The House of Lancaster was the name of two cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet. The first house was created when Henry III of England created the Earldom of Lancaster—from which the house was named—for his second son Edmund Crouchback in 1267. Edmund had already been created Earl of Leicester in 1265 and was granted the lands and privileges of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, after de Montfort's death and attainder at the end of the Second Barons' War. When Edmund's son Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, inherited his father-in-law's estates and title of Earl of Lincoln he became at a stroke the most powerful nobleman in England, with lands throughout the kingdom and the ability to raise vast private armies to wield power at national and local levels. This brought him—and Henry, his younger brother—into conflict with their cousin Edward II of England, leading to Thomas's execution. Henry inherited Thomas's titles and he and his son, who was also called Henry, gave loyal service to Edward's son—Edward III of England.
The second house of Lancaster was descended from John of Gaunt, who married the heiress of the first house. Edward III married all his sons to wealthy English heiresses rather than following his predecessors' practice of finding continental political marriages for royal princes. Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, had no male heir so Edward married his son John to Henry's heiress daughter and John's third cousin Blanche of Lancaster. This gave John the vast wealth of the House of Lancaster. Their son Henry usurped the throne in 1399, creating one of the factions in the Wars of the Roses. There was an intermittent dynastic struggle between the descendants of Edward III. In these wars, the term Lancastrian became a reference to members of the family and their supporters. The family provided England with three kings: Henry IV, who ruled from 1399 to 1413, Henry V (1413–1422), and Henry VI (1422–1461 and 1470–1471).
The House became extinct in the male line upon the murder in the Tower of London of Henry VI, following the battlefield execution of his son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, by supporters of the House of York in 1471. Lancastrian cognatic descent—from John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster's daughter Phillipa—continued in the royal houses of Spain and Portugal while the Lancastrian political cause was maintained by Henry Tudor—a relatively unknown scion of the Beauforts—eventually leading to the establishment of the House of Tudor. The Lancastrians left a legacy through the patronage of the arts—most notably in founding Eton College and King's College, Cambridge—but to historians' chagrin their propaganda, and that of their Tudor successors, means that it is Shakespeare's partly fictionalized history plays rather than medievalist scholarly research that has the greater influence on modern perceptions of the dynasty.
|House of Lancaster|
As descendants of the sovereign in the male line, the Earls of Lancaster bore the arms of the kingdom differenced by a label azure of three points each charged with three fleurs de lys Or. The last male of this family was granted a dukedom, which was then re-created for the second house.
|Parent house||House of Plantagenet|
|Country||Kingdom of England|
|Founder||Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster and Leicester|
|Current head||Extinct in the male line|
|Final ruler||Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster|
|Titles||Earl of Lancaster|
Earl of Leicester
Count of Champagne and Brie
Lord of Beaufort and Nogent
Earl of Moray
Earl of Derby
Earl of Salisbury
Earl of Lincoln
Duke of Lancaster
|House of Lancaster|
Arms of John of Gaunt, the arms of the kingdom differenced by a label ermine. His royal descendants bore the arms undifferenced.
|Parent house||House of Plantagenet|
|Country|| Kingdom of England |
Kingdom of France
Kingdom of Castille
Kingdom of Portugal
|Founder||John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster|
|Current head||Extinct in the male line|
|Final ruler||Henry VI of England|
|Titles||Duke of Lancaster|
King of England
King of France
After the supporters of Henry III of England suppressed opposition from the English nobility in the Second Barons' War, Henry granted to his second son Edmund Crouchback the titles and possessions forfeited by attainder of the barons' leader, Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, including the Earldom of Leicester, on 26 October 1265. Later grants included the first Earldom of Lancaster on 30 June 1267 and that of Earl Ferrers in 1301. Edmund was also Count of Champagne and Brie from 1276 by right of his wife. Henry IV of England would later use his descent from Edmund to legitimise his claim to the throne, even making the spurious claim that Edmund was the elder son of Henry but had been passed over as king because of his deformity.
Edmund's second marriage to Blanche of Artois, the widow of the King of Navarre, placed him at the centre of the European aristocracy. Blanche's daughter Joan I of Navarre was queen regnant of Navarre and through her marriage to Philip IV of France was queen consort of France. Edmund's son Thomas became the most powerful nobleman in England, gaining the Earldoms of Lincoln and Salisbury through marriage to the heiress of Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln. His income was £11,000 per annum—double that of the next wealthiest earl.
Thomas and his younger brother Henry served in the coronation of their cousin King Edward II of England on 25 February 1308; Thomas carried Curtana, the Sword of Mercy, and Henry carried the royal sceptre. After initially supporting Edward, Thomas became one of the Lords Ordainers, who demanded the banishment of Piers Gaveston and the governance of the realm by a baronial council. After Gaveston was captured, Thomas took the lead in his trial and execution at Warwick in 1312. Edward's authority was weakened by poor governance and defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn. This allowed Thomas to restrain Edward's power by republishing the Ordinances of 1311. Following this achievement Thomas took little part in the governance of the realm and instead retreated to Pontefract Castle. This allowed Edward to regroup and re-arm, leading to a fragile peace in August 1318 with the Treaty of Leake. In 1321 Edward's rule again collapsed into civil war. Thomas raised a northern army but was defeated and captured at the Battle of Boroughbridge. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered but because he was Edward's cousin he was given a quicker death by beheading.
