Henry IV of England

Henry IV of England

Henry IV of England ruled as king from 1399 to 1413 CE. Known as Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster before he became king, Henry clashed with his cousin Richard II of England (r. 1377-1399 CE) and was exiled in 1397 CE. Returning to England with a small army in the summer of 1399 CE, Henry made himself king as Richard's support collapsed. Kicking off his reign with the murder of his predecessor, Henry would face major rebellions in both England and Wales, and he frequently clashed with Parliament, particularly the 'Long Parliament' of 1406 CE. Henry was the first of the kings from the House of Lancaster and he was succeeded by his son Henry V of England (r. 1413-1422 CE).

Birth & Family

Henry was born in April 1366 CE at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, the son of John of Gaunt (l. 1340-1399 CE), himself the son of Edward III of England (r. 1327-1377 CE) and so a claimant for the throne of Richard II (who was the grandson of Edward III and the son of Edward the Black Prince, l. 1330-1376 CE). John was a powerful but unpopular figure who had been passed over for the throne because he had supported corrupt nobles and officials identified by Parliament. Henry Bolingbroke's mother was Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of the Duke of Lancaster. The young nobleman was given the title Earl of Derby, the first of many he would acquire over his career.

Henry was one of the Lords Appellant who called the 'Merciless Parliament' to take power away from Richard II.

Henry married Mary of Bohun (b. c. 1369 CE) on 5 February 1381 CE, but she died during childbirth in 1394 CE. The couple's most famous son was Henry, future Henry V, born on 16 September 1387 CE. Henry, now king, married again on 7 February 1403 CE, this time to Joan of Navarre (l. 1370-1437 CE). Henry had a typical noble upbringing where he showed a flair for the medieval tournament, courage, piety, and an interest in literature. The young Henry had his share of adventure when he twice went to fight pagans in Lithuania as part of the long-running Northern Crusades (12-15th century CE) alongside Teutonic Knights. There would also be a pilgrimage to Jerusalem before he concentrated on his ambitions in England.

Rivalry with Richard II

Henry was a capable military leader, had a forceful personality & was of royal blood himself.

Initially, it seemed Henry had survived the king's purge, but a quarrel between Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk - the two surviving Lords Appellant, which was engineered by Richard, resulted in the two dukes facing each other in a medieval joust in Coventry in September 1398 CE. With a huge crowd waiting expectantly to witness the finale of an event rich in pageantry, the king stepped forward and forbade the two to fight. Richard then exiled Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke for ten years. Henry went off to Paris but he would be back in England far sooner than Richard had hoped.

On 3 February 1399 CE John of Gaunt died and so Henry became the Duke of Lancaster. Henry now had an excuse to return to England - he could claim he wanted back what was rightfully his, the Lancaster family's lands which Richard had taken for himself. The king had also extended Henry's exile from 10 years to life. As it turned out, though, Henry would be back not only to claim his estates but also a much bigger prize.

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Seizure of the Throne

Henry set off from Boulogne and landed at Spurn Head northeast England with a small army, perhaps only 300 men, and then marched south to press his claim in June-July 1399 CE. The timing of the invasion was excellent because Richard was then away in Ireland. Without their king, the royalist support faded away, perhaps, too, because Richard had never been all that popular with his odd choice of court companions and distinct lack of verve in taking the war to the French during the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453 CE).

The war with the French had started fantastically well for England but by Richard's reign, Charles V of France, aka Charles the Wise (r. 1364-1380 CE), had ensured that the only lands left in France belonging to the English Crown were Calais and a thin slice of Gascony. French pirates were running riot in the English Channel and many English barons wanted a more direct war than the fizzled-out one they were currently witnessing. Richard failed in two of the most important areas a medieval king was expected to do well: win military victories to bring in money and lands, and produce a male heir. When these failures were added to his dictatorial approach to government, it becomes clearer why the barons entertained the idea of a change in ruler, especially as Henry was a capable military leader, had a forceful personality and was of royal blood himself.

