Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/John of Gaunt
JOHN of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340–1399), was the fourth son of Edward III, and was born in March 1340 at Ghent, which, corrupted into Gaunt, gave him his popular appellation. The queen, his mother, had been left at Ghent during the king's temporary absence in England, in the interval between the two campaigns against France of 1339 and 1340. On 29 Sept. 1342 he was created Earl of Richmond, with a grant of all the lands and prerogatives of that title, late held by John, duke of Brittany and Richmond. On 6 March 1351 he was confirmed in the earldom, which he finally surrendered 25 June 1372.
Early in 1355 he was attached, together with his brother Lionel, duke of Clarence [q. v.], to the expedition which was being organised under Henry, duke of Lancaster [see Henry, 1299?-1361], in aid of Charles of Navarre; and he appears to have been knighted on this occasion. The expedition came to nothing, Charles having patched up a peace with the French king. But later in the year John accompanied his father to Calais, and took part in a brief raid into French territory early in November. The state of affairs in Scotland compelled the king hastily to return and advance to the recovery of Berwick, which had been surprised by the Scots. The young Earl of Richmond was again with his father in this campaign, and was one of the witnesses to Edward Balliol's surrender of the crown of Scotland, 20 Jan. 1356.
When little more than nineteen years of age he married, at Reading, 19 May 1359, his cousin Blanche, second daughter and coheiress of Henry, duke of Lancaster; and in the same year joined in the expedition, commanded by the king in person, which invaded France 28 Oct., and was brought to a conclusion by the treaty of Bretigny, 18 May 1360.
On the death of his father-in-law, March 1361, he succeeded, in right of his wife, to the earldom of Lancaster, and entered into possession of great estates, chiefly in the northern counties, which were confirmed by special charter. On 23 April he was created a knight of the Garter. Within a year he succeeded to the rest of the Lancastrian possessions by the death, on Palm Sunday, 10 April 1362, of Maud, the elder daughter of Henry of Lancaster and widow of William, duke of Bavaria; and at the same time took the titles of Earl of Derby, Lincoln, and Leicester. On 13 Nov. following he was advanced to the rank of Duke of Lancaster.
In 1364 Lancaster accompanied his brother, Edmund of Langley [q. v.], to Flanders, in order to negotiate a treaty of marriage between Edmund and Margaret, daughter of Count Louis. The contract was signed at Dover 19 Oct., but the match was broken off through French intrigue.
The expulsion of Pedro the Cruel from Castile by Henry of Trastamare in the early part of 1366 led to the first active interference of the English in the affairs of that country, which was destined to have so great an influence on the fortunes of John of Gaunt. Pedro took refuge at Bordeaux, and was welcomed by the Black Prince, who urged his father to support the dethroned king. Accordingly, Lancaster was despatched from England, and took part in the final arrangements with Pedro, September 1366. He then returned to England, where forces were being collected, and was ready to set out again for Guienne in command of them at the beginning of November. He did not, however, actually set sail until the beginning of the new year, 5 Jan. 1367. He landed in Brittany, and marched through Poitou and Saintogne to Bordeaux, and thence to Dax on the Adour, whither the Black Prince had already advanced with his army on the march to invade Spain. Lancaster was appointed captain of the vanguard, and led the first division of the army across the Pyrenees, through the pass of Roncesvalles, 20 Feb. 1367. The English force traversed the kingdom of Navarre, and, entering Castilian territory, occupied Salvatierra, and thence advanced towards Vittoria. During this march Tello, the brother of Henry of Trastamare, made an unexpected attack on Lancaster's camp in the early morning. The duke appears to have acted with presence of mind, drawing up his men in a good position to resist the enemy; but a detachment of his troops was destroyed almost to a man. The hostile armies lay in sight of each other for some days, when the Black Prince, straitened for provisions, suddenly retreated, and crossing the Ebro, took up a position under the walls of Logroño. Henry followed, and posted himself at Najera. On 2 April the English broke up their camp, and advanced to Navarete, and the next day the armies met between that place and Najera. The vanguard of the Castilians was led by Bertrand du Guesclin and the Marshal d'Audrehem, and was opposed by the division under Lancaster and Sir John Chandos. Froissart describes the duke as taking the lead in the first onslaught. The English were here victorious; Du Guesclin was taken prisoner; and Lancaster coming to the assistance of his brother in his struggle with the main body of the enemy, the battle was won. The victory of Najera restored Pedro to his throne, but brought no advantage to the English. They occupied Burgos for some three weeks, and then went into quarters at Valladolid, awaiting the fulfilment of Pedro's engagements. He, however, showed no readiness to discharge his debts, sickness broke out, and the mortality was so great that scarcely a fifth of the army is said to have survived. The Black Prince himself was stricken; Henry, who had escaped into France, was threatening Aquitaine; and a speedy retreat from Spain became imperative. This was safely effected, and the prince and Lancaster reached Bordeaux early in September, Lancaster returning thence to England.
