though he took his proper place in the ceremonies at Richard II's coronation, he showed a tactful moderation by withdrawing for a time from any share in the government. However, in the summer of 1378, he commanded in an attack on St Malo, which through no fault of his failed. To add to this misfortune, during his absence some of his supporters violated the sanctuary at Westminster. He vindicated himself somewhat bitterly in a parliament at Gloucester, but still avoiding a prominent part in the government, accepted the command on the Scottish border. He was there engaged when his palace of the Savoy in London was burnt during the peasants' revolt in June 1381. Wild reports that even the government had declared him a traitor made him seek refuge in Scotland. Richard had, however, denounced the calumnies, and at once recalled his uncle.

John's self-restraint had strengthened his position, and he began again to think of his Spanish scheme. He urged its undertaking in parliament in 1382, but nearer troubles were more urgent, and John himself was wanted on the Scottish border. There he sought to arrange peace, but against his will was forced into an unfortunate campaign in 1384. His ill-success renewed his unpopularity, and the court favourites of Richard II intrigued against him. They were probably responsible for the allegation, made by a Carmelite, called Latemar, that John was conspiring against his nephew. Though Richard at first believed it, the matter was disposed of by the friar's death. However, the court party soon after concocted a fresh plot for the duke's destruction; John boldly denounced his traducers, and the quarrel was appeased by the intervention of the king's mother. The intrigue still continued, and broke out again during the Scottish campaign in 1385. John was not the man to be forced into treason to his family, but the impossibility of the position at home made his foreign ambitions more feasible.

The victory of John of Portugal over the king of Castile at Aljubarrota, won with English help, offered an opportunity. In July 1386 John left England with a strong John of Gaunt received at Bayonneforce to win his Spanish throne. He landed at Corunna, and during the autumn conquered Galicia. Juan, who had succeeded his father Henry as King of Castile, offered a compromise by marriage. John of Gaunt refused, hoping for greater success with the help of the King of Portugal, who now married the duke's eldest daughter Philippa. In the spring the allies invaded Castile. They could achieve no success, and sickness ruined the English army. The conquests of the previous year were lost, and when Juan renewed his offers, John of Gaunt agreed to surrender his claims to his daughter by Constance of Castile, who was to marry Juan's heir. After some delay the peace was concluded at Bayonne in 1388.

The next eighteen months were spent by John as lieutenant of Aquitaine, and it was not till November 1389 that he returned to England. By his absence he had avoided implication in the troubles at home. Richard, still insecure of his own position, welcomed his uncle, and early in the following year marked his favour by creating him Duke of Aquitaine. John on his part was glad to support the king's government; during four years he exercised his influence in favour of pacification at home, and abroad was chiefly responsible for the conclusion of a truce with France. Then in 1395 he went to take up the government of his duchy; thanks chiefly to his lavish expenditure his administration was not unsuccessful, but the Gascons had from the first objected to government except by the crown, and secured his recall within less than a year.

Almost immediately after his return John married as his third wife Catherine Swynford; Constance of Castile had died in 1394. Catherine had been his mistress for many years, and his children by her, who bore the name of Beaufort, were now legitimated. In this and in other matters Richard found it politic to conciliate him. But though John presided at the trial of the Earl of Arundel in September 1397, he took no active part in affairs. The exile of his son Henry [later Henry IV] in 1398 was a blow from which he did not recover. He died on the 3rd of February 1399, and was buried at St Paul's near the high altar.

John was neither a great soldier nor a statesman, but he was a chivalrous knight and loyal to what he believed were the interests of his family. In spite of opportunities and provocations he never lent himself to treason. He deserves credit for his protection of Wycliffe, though he had no sympathy with his religious or political opinions. He was also the patron of Chaucer, whose Boke of the Duchesse was a lament for Blanche of Lancaster.





      Excerpted from:

      Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XIII.
      Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 293.




Other Local Resources:




Books for further study:

Bevan, Bryan. Henry IV.
            Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Goodman, Anthony. John of Gaunt.
            Longman, 1992.

Shakespeare, William. Richard II.
            Folger Shakespeare Library, 2005.

Stuart, R. W. Royalty for Commoners: The Complete Known Lineage of John of Gaunt.
            Genealogical Publishing Company, 1998.

Waugh, Scott L. England in the Reign of Edward III.
            Cambridge University Press, 2007.




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This page was created on April 16, 2007. Last updated August 26, 2010.







Index of Encyclopedia Entries:

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Edward II
Piers Gaveston
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Roger Mortimer, Earl of March

Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Edward III
The Battle of Crécy, 1346
Edward, Black Prince of Wales
Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster
Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Thomas of Woodstock, Gloucester
Richard of York, E. of Cambridge
Richard Fitzalan, 3. Earl of Arundel
Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
The Good Parliament, 1376
Richard II
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Richard Fitzalan, 4. Earl of Arundel
Archbishop Thomas Arundel
Thomas de Beauchamp, E. Warwick
Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford
Ralph Neville, E. of Westmorland
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Edmund Mortimer, 3. Earl of March
Roger Mortimer, 4. Earl of March
John Holland, Duke of Exeter
Michael de la Pole, E. Suffolk
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Henry IV
Edward, Duke of York
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Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Sir Henry Percy, "Harry Hotspur"
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester
Owen Glendower
The Battle of Shrewsbury, 1403
Archbishop Richard Scrope
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John Mowbray, 2. Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Fitzalan, 5. Earl of Arundel
Henry V
Thomas, Duke of Clarence
John, Duke of Bedford
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
Richard, Earl of Cambridge
Henry, Baron Scrope of Masham
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Thomas Montacute, E. Salisbury
Richard Beauchamp, E. of Warwick
Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
Cardinal Henry Beaufort
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Sir John Fastolf
John Holland, 2. Duke of Exeter
Archbishop John Stafford
Archbishop John Kemp
Catherine of Valois
Owen Tudor
John Fitzalan, 7. Earl of Arundel
John, Lord Tiptoft