In August 1399 CE Richard was back from Ireland and enticed out of hiding in Conwy Castle in Wales, only to be then imprisoned in the Tower of London. On 29 September Henry obliged Richard to sign his own abdication. On 30 September, Parliament officially nominated Henry as Richard's successor, and so Henry Bolingbroke was crowned Henry IV of England on 13 October 1399 CE in a lavish ceremony at Westminster Abbey. In a curious incident, the king dropped the gold coin that newly-crowned monarchs were supposed to ceremoniously offer to God. The coin rolled away and was never seen again, an ill omen indeed. To signal the beginning of a new era, on the eve of his coronation Henry had created a new group of medieval knights called the Knights of Bath (what would become much later the chivalric Order of Bath). Henry, who himself took a bath every week - an unusual frequency for the Middle Ages - created 46 such knights and they all had to have a bath as a mark of purification and be blessed by a priest before they were invested.

On 14 February 1400 CE the ex-king was murdered in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, almost certainly because there had been some, albeit minor, efforts by those loyal to Richard to set him back on the throne. Henry even put the body of Richard on public display in the Tower of London in case any would-be rebels thought he might still be alive and ready to head a coup. The Plantagenets who had ruled England since Henry II of England (r. 1154-1189 CE) were now replaced by the House of Lancaster.

Rebellion

Henry faced an immediate crisis in September 1400 CE in Wales where Owain Glyn Dwr (b. 1359 CE) had declared himself the Prince of Wales. Even more ominously, the Welshman had the support of The Earl of March, whose son Edmund Mortimer, as the great-great-grandson of Edward III, was a possible claimant to Henry's throne. Also supporting the Welsh were the French taking, as usual, any opportunity to destabilise the English throne. Meanwhile, English barons were plotting a rebellion of their own in England. The group of discontents included such notable names as the Earl of Worcester, the Earl of Northumberland, and the celebrated medieval knight Sir Henry 'Hotspur' Percy (1364-1403 CE).

Henry first turned to the English problem and met in battle the rebellious barons on 21 July 1403 CE at the Battle of Shrewsbury. The king's army was victorious, Henry fought with courage, Sir Percy was killed and Worcester executed. The Earl of Northumberland, Earl of March, and other rebel barons would not give up so easily and they changed strategy and began to conspire with the Archbishop Scrope of York and Owain Glyn Dwr. King Henry discovered this plot to carve up his kingdom from under his feet, and the Earl of Northumberland fled to Scotland.

Things improved for Henry as the decade wore on. In March 1406 CE the young Prince James, the future James I of Scotland (1406-1437 CE), was captured when his ship was wrecked off the east coast of England. Prince James was kept as a prisoner in the Tower of London and a hefty ransom demanded for his release. Unfortunately for James, his father died soon after, and although he became the king of Scotland, nobody came forward with the ransom and so he was kept in comfortable confinement for 18 years.

In February 1408 CE, after Henry won the Battle of Bramham Moor against the combined Welsh and English rebels, Edmund Mortimer was imprisoned and both the Archbishop of York and the Earl of Northumberland were executed. In 1409 CE, the Welsh rebellion was finally quashed when the last rebels were captured at Harlech Castle. Owain Glyn Dwr retreated to the mountains and was never heard of again.

Henry's namesake son had led the army that regained Harlech, capturing the eldest son of Owain Glyn Dwr in the process, and he was fast becoming the star of the royal court. Prince Henry, who was the 'real' Prince of Wales, also led an army to France to exploit the anarchy there following the descent into madness of King Charles VI of France (r. 1380-1422 CE), but the expedition came to nothing. Still, the prince was outshining his father and there developed some friction between the two, especially over the Prince's desire to take a more militaristic approach with their great rival France. The younger Henry's time would come soon enough.

The Long Parliament

Another source of friction at court was the king's relationship with Parliament. The so-called 'Long Parliament' of 1406 CE sat an unusually long time from March until December as it deliberated over the ever-prickly issue of state finances. Parliament was not impressed with the lack of success against the Welsh rebels or the presence of French troops in Wales. The king's high taxes were not yielding any results on the field of battle, the court spending was considered excessive, and Parliament insisted that, at the very least, the king must listen to its concerns before endorsing a new round of taxes. Thus, the 'Long Parliament' was another small step on the long road to a constitutional monarchy.

