Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester

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"Thomas of Woodstock" redirects here. For the play, see Thomas of Woodstock (play).
Thomas of Woodstock
Duke of Gloucester and of Aumale
Earl of Essex and of Buckingham
Earl of Buckingham
Successor Humphrey
Spouse Eleanor de Bohun
Humphrey, 2nd Earl of Buckingham
Anne of Gloucester
House House of Plantagenet
Father Edward III of England
Mother Philippa of Hainault
Born (1355-01-07)7 January 1355
Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire
Died 8 September 1397(1397-09-08) (aged 42)
Calais, Pale of Calais

Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Buckingham, 1st Earl of Essex, Duke of Aumale, KG (7 January 1355 – 8 or 9 September 1397) was the fourteenth and youngest child of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. He was the fifth of the five sons of Edward III who survived to adulthood.

Early life[edit]

Thomas was born after two short-lived sons, one of whom had also been baptised Thomas. He was born 7 January 1355 at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire.[1] He married Eleanor de Bohun by 1376,[2] was given Pleshey castle in Essex, and was appointed Constable of the Realm.[1] The younger sister of Woodstock's wife, Mary de Bohun, was subsequently married to Henry of Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, who later became Henry IV of England.

At the age of 22, in 1377, Woodstock was knighted[1] and created Earl of Buckingham.[3] In 1385 he received the title Duke of Aumale and at about the same time was created Duke of Gloucester.[4]

Campaign in Brittany[edit]

Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel; Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester; Thomas de Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham; Henry, Earl of Derby (later Henry IV); and Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick, demand Richard II to let them prove by arms the justice for their rebellion
Murder of Thomas of Woodstock.
Arms of Thomas of Woodstock quartering arms of his father-in-law Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford (1341-1373), father of his wife Eleanor de Bohun (c.1366-1399). Royal Arms of England with in the 4th quarter the arms of Bohun (Azure, a bend argent cotised or between six lions rampant or). 15th century stained glass, west window, St Peter's Church, Tawstock, Devon. Tawstock was a seat of William Bourchier, jure uxoris Baron FitzWarin (1407-1470) (a descendant of Thomas of Woodstock's daughter Anne of Gloucester), who had married the heiress of Tawstock

Thomas of Woodstock was in command of a large campaign, which followed the Breton War of Succession when English forces had supported John V, Duke of Brittany against his rival for the Dukedom Charles of Blois, who was supported by France. At the head of an English army, John, duke of Brittany was victorious, but the French had continued to undermine his position and he was later forced into exile in England. He returned in 1379, supported by Breton barons who feared the annexation of Brittany by France. An English army was sent under Woodstock to support his position. Due to concerns about the safety of a longer shipping route to Brittany itself, the army was ferried to the English continental stronghold of Calais in July 1380.[5] As Woodstock marched his 5,200 men east of Paris they were confronted by the Duke of Burgundy's army at Troyes, but the French had learned from Crécy and Poitiers not to offer a pitched battle to the English, so the two armies eventually marched away. French defensive operations were then thrown into disarray by the death of Charles V a few days later. Woodstock's chevauchée continued westwards largely unopposed, and in November 1380 he laid siege to Nantes and its vital bridge over the Loire towards Aquitaine.[5] However, he found himself unable to form an effective stranglehold and urgent plans were put in place for Sir Thomas Felton to bring 2,000 reinforcements from England. By January, though, it had become apparent that the Duke of Brittany was reconciled to the new French King and, with the alliance collapsing and dysentery ravaging his men, Woodstock abandoned the siege.[5]

Dispute with King Richard II[edit]

Thomas of Woodstock was the leader of the Lords Appellant, a group of powerful nobles whose ambition to wrest power from Thomas's nephew, King Richard II of England, culminated in a successful rebellion in 1388, which significantly weakened the king's power. Richard II managed to dispose of the Lords Appellant in 1397, and Thomas was imprisoned in Calais to await trial for treason.

During that time he was murdered, probably by a group of men led by Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, and Nicholas Colfox, presumably on behalf of Richard II. This caused an outcry among the nobility of England that is considered by many to have added to Richard's unpopularity.

Marriage & progeny[edit]

Thomas married Eleanor de Bohun (c.1366-1399), the elder daughter and co-heiress with her sister, Mary de Bohun, of their father Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford (1341-1373). Thomas of Woodstock had by his wife Eleanor the following five children:

As he was attainted as a traitor, his dukedom of Gloucester was forfeit. The title Earl of Buckingham was inherited by his son, who however died only two years later in 1399. Thomas of Woodstock's eldest daughter, Anne, married into the powerful Stafford family, who were Earls of Stafford. Her son, Humphrey Stafford was created Duke of Buckingham in 1444 and also inherited part of the de Bohun estates.

The other part of these estates — including the Earldom of Hereford, which had belonged to Mary de Bohun and had then become incorporated into the holdings of the House of Lancaster — became a matter of contention in the latter 15th century.

In literature[edit]

  • Thomas of Woodstock's murder plays a prominent part in William Shakespeare's play Richard II, though he is dead at the time of the play's beginning.
  • He also is the subject of Thomas of Woodstock, another Elizabethan drama by an anonymous playwright. Because of its stylistic affinities to Shakespeare's play, it is also called Richard the Second Part One.


Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Arms of Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester.svg


As Duke of Gloucester, Thomas had use of the coat of arms of the kingdom, differenced by a bordure argent.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Anthony Goodman, The Loyal Conspiracy:The Lords Appellant under Richard II, (University of Miami Press, 1971), 5.
  2. ^ G.A. Holmes, Estates of the Higher Nobility in Fourteenth Century England, (Cambridge University Press, 1957), 24.
  3. ^ Anthony Goodman, The Loyal Conspiracy:The Lords Appellant under Richard II, 6.
  4. ^ Anthony Goodman, The Loyal Conspiracy:The Lords Appellant under Richard II, 91.
  5. ^ a b c Anthony Goodman, The Loyal Conspiracy:The Lords Appellant under Richard II, 124-126.
  6. ^ Anthony Goodman, The Loyal Conspiracy:The Lords Appellant under Richard II, 93.
  7. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Hereford and Essex
Lord High Constable
Succeeded by
The Earl of Buckingham
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Ireland
Justice of Chester
Succeeded by
The Duke of Exeter
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Essex
Earl of Buckingham
Succeeded by
Humphrey, 2nd Earl
Duke of Gloucester
Duke of Aumale