Henry IV (king of England)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Henry IV (king of England)

Henry IV, 1367–1413, king of England (1399–1413), eldest son of John of Gaunt and grandson of Edward III; called Henry of Bolingbroke. He founded the Lancastrian dynasty.

Seizure of Crown from Richard

By 1377 Henry had become the earl of Derby, and in 1380 he married Mary de Bohun, coheiress of the earl of Hereford. In 1387 he joined the opposition to King Richard II led by his uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, and became one of the five "lords appellant" who ruled England in 1388–89. In the early 1390s he served in Lithuania with the Teutonic Knights and went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

He supported the king when Richard took his revenge on three of the "lords appellant," including Gloucester, and was made duke of Hereford in 1397. However, in 1398 after a quarrel with Thomas Mowbray, 1st duke of Norfolk, whose confidence he betrayed to Richard, Hereford was banished for 10 years by the king. When John of Gaunt died in 1399, Richard confiscated the vast Lancastrian estates, which were Hereford's inheritance.

The irate duke, taking advantage of Richard's absence in Ireland and the widespread dissatisfaction with Richard's rule, landed in England in July, 1399. He gained ample support, and Richard, who surrendered to him in August, was forced to abdicate. Henry's claim to the throne was confirmed by Parliament in September. He thus, by revolution and election, founded the Lancastrian dynasty.

Reign

The new king was immediately faced with insurrections. Early in 1400, supporters of Richard II rebelled, but the revolt was easily suppressed and most of its leaders were subsequently executed. Richard himself died at Pontefract Castle, either by self-starvation or murdered on Henry's orders. The Welsh, aided by France, also revolted in 1400, and Henry led an ineffective invasion of Scotland. The Scots were decisively defeated in 1402 at Homildon Hill, but the Welsh continued their rebellion under Owen Glendower. The Percys (Sir Henry Percy, his father, the 1st earl of Northumberland, and his uncle, the earl of Worcester), once the king's partisans, unexpectedly rebelled and were defeated at Shrewsbury in 1403. A rebellion of 1405 in the north was crushed, and the leaders, among them Richard Le Scrope, archbishop of York, were executed; Henry was severely criticized for their deaths. Despite the capture (1406) of James (later James I), heir to the Scottish throne, trouble with Scotland continued under Robert Stuart, 1st duke of Albany. Northumberland's new rebellion was put down at Bramham Moor in 1408, the Welsh were crushed shortly afterward (though Owen Glendower was not captured), and the French armies ceased to harry English possessions in France.

No sooner had his military troubles ended than others began for Henry—an illness that left him an invalid for much of his few remaining years and a somewhat obscure struggle between two parties, one of them led by his son, the future Henry V, for control of the council. Henry V came to a throne made temporarily secure by the military efforts of his father, but Henry IV had lacked the skill and patience to restore the financial stability of the crown, now enormously in debt, and to provide a satisfactory administration of civil justice.

Bibliography

See biography by J. L. Kirby (1971); V. H. H. Green, The Later Plantagenets (1955, repr. 1966); E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961).

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