King Henry IV

Born: April 15, 1366

Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire, England

Reign: September 30, 1399 - March 20, 1413 (13 years)

Died: March 20, 1413

Westminster, London, England (Age 46)


Henry of Bolingbroke was born the only surviving son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (third surviving son of King Edward III), and his first wife, Blanche, on April 15, 1367. His mother died when he was two and his father was constantly busy with foreign campaigns and domestic government, leaving Henry with no real parental influence for most of his early life. He grew up primarily with his sisters and a series of governesses and was provided with a solid education. Very little of Henry’s childhood was documented to any great extent. He was given the courtesy title of Earl of Derby (a lesser title belonging to his father) and was made a Knight of the Garter by Edward III shortly before the old king’s death.

When his cousin ascended the throne as Richard II on June 22, 1377, Henry played a part in the coronation ceremony and subsequently spent time in the royal household. It is widely believed that, by this point, Henry was considered to be second in line to the throne, behind only his father, John of Gaunt. Many historians claim that, in the year before his death, Edward III had ratified a document which stated that succession was to be only through the male line. In other words, the succession could not pass to, or through, a female. Richard II was the only son of Edward III’s eldest son, Edward the Black Prince(who predeceased him); the second son, Lionel of Antwerp (also already deceased), had no male issue but did have two male grandchildren, Roger and Edmund Mortimer; John of Gaunt was the third son and the most senior living male descendent behind Richard II. It is highly important to discuss this issue involving the succession now, considering the trouble Henry would face with it when he ultimately usurped the throne and the fact that the ambiguousness of the succession is what many historians have concluded to be the cause of the Wars of the Roses during the reign of Henry’s grandson, Henry VI.

In 1381, Henry was married to Mary Bohun, co-heiress to the late Earl of Hereford. The marriage was widely believed to have been a genuine love match (despite the fact that it was, as most medieval aristocratic marriages were, an arranged marriage), just as the between Henry’s parents had been, and it produced six healthy children. During the Peasants’ Revolt that erupted later that year, Henry was in the king’s party when the rebels stormed the Tower of London and executed Richard’s hated ministers, chancellor Sudbury and treasurer Hales. Luckily, Henry himself was spared due to the intervention of one John Ferrour, though it must be assumed that the experience was nothing short of terrifying for the young prince nonetheless. Over the following years, Henry built up his reputation as a world-class jouster, scholar and patron of the arts, but played a very small, nearly insignificant role in the increasingly volatile politics that were developing in England. It must be assumed though, that Henry learned a few things from his father, the premier politician in the realm.

Henry did not become actively involved in politics until late 1387 (during his father’s absence in Castile) when he, along with his friend Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, decided to join the Lords Appellants (the Duke of Gloucester and the Earls of Arundel and Warwick) in opposition to the excessive favoring of a small group of ineffective courtiers within Richard’s government. The three senior Appellants had basically been in control of the kingdom’s government ever since they successfully challenged the king’s authority the previous year. At the Battle of Radcot Bridge, Henry and his fellow Appellants were easily able to defeat the army the royal favorite Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford and Duke of Ireland, forcing him to flee the country. Shortly after this skirmish, Richard was forced to submit to the Appellants. In the so-called Merciless Parliament that followed these events, the three senior Appellants proceeded to have many of the king’s favorites executed or exiled with very little evidence against them. Henry seems to have against some of the executions, but most present must have known he would hold little sway over the far-more-powerful senior Appellants. In particular, Henry voiced opposition to the execution of Sir Simon Burley, the king’s tutor since childhood and a man of reputable intellect and morals. Though Burley was executed nonetheless, Richard seems to have remembered Henry’s words in favor of his friend when he decided not to destroy him as he did the senior Appellants.

After the triumph of the Appellants, Henry seems to have continuously distanced himself from them and when Richard gained back power, the two cousins seem to have been reconciled to an extent. This is evidenced by the fact that, while Henry was added to the royal council, the other Appellants were dismissed from it. Once John of Gaunt returned to England and aided his nephew from gaining  back power from the Appellants, the political situation in the country remained calm for the next several years. Henry, not wanting to deal with the dregs of English politics, decided to travel to France to take part in a large jousting tournament. From there, Henry made the decision to join with the Teutonic Knights on a crusade to Lithuania to subdue the pagans within the region. After a brief trip back to England for supplies, Henry and his small group of loyal Lancastrian retainers travelled to Lithuania. Unfortunately, since most of the Lithuanian leaders had already converted to Christianity, there were only small pockets of pagan resistance that needed to be dealt with. By the end of the campaign, Henry had only participated in a few small skirmishes and sieges. Despite his lack of action, Henry must have been content to know that he had gained some valuable experience in the battlefield, fighting for the Christian cause. He spent several more months on the continent before finally returning home.

