Henry of Lancaster (1299?-1361) (DNB00)

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HENRY of Lancaster, first Duke of Lancaster (1299?–1361), son of Henry, earl of Lancaster (1281?–1345) [q. v.], and his Countess Maud, was born about 1299, and was called ‘of Grosmont,’ possibly from the place of his birth. He is said to have gone while a young man to fight as a crusader in Prussia, Rhodes, Cyprus, and Granada, to have been so renowned a captain that he was known as ‘the father of soldiers,’ and the noblest youths of France and Spain were anxious to learn war under his banner (Capgrave, p. 161). He served with distinction in the Scottish war of 1333, especially at the taking of Dalkeith. In 1334 his father made over to him the towns and castles of Kidwelly and Carwathlan, with other lands in Wales, and on 3 Feb. following he was summoned to parliament as Henry de Lancaster. On 15 April 1336 Edward III, who was his cousin, appointed him to command an army against the Scots (Fœdera, ii. 936); the king went to Scotland in person, and Henry, who was then a knight-banneret, was with him at Perth, and on 12 Dec. was named as a commissioner for the defence of England against the French (ib. p. 953). On 16 March 1337 Edward created him Earl of Derby, one of the titles borne by his father, who was still living, as the heir of Earl Thomas, and assigned him a yearly pension from the customs. In November he was sent, along with Sir Walter Manny, to attack the garrison of the Count of Flanders in Cadsant. There he showed himself a gallant knight, for on landing he advanced so near to the fortifications that he was struck down. Sir Walter Manny saw his danger, and shouting, ‘Lancaster for the Earl of Derby!’ rescued him (Froissart, i. 137, 140). When the king sailed from the Orwell for Antwerp in July 1338, Derby sailed from Great Yarmouth in command of the troops conveyed by the northern fleet, and joined the king's ships in the Channel (Fœdera, ii. 1050). He remained with the king, and in October 1339 commanded, under Edward in person, the third battalion of the army at La Flamengrie or Vironfosse [see under Edward III]. Edward was anxious to be again in England, and in December offered to leave Derby in Flanders as a hostage for his return, for he was deeply in debt. However, the earl accompanied him to England in the following February (ib. pp. 1100, 1115), and on 24 June took part in the sea-fight before Sluys, where he behaved with much gallantry (Froissart, ii. 37). When Edward returned to England on 30 Nov. he left the earl in prison in Flanders as a security for his debts, and took measures to procure his release through the intervention of the Leopardi Company. Derby was detained for some months, and had moreover lent the king his jewels, which were pledged for 2,100l. (Fœdera, pp. 1143, 1159, 1176). On 10 Oct. 1341 he was appointed captain-general of the army against the Scots. The English had by this time lost nearly the whole country, and this expedition failed to check the progress of the reconquest; Stirling had already been lost, and Edinburgh Castle was soon lost also. A truce for six months was made in December. The earl spent Christmas at Roxburgh, and while there challenged Sir William Douglas, the knight of Liddesdale [q. v.], to tilt with him; Douglas was vanquished. He also persuaded Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie to accept his challenge to joust, twenty a side, and in all his exploits gained glory and honour. On 3 April 1342 he was appointed along with others to arrange a peace or a truce with the Scots. In October Derby accompanied the king on his fruitless expedition to Brittany. In the spring of 1343 he was sent on embassies to Clement VI at Avignon, and to Alfonso XI of Castile. While in Spain he and his fellow-ambassador, the Earl of Salisbury, did good service against the Moors at the siege of Algeciras (Chronicle of Alfonso XI). On his return to England he went northwards in August to negotiate with the Scots (cf. Murimuth, p. 158). At the tournament held by the king at Windsor in February 1344 he acted as steward of England, his father's office, and joined in the oath for the establishment of a ‘round table.’ In March he received full powers to treat with the kings of Castle, Portugal, and Arragon, in conjunction with Richard, earl of Arundel (Fœdera, iii. 8).