Death & Successor

Henry IV died on 20 March 1413 CE. He was only around 46 and had been wasting away, wracked by disease - possibly leprosy or severe eczema - since 1406 CE. In addition, the king suffered multiple strokes at the end of his life and this when his mind had already long been troubled with remorse for his treatment of King Richard. He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral. Henry was succeeded by his 25-year-old son, Henry V of England who was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 9 April 1413 CE. Henry V became one of the great fighting monarchs of European history by defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 CE and going on to capture Normandy and Paris. However, his reign would be brief, cut short by illness, and the ousting of the legitimate King Richard would come to haunt the Lancaster descendants as the two houses of Lancaster and York battled for the throne in what became known as the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487 CE).


Ten Interesting Facts about King Henry IV

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King Henry IV is more than a Shakespeare play or the father of King Henry V. The man once known as Henry Bolingbroke before he ascended the throne after the forced abdication of his cousin, King Richard II. A good bit of his reign was spent putting down rebellions from Wales and nobles still loyal to Richard. His reign set the stage for those monarchs to follow as well as sowing the seeds of the War of the Roses. For more information, enjoy these ten interesting facts about King Henry IV and his importance to English history.

A First

While Henry may have been the fourth of his name since the conquest, he was a first in one respect—language. While every monarch since 1066 prior to Henry counted French as their foremost language, Henry was the first who considered English to be his primary tongue.

Under the Skin

Henry suffered from some undiagnosed skin disease, though some scholars believe it was leprosy. Several contemporary writers believed this was a punishment for Henry’s execution of Richard le Scrope, Archbishop of York, who had become involved with a rebellion against Henry.

Blood is Thicker than Water

King Richard II and Henry IV were cousins who grew up and played together. They were both inducted into the Order of the Garter in 1377. However, the relationship between the two soured after Henry participated in the Lords Appellants’ rebellion that was the first major attempt to reign in Richard’s power. They patched things up afterwards, but after Henry agreed to fight a duel against Thomas de Mowbray, the 1 st Duke of Norfolk, Richard chose to banish Henry to prevent bloodshed. Things got worse after Richard effectively cancelled Henry’s inheritance and required Henry to ask Richard for the property. Henry returned from exile while Richard was on a military campaign in Ireland and quickly amassed enough power to depose Richard.

Virgin Oil

The oil used to anoint Henry at his coronation was believed to have been given to Thomas Becket by the Virgin Mary.

Plotting and Scheming

However, despite the seeming stability that Henry brought to his reign and deference to Parliament, he still had to put down a number of rebellions and threats to his power. His own son, Henry of Monmouth (later King Henry V), set up his own court to rival his father’s.

Lancasters

Henry IV was the first of the Lancastrian monarchs, a house that would come to an end with his grandson, King Henry VI, who died during the War of the Roses.

Welsh Rebellion

One of the most notable revolts against Henry’s rule was started by Owain Glyndwr in 1401. Glyndwr sought to gain independence for Wales and led a revolt now known as the Glyndwr Rising that continued for fourteen years. He disappeared sometime around 1412, and after Henry IV died in 1413, Henry V made peace with the Welsh and put an end to the rebellion through diplomatic means.

Shakespeare

Henry features in three of Shakespeare’s plays, Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, and Henry IV, Part 2. Over the course of the plays, he usurps the crown from Richard but has a hard reign due to constant rebellions and bad behavior of his son, the future Henry V. Much of Part 2 is dedicated to a coming-of-age story for Prince Hal that sees him grow into the king he will become.

Burn Baby Burn

Henry was the first monarch to sign off on burning at the stake as a punishment. He did so on the advice of Thomas Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry and Arundel had met while both were in exile due to Richard. Arundel encouraged Henry to adopt this type of execution to put down the Lollard Movement, which was regarded as heresy against the Catholic Church. In 1410, John Badby became the first layman convicted of heresy and executed by burning.

Prophecy of Death

It was foretold that Henry would die in the City of Jerusalem. Instead, he ended up dying in the Jerusalem Chamber of the house of the Abbot of Westminster. Close enough?

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About John Rabon

The Hitchhiker's Guide has this to say about John Rabon: When not pretending to travel in time and space, eating bananas, and claiming that things are "fantastic", John lives in North Carolina. There he works and writes, eagerly awaiting the next episodes of Doctor Who and Top Gear. He also enjoys good movies, good craft beer, and fighting dragons. Lots of dragons.