Henry joined the revolt of Edward's wife Isabella of France and her lover Mortimer in 1326, pursuing and capturing Edward at Neath in South Wales. Following Edward's deposition at the Parliament of Kenilworth in 1326 and reputed murder at Berkeley Castle, Thomas's conviction was posthumously reversed and Henry regained possession of the Earldoms of Lancaster, Derby, Salisbury and Lincoln that had been forfeit for Thomas's treason. His restored prestige led to him knighting the young King Edward III of England before his coronation. Mortimer lost support over the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton that formalised Scotland's independence, and his developing power in the Welsh Marches provoked jealousy from the barons. When Mortimer called a parliament to make his new powers and estates permanent with the title of Earl of March in 1328, Henry led the opposition and held a counter-meeting. In response, Mortimer ravaged the lands of Lancaster and checked the revolt. Edward III was able to assume control in 1330 but Henry's further influence was restricted by poor health and blindness for the last fifteen years of his life.
Henry's son, also called Henry, was born at the castle of Grosmont in Monmouthshire between 1299 and 1314. According to the younger Henry's memoirs, he was better at martial arts than academic subjects and did not learn to read until later in life. Henry was coeval with Edward III and was pivotal to his reign, becoming his best friend and most trusted commander. Henry was knighted in 1330, represented his father in parliament and fought in Edward's Scottish campaign. After the outbreak of the Hundred Years' War, Henry took part in several diplomatic missions and minor campaigns and was present at the great English victory in the naval Battle of Sluys in 1340. Later, he was required to commit himself as hostage in the Low Countries for Edward's considerable debts. He remained hostage for a year and had to pay a large ransom for his own release.
In 1345, Edward III launched a major, three-pronged attack on France. The Earl of Northampton attacked from Brittany, Edward from Flanders, and Henry from Aquitaine in the south. Moving rapidly through the country, Henry confronted the Comte d'Isle at the Battle of Auberoche and achieved a victory described as "the greatest single achievement of Lancaster's entire military career". The ransom from the prisoners has been estimated at £50,000. Edward rewarded Henry by including him as a founding knight of the Order of the Garter. An even greater honour was bestowed on Lancaster when Edward created him Duke of Lancaster. The title of duke was relatively new in England, with only Cornwall being a previous ducal title. Lancaster was also given palatinate status for the county of Lancashire, which entailed a separate administration independent of the crown. There were two other counties palatine; Durham was an ancient ecclesiastical palatinate and Chester was crown property.
In 1350, Henry was present at the naval victory at Winchelsea, where he saved the life of the Black Prince. He spent 1351-2 on crusade in Prussia where a quarrel with Otto, Duke of Brunswick, almost led to a duel between the two men, which was only averted by the intervention of John II of France. As campaigning in France resumed, Henry participated in the last great offensive of the Rheims campaign of 1359–60—the first phase of the Hundred Years' War—before returning to England where he fell ill and died, most likely of the plague, at Leicester Castle.
Edward III of England married John of Gaunt, his third surviving son, to Henry's heiress Blanche of Lancaster. On Henry's death, Edward conferred on Gaunt the second creation of the title of Duke of Lancaster, which made Gaunt, after Edward, the wealthiest landowner in England. Gaunt enjoyed great political influence during his lifetime, but upon his death in 1399 his lands were confiscated by Richard II. Gaunt's exiled son and heir Henry of Bolingbroke returned home and gathered military support in clear contravention of Richard's treason act of 1397, which included a definition of treason of "or [to] ... raiseth People and rideth against the King to make War within his Realm ...". Although he claimed his aim was restoration of his Lancaster inheritance, this Act and Henry's knowledge of Richard's character—suspicious and vindictive—probably meant Henry knew that only by removing Richard from power could he be secure. Henry unified popular opposition to Richard II, took control of the kingdom and Richard—recognising that he had insufficient support to resist—surrendered to Henry's forces at Conwy Castle. Henry instigated a commission to decide who should be king. Richard was forced to abdicate and although Henry was not next in line, he was chosen by an unlawfully constituted parliament dominated by his supporters. After the first unrest of his reign and a revolt by the Earls of Salisbury, Gloucester, Exeter and Surrey, Richard reputedly starved to death. There is some debate as to whether this was self-inflicted or ordered by Henry to end the risk of restoration without leaving incriminating marks on the body.
There is much debate amongst historians about Henry's accession, in part because some see it as a cause of the Wars of the Roses. For many historians, the accession by force of the throne broke principles the Plantagenets had established successfully over two and a half centuries and allowed any magnate with sufficient power and Plantagenet blood to have ambitions to assume the throne. Richard had attempted to disinherit Henry and remove him from the succession. In response Henry's legal advisors, led by William Thirning, dissuaded Henry from claiming the throne by right of conquest and instead look for legal justification. Although Henry established a committee to investigate his assertion that his mother had legitimate rights through descent from Edmund Crouchback, whom he said was the elder son of Henry III of England but was set aside because of deformity, no evidence was found. The eight-year-old Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, was the heir general to Richard II by being the grandson of Edward III's second son, Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, and also the son of Richard's last nominated heir. In desperation, Henry's advisors made the case that Henry was heir male to Henry III and this was supported by thirteenth-century entails. Mortimer's sister Anne de Mortimer married Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, son of Edward III's fourth son Edmund of Langley, consolidating Anne's place in the succession with that of the more junior House of York. As a child Mortimer was not considered a serious contender and as an adult he showed no interest in the throne, instead loyally serving the House of Lancaster. Mortimer informed Henry V when Conisburgh, in what was later called the Southampton Plot, attempted to place him on the throne instead of Henry's newly crowned son—their mutual cousin—leading to the execution of Conisburgh and the other plotters.