The bad faith of Don Pedro towards his English allies, the consequent license of the unpaid free companies, and the levy of unpopular taxes conspired to arouse the hostility of the people of Guienne against the English occupation. Charles of France profited by this discontent, and during the next year made preparations for a rupture of the treaty of Bretigny. On 20 March 1369 he declared war, marched straightway into Ponthieu, and conquered it. Preparations had, however, already been commenced in England for sending reinforcements into the English dominions in France. On 12 June Lancaster was appointed captain and lieutenant of Calais and Guines, and on the arrival of news that the French king was gathering troops for the invasion of England, he was despatched to Calais early in August in command of a body of six hundred men-at-arms and fifteen hundred archers. But no result followed. After some raids in the neighbourhood, the English drew out between Ardres and Guines, where they were joined by Robert of Namur with reinforcements. Here the French army, under the Duke of Burgundy, confronted them, taking up position at Tournehem, 23 Aug. 1369; but the English were so strongly entrenched that Burgundy avoided a battle, and after a few days withdrew, 2 Sept., leaving Lancaster free to return to Calais to rest his men and then start on a new expedition designed for the capture of Harfleur. Passing the Somme, Lancaster advanced by way of Dieppe to invest the place, before which he arrived about 20 Oct.; but, finding it too strongly garrisoned, he abandoned the attempt, and, after raiding the district of Estouteville, withdrew again to Calais, and embarked for England, 19 Nov. During his absence his wife, Blanche of Lancaster, died of the plague and was buried on the north side of the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral.
Lancaster was not again employed on active service for some months. The French king had been maturing his plans for a complete conquest of Aquitaine, and two armies were assembled, under the Dukes of Anjou and Berry, to carry on operations independently against the English. Anjou overran Agenois; and Berry, entering Limousin, marched on Limoges, which was surrendered to him through the treachery of the bishop, 22 Aug. 1370. Meanwhile the Black Prince, whose health was now rapidly failing, having set out to oppose Anjou, had taken up his quarters, in company with his brother, the Earl of Cambridge, at Cognac. Here he was joined by Lancaster, who had been despatched early in July from England with a force of four hundred men-at-arms and four thousand archers. The duke brought with him a commission to receive again into favour all such places in Aquitaine as should return to their allegiance to the king of England, acting with the assent of the prince, if present, and, in his absence, independently as the king's lieutenant. The concession appears to have been politic at the moment. but has been' instanced as the indication of an ambitious design on the part of Lancaster to supersede his brother.
The news of the surrender of Limoges roused the Black Prince to fury. The city was immediately invested; the walls were undermined, a breach was effected, and after a siege of only six days, 14-19 Sept. 1370, the English entered the place. Three thousand of the inhabitants were, according to Froissart, put to the sword. The men-at-arms of the garrison still resisted, and their three leaders were severally engaged in single combat by Lancaster, Cambridge, and the Earl of Pembroke, to whom they finally surrendered. Lancaster's opponent was Jehan de Villemar. And this was not the only episode of the day in which the duke played a prominent part. The treacherous bishop, Jehan de Cros, was made prisoner. Lancaster is said to have begged his life of the prince, and afterwards, at Pope Urban V's request, to have dismissed him in safety to Avignon. Limoges was sacked and burnt, and the army retired into winter quarters, Lancaster accompanying his brother to Cognac and thence to Bordeaux.
The Black Prince's health had by this time so entirely given way that his physicians ordered his immediate return to England. To add to his troubles, his eldest son, Edward, died at the beginning of 1371, in his seventh year, while preparations were being made for the embarkation. The loyal barons of Aquitaine were summoned to receive the final instructions of the prince, who presented to them his brother Lancaster as his lieutenant, and was then carried on board his ship, leaving his son's funeral to the care of the duke. Lancaster began his lieutenancy with a single act of vigour. On the news of the surrender to the French of Montpont in Périgord, he advanced at once against the place and laid close siege to it, but did not succeed in reducing it until nearly the end of February. After this he dismissed his troops and remained inactive at Bordeaux, although partisan warfare was carried on, principally in Poitou. Soon after he resigned his command, 21 July 1371, but did not leave France; and while still at Bordeaux he entered into a second marriage, which again brought him into connection with Spain. After the death of their father and the recovery by Henry of Trastamare of the throne of Castile, Pedro the Cruel's two daughters had taken refuge at Bayonne, and were residing there at this time. By the advice, it is said, of the Gascon barons, Lancaster married the elder, Constance, while his brother, the Earl of Cambridge, at the same time married the younger, Isabella, both ceremonies taking place at Roquefort, near Bordeaux. The two brothers, with their wives, appear to have returned to England in the spring of 1372, apparently about May. The form of marriage was probably gone through a second time in this country, for on 25 June Lancaster appears to have first styled himself, in right of his wife, king of Castile. The immediate political result of this step was to throw Henry of Trastamare into a closer alliance with the French.
The year 1372 was full of disaster for the English power in Aquitaine. A fleet which was despatched in June, under the Earl of Pembroke, to Rochelle was intercepted by the Spaniards and totally defeated. Du Guesclin and other French leaders overran Poitou and Saintogne. Many important places fell, and Rochelle and Thouars, wherein the supporters of the English cause had taken refuge, were closely invested. This alarming condition of things roused Edward to strain every effort to perfect the preparations which were being made to invade France, He hastily collected a large fleet of four hundred vessels, in which he himself embarked with the Black Prince, ill as he was, and Lancaster, and set sail on 30 Aug. for Rochelle. But the city surrendered only a few days later. The winds proved contrary, and, after beating about for weeks without being able to effect a landing, the expedition returned to England in October. Reduced to despair, the defenders of Thouars opened their gates to the enemy.
