John of Gaunt
                               1st Duke of Lancaster
       Blanche of Lancaster.............|.............Katherine Swinford
             1341-1369                                      1350-1403
                 |                                              |
                 |                                              |
              Henry IV                                   Beaufort family
          Duke of Hereford                                      |
             1367-1413                                   House of Tudor   
      |                        |                        |                        |
    Henry V             Thomas Plantagenet       John of Bedford        Humphrey of Gloucester
Henry of Monmouth        Duke of Clarence        Duke of Bedford          Duke of Gloucester
   1387-1422               1388-1421                1389-1435                 1390-1447
               Henry VI
         Edward of Westminster
            Prince of Wales

We refer here to what might be termed the second and royal House of Lancaster, as opposed to the first House of Lancaster whose founder was Edmund Crouchback, younger son of Henry III and whose descendants held the title of Earl of Lancaster, and whse grandson Henry of Grosmont became Duke of Lancaster.

The foundation of the House of Lancaster

The founder of the royal House of Lancaster was one John of Gaunt, who by virtue of his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, effectively inherited all the estates and dignities of the former duke, and was himself created Duke of Lancaster in 1362.

From his marriage with Blanche, there were three boys, two Johns and an Edward and a girl named Isabella who all died in childhood. Of the surviving children there was one son;

and two daughters;

Philippa was married to John I of Portugal whilst Elizabeth found the time to marry no less than three husbands, being John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, John Holland, Duke of Exeter and finally John Cornwall, Baron Fanhope.

After Blanche's death in 1369, John of Gaunt was married for the second time to Constance of Castile. This second marriage produced one daughter, Catherine and one son, John both of whom died in childhood, but no surviving children. But more importantly, following his second wife's death John married for the third time, this time to his long term mistress, Katherine Swinford nee Roet.

His relationship with Katherine, produced three sons

and one daughter;

These children all took the name of Beaufort, from Beaufort Castle in Anjou held by John, and although they were all born before John got around to marrying their mother, they were later legitimised by an Act of Parliament of 1397. These Beauforts become the most active supporters of the Lancastrian dynasty, many of whom were to take leading positions in the governments of both Henry V and Henry VI.

Henry IV and his descendants

Henry the eldest son of John of Gaunt by his first marriage, married a Mary de Bohun, was later exiled by Richard II in 1398, only to return in 1399 to depose Richard and place himself on the throne of England. By his marriage to Mary he had the following issue; being, in addition to a son named Edward who died at birth in 1382, four sons who survived into adulthood;

and two daughters;

Thomas Plantagenet died unmarried at the age of 32 at the battle of Baugy in 1421, and neither John, Duke of Bedford nor Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester produced any legitimate offspring. Therefore the only one of Henry IV's four sons to produce any offspring was Henry of Monmouth who succeeded his father as king Henry V in 1413 at the age of 26, and later married Catherine of Valois in 1420. Henry's marriage was rather cut short by his own death in 1422, and the sole product of this union was one son, also named Henry.

This Henry who succeeded his father as Henry VI in 1422 when only nine months old, later married Margaret of Anjou. Once again there was but a single child from this marriage in the form of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. Unfortunately Henry VI was not quite of the same mettle as either his father or grandfather; characterised as mentally weak if not insane he was unable to establish any personal authority and relied instead on his many Beaufort relations. But military failure in France together with the ambitions of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, served to ignite a civil war in England, which was eventually to sweep away the House of Lancaster.

The Wars of the Roses claim their victims

The War of the Roses smouldered away between the years 1455 and 1485 during which the rival Lancastrian and Yorkist houses proceeded to slaughter each other with a certain gay abandon.

Edward of Westminster was killed either at, or very shortly after the battle of Tewkesbury on the 4th May 1471; his father Henry was beaten to death at the Tower of London shortly afterwards on the orders of his Yorkist rival Edward IV, most likely under the direct supervision of Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The Beauforts too were to suffer for they support of the Lancastrian cause; the second and third generations of the family were also to find themselves on the receiving end of some Yorkist retribution. Edmund Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset was killed at St Albans in 1455 and his brother Henry Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset died at Hexham in 1464. The last two male representatives of the Beaufort line were John Beaufort, Earl of Dorset who also died at Tewkesbury and his elder brother Edmund Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset was captured and executed two days afterwards. The year 1471 therefore saw the end of the House of Lancaster and the final victory of the House of York.

But the Yorkist ascendancy was to last a mere fourteen years as the Yorkist line was to self-destruct in the years 1483-1485, and one Beaufort remained in Margaret Beaufort who almost single-handedly pursued the ambition of placing her son by Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond on the throne of England. This ambition was realised when Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth and gave birth to the House of Tudor.

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