After, once again, remaining in England for only a brief period of time, Henry set out for his second crusade to Lithuania. Once he made all the necessary preparations and arrived there, he discovered that peace had be made and there was no need for any more Christian armies in the land. Not wanting his journey to go to complete waste, Henry decided to travel to Jerusalem. He journeyed through Europe, making notable stops in Prague, Vienna and Venice, before finally arriving in the Holy Land. Henry remained in Jerusalem for only a small amount of time, before departing and making his slow journey through Europe back to England. Though nothing of particular note occurred on the journey, Henry became the first member of the royal family to travel to the Holy Land since the future King Edward I in 1270.

In 1394, Henry suffered a devastating loss when his beloved wife, Mary, died while giving birth to their sixth child. Over the following years, the king began to ignore Henry and treat him as a political non-entity more and more. When a protector needed to be appointed for the time that Richard was campaigning in Ireland, the king chose his uncle Edmund, Duke of York, over Henry. Henry was similarly passed over two years later, this time in favor of York’s son Edward, Earl of Rutland, when the king needed someone of importance to journey to France to work out the details of Richard’s marriage to the French princess Isabella. It would be hard to believe that the king’s neglectful treatment of his cousin did not have something to do with Henry’s close proximity to the throne and the fact that Richard still did not possess a son.

King Richard, at this point (in 1397), decided to take his revenge against the Lords Appellant, the men who had humiliated him nine years earlier. When informed of this, Henry was understandably nervous, considering that he had been one of them. Luckily, the king decided only to put the three senior Appellants, Gloucester, Arundel and Warwick, on trial for treason. After they were arrested, Henry (who must have been happy he had decided to protest against the execution of Simon Burley at the Merciless Parliament) played a part in sentencing the Appellants at the ensuing parliament. Warwick was sentenced to life exile; Arundel was beheaded; and Gloucester died under mysterious circumstances at his prison in Calais while in the custody of the fifth Appellant, Thomas Mowbray. A forth man, Arundel’s brother Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, was also exiled. The archbishop would go on to be one of Henry’s most loyal supporters after he became king. While Henry and his father mourned little for the Earl of Arundel, their political enemy, they were most certainly alarmed with the probable murder of Gloucester, John of Gaunt’s youngest brother. Gloucester’s murder meant that even members of the royal family were not safe from Richard’s new tyrannical behavior. For his services against the Appellants, Henry was created Duke of Hereford, one of six dukes to be created on the occasion, gaining the group the derogatory name of the “duketti.”

The events that directly led to Henry’s rise to the throne began in 1398 when he encountered Thomas Mowbray, now Duke of Norfolk, on his travels. Mowbray informed Henry that they were in danger of being prosecuted, just as the three senior Appellants had been, for their involvement in the events of 1388. Additionally, Henry was informed that the king planned on repealing the pardon granted to Thomas of Lancaster from 1327, which would mean that the entire Lancastrian inheritance would be absorbed into the crown. Henry almost immediately informed his father of these events, who then went directly to the king. Mowbray, obviously nervous about the situation, then concocted a plot to kill John of Gaunt. Certain chroniclers will claim that the king himself was involved in this plot, but it is doubtful that he would have been so reckless in his actions as to destroy his most powerful supporter. Both Mowbray and Henry were brought before the king to defend themselves and Henry continued to accuse his former friend of various charges, including the murder of Gloucester. With tensions high and Richard by no means eager to open an investigation on a murder which he had most likely sanctioned, it was agreed that Henry and Mowbray were to engage in a duel to the death. When the day of the deadly joust came, the king did not allow the contest to take place. Instead, he decided to exile the two men: Mowbray for life and Henry for ten years. Despite the protests of Henry and his father, the king was set in his decision and Henry departed for Paris, where he would spend his exile. Richard had now revenged himself on all five of the Appellants.

