Post-classical history

Henry IV of England (1367-1413)

Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Derby (later king of England as Henry IV), was a dedicated crusader in the years before he seized the throne in 1399. He took part in two crusades to Prussia and one pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He planned to take part in a crusade as king, but the troubles of his reign never allowed him to do so.

Henry IV of England. (Corel)

Henry IV of England. (Corel)

Henry was a son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (d. 1399). After taking part in the Appellant movement, which aimed to limit the powers of King Richard II, Henry was politically sidelined after Richard’s reassertion of his personal power in 1388. This marginalization provided the context for Henry’s devotion to crusading in the early 1390s. He planned to take part in the crusade of Louis, duke of Bourbon, to Tunis (1390), one of several Franco-English crusading ventures mooted in a period of truce between the two countries (1390-1398). However, Henry was prevented from entering France, and so went on crusade to Prussia, largely financed by his father.

Accompanied by some French knights, Henry arrived in Prussia in the autumn of 1390. He fought alongside the Teutonic Knights and was involved in a victory over the Lithuanians on the river Memel, and in the siege of Vilnius, which was abandoned after a successful start when disease broke out in the besiegers’ camp. Henry enjoyed the subsequent Baltic winter in style at Konigsberg (mod. Kaliningrad, Russia) and Danzig (mod. Gdansk, Poland), feasting and spending large sums on gambling expenses. He took part in a second crusade to the Baltic region in 1392, but did not see any military action. Before returning to England, he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the winter of 1392-1393, traveling via central Europe and Venice.

Henry became king of England following his overthrow of Richard II in 1399. As king, he hoped to lead a crusade against the Turks; his interest in the crusade reflected his own military career before becoming king, his orthodox religious views (he was a persecutor of the heretical Lollards), and a desire to legitimize his rule. Even as he lay dying in the winter of 1412-1413, he was planning an expedition to the Holy Land. The chronicler Adam of Usk, who liked to record prophecies and omens, claimed that Henry died in the Jerusalem Chamber of the abbot’s palace at Westminster, thereby fulfilling a prophecy that he would die in Jerusalem.

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