King Henry IV

The first and founding member of the House of Lancaster, Henry had successfully overthrown Richard II and consolidated his power to become King Henry IV of England in October 1399.

The son of John of Gaunt, he launched a successful comeback against the tyrannical rule of Richard II, securing his abdication and imprisoning him in Pontefract Castle.

Whilst Henry possessed all the qualities necessary to be a successful medieval king, his path to kingship as a usurpation rather than a hereditary succession would cast doubt over his legitimacy for the entirety of his rule.

Born in April 1367 in Bolingbroke Castle, his father was Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt whilst his mother was Blanche, the daughter of the Duke of Lancaster.

His father had managed to maintain his influence during the reign of Richard II, despite their acrimonious relationship. Henry meanwhile, had been involved in the revolt launched against Richard II when the Lords Appellants demanded reforms. Unsurprisingly, Richard thus viewed young Henry with suspicion and upon John of Gaunt’s death, withdrew Henry’s inheritance.

It was at this moment that Henry would launch a campaign to overthrow the king. Rallying his supporters as he did so, Henry was able to win over parliament, secure Richard’s abdication and be crowned King of England on 13th October 1399.

Coronation of Henry IV

Only a couple of months into his reign, a plot against Henry involving several earls including those of Huntingdon, Kent and Salisbury was foiled. After discovering such a sinister plan against the new king, action was taken swiftly. They were executed, alongside thirty other barons who were also deemed rebels against the new monarchy.

Having dealt with the first challenge to his new position as king, his next test was what to do with Richard. As well as overthrowing a legitimate king, he had also bypassed Richard’s heir and a potential contender to the throne, Edmund de Mortimer who was only seven years of age at the time.

In February 1400, only a few months after Henry was crowned king, Richard’s mysterious death came as no surprise.

Arrival of Richard’s body at St. Paul’s Cathedral

Richard’s body was subsequently displayed in St Paul’s Cathedral and made available for public viewing. The idea was to put to rest any ideas that Richard might secretly have escaped and be ready to seize the crown. It would also have been clear to any onlookers that he had not suffered any injuries and thus starvation, whether self-imposed or by any other means was the likely cause of death.

With Richard II dead, Henry’s remaining monarchical task was to consolidate his position and protect his reign from attack. In the thirteen years he would remain on the throne, he would be faced with plots and rebellions from a range of characters.

Most notably, Henry faced rebellion from the Welsh leader and self-proclaimed Prince of Wales, Owen Glendower who led a national uprising to overthrow the much resented English rule.

Owen Glendower, better known in Wales as Owain Glyndŵr was a prosperous man with several estates in Wales. He had in 1385 fought for Richard II in the campaign against Scotland, however in 1400 land disputes would quickly escalate into something far bigger.

Glendower was a man of great ambition, not just to overthrow the English rule but to extend Welsh power and take over England as far as the Trent and the Mersey. He posed a serious threat to Henry IV during his reign, not only due to his very large and ambitious projects but his ability to execute them.

He made sure he had support in the form of the French and the Scottish and even went about securing the establishment of a parliament in Wales.

In 1403, a strategic alliance was formed between Glendower and Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland and his son, Henry, known as Hotspur. This provided one of the toughest of Henry’s challenges when he faced this new allegiance at a battle in July the same year, just outside of Shrewsbury.

The Percy family were an extremely important family, who had supported Henry in his ousting of Richard II, however their relationship soon soured when the family did not feel they had been duly rewarded for their services.

Henry had in fact promised many of the loyal families land and money as well as certain privileges in return for their support. In fact, young Henry “Hotspur” Percy, was still awaiting payment for previously fighting against Glendower.

Owain Glyndŵr

Now the Percy family were duly riled by the king and chose to turn their backs on him, launching a concerted effort against Henry and forming an unlikely alliance with their former enemy, the self-proclaimed Welsh Prince, Glendower.

Accused of perjury by the Earl of Northumberland and the Earl of Worcester, the king gathered together an army that would face the rebels on 21st July 1403.

The battle was decisive and proved victorious for the king, who managed both to defeat and kill Hotspur and to have the Earl of Worcester executed. The battle itself was savage and in terms of medieval warfare marked an important moment for the use of the longbow. In fact, Henry’s own son, Henry of Monmouth was wounded in battle, taking an arrow to his face. Nevertheless, a royalist victory was declared.