Henry was received kindly by the French king, Charles VI, and the rest of the French royal family and nobility and it was even proposed at one point that Henry should marry the daughter of the Duke of Berry, before Richard heard of the match and ruled against it. The biggest news out of England, however, was, by far, the death of Henry’s father, John of Gaunt, on February 3, 1399. Not only was Henry informed that he was not able to return home to attend his own father’s funeral, but it was also revealed that Richard had revoked all pardons awarded to Henry, therefore making him a traitor and ineligible to receive his inheritance. If depriving his cousin of the vast lands and incomes that went with the Duchy of Lancaster was not enough, Richard poured more salt on the wounds by extending Henry’s exile to life. This was most certainly the last insult that Henry would suffer and he began making preparations to gather a small force and invade England.

With the assistance of men such as Louis, Duke of Orleans (brother to the French king), and the son and brother of the late Earl of Arundel, Henry and his small army landed at Ravenspur, Yorkshire. The timing was ideal, as Henry knew that Richard would be leading an expedition to Ireland at the time, leaving, once again, the Duke of York to serve as protector of the realm. As Henry’s following continued to swell (he had now gained the support of the powerful Scottish marcher lords, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and his son, Henry “Hotspur” Percy), the question arose of what his intentions were. Had he returned to England simply to recover his lost inheritance or to begin a full-blown revolution where he would depose his cousin and place himself on the throne? The writings of the various chroniclers of the time all differ as to what Henry’s plans were at the time and it is nearly impossible to pinpoint just when he decided to have himself crowned king. It is clear though, that the reception he had received upon his return was a warm one and the people of England may have expected him to go the distance. In addition, Henry was well aware of the king’s vengeful side and most likely believed that he would end up like his uncle Gloucester if Richard remained on the throne. Whatever the case may be, Henry continued to make progress as the king slowly returned from Ireland.

At Bristol, Henry had three of Richard’s hated favorites, Sir John Bussy, Sir Henry Green and the Earl of Wiltshire, beheaded and proceeded to Berkeley Castle, where he easily convinced his uncle York to join in his cause. Henry was then able to gain possession of the king, who was stationed at Conway Castle in Wales. Richard was transferred to Flint Castle and then, as a prisoner, to London, where Henry was received by the citizens with open arms. Most certainly, Henry had intended to seize the throne by this point. He ran into difficulties though, when he was attempting to figure out just how to have himself declared king. Taking the throne by conquest was ruled out, as was the myth that Edmund of Lancaster, whom Henry was descended from through his mother, was actually the elder son of Henry III (as opposed to Edward I). The obvious example to follow was that of Henry’s great-grandfather, Edward II, who had been deposed for his misrule of the kingdom, but in favor of the proper heir, Edward III. It is true that Henry was Richard’s closest heir in the male line, but there were several other male competitors in the form of the Mortimer family, descended from Lionel of Antwerp, John of Gaunt’s elder brother. In the end, it seems that Henry was able to convince parliament that Richard was unfit to rule and that he (and not the Mortimer heir, who was a young child) was the best candidate to take the throne, being the most senior descendant of Edward III in the male line. On September 29, 1399, Richard was forced to publicly abdicate the throne and Henry became King Henry IV.

Henry’s next step was to proceed against the men who had aided Richard in his tyrannical behavior. One John Hall, a servant of Mowbray’s who was implicated in the murder of Gloucester, was executed, but otherwise, Henry was fairly lenient with Richard’s favorites. He did, however, strip most of the members of the so-called “duketti” of the titles and lands they had received the Revenge Parliament of 1397, which directly led to the Epiphany Rising (or the Earls’ Rebellion) of January 1400. Richard himself had been transferred to the more secure location of Pontefract Castle, a nearly impregnable Lancastrian fortress. The Earls of Salisbury, Kent, Huntingdon and Rutland, as well as the Lord Despenser and several other Ricardian loyalists (most of whom had been demoted in status by the new king), plotted to murder King Henry and his four sons at a tournament and place Richard back on the throne. Unfortunately, the earls did not receive the widespread support for their former king that they had anticipated and, to make matter worse, the scheme was relayed to Henry (most likely by Rutland, who undoubtedly wanted to save his own skin). The earls were forced to attempt to flee but were all captured and executed, mostly by common townspeople. Though Henry had survived the first crisis of his reign without any major difficulties, he now faced the greater dilemma of what he was to do with the former king, knowing very well that he would always be a beacon for rebellion if kept alive. Therefore, Henry reluctantly ordered his cousin’s murder and it was announced that Richard was dead by February 14, 1400. To prove that he former king had met his end, Henry had the body publicly displayed at several places throughout the realm for all to see. Though certain chroniclers of the time will swear that Richard was murdered by a knight named Sir Piers Exton, there is no other mention of this man in any of the records and therefore it must be assumed that Richard died of forced starvation, as most historians have concluded.

