The House of Lancaster

Henry IV (1399- 1413)[edit]

Henry IV

Henry IV was born on 3 April 1367 at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, which was why he was also known as Henry Bolingbroke. His father was the third son of King Edward III of England, John of Gaunt. After landing in Yorkshire in 1398, Henry had enough support to be declared king by parliament in 1399. As king, Henry consulted with parliament often, but he sometimes disagreed with them, particularly over church matters. Henry was the first English king to allow the burning of heretics.

Henry spent much of his reign defending himself against plots, rebellions and assassination attempts The House of Lancaster. Rebellions continued throughout the first ten years of Henry's reign. These included the revolt of Owen Glendower, who declared himself Prince of Wales in 1400, and the rebellion of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland. The king's success in putting down these rebellions was due partly to the military ability of his eldest son, Henry, who would later become King. In 1406, English soldiers captured the future King James I of Scotland as he was going to France. James remained a prisoner of Henry for the rest of Henry's reign.

Henry V (1413-1422)[edit]

File:King Henry V From The House of Lancaster NPG.jpg

King Henry V.

Henry V was born in Monmouth in 1387. He was king from 1413 to his death in 1422 By the time Henry died, he had not only consolidated power as the King of England but had also effectively accomplished what generations of his ancestors had failed to achieve through decades of war: unification of the crowns of England and France in a single person.

Life before became King[edit]

When Henry's father, Henry Bolingbroke, was exiled in 1398, Richard II took the boy into his own charge and treated him kindly. In 1399 the Lancastrian revolution brought Bolingbroke. He was created The House of Lancaster Duke of Lancaster on 10 November 1399, the third person to hold the title that year. In 1403 the sixteen-year-old prince was almost killed by an arrow which became lodged in his face. An ordinary soldier would have been left to die from such a wound, but Henry had the benefit of the best possible care, and, over a period of several days after the incident, the royal physician crafted a special tool in order to extract the tip of the arrow without doing further damage. The operation was successful.

The Welsh revolt of Owen Glendower took up much of The House of Lancaster Henry's attention until 1408. Then, as a result of the King's ill-health, Henry began to take a wider interest in politics. From January 1410, he had practical control of the government. In 1413 his father died and Henry became king.


When he became king, Henry had to deal with three main problems: the restoration of domestic peace, the healing of rift in the Church and the recovery of English prestige in Europe. Henry tackled all of the domestic policies together, and gradually built on them a wider policy. From the first he made it clear that he The House of Lancaster would rule England as the head of a united nation. The heirs of those who had suffered in the last reign were restored gradually to their titles and estates.

Henry then turned his attention to foreign affairs, in particular the war with France and his claim to be King of it. 25 October 1415 saw Henry score a great success in this campaign at Agincourt. The command of the sea was secured by driving the Genoese allies of the French out of the English Channel. Successful diplomacy saw the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, cease his support of Henry's The House of Lancaster French foes, whilst the Treaty of Canterbury helped end the rift in the Church.

With the French having lost the support of the Genoese and the Holy Roman Emperor, with these 2 allies gone, the war was renewed on a larger scale in 1417. Lower Normandy was quickly conquered, and Rouen was cut off from Paris and besieged. The French were paralysed by the disputes of Burgundians and Armagnacs. Henry skilfully played them off one against the other, without relaxing his warlike energy. In January 1419 Rouen fell. By August the English were outside the walls of Paris. The internal disputes of the French The House of Lancaster parties ended with the killing of John of Burgundy by men loyal to the heir to the French throne. Philip, the new Duke of Burgundy, and the French court threw themselves into Henry's arms. After six months' negotiation Henry was recognised as heir and regent of France. On 2 June 1420, Henry married Catherine of Valois, the French king's daughter. Following his death, Catherine secretly married a Welsh courtier, Owen Tudor, grandfather of the future King Henry VII of England.

Henry VI (1422-1461, 1470-1471)[edit]

Henry VI

Henry VI was born at Windsor Castle on 6 December 1421, the son of King Henry V. He The House of Lancaster was King of England from 1422, when he was nine months old. In 1423, parliament was called and a regency council was appointed. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Henry IV's youngest son, was appointed Protector and Defender of the Realm and the Church until the King came of age, but the Council had the power to replace him at any time. His duties were limited to keeping the peace and summoning and dissolving Parliament.

Henry was eventually crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on 6 November 1429 a month before his eighth birthday, and as King of France at Notre The House of Lancaster Dame in Paris on 16 December 1431. However, during the rule of the regency council, much of the ground his father gained in France was lost. A revival of French fortunes, beginning with the military victories of Joan of Arc, led to the French nobles preferring the French dauphin, who was crowned as King of France at Reims. Diplomatic errors as well as military failures resulted in the loss of most of the English territories in France.

