Henry Beaufort

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BEAUFORT, HENRY

Cardinal and bishop of Winchester; b. Beaufort-en-Vallée, France, c. 1375; d. Winchester, England, April 11, 1447. He was the second of the illegitimate children of John of Gaunt (d. 1399) and Catherine Swynford (d.1403), and therefore a half brother to King Henry IV (d.1413) of England. He was eventually legitimated in 1396. Consecrated bishop of Lincoln in 1398, he was transferred to winchester in 1405 by papal provision, and for the next 30 years he was one of Europe's leading ecclesiastical politicians. As a reward for the part he played at the Council of constance, Pope martin v made Beaufort a cardinal without title in 1417, and then employed him in 1420 and again in 1427 and 1428 to manage crusades against the hussites in Bohemia. For this purpose he was appointed legate to Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia and was made cardinal priest of Saint Eusebius. Beaufort's failure in Bohemia was due partly to the diversion of his troops to the service of England in France, a move that marked the end of Beaufort's influence on the continent and his hopes of receiving the papal tiara. Conversely, his influence on English politics increased. He had already been chancellor of England (140304, 141317, and 142426) and then became the chief and successful rival to Humphrey of Gloucester as the shaper of English policy during the reign of henry vi. Whereas his rival favored an aggressive foreign policy, Beaufort favored peace, an attitude determined by financial, not religious considerations, for he was the country's banker and the king's chief creditor, but an indifferent churchman. He was buried in Winchester Cathedral, whose construction he had seen completed.

Bibliography: a. b. emden, Biographical Register of the Scholars of the University of Cambridge before 1500 4649 or A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to a.d. 1500 (Cambridge, Eng. 1963) 1:139142. k. b. mcfarlane, "Henry V, Bishop Beaufort and the Red Hat, 14171421," English Historical Review 60 (1945) 316348. l. b. radford, Henry Beaufort (London 1908).

[d. nicholl]

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Beaufort, Henry (c.1375–1447), cardinal bishop of Winchester. The second son of John of Gaunt and Catherine Swynford, Beaufort rose rapidly in the church, becoming bishop of Lincoln in his early twenties, translating to Winchester in 1404. As half-brother of Henry IV, he was rarely far from the heart of Lancastrian government, being chancellor of England under three kings in 1403–5, 1413–17, and 1424–6. A capable administrator and tireless diplomat, his skills and wealth were indispensable to the regime for over forty years. Yet his relationship with the royal family was ambivalent. He quarrelled both with Henry V, over his acceptance of a cardinal's red hat, and with Humphrey of Gloucester for pre-eminence in England during the minority of Henry VI. His immense wealth secured him in power, guaranteed by extensive loans made to the crown from 1417. He shamelessly used his position to the advantage of his family, but there can be no doubting his commitment to the dynasty. In his later years he endeavoured, without success, to achieve a peace settlement with France. Being created cardinal legate in 1427, he was content to be the papal representative in England. Proud, ambitious, and avaricious, delegating his spiritual responsibility in his diocese to subordinates, he stands as the exemplar of a worldly political prelate in late medieval England, outshining even Thomas Wolsey. He was buried in Winchester cathedral.

Anthony James Pollard

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Bibliography

Harriss, G. L. , Cardinal Beaufort (Oxford, 1988).

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Beaufort, Henry (1374–1447) English statesman and prelate, illegitimate son of John of Gaunt. As chancellor to Henry IV and Henry V, Beaufort considerably influenced English domestic and foreign policy. Guardian of Henry VI (1422), he controlled England in the 1430s.