Henry Bolingbroke (1367-1413)
Henry Bolingbroke was a grandson of Edward III. Henry's father, John of Gaunt, was Edward III's third surviving son and duke of Lancaster. Henry married Mary de Bohun in 1381, and together they had six children. Serious health problems plagued him during the last years of his life, including a severe skin disease, which may have been leprosy.
While Henry's father enjoyed a relatively stable relationship with Richard II, who was Henry's first cousin, Henry's was more tumultuous. For example, he became involved in the rebellion of the Lords Appellant in 1387. As the king's cousin, though, he was spared execution and was instead made Duke of Hereford.
Over the next years Henry saw much of Europe. He campaigned with the Teutonic knights and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Then in 1398 a remark of Henry's was interpreted as treason. The matter was initially supposed to be resolved through a duel of honor. However, Richard II banished Henry from England--with the approval and support of John of Gaunt.
Then John of Gaunt died, and Richard II cancelled the documents that allowed for Henry's automatic inheritance of the duchy of Lancaster and instead required Henry to ask the king for his inheritance. This didn't sit well with Henry, and he reluctantly approached Thomas Arundel, the former archbishop of Canterbury and a participant in the Lords Appellant rebellion.
Together Henry and Arundel invaded England, timing their campaign to coincide with Richard II's absence in Ireland. It didn't take long for Henry to have enough power to declare himself king, put Richard II in prison (he died mysteriously--no signs of overt violence were found on his skeleton), and force Richard II to abdicate.
Henry's reign had several rebellions, some intended to put Richard back on the throne--some didn't believe he was actually dead. These rebellions in Richard's name were common at the beginning of the reign and then again in the last year.
The two major rebellions of the reign were in Wales and Northumberland.
In Wales the rising was led by Owain Glyndwr (Glendower) who declared himself Prince of Wales in 1400.
What began as a dispute with an English neighbor became a full-scale rising, which was eventually put down by Henry of Monmouth, Henry IV's eldest son and the future Henry V.
In Northumberland the Percy family tried three times to overthrow Henry IV between 1402 and 1408. The elder Henry Percy was the first earl of Northumberland and one of the noblemen responsible for defending northern England from the Scots. He helped Henry IV overthrow Richard II, and then he turned on Henry IV. The first attempt failed when Henry IV's army defeated that of Henry 'Hotspur' Percy at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403; Hotspur was allied with Glyndwr.
Hotspur died in battle, the earl of Northumberland fled to Scotland, and the other leaders were hanged, drawn, and quartered. The second attempt was led by Richard le Scrope, archbishop of York, in 1405. Scrope and others were executed, and the earl of Northumberland again fled to Scotland. The earl led the final attempt in 1408 and was killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor.
War with France
One key part of Henry's reign was the renewal of the war with France. One reason Henry IV was able to garner aristocratic support in England was the promise of a return to fighting in France, which provided the aristocracy with a way to gain wealth and glory. They also wished to defend--and increase if possible--England's lands in France. Richard II, particularly after marrying a French princess, had sharply curtailed England's military activities on the continent. Henry IV, however, led England back into the war. His efforts were not entirely successful, and it was his son Henry of Monmouth who would find military glory in France as Henry V.
The other major contentious issue of Henry IV's reign involved a religious dispute. In general Henry worked well with Parliament. One area, though, in which there was disagreement was religion. In 1401, based on Arundel's advice, Henry got Parliament to enact De heretico comburendo, which strongly recommended the burning of heretics.
This seems to have been primarily directed at the Lollards, a group that held that the Catholic Church was corrupt and the Bible should be in English. They denied transubstantiation and the efficacy of pilgrimage, blessings, confession, and clerical celibacy, among other doctrines. They thought the Church shouldn't own property and should be subordinate to the government.
In 1410, some members of Parliament, particularly in the Commons, were sympathetic to the Lollard movement and proposed the confiscation of the Church's landed property. Henry IV refused to go along with this. The Church and Archbishop Arundel, after all, had helped him take the throne.
Henry IV, who already had a history of stormy relations with Richard II, deposed his cousin and made himself king with the help of Archbishop Arundel. This method of seizing power was not without its risks. One of these was the constant threat of rebellion, both in Wales and among the English aristocracy. Henry also faced some challenges in Parliament, particularly over matters of religion and the power and authority--and property--of the Church, as well as challenges surrounding the Lollard movement. Despite these challenges and serious illness, Henry IV secured the throne and passed it on to his son Henry of Monmouth, who as Henry V would achieve military glory in France and even succeed in claiming the French throne.
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