Post-classical history

Picture Section

Henry’s maternal grandfather and namesake, Henry of Lancaster. He was the epitome of the aristocratic warrior: brave, talented, rich, literate, pious and dutiful. This image, drawn about 1440, shows him in the robes of the Order of the Garter.

Henry’s paternal grandfather, Edward III, the hero-king of England. He knighted Henry at Windsor on St George’s Day, 1377. Here he is shown with his eldest son, the Black Prince.

Henry’s father, John of Gaunt, was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral alongside his beloved first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. The tomb, with John’s lance and shield, stood to the north of the high altar until it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

Only the foundations now survive of Henry’s birthplace, Bolingbroke Castle, in Lincolnshire. The King’s Tower, shown here, was remodelled about 1450 as a stately polygonal structure. It is possible that the remodelling was a public commemoration of Henry’s birthplace.

Edward, the Black Prince, was Henry’s uncle. His chivalrous deeds of arms and devotion to the Trinity were followed by Henry, who chose to be buried in the same chapel, in Canterbury Cathedral.

Mary Bohun was ten or eleven when she was depicted with a crowned woman, probably Mary Magdalene, in this psalter. It was probably commissioned to mark her wedding to Henry in early 1381.

This is by far the most famous image of Henry IV. Unfortunately it is not actually him. In the late sixteenth century, when series of English royal portraits were in demand, no portrait of Henry was known, and so this was concocted from a suitable French original and widely copied.

Henry’s actual appearance is best revealed by several miniatures and his funeral effigy. This fine example appears in the Great Cowcher, a cartulary of the dukes of Lancaster, made in about 1402.

Richard II. Deeply insecure, his struggle to reign with a strong hand was a tragedy both for himself and his subjects. His bitter hatred of Henry directly led to his own downfall and ultimately his death.

Henry’s uncle, Edmund, duke of York, came to regret his support for Richard II, despite Richard making him his heir. His change of allegiance in 1399 ensured that Henry’s revolution was almost bloodless.

Jean Creton’s chronicle contains a number of contemporary illustrations of the events of 1399. Here he shows Henry (in the black hat) presenting the captive Richard to the citizens of London.

Pontefract was one of the greatest castles in the kingdom and an important base for the Lancastrians. It was also the place where Richard II was finally imprisoned, and where he was killed on Henry’s orders, almost certainly by enforced starvation.

The spectacular ruins of Conway Castle still brood over the town as they did at the end of the fourteenth century. It was here in August 1399 that Northumberland persuaded Richard to meet Henry, taking him prisoner soon after he left the castle.

Parliament assembled around the empty throne shortly after noon on Tuesday 30 September 1399. Henry (in the tall black hat) sits in the seat of the dukes of Lancaster, with his eldest son, Henry, beside him.

Henry and his eldest son, as king of England and prince of Wales respectively, from the Great Cowcher of the dukes of Lancaster, painted about 1402.

Thomas of Lancaster, duke of Clarence, was Henry’s second - and probably favourite - son. Governor of Ireland at the age of fourteen, he became the epitome of a royal warrior. He married his uncle’s widow, died in battle in 1421, and was buried near Henry at Canterbury.

Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, was Henry’s right-hand man in the north. The effigy of his second wife, Joan Beaufort (Henry’s half-sister) lies nearest the camera. Note their Lancastrian livery collars, and those of Thomas and John.

Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, was the second of Henry’s three half-brothers. His arguments with his nephew Thomas and Archbishop Arundel proved extremely divisive. His effigy in Winchester Cathedral shows him in a cardinal’s red hat, which he was awarded in 1426.

John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, was Henry’s eldest half-brother. Although favoured by Richard, he surrendered to Henry in 1399, and thereafter remained unswervingly loyal. He now lies with his widow and her second husband, Thomas, his nephew, in Canterbury Cathedral.

Henry’s seal as duke of Hereford (left) was based on earlier royal seals, such as that of the Black Prince (right). Note, however, that Henry’s seal bears the motto ‘so/ve/rey/ne’ on the feathers. It is possible that the motto was added in July 1399 and relates to his assumption of sovereign power, or regency, at that time.

Henry’s second great seal is acknowledged as one of the two most magnificent royal seals from medieval England (the other being Edward III's Brétigny seal).

This exquisite enamelled gold swan livery badge was found in Dunstable in 1965. Henry’s own accounts for 1391-2 mention him having just such an enamelled gold swan of his own.

This spectacular crown was originally made in Paris about 1380. It probably came to England with Anne of Bohemia, on her marriage to Richard II. Henry gave it to his daughter, Blanche, when she left England to marry Louis of the Rhine in 1402.

The coronation of Henry’s queen, Joan of Navarre, in Westminster Abbey on 26 February 1403.

Henry’s effigy, in Canterbury Cathedral, is the best likeness we have of him, and the benchmark for assessing all other representations shown of the king. His widow, Queen Joan, lies beside him.

Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, shown here preaching in 1400, was Henry’s cousin, lifelong supporter and probably his closest friend.

Battlefield Church, near Shrewsbury, marks the site of Henry’s great victory of 1403. The figure above the chancel window represents Henry in armour.

Lancaster Castle gatehouse was Henry’s sole major secular building project. Ironically, today it is named after his father, John of Gaunt.

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