Henry Beaufort

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For other people named Henry Beaufort, see Henry Beaufort (disambiguation).
His Eminence
Henry Beaufort
Cardinal, Bishop of Winchester
Cardinal henry beaufort.jpg
Cardinal Henry Beaufort
Province Canterbury
Diocese Winchester
Installed 1404
Term ended 1447
Predecessor William of Wykeham
Successor William Waynflete
Other posts Lord Chancellor of England,
Cardinal Priest of S. Eusebio
Consecration 14 July 1398
Created Cardinal 24 May 1426
by Pope Martin V
Rank Cardinal Priest
Personal details
Born Château de Beaufort, Anjou, France
Died 11 April 1447
Wolvesey Castle, Winchester, Hampshire, England
Buried Winchester Cathedral
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Parents John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford
Previous post Bishop of Lincoln 1398–1404, Chancellor of the University of Oxford 1397–1399, Dean of Wells 1397–1398
Historical painting by Paul Delaroche showing Cardinal Beaufort interrogating Joan of Arc in prison.
Tomb of Cardinal Beaufort in Winchester Cathedral.

Henry Beaufort (died 11 April 1447) was a medieval English clergyman, Bishop of Winchester,[1] a member of the royal house of Plantagenet,[2] and Cardinal.[1]


The second of the four illegitimate children of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford, Beaufort was born in Anjou, an English domain in France, and educated for a career in the Church. After his parents were married in early 1396, Henry, his two brothers and one sister were declared legitimate by the pope and legitimated by Act of Parliament on 9 February 1397, but they were barred from the succession to the throne;[3][4][5] this later proviso, that they were specifically barred from inheriting the throne, the exact phrase being excepta regali dignitate (English: the royal dignity excepted), was inserted with dubious authority by their half-brother Henry IV.[citation needed] On 27 February 1398 he was nominated Bishop of Lincoln and on 14 July 1398 he was consecrated.[6] When his half-brother deposed Richard and took the throne as Henry IV of England,[citation needed] he made Bishop Beaufort Lord Chancellor of England in 1403.[7] Beaufort resigned that position in 1404 when he was appointed Bishop of Winchester on 19 November.[8]

Between 1411 and 1413, Bishop Beaufort was in political disgrace for siding with his nephew, the Prince of Wales, against the King, but when King Henry IV died and the Prince became Henry V of England,[citation needed] he made his uncle Chancellor again in 1413; however, Beaufort resigned the position in 1417.[7] Pope Martin V offered the Bishop a Cardinal's hat, but King Henry V would not let him accept it. Henry V died in 1422, shortly after making himself heir to France by marrying Charles VI's daughter, and their infant son Henry VI of England. Bishop Beaufort and the child king's other uncles formed the Regency Government of England 1422-1437,[citation needed] and in 1424 Beaufort became Chancellor once more, but was forced to resign again in 1426 because of disputes with the King's other uncles.[7]

Part of Halsway Manor in Somerset was built by Beaufort as his hunting lodge.[9] He is traditionally held to have built the north aisle of the Church of St Mary at Stogumber "as penance for his lax life whilst at his Hunting lodge".[10]

Pope Martin V finally made him a Cardinal in 1426.[7] In 1427 Martin made Beaufort the Papal Legate for Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia, and directed him to lead the fourth "crusade" against the Hussites heretics in Bohemia. Beaufort's forces were routed by the Hussites at the Battle of Tachov on 4 August 1427.[11]

When the English captured Joan of Arc in 1431, Beaufort presided at her trial before she was burned at the stake.

Beaufort continued to be active in English politics for years, fighting with the other powerful advisors to the King .[citation needed] He died on 11 April 1447[8] and was laid to rest in a tomb in Winchester Cathedral. He suffered from delirium on his deathbed and, as he hallucinated, according to legend he offered Death the whole treasury of England in return for living a while longer.

Affair and daughter[edit]

When Henry was Bishop of Lincoln, he supposedly had an affair with Alice FitzAlan (1378–1415), the daughter of Richard FitzAlan and Elizabeth de Bohun; however, there is no evidence to support this allegation and the theory has been countered by Brad Verity.[12] Henry fathered an illegitimate daughter, Jane Beaufort, in 1402, who some make Alice's daughter. Both Jane and her husband, Sir Edward Stradling, were named in Cardinal Beaufort's will. Their marriage about 1423 brought Sir Edward into the political orbit of his shrewd and assertive father-in-law, to whom he may have owed his appointment as chamberlain of South Wales in December 1423, a position he held until March 1437.[13] The hypothesis of Jane's mother being Alice Fitzalan is possibly a legend subscribed to by the Tudor-era descendants of Sir Edward and Jane Stradling. There is no late-14th or early-15th century documentation to support this affair at all, and the surviving documentation entirely discounts it. However, a blood connection to Cardinal Beaufort would itself be prestigious, regardless of the mother or her marital status.


  1. ^ a b Miranda, Salvador. "Henry Beaufort". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Joel Thomas Rosenthal, "The Training of an Elite Group: English Bishops in the Fifteenth Century" Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 60.5 (1970:1–54) p. 7.
  3. ^ Cokayne Complete Peerage Volume XII pp. 40–41
  4. ^ Schofield, Nicholas; Skinner, Gerald (2007). The English Cardinals. Oxford: Family Publications. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-871217-65-0. 
  5. ^ Williams, David (1996). British Royalty. London: Cassell. pp. 240–241. ISBN 0-304-34933-X. 
  6. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 256
  7. ^ a b c d Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 87
  8. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 277
  9. ^ John Lloyd Warden (1895). An Exploration of Exmoor and the Hill Country of West Somerset: With Notes. Seeley & Co., Ltd. 
  10. ^ "Stogumber". Quantock Online. Retrieved 6 November 2011. 
  11. ^ Harriss, G. L. (1987). "Henry Beaufort, 'Cardinal of England'". Proceedings of the 1986 Harlaxton Symposium: England in the Fifteenth Century (Woodbridge: Paul Watkins Publishing): 123–4. 
  12. ^ Verity, Brad (2004). "A Non-Affair to Remember – The Alleged Liaison of Cardinal Beaufort and Alice of Arundel". Foundations 1 (4): 246–268. (subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ R. A. Griffiths, Conquerors and Conquered in Medieval Wales, 1994


  • Cokayne, George E. (1982). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant XII (Microprint ed.). Gloucester [England]: A. Sutton. ISBN 0-904387-82-8. 
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 

Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Edmund Stafford
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Thomas Langley
Preceded by
Thomas Arundel
Preceded by
Thomas Langley
Succeeded by
John Kemp
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas Thebaud
Dean of Wells
Succeeded by
Nicholas Slake
Preceded by
John Bokyngham
Bishop of Lincoln
Succeeded by
Philip Repyngdon
Preceded by
William of Wykeham
Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by
William Waynflete
Preceded by
Alemanno Adimari
Cardinal Priest of S. Eusebio
Succeeded by
Richard Olivier de Longueil
Academic offices
Preceded by
Philip Repyngdon
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Thomas Hyndeman