Henry IV was plagued with financial problems, the political need to reward his supporters, frequent rebellions and declining health—including leprosy and epilepsy. The Percy family had been some of Henry's leading supporters, defending the North from Scotland largely at their own expense, but revolted in the face of lack of reward and suspicion from Henry. Henry Percy (Hotspur) was defeated and killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury. In 1405, Hotspur's father Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, supported the Archbishop of York, Richard le Scrope, in another rebellion, after which the elder Percy fled to Scotland and his estates were confiscated. Henry had Scrope executed in an act comparable to the murder of another Archbishop—Thomas Becket by men loyal to Henry II. This would probably have led to Henry's excommunication but the church was in the midst of the Western Schism, with competing popes keen on Henry's support; it protested but took no action. In 1408, Percy invaded England once more and was killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor. In Wales, Owain Glyndŵr's widespread rebellion was only suppressed with the recapture of Harlech Castle in 1409, although sporadic fighting continued until 1421.
Henry V of England was a successful and ruthless monarch. He was quick to re-assert the claim to the French throne he inherited from Edward III, continuing what was later called the Hundred Years' War. The war was not a formal, continuous conflict but a series of English raids and military expeditions from 1337 until 1453. There were six major royal expeditions; Henry himself led the fifth and sixth, but these were unlike the smaller, frequent, provincial campaigns. In Henry's first major campaign—and the fifth major royal campaign of the war—he invaded France, captured Harfleur, made a chevauchée to Calais and won a near-total victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt despite being outnumbered, outmanoeuvred and low on supplies. In his second campaign, he recaptured much of Normandy and in a treaty secured a marriage to Catherine of Valois. The terms of the Treaty of Troyes were that Henry's and Catherine's heirs would succeed to the throne of France. This condition was contested by the Dauphin and the momentum of the war changed. In 1421, Henry's brother Thomas, Duke of Clarence, was killed at the Battle of Baugé, and Henry V died of dysentery at Vincennes in 1422.
Henry VI of England was less than a year old but his uncles—led by Henry V's brother John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford—continued the war. There were more victories, including the Battle of Verneuil, but it was impossible to maintain campaigning at this level. Joan of Arc's involvement helped the French remove the siege of Orleans and win the Battle of Patay before Joan was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried as a witch and burned at the stake. The Dauphin was crowned and continued the successful Fabian tactics of avoiding full frontal assault and exploiting logistical advantage.
The Hundred Years' War caused political division between the Lancastrians and the other Plantagenets during the minority of Henry VI: Bedford wanted to maintain the majority of the Lancastrian's French possessions; Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester wanted to hold only Calais; and Cardinal Beaufort desired a negotiated peace. Gloucester's attacks on Beaufort forced the latter from public life but brought him little advantage as the earl of Suffolk's influence over the king enabled him to direct policy for the rest of the decade. Gloucester remained heir presumptive but in 1441 his ambitious wife, Eleanor Cobham, consulted astrologers on the likelihood of the king's death and was arrested for treasonable necromancy—although Gloucester was not implicated he was discredited forced into retirement. In 1447 Suffolk had him arrested and within days he died in prison.
England's ally Philip III, Duke of Burgundy defected to Charles, when the English ambassadors' refusal to renounce the claim to the French crown stalled negotiations, signing the Treaty of Arras (1435). The French reorganised the superior numbers of their feudal levies into a modern professional army and retook Paris, Rouen, Bordeaux and Normandy. Victories at the Battle of Formigny in 1450 and the Battle of Castillon in 1453 brought the war to an end with the House of Lancaster losing forever all its French holdings, except Calais and the Channel Islands.
Henry VI proved to be a weak king and vulnerable to the over-mighty subjects who developed private armies of retainers. Rivalries often spilled over from the courtroom into armed confrontations, such as the Percy–Neville feud. Without the common purpose of the war in France, Henry's cousin Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, used their networks to defy the crown. Henry became the focus of discontent as the population, agricultural production, prices, the wool trade and credit declined in the Great Slump. This led to radical demands from the lower classes. In 1450, Jack Cade raised a rebellion to force Henry to address the economic problems or abdicate his throne. The uprising was suppressed but conflict remained between villagers, gentry and aristocracy. Society remained deeply unsettled and radical demands continued to be suppressed such as those from the yeoman brothers John and William Merfold.
Henry's marriage to Margaret of Anjou prompted criticism from Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, because it included the surrender of Maine and an extended truce with France. York was Henry's cousin through his descent from Edward III sons Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, and Edmund, Duke of York. This gave York political influence but he was removed from English and French politics through his appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. On returning to England, York was conscious of the fate of Henry's uncle Humphrey at the hands of the Beauforts and suspicious that Henry intended to nominate Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, as heir presumptive, and recruited military forces. Armed conflict was avoided because York lacked aristocratic support and was forced to swear allegiance to Henry. However, when Henry later underwent a mental breakdown, York was named regent. Henry was trusting and not a man of war, but Margaret was more assertive and showed open enmity towards York—particularly after the birth of a male heir that resolved the succession question and assured her position.