On 10 May 1345 Derby was appointed lieutenant and captain of Aquitaine, an office which he held until 1 Feb. 1347, and on 22 Sept. succeeded his father as Earl of Lancaster and of Leicester, and steward of England. He sailed from Southampton for Gascony, probably in the middle of June, in company with Sir Walter Manny, and with a force of five hundred knights and esquires, and two thousand archers. His orders were to defend Guienne, and if he thought well, to attack Périgord and Saintogne. Having landed at Bayonne, and spent about a week there and fifteen days at Bordeaux, he set out towards Bergerac, where a number of lords on the French king's side were assembled under the count of Lille-Jourdain to keep the passage of the Dordogne. Pressing on, Lancaster gained the suburbs of the town after a sharp struggle, and the next day, 24 Aug., took the place by assault. He then captured many towns and fortresses in Upper Gascony, failing, however, to take Périgueux, in spite of a plot to deliver it to him. Auberoche surrendered without a blow, and the earl advanced to Libourne, which then belonged to the English (M. Luce has pointed out Froissart's error on this matter). Hearing that the Count of Lille-Jourdain and all the Gascon lords of the French party were besieging the garrison which he had left in Auberoche, he hastened thither without waiting to be reinforced by the Earl of Pembroke, who was in garrison at Bergerac, and, though his force consisted only of about three hundred lances and six hundred archers, gave battle on 21 Oct. to the French lords, who are said to have had more than ten thousand men. He won a splendid victory, and treated his many prisoners with courtesy (Froissart, iii. 62–73, 292–5). He afterwards seems to have divided his forces into two bodies, which acted at once on the Garonne and the Lot, occupying Aiguillon, and taking Meilhan, Monsegur, La Réole, which offered a stout resistance, Castelmoron, and Villefranche (ib. pp. 91, 92). The king ordered that thanksgivings for these successes should be made in England in May 1346. The coming of the Duke of Normandy with a large army into Gascony prevented the earl from making further advances, and he was fully occupied for some months in sending help to Aiguillon, to which the duke laid siege before the middle of April, in cutting off the besiegers' supplies, and in such other operations as the small force at his disposal rendered possible. When the duke knew that King Edward had landed in Normandy, he was anxious to make a truce with the earl, and as this was refused raised the siege of Aiguillon on 20 Aug. Lancaster being thus rid of the duke's army marched into Agenois, took Villeréal and other towns and castles, occupied Aiguillon, and strengthened the fortifications. Marching again to La Réole, he gathered the Gascon lords of the English party, and after dividing his forces into three bodies led one into Saintogne, and on 12 Sept. occupied Sauveterre, and a week later arrived at Châteauneuf on the Charente, and strengthened the bridge there, and then advanced to St. Jean d'Angély and took it. Having carried Lusignan by assault, he summoned Poitiers on 4 Oct., and his summons being rejected stormed the town; his men made a great slaughter, sparing neither women nor children, and took so much rich booty that it was said that they made no account of any raiment save cloth of gold or silver and plumes. After staying eight days at Poitiers he returned to St. Jean d'Angély (Letter from Lancaster, Avesbury, pp. 372–6), where he entertained the ladies splendidly. The campaign ended, and he returned to London on 13 Jan. 1347. Towards the end of May he took over supplies and reinforcements to the king, who was besieging Calais, and remained there during the rest of the siege with a following of eight hundred men-at-arms and two thousand archers. When King Philip attempted to raise the siege in the last days of July, the earl held the bridge of Nieuley over the Hem, to the south-west of the town, so that the French could not get to the English camp except by the marshes on the Sangate side, and while occupied on this service he was one of the commissioners appointed to meet the two cardinals who tried to arrange a peace (ib. p. 393; Froissart, iv. 51). His expenses during the siege amounted to about 109 marks a day, and in return the king granted him the town and castle of Bergerac, with the right of coinage, and gave him the prisoners of war then at St. Jean d'Angély.

