John of Gaunt (1340-1399)

see also

see also the House of Lancaster

This prince, the fourth son of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, was born at Ghent (or Gaunt) in Flanders, in 1340.  In his infancy, he was created Earl of Richmond and, by that title, admitted into the Order of the Garter upon the death of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, one of the original knights.  In 1359, at Reading Abbey (Berks), he married Blanche, the younger of the two daughters and co-heirs of Henry, Duke of Lancaster upon the death of his father-in-law.  The father, Henry, Duke of Lancaster, and his elder daughter, Maud, died of the plague in 1361.   In 1362, Gaunt was advanced to that Dukedom.  He held also, in right of his wife, the Earldoms of Derby, Lincoln and Leicester, and the high office of Steward of England.

Blanche, dying in 1369, the ambition of the Duke - who had taken an active part in the war carried on by the his brother, Black Prince, for the restoration of Peter, King of Castile & Leon - induced him to direct his views towards Constance, the elder of the two daughters of that monarch, then lately slain by his illegitimate brother, Henry of Transtamare, his successor under the title of Henry II. In 1372, the Duke married this princess and thus assumed the regal style of those kingdoms. These titular honours were ascribed to him in the writs of summons to Parliament from that year until 1386, when, by an arrangement with King John I of Castile & Leon, the son and successor of Henry, Catherine, the only daughter of the Duke of Lancaster by Constance, was betrothed to Henry, Prince of Asturias, his heir-apparent, and the crown settled upon the issue of that alliance.

Although John of Gaunt had been engaged in warlike enterprises from his earliest years, yet his martial achievements did not increase the lustre of British glory or secure for himself the character of a great commander. In three expeditions into France, in 1369, 1370 and 1373, he gained no laurels and the peculiar misfortunes which attended the last, when a considerable number of his followers perished amongst the mountains of Auvergne, rendered him very unpopular on his return to England in July 1374. All Guienne and Gascony, with the exception of the towns of Bordeaux and Bayonne, had fallen from their allegiance and a suspension of hostilities was negotiated at Bruges, by the Duke and others, with the Duke of Anjou, before the expiration of that year.

After the death of the Black Prince, in 1376, the Duke of Lancaster acquired a marked ascendency in the councils of the infirm monarch, his father. His administration of public affairs is said, furthermore, to have been stained by several acts of violence. 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. John continued to govern the Kingdom during the minority of his nephew, Richard II, by whom, in 1389, he was created Duke of Aquitaine. 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-grandaughter 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. 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.

The Duchess Constance dying in 1394, John espoused, in 1396, Catherine, daughter of Sir Paine Roet, Guienne King of Arms, and widow of Sir Hugh Swynford, a knight of Lincolnshire. This lady had been of the household of the Duchess Blanche and charged with the education of the ladies Philippa and Elizabeth during their minority.

On the 3rd February 1399, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, died at the Bishop of Ely's Palace in Holborn. Conforming to his will, dated 3rd February 1398, his body was interred before the high altar of Old St. Paul's Cathedral, near the remains of Blanche, his first consort.

By his first consort, Blanche of Lancaster, he had issue:

By his second consort, Constance (Constanza) of Castile, John of Gaunt had an only daughter, Catherine, wife of Henry, Prince of Asturias, afterwards Henry III, King of Castile & Leon. The descendants of this alliance were on the throne of Spain until King Charles II, who died in 1700.

His issue, before his marriage to his third consort, Catherine Swynford, were legitimated by Act of Parliament, 9th February 1397. They were all surnamed "De Beaufort," having been born at Beaufort Castle in France, which had devolved to the House of Lancaster by the marriage of Blanche of Artois with Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. They were:

Edited from George Frederick Beltz's "Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter" (1861).

The House of Lancaster
Descendants of John of GAUNT, K.G. [Prince of England; Duke of Lancaster]

b. 24 Jun 1340, d. 3 Feb 1399,
m(1) 19 May 1359, Blanche of LANCASTER
b. 25 Mar 1345, d. 12 Sep 1369,
had issue, i. Philippa
b. 31 Mar 1360, d. 9 Sep 1438,
m. 2 Feb 1387, Joao I of PORTUGAL
ii. Elizabeth
b. 1368, d. 1426,
m. 1384, Sir John HOLAND , K.G.
b. Aft 1350, d. 9 Jan 1399/00
had issue, a. John, b. Aft 1384, d. 1446,
m. Anne MONTAGU, d. 28 Nov 1457
iii. Henry IV Lancaster [King of England]
b. 3 Apr 1367, d. 20 Mar 1412/3
m(2) Constanza [Pss of Castile y Leon]
b. 1354, d. 24 Mar 1394,
had a daughter, iv. Catherine
b. by 31 Mar 1373, d. 2 Jun 1418,
m. Mar 1389/93, Enrique III [King of Castille y Leon]
b. 4 Oct 1379, d. 25 Dec 1406,
had a son, a. Juan II [King of Casrille y Leon]
b. 6 Mar 1405, d. 21 Jul 1454,
m. Isabella of PORTUGAL
b. 1428, d. 15 Aug 1496
m(3) 13 Jan 1396, Katherine de ROET
b. 1350, d. 10 May 1403
had more issue, v. John BEAUFORT, K.G.
vi. Henry
b. Abt 1375, d. 11 Apr 1447


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One of the most powerful men in England during Edward III's reign and later. A Plantagenet, this name originating as a nick-name for "Geoffrey the Fair" Count of Anjou who wore a sprig of broom in his hat [Fr: genet=broom].