The course of the French conquests continued unchecked. Poitou and Saintogne passed completely under the dominion of the king of France. With the new year (1373) Brittany was also attacked, and the duke fled to England to seek for help. The Earl of Salisbury, however, succeeded in holding his own against Du Guesclin in that province until a well-equipped army could be assembled in England for the invasion of France. This new expedition was entrusted to Lancaster, who on 12 June was appointed captain-general in France and Aquitaine. At the end of July he landed with the Duke of Brittany at Calais, in command of three thousand men-at-arms and some eight thousand archers and other troops. With such a force, well appointed in every way, a commander of genius would have struck some decisive blow. But Lancaster had no capacity as a general and failed disastrously. He appears to have had no plan beyond accomplishing a march across a hostile country from Calais to Bordeaux; and, further than harrying and levying contributions in the early days of his progress, he did the enemy little or no harm. Setting out from Calais on 4 Aug., he passed leisurely through the well-cultivated districts of Artois, Picardy, and Champagne, but he failed in all his attempts upon the strongholds and towns which he assaulted. By the end of September he reached Troyes, where the papal legates essayed mediation. All the while his rear was closely followed and harassed by a body of the enemy, who continually increased in numbers as his own troops diminished, but who were forbidden to risk a general engagement. Thus he passed on through Burgundy, Nivernois, and Bourbonnois, and approached the mountains and sterile districts of Auvergne as winter was drawing on. Here his losses were enormous; the greater number of his horses perished, and his baggage had to be abandoned. With the shattered remains of his starving army he struggled on through Limousin and Perigord, and only reached Bordeaux at the end of the year or the beginning of 1374. He was thus in no condition to attempt a reconquest of any part of Aquitaine, and the rest of the winter months were passed in inaction. But, in accordance with a common custom of the time, an arrangement was made for an encounter between his forces and those of the Duke of Anjou, to come off at Moissac in the following April. In the meantime, however, a truce was entered into, to last till August; and on this Lancaster sailed for England in April, without giving further thought to his engagement with Anjou. But the French chose to regard this retreat as a wilful breach of faith, and recommenced hostilities even before the expiration of the truce, and, when actually released from its conditions, easily reduced the rest of Aquitaine, which practically, with the exception of Bordeaux and Bayonne, was lost to England before the end of the year.
Meanwhile, through the persistent efforts of the pope, negotiations had been set on foot for peace between the two countries, and in the course of 1374 meetings were arranged at Bruges to further this object. Froissart is the authority for the statement that Lancaster was one of the envoys; but it is very doubtful whether he joined at all in the conference until the next year. On 20 Feb. 1375 he was appointed ambassador, together with the Bishop of London, the Earl of Salisbury, and others. The plenipotentiaries met first at Ghent and thence removed to Bruges, where they sat during the months of May and June, and where, on 26 May, preliminaries were arranged and on 27 June a truce was agreed to for a year. Negotiations to extend the truce into a peace were still continued, and on 10 Oct. 1375 Lancaster and his companions received fresh powers with this view. They only succeeded, however, in obtaining a prolongation of the truce to April 1377. Lancaster remained at Bruges till the spring of 1376.
In the closing years of his father's reign John of Gaunt became one of the principal figures in domestic politics. Edward's second surviving son, Lionel, duke of Clarence, had died in 1368; the failing health of the Black Prince incapacitated him from taking part in acts of a public nature; and the king himself was sinking into premature old age. Lancaster thus practically stepped into the first place as adviser of the crown. The popular discontent at the ill-success of the renewed war with France had manifested itself in the parliament of 1371, when the clerical party was driven from power, the clergy compelled to contribute heavily to the cost of the war, and new ministers chosen from the feudal party of which Lancaster was the head. But the events of the next following years completely changed the popular feeling. Lancaster had failed most ignominiously in his conduct of the war,there was no alleviation of taxation, the new ministers were accused of embezzlement, and a return of the plague added to the general discontent. The king's growing infirmities, the prince's mortal illness, and the fuct that the next heir was but a child, naturally directed men's thoughts to the succession; and the position held by Lancaster and his increasing unpopularity prompted the suspicion that he was aiming at the crown. This distrust of his brother was apparently shared by the Black Prince, who also could not fail to be exasperated at the mismanagement of the war since his retirement. Matters came to a crisis when parliament met on 23 April 1376. The commons, supported in their action by the Black Prince and led with intrepidity by their speaker, Sir Peter de la Mare [q.v.], proceeded to demand reform of abuses. Lord Latimer, the chamberlain, was impeached and dismissed from office. Other creatures of Lancaster's were attacked and punished; and Alice Perrers, the king's mistress, was banished from court. But while the 'Good parliament' was still pursuing its course of reform, its principal supporter, the Prince of Wales, died on Trinity Sunday, 8 June. Within a month it was dissolved (6 July); but before this step, in order to guard, if possible, against the reversal of their measures, the commons demanded and obtained the king's consent to the addition of ten or twelve bishops, lords, and others to the council, William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, who had taken a prominent part in supporting the action of the commons, being of the number. They also petitioned the king for the recognition of Richard of Bordeaux as heir-apparent to the crown, in consequence of which the young prince was in fact presented to them and formally acknowledged. The St. Albans chronicler (Chronicon Angliœ), to whom we owe the detailed account of the proceedings of this particular period, but whose bitter hostility to Lancaster renders it necessary to accept with caution what he says to the duke's disparagement, declares that he proposed in this parliament that the succession should be settled in case of the deaths of the king and the young Richard, and that, in order to secure it for his own line, the French law excluding females should be adopted.
