Henry_IV_of_England.pngHenry IV Biography

"King of England (1399–1413),first king of the House of Lancaster. He is the son of John of Gaunt. He was surnamed Bolingbroke from his birthplace in Lincolnshire. In 1397 he supported Richard II against the Duke of Gloucester, and was created Duke of Hereford, but was banished in 1398. After landing at Ravenspur, Yorkshire, Henry induced Richard, now deserted, to abdicate in his favor. During his reign, rebellion and lawlessness were rife, and he was constantly hampered by lack of money. Under Owen Glendower the Welsh maintained their independence, and Henry's attack on Scotland in 1400 ended in his defeat. Henry Percy (Hotspur) and his house then joined with the Scots and the Welsh against him, but they were defeated at Shrewsbury (1403). He was a chronic invalid in his later years."


His death in 1413 (March) was caused by an illness that hit him full throttle and skin disease slowed him for a number of years in his later life. No one knows the exact illness that struck the old man dead, but it could have anywhere from Epilepsy or some other cardiovascular disease. syphilis, psoriasis,

Also the Earl of Derbey (or Derby) and the Duke of Hereford, Henry Bolingbroke (also known as Henry of Lancaster) usurped the English crown from Richard II, beginning the Lancastrian dynasty and planting the seeds of the Wars of the Roses.
King Edward III had fathered many sons; the oldest, Edward, the Black Prince, predeceased the old king, but not before he himself had a son: Richard. When Edward III died, the crown passed to Richard when he was only 10 years old. Another of the late king's sons, John of Gaunt, served as regent to young Richard. Henry was John of Gaunt's son.
When Gaunt left for an extended expedition to Spain in 1386, Henry, now about 20, became one of five leading opponents to the crown known as the "lords appellant." Together they successfully made an "appeal of treason" to outlaw those closest to Richard. A political struggle ensued for about three years, at which point Richard began to regain some of his autonomy; but the return of John of Gaunt triggered a reconciliation.
Henry then went crusading in Lithuania and Prussia, during which time his father died and Richard, still resentful of the appellants, seized the Lancastrian estates that were rightfully Henry's. Henry returned to England to take his lands through force of arms. Richard was in Ireland at the time, and as Henry
proceeded from Yorkshire to London he attracted to his cause many powerful magnates, who were concerned that their rights of inheritance might be endangered as Henry's had. By the time Richard returned to London he had no support left, and he abdicated; Henry was subsequently declared king by Parliament.
But although Henry had conducted himself fairly honorably, he was considered a usurper, and his reign was plagued with conflict and rebellion. Many of the magnates who had supported him in defeating Richard were more interested in building their own power bases than in helping the crown. In January of 1400, when Richard was still alive, Henry quashed a conspiracy of the deposed king's supporters.
Later that year, Owen Glendower started a rebellion against English rule in Wales, which Henry was unable to quell with any real success (although his son Henry V had better luck). Glendower allied with the powerful Percy family, encouraging more English resistance to Henry's rule. The Welsh problem persisted even after Henry's forces killed Glendower in battle in 1403; the French aided Welsh rebels in 1405 and 1406. And Henry also had to contend with intermittent conflict at home and border troubles with the Scots.
Henry's health began to deteriorate, and he was accused of mismanaging the funds he received in the form of parliamentary grants in order to finance his military expeditions. He negotiated an alliance with the French who were waging war against the Burgundians, and it was at this tense stage in his difficult reign that he became incapacitated in late 1412, dying several months later.