Lancaster took a prominent part in the tournaments and other festivities which were held after the king's return to England, and was one of the original knights or founders of the order of the Garter [see under Edward III]. On 25 Sept. 1348 he received full powers to treat with the French at Calais about the truce, and on 11 Oct. to treat with the Count of Flanders, and was with the king at Calais in November, when the truce with France was prolonged, and a treaty was made with Louis de Mâle. He was engaged in further negotiations with France during the spring of 1349 (Fœdera, iii. 173, 175, 178, 182; Geoffrey le Baker, pp. 98, 102). On 20 Aug. the king created him Earl of Lincoln, on the 21st appointed him captain and vicegerent of the duchy of Gascony, and on 20 Oct. captain and vicegerent of Poitou, giving him a monopoly of the sale of the salt of the bay and of Poitou generally (Fœdera, iii. 189, 190). In November he crossed over to Gascony with Lord Stafford and others to strengthen the province against the attacks of John of France. He took part in the sea-fight called ‘Espagnols-sur-mer’ in August 1350 [see under EDWARD III], and rescued the ship of the Prince of Wales, attacking the huge Spanish ship with which she was engaged. On 6 March 1351 he was made Duke of Lancaster, and his earldom of Lancaster was made palatine, the earliest instance of the creation of a palatine earldom under that name. The only ducal creation before this had been that of the Prince of Wales as Duke of Cornwall. Two days later Lancaster was appointed captain and admiral of the western fleet (Courthope; Fœdera, iii. 215). About Easter he made a raid from Calais, attacked Boulogne, but was unable to take it because his scaling-ladders were too short, spoiled Thérouanne, Etaples, and other places, burnt 120 vessels of different sizes, and, after riding as far as St. Omer, returned to Calais with much booty. He received powers as an ambassador to Flanders and Germany, and set out in command of a company of nobles to fight as a crusader in Prussia. While he and his band were in ‘high Germany’ they were detained, and he was forced to pay a ransom of three thousand gold pieces. On arriving in Prussia he found that a truce had been made between the Christians and the heathen. After tarrying awhile with the king of Poland (Casimir the Great) he returned to England after Easter 1352. He soon afterwards received a challenge from Otto, son of the Duke of Brunswick, a stipendiary of the French king. On his way to the crusade he had been informed at Cologne that Otto had engaged to waylay him and deliver him to King John. On his return to Cologne he complained of Otto's intended attack before the Marquis of Juliers and many lords and others. Otto thereupon sent him a letter, giving him the lie, and offering to meet him at Guisnes or elsewhere, as the French king should appoint. Having accepted the challenge, and procured a safe-conduct from the French king, he crossed to Calais a fortnight before Christmas 1352 with fifty men-at-arms and a strong company of foot, and as he was marching to Guisnes was met by the marshal of France, who conducted him to Hesdin. There he was met by James, son of Louis, duke of Bourbon, with a valiant company, who accompanied him to Paris, where he was enthusiastically received. King John treated him graciously, and he lodged with his kinsman, the king of Navarre. The day before the combat the French nobles made a fruitless endeavour to arrange the quarrel. The lists were appointed in the presence of the king and his lords, and each combatant swore on the sacrament to the truth of his cause. But after they mounted their chargers Otto trembled so violently that he could not put on his helmet or wield his spear, and at last by his friends' advice declared that he forebore the quarrel, and submitted himself to the king's orders. The duke protested that, though he would have been reconciled before he entered the lists, he now would not listen to any proposals. Otto, however, would not fight, and the king, after making him retract his words, held a feast at which he caused the two enemies to be reconciled. The duke refused the king's offer of rich treasures, and accepting but a thorn from the Saviour's crown of thorns, which he took back with him for his collegiate church at Leicester. He returned to England, and went to St. Albans, where the king was spending Christmas, and Edward received him with much rejoicing (Knighton, cols. 2603–5; Baker, pp. 121, 122, 287, 288).