The battle drew to a close with only the Earl of Northumberland spared. However he was stripped of his ownership of estates and the honours which had been bestowed on him. The Percy family’s challenge to the crown had been summarily defeated.

Nevertheless, the desire to see Henry overthrown still burned brightly in the sentiment of many, including Glendower and the spared Earl of Northumberland.

Only two years later, they would hatch another plan alongside Edmund Mortimer and the Archbishop of York, Richard Scrope. The plan they formed together was an ambitious one, a task that would involve dividing the spoils of England and Wales between them, an agreement known as The Tripartite Indenture.

The surreptitious plan was scuppered by Henry who launched decisive action against his enemies with the Earl of Northumberland fleeing to Scotland whilst Mortimer fled to Wales. Those that did not get away were subsequently rounded up and punished for their crimes with execution.

King Henry IV

Finally in 1408, one of Henry’s greatest challengers, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland was killed in the Battle of Bramham Moor. King Henry’s opposition had finally been overcome and his enemy’s head was to be displayed at London Bridge signally the monarch’s victory.

Whilst Henry’s achievements fending off domestic challenges had finally started bearing fruit, Henry also had to deal with Scottish border raids and the ongoing conflicts which would consistently arise with France.

In 1402, following the Battle of Homildon Hill Scottish border raids would be quashed for around another hundred years. The twelve year old King James I was captured and would remain an English prisoner for almost two decades.

Back in Wales, the English royalist forces slowly but surely gained the upper hand and ebbed away at Welsh resistance, culminating in the fall of Harlech Castle in 1409.

All that was left was for the infamous “Prince of Wales”, Owen Glendower to flee as a fugitive, ending his life in mystery.

Meanwhile, back at the palace, the practicalities of fighting rebellions and wars on so many fronts, began to make their mark. Henry needed parliamentary grants and soon the important balance of power he needed to maintain support from parliament proved more problematic when accusations of fiscal mismanagement were levelled at him.

Henry had faced many challenges and despite the successful defeat of rebellions and the crushing of plots against him, the continuous battle to remain on the throne began to take its toll. Ill-health would impact his later years and as he continued to deteriorate, so would his relationships.

In particular, Henry’s relationship with his own son, the future Henry V became strained, especially when there was talk of his abdication. Moreover, power struggles between the Archbishop of Canterbury against the faction supporting his son, Prince Henry, dominated proceedings.

Such struggles however had become too much for a world weary king and in March 1413, the first Lancastrian King, Henry IV passed away.

His reign was difficult, continually challenged and questioned.

Best summarised by Shakespeare’s play about Henry IV:
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.

Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical.


Isle of Man

The most famous motorcycle races in the world, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) Races, celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2007. The first TT that started at 10am on 28th May 1907 proved so popular that it became an annual event. As public roads were not permitted to be closed for racing events on mainland Britain, fans returned year after year to enjoy those early pioneering motorcycle races.

These races would ultimately help to establish the world dominance of the British motorcycle manufacturing industry.

But a century, in terms of the overall history of the Isle of Man, is a mere scratch on the surface. And those that now tour the full 37.73 mile island circuit at average speeds approaching 130mph perhaps need to slow down a little to more fully appreciate the sights and history of the home of what is said to be the oldest continuous parliament in the world.

Located in the middle of the Irish Sea, almost equidistant between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the Isle of Man is a unique self-governing kingdom – a Crown dependency that belongs to neither the UK nor the European Union. The 33-mile long island boasts its own parliament (known as Tynwald), laws, traditions and culture.

The Isle of Man became an island around 85,000 years ago, when melting glaciers caused sea levels to rise cutting off Mesolithic Britain from mainland Europe. The first human occupation arrived on the island as the ice-age retreated some 10,000 years ago.

Strategically located as it is in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man has inevitably attracted the attention of many welcome traders and other not so welcome raiders.

Early in its history the first Celtic tribes arrived and began to inhabit the island it is likely that these immigrants arrived from Ireland, as the current Manx Gaelic language so closely resembles Irish Gaelic. The island’s name derives from Manannán, the Celtic god of the sea.

