Post-classical history


Henry’s Children

Henry and Mary were married on or about 5 February 1381. For the early years of their marriage, they lived apart. Mary remained with her mother, the countess of Hereford, who was paid for her upkeep.1 Despite this, McFarlane declared that ‘they must have met occasionally, for on 16 April 1382 the countess of Derby gave birth to her first child, a son who not unnaturally failed to live; his father was sixteen, his mother thirteen’.2 This statement is wrong: the child failed to live because he never existed. The source for McFarlane’s statement was Wylie’s Reign of Henry IV, but this was based on a misreading of the original Lancastrian account book in The National Archives (DL 28/1/1). Wylie noted this as:

Data uni armigero voc’ Westcombe de dna’ mea’ Princessa de Bokyngham portanti domino meo nova quod domina sua erat deliberata de puero Apr. 16th, 1382, by order of Duke of Lancaster (66/8).3 [Given to an esquire called Westcombe of my Lady the Princess of Buckingham for bringing to my lord news that his lady was delivered of a boy … £3 6s 8d].

And the next entry reads:

Ap. 18th 1382 at Retheford [Rochford?] magistre pueri predicti (40/-) nurse pueri predicti (26/8).4 [… to the master of the aforesaid boy £2, [to the] nurse of the aforesaid boy £1 6s 8d].

Given the entry relating to the master and nurse, which seems to be a payment made on Henry’s orders, Wylie has presumed that the earlier entry relates to a son of Henry’s by Mary, and that Henry is confirmed as the father by the following entry, in which Henry clearly paid for the nurse. This in turn misled McFarlane and many others less discerning. One recent compilation has given this boy a name, ‘Edward’, and states that he lived for only four days.5

The original document reads as follows:

Et dat[a] uni armigero qui attulit d[omin]o suu[m] annidonu[m] de domina mea Princessa xiijs iiijd … Et dat[a] uni armigero voc[atur] Westcombe d[omi]ni de Bokyngham portanti d[omi]no meo nova quod d[omi]na sua erat deliberat[a] de pu[er]o per mandat[um] d[omi]ni mei Lanc[astrie] xvj die Aprilis lxvjs viijd.6 [And given to an esquire who brought to the lord his New-Year gift from my lady the princess [of Wales] 13s 4d … And given to an esquire called Westcombe of Lord Buckingham for carrying to my lord news that his lady was delivered of a boy, by the order of my lord of Lancaster [dated] 16 April £3 6s 8d].

This shows that the messenger was not Henry’s own but in the service of his uncle Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, and that the lady who had given birth to a son was not Henry’s wife but his (i.e. the messenger’s) mistress. This was Henry’s sister-in-law, Eleanor Bohun, countess of Buckingham. The boy was Humphrey, known as Humphrey Bohun, who became duke of Gloucester on Thomas’s death in 1397. Confirmation of this is to be found in Thomas’s Inquisitions Post Mortem, most of which refer to his son as being ‘15 and more’ (i.e. in his sixteenth year) in October–December 1397, and so born in the year October 1381–October 1382.7 The reason for the payment being ordered by John of Gaunt (as duke of Lancaster) to be paid by Henry’s treasurer was that John was with Henry at the time the news arrived. It was also by John’s order (not Henry’s), on 18 April, that the payments were made to the master and nurse of the infant.

Henry’s first son was Henry of Monmouth, later Henry V, who was born in Monmouth Castle on 16 September 1386.8 Until recently this date has been open to question, for other sources record his date of birth as 9 August 1387.9 In Monmouth itself all the public commemorations of the birth of the town’s most famous son are proudly marked ‘1387’. However, Henry IV’s accounts as earl of Derby for 1387–8 clearly show that Thomas, his second son, was born before Christmas 1387, as Christmas livery was purchased for his nurse in that year.10 If Thomas was born before Christmas 1387, his older brother cannot have been born later than the winter of 1386–7. Thus the date of 16 September 1386 must be preferred over 9 August 1387, not as a matter of likelihood but due to the impossibility of the later date applying to Henry. Tallying with this is the fact that Henry IV’s household was at Monmouth in September 1386 and was not there in August 1387.11 In 1403 Henry V made a Maundy payment to seventeen paupers, indicating that he was then in his seventeenth year (following his father’s example), and so born before Maundy Thursday 1387.12On the strength of this and evidence cited by Christopher Allmand, Henry V’s date of birth is as certain as that of any late medieval king, and the references to his birth in 1387 are incorrect.13

Henry’s second son, Thomas, was born in the autumn of 1387, as stated above. It is possible that the date of 9 August 1387 wrongly assigned to Henry V is in fact the date of Thomas’s birth. It would appear that he was born in London, for Henry made a gift to the midwife who had assisted at the birth in London on 25 November 1387.14 A London birth would also explain why Thomas is never given a topographical surname, except in relation to his family (Thomas of Lancaster).

Henry’s third son, John, was born on 20 June 1389.15 His fourth son, Humphrey, was born in the autumn of 1390. Henry received news of Humphrey’s birth on or about 1 November 1390 at Königsberg, from an English sailor.16 It appears likely therefore that he was born in mid-to-late September 1390.

Henry’s elder daughter, Blanche, was born in the spring of 1392 at Walmsford, near Peterborough.17 Henry’s account for 1391–2 refers to payments for gowns for his sons and Blanche’s nurse in May 1392. No payments for her appear in relation to Christmas 1391, so she was not born before the end of that year.

It was in the summer of 1394 that Mary (Henry’s wife) died, giving birth to their youngest daughter, Philippa. Given that the child survived, Mary probably died after the actual birth rather than during it. Thus the date of her death is the nearest we can get to a reliable date of birth for Philippa. We currently cannot be more precise than a little before 6 July, the day Mary was buried at Leicester.18 The ODNB gives 4 July as the date of her death.

In 1401 Henry had an illegitimate son, Edmund Lebourde, by an unknown woman. The boy was raised in England and educated in London. Henry wrote to Pope John XXIII to grant a dispensation for him to enter the Church in late 1411, and this was granted on 15 January 1412. Nothing more is known of him.19

Henry had no children by his second wife, Joan of Navarre.

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