On 6 Nov. 1353 Lancaster was appointed a commissioner to treat with France, and on 26 Jan. 1354 received full powers to form an alliance with Charles of Navarre (Fœdera, iii. 269, 271). On 28 Aug. he was sent as chief of an embassy, which included the Bishop of Norwich and the Earl of Arundel, to take part in a conference before Innocent VI at Avignon, where the pope endeavoured to mediate a peace between England and France. He rode with two hundred men-at-arms, and when he arrived at Avignon on Christmas eve was met by a procession of cardinals and bishops and about two thousand horsemen, and so great a crowd assembled to behold him that he could scarcely make his way across the bridge. He remained seven weeks at Avignon, and during all that time whoever came to his quarters was liberally regaled with meat and drink, for he had caused a hundred casks of wine to be placed in the cellar against his coming. With the pope and the cardinals he was very popular (Knighton, col. 2608; Baker, p. 124). At Avignon Charles of Navarre, who had been forced to flee thither by the French king, complained of his wrongs, swearing that he would willingly enter into an alliance with the king of England against the king of France. Lancaster promised that, if the king would, the alliance should be made, and that he would send troops and ships to Guernsey and Jersey to help him. When the conference was over Lancaster returned home, not without some danger from the French. With Edward's approval he fitted out a fleet of thirty-eight large ships at Rotherhithe, each with his streamer, and having on board the king's sons, Lionel of Antwerp and John of Gaunt, and three earls. On 10 July the king went on board, and the squadron sailed to Greenwich. Contrary winds delayed the expedition until news came that Charles of Navarre was reconciled to the French king [see under Edward III]. Lancaster crossed with the king to Calais, and in November took part in the raid which Edward made in Artois and Picardy. He returned with the king when they heard of the taking of Berwick, and served in the winter campaign in Scotland, apparently leading a detachment of troops in advance of the main body, and penetrating further into the country. During May 1356 he collected a force to help the king of Navarre, who was again at enmity with the French king. His army assembled at Southampton, and part of the troops sailed on 1 June; it was thought a marvellous thing that the ships landed them at La Hogue and were back at Southampton again in five days. In company with John of Montfort, the youthful claimant of the duchy of Brittany, the duke sailed for La Hogue and landed on the 18th. At Cherbourg he was joined by Philip of Navarre and Geoffrey Harcourt; their united forces numbered nine hundred men-at-arms and fourteen hundred archers. They marched to Montebourg, and thence on the 22nd to Carentan, by St. Lo to Torigny on the 24th, by Evrecy to Lisieux on the 28th, and on the next day to Pont Audemer, for a special object of the campaign was to relieve that and other towns belonging to the king of Navarre which were besieged by the forces of the French king. On the approach of the duke's army the siege was raised, and he remained there until 2 July to strengthen the fortifications; he next marched to Bec Herlewin, and thence by Conches, where he fired the castle, to Breteuil, and so to Verneuil, where he did some damage. Hearing that the French king was coming against him with a large army he retreated to Laigle on the 8th, and when heralds came to him bringing him a challenge to battle from King John he replied that he was ready to fight if the king interrupted him. He continued his retreat by Argentan and Torigny, and returned to Montebourg on the 13th with large booty and two thousand horses, which he had taken from the French (Avesbury, pp. 462–8; Knighton, col. 2612). He next marched towards Brittany, having on 3 Aug. been appointed captain of the duchy by the king, with the concurrence of John of Montfort (Fœdera, iii. 335). He made an attempt to effect a junction with the Prince of Wales in the latter part of the month, but was out-manœuvred at Les Ponts de Cé, near Angers [see under Edward the Black Prince]. In Brittany he campaigned successfully on behalf of the widowed duchess and her son, and on 3 Oct. formed the siege of Rennes, which was defended by the Viscount de Rohan and other lords for Charles of Blois. The siege lasted until 3 July 1357, when the duke was reluctantly forced to abandon it in consequence of a truce. During 1358 and a large part of 1359 Lancaster was probably much in England, but he sent Sir Robert Knolles and other captains to uphold the cause of the king of Navarre in Normandy. On 5 April 1359 David II of Scotland [see Bruce, David] created him Earl of Moray.