The island’s conversion to Christianity in the fifth century is generally attributed to St Maughold, an Irish missionary with a very colourful past.

Between AD 800 and AD 815 the first Scandinavian tourists began to arrive. Initially these Vikings came on wealth distribution schemes, or as some refer to it ‘to pillage and plunder’ however by 850 it appears that they began to settle. The island became an important staging post in connecting the Viking outposts of Dublin, northwest England and the Scottish Western Isles.

The Isle of Man eventually came under the rule of the Scandinavian Kings of Dublin, and it was the Vikings in AD 979 who established the self-governing parliament of the island known as Tynwald. The annual ceremonial meeting, usually occurring on 5th July, continues to be held at Tynwald Hill where new laws are announced.

In 1266 the Treaty of Perth ended the military conflict between Norway and Scotland over the sovereignty of the Hebrides, Caithness and the Isle of Man. In the treaty Norway recognised Scottish sovereignty over the disputed territories in return for a lump sum of 4,000 marks and an annuity of 100 marks.

England’s first claim to the Isle of Man appears to date from 1290, when King Edward I (Hammer of the Scots) took possession of the island. Over the next few decades the island alternated between Scottish and English rule until the struggle was eventually decided in England’s favour.

Manx history appears to have gained stability when in 1405, King Henry IV granted the island to Sir John Stanley on a feudal basis, with fees and homage promised to all future kings of England. This stability was ensured by successive generations of rule by the Stanley family.

Due to its convenient off-shore location, the Isle of Man became an important centre for the illegal contraband trade throughout much of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The government at Westminster attempted to legislate against such trade with the passage of the Smuggling Act in 1765. The Manx-folk however had their own term of endearment for this piece of legislation they referred to it as the Mischief Act.

The Industrial Revolution appears to have arrived on the island in 1854 with the building of the largest waterwheel in the world. At 72 feet in diameter, the Laxey Wheel was constructed to pump water from the lead mines some 200 fathoms below.

It was also around this time the economy of the Isle of Man also began to change with the influx of the new tourist pound, transported then, as it still is today, mainly by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

The island’s infrastructure quickly adapted to cope with the massive influx of tourists with the building of the Isle of Man Steam Railway, Manx Electric Railway and Snaefell Mountain Railway systems.

Today leatherclad tourists from around the world still flood to the Isle of Man each year in May and June for the TT Races. Outside of these dates however, visitors can enjoy perhaps at a more sedate pace the historical sites of this unique island including the Laxey Wheel, Castle Rushen and Peel Castle. Whilst in Peel, the superb House of Manannan interactive museum is not to be missed. Please follow this link for more details concerning these fascinating museums and heritage sites.

The Three Legs of Man, as seen on the front of the image of the Laxey Wheel above, remains the island’s symbol of independence, and whilst there is much debate about which way the legs should run, its meaning is undisputed: Quocunque Jeceris Stabit – ‘Whichever way you throw me I stand’.


Henry IV (of England) & Henry IV (of Navarre)


There are two hundred years between these two notable monarchs, and we will look at the English one first. Both are important in history, over-balanced by ambition, bothered by religion, and chased by bad luck.

Henry (Bolingbroke) IV of England / en.wikipedia.org

Henry of Bolingbroke, I Duke of Hereford, II Duke of Lancaster was born the only legitimate son of John of Gaunt (q.v.) in 1366. Gaunt, I Duke of Lancaster, was the second son of Edward III. His elder brother was known as the Black Prince, who died before he could become king.

Bolingbroke was roughly thirty years old when King Richard II (grandson of Edward III) banished him from the realm for reasons best known to this slightly deranged young man. If Bolingbroke had not been banished, he would have inherited the really vast estates left by his father at his death in 1399. Gaunt owned almost as many castles and manor houses in England as Gilles de Retz (or Rais) had in France (q.v.). Among these was a mansion called The Savoy, by the River Thames.

Bolingbroke, exiled by his king, and backed by other barons, decided to retaliate by invading England at the head of a not inconsiderable army. Certainly it was large and efficient enough for Henry to defeat Richard in battle and take his throne as a usurper. He was not the first aristocrat nor would he be the last to usurp the throne of England.

