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John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, KG (1340 – 1399)


Knights of the Middle Ages I 1146-1492

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John of Gaunt, Shakespeare’s ‘time honoured Lancaster’, was the fourth son of King Edward III. Gaunt is an anglicized version of his birthplace of Ghent the accepted form of his name arising from its use in Shakespeare’s Richard II. he exercised a moderating influence in the political and constitutional struggles of the reign of his nephew Richard II. He was the immediate ancestor of the three 15th-century Lancastrian monarchs, Henry IV, V, and VI. Through his first wife Blanche he acquired the duchy of Lancaster and the vast Lancastrian estates in England and Wales. He fought in the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453) against France. He formed an alliance with John Wycliffe. Despite his unpopularity, he maintained his position when his nephew, Richard II aged 10, acceded in 1377. In 1386 John departed for Spain to pursue his claim to the kingship of Castile and Leon but it was a military failure. Meanwhile, in England, war had nearly broken out between the followers of King Richard II and the followers of Gloucester. John returned in 1389 and resumed his role as peacemaker. His wife Constance died in 1394, and two years later he married his mistress, Catherine Swynford. In 1397 he obtained legitimization of the four children born to her before their marriage. This family, the Beauforts, played an important part in 15th-century politics. When John died in 1399, Richard II confiscated the Lancastrian estates, thereby preventing them from passing to John’s son, Henry Bolingbroke. Henry then deposed Richard and in September 1399 ascended the throne as King Henry IV.

Additional information

Dimensions 37 × 54 cm