As soon as the Good parliament was dissolved the supreme power once more passed to Lancaster. The new council was dismissed. The late speaker, De la Mare, was sent prisoner to Nottingham; the impeached minister, Lord Latimer, and others who had been disgraced were recalled, and Alice Perrers returned to court. Two powerful opponents of Lancaster alone remained to be disposed of. Wykeham, as the most important, was first attacked. Charges of maladministration during his chancellorship, an office from which he had been removed as far back as 1371, were brought against him in October, and in November he was condemned to lose his temporalities, and forbidden to come within twenty miles of the court. The motives which actuated Lancaster in this prosecution of the bishop are plainly to be ascribed to the activity displayed by Wykeham in the late parliament. But popular prejudice sought for more hidden reasons. Hence we have the scandalous story given by the St. Albans chronicler and others of his contemporaries of the doubtful birth of John of Gaunt. It was said that the queen, when brought to bed at Ghent, was delivered of a female child, which she accidentally overlay, and that, fearing the king's anger, she substituted for it the son of a Flemish woman. On her deathbed the queen had confessed the secret to the Bishop of Winchester, with the injunction that, should the time ever come when there might be a prospect of John of Gaunt succeeding to the crown, the truth should be made known. It was the publication of this secret which had engendered in Lancaster his deadly hatred of Wykeham. That such a story could be fabricated and find acceptance is a sufficient indication of the extreme unpopularity of the duke, and of the widespread suspicion of his designs in regard to the succession. Wykeham was specially excepted from the general pardon which was granted in commemoration of the king's jubilee year.
Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, next experienced the duke's resentment. As the husband of Philippa, daughter of Lionel of Clarence, he was a natural object of jealousy to Lancaster, as one whose children would have a prior claim to the throne. He held the office of marshal, and in that capacity was called upon to proceed to Calais and report upon its defences. Rather than quit England, he laid down the marshal's staff, which was bestowed upon Lord Henry Percy, afterwards Earl of Northumberland, a former opponent, but now a faithful partisan of John of Gaunt.
The parliament which met on 27 Jan. 1377 was almost entirely at the service of Lancaster. Some few members who had sat in the Good parliament raised their voices against the evil treatment of their late speaker, but they were overawed. The policy of the late parliament was reversed, and pardons were sued for those who had been impeached. But the disgrace of Wykeham was deeply resented by the clergy. The struggle between the clerical party and the feudal party was renewed. Convocation met on 8 Feb., and refused to proceed to business unless Wykeham should be present. As a compromise he was allowed to attend, and the clergy then prepared to attack their powerful enemy through an indirect channel.
Force of circumstances had brought together and combined in a common cause two men of very different characters, John of Gaunt and the reformer Wycliffe. 'Lancaster, whose object was to humiliate, had found a strange ally in Wyclif, whose aim was to purify the church. . . . Regarding almost with sympathy the court of Rome as the natural counterbalance to the power of the bishops at home, corrupt in his life, narrow and unscrupulous in his policy, he obtained some of his ablest and best support from a secular priest of irreproachable character. . . . Lancaster, feudal to the core, resented the official arrogance of the prelates and the large share which they drew to themselves of the temporal power. Wyclif dreamt of restoring, by apostolical poverty, its long-lost apostolical purity to the clergy. From points so opposite and with aims so contradictory were they united to reduce the wealth and humble the pride of the English hierarchy' (Fascic. Zizan. p. xxvi). Their connection was of some standing. Wycliffe had been engaged as one of the envoys in the congress at Bruges in 1374 on the negotiations regarding papal provisions, and probably owed his selection to his patron the duke. He was now summoned by convocation, and on 19 Feb. appeared before the bishops in the lady chapel of St. Paul's. Lancaster, who recognised that the attack was directed against himself, accepted the challenge, and accompanied the reformer to his trial, together with the new earl-marshal. The temper of both sides was ready to break out on slight provocation. The rough conduct of Percy first drew on him a rebuke from Courtenay, bishop of London, and a dispute which followed regarding Wycliffe's right to sit during trial, in which Lancaster joined and threatened personal violence to the bishop, brought matters to a crisis. A riot of the Londoners ensued, and the meeting broke up in confusion. The duke's unpopularity with the citizens is said to have been heightened by a proposal which had been made in parliament, while he was presiding, to appoint a captain in place of the mayor, and to extend the marshal's jurisdiction to the city. The next day the people attacked Percy's house, and sought for him and for the duke at Lancaster's palace, the Savoy. The St. Albans chronicler is very minute in his particulars of the riot. Lancaster and his friend were dining at the house of the merchant, John of Ypres, when the news of the outbreak reached them, and had some difficulty in escaping to take refuge with the young prince at Kennington. The rioters wounded to death a priest who used abusive words of Peter De la Mare, the popular speaker of the commons, maltreated one of Lancaster's retainers, who was recognised by his badge, and reversed the duke's coat of arms as a mark of indignity. At length they dispersed on the intervention of their bishop. An immediate attempt by the Princess of Wales to bring about a reconciliation between the city and the duke is said to have failed; and to the time of the king's death overtures from the principal citizens, who had taken alarm at the excesses of the rioters and were now anxious to make peace, had but indifferent success.
