Henry's relationship with Katherine Swynford was always a positive one (she was governess to him and his sisters in youth). His relationship with the Beauforts varied considerably. In youth he seems to have been close to them all, but rivalries with Henry and Thomas Beaufort after 1406 proved problematic. His brother-in-law, Ralph Neville, remained one of his strongest supporters. So did his eldest half-brother, John Beaufort, even though Henry revoked Richard II's grant to John of a marquessate. Thomas Swynford, a son from Katherine's first marriage to Sir Hugh Swynford was another loyal companion and Constable of Pontefract Castle, where King Richard II is said to have died. Eventually, a direct descendant of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford through the Beaufort line would take the throne as Henry VII.
Henry spent a full year of 1390 supporting the unsuccessful siege of Vilnius (capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) by Teutonic Knights with his 300 fellow knights. During this campaign Henry Bolingbroke also bought captured Lithuanian princes and then apparently took them back to England. Henry's second expedition to Lithuania in 1392 illustrates the financial benefits to the Order of these guest crusaders. His small army consisted of over 100 men, including longbow archers and six minstrels, at a total cost to the Lancastrian purse of £4,360. Much of this sum benefited the local economy through the purchase of silverware and the hiring of boats and equipment. Despite the efforts of Bolingbroke and his English crusaders, two years of attacks on Vilnius proved fruitless. In 1392–1393 Henry undertook a journey to Jerusalem where he gained a reputation of a seasoned warrior and courtier.
However, the relationship between Henry Bolingbroke and the King encountered a second crisis in 1398, when Richard banished Henry from the kingdom for ten years after a duel of honour was called by Richard II at Gosford Green near Coventry. Before the duel could take place, Richard II banished Henry from the kingdom (with the approval of Henry's father, John of Gaunt) to avoid further bloodshed between Henry and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, who was exiled for life.
John of Gaunt died in 1399, 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. 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. Henry quickly gained enough power and support to have himself declared King Henry IV, to imprison King Richard, who died in prison under mysterious circumstances, and to bypass 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 the members, especially over ecclesiastical matters. On Arundel's advice, Henry passed the De heretico comburendo and was thus the first English king to allow the burning of heretics, mainly to suppress the Lollard movement.
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 of Monmouth, 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.
In the last year of Henry's reign, the rebellions picked up speed. "The old fable of a living Richard was revived", notes one account, "and emissaries from Scotland traversed the villages of England, in the last year of Bolingbroke's reign, declaring that Richard was residing at the Scottish Court, awaiting only a signal from his friends to repair to London and recover his throne."
A suitable-looking impostor was found, and King Richard's old groom circulated word in the city that his old master was alive in Scotland. "Southwark was incited to insurrection" by Sir Elias Lyvet (Levett) and his associate Thomas Clark, who promised Scottish aid to carry out the insurrection. Ultimately, of course, the rebellion came to naught. The knight Lyvet was released; his follower thrown into the Tower.
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.
According to Holinshed, it was predicted that Henry would die in Jerusalem; Shakespeare's play repeats this. Henry took this to mean that he would die on crusade. In reality, he died at the house of the Abbot of Westminster, in the Jerusalem chamber. His executor, Thomas Langley, was at his side.
Henry was given an alabaster effigy, alabaster being a valuable English export in the 15th century. His body was well-embalmed, as an exhumation in 1832 established.
The following are the senior descendants of Edward III. Note: it is incorrect to presume that female inheritance of the throne was possible at this time: the only precedent (the succession in 1199) suggested to lawyers that it was not. The descendants that were alive at the death of Richard II are in bold.
Mary died in 1394, and on 7 February 1403 Henry married Joanna of Navarre, the daughter of Charles d'Evreux, King of Navarre, at Winchester. She was the widow of John V 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.
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