THE BEAUFORT FAMILY
No family of the British peerage traces a longer line of illustrious descent than that of Beaufort. The three sons of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, (4th son of King Edward III) all bearing the name of Beaufort, were legitimated by Act of Parliament , with an exception against any claim to the Throne; Thomas, Earl of Dorset and Duke of Exeter, who died without issue; and Henry, the well-known Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chancellor, were the two younger of these legitimated sons. John de Beaufort, created in 1397 Earl of Somerset, was the eldest, and was father of three successive Earls, Henry, John and Edmund. The eldest died unmarried; and the second, having been created Duke of Somerset in 1443, was constituted by his cousin, King Henry VI, Captain-General of the whole realm of France and Ducy of Normandy, and left an only daughter, Margaret, wife of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and mother of King Henry VII, who, in her right, claimed the Crown, as heir of the House of Lancaster.
Edmund, the 3rd son, Earl of Mortaigne and Marquis of Dorset, who succeeded his brother as Earl of Somerset, was likewise Regent of Normandy, and created Duke of Somerset. He was killed in the battle of St. Albans in 1455, leaving four sons, Henry, Edmund, John, and Thomas, the two eldest of whom were successively Dukes of Somerset, and all lost their lives either valiantly supporting in the field the declining fortunes of the House of Lancaster, or falling by the hands of the executioners, victims to the spirit of party vengeance, which in that period deluged the scaffolds with the best blood of the realm. With Edmund, the 4th Duke of Somerset, who was beheaded by King Edward IV, after the Tewkesbury, expired the legitimate descendants of the 1st Earl of Somerset; but Henry, the 3rd Duke, left an illegitimate son, Charles.