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Henry IV

Richard II had been deposed because he had been arbitrary, but also because he ran a narrow government rather than a broadly based one, because he won no profitable and inspiring victories, and because he taxed the country heavily.
Under Henry IV, England soon found itself with another king who ruled mainly through a small circle of friends, who launched no popular foreign wars, and who taxed England very heavily, without even being able to keep order in the kingdom.
In the years between 1399 and 1406, Henry came close to losing his throne several times.
Henry's basic problem was his doubtful claim to the throne. Henry had returned to England to vindicate his hereditary right to the duchy of Lancaster, and most of his support had been support for that popular cause. When he then claimed to be the true king of England, he seemed to contradicting the hereditary principle that he had earlier relied on.
In the parliament of 1399, several arguments were advanced to justify the usurpation
  • First was the supposedly willing abdication of Richard in Henry's favor (even at the time people doubted this).
  • Second was Richard's unsuitability. A bill was read in parliament that enumerated the old king's crimes and follies and justified his repudiation.
  • Third was Henry's right of conquest, which revealed the divine will.
  • Finally there a hoked-up hereditary argument, that the first Earl of Lancaster, supposedly deformed, had been Edward I's elder brother and had been unfairly excluded from the throne.
Most of these were weak arguments. So at the very beginning of the reign, there was room for doubt and even opposition. In 1400, an attempt by friends of Richard to restore him led to their deaths and his murder in captivity. Even after this, however, there was a strain of popular pro-Richard feeling, promoted by Franciscan friars.
There was another claim to the throne that was more dangerous to Henry. He himself was the heir male of Edward III, the senior man whose descent from that king was solely in the male line. By normal English feudal custom, however, there was an heir general, whose descent through a senior line would have been enough in other circumstances to claim any lordship. The heir general was Edmund, Earl of March, grandson through his mother of Lionel, duke of Clarence, an elder brother of John of Gaunt. In 1399 he was only eight years old. But he remained to make the Lancastrian line uneasy; and there was also his uncle, Edmund Mortimer, an adult whose claim might also be preferred to Henry's.
In the circumstances, Henry was doomed to be a suspicious, insecure king.
His other problems:
  • Both the Scots and the French took advantage of the turmoil in England, and forced Henry to take expensive defensive measures.
  • Henry was strapped for money. Rather than cutting taxes, he was forced to ask for new ones.
  • Finally, he was compelled, especially after the plot of 1400, to run his government on much the same lines as his predecessor had. He ruled through a small council consisting of lesser men wholly dependent on him -- administrators who had got their experience in the Duchy of Lancaster.
England once again had a cliquish government of royal favorites. And thus England was quickly dissatisfied with the new king.
Dissatisfaction gave rebels against Henry an unusual latitude.
The first of the important revolts, that of Owain Glyndwr (Owen Glendower in Shakespeare), blew up seemingly out of nowhere. Owain Glyndwr was a Welsh lord of northern Wales of princely descent. To his ancestors in previous centuries, he might well have seemed almost English. But there was a great deal of dissatisfaction simmering under the surface. When Lord Grey of Ruthin, a Welsh marcher lord and a member of Henry IV's council, exploited his royal connections to harass Glyndwr, Glyndwr and his relatives (one of whom had the very English name of Philip Hanmer), saw or at least presented their grievance as a matter of English tyranny in Wales.
This struck a chord all through Wales, and soon a significant part of the country was united behind Glyndwr, who took the title of Prince of Wales. The Glyndwr revolt was successful for some years. After failing to get an early pardon and settlement from Henry IV, Glyndwr went all out for Welsh independence. He attempted a grand Celtic alliance with the Irish chiefs and the King of Scotland, and achieved one with France (which sent a small expedition to Wales).
In 1404, he called the first and only Welsh parliament, in an attempt to solidify a Welsh political community behind him.
One of the reasons for his amazing success record was Glyndwr's ability to exploit weak points in Henry's political position.
Early on, in 1402, Glyndwr captured Edmund Mortimer, the uncle of the young Earl of March. Henry, who had just bought Ruthin of Grey out of Welsh captivity, refused to pay more more money to Glyndwr to ransom this potential rival. This looked bad, especially to Mortimer. He made common cause with his captor and ended up marrying his daughter. Thus the Welsh national revolt paradoxically gained the color of an English legitimist revolt.
In 1403 the Percies turned on Henry. You will recall that their power as wardens of the northern marches had made them the key element in Henry's coup. Since 1399, their power had only increased. But they -- Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland and his impetuous and warlike son, Henry Hotspur, were unhappy with King Henry because he didn't give them even more.
They decided that if they had made Henry, king they could unmake him.
