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King Henry IV of England

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King Henry IV of England

King Henry IV of England

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This profile of Henry IV is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Henry IV was also known as:

Henry Bolingbroke, Henry of Lancaster, the Earl of Derbey (or Derby) and the Duke of Hereford.

Henry IV was noted for:

Usurping the English crown from Richard II, beginning the Lancastrian dynasty and planting the seeds of the Wars of the Roses. Henry also took part in a notable conspiracy against Richard's closest associates earlier in his reign.

Places of Residence and Influence:

Important Dates:

    Born: April, 1366
    Succeeded to the throne: Sept. 30, 1399
    Died: Mar. 20, 1413

About Henry IV:

King Edward III had fathered many sons; the oldest, Edward, the Black Prince, predeceased the old king, but not before he himself had a son: Richard. When Edward III died, the crown passed to Richard when he was only 10 years old. Another of the late king's sons, John of Gaunt, served as regent to young Richard. Henry was John of Gaunt's son.

When Gaunt left for an extended expedition to Spain in 1386, Henry, now about 20, became one of five leading opponents to the crown known as the "lords appellant." Together they successfully made an "appeal of treason" to outlaw those closest to Richard. A political struggle ensued for about three years, at which point Richard began to regain some of his autonomy; but the return of John of Gaunt triggered a reconciliation.

Henry then went crusading in Lithuania and Prussia, during which time his father died and Richard, still resentful of the appellants, seized the Lancastrian estates that were rightfully Henry's. Henry returned to England to take his lands through force of arms. Richard was in Ireland at the time, and as Henry proceeded from Yorkshire to London he attracted to his cause many powerful magnates, who were concerned that their rights of inheritance might be endangered as Henry's had. By the time Richard returned to London he had no support left, and he abdicated; Henry was subsequently declared king by Parliament.

But although Henry had conducted himself fairly honorably, he was considered a usurper, and his reign was plagued with conflict and rebellion. Many of the magnates who had supported him in defeating Richard were more interested in building their own power bases than in helping the crown. In January of 1400, when Richard was still alive, Henry quashed a conspiracy of the deposed king's supporters.

Later that year, Owen Glendower started a rebellion against English rule in Wales, which Henry was unable to quell with any real success (although his son Henry V had better luck). Glendower allied with the powerful Percy family, encouraging more English resistance to Henry's rule. The Welsh problem persisted even after Henry's forces killed Sir Henry Percy in battle in 1403; the French aided Welsh rebels in 1405 and 1406. And Henry also had to contend with intermittent conflict at home and border troubles with the Scots.

Henry's health began to deteriorate, and he was accused of mismanaging the funds he received in the form of parliamentary grants in order to finance his military expeditions. He negotiated an alliance with the French who were waging war against the Burgundians, and it was at this tense stage in his difficult reign that he became incapacitated in late 1412, dying several months later.

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Medieval & Renaissance Monarchs of England
Medieval Britain
Hundred Years War
Wars of the Roses



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