According to historian Robin Storey, "If Henry's insanity was a tragedy; his recovery was a national disaster". When Henry's sanity returned, the court party reasserted its authority but York and his relatives, the Nevilles, defeated them at the First Battle of St Albans. Historian Anthony Goodman suggests that around 50 men were killed; among them were Somerset and two Percy lords, Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland, and Thomas Clifford, 8th Baron de Clifford, creating feuds that would confound reconciliation attempts despite the shock to the ruling class caused by the armed conflict. Threatened with treason charges and lacking support, York, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, fled abroad. Henry was captured by the opposition when the Nevilles returned and won the Battle of Northampton. York joined them, surprising parliament by claiming the throne and then forcing through the Act of Accord stating that Henry would remain as monarch for his lifetime and that York would succeed him. The disinheriting of Henry's son Edward was unacceptable to Margaret so the conflict continued. York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield and his head was displayed at Micklegate Bar, York, along with those of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury—both of whom were captured and beheaded.
Margaret gained the support of the Scottish queen Mary of Guelders, and with a Scottish army she pillaged into southern England. The citizens of London feared the city being plundered and enthusiastically welcomed York's son Edward, Earl of March. Margaret's defeat at the Battle of Towton confirmed Edward's position and he was crowned. Disaffected with Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and preferment of her formerly Lancastrian-supporting family, Warwick and Clarence defected to the Lancastrians. The alliance was sealed with the marriage of Henry's son Edward to Anne, Warwick's daughter. Edward and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, fled England. When they returned, Clarence switched sides at the Battle of Barnet and Warwick and his brother were killed. Henry, Margaret and Edward of Lancaster were caught at the Battle of Tewkesbury before they could escape back to France. Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was executed on the battlefield and John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset, was killed in the fighting—meaning that when his brother Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset, was executed two days later, the Beaufort family became extinct in the legitimate male line. The captive Henry was murdered on 21 May 1471 in the Tower of London and buried in Chertsey Abbey, extinguishing the House of Lancaster.
It is a source of irritation to historians that Shakespeare's influence on the perception of the later medieval period exceeds that of academic research. While the chronology of Shakespeare's history plays runs from King John to Henry VIII, they are dominated by eight plays in which members of the House of Lancaster play a significant part, voicing speeches on a par with those in Hamlet and King Lear. These plays are:
According to the historian Norman Davies, the plays were constrained by the political and religious requirements of Tudor England. While they are factually inaccurate, they demonstrate how the past and the House of Lancaster are remembered in terms of myth, legend, ideas and popular misconceptions. Shakespeare avoided contentious political and religious issues to dubiously illustrate Tudor England as having rejected medieval conflict and entered an era of harmony and prosperity. The famous patriotic "sceptr'd isle" speech is voiced by John of Gaunt, a man who spent the majority of his life in Aquitaine, and is a piece of poetic licence that illustrates English prejudices. Henry V is one-sided with little sympathy for the French. Many of these historical lines illustrate historical myth rather than realism.
Lancastrian cognatic descent from John of Gaunt and Blanche's daughter Phillipa continued in the royal houses of Spain and Portugal. The remnants of the Lancastrian court party coalesced support around Henry Tudor—a relatively unknown scion of the Beauforts. They had been amongst the most ardent supporters of the House of Lancaster and were descended illegitimately from John of Gaunt by his mistress Katherine Swynford. However John of Gaunt and Katherine subsequently married and their children were legitimated by the Pope and by Parliament during the reign of Richard II. Henry IV had tried to debar them from the succession by use of his royal prerogative to avoid competition with the House of Lancaster's claims to the throne but this was of limited effect. By some calculations of primogeniture, there were as many as 18 people—including both his mother and future wife—with what some might claim a better right to the throne. By 1510, this figure had increased with the birth of an additional 16 possible Yorkist claimants.
With the House of Lancaster extinct, Henry claimed to be the Lancastrian heir through his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort. His father was Henry VI's maternal half-brother. In 1485, Henry Tudor united increasing opposition within England to the reign of Richard III with the Lancastrian cause to take the throne. To further legitimise his claim, Henry married Elizabeth of York—Edward IV of England's daughter—and promoted the House of Tudor as a dynasty of dual Lancastrian and Yorkist descent.
The Lancastrians were both pious and well read. Henry IV was the first English king known to have possessed a vernacular Bible, supported the canonization of John Twenge, gave a pension to the anchoress Margaret Pensax and maintained close relations with several Westminster recluses. His household accounts as king record conventional payments to large numbers of paupers (12,000 on Easter day 1406) and the intercession for him of twenty-four oratores domini regis at 2d each per day. However, his reliance on the church was both personal and political. Archbishop Arundel gave the Lancastrians vital support and carried other bishops with him. In return the church required support for religious orthodoxy against heresy. Lollards were suppressed and heresy was made a capital offence in England under the statute of De haeretico comburendo even though Henry could not afford to overly antagonize his supporters with Lollard sympathies, including those among his Lancastrian retainers.