In the summer of 1403, Harry (Hotspur) raised a revolt on the Welsh border, and his father began collecting forces in the north. They claimed that the king had defrauded the Earl of March of his inheritance, and his rule since had seen ruinous taxation.
The king moved quickly and caught Hotspur at Shrewsbury, where in a hard- fought battle, the rebels were defeated. Hotspur was killed in the battle and his uncle executed for treason afterwords.
Surprisingly, Hotspur's father, the earl of Northumberland, was not punished for his part in the revolt. He was let off on the grounds that he had not actually fought the king. His pardon was a miscalculation on the king's part.
In 1405, the earl was in communication with Glyndwr and Mortimer. They struck a deal that looks like purest fantasy. England and Wales were to be divided into three parts. Glyndwr was to rule Wales and the border counties; the Percies were to get the north country and most of the midlands and East Anglia. Mortimer, a man with royal ancestry but no independent forces, was to have the remainder of the south and east.
If the settlement was fantastic, the alliance was potentially formidable, since other peers and the French and Scots were willing to support it.
But again, the Percies' ambitions were greater than their forces. The earl of Westmoreland, a member of the Neville clan, the Percies' rivals in the north, dispersed their forces. Percy himself was forced to flee to Scotland.
zpage340.gifAfter the second Percy revolt, Henry was able to breath just a little bit easier. Percy, after some years in exile invaded England from Scotland in 1408, but this time he was killed, which ended one threat to the Lancastrian dynasty. Glyndwr was slowly beaten back into the mountains, and after 1409, he was a fugitive rather than a dangerous foe.
Earlier, in 1406, two events abroad distracted Henry's foreign enemies.
  • Prince James of Scotland, the heir to the throne, was captured at sea by the English. His aged father died soon after. Having the king of Scotland in the Tower of London settled the northern border down, especially since the English also held the heir of the Scottish regent.
  • he same time the French princes began fighting each other. The king of France, Charles VI, had become insane, and his uncles and cousins competed to control his government. France lost the ability to take advantage of English instability. Rather, France was now the more unstable, and the English found ways to take advantage of that.
Nevertheless, Henry IV never had a really easy time of it. There were several reasons for this. As Maurice Keen has said, "in an age when so much revolved about questions of inheritance, people had to be troubled by what had happened in 1399." There were plots in favor of the Earl of March independent of the Percies, and rumors that Richard II was still alive.
Besides such doubts, there was the simple dissatisfaction and the disappointment in Henry's rule that I refereed to before.
This manifested itself in a most interesting way, in parliamentary criticism of the king's policies. In was in this period that Parliament and the commons within parliament were in the strongest position vis-a-vis a king that they ever were in the Middle Ages. Everyone had hoped that Henry would "live of his own," that is, run the government on his hereditary revenues and the customary royal export taxes, without further extraordinary grants from parliament. This had proved impossible.
Eventually he went to parliament to ask for subsidies. Right from the beginning of the reign, the commons were stubborn, and throughout the reign they used their leverage to get petitions granted by the king, to have auditors appointed to supervise royal spending, and to attempt to limit royal pensions and largess.
Finally the commons did not hesitate to voice some opinions on matters of high politics. The pardon of the earl of Northumberland in 1403 was partly a matter of pressure from the commons.
Throughout the fourteenth century, the importance of parliament as a forum where the most important business of the realm was done had grown. Now, in the first decade of the fifteenth century, it had achieved some independent power in the decision-making process. The prominence of the commons, which claimed for the first time the sole right to introduce money bills, was greater than ever.
This prominence was not, however, to be permanent. As we shall see, when political rivalries between the great nobles got nasty, the commons would back away from state affairs as too dangerous to meddle in.
Henry IV's final tribulation was to be his own son. The young Henry of Monmouth, Prince of Wales, was not the playboy of Shakespeare's plays. He acquired such a following that he aroused the jealousy of his father and his brother Thomas.
In 1411, there was a serious division in the government. The two competing French factions were each bidding for English support. The Prince of Wales favored the duke of Burgundy, who controlled Flanders and thus England's chief trading partners. Another party, including Thomas, supported Burgundy's rivals, the Armangacs. In 1411 an English force allied with Burgundy entered Paris. But before the campaign was over, Thomas had got his father to fire the Prince of Wales from the council and make a new alliance with the Armangacs, so that he, Thomas, could take his own expedition to France.
The dismissal of the Prince of Wales was a scandal. The House of Commons gave the prince a vote of thanks, which was something of rebuke to the king. The whole matter emphasized the continuing unpopularity of Henry IV. When King Henry died in 1413, it must have been a relief to many of his subjects.

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