1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Henry IV. of England
HENRY IV. (1367–1413), king of England, son of John of Gaunt, by Blanche, daughter of Henry, duke of Lancaster, was born on the 3rd of April 1367, at Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire. As early as 1377 he is styled earl of Derby, and in 1380 he Mary de Bohun (d. 1394) one of the co-heiresses of the last earl of Hereford. In 1387 he supported his uncle Thomas, duke of Gloucester, in his armed opposition to Richard II. and his favourites. Afterwards, probably through his father’s influence, he changed sides. He was already distinguished for his knightly prowess, and for some years devoted himself to adventure. He thought of going on the crusade to Barbary; but instead, in July 1390, went to serve with the Teutonic knights in Lithuania. He came home in the following spring, but next year went again to Prussia, whence he journeyed by way of Venice to Cyprus and Jerusalem. After his return to England he sided with his father and the king against Gloucester, and in 1397 was made duke of Hereford. In January 1398 he quarrelled with the duke of Norfolk, who charged him with treason. The dispute was to have been decided in the lists at Coventry in September; but at the last moment Richard intervened and banished them both.
When John of Gaunt died in February 1399 Richard, contrary to his promise, confiscated the estates of Lancaster. Henry then felt himself free, and made friends with the exiled Arundels. Early in July, whilst Richard was absent in Ireland, he landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire. He was at once joined by the Percies; and Richard, abandoned by his friends, surrendered at Flint on the 19th of August. In the parliament, which assembled on the 30th of September, Richard was forced to abdicate. Henry then made his claim as coming by right line of blood from King Henry III., and through his right to recover the realm which was in point to be undone for default of governance and good law. Parliament formally accepted him, and thus Henry became king, “not so much by title of blood as by popular election” (Capgrave). The new dynasty had consequently a constitutional basis. With this Henry’s own political sympathies well accorded. But though the revolution of 1399 was popular in form, its success was due to an oligarchical faction. From the start Henry was embarrassed by the power and pretensions of the Percies. Nor was his hereditary title so good as that of the Mortimers. To domestic troubles was added the complication of disputes with Scotland and France. The first danger came from the friends of Richard, who plotted prematurely, and were crushed in January 1400. During the summer of 1400 Henry made a not over-successful expedition to Scotland. The French court would not accept his overtures, and it was only in the summer of 1401 that a truce was patched up by the restoration of Richard’s child-queen, Isabella of Valois. Meantime a more serious trouble had arisen through the outbreak of the Welsh revolt under Owen Glendower (q.v.). In 1400 and again in each of the two following autumns Henry invaded Wales in vain. The success of the Percies over the Scots at Homildon Hill (Sept. 1402) was no advantage. Henry Percy (Hotspur) and his father, the earl of Northumberland, thought their services ill-requited, and finally made common cause with the partisans of Mortimer and the Welsh. The plot was frustrated by Hotspur’s defeat at Shrewsbury (21st of July 1403); and Northumberland for the time submitted. Henry had, however, no one on whom he could rely outside his own family, except Archbishop Arundel. The Welsh were unsubdued; the French were plundering the southern coast; Northumberland was fomenting trouble in the north. The crisis came in 1405. A plot to carry off the young Mortimers was defeated; but Mowbray, the earl marshal, who had been privy to it, raised a rebellion in the north supported by Archbishop Scrope of York. Mowbray and Scrope were taken and beheaded; Northumberland escaped into Scotland. For the execution of the archbishop Henry was personally responsible, and he could never free himself from its odium. Popular belief regarded his subsequent illness as a judgment for his impiety. Apart from ill-health and unpopularity Henry had succeeded—relations with Scotland were secured by the capture of James, the heir to the crown; Northumberland was at last crushed at Bramham Moor (Feb. 1408); and a little later the Welsh revolt was mastered.
Henry, stricken with sore disease, was unable to reap the advantage. His necessities had all along enabled the Commons to extort concessions in parliament, until in 1406 he was forced to nominate a council and govern by its advice. However, with Archbishop Arundel as his chancellor, Henry still controlled the government. But in January 1410 Arundel had to give way to the king’s half-brother, Thomas Beaufort. Beaufort and his brother Henry, bishop of Winchester, were opposed to Arundel and supported by the prince of Wales. For two years the real government rested with the prince and the council. Under the prince’s influence the English intervened in France in 1411 on the side of Burgundy. In this, and in some matters of home politics, the king disagreed with his ministers. There is good reason to suppose that the Beauforts had gone so far as to contemplate a forced abdication on the score of the king’s ill-health. However, in November 1411 Henry showed that he was still capable of vigorous action by discharging the prince and his supporters. Arundel again became chancellor, and the king’s second son, Thomas, took his brother’s place. The change was further marked by the sending of an expedition to France in support of Orleans. But Henry’s health was failing steadily. On the 20th of March 1413, whilst praying in Westminster Abbey he was seized with a fainting fit, and died that same evening in the Jerusalem Chamber. At the time he was believed to have been a leper, but as it would appear without sufficient reason.
As a young man Henry had been chivalrous and adventurous, and in politics anxious for good government and justice. As king the loss and failure of friends made him cautious, suspicious and cruel. The persecution of the Lollards, which began with the burning statute of 1401, may be accounted for by Henry’s own orthodoxy, or by the influence of Archbishop Arundel, his one faithful friend. But that political Lollardry was strong is shown by the proposal in the parliament of 1410 for a wholesale confiscation of ecclesiastical property. Henry’s faults may be excused by his difficulties. Throughout he was practical and steadfast, and he deserved credit for maintaining his principles as a constitutional ruler. So after all his troubles he founded his dynasty firmly, and passed on the crown to his son with a better title. He is buried under a fine tomb at Canterbury.
By Mary Bohun Henry had four sons: his successor Henry V., Thomas, duke of Clarence, John, duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester; and two daughters, Blanche, who married Louis III., elector palatine of the Rhine, and Philippa, who married Eric XIII., king of Sweden. Henry’s second wife was Joan, or Joanna, (c. 1370-1437), daughter of Charles the Bad, king of Navarre, and widow of John IV. or V., duke of Brittany, who survived until July 1437. By her he had no children.
- (C. L. K.)