Both this post and tomorrow’s tie in Sweden, which is very apropos in light of recent news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are due to visit the country. It’s a coincidence since these posts have been on the books for a while now, but a happy coincidence. Today we’re taking a look at Philippa of England, daughter of Henry IV and sister of Henry V.
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.
In the usurpation of Richard II’s throne in 1399 and the establishment of the House of Lancaster, much credit is given to Henry IV (obviously) and his father, John of Gaunt. But it’s worth recognizing that without the wealth and inheritance of Blanche of Lancaster, neither would have been as well-positioned to challenge their Plantagenet cousins.
Blanche was born in March 1347 to Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster and Isabel de Beaumont. She was the youngest of two daughters, her elder sister, Maud, having been born in 1339. Given the gap between the two girls’ birth and the lack of subsequent children, including a male heir, it’s clear that the couple suffered from fertility issues, a situation that led to their daughters growing up to be extremely desirable heiresses on the English marriage market.
Lately I have been reading John Ashdown-Hill’s “The Private Life of Edward IV.” I’m not too far into it yet, but so far it’s been enjoyable and it’s certainly a fresh look at the King’s reign, which is usually examined through the lens of the civil war of which he reigned in the middle. Broadly, it argues that perhaps Edward IV was not quite the ladies’ man for which his reputation has given him credit.
Ashdown-Hill has gained some notoriety of late for his theory that Edward IV did, in fact, marry before his queen consort, Elizabeth Woodville, and that their children’s legitimacy was undermined. It’s an interesting argument, one that would add some nuance to Richard III’s usurpation of the throne from his nephew, Edward V. However, this post is not about the veracity of that argument or even, really, about Edward’s relationship with Elizabeth.
In the midst of England’s Hundred Years’ War with France, it secured a shockingly long-lasting alliance with Portugal that would begin in the 14th century and last until the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th. At its center was the marriage of Philippa of Lancaster, granddaughter of England’s King Edward III, to Portugal’s King Juan I. Their children would become known as the “Illustrious Generation” and lead the country into one of its most profitable and historically significant eras.
On this day in 1403 Henry IV, King of England married Jeanne of Navarre, Dowager Duchess of Brittany at Winchester Cathedral. A little less than three weeks later she would make her formal entry into London and be crowned queen at Westminster Abbey. Henry’s new wife received mix reviews: Popular enough within the family, Jeanne had the misfortune of arriving in England in the midst of a surge of nationalism, which made the public wary of her Breton entourage and French family ties.
It was a second marriage for them both. Henry’s first wife, Mary de Bohun, had died in 1394, before he ascended the throne. From their marriage he had six children ranging from the ages of nine to 17 – a significant consideration in Henry taking a second wife was less in securing more children, as he had already four sons, but in providing his court with a feminine presence. Jeanne, for her part, had been married to Jean IV, Duke of Brittany for 13 years, a union which provided nine children.
When Jean IV died on November 1, 1399, her eldest son was only 10 and it fell to Jeanne to act as regent for him until he came of age. It was this same year that Henry IV became king, “usurping” the throne from his cousin, the last Plantagenet monarch, Richard II. Once crowned, and once Jeanne had been widowed, Henry proposed marriage and was well-received. Indeed, the couple already knew each other, since prior to becoming king, Henry had been banished from England by Richard II and spent some time at the Breton court. Notably, this match is often referred to as a marriage of preference, as opposed to diplomatic necessity.
On this day, January 18, in 1425, Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March died at Trim Castle, on the south bank of the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland. At the time of his death, Edmund was only a distant cousin of King Henry VI of England, with limited fortune and slim career prospects at court. However, he was a controversial figure in England and his death caused the royal family a certain amount of relief since some of his contemporaries maintained he, and not Henry VI, was the rightful king.
Henry VI’s grandfather, Henry IV, was the founder of the House of Lancaster after deposing the last Plantagenet king, Richard II, in 1399. Richard II’s claim to the throne was undeniable – he had been the only surviving son of the monarch’s eldest son (Edward, the Black Prince) – and he had smoothly inherited the throne from his grandfather, Edward III, in 1377 at 10 years old. It was less clear, however, who his own heir was since he, despite two marriages, was childless.
While today the laws of succession are clearly defined, it was bit murkier in the 14th century and Richard II’s own choice of his many uncles and cousins would have held significant sway, even if they were not next in birth order. The most powerful of Richard’s uncles – the sons of Edward III – was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. He was enormously wealthy, politically savvy and had decades of governing and military experience – he also had a capable heir, Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford. However, Gaunt wasn’t popular with his nephew the King and there were many at court that mistrusted his ambition – afraid that he would end up with too much centralized power during Richard’s minority or, worse, would attempt to seize the throne for himself.