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From the Emperor’s Desk. This will be a three part series on the life of King Henry IV of England. Part I will look at his lineage and rise to the throne, Part II will examine his reign and Part III will examine his claim to the throne.

Henry IV (April 15, 1367 – March 20, 1413), also known as Henry Bolingbroke, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1399 to 1413. He reasserted the claim of his grandfather King Edward III, a maternal grandson of Philippe IV of France, to the Kingdom of France.

Henry was the son of John of Gaunt (the fourth son of Edward III) and Blanche of Lancaster. John enjoyed a position of considerable influence during much of the reign of his cousin King Richard II, whom Henry eventually deposed. Henry founded the Lancaster branch of the House of Anjou, also known as the House of Plantagenet. He was the first King of England since the Norman Conquest whose mother tongue was English rather than French.

Henry IV, King of England and Lord of Ireland

Henry Bolingbroke had Plantagenet blood flowing through him from both parents. His mother, Blanche of Lancaster (March 25, 1342 – September 12, 1368), was a member of the English royal House of Plantagenet and the daughter of the kingdom’s wealthiest and most powerful peer, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster and his wife Isabel de Beaumont.

Blanche of Lancaster’s father, Henry of Grosmont, was the only son of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster (c. 1281–1345); who in turn was the younger brother and heir of Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster (c. 1278–1322). They were sons of Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster (1245–1296); the second son of King Henry III (ruled 1216–1272) and younger brother of King Edward I of England (ruled 1272–1307). Henry of Grosmont was thus a first cousin once removed of King Edward II and a second cousin of King Edward III (ruled 1327–1377).

On 19 May 1359, at Reading Abbey, Reading, Berkshire, Blanche married her third cousin, John of Gaunt, third son of King Edward III. The whole royal family was present at the wedding, and the King gave Blanche expensive gifts of jewelry.

The title Duke of Lancaster became extinct upon her father’s death without male heirs in 1361. However, John of Gaunt became Earl of Lancaster, Earl of Derby, Earl of Lincoln and Earl of Leicester.

Henry’s half-sister Joan Beaufort was the grandmother of Edward IV and Richard III. Joan’s daughter Cecily married Richard, Duke of York and had several offspring, including Edward IV and Richard III, making Joan the grandmother of two Yorkist kings of England.

Henry experienced a rather more inconsistent relationship with King Richard II than his father had. First cousins and childhood playmates, they were admitted together to the Order of the Garter in 1377, but Henry participated in the Lords Appellants’ rebellion against the king in 1387. After regaining power, Richard did not punish Henry, although he did execute or exile many of the other rebellious barons. In fact, Richard elevated Henry from Earl of Derby to Duke of Hereford.

Richard II, King of England and Lord of Ireland

The relationship between Henry Bolingbroke and the king met with a second crisis. In 1398, a remark by Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk regarding Richard II’s rule was interpreted as treason by Henry and Henry reported it to the king. The two dukes agreed to undergo a duel of honour (called by Richard II) at Gosford Green near Caludon Castle, Mowbray’s home in Coventry. Yet before the duel could take place, Richard II decided to banish Henry from the kingdom (with the approval of Henry’s father, John of Gaunt) to avoid further bloodshed. Mowbray himself was exiled for life.

John of Gaunt died in February 1399. Without explanation, Richard II cancelled the legal documents that would have allowed Henry to inherit Gaunt’s land automatically. Instead, Henry would be required to ask for the lands from Richard himself.

After some hesitation, Henry met with the exiled Thomas Arundel, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who had lost his position because of his involvement with the Lords Appellant. Henry and Arundel returned to England while Richard was on a military campaign in Ireland. With Arundel as his advisor, Henry began a military campaign, confiscating land from those who opposed him and ordering his soldiers to destroy much of Cheshire.

Henry Bolingbroke initially announced that his intention was to reclaim his rights as Duke of Lancaster, though he quickly gained enough power and support to have himself declared King Henry IV, imprison King Richard (who died in prison under mysterious circumstances) and bypass Richard’s 7-year-old heir-presumptive, Edmund de Mortimer. Henry’s coronation, on October 13, 1399 at Westminster Abbey, may have marked the first time since the Norman Conquest when the monarch made an address in English.