According to the author of the Gesta Henrici quinti, Henry V aimed ‘to promote the honour of God, the extension of the Church, the deliverance of his country and the peace and tranquillity of kingdoms’. He was deeply religious, engaged with ecclesiastical issues and saw that his role as king was to honour God, extend the church, fight heresy and defend the established social order. All his victories, especially Agincourt, were attributed to divine intervention. Henry V founded Syon Abbey in 1415, as penance for his father's execution of Archbishop Scrope, and three monasteries in London: for Carthusian, Bridgettine and Celestine orders. The equally devout Henry VI continued the architectural patronage begun by his father, founding Eton College and King's College, Cambridge and leaving a lasting educational and architectural legacy in buildings including King's College Chapel and Eton College Chapel.
The Lancastrian regime was founded and legitimised by formal lying that was both public and official. This has been described as "a series of unconstitutional actions" based "upon three major acts of perjury". The historian K.B. McFarlane found it hard "to think of another moment of comparable importance in medieval English political history when the supply of information was so effectively manipulated as it was by Henry IV on this occasion". The Lancastrians patronised poets for panegyric purposes for years before Henry IV ascended the throne, including Geoffrey Chaucer who dedicated The Book of the Duchess to Blanche of Lancaster around 1368. In 1400, poets in the pay of Henry IV were directed to propaganda purposes. John Gower based his Cronica Tripertita on the official Lancastrian accounts of the usurpation:"The Record and Process of the Deposition of Richard II" from 1399. Gower also produced a number of further favourable works including "In praise of peace" which was dedicated to Henry IV.
|Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster and Leicester||16 January 1245
son of Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence
|(1) Aveline de Forz
(2) Blanche of Artois
21 September 1271
Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster
Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster
John of Lancaster, Lord of Beaufort
Mary of Lancaster
|5 June 1296|
|Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster and Leicester||c. 1278
Grismond Castle, Monmouthshire
son of Edmund Crouchback and Blanche of Artois
|Alice de Lacey
28 October 1294 - Divorced 1318
|22 March 1322|
Executed by order of Edward II of England
|Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster and Leicester||1281
Grosmont Castle, Monmouthshire
son of Edmund Crouchback and Blanche of Artois
|Matilda de Chaworth
Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster
Blanche of Lancaster, Baroness Wake of Liddell
Maud of Lancaster, Countess of Ulster
Joan of Lancaster, Baroness Mowbray
Isabel of Lancaster, Prioress of Amesbury
Eleanor of Lancaster, Countess of Arundel
Mary of Lancaster, Baroness Percy
|22 September 1345|
|Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster, 4th Earl of Lancaster and Leicester||c. 1310
Grosmont Castle, Monmouthshire
son of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster
|Isabel de Beaumont
Maud, Countess of Leicester
Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster
|23 March 1361|
Leicester Castle, Leicestershire
|Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, 5th Countess of Lancaster and Leicester||25 March 1345/1347
Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire
daughter of Henry of Grosmont
|John of Gaunt
19 May 1359
Philippa, Queen of Portugal
John of Lancaster
Elizabeth of Lancaster, Duchess of Exeter
Edward of Lancaster
John of Lancaster
Henry IV Bolingbroke, King of England
Isabel of Lancaster
|12 September 1369|
Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire
aged about 22
|John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
Earl by right of his wife, the title Duke of Lancaster was vacant because there were no male heirs. Created Duke by his father Edward III of England
|6 March 1340
son of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault
|(1) Blanche of Lancaster
(2) Constance of Castile
21 September 1371
Catherine, Queen of Castile
John of Lancaster
(3) Katherine Swynford
13 January 1396
House of Beaufort
John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset
Cardinal Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland
|3 February 1399|
Leicester Castle, Leicestershire
|Henry IV of England||3 April 1367
son of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster
|(1) Mary de Bohun
20 July 1380
Edward of Lancaster
Henry V of England
Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence
John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford
Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester
Blanche, Electress Palatine
Philippa, Queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden
(2) Joanna of Navarre
7 February 1403
|20 March 1413
|Henry's claim was extremely tenuous. He claimed the throne through his mother's descent from Edmund on the basis that he was older than Edward I but had been set aside because of deformity. This was not widely accepted|
|Henry V of England||9 August 1387
son of Henry IV and Mary de Bohun
|Catherine of Valois
2 June 1420
Henry VI of England
|31 August 1422
Château de Vincennes
|son of Henry IV|
|Henry VI of England||6 December 1421
son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois
|Margaret of Anjou
22 April 1445
Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales
|21 May 1471
Tower of London
|son of Henry V|
The Red Rose of Lancaster derives from the gold rose badge of Edward I of England. Other members of his family used variants of the royal badge, with the king's brother, the Earl of Lancaster, using a red rose. It is believed that the Red Rose of Lancaster was the House of Lancaster's badge during the Wars of the Roses. Evidence for this "wearing of the rose" includes land tenure records requiring service of a red rose yearly for a manor held directly from Henry VI of England. There are, however, doubts as to whether the red rose was actually an emblem taken up by the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses. Adrian Ailes has noted that the red rose “probably owes its popular usage to Henry VII quickly responding to the pre-existing Yorkist white rose in an age when signs and symbols could speak louder than words."