Parliament had finished its work by imposing a poll-tax, a new form of raising money which a few years later led to insurrection, and at the end of February it was dismissed. Now came Lancaster's opportunity. The chief citizens were summoned before the king at Shene, and the mayor and aldermen were replaced by others. Even after this, and after receiving yet other tokens of submission, Lancaster still regarded the Londoners with disfavour. But on 21 June Edward died. The citizens then sent a deputation to the young king, and besought his intervention. Lancaster's position was entirely altered by his father's death, and he could not decline this mediation; a shortlived reconciliation was thereupon effected.
At the coronation Lancaster officiated as steward of England; but immediately afterwards, being deprived of his castle of Hereford, and conscious of being an object of dislike to the new government, he retired from court to Kenilworth. However, he managed, to secure for some of his supporters seats in the council which was chosen to carry on the government during Richard's minority.
Meanwhile the war with France had been resumed on the expiration of the truce. The French fleets insulated the south coast, ravaged the Isle of Wight, and took and burned Rye, Hastings, and other places. Measures for the defence of the country were imperatively needed, and parliament met on 13 Oct. The majority of the commons who were now returned consisted of the same members who had sat in the Good parliament of 1376, and De la Mare was again the speaker. On the question of means to be taken for the repulse of French invasion, a curious scene is reported. The commons demanded assistance in their consultations from a committee of twelve peers, with the Duke of Lancaster at their head. Thereupon Lancaster, rising from his seat and bending his knee to the king, proceeded to refer to the imputations which had been cast upon him by the commons, and indignantly repelling the charges he challenged his accusers to appear. Crowding round him, prelates and lords interposed to calm his anger, and to assure him that such things could not be true, and the commons vouched their request for his advice as the best proof of their trust in his integrity. On this Lancaster allowed himself to be pacified, but on the understanding that in future the inventors of such evil reports should be duly punished. His protests were not without effect in lulling the suspicions of his adversaries. Early in 1378 he succeeded in obtaining charge of the subsidy which parliament had granted to carry on the war, and a fleet was got ready. Lancaster was appointed lieutenant in France and Aquitaine on 17 June 1378, and some small successes were gained off Bayonne over some ships of the Spanish fleet which had pined the French. But he was altogether wanting in enterprise, He is accused of loitering with the fleet on the coast and of letting his men live at free quarters, and even of outraging decency by appearing in public in company with his mistress, Catharine Swynford. At length, after the western fleet had been defeated at sea by the Spaniards and the Scots had attacked the east coast, he sailed for Brittany, and sat down before St. Malo. But an assault which he delivered utterly failed, and the expedition ingloriously returned.
The unpopularity which Lancaster incurred from this want of success was further increased by an outrage perpetrated by some of his followers. Two esquires, named Haule and Shakel, had taken prisoner in the Spanish campaign the count of Denia, who had left in their hands his son as surety for payment of his ransom. Lancaster, thinking that the possession of the young count's person would aid his designs upon the Castilian throne, demanded his surrender. This was refused, and Haule and Shakel were sent prisoners to the Tower. They succeeded in escaping, and took sanctuary at Westminster, but they were pursued by Ralph de Ferrers, who, while mass was being celebrated, broke in, slew Haule, and carried Shakel back to prison, 11 Aug. 1378. Excommunication of the perpetrators of the sacrilege followed, and the Bishop of London published the sentence thrice weekly, as he preached at St. Paul's. Enraged at this, Lancaster is said to have declared in the council at Windsor that he was ready to ride to London and drag the bishop from the midst of the ribald citizens, and bring him before the court. His next step was to procure the summoning of parliament to sit at Gloucester, where it would be beyond the influence of the hostile Londoners and their bishop, 20 Oct.; and it was announced that he was meditating a renewed attack upon the church. The result, however, if he had any such intention, did not fulfil his wishes. The commons showed themselves no less steady than before in demanding redress of abuses, and in insisting on a scrutiny of the expenditure before making further grants.
The history of the next three years is one of futile military expeditions, repeated parliaments, and continued demands for supply. The parliament held at Northampton 5 Nov. 1380 granted the unpopular poll-tax which led to insurrection. Lancaster does not come personally forward during this period. On 19 Feb. 1379 he was constituted lieutenant on the marches towards Scotland, and on 12 June commander-in-chief beyond seas, an appointment which nominally gave him the directionof the expedition sent under Thomas of Woodstock, now earl of Buckingham, into Brittany. On 6 Sept. 1380 he was appointed special envoy to treat with Scotland, with a view to negotiations for a peace, and on 20 May 1381 took command of the border.
