The Usurpation of Henry IV

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The usurpation of the English throne by Henry IV in 1399 is an issue we’ve touched upon a number of times, but never directly covered. It’s a significant one, for it not only brought about an abrupt end to the House of Plantagenet, but it arguably set into motion the dynastic divide that would later feed into the Wars of the Roses half a century later. The latter question is one that we’ll delve into in a bit more detail later this week, but for the purposes of today I want to cover the events of the actual usurpation, from its causes to its immediate impacts.

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The Child Queen, Isabelle of Valois

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Isabelle of Valois was born on November 9, 1389 to Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria. Though she would eventually become the eldest of her parents’ children to reach adulthood, at the time of her birth she joined an older sister, Jeanne, and followed a son, Charles, who died as an infant. Jeanne died in 1390 and was followed by another Jeanne in 1391, Charles in 1392, Marie in 1393 and Michelle in 1395. These would make up the siblings that Isabelle grew up with before her first marriage.

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The English Duchess Convicted of Witchcraft

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On January 19, 1442, Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester was convicted of treason for conspiring against the king, Henry VI. Specifically, she was charged with witchcraft and for consorting with astrologers and fortune-tellers to predict when King Henry would die. Not at all coincidentally, Eleanor stood to benefit from Henry’s death since her husband, his uncle, was the heir apparent.

The charges, which were likely embellished by the political enemies of her husband, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, nevertheless prompted him to swiftly divorce her when they came to light in the summer of 1441. After her conviction, Eleanor was forced to do penance by walking through the streets of London and then imprisoned.

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