Henry IV
By the Grace of God, King of England
and France and Lord of Ireland
Reign 30 September 1399 - 20 March 1413
Coronation 13 October 1399
Born 3 April 1367
Bolingbroke Castle
Died 20 March 1413
Buried Canterbury Cathedral
Predecessor Richard II
Successor Henry V
Consort Mary de Bohun (c. 1369-1394)
Joanna of Navarre (c. 1370-1437)
Issue Henry V (1387-1422)
John, Duke of Bedford
Thomas, Duke of Clarence
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
(1390-1447) Blanche of England (1392-1409)< Philippa of England (1394-1430)<
Royal House Lancaster
Father John of Gaunt, 1st Duke
of Lancaster
Mother Blanche of Lancaster
(c. 1341-1369)

Henry IV (3 April 136720 March 1413) was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence the other name by which he was known, "Henry (of) Bolingbroke". His father, John of Gaunt, was the third and oldest surviving son of King Edward III of England, and enjoyed a position of considerable influence during much of the reign of Richard II. Henry's mother was Blanche, heiress to the considerable Lancaster estates.

Henry enjoyed a rather more equivocal relationship with Richard II than his father had: they were first cousins and childhood playmates. They were admitted together to the Order of the Garter in 1377, but Henry participated in the Lords Appellant’s rebellion against the king in 1387. After regaining power, Richard did not punish Henry (many of the other rebellious barons were executed or exiled). In fact, Richard elevated Henry from Earl of Derby to Duke of Hereford.

The relationship between Henry and the King reached a second crisis in 1398, when Richard banished Henry from the kingdom for ten years (with the approval of Henry's father, John of Gaunt) to avoid a blood feud between Henry and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, who was exiled for life.

The following year, however, John of Gaunt died, and without explanation, Richard 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. After some hesitation, Henry met with the exiled Thomas Arundel, former (and future) Archbishop of Canterbury, who had lost his position because of his involvement with the Lords Appellant, and Henry and Arundel returned to England while Richard was on a military campaign in Ireland. With Arundel as his advisor, Henry Bolingbroke began a military campaign, confiscating land from those who opposed him and ordering his soldiers to destroy much of Cheshire. Quickly, Henry gained enough power and support to have himself declared King Henry IV, imprisoning King Richard (who died in prison under mysterious circumstances) and by-passing Richard’s seven-year-old heir-presumptive Edmund de Mortimer. Henry's coronation, on 13 October 1399, is notable as the first time following the Norman Conquest that the monarch made an address in English. Henry consulted with Parliament frequently, but was sometimes at odds with them, especially over ecclesiastical matters. On Arundel's advice, Henry was the first English king to allow the burning of heretics, mainly to suppress the Lollard movement.


Dealing with RichardEdit

His first problem was what to do with the deposed Richard, and after an early assassination plot was foiled, he probably ordered his death by starvation in early 1400, although there is no evidence for this. Richard's body was put on public display in the old St Paul's Cathedral to show his supporters that he was dead.


Henry spent much of his reign defending himself against plots, rebellions and assassination attempts.

Template:House of Lancaster Rebellions continued throughout the first ten years of Henry’s reign, including the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr, who declared himself Prince of Wales in 1400, and the rebellion of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland. The king's success in putting down these rebellions was due partly to the military ability of his eldest son, Henry, who would later become king, though the son (who had maintained a close relationship with Richard II) managed to seize much effective power from his father in 1410.

Foreign relationsEdit

Early in his reign, Henry hosted the visit of Manuel II Palaiologos, the only Byzantine emperor ever to visit England, from December 1400 to January 1401 at Eltham Palace, with a joust being given in his honour. He also sent monetary support with him upon his departure to aid him against the Ottoman Empire.

In 1406, English pirates captured the future James I of Scotland off the coast of Flamborough Head as he was going to France. James remained a prisoner of Henry for the rest of Henry's reign.

Final illness and deathEdit

The later years of Henry's reign were marked by serious health problems. He had some sort of disfiguring skin disease, and more seriously suffered acute attacks of some grave illness in June 1405, April 1406, June 1408, during the winter of 1408–09, December 1412, and then finally a fatal bout in March 1413. Medical historians have long debated the nature of this affliction or afflictions. The skin disease might have been leprosy (which in any case did not mean precisely the same thing as it does to modern medicine), perhaps psoriasis, perhaps a symptom of syphilis, or some other disease. The acute attacks have been given a wide range of explanations, from epilepsy to some form of cardiovascular disease. [1]

It is said in Holinshed (and taken up in Shakespeare's play) that it was predicted to Henry he would die in Jerusalem. Henry took this to mean that he would die on crusade, but in fact it meant that, in 1413, he died in the Jerusalem Chamber in the house of the Abbot of Westminster. He died with his executor Thomas Langley at his side.


Unusually for a King of England, he was buried not at Westminster Abbey but at Canterbury Cathedral, on the north side of what is now the Trinity Chapel as near to the shrine of Thomas Becket as possible. (No other kings are buried in the Cathedral, although his uncle the Black Prince is buried on the opposite, south side of the chapel, also as near the shrine as possible.) Becket's cult was then at its height, as evidenced by the Canterbury Tales by Richard and Henry's court poet Chaucer, and Henry was particularly devoted to it (he was anointed at his coronation with oil supposedly given to Becket by the Virgin Mary, which had then passed to Henry's father).[2] Henry was given an alabaster effigy, alabaster being a valuable English export in the 15th century. His body was well embalmed, as a Victorian exhumation some centuries later established [3]

Marriage and issueEdit

In 1380, 19 years before his accession, Henry married Mary de Bohun; they had:

Mary died in 1394, and in 1403 Henry married Joanna of Navarre, the daughter of Charles d'Evreux, King of Navarre. She was the widow of John IV of Brittany, with whom she had four daughters and four sons, but she and Henry had no children. The fact that in 1399 Henry had four sons from his first marriage was undoubtedly a clinching factor in his acceptance onto the throne. By contrast, Richard II had no children, and Richard's heir-apparent Mortimer was only seven years old.


Almost two hundred years afters his death, Henry became the subject of two plays (or one two-part play) by William Shakespeare (Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2) as well as featuring prominently in Richard II.


  1. (Peter McNiven, "The Problem of Henry IV's Health, 1405–1413", English Historical Review, 100 (1985), pp 747–772)
  2. Debbi Codling, Henry IV and Personal Piety, History Today, 57:1 (January 2007), pages 23 - 29.
  3. (ANTIQUARY s9-IX (228): 369. (1902)).

External linksEdit

Template:Spoken Wikipedia


Template:Start box |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #ccccff;" | Political offices

Template:Succession box |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #ccffcc;" | Regnal Titles |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="3"|Preceded by:
Richard II |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|King of England
1399–1413 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="3"|Succeeded by:
Henry V |- |- |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Lord of Ireland
1399–1413 |- |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|English claimant of France
1399–1413 |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #ccffcc;" | Peerage of England |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by:
New Creation |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Duke of Hereford
1397–1399 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Succeeded by:
Merged in Crown |- |- |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by:
John of Gaunt |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Duke of Lancaster
1399 Template:Succession box |} Template:English Monarchs Template:Dukes of Lancaster

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