Henry IV, as he was named at his coronation, found his position as king difficult to defend or hold. He needed the support of the Church, which he obtained by persecuting the Lollards (q.v.). As this was the fourteenth century he also desperately needed military and moral support from other nobles, and that was a difficult task, because so many of them wanted to be king too. There was a House of Commons, working more or less well, though kings were absolute then, and Henry needed the support of Members, especially in terms of money. Ominous threats were coming from Wales in the form of a Welsh noble and semi-wizard called Owen Glendower. Threats from the North, virtually owned and governed by the Percys of Alnwick, were real too. To cap it all, the once fit and clever soldier fell ill, and stayed ill during the sad last years of his life, but he was not so ill that he couldn’t produce a son who would in time become one of the greatest of English monarchs – Henry V.

Henry died when he was only 47 years old Henry V (‘Prince Hal’ in Shakespeare) defeated the French at Agincourt, married a French princess, and died at 35.

Henry IV, King of Navarre was born in Pau in 1553, and became the first Bourbon King of France. Strangely for that time he was brought up a Calvinist by his anti-Catholic mother, Queen Jeanne d’Albret of Navarre.

Not surprisingly, he became a Huguenot (French protestant), and in 1572 married Marguerite de Valois he was nineteen. Hardly had the brief honeymoon finished when Henry narrowly avoided death during the Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, a matter of religion if ever there was one. In fact Henry escaped with his life by professing to his assailants that he was a Catholic.


King Henry IV

Henry became King Henry IV, but it would take a nine-year siege of Paris to secure his crown from the influence of the Holy League and Spanish interference. He converted to Catholicism, and after winning several key battles, Paris finally capitulated on March 22, 1594. Pope Clement reversed Henry&aposs excommunication and Henry brokered the Peace of Vervins between France and Spain on May 2, 1598. Around that time, Henry also issued the Edict of Nantes, which confirmed Roman Catholicism as the state religion but granted religious freedom to Protestants.

Having united the kingdom and attained peace at home and abroad, Henry IV proceeded to bring prosperity back to France. He lowered taxes on French citizens, made peace with the Ottoman Empire and opened up trade routes to East Asia. He also became notorious for his sexual exploits, taking on many lovers and earning the nickname "Le Vert Gallant" (The Gay Old Spark).


Henry IV of England - History

The king's success in putting down these rebellions was due partly to the military ability of his eldest son, Henry of Monmouth, who later became king (though the son managed to seize much effective power from his father in 1410).

In the last year of Henry's reign, the rebellions picked up speed. "The old fable of a living Richard was revived", notes one account, "and emissaries from Scotland traversed the villages of England, in the last year of Henry's reign, declaring that Richard was residing at the Scottish Court, awaiting only a signal from his friends to repair to London and recover his throne."

A suitable-looking impostor was found and King Richard's old groom circulated word in the city that his master was alive in Scotland. "Southwark was incited to insurrection" by Sir Elias Lyvet (Levett) and his associate Thomas Clark, who promised Scottish aid in carrying out the insurrection. Ultimately, the rebellion came to naught. The knight Lyvet was released and his follower thrown into the Tower.

The later years of Henry's reign were marked by serious health problems.

Left: English King, Henry IV
He had a 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󈝵 December 1412 and 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 did not necessarily mean precisely the same thing in the 15th century as it does to modern medicine), perhaps psoriasis, or some other disease.

The acute attacks have been given a wide range of explanations, from epilepsy to some form of cardiovascular disease. Some medieval writers felt that he was struck with leprosy as a punishment for his treatment of Richard le Scrope, Archbishop of York, who was executed in June 1405 on Henry's orders after a failed coup. According to Holinshed, it was predicted that Henry would die in Jerusalem, and Shakespeare's play repeats this prophecy. Henry took this to mean that he would die on crusade. In reality, he died in the Jerusalem Chamber in the abbot's house of Westminster Abbey, on 20 March 1413 during a convocation of Parliament. His executor, Thomas Langley, was at his side.


The Monarchy Abolished

In 1649, the House of Commons took the unprecedented step of abolishing the monarchy and declaring England a commonwealth.

