Leader of a “crusade” in Spain in 1386-1387, which was intended to realize his claim to the crown of Castile. The fourth son of Edward III of England, John was known after his place of birth, Ghent (Fr. Gand) in Flanders.
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. (Bettmann/Corbis)
John was created duke of Lancaster in 1362, and acquired a strong claim to the Castilian throne through his marriage (1372) to Constanza, daughter of King Peter the Cruel. John’s expedition against Castile was dignified as a crusade as a result of the Great Schism: the Roman pope, Urban VI, supported John because the pro-French king of Castile, Henry of Trastamara, recognized the Avignon pope, Clement VII. Urbanist bishops were installed in the Galician cities captured by John and his Portuguese allies. However, the invasion failed to threaten the Castilian heartland, and was abandoned.
John of Gaunt was one of the patrons of Philippe de Mézieres’s Order of the Passion, established in the 1390s to promote Anglo-French unity in the common cause of the crusade. According to a plan of 1395, John was intended to be one of the leaders of a crusade against the Ottomans. In the event, however, there was little or no English involvement in the disastrous French crusade to Nikopolis in 1396.