He was granted by his father, Edward III, the title 5th Earl of Lancaster & 2nd Duke of Lancaster, thus holding the vast Duchy of Lancaster and Pontefract castle. In fact there is a place named after him "John of Gaunt's" about 5 miles north of Wakefield not far from the town of "Robin Hood" around Rothwell.

The ownership of the Duchy made him the overlord of the knight's fees of the Honour of Pontefract and would indicate that the Midgley families in West Yorkshire were of these, William de Miggeley [b. abt. 1280] being one, who as a Paliamentary knight and Yorkshire Court Lawyer, had likely invested heavily in the wool trade.

John of Gaunt was part of the 'Lancastrian Line' whilst his brother Edmund of Langley 1st Duke of York was the progenitor of the Yorkists. The name Plantagenet was not used by either family from Richard I to Richard II but thereafter was employed as a form of superiority.

John was born in 1340 in Ghent/Gaunt, Flanders, the fourth son of Edward III he married :

1] Blanche Plantagenet in 1359 who held the Duchy following her father's death. Blanche was his cousin and heiress to the Honour of Lancaster. On her father's death in 1362 John became Duke of Lancaster and the greatest landholder in England.

In 1369 Blanche died at the early age of 29 after giving birth to three children the eldest of whom became Henry IV of England and another, Elizabeth Plantagenet [b.1364] who married John Hastings, 5th Lord Hastings [his first marriage]. The marriage was annulled in 1383, Elizabeth died in 1425 at the age of 61. Secondly, Lord Hastings 5th Baron married Philippa Mortimer.

This was the second time one of the Hastings line had married into Edward III's pedigree for earlier John Hastings [3rd Lord Hastings] had married Margaret Plantagenet the 10th child of Edward III.

This would indicate, why later, William Lord Hastings became such a friend and confidant to Edward IV.

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem to Blanche Plantagenet entitled "The Deth of Blaunche the Duchesse" in 1369 to commemorate her death.

2] Constance [Constanza] of Castile in 1371 He was in France to 1375 and supported Alice Perrers, Edward III's mistress and William Lord Latimer. In 1376 the "Good Parliament" formed in opposition to Alice Perrers influence over Edward. But John de Ghent managed to reverse most of the decrees in 1377. As a result, during the "Peasants' Revolt" on 13th June 1381 under Wat Tyler ["Jack Straw"?] his residence in London, the Savoy Palace, was sacked and burned. His hereditary arms were hung up-side-down by the crowd in a sign of humiliation and insult.The heraldic arms were originally meant for identification during battle and at tournaments and symbolised the bearers prestige.

John of Gaunt's Adviser In 1361 William [Lord] Latimer was honoured as a Knight of the Garter. He became a close adviser to John of Gaunt during Edward III's decline. In 1376 he was tried in the House of Lords after being accused of corruption and fraud by the House of Commons in the "Good Parliament". Latimer along with Alice Perrers was found guilty including others such as Richard Lions a London banker. Edward III arranged Latimer's pardon and he was appointed to Richard II's council in 1377, although there was open public disgust at this. Lord Latimer served as Governor of Calais from 1380-1 and afterwards served in France, dying in 1381. Link: Baron Lord Latimer

In 1394 or 1396 his second wife died and he married his mistress Catherine Swynford.

3] Catherine Swynford married 1396, his long standing mistress. Catherine was born in 1350 and died 1403. She became the Duchess of Lancaster at her marriage. Her first husband was Sir Hugh Swynford, who was a retinue member of John of Gaunt. Hugh died in 1372 and she became a governess of his children by his second wife and John's mistress. She bore John four children who were given the name Beaufort after one of John's estates. The Beauforts were all legitimised in 1397 by an act of parliament with the proviso inserted in 1407 that they had no claim to the throne. Catherine's maiden name was Roet, a Flemish name, she was the sister to Geoffrey Chaucer's wife, Philippa Roet. who had been one of Queen Philippa's chamber ladies. John Chaucer, his father had been in attendance on Edward III in 1338 this led to Geoffrey's employment with the King's Court, engaged as a page in Duke Lionel and Elizabeth's household [Duke of Clarence] In 1359 Geoffrey Chaucer joined Edward III's army when France was invaded. He was taken prisoner and Edward III himself had to pay the ransom. In March 1360 Geoffrey was given his freedom when Edward parted with 16 pounds for this yet to be celebrated author's liberty.

In 1367 Chaucer was given a life pension for being a valet of the King's household, Lionel died in1368 so Chaucer transferred his services to John of Gaunt. John Montague, a contemporary in the King's Court was part of the literati of the Court of Edward III and Richard II. John is believed to be the writer of some of the early "Robin Hood" ballads. John of Gaunt died in 1399.