It also allowed Henry to invent and exploit his most famous heraldic device, the Tudor Rose, combining the so-called Lancastrian red rose and the White Rose of York. This floral union neatly symbolised the restoration of peace and harmony and his marriage in January 1486 to Elizabeth of York. It was a brilliant piece of simple heraldic propaganda.” The Tudor Rose is used as the plant badge of England (Scotland uses the thistle, Ireland uses the shamrock, and Wales uses the leek).
House of Lancaster
Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet
House of Valois
| Ruling house of the Kingdom of France
(disputed with the House of Valois)
House of Valois
House of Plantagenet
| Ruling house of the Duchy of Aquitaine|
| Ruling house of the Kingdom of England
House of York
House of York
| Ruling house of the Kingdom of England|
Anne Neville (11 June 1456 – 16 March 1485) was an English queen, the daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (the "Kingmaker"). She became Princess of Wales as the wife of Edward of Westminster and then Queen of England as the wife of King Richard III.
As a member of the powerful House of Neville, she played a critical part in the Wars of the Roses fought between the House of York and House of Lancaster for the English crown. Her father Warwick betrothed her as a girl to Edward, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI. The marriage was to seal an alliance to the House of Lancaster and halt the civil war between the two houses of Lancaster and York.After the death of Edward, the Dowager Princess of Wales married Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV and of George, Duke of Clarence, the husband of Anne Neville's older sister Isabel. Anne Neville became queen when Richard III ascended the throne in June 1483, following the declaration that Edward IV's children by Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate. Anne Neville predeceased her husband by five months, dying in March 1485. Her only child was Edward of Middleham, who predeceased her.Blanche of England
Blanche of England, LG (spring 1392 – 22 May 1409), also known as Blanche of Lancaster, was a member of the House of Lancaster, the daughter of King Henry IV of England by his first wife Mary de Bohun.Bonville–Courtenay feud
The Bonville–Courtenay feud of 1455 engendered a series of raids, sieges, and attacks between two major Devon families, the Courtenays and the Bonvilles, in south west England, in the mid-fifteenth century. One of many such aristocratic feuds of the time, it became entwined with national politics due to the political weight of the protagonists. The Courtenay earls of Devon were the traditional powerbrokers in the region, but by this time a local baronial family, the Bonvilles, had become more powerful and rivalled the Courtenays for royal patronage. Eventually this rivalry spilled over into physical violence, including social disorder, murder and siege.
The Bonville-Courtenay feud is often given as an example of the degree to which law and order and respect for the king had broken down in the provinces. As a result, modern historians have often considered it a cause of the later Wars of the Roses; and indeed, the course of the feud often closely followed the sectarian politics of the day. The feud is perhaps most well known for culminating in an armed encounter at Clyst (called the fight, or sometimes the battle, of Clyst), near Exeter, which resulted in loss of life.
The events at Clyst resulted in government intervention in the politics of the west country. This was unusual, as the government did not have a good track-record of settling local disputes among the nobility. However, it is likely that this was done for reasons of higher politics; William Bonville was by 1455 a Yorkist, and Richard, Duke of York had been made Lord Protector. Although in the short term it resulted in Thomas de Courtenay, Earl of Devon's incarceration, the Bonville–Courtenay feud did not come to an effective end until the protagonists were all killed in the early years of the civil wars.Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales
Edward of Westminster (13 October 1453 – 4 May 1471), also known as Edward of Lancaster, was the only son of King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou. He was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury, making him the only heir apparent to the English throne to die in battle.Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester
Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester (née Cobham; c.1400 – 7 July 1452), was a mistress and the second wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. A convicted sorceress, her imprisonment for treasonable necromancy in 1441 was a cause célèbre.Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter
Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter (27 June 1430 – September 1475) was a Lancastrian leader during the English Wars of the Roses. He was the only son of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, and his first wife, Lady Anne Stafford. His maternal grandparents were Edmund Stafford, 5th Earl of Stafford, and Anne of Gloucester.
He inherited the Dukedom of Exeter when his father died in 1447. A great-grandson of John of Gaunt, he might have had a plausible claim to the throne after the death of Henry VI. However, he was cruel, savagely temperamental and unpredictable, and so had little support. P.M. Kendall describes him as "dangerous", and was seen as "cruel and fierce" by contemporary Italian observers.Exeter was for a time Constable of the Tower of London, and afterwards the rack there came to be called "the Duke of Exeter's daughter".In 1447 he married Anne, the eight-year-old daughter of Richard of York. However, in the Wars of the Roses, he remained loyal to Henry VI against the Yorkists. He was imprisoned at Wallingford Castle when York briefly seized power after the First Battle of St Albans in 1455. In 1458 he participated in The Love Day, an attempt at reconciliation between the rival factions. He was a commander at the Lancastrian victories at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 and the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461, and in the decisive defeat at Towton in 1461. He fled to Scotland after the battle, and then joined Queen Margaret in her exile in France. He was attainted in 1461, and his estates were given to his wife, who separated from him in 1464. During the brief period of Henry VI's restoration he was able to regain many of his estates and posts.
