House of Lancaster
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of
Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of
the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales
during the 15th century. The family provided England with three kings.
Henry IV of England, ruled 1399–1413
Henry V of England, ruled 1413–1422
Henry VI of England and (II of)France, ruled 1422–1461 and 1470–1471
The House descended from Edward III's 3rd surviving son, John of
Gaunt. Gaunt did not receive a large inheritance, so he made his fortune
through marriage to the heiress Blanche of Lancaster, who brought with
her the considerable lands of the Earls of Leicester and Lancaster,
making him the wealthiest landowner in England after the King. Created
"Duke of Lancaster" by his nephew Richard II, Gaunt enjoyed great
political influence during his lifetime. Upon his death in 1399,
however, his lands were confiscated.
Gaunt's exiled son and heir Henry of Bolingbroke returned home the same
year with an army to reclaim the Lancaster estates, but ended riding a
tide of popular opposition to Richard II that saw him take control of
the Kingdom. Richard II was deposed and died in captivity, and
Bolingbroke was declared King Henry IV of England. In doing so he
bypassed the descendants of Edward III's second surviving son, Lionel of
Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, who eventually became the rival House of
Henry IV was succeeded by his son Henry V, and eventually by his
grandson Henry VI in 1422.
Claim to France
Henry V restated Edward III's earlier claim to the throne of France
and resumed the Hundred Years War. He defeated the French in several
battles, most notably in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and later
allied himself with Burgundy, a cadet line of the Royal House of Valois.
In 1420, the Duke of Burgundy negotiated the Treaty of Troyes between
Henry and Charles VI of France, under which Henry married Charles'
daughter Catherine, assumed the regency of France and would succeed to
the throne on Charles' death. The treaty also effectively disinherited
Charles' son, the Dauphin Charles.
However, Henry V predeceased Charles VI, on whose death the French crown
passed to his grandson, Henry VI, the infant son of Henry V and
Catherine of France, in whose name regents reigned in England and
Henry's claim according to the Treaty of Troyes was only recognised in
those parts of France controlled by the English and their allies, while
the territory south of the river Loire recognised the Dauphin Charles as
King Charles VII. Charles at first did little to extend his rule beyond
this territory. The intervention of Joan of Arc, culminating in Charles'
royal consecration at Reims in 1429, reinvigorated the Valois' will to
assert their rule to the whole of France. The English regents in Paris
reacted by having Henry VI formally crowned King of France in 1431.
However, the Valois' renewed efforts, including their military reforms,
together with the increasing weakness of the English monarchy, which was
beset by internal strife among the nobles, resulted in the House of
Lancaster losing all French possessions (except Calais) in 1453,
effectively putting an end to the Lancastrian Kingdom of France.
However, English monarchs retained their claim to France until 1801.
War of the Roses
Henry VI was a weak monarch who suffered from periods of mental
illness. In 1461, he was usurped and imprisoned by his cousin Edward of
York, who proclaimed himself Edward IV of England.
Henry VI was able to fight back and re-established his rule in 1470, but
1 year later was forced from the throne once again by Edward IV. He died
in captivity in 1471, 14 days after his son and heir, Edward of
Westminster, died at the Battle of Tewkesbury, leaving no legitimate
heir of John of Gaunt.
Both houses used a Rose emblem, a Red Rose for Lancaster and White Rose
for York, so the conflict between the two houses was dubbed the "Wars of
the Roses" by historians.
Amongst the most ardent supporters of the House of Lancaster were
the Beaufort family, descended from John of Gaunt and his mistress
Katherine Swynford. When Gaunt and Swynford married in 1396 (some 25
years after the birth of their first child), the church rewarded them by
legitimising their offspring through a papal bull. This was enshrined in
an act of parliament the following year, but opinions were divided on
whether the Beauforts could have any claim on the English throne.
With the House of Lancaster extinct, the relatively unknown Henry Tudor
proclaimed himself the Lancastrian heir from his exile in Brittany,
claiming descent through his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, to John of
Gaunt. In 1485, Tudor was able to use the unpopularity of the final
Yorkist Richard III to take the crown as Henry VII of England. This was
not to be a revival of the House of Lancaster, though, as Henry married
the Yorkist heiress Elizabeth of York and founded a dynasty of dual
Lancastrian and Yorkist descent, the House of Tudor. Eventually the
House Of Tudor evolved into England's golden age.
The Lancaster inheritance, known as the Duchy of Lancaster, has
remained in English and then British Royal ownership, with monarchs
bearing the title Duke of Lancaster. In 2007, the Duchy was valued at
£397 million pounds, and the profits are the primary source of the
The rivalry between Lancaster and York, in the form of the counties of
Lancashire and Yorkshire, has continued into the present day, on a
friendlier basis. For example, the annual sporting competition between
Lancaster University and the University of York is called the Roses