Charles VII, King of France
Joan of Arc
Louis XI, King of France
Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy
The Battle of Castillon, 1453



The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485
Causes of the Wars of the Roses
The House of Lancaster
The House of York
The House of Beaufort
The House of Neville

The First Battle of St. Albans, 1455
The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459
The Rout of Ludford, 1459
The Battle of Northampton, 1460
The Battle of Wakefield, 1460
The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461
The 2nd Battle of St. Albans, 1461
The Battle of Towton, 1461
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, 1464
The Battle of Hexham, 1464
The Battle of Edgecote, 1469
The Battle of Losecoat Field, 1470
The Battle of Barnet, 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471
The Treaty of Pecquigny, 1475
The Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485
The Battle of Stoke Field, 1487

Henry VI
Margaret of Anjou
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville
Richard Woodville, 1. Earl Rivers
Anthony Woodville, 2. Earl Rivers
Jane Shore
Edward V
Richard III
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Ralph Neville, 2. Earl of Westmorland
Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick
Edward Neville, Baron Bergavenny
William Neville, Lord Fauconberg
Robert Neville, Bishop of Salisbury
John Neville, Marquis of Montagu
George Neville, Archbishop of York
John Beaufort, 1. Duke Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2. Duke Somerset
Henry Beaufort, 3. Duke of Somerset
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Margaret Beaufort
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond
Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
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Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Humphrey Stafford, E. of Devon
Thomas, Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby
Sir William Stanley
Archbishop Thomas Bourchier
Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex
John Mowbray, 3. Duke of Norfolk
John Mowbray, 4. Duke of Norfolk
John Howard, Duke of Norfolk
Henry Percy, 2. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 3. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 4. E. Northumberland
William, Lord Hastings
Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter
William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford
Thomas de Clifford, 8. Baron Clifford
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John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
Thomas Grey, 1. Marquis Dorset
Sir Andrew Trollop
Archbishop John Morton
Edward Plantagenet, E. of Warwick
John Talbot, 2. E. Shrewsbury
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Richard de la Pole
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James Touchet, 7th Baron Audley
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Robert Hungerford, Lord Moleyns
Thomas, Lord Scales
John, Lord Lovel and Holand
Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell
Sir Richard Ratcliffe
William Catesby
Ralph, 4th Lord Cromwell
Jack Cade's Rebellion, 1450


Tudor Period

King Henry VII
Queen Elizabeth of York
Arthur, Prince of Wales
Lambert Simnel
Perkin Warbeck
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King Ferdinand II of Aragon
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James V, King of Scotland
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Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Louis XII, King of France
Francis I, King of France
The Battle of the Spurs, 1513
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
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The Siege of Boulogne, 1544

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
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Thomas, Lord Audley
Thomas Wriothesley, E. Southampton
Sir Richard Rich

Edward Stafford, D. of Buckingham
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John Russell, Earl of Bedford
Thomas Grey, 2. Marquis of Dorset
Henry Grey, D. of Suffolk
Charles Somerset, Earl of Worcester
George Talbot, 4. E. Shrewsbury
Francis Talbot, 5. E. Shrewsbury
Henry Algernon Percy,
     5th Earl of Northumberland
Henry Algernon Percy,
     6th Earl of Northumberland
Ralph Neville, 4. E. Westmorland
Henry Neville, 5. E. Westmorland
William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester
Sir Francis Bryan
Sir Nicholas Carew
John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford
Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral
Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Henry Pole, Lord Montague
Sir Geoffrey Pole
Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Bourchier, 2. Earl of Essex
Robert Radcliffe, 1. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 2. Earl of Sussex
George Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon
Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter
George Neville, Baron Bergavenny
Sir Edward Neville
William, Lord Paget
William Sandys, Baron Sandys
William Fitzwilliam, E. Southampton
Sir Anthony Browne
Sir Thomas Wriothesley
Sir William Kingston
George Brooke, Lord Cobham
Sir Richard Southwell
Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre
Sir Francis Weston
Henry Norris
Lady Jane Grey
Sir Thomas Arundel
Sir Richard Sackville
Sir William Petre
Sir John Cheke
Walter Haddon, L.L.D
Sir Peter Carew
Sir John Mason
Nicholas Wotton
John Taylor
Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
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Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London
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John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester
John Aylmer, Bishop of London
Thomas Linacre
William Grocyn
Archbishop William Warham
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Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester
Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford

Pope Julius II
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Pope Paul III
Pope Pius V

Pico della Mirandola
Desiderius Erasmus
Martin Bucer
Richard Pace
Christopher Saint-German
Thomas Tallis
Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent
Hans Holbein, the Younger
The Sweating Sickness

Dissolution of the Monasteries
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
Robert Aske
Anne Askew
Lord Thomas Darcy
Sir Robert Constable

Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The First Act of Succession, 1534
The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
The Second Statute of Repeal, 1555
The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
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Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
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Council of the North
Fleet Prison
Assize
Attainder
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer
Praemunire


The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster
"Sanctuary"


Images:

Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's Panoramic View of London, 1616. COLOR
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London




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