John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Earl of Somerset
Arms of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset.svg
Arms of Beaufort family, Earls and Dukes of Somerset: Quarterly, 1st & 4th: Azure, three fleurs de lis or (France); 2nd & 3rd: Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or (England); all within a bordure compony argent and azure[1]
Earl of Somerset
Successor Henry Beaufort, 2nd Earl
Spouse Margaret Holland, Countess of Somerset
Issue Henry Beaufort, 2nd Earl of Somerset
John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset
Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scotland
Thomas Beaufort, Count of Perche
Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Devon
House House of Beaufort
Father John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
Mother Katherine Swynford
Born Château de Beaufort, Anjou, c. 1373
Died 16 March 1410(1410-03-16) (aged c. 37)
Hospital of St Katharine's by the Tower
Burial St Michael's Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral

John Beaufort, 1st Marquess of Somerset and 1st Marquess of Dorset, later only 1st Earl of Somerset, KG (c. 1373 – 16 March 1410) was the first of the four children of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Swynford, later his wife. Beaufort's surname probably reflects his father's lordship of Beaufort in Champagne, France.[2][3][4]

The family emblem was the portcullis which is shown on the reverse of British pennies minted between 1971 and 2008. A parliament during Richard II declared the Beaufort children legitimate,[5] as well as Pope Boniface IX in September 1396.[6] John of Gaunt married Katherine Swynford in January 1396. Despite being the grandchildren of Edward III, and next in the line of succession after their father's legitimate children, the Lancasters, the Beauforts, including John Beaufort, were initially barred from succession to the throne.[7]

Early life[edit]

Early arms of John Beaufort with a bend dexter

In May to September 1390 Beaufort served in Louis II, Duke of Bourbon's Barbary crusade in North Africa.[6] In 1394 he was in Lithuania serving with the Teutonic Knights.[8]

In 1396, after his parents' marriage, John and his siblings were legitimated by a papal bull. Early the next year, their legitimation was recognized by an act of Parliament, and then, a few days later, John was created Earl of Somerset (10 February 1397).[6][9]

That summer the new Earl was one of the noblemen who helped Richard II free himself from the power of the Lords Appellant. As a reward on 29 September he was created Marquess of Somerset and Marquess of Dorset, and sometime later that year he was made a Knight of the Garter and appointed Lieutenant of Aquitaine.[6] In addition, two days before his elevation as a Marquess he married the King's niece, Margaret Holland, sister of 3rd Earl of Kent, another of the counter-appellants.[6]

He remained in the King's favour even after his half-brother Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) was banished. In February 1397 he was appointed Admiral of the Irish fleet, as well as Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports.[10] In May his Admiralty was extended to include the northern fleet.

Later career[edit]

After Richard II was deposed by Henry Bolingbroke in 1399, the new king rescinded the titles that had been given to the counter-appellants, and thus John Beaufort became merely Earl of Somerset again. Nevertheless, he proved loyal to his half-brother's reign, serving in various military commands and on some important diplomatic missions. It was he who was given the confiscated estates of the Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndŵr in 1400, although Beaufort could not effectively come into these estates until after 1415. In 1404 he was Constable of England.


John Beaufort and his wife Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Somerset (née Holland), the daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent and Alice FitzAlan, had six children; his granddaughter Lady Margaret Beaufort married a son, (Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond), of dowager queen Catherine of Valois by Owen Tudor — thus creating a powerful branch of the Lancastrian family which enabled the issue of that (Beaufort) marriage, Henry Tudor, ultimately to claim the throne, as Henry VII, in spite of the agreement barring the Beaufort family from the succession.

Somerset died in the Hospital of St Katharine's by the Tower. He was buried in St Michael's Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral.

His children included:

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]


As a legitimated grandson of the sovereign, Beaufort bore the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a bordure gobony argent and azure.[11]



  1. ^ Debtett's Peerage, 1968, p.125
  2. ^ " Pollard, Albert Frederick (1901). "Beaufort, John (1373?-1410)". In Sidney Lee. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement​ 1. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 158, 159. 
  3. ^ Armitage-Smith 196-199
  4. ^ Lundy, Darryl. "John de Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset". The Peerage. [unreliable source?]
  5. ^ Chris Skidmore, The Rise of the Tudors: The Family That Changed English History, (St.Martin's Press, 2013), 22.
  6. ^ a b c d e Michael K. Jones and Malcolm G. Underwood, The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, (Cambridge University Press, 1995), 19-20.
  7. ^ This prohibition was not specified in the original act of 1397, but appears in a 1407 confirmation by Henry IV (Pollard 158), making the ultimate legality of the addition uncertain. While this legal wrangling ultimately caused an enormous amount of bloodshed and destruction, it did result in one of the Beaufort descendants ascending the throne as Henry VII.
  8. ^ G. E. C., ed. Geoffrey F. White. The Complete Peerage. (London: St. Chaterine Press, 1953) Vol. XII, Part 1, p. 40.
  9. ^ Pollard 158
  10. ^ Michael K. Jones and Malcolm G. Underwood, The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, 23.
  11. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family
  12. ^ Brown 2004.
  13. ^ Weir 2008, p. 232.
  14. ^ a b Weir 2008, p. 92.
  15. ^ a b Weir 2008, p. 87.
  16. ^ a b Weir 2008, p. 89.
  17. ^ a b c d Weir 2008, p. 93.
  18. ^ Marshall 2003, p. 50.
  19. ^ Weir 2007, p. 6.


  • Armitage-Smith, Sydney. John of Gaunt, King of Castile and Leon, Duke of Lancaster, &c.. Constable, 1904.
  • Brown, M.H. (2004). "Joan [Joan Beaufort] (d. 1445)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14646. Retrieved 21 November 2013.  (subscription required)
  • Jones, Michael K, and Malcolm G. Underwood, The King's Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. Cambridge University Press, 1992. see especially pp. 17–22
  • Marshall, Rosalind (2003). Scottish Queens, 1034-1714. Tuckwell Press. 
  • Weir, Alison (2008). Britain's Royal Families, The Complete Genealogy. London: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-09-953973-5. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of York
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Erpynham
Peerage of England
New creation Marquess of Dorset
1st creation
Marquess of Somerset
Earl of Somerset
2nd creation
Succeeded by
Henry Beaufort