He was created Earl of Kendal, Earl of Richmond and Duke of Bedford in 1414 by his brother, King Henry V. On 14 June 1423, at Troyes, he married Anne, daughter of John the Fearless. After Anne's death in childbirth in 1432, he married Jacquetta of Luxembourg.
When Henry V died in 1422, Bedford vied with his younger brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, for control of the Kingdom. Bedford was declared Regent of France, his nephew technically being heir to the throne of that country as well as to the Kingdom of England. Bedford defeated the French several times, until the arrival of Joan of Arc rallied the opposition. In 1431, Bedford had Joan tried and executed at Rouen, then arranged a coronation for the young Henry VI at Paris. While negotiating the Treaty of Rouen, he died at his home and was buried at Rouen Cathedral. Bedford had been Governor in Normandy between 1422-1432, where the University of Caen was founded under his auspices.
He was an extremely important commissioner of illuminated manuscripts, both from Paris (from the Bedford Master and his workshop) and England. The three most important surviving manuscripts of his are the Bedford Hours (British Library Ms Add 18850) and the Salisbury Breviary (Paris BnF Ms Lat. 17294), which were both made in Paris, and the Bedford Psalter and Hours of about 1420-23, which is English (BL Ms Add 42131). This last is signed in two places by Herman Scheere. All are lavishly decorated and famous examples of the style of the period.
Bedford appears in Shakespeare's first play, Henry VI, Part One. Since he has the first line of the first scene, he can be claimed to be the first character in all of Shakespearean literature. He also appears in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part One and Henry IV Part Two.
In the Bedford Book of Hours these arms are shown supported by an eagle collared with a crown and a sable yale all on a gold field sewn with gold uprooted tree-stumps. It is possible that the yale was painted in silver which has tarnished black. The shield is surrounded with a pair of banners gules which reverse in argent with the motto repeated four times: A vous entier (To you / yours entire[ly]). This may be a pun on the German Tier - beast or English tears and tiers of meaning - including tierce - referring to himself as third in line to his father's throne, but now rightful King but for the baby Henry vi. The Hours were supposedly produced as a courtship present from John to his wife, Anne, daughter of John the Fearless of Burgundy.
There is a Queen's Arms public house sign from Birmingham which uses these supporters reversed and with an argent yale uncollared on a shield showing the English royal arms at left and to the right six divisions representing Lorraine. John's second wife, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, cousin to the Emperor (the King of Hungary), was mother to Elizabeth Woodville who may be this queen. Elizabeth Woodville's right to inherit these armorial supporters would seem dubious if they belong to her mother's first husband or to his first wife. Alternatively, though equally incorrect, the arms may be her mother's used in a flattering conceit.