Henry Beaufort

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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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Henry Beaufort (bō´fərt), 1377?–1447, English prelate and statesman. The son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and his mistress (later wife) Catherine Swynford, he was half-brother to Henry IV. He was declared legitimate (1397) and made bishop of Lincoln (1398) by Richard II, and under Henry IV served as chancellor (1403–4) and became (1404) bishop of Winchester.

On the accession of his friend Henry V, Beaufort again was chancellor (1413–17). At the Council of Constance, Beaufort swung (1417) English influence to help elect Pope Martin V, but Henry refused to let him accept the pope's reward of a cardinalate. When in 1422 the infant Henry VI succeeded to the throne, Beaufort became involved in a vigorous struggle for power with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. Beaufort's enormous wealth (he loaned money to the government for the war in France) and political skill gave him the advantage, and he served again as chancellor (1424–26).

Made a cardinal (1426) and papal legate, he preached a crusade against the Hussites in Bohemia in 1429, but the troops he raised were diverted to join the English army in France. In 1431 he crowned Henry VI as king of France in Paris. Beaufort defeated (1432) an attempt by Gloucester to remove him from the see of Winchester and by 1437 enjoyed complete ascendancy. He and his faction, which was later led by William de la Pole, 4th earl and 1st duke of Suffolk (see under Pole, family), sought to end the French wars.

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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



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.