Henry IV

(Henry IV of England, Henry Bolingbroke)


Henry Bolingbroke was very close in age to his cousin, Richard II, and they were playmates and companions from childhood. Richard was son of the eldest of Edward III's son, the Black Prince, while Henry was the son of Edward's third son, John of Gaunt. John of Gaunt was the richest and most powerful noble in England for the last half of the 15th century, but his children were not thought to be in line for the throne. Even if Richard failed to produce an heir, another cousin, Edmund Mortimer, (son of the second son of Edward III) was in line before the offspring of John of Gaunt. Furthermore, John of Gaunt had married into the very wealthy Lancaster family, and was therefore as rich and influential as the king. Gaunt had been regent for much of Richard's minority, and helped him, rather than opposed him, during his struggles with the Barons.

Henry IV
Richard's reign was a troubled one, and he remained unpopular with his barons. Furthermore, he feared the influence of the Lancasters, in spite of the fact that they had not done anything to undermine his power. When John of Gaunt died, therefore, he stripped Henry of all of his inheritance in order to decrease his influence. This utterly backfired however. Henry raised an army in France and allied himself with several of Richard's disgruntled Barons. Originally he sought only to claim his property, but he was encouraged to deposed Richard entirely and claim the throne for himself, bypassing not only Richard, but also Mortimer, the rightful heir. (This usurpation was ultimately the cause of the War of the Roses three generations later.)

Although most of the barons accepted Henry as king, there were numerous rebellions. The most desperate was that of the Percys of Northumberland, but Henry put them down at the Battle of Shrewsbury with the help of his son Prince Henry, later Henry V. One of the causes of Richard's unpopularity had been his reluctance to continue the war in France. Henry was aware of this, and planned to resume hostilities, but he was kept busy putting down rebellions and also suffered from declining health. His son, however, had all the marks of a great soldier, and began his sensational reconquest of France soon after his fathers death in 1413.

Key events during the life of Henry IV of England :

Henry Bolingbroke born to John of Gaunt and Blanche Lancaster.
Marriage to Mary De Bohun.
Birth of Henry V.
Death of John of Gaunt, Bolingbroke disinherited and sent into exile.
Bolingbroke returns to claim inheritance and deposes Richard II.
Bolingbroke puts down rebellion of Percy at the Battle of Shrewsbury.
Some power devolved to prince Henry, after declining health.
Death of Henry IV. Henry V ascends to the throne.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Little Queen  in  Richard II  by  Jacob Abbott
Which was the King?  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Hotspur and Glendower  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Henry IV of Bolingbroke—The Battle of Shrewsbu in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall

Image Links

Henry of Bolingbroke: King Henry IV.
 in Richard II

Short Biography
Richard II Son of the Black Prince. Reigned after Edward III. Deposed by Henry Bolingbroke.
John of Gaunt Third son of Edward III, and father of Henry Bolingbroke. Extremely influential 14th century noble.
Henry V Led a victorious army of longbowmen against France at Agincourt.
Henry Hotspur Percy Famous warrior of his age. Arch rival of the Scottish Douglases. Helped to depose Richard II in favor of Bolingbroke.