Cardinal Henry Beaufort and Joan of Arc

Cardinal Henry Beaufort

 

Cardinal Henry Beaufort (de Beaufort) was born in 1375 in Castle Beaufort, Anjou, France to Sir John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340- ) and Katharine (de Roët ) Swynford (c. 1350 – 1403), widow of Sir Hugh Swynford of Lincolnshire.

 

Cardinal Henry Beaufort

Once the governess to John’s daughters from his first marriage, she became his mistress, subsequently bearing him more children.

Her children were made legitimate September 1, 1396 by Pope Boniface IX and February 9, 1397 by charter of King Richard II, but were excluded from the succession.

Cardinal Henry’s progression began with his becoming Dean of Wells Cathedral, Somerset, England and Chancellor of Oxford University in 1397, at the age of 22.

In 1399, upon the accession of his half -brother, Henry IV, in 1399, he was assured a prominent place and high influence in politics.

He continued to rise rapidly, becoming Chancellor of England and a Royal Councillor in 1403, and Bishop of Winchester in 1404.

In 1413, he resigned his chancellorship and led the opposition of the council to the King’s Chief Minister, Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury. However, he regained his chancellorship when his nephew and ally became king as Henry V in the same year.

Highly ambitious and striving to climb still higher, he sought and obtained a position with the papacy when Pope Martin V made him a cardinal in 1417. The king feared that Beaufort would be too effective as spokesman for the papacy and subsequently forced him to resign.

Castle Beaufort
Beaufort Castle

 

After the accession of the infant King, Henry VI in 1422, however, Beaufort flourished yet again.

A very wealthy man by this time, he expanded his fortune by lending money at inflated interest rates to the financially troubled crown, which further entrenched him in his position of power, making him virtually invulnerable to his enemies.

In 1426, he was made papallegate and Cardinal of St. Eusebius, for which his uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, continually criticized him for conflict of interest by holding positions of power in both the church and state.

Beaufort’s power and influence enabled him to remain unharmed by the attacks by Duke Humphrey.

In 1435 and 1439 he failed in his attempts to negotiate the end of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.

Henry gained even more power on July 14, 1438 when he became Bishop of Lincoln. While in this position, he had an affair with a woman whose identity is speculation at best, due to a lack of documentation. Some believe this woman was Alice FitzAlan (1378-1415), daughter to Richard FitzAlan and Elizabeth de Bohun.

An illegitimate daughter, Jane Beaufort, was born to this relationship in 1402. This relationship is made credible by the mention of Jane and her husband Sir Edward Stradling in Cardinal Beaufort’s will.

Henry retired from politics in 1443, died April 11, 1447 at Wolsey Palace in Winchester, and was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

 

Cardinal Henry Beaufort was 22nd great grandfather to my children.

 

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Sources:

Foundation for Medieval Genealogy; http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/ENGLAND,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm

Encyclopædia Britannica CD ’97, HENRY BEAUFORT

Wikipedia.org; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Beaufort

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