About 1 Oct. Edward sent the duke to Calais to keep order among the rabble of adventurers who were gathered there to await the king's arrival and the beginning of a new campaign. In order to keep them employed the duke led them on a raid. He marched past St. Omer, remained four days at the abbey of St. Éloy, turned towards Peronne, marched leisurely along the valley of the Somme, his followers wasting the country; attacked the town of Bray, but failed to take it, and was at Toussaint when he heard of the king's arrival at Calais. He led his host to meet the king, accompanied him to Rheims, and while the army lay before that city on 29 Dec. led a party against Cernay, about eight leagues distant, took the town and burnt it, and after doing damage to other places in the district returned to the camp. When Edward determined after Easter 1360 to leave the neighbourhood of Paris and lead his army into the Loire country, he appointed Lancaster and two others to command the first division. At Chartres the duke persuaded him to listen favourably to the French proposals for peace, and took the leading part in arranging the treaty of Bretigni, which was concluded in his presence on 8 May. At the feast which followed he and the king's sons and other lords served the kings of England and France bareheaded. On 8 July he joined the Prince of Wales in conducting the French king to Calais; on 22 Aug. he was appointed Edward's commissioner in France, and on 24 Oct. was at Calais when the treaty was ratified. He died at Leicester of the pestilence on 13 May 1361. He was buried with much pomp on the south side of the high altar of his collegiate church at Leicester, in the presence of the king and many prelates and nobles, for his death was felt to be a national calamity. By his wife Isabel, daughter of Henry, lord Beaumont, he had two daughters: Maud (d. 1362), who married first Ralph, eldest son of Ralph, earl of Stafford, and secondly, in 1352, with the king's approval, during her father's absence in Poland, William, count of Holland, son of the Emperor Lewis of Bavaria; and Blanche, who married John of Gaunt [q. v.]

Henry of Lancaster was esteemed throughout Western Europe as a perfect knight; he was brave, courteous, charitable, just, and at once magnificent and personally temperate in his habits. He had a thorough knowledge of public affairs, was a wise counsellor, and was loved and trusted by Edward III beyond any other of his lords. Like his father, Earl Henry, he was religious, and during his last days is said to have been much given to prayer and good works, and to have written a book of devotions called ‘Mercy Gramercy.’ In this he set down first all the sins which he could remember to have committed, asking God's mercy on account of them, and then all the good things which he had received, adding a thanksgiving for them. To the hospital founded by his father at Leicester he added a college with a dean and canons, called Newark (Collegium novi operis), or the collegiate church of St. Mary the Greater. He also gave ornaments to the value of four hundred marks to Walsingham. He resided in London at the Savoy, which he inherited, and there built a stately house at a cost of fifty-two thousand marks, gained during his campaign of 1345. A portrait of him from the Hastings brans at Elsing, Norfolk, is given in Doyle's 'Official Baronage', ii. 312.

[Geoffrey le Baker, ed. Thompson; Knighton, ed. Twysden; Murimuth and Robert of Avesbury, ed. Thompson (Rolls Ser.); Capgrave, De Illusir. Henricis (Rolls Ser.); Walsingham, vol. i. (Rolls Ser.); Froissart, i-v, ed. Luca (Société de l'Histoire de France); Johan le Bel, ed. Polain, Cronica del rey Don Alfonso el Onceno, pp. 297, 298, 340, in Cronicas y Memorias, vii. 544, 546, 624, ed. 1787; Rymer's Fœdera, n. ii, ol. i., Record ed., Nicolas's Hist. of the Navy, vol. ii.; Longman's Edward III; Dugdale's Monasticon, vi. 1897; Dugdale's Baronage, pp. 784-90; Doyle's Official Baronage, ii. 812; Nichols's Leicestershire, ii. 329-51, App. No. 18, pp. 109-112; Leland's Itin, i. 17]

W. H.