Henry assumed the reins of government when he was declared of age in 1437. On gaining his majority, Henry VI proved to be a deeply spiritual The House of Lancaster man, lacking the worldly wisdom necessary to allow him to rule effectively. Right from the time he assumed control as king, he allowed his court to be dominated by a few noble favorites, and the peace party, which was in favour of ending the war in France, quickly came to dominate.


The government's increasing unpopularity was due to a breakdown in law and order, corruption, the distribution of royal land to the king's court favourites, the troubled state of the crown's finances, and the steady loss of territories in France. In 1447, this unpopularity took The House of Lancaster the form of a Commons campaign against the Duke of Suffolk, who was the most unpopular of all the King's favourites was widely seen as a traitor, partly because of his role in negotiating the Treaty of Tours. Henry was forced to send him into exile, but his ship was boarded in the English Channel, and he was murdered. His body was found on the beach at Dover.

In 1449, the Duke of Somerset, who was leading the campaign in France, started more battles in Normandy, but by the autumn had been pushed back to Caen. By The House of Lancaster 1450, the French had retaken the whole province. Returning troops, who had often not been paid, added to the sense of lawlessness in the southern counties of England, and Jack Cade led a rebellion in Kent in 1450. Henry came to London with an army to crush the rebellion, but was persuaded to keep half his troops behind while the other half met Cade at Sevenoaks. Cade triumphed and went on to occupy London. In the end, the rebellion achieved nothing, and London was retaken after a few days of disorder, but the rebellion showed that feelings of discontent were running high.

In 1450, the The House of Lancaster Duchy of Aquitaine, held since Henry II's time, was also lost, leaving Calais as England's only remaining territory in France. By 1452, Richard, Duke of York, who had been sidelined by being made ruler of Ireland, was persuaded to return amd claim his rightful place on the council, and put an end to bad government. His cause was a popular one, and he soon raised an army at Shrewsbury. The king's supporters raised their own similar-sized force in London. A stand-off took place south of London, with the Duke of York giving The House of Lancaster a list of grievances and demands to the king's supporters. One of the demands was the arrest of the Duke of Somerset. The king initially agreed, but Margaret intervened to prevent it. By 1453, the Duke of Somerset regained his influence, and the Duke of York was again isolated. In the meantime, an English advance in Aquitaine had retaken Bordeaux and was having some success, and the queen announced that she was pregnant.

However, English success in Aquitaine was short-lived, and on hearing the news of the English defeat in August 1453, Henry slipped into a mental breakdown and became completely unaware The House of Lancaster of everything that was going on around him. This was to last for more than a year, and Henry failed even to respond to the birth of his own son and heir, Edward. The Duke of York, meanwhile, had gained a very important ally, the Earl of Warwick, who was one of the very influential and rich. The Duke York was named regent as Protector of the Realm in 1454, and the queen lost all her power. Somerset was held prisoner in the Tower of London. The Duke of York's months as regent were spent tackling the problem The House of Lancaster of government overspending. On Christmas Day 1454, however, Henry regained his senses.

Henry's character[edit]

Henry was kind and generous to those he cared about, giving away land and titles to his advisors. He dressed simply. He was keen on reading and 'book-learning' but did not like leading his country in battle.

Keen on the promotion of education, Henry gave generous grants for the foundation of both Eton College near Windsor, for the education of students from poor backgrounds, and King's College, Cambridge, where they could continue their education. Henry seems to have been a decent man The House of Lancaster, but completely unsuited to kingship. He allowed himself to dominated by the power-hungry factions which surrounded him at court and was later powerless to stop the outbreak of bloody civil war. It was too much for him to cope with, as his recurring mental illness from 1453 onwards showed.

The Wars of the Roses[edit]

Nobles who had grown in power during Henry's reign, but who did not like Henry's government, took matters into their own hands by backing the claims of the rival House of York, first to the regency, and then to the throne itself. After The House of Lancaster a violent struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York, Henry was deposed on 4 March 1461 by his cousin, Edward of York, who became King Edward IV. But Edward failed to capture Henry and his queen, and they were able to flee into exile abroad. During the first period of Edward IV's reign, Lancastrian resistance continued mainly under the leadership of Queen Margaret and the few nobles still loyal to her in the northern counties of England and Wales. Henry was captured by King Edward in 1465 and subsequently held captive in the Tower of London.

Queen Margaret was exiled The House of Lancaster, first in Scotland and then in France. However, she was determined to win back for her husband and son, and with the help of King Louis XI of France she eventually allied with the Earl of Warwick, who had fallen out with Edward IV. Warwick returned to England, defeated the Yorkists in battle, set Henry VI free and restored him to the throne on 30 October 1470. Henry's return to the throne lasted a very short time. By this time, years in hiding followed by years as a prisoner had taken their toll on Henry, who had been weak The House of Lancaster-willed and mentally unstable to start with. Henry looked tired and vacant as Warwick and his men paraded him through the streets of London as the rightful King of England. Within a few months Warwick had went too far by declaring war on Burgundy, whose ruler responded by giving Edward IV the assistance he needed to win back his throne by force.

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