Four years later, though, Cromwell disbanded the Rump Parliament and created the Nominated Assembly, a de facto legislature. Cromwell died in 1658 and was replaced by his son Richard. The son was deposed a year later, and Britain’s government effectively collapsed.

Charles I’s son, Charles II, was restored to the throne in 1660, reaffirming the monarchy’s place in British history.

New Parliamentary elections were held. And the M.P.s elected effectively held their seats for the next 18 years, during which no general election was called.


Things to remember while reading the "Letter to Gregory VII" and the "First Deposition and Banning of Henry IV"

  • Both Henry's letter to Gregory, and Gregory's orders deposing Henry (that is, removing him from power) rely heavily on claims to rightful spiritual authority, and both men used passages from the Bible to back up their claims. Henry referred to the Old Testament practice of anointing, whereby a prophet of God poured oil over the head of someone God had chosen to be leader. Several passages in the Bible contain warnings to "touch not God's anointed." In the New Testament, both Jesus and the Apostle Paul commanded believers to submit to the authority of lawfully chosen kings, and though as Henry noted, a number of early Church leaders had said that Christians were not required to follow ungodly leaders, he claimed that he was not one of these.
  • In his orders condemning Henry, Gregory addressed St. Peter, or the Apostle Peter, who, according to Catholic tradition, was the first pope. Thus Gregory was in effect embracing what he believed was an unbroken line of authority that went back more than 1,000 years. This belief was based on a statement of Christ in the New Testament Book of Matthew, Chapter 16: speaking to Peter, whose name means "rock" in Greek, Jesus said that "upon this rock I will build my church." In the same passage, Christ also said that "whatsover is bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatsover is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven," also interpreted by Catholics as a command giving authority to Peter and those who followed him.
  • Henry mentioned two figures from the earlier history of the Church. Julian the Apostate (ruled 361–63) was a Roman emperor who rejected Christianity and tried to return Romans to the worship of their old gods such as Jupiter—hence the title of Apostate (uh-PAHS-tayt), meaning "betrayer." St. Gregory was Pope Gregory I, or Gregory the Great (ruled 590–604), one of the most admired leaders of the early Church. The statement quoted by Gregory can be interpreted to mean that when a ruler gains too much power, he is filled with pride and does not submit to God's authority—as Henry claimed the current Pope Gregory was doing.
  • Henry used the "royal we": instead of referring to himself in the first-person singular (I, me, mine), he spoke of himself in the plural. This was a tradition among kings and other people in authority, whose use of the plural meant that they saw themselves as representing their entire kingdom. When Henry wrote that he was "unworthy to be among the anointed," this was merely an attempt to appear modest: if he had really considered himself unworthy, he would not have challenged Gregory's authority.

Henry was born to Theobald II of England and was the younger brother of Theobald III. Due to the family's ownership of two Kingdoms geographically distant from each other Henry acted as Regent for his brother in Navarre from 1262. Unlike his brother, Henry was very friendly with the nobles of both realms and was reluctant to call the Navarrese Parliament, which might have harmed their interests. In 1269, he married into the French Royal Family in readiness for his succession to the throne, when he would have to travel through French territory quite often.

At Theobald III's death returning from a minor Crusade Henry IV succeeded his childless brother as King of both countries. He was basically good-natured and didn't interfere with the working of the formidable English bureaucracy. This, combined with the shortness of his reign, is the reason why the years 1270 to 1274 are almost always forgotten by historians. At one point he offered to send an official army over to Ireland to help the piecemeal baronial conquest that had been going on for nearly eighty years, but that didn't come to anything.

The main issue that Henry IV faced was that of succession. His young son Theobald died falling off some battlements in 1273 and he was left with a baby daughter at his death. This was the end of the male line if the House of Blois, but what was to succeed it? The rules of succession called for the closest adult male relative of the king, and that would have been John II, Duke of Brittany (the son of Henry's half-sister), but the English War of Succession (1215-1222) had made the Anglo-Navarrese fearful of succession disputes. Henry had a young daughter and slightly less young full nephews, not to mention more distant relatives like the Count of Hainaut and Anjou and even the King of France. No didtinct pronouncement was made before Henry IV's death in 1274 so the Duke of Brittany succeeded under the established law, but he was always fearful of his cousins, several of whom he imprisoned.


Watch the video: Henry IV of England