At the Battle of Barnet, Exeter commanded the Lancastrian left flank. He was badly wounded and left for dead, but survived. Afterwards he was imprisoned, and Anne divorced him in 1472. He "volunteered" to serve on Edward's 1475 expedition to France. On the return voyage he fell overboard and drowned. Some say he was in fact thrown overboard at the king's command.Henry IV of England
Henry IV (15 April 1367 – 20 March 1413), also known as Henry Bolingbroke (), was King of England from 1399 to 1413, and asserted the claim of his grandfather, Edward III (himself a maternal grandson of Philip IV of France), to the Kingdom of France.
Henry was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire. His father, John of Gaunt (1340-1399) (created 1st Duke of Lancaster in right of his wife), was the fourth son (third to survive to adulthood) of King Edward III and enjoyed a position of considerable influence during much of the reign of his nephew King Richard II (1377-1399) whom Henry eventually deposed.
Henry's mother was Blanche of Lancaster, heiress to the great Lancashire estates of her father Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster (a descendant in the male line of King Henry III). Henry, having succeeded his father as 2nd Duke of Lancaster, when he became king thus founded the Lancaster branch of the Plantagenet English monarchy. He was also the first King of England since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue was English rather than French.Henry V of England
Henry V (16 September 1386 – 31 August 1422), also called Henry of Monmouth, was King of England from 1413 until his early death in 1422. He was the second English monarch of the House of Lancaster. Despite his relatively short reign, Henry's outstanding military successes in the Hundred Years' War against France, most notably in his famous victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, made England one of the strongest military powers in Europe. Immortalised in the plays of Shakespeare, Henry is known and celebrated as one of the great warrior kings of medieval England.
In his youth, during the reign of his father Henry IV, Henry gained military experience fighting the Welsh during the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr and against the powerful aristocratic Percy family of Northumberland at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Henry acquired an increasing share in England's government due to the king's declining health, but disagreements between father and son led to political conflict between the two. After his father's death in 1413, Henry assumed control of the country and asserted the pending English claim to the French throne.
In 1415, Henry embarked on war with France in the ongoing Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) between the two nations. His military successes culminated in his famous victory at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) and saw him come close to conquering France. Taking advantage of political divisions within France, he conquered large portions of the kingdom and Normandy was occupied by the English for the first time since 1345–1360. After months of negotiation with Charles VI of France, the Treaty of Troyes (1420) recognised Henry V as regent and heir apparent to the French throne and he was subsequently married to Charles's daughter, Catherine of Valois.
Following this arrangement, everything seemed to point to the formation of a union between the kingdoms of France and England, in the person of King Henry. His sudden and unexpected death in France two years later condemned England to the long and difficult minority of his infant son and successor, who reigned as Henry VI in England and Henry II in France.House of York
The House of York was a cadet branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet. Three of its members became Kings of England in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented Edward's senior line, being cognatic descendants of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward III's second surviving son. It is based on these descents that they claimed the English crown. Compared with the House of Lancaster, it had a senior claim to the throne of England according to cognatic primogeniture but junior claim according to the agnatic primogeniture. The reign of this dynasty ended with the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. It became extinct in the male line with the death of Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick in 1499.Jacquetta of Luxembourg
Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Countess Rivers (1415/1416 – 30 May 1472) was the eldest daughter of Peter I of Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol, Conversano and Brienne, and his wife Margaret of Baux (Margherita del Balzo of Andria). She was a prominent, though often overlooked, figure in the Wars of the Roses. Through her short-lived first marriage to the Duke of Bedford, brother of King Henry V, she was firmly allied to the House of Lancaster. However, following the emphatic Lancastrian defeat at the Battle of Towton, she and her second husband Richard Woodville sided closely with the House of York. Three years after the battle and the accession of Edward IV of England, Jacquetta's eldest daughter Elizabeth Woodville married him and became Queen consort of England. Jacquetta bore Woodville 14 children and stood trial on charges of witchcraft, for which she was exonerated.John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford
John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford KG (20 June 1389 – 14 September 1435) was a medieval English prince, general and statesman who commanded England's armies in France during a critical phase of the Hundred Years' War. Bedford was the third son of King Henry IV of England, brother to Henry V, and acted as regent of France for his nephew Henry VI. Despite his military and administrative talent, the situation in France had severely deteriorated by the time of his death.Bedford was a capable administrator and soldier, and his effective management of the war brought the English to the height of their power in France. However, difficulties mounted after the arrival of Joan of Arc, and his efforts were further thwarted by political divisions at home and the waverings of England's key ally, the duchy of Burgundy. In the last years of Bedford's life, the conflict devolved into a war of attrition, and he became increasingly unable to gather the necessary funds to prosecute the conflict.
Bedford died during the congress of Arras in 1435, just as Burgundy was preparing to abandon the English cause and conclude a separate peace with Charles VII of France.Katherine Swynford
Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster (born Katherine de Roet, c. 1350 – 10 May 1403), also spelled Katharine or Catherine, was the third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, a son of King Edward III. She had been the Duke's lover for many years before their marriage. The couple's children, born before the marriage, were later legitimated during the reign of the Duke's nephew, Richard II. When the Duke's son from his first marriage overthrew Richard, becoming Henry IV, he introduced a provision that neither they nor their descendants could ever claim the throne of England.