It was during Lancaster's absence in the north that Wat Tyler's insurrection broke out. The insurgents were in possession of London, and the duke's palace of the Savoy was destroyed, 13 June 1381. It is said that the rumours of the rising which reached him caused him to hasten to conclude a treaty with the Scots, 8 June. The panic spread, and the insurgents were reported to be marching north to take vengeance on Lancaster; his wife Constance hastened from Leicester, and sought a refuge at Pontefract, but the gates were closed against her, and she was compelled to journey on to Knaresborough. Lancaster himself fared no better. His old follower Northumberland, perhaps jealous of his presence in the north, refused him admission into Bamburgh, and the duke, who had asked and received a safe-conduct from the Scots, retired to Edinburgh, where he was well entertained. From thence he wrote to the king to know what kind of reception he might look for if he returned. Richard replied by denouncing the calumnies spread abroad against his uncle, authorised him to travel under protection of a bodyguard, and ordered Northumberland to find men for him. Lancaster rejoined the king at Reading, and on 18 Aug. was appointed justiciary to hold inquisitions on outrages perpetrated by the insurgents. But the quarrel between Lancaster and Northumberland was not ended. A violent altercation in the king's presence, when the duke accused the earl for his hostile conduct in the north, resulted in the temporary arrest of the latter. In the parliament which met on 2 Nov. both attended with armed followers, and a reconciliation was only effected by Richard's personal intervention. Lancaster now regained some of his former influence, and in the same parliament was placed at the head of a commission of reform of the royal household.
Meanwhile his pretensions to the throne of Castile had been revived by the death of Henry of Trastamare in May 1379. The king of Portugal refusing to recognise his successor and appealing to the English for assistance in making war on Castile, the Earl of Cambridge was sent out with a body of troops to the Peninsula in 1381, and in the parliament which met on 27 Jan. 1382 Lancaster brought forward proposals for an expedition, to be undertaken under his command, which, however, were not favourably received. Again, in the parliament of October 1382 the necessity of supporting Cambridge was insisted on; but the king of Portugal made peace with Castile, and Cambridge returned home. Other events, the French invasion of Flanders and the defeat of Rosebecque, and the subsequent disastrous crusade of the Bishop of Norwich and its consequences, diverted attention from Lancaster's Spanish projects, and the opportunity for active interference passed away.
Affairs with Scotland also needed attention. The truce would expire at Midsummer 1383. Lancaster was named warden of the marches, 7 May, and held a conference with the Scots, 1 July. On 12 July the truce was extended to 2 Feb. 1384, with a view to a peace. Negotiations with France were likewise set on foot, and early in September ambassadors were appointed, with Lancaster at their head, to treat both with that country and with Flanders. But the pretensions on both sides were too extravagant to admit of adjustment, and a truce of only eight months was at length agreed to at Leulingham, near Calais, 26 Jan. 1384. Scotland was included in this truce; but, pending the negotiations, and regardless of their own special truce with England, the Scots had, at the close of 1383, made a sudden incursion into the northern counties. In retaliation forces were collected and placed under command of Lancaster, who invaded Scotland, 11 April 1384. But the Scots, wasting their own country and burning their towns, retired before him, and Lancaster, after felling and destroying parts of their forests, was forced, from lack of provisions, to retreat to the border, where the Earl of Northumberland was left to hold the Scots in check. This, failure again raised popular feeling against the duke. He was accused of slackness in pursuit, and of absolutely inflicting more injury on the northern English counties than on the enemy. When parliament met at Salisbury, 29 April 1384, a curious illustration of public feeling was presented in the accusation said to have been brought against him by a Carmelite friar of plotting the removal of the king. The friar, at the duke's request, was arrested and handed over to the custody of Sir John Holland, and while in his hands the unfortunate prisoner was assassinated, either from over-zeal in Holland on Lancaster's behalf, or even, as it was whispered, with Lancaster's connivance.
Negotiations with France and Flanders were now resumed, and Lancaster and his brother, Thomas of Woodstock, were named envoys. The truce, which was dated to expire on 1 Oct., was on 14 Sept. extended to 1 May 1385; but a permanent peace was impossible. Lancaster is said to have spent as much as fifty thousand marcs in this embassy. The Scots had already been brought into the truce. 20 July, but this did not prevent them from surprising Berwick sooa after, an event which is said to have given an opportunity to Lancaster for obtaining the condemnation of the Earl of Northumberland for neglect. The sentence was, however, revoked on his recapture of the place.
Towards the end of the year a serious quarrel broke out between the king and Lancaster. Richard is said, at the instigation of his favourites, to have plotted the sudden arrest of his uncle, who was to be condemned by the complaisant action of the chief justice Tresilian. Warned in time of his danger, Lancaster fled to his castle of Pontefract, which he fortified to withstand a siege. But the storm passed over, and after some delay a reconciliation was effected by the intervention of the Princess of Wales. On the expiration of the truce, 1 May 1385, the French sent troops into Scotland, and an invasion of England from that quarter was looked for. To meet it a large army was levied, and Richard in person took the command, being attended by Lancaster and his other uncles. On 6 Aug. 1385 the expedition entered Scotland; on 20 Aug. it returned. The Scots followed their usual tactics. They left open the road to Edinburgh, but made a counter-raid into Westmoreland and Cumberland. Having entered the capital and finding the enemy in his rear, Richard at once retired. In this brief campaign Lancaster's advice in favour of bolder action was rejected. The king still regarded him with suspicion, and, as if to put a stop to his uncle's pretensions to the succession, he is said in the next parliament, 20 Oct., to have formally recognised Roger Mortimer as heir presumptive to the crown.
