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, whom he married in 1396. Beaufort's surname probably reflects his father's lordship of Beaufort in Champagne, France.[2][3][4]

The Beaufort children were declared legitimate twice by parliament during the reign of King Richard II of England, in 1390 and 1397,[5] as well as by Pope Boniface IX in September 1396.[6] Even though they were the grandchildren of Edward III and next in the line of succession after their father's legitimate children by his first two wives, 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

Between May and September 1390, Beaufort saw military service in North Africa in the Barbary crusade led by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon.[6] In 1394, he was in Lithuania serving with the Teutonic Knights.[8]

John was created Earl of Somerset on 10 February 1397,[6][9] just a few days aftter the legitimation of the Beaufort children was recognized by Parliament. The same month, he also 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. That summer, the new earl became one of the noblemen who helped Richard II free himself from the power of the Lords Appellant. As a reward, he was created Marquess of Somerset and Marquess of Dorset on 29 September, 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 Thomas Holland, 1st Duke of Surrey, another of the counter-appellants.[6]John remained in the king's favour even after his older half-brother Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) was banished from England in 1398.

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 Beaufort who was given the confiscated estates of the Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndŵr in 1400, although he would not have been able to take possession of these estates unless he had lived until after 1415. In 1404, he was named 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 Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, the son of Dowager Queen Catherine of Valois by Owen Tudor. This union created a branch of the Lancastrian family that enabled the issue of Margaret Beaufort's marriage, Henry Tudor, to claim the throne of England in 1485 as Henry VII, in spite of an agreement barring the descendants of the Beaufort siblings 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 the following:

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]

The family emblem featuring the portcullis was shown on the reverse of British pennies minted between 1971 and 2008.



  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