Their descendants were members of the Beaufort family, which played a major role in the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII, who became King of England in 1485, derived his claim to the throne from his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was a great-granddaughter of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. His legal claim to the throne, therefore, was through a cognatic and previously illegitimate line. Henry's first action was to declare himself king "by right of conquest" retroactively from 21 August 1485, the day before his army defeated King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.List of English monarchs
This list of kings and queens of the Kingdom of England begins with Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, one of the seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Heptarchy) which made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the Anglo-Saxons from about 886, and while he was not the first king to claim to rule all of the English, his rule represents the start of the first unbroken line of kings to rule the whole of England, the House of Wessex. The last monarch of a distinct kingdom of England was Anne, who became Queen of Great Britain when England merged with Scotland to form a union in 1707.
Arguments are made for a few different kings deemed to control enough of the Heptarchy to be deemed the first king of England. For example, Offa, king of Mercia, and Egbert, king of Wessex, are sometimes described as kings of England by popular writers, but it is no longer the majority view of historians that their wide dominions are part of a process leading to a unified England, as highlighted by historian Simon Keynes stating, for example, that "Offa was driven by a lust for power, not a vision of English unity; and what he left was a reputation, not a legacy." This refers to a period in the late 8th century when Offa achieved a dominance over many of the kingdoms of southern England, but this did not survive his death in 796.In 829 Egbert of Wessex conquered Mercia, but he soon lost control of it. It was not until the late 9th century that one kingdom, Wessex, had become the dominant Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Its king, Alfred the Great, was overlord of western Mercia and used the title King of the Angles and Saxons, but he never ruled eastern and northern England, which was then known as the Danelaw, having earlier been conquered by the Danes from Scandinavia. His son Edward the Elder conquered the eastern Danelaw, but Edward's son Æthelstan became the first king to rule the whole of England when he conquered Northumbria in 927, and he is regarded by some modern historians as the first true king of England. The title "King of the English" or Rex Anglorum in Latin, was first used to describe Æthelstan in one of his charters in 928.
The Principality of Wales was incorporated into the Kingdom of England under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284, and in 1301 King Edward I invested his eldest son, the future King Edward II, as Prince of Wales. Since that time, except for King Edward III, the eldest sons of all English monarchs have borne this title.
After the death of Queen Elizabeth I without issue, in 1603, King James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, joining the crowns of England and Scotland in personal union. By royal proclamation, James styled himself "King of Great Britain", but no such kingdom was actually created until 1707, when England and Scotland united to form the new Kingdom of Great Britain, with a single British parliament sitting at Westminster, during the reign of Queen Anne.Mary de Bohun
Mary de Bohun (c. 1368 – 4 June 1394) was the first wife of King Henry IV of England and the mother of King Henry V. Mary was never queen, as she died before her husband came to the throne.Philippa of Lancaster
Philippa of Lancaster (Portuguese: Filipa [fɨˈlipɐ]; 31 March 1360 – 19 July 1415) was Queen of Portugal from 1387 until 1415 by marriage to King John I. Born into the royal family of England, her marriage secured the Treaty of Windsor and produced several children who became known as the "Illustrious Generation" in Portugal.Rouen Cathedral
Rouen Cathedral (French: Cathédrale primatiale Notre-Dame de l'Assomption de Rouen) is a Roman Catholic church in Rouen, Normandy, France. It is the see of the Archbishop of Rouen, Primate of Normandy. The cathedral is in the Gothic architectural tradition.Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence
Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence (autumn 1387 – 22 March 1421) was a medieval English prince and soldier, the second son of King Henry IV of England and brother of Henry V. He acted as councillor and aide to both. After the death of his father he participated in the military campaigns of his brother in France during the Hundred Years' War.
Heir to the throne in the event of his brother's death, he was left in charge of English forces in France when Henry returned temporarily to England after his marriage to Catherine of Valois. He led the English in their disastrous defeat at the hands of a mainly Scottish force coming to the aid of the French, at the Battle of Baugé. In a rash attack he and his leading knights were surrounded and Thomas was killed.Tudor rose
The Tudor rose (sometimes called the Union rose) is the traditional floral heraldic emblem of England and takes its name and origins from the House of Tudor, which united the House of York and House of Lancaster. The Tudor rose consists of five white inner petals, representing the House of York, and five red outer petals to represent the House of Lancaster.Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of English civil wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, associated with a red rose, and the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose. Eventually, the wars eliminated the male lines of both families. The conflict lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, but there was related fighting before and after this period between the parties. The power struggle ignited around social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years' War, unfolding the structural problems of feudalism, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of King Henry VI which revived interest in Richard of York's claim to the throne. Historians disagree on which of these factors to identify as the main reason for the wars.With the Duke of York's death, the claim transferred to his heir, Edward, who later became the first Yorkist king of England, as Edward IV. He reigned from 1461, interrupted by a Lancastrian uprising and reinstallment of Henry VI in 1470 to 1471, until his sudden death in 1483. His son reigned for 78 days as Edward V, but was then deposed by his uncle, who became Richard III.
The final victory went to a relative and claimant of the Lancastrian party, Henry Tudor, son of Henry VI's half-brother Edmund Earl of Richmond, who defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. After assuming the throne as Henry VII, he married Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter and heir of Edward IV, thereby uniting the two claims. The House of Tudor ruled the Kingdom of England until 1603, with the death of Elizabeth I, granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
|Family Tree: House of Lancaster|
Royal houses of Europe