At this moment a convenient pretext for Lancaster's removal to a distance presented itself. His long cherished design of prosecuting his claim to the throne of Castile had at length found an opportunity. John of Avis had won the crown of Portugal, which had also been claimed by John of Castile, in the decisive battle of Albujarotta, August 1385. He had previously called to his alliance John of Gaunt, and his success afforded the latter the opening he had so long desired. Richard, not ill-pleased at the prospect of being rid of his uncle, gave him all assistance. In the winter of 1385 and beginning of 1386 preparations were pushed on. On 22 April Lancaster took leave of the king, who placed upon his head a crown of gold, while the queen paid a similar honour to the duchess; and on 7 July, accompanied by his wife and two daughters, he sailed from Plymouth with an expedition of twenty thousand men. On his way south he touched at Brest, to relieve the garrison,and thence proceeded to Corunna, where he landed 9 Aug. The next month he occupied Santiago, and thence succeeded in gaining possession of the greater part of Galicia. In the spring of 1387 he joined forces with the king of Portugal, who now married Philippa, Lancaster's daughter by his first marriage, and the combined army invaded Castile. But it met with little success, and under the heat of the climate sickness broke out among the troops. The conquests of the previous year were lost, and Lancaster himself fell ill, and was eventually forced to quit Spain and retire to Bayonne. However, he succeeded better by diplomacy than by war. The Duke of Berry had made overtures for the hand of Catharine, his daughter by his present wife, Constance. John of Castile, alarmed at the prospect of another future rival to his throne, hastened to open negotiations for the marriage of his son Henry with Catharine. A treaty was signed. Constance resigned her claim to the Castilian crown in favour of her daughter, who was taken by her mother to Spain in the following spring, and was married in September. Lancaster laid aside his assumed title of king of Castile, and received payment of two hundred thousand crowns to defray the cost of his expedition, and an annuity was settled upon him and his duchess for their lives. He was appointed lieutenant of Guienne 26 May 1388, and remained abroad till nearly the end of the following year.
By his long absence from England, Lancaster avoided taking part in the severe political crisis through which the country had been passing, and which ended in the sudden assumption of the government by the young king himself in May 1389. Lancaster returned in November. On 10 Dec. he took his seat in the council, then sitting at Reading, and by his influence is said to have succeeded in reconciling the contending parties. His arrival appears to have been welcome to Richard, who found in him some means of protection against the overbearing nature of his other uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester. During Lancaster's absence abroad Gloucester's turbulence had been one of the principal elements of disorder; but now that his brother was once more in England, Gloucester receded again into the second place, and Lancaster's influence was exerted m favour of pacification. His own ambition had in some measure been satisfied by his daughters' marriages, and for the present he appears as the supporter of his nephew's government.
On 2 March 1390 Richard created Lancaster Duke of Aquitaine for life. Two years afterwards Lancaster was the principal ambassador to the conference of Amiens, convened to negotiate a peace between England and France, to which the advance of the Turks into eastern Europe now inclined the governments of both countries. To invest him with full powers he was nominated, 22 Feb. 1392, the king's lieutenant in Picardy. The plenipotentiaries met in Lent, but neither side showed readiness to make concessions, and the only result that followed was the extension of the truce to Michaelmas of the next year. Negotiations were, however, renewed at Leulingham, 6 April 1393, Lancaster again taking the principal part, and came to a happier termination, the truce being first continued for a year, and eventually, 24 May 1394, for a further period of four years. In 1393 Lancaster was named special commissioner in the counties of York, Lancaster, and Chester, and was engaged in putting down a revolt in the latter county. This event led to a quarrel with the Earl of Arundel. In the parliament which met 27 Jan. 1394 the duke accused Arundel of conniving at the disturbance. Arundel, who belonged to the warlike party, to which a prospect of peace with France was distasteful, retaliated by complaints of the personal favour shown to Lancaster in his promotion to the duchy of Aquitaine, and denounced the negotiations then pending with France. Richard personally defended his uncle, and Arundel was in the end compelled to ask the duke's pardon.
If we are to believe one of the chroniclers (Eulogium, iii. 369), Lancaster chose this moment to press in parliament for the recognition of his son as heir to the crown, as being descended from Edmund, earl of Lancaster, whom he asserted to have been the elder brother of Edward I. But if he ever did make such a demand, it is hardly probable that he would thus have impugned his nephew's title at a time when the relations between them were so friendly. In connection with this story, however, it is a curious fact that a rumour was afloat (as repeated by the chronicler Hardyng) that he had even gone the length of fabricating a chronicle as evidence of the seniority of Edmund of Lancaster; and it is also remarkable that the same contention was actually brought forward at the time of Richard's deposition (Adam of Usk, p. 142).