With the death of his cousin and former king no doubt looming over him, Henry focused his attentions on Scotland, where he led a substantial force in order to force the rebellious nation into excepting him as their overlord. However, Henry was unable to bring the Scots onto the battlefield and negotiations for a truce were equally futile. The king was then forced to return (as the last English king to lead an army into Scotland), having accomplished nothing. Upon his return to England, Henry learned that he now had to deal with a rapidly spreading rebellion in Wales, led by the self-proclaimed Prince of Wales, Owen Glendower.

Glendower’s revolt is believed to have originated in a land dispute between Glendower and his neighbor, Sir Reginald Grey of Ruthin. But soon developed into a full-fledged war of Welsh independence. Though Edward I had conquered Wales and annexed into England in 1382-83, the region had remained semi-autonomous (similarly to Scotland and Ireland) and did not always appreciate English intervention in their politics. Once Glendower proclaimed himself Prince of Wales, he began laying wasted to towns and capturing castles in northern Wales, prompting Henry to launch the first of his short and unsuccessful campaigns into the region. The failed campaign in Wales meant that, within the first two years of his reign, Henry had engaged in two pointless military endeavors and had a plot against his life. On top of this, he had gained the enmity of the French by refusing to return Princess Isabella, King Richard’s widow and daughter of Charles VI of France, or her substantial dowry, mainly due to the devastating financial situation he was in. So far, Henry had failed to deliver the hope and change he had promised upon his coronation, and his situation only became worse as Glendower continued to reap havoc in Wales, defeating the English at the minor Battle of Mount Hyddgen, which led to the king’s second failed Welsh campaign.

While Henry continued to struggle financially, Glendower and his rebel Welshmen kept up the pressure. The so-called prince was able to capture his enemy, Lord Grey, and handed a huge defeat to the English at the Battle of Bryn Glas, where he took the English commander, Edmund Mortimer, as his prisoner. In addition, the Scots, most likely working as allies of Glendower, began launching attacks in northern England. Henry’s allies, the Earl of Northumberland and his son Hotspur (the border lords who had helped him gain the throne) were able to defeat the Scots at the Battles of Nesbit Moor and, more significantly, Humbleton Hill. At the latter of these two battles, the Percys were able to gain possession of a number of valuable Scottish hostages, including Archibald, Earl of Douglas. Despite the success of his friends in the north, Henry himself was still not able to gain any ground in Wales and departed back to England after his third failed campaign.

In the following year (1403) Henry would face, by far, the greatest threat to his royal security to date. The Percy family had been some of Henry’s staunchest supporters when he began his revolution to dethrone Richard II, but had become disenchanted with the king because of a lack of financial assistance for the protection of the Scottish marches and Henry’s support and patronage of the Neville family, mortal enemies of the Percy clan. In other words, Henry was not the puppet monarch that they had expected him to be. Additionally, Hotspur (a childhood friend of Henry’s) was unhappy that the king had refused to offer a ransom for his brother-in-law, Edmund Mortimer (previously captured by Glendower). Henry most certainly had excellent reasons for not wanting to rescue Mortimer. For one thing, Mortimer had betrayed him by marrying Glendower’s daughter Katherine in support of the Welsh cause. However, it seems that the more significant reason was because Mortimer and his nephew, the twelve-year-old Earl of March were descended from Lionel of Antwerp, the elder brother of John of Gaunt, therefore giving them a better claim to the throne if succession was allowed through a female line. The Mortimer claim is explained here again to show just how tenuous Henry’s claim was. It was Henry’s reluctance to ransom Mortimer that most likely prompted Hotspur’s refusal to hand over his hostage, the Earl of Douglas, by far the most valuable of the prisoners taken after Humbleton Hill. All these reasons combined to turn Henry’s former friends into mortal enemies.

