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
Consecration 14 July 1398
Created Cardinal 24 May 1426
by Pope Martin V
Rank Cardinal Priest
Personal details
Born c.1375
Château de Beaufort, Anjou,
Kingdom of France
Died 11 April 1447
Wolvesey Castle, Winchester,
Kingdom of England
Buried Winchester Cathedral
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Parents John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford
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Coat of arms Quarterly: 1st and 4th: azure semy-de-lis Or; 2nd and 3rd: gules three leopards Or; overall a bordure compony argent and azure
Historical painting by Paul Delaroche showing Cardinal Beaufort interrogating Joan of Arc in prison.
Tomb of Cardinal Beaufort in Winchester Cathedral.

Henry Beaufort (born about 1375, died 11 April 1447) was a medieval English clergyman, Bishop of Winchester,[1] a member of the royal house of Plantagenet,[2] and a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.[1]


The second of the four children of John of Gaunt and his mistress (later wife) 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 Boniface IX 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 was promulgated with the exact phrase excepta regali dignitate (English: the royal dignity excepted) by their half-brother Henry IV with dubious authority.[citation needed] On 27 February 1398, he was nominated Bishop of Lincoln, and on 14 July 1398, he was consecrated.[6] After his half-brother Henry of Bolingbroke deposed Richard II and took the throne as Henry IV in 1399,[citation needed] he made Bishop Beaufort Lord Chancellor of England (as of 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 King Henry V,[citation needed] he was made Chancellor once again in 1413, but he resigned the position in 1417.[7] Pope Martin V offered him the rank of Cardinal, but King Henry V would not permit him to accept the offer.

Henry V died in 1422, shortly after making himself heir to the throne of France by marrying Catherine of Valois, the daughter of King Charles VI. Their infant son Henry VI, the Bishop's greatnephew, succeeded him. 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 in 1426 because of disputes with the king's other uncles.[7]

Pope Martin V finally appointed Beaufort a Cardinal in 1426.[7] In 1427, he made him 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.[9]

When the English captured Joan of Arc in 1431, Beaufort was present to observe some of the heresy trial sessions presided over by Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beaumaris. He was also present at her execution. Records claim that he wept as he viewed the horrible scene as she was burned at the stake. It is possible that Cardinal Beaufort was working behind the scenes to engineer the verdict. He was intimately tied to the royal family, thus it was very much in his family's interest that Joan be discredited.

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] 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 and the widow of John Charleton, 4th Baron Cherleton. There is no contemporary documentation to support this allegation, and the theory has been disputed by Brad Verity.[10]

"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."[11]


  1. ^ a b Miranda, Salvador. "Henry Beaufort". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Rosenthal, Joel Thomas (1970). "The Training of an Elite Group: English Bishops in the Fifteenth Century". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (New Series ed.) 60 (5): 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. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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)). 
  11. ^ 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