The year 1394 was also marked by important domestic changes in the royal family. Lancaster, Richard, and the Duke of York successively lost their wives. Constance of Castile, duchess of Lancaster, died in June, during her husband's absence in France, and was buried at Leicester. The death of the queen opened the path to Richard's marriage with Isabella of France in 1396 and to the extension of the truce with France for twenty-eight years. This foreign policy was supported by Lancaster, although the negotiations which directly led to these results were carried on while he was in Aquitaine.
He left England in the autumn of 1394 for the purpose of formally assuming his dukedom of that province, but the people of Bordeaux and of the other towns which still remained faithful to the English cause refused to recognise his authority. They protested against the intrusion of any one between them and the crown, and they were successful in their resistance. Lancaster remained in the country until the Christmas of 1395, when he was recalled, and rejoined the king at Langley. But his reception, we are told, was cool, and he thought it prudent to leave the court. He retired to Lincoln, and immediately afterwards astonished the world and scandalised the members of the royal family by marrying, January 1396, his concubine, Catharine Swynford, daughter of Sir Payne Roet, king of arms in Guienne, and widow of Sir Hugh de Swynford. She had been governess to Lancaster's daughters, and had borne him children. His estrangement from the king did not last very long. Towards the end of the year he accompanied Richard to Calais, and was present at his marriage with the young French princess, 1 Nov. 1396. As a further mark of favour Richard enacted, on his own authority, the legitimation of Lancaster's natural family, the Beauforts, and this act was confirmed in the parliament which sat from 22 Jan. to 12 Feb. 1397.
But these personal events, and his support of the recent foreign policy, revived the national feeling against Lancaster's predominance. His brother Gloucester and the Earls of Arundel and Warwick formed an alliance in opposition to the new order of things, and a proposal was made in parliament for reform of the king's household. This was summarily repressed, and Gloucester and Arundel, after a personal altercation with the king, retired from court. Then followed in the summer a coup d'etat. A parliament was summoned, and Lancaster and his son Derby were ordered to collect forces for the defence of the king, 28 Aug. 1397. Gloucester was arrested and hurried to his death at Calais. Arundel surrendered, and was brought to trial in the parliament which assembled 17 Sept. In his prosecution, both Lancaster and members of his family took a leading part. The duke himself presided as high steward, and passed sentence 21 Sept.; John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, appeared among the appellants; and the Earl of Derby, once the ally of the accused, bore witness against him, and was rewarded with the dukedom of Hereford.
In the subservient parliament of Shrewsbury, 28 Jan. 1398, Lancaster's influential position was recognised by his appointment to the chief place in the committee to which parliament delegated its powers. But in the same session began the quarrel between his son Hereford and the Duke of Norfolk, which was protracted through the greater part of the year and terminated in the banishment of both rivals, 16 Sept. Lancaster did not long survive his son's disgrace. The last public commissions to which he was appointed were as lieutenant in the marches towards Scotland, 11 March, and as constable of the principality of Wales, 8 Aug. 1398. He died 3 Feb. 1399 at Ely House m Holborn, and was buried in St. Paul's beside his first wife, 'where they bad a noble monument, which was utterly destroyed in the time of the late usurpation' (Dugdale, Baronage). The tomb was placed in the choir between two columns on the north side of the high altar (Dugdale, History of St. Paul's, p. 90), the recumbent effigies of the duke and his wife being executed in alabaster. Richard had granted special leave to the Duke of Hereford to appoint a proxy to receive his inheritance. This leave he withdrew, 18 March, and took possession of the Lancaster estates.
By his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster (d. 1369), Gaunt was father of Henry IV, of Philippa, wife of John of Portugal, and of Elizabeth, wife of John Holland, earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter (1352?-1400) [q. v.]; Catharine, wife of Henry, prince of the Asturias, afterwards king of Castile, was Gaunt's daughter by his second wife, Constance of Castile (d. 1394). By Catharine Swynford, his third wife, he had, before marriage, John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Lincoln and of Winchester, and cardinal [q. v.], Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset and duke of Exeter [q. v.], and Joan Beaufort, wife of Sir Robert Ferrers and subsequently of Ralph Nevill, earl of Westmoreland. Catharine Swynford died 10 May 1403, and was buried at Lincoln.
[Collins's Hist. of John of Gaunt, 1740; Chronicles of Walsinpham; Chronicon Anglise, 1328-88; Eulogium Historiarum and Fasciculi Zizaniorum (all in Rolls Series); Knighton in Twysden's Decem. Script.; Adam Murimuth (English Hist. Soc.), Robert of Avesbury and Historic Ricardi II a mon. Evesham (both edited by Hearne); Adam of Usk, 1377-1404, ed. E. Maunde Thompson for Royal Soc. of Lit. 1876; Froissart's Chroniqucs, edd. Lettenhove and i Luce; Stow's Annals; Barnes's Hist. Edward III; Lowth's Life of William of Wykeham; Stubbs's Const. Hist.; Green's Hist. English People; Longman's Life and Times of Edward III; Wallon's Richard II; Dugdale's Baronage; Rymer's Fœdera.]