Hotspur had most likely already been in contact with Glendower and Mortimer to form plans to depose Henry and replace him with the young Earl of March. He also formed an alliance with his prisoner, Douglas, and the Scots and mustered his own army, which also included his uncle Thomas, Earl of Worcester, another man whom the king had once been extremely close with. With a full-scale civil rebellion now inevitable, Henry had to act fast and muster his own army. He was lucky enough to be warned of the rising soon enough to isolate the army containing Hotspur, Worcester and Douglas before it was able to join forces with those of Northumberland and Glendower, which undoubtedly would have spelled doom for the royal forces and Henry’s crown. Initial talks of peace between the two sides were dismissed and the fighting began. At the ensuing Battle of Shrewsbury, Henry scored a huge victory over the rebels in a particularly bloody encounter. In the end, Hotspur was dead and Douglas and Worcester had been taken prisoner, the latter of whom was executed soon after. In the aftermath of Henry’s glorious victory, Hotspur’s father, Northumberland, surrendered himself to the king and was pardoned, though he never gained back the political influence he once had. Henry then attempted a fourth march into Wales, which, like its three predecessors, failed, showing that, despite the king’s victory at Shrewsbury, rebellion was far from under control within his kingdom and would continue to cause him trouble for years to come.

The years after Shrewsbury did indeed bring further rebellions. First, the lady Constance Despenser (widow of the late Lord Despenser who had been executed for his participation in the Epiphany Rising and a cousin of the king, being a daughter of the late Duke of York) laid down a plot to seized the Earl of March and his younger brother Roger, both of whom had been kept in royal custody since Henry’s accession due to their close proximity to the crown. No sooner was this plot put down than Henry discovered that Northumberland and his close personal ally, Lord Thomas Bardolph, were, once again, conspiring with Glendower and Mortimer. The supposed plan of the rebels, known as the Tripartite Indenture, was for Henry to be deposed and the kingdom divided up into three sections: Northumberland was to rule in the north; Glendower in Wales and the marches; and the young Earl of March in the remainder. Also rebelling against the king this time (undoubtedly in league with Northumberland) were Archbishop Richard Scrope of York and the nineteen-year-old Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk, eldest son of the man Henry had quarreled with in 1398.

Scrope, who earlier supported Henry in his usurpation of the throne seems to have become disgruntled with him because of high clerical taxes. Mowbray’s motives are not as cut and dry, but he most likely rebelled because of the combination of Henry’s past quarrel with his father, which led to his ultimate death in exiled in 1399, and the fact that Henry did not fully restore him to his father’s lands and titles, including the Dukedom of Norfolk. Henry had already achieved some success against Glendower earlier in the year when an English army defeated the Welshman at the Battle of Pwll Melyn, capturing of Glendower’s sons in the process. The king was now to achieve even more success against his numerous enemies after he sent a forced led by Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, to deal with Scrope and Mowbray. When the two armies met at Shipton Moor, Westmorland tricked the rebels into dismissing their men, claiming that all their grievances would be brought before the king for consideration. Once the rebel army had been disbanded, Scrope, Mowbray and several other of the leaders were promptly arrested and put on trial. What happened next was seen as appalling on a widespread level. Both Mowbray and the archbishop were executed for high treason. Henry was clearly not tolerating rebellion in his realm anymore and showed that even a high-ranking church official was not safe from severe punishment.

The very same day of Scrope’s execution, Henry began to suffer from the debilitating skin disease that would ultimately kill him. Many contemporaries thought that this was divine intervention from God, inflicted upon Henry for his execution of an archbishop. It is still a mystery to this day as to what Henry was suffering from, but many people at the time assumed it was leprosy. When the king recovered sufficiently, he launched his fifth and, once again, unsuccessful Welsh campaign and captured all of the Earl of Northumberland’s castles, forcing the earl himself to flee the country. The king also experienced a stroke of good luck when Prince James, the heir to the Scottish throne, was captured off the English coast. Mere weeks after the prince’s capture, he became King James I when his father, Robert III, died. Just as his grandfather, Edward III, had once been in possession of King David II of Scotland, Henry could now boast that he hosted a rival king at his court as a prisoner. The years following these events remained fairly quiet as Henry attempted to cement his authority, deal with continued trouble in Wales and France and balance the royal exchequer, all while coming to the realization that his health was steadily declining.

In early 1408, during one of the worst winters that England had ever seen, the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Bardolph, who, for the past three years had been attempting to seek out aid in France Wales and Scotland, decided to make a last ditch effort against Henry’s regime. The lords invaded England via Scotland with a small force of Scots and northern Englishmen. They were opposed by the forces of Sir Thomas Rokeby, a local sheriff, who soundly defeated them at the Battle of Brahmam Moor. Northumberland was killed in the fighting and Lord Bardolph died of his wounds later that night. With the earl’s death, Henry could finally say that the Percy rebellion was officially at an end.

