Henry IV of England

Henry IV
By the Grace of God, King of England
and France and Lord of Ireland
Reign September 30, 1399 - March 20, 1413
Coronation October 13, 1399
Queen Mary de Bohun (c. 1369-1394)
Joanna of Navarre (c. 1370-1437)
Issue Henry V (1387-1422)
John, Duke of Bedford
(1389-1435)
Thomas, Duke of Clarence
(1388-1421)
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
(1390-1447)
Royal House Lancaster
Father John of Gaunt, 1st Duke
of Lancaster (1340-1399)
Mother Blanche of Lancaster
(c. 1341-1369)
Born April 3, 1367
Bolingbroke Castle
Died March 20, 1413
Westminster
Buried Cantrbury Cathedral
English Royalty
House of Lancaster

Henry IV
Children
   Henry V
   John, Duke of Bedford
   Thomas, Duke of Clarence
   Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
Henry V
Children
   Henry VI
Henry VI
Children
   Edward, Prince of Wales

Henry IV (April 3, 1367 – March 20, 1413) was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence the other name by which he was known, "Henry of Bolingbroke". His father, John of Gaunt, was the third and oldest surviving son of King Edward III of England, and enjoyed a position of considerable influence during much of the reign of Richard II. Henry, however, had a rather more equivocal relationship with Richard: they were first cousins and childhood playmates, and were admitted together to the Order of the Garter in 1377, but Henry participated in the Lords Appellant's rebellion against the king in 1387. After regaining power, Richard did not punish Henry (many of the other rebellious barons were executed or exiled), and in fact elevated him from earl of Derby to duke of Hereford. The relationship between Henry and the king reached a second crisis in 1398, when Richard banished Henry from the kingdom for ten years -- with John of Gaunt's approval -- to avoid a blood feud between Henry of Bolingbroke and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk (who was exiled for life).

The following year, however, John of Gaunt died, and without explanation, Richard cancelled the legal documents that would have allowed Henry to inherit Gaunt's land automatically -- instead, Henry would be required to ask for the lands from Richard. After some hesitation, Henry met with the exiled Thomas Arundel, former (and future) Archbishop of Canterbury, who had lost his position because of his involvement with the Lords Appellant, and Henry and Arundel returned to England while Richard was on a military campaign in Ireland. With Arundel as his advisor, Henry Bolingbroke began a military campaign, confiscating land from those who opposed him and ordering his soldiers to destroy much of Cheshire. Quickly, Henry gained enough power and support to have himself declared King Henry IV, imprisoning King Richard (who died in prison under mysterious circumstances) and by-passing Richard's heir-presumptive Edmund de Mortimer. Henry's coronation, on October 13, 1399, is notable as the first time following the Norman Conquest that the monarch made an address in English. Henry consulted with Parliament frequently, but was sometimes at odds with them, especially over ecclesiastical matters. On Arundel's advice, Henry was the first English king to allow the burning of heretics, mainly to suppress the Lollard movement.

Reign

Dealing with Richard

His first problem was what to do with the deposed Richard, and after an early assassination plot was foiled, he probably ordered his death by starvation in early 1400, although there is no evidence for this. Richard's body was put on public display in the old St Paul's Cathedral to show his supporters that he was dead.

Rebellions

Henry spent much of his reign defending himself against plots, rebellions and assassination attempts.

Rebellions continued throughout the first ten years of Henry’s reign, including the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr, who declared himself Prince of Wales in 1400, and the rebellion of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland. The king's success in putting down these rebellions was due partly to the military ability of his eldest son, Henry, who would later become king, though the son (who had maintained a close relationship with Richard II) managed to seize much effective power from his father in 1410.

Henry IVKing of England, Lord of Ireland.
Henry IV
King of England, Lord of Ireland.

Foreign relations

In 1406, English pirates captured the future James I of Scotland off the coast of Flamborough Head as he was going to France. James remained a prisoner of Henry for the rest of Henry's reign.

Final illness and death

The later years of Henry's reign were marked by serious health problems. He had some sort of disfiguring skin disease, and more seriously suffered acute attacks of some grave illness in June 1405, April 1406, June 1408, during the winter of 1408–09, December 1412, and then finally a fatal bout in March 1413. Medical historians have long debated the nature of this affliction or afflictions. The skin disease might have been leprosy (which in any case didn't mean precisely the same thing as it does to modern medicine), perhaps psoriasis, a symptom of syphilis, or some other disease. The acute attacks have been given a wide range of explanations, from epilepsy to some form of cardiovascular disease. (Peter McNiven, "The Problem of Henry IV's Health, 1405–1413", English Historical Review, 100 (1985), pp 747–772)

It is said in Holinshed (and taken up in Shakespeare's play) that it was predicted to Henry he would die in Jerusalem. Henry took this to mean that he would die on crusade, but in fact it meant that, in 1413, he died in the Jerusalem Chamber in the house of the Abbot of Westminster.

Unusually for a king of England, he was buried not at Westminster Abbey but at Canterbury Cathedral, in the Corona as near to the shrine of Thomas Becket as possible, that cult then being at its height, as evidenced by the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, who was active at the court of Richard and Henry. (Henry is the only king to be buried at the cathedral, although his uncle the Black Prince is buried on the opposite, south side of the Corona, also as near the shrine as possible.) He was given an alabaster effigy, alabaster being a valuable English export in the 15th century. His body was well embalmed, as a Victorian exhumation some centuries later established (ANTIQUARY s9-IX (228): 369. (1902)).

Marriage and issue

In 1380, 19 years before his accession, Henry married Mary de Bohun; they had two daughters and four sons, one of whom was the future Henry V of England. In 1406, one of their daughters, Philippa, married Eric of Pomerania, king of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Mary died in 1394, and in 1403 Henry married Joanna of Navarre, the daughter of Charles d'Evreux, King of Navarre. She was the widow of John IV of Brittany, with whom she had four daughters and four sons, but she and Henry had no children. The fact that in 1399 Henry had four sons from his first marriage was undoubtedly a clinching factor in his acceptance onto the throne. By contrast, Richard II had no children, and Richard's heir-apparent Mortimer was only seven years old.

William Shakespeare

Almost two hundred years after his death, Henry became the subject of two plays (or one two-part play) by William Shakespeare. See Henry IV part 1 and Henry IV, part 2.

References

  • Peter McNiven, "The Problem of Henry IV's Health, 1405–1413", English Historical Review, 100 (1985), pp 747–772
Preceded by:
Richard II
King of England
1399–1413
Succeeded by:
Henry V
Lord of Ireland
1399–1413
English claimant of France
1399–1413

Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of Hereford
1397–1399
Succeeded by:
Merged in Crown
Preceded by:
John of Gaunt
Duke of Lancaster
1399
Preceded by:
Humphrey de Bohun
Earl of Northampton
1384–1399
Succeeded by:
Anne Plantagenet

Preceded by:
John of Gaunt
Lord High Steward
1399
Succeeded by:
Thomas of Lancaster

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