Beaufort, Henry (1436-1464) (DNB01)

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BEAUFORT, HENRY, third Duke of Somerset (1436–1464), born about April 1436, was eldest son of Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset [q. v.], by his wife Eleanor, daughter of Richard Beauchamp, fifth earl of Warwick [q. v.], and widow of Thomas, fourteenth baron Roos of Hamlake. Edmund Beaufort, styled fourth duke of Somerset [q. v. Suppl.], was his younger brother. From 1443 to 1448 Henry was styled Earl of Mortain or Morteign, and from 1448 to 1455 Earl of Dorset. He was under age when, on the death of his father at the first battle of St. Albans (22 May 1455), he succeeded as third Duke of Somerset. He was regarded as 'the hope of the [Lancastrian] party' (Ramsay), but he also inherited the 'enmities entailed upon him by his father's name' (Stubbs, iii. 171). He was brought to the council at Coventry, where, in October 1456, an effort was made to reconcile the two parties; but the meeting was disturbed by quarrels between Somerset and Warwick, and a brawl between Somerset's men and the town watch of Coventry. In 1457 Queen Margaret of Anjou suggested a marriage between Somerset and his cousin Joan, sister of James II of Scotland, but the proposal came to nothing. On 14 Oct. of that year Somerset was made lieutenant of the Isle of Wight and warden of Carisbrooke Castle. Early in 1458 he took part in the council at London which again endeavoured to effect a political reconciliation, and it was agreed that Richard, duke of York, should pay the widowed Duchess of Somerset and her children an annual pension of five thousand marks as compensation for the death of the second duke.

The truce was, however, hollow; Margaret continued to intrigue against York, and in October 1458 proposed that Somerset should be appointed captain of Calais in place of Warwick. War broke out in 1459, and Somerset nearly came into collision with Warwick at Coleshill just before the battle of Blore Heath. After the defeat of the Yorkists he was on 9 Oct. nominated captain of Calais. He crossed the channel, was refused admittance to Calais by Warwick's adherents, but made himself master of Guisnes. He fought several skirmishes with, the Yorkists between Calais and Guisnes until, on 23 April 1460, he suffered a decisive reverse at Newnham Bridge, called Neullay by the French (W. Worcester, p. 479; Chron. ed. Davies, p. 84; Hall, p. 206).

During his absence the Yorkists had won the battle of Northampton, but Somerset joined the Lancastrians at Pontefract in December 1460, captured a portion of the Yorkist forces at Worksop on the 21st, and won the Lancastrian victory at Wakefield (30 Dec.) He marched south with Margaret and fought at the second battle of St. Albans (17 Feb. 1460-1). This second victory was not followed up, the Lancastrians retired north, and on 29 March Edward IV won the battle of Towton. Somerset escaped from the battlefield, and in the following July was sent by Margaret to seek aid from Charles VII of France. That king died before their arrival, but Louis XI summoned Somerset to Tours, and sent him back in March 1461-2 laden with promises of support, but with very little else.

Somerset now began to meditate making his peace with Edward IV. He had been attainted by parliament on 4 Nov. 1461, and most of his lands had been granted to Richard, duke of Gloucester, and other Yorkists (Cal. Patent Rolls, 1461-5, pp. 29, 32; Stubbs, iii. 196). On his return from France he took command of the Lancastrian forces in Scotland while Margaret went to France, and in the autumn of 1462 he was holding Bamborough Castle for the Lancastrians. On 24 Dec, however, he surrendered the castle to Sir Ralph Percy and submitted to Edward. The king took him to London, and treated him with marked favour. He received a general pardon on 10 March 1462-1463 (ib. 1461-5, p. 261), and was restored to his dignities by act of the parliament which met on 29 April following (Rot. Parl. v. 511). Somerset, however, soon returned to his old allegiance. Early in 1464 he escaped from a castle in North Wales, where he seems to have been kept in some sort of confinement, and, after being nearly recaptured, made his way to Margaret on the borders. The Lancastrians now made one more effort to recover the crown, but at Hexham on 14 May 1464 they were utterly defeated by John Neville, marquis of Montagu [q. v.] Somerset was taken prisoner and executed on the field of battle. Parliament annulled the act restoring him to his dignities, which again became forfeit and were never restored. Somerset is described by Chastellain as 'un très grand seigneur et un des plus beaulx josnes chevaliers qui fust au royaume anglais.' He was probably as competent as any of the Lancastrian leaders, but their military capacity was not great. He was unmarried, and his younger brother, Edmund Beaufort, was styled fourth Duke of Somerset by the Lancastrians. By a mistress named Joan Hill, the third duke left a son Charles, who was given the family name of Somerset, and whose descendants became dukes of Beaufort [see Somerset, Charles, first Earl of Worcester].

[Cal. Rot. Pat.; Rymer's Fœdera; Rotuli Parl.; William of Worcester and Stevenson's Letters (Rolls Ser.); English Chron., ed. Davies, Gregory's Collections, Three English Chron., and Warkworth's Chron. (Camden Soc); Polydore Vergil; Hall's Chronicle; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Fortcseue's Governance of England, ed. Plummer; Arthur de Richemont, Matthieu D'Eseouchy and Chastellain's Chroniques (Soc. de l'Hist. de France); Beaucourt's Charles VII; Stubbs's Const. Hist. vol. iii. passim; Ramsay's Lancaster and York; Doyle's Official Baronage; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage.]

A. F. P.