The following year, Glendower’s rebellion gradually began to collapse as the English, under the command of the king’s eldest son and heir, Prince Henry (or “Hal”), took back the major Welsh strongholds of Aberystwyth and Harlech. Although Glendower and his fellow rebels would sporadically launch guerilla attacks against English forces for a number of years to come, the great Welsh rising was effectively over and Glendower himself, now nothing more than a hunted fugitive, was no longer a significant threat. Unfortunately, Henry was not able to enjoy the fact that civil war had finally come to an end within his kingdom. The king’s health was getting worse and worse as time went by and there was talk of his abdication, which Henry himself would hear nothing of. Meanwhile, Prince Hal, with the support of his Beaufort uncles, was beginning to become more influential in the royal council. The Beauforts were John of Gaunt’s children with Katherine Swynford, his long-time mistress and eventual third wife. Though they were legitimized by papal edict and by Richard II, Archbishop Arundel, Henry’s chancellor and primary advisor, added the stipulation that the Beauforts were to be cut out of the royal succession. This provocation, of course, pushed them onto the side of Prince Hal, who had equally odious feelings for the archbishop. As the king got sicker, these factions within the royal council became more prevalent.

It became clear that Henry would never abdicate the crown, that he had fought so hard to attain, while he still breathed and tensions between him and his eldest son rose to an all-time high. To make matters worse, there was a civil war going on in France between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions, both of whom were fighting for control of the country’s government while Charles VI was in one of his mad phases and both of whom wanted the support of the English. King Henry put his support behind the Armagnacs, while Prince Hal was in favor of aiding the Burgundians, causing a further rift in their relationship. On top of this, the king seemed to be showing more favor towards his second son, Thomas (whom he had created Duke of Clarence), than his heir. All these reasons prompted Hal to leave court for a short period of time. Fortunately, the separation between father and son did not last for long. Certain chronicles of the time will claim that rumors were floating about that Hal was planning to seize the throne by force, but, once these falsehoods were dispelled, the two were completely reconciled.

After the king sent his son Clarence to France with an army to aid the Armagnac faction, they made peace with their Burgundian enemies and turned their collective attentions against the English invader. Henry, however, was to ill by this point to think about the situation. It is rumored that he had planned another trip to Jerusalem, so that he may die there, but this was not meant to be. Henry died on March 20, 1413 (ironically in the Jerusalem chamber at the abbot’s house in Westminster), a month shy of his forty-sixth birthday. His eldest son succeeded him on the throne as King Henry V.

Analysis and Assessment

King Henry IV had the potential to be a great ruler. Besides the fact that he had four healthy sons to assure that the Lancastrian dynasty would continue (an accomplishment on its own in an age with such a high infant mortality rate), he was intelligent, brave, cultivated and a born leader. Unfortunately, Henry was never able to shake off the title of usurper when he deposed and ordered the murder of his cousin, the rightful king. He must be given credit, however, for his resilience in holding on to his throne. Not only was he able to quell rebellions by the earls, the Percys, Archbishop Scrope and Glendower, but was able to keep his throne until the end of his life even when he was threatened by his own son to abdicate. Henry’s predecessor, Richard II, always caved in when put under pressure.

Despite Henry’s brave spirit, good intentions and the fact that he sired the future Henry V, the great and renowned warrior king, his usurpation of the throne had far more over-reaching effects than to rid the realm of the despotic Richard II. In disinheriting the Mortimer family, Henry IV, in effect, brought about the Wars of the Roses, which would ultimately lead to the complete destruction of the Plantagenet dynasty. Anne Mortimer, the sister of the last Mortimer Earl of March, whom Henry kept in captivity for the entirety of his reign, would eventually marry Richard, Earl of Cambridge, the younger son of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York. They, in turn, produced Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, the father of the Yorkist kings, Edward IV and Richard III. The Yorkists therefore were Plantagenets in the male line, descended from the fourth son of Edward III, but claimed the throne through Lionel of Antwerp, the second son, over Henry’s father John of Gaunt, the third son. Though Henry and his sons would not suffer from this quarrel, it would ultimately lead the murder of his grandson, Henry VI. In the end, as noble of a man as Henry himself was, it would be extremely difficult not to blame his actions for the downfall of the House of Lancaster and the Plantagenet dynasty.

Further Reading

Bevan, Bryan. Henry IV

Bruce, Marie Louise. The Usurper King: Henry of Bolingbroke

Kirby, J. L. Henry IV of England

Mortimer, Ian. The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King

Wylie, James Hamilton. History of England Under Henry the Fourth

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