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Henry Beaufort

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His Eminence
 Henry Beaufort
Cardinal Bishop of Winchester
Province Canterbury
See Winchester
Enthroned 1404
Reign ended 1447
Predecessor William of Wykeham
Successor William Waynflete
Consecration 14 July 1398
Created Cardinal 24 May 1426
Rank Cardinal priest of S. Eusebio
Other Lord Chancellor of England 1403-05, 1413-17 and 1424-26; Bishop of Lincoln 1398-1405; Chancellor of the University of Oxford 1397-1399; Dean of Wells 1397-1398
Personal details
Born circa 1375
Chateau de Beaufort, Anjou, France
Died 11 April 1447
Wolvesey Castle, Winchester, Hampshire, England
Buried Winchester Cathedral
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Parents John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford

Henry Beaufort (c. 1375 – 11 April 1447) was a medieval English clergyman and Bishop of Winchester,[1] an anomaly in being both a bishop and a member of the royal house of Plantagenet.[2][3]


The second son of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford, Beaufort was born in Anjou, an English domain in France, in about 1374 and educated for a career in the Church. Subsequently their cousin Richard II of England declared he and his two brothers and one sister legitimate about 1390. On 1 September 1396, Pope Boniface IX declared his parents married and legitimated their offspring. Parliament issued letters patent on 9 February 1397/98 legitimating the three sons of John of Gaunt and Kathering Swynford.[4] On 27 February 1398 he was nominated Bishop of Lincoln and on 14 July 1398 he was consecrated.[5] When his half-brother deposed Richard and took the throne as Henry IV of England, he made Bishop Beaufort Lord Chancellor of England in 1403.[6] Beaufort resigned that position in 1404 when he was appointed Bishop of Winchester on 19 November.[7]

Between 1411 and 1413 Bishop Beaufort was in political disgrace for siding with his nephew, the Prince of Wales, against the King, but when King Henry IV died and the Prince became Henry V of England, he made his uncle Chancellor again in 1413; however, Beaufort resigned the position in 1417.[6] Pope Martin V offered the Bishop a cardinal's hat, but King Henry V would not let him accept it. Henry V died in 1422, shortly after making himself heir to France by marrying Charles VI's daughter, and their infant son Henry VI of England. Bishop Beaufort and the child king's other uncles formed the Regency Government of England 1422-1437, and in 1424 Beaufort became Chancellor once more, but was forced to resign again in 1426[6] because of disputes with the King's other uncles.

The Pope finally made him a Cardinal in 1426,[6] and in 1427 made him Papal Legate for Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia. In this position, he led forces against the Hussites, facing a rout at Tachov on 4 August 1427.[8] Beaufort continued to be active in English politics for years, fighting with the other powerful advisors to the King and always managing to extricate himself from the snares they set for him. He died on 11 April 1447[7] and was laid to rest in a tomb in Winchester Cathedral. He suffered from delirium on his deathbed and, as he hallucinated, according to legend he offered Death the whole treasury of England in return for living a while longer.

Affair and daughter

During his youth, most likely while studying at Cambridge University, Henry had an affair with, some believe, Alice Fitzalan (1378–1415), the daughter of Richard Fitzalan and Elizabeth de Bohun, though there is no real evidence to support this. He fathered an illegitimate daughter, Jane Beaufort, in 1402. Both Jane and her husband Sir Edward Stradling, were named in Cardinal Beaufort's will. Their marriage about 1423 brought Sir Edward into the political orbit of his shrewd and assertive father-in-law, to whom he may have owed his appointment as chamberlain of South Wales in December 1423, a position he held until March 1437.[9] The idea of Jane's mother being Alice Fitzalan is possibly a legend of Tudor-era descendants of Sir Edward and Jane Stradling. There is no late-14th/early-15th century documentation to support this affair at all, and the surviving documentation entirely discounts it. However, a blood connection to Cardinal Beaufort would itself be prestigious, regardless of the mother or her marital status. Illegitimacy has never been viewed as detrimental in Wales.


  1. Wikisource-logo.svg "Henry Beaufort Plantagenet". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  2. Joel Thomas Rosenthal, "The Training of an Elite Group: English Bishops in the Fifteenth Century" Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 60.5 (1970:1-54) p. 7.
  3. Miranda, Salvador. "Henry Beaufort". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  4. Cockayne Complete Peerage Volume XII pp. 40–41
  5. Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 236
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 85
  7. 7.0 7.1 Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 258
  8. Harriss, G. L. (1987). "Henry Beaufort, 'Cardinal of England'". Proceedings of the 1986 Harlaxton Symposium: England in the Fifteenth Century (Woodbridge: Paul Watkins Publishing): 123-4. 
  9. R. A. Griffiths, Conquerors and Conquered in Medieval Wales, 1994

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