Earls and Dukes of Somerset -Beaufort

We are almost at the end of the series of posts about John of Gaunt’s Plantagenet descendants. Today this post will look at the line descended from John Beaufort the eldest son of John with Katherine Swynford. He served Richard II and also his own half brother Henry IV. He was born in 1373 and we know that he was raised to be a warrior – in 1390 there’s a reference to him jousting.

In February 1397 he was created an earl becoming the 1st Earl of Somerset, Marquis of Dorset and Lord High Admiral of England.  He also married Margaret Holland (the Hollands get everywhere – this one was the daughter of Thomas Earl of Kent, so a grand daughter of Joan of Kent and yet another cousin of sorts.) John died in 1410 and she would go on to marry Thomas of Lancaster – the son of Henry IV. John and Margaret had six children.

Henry succeeded his father but died without heirs in 1418. He was killed at the Siege of Rouen where he had gone with his uncle Thomas Beaufort the Duke of Exeter. Henry was succeeded in turn by his brother John who became the 3rd earl but the 1st Duke of Somerset. John fought in the Hundred Years War but wasn’t terribly successful so it is thought that his died by his own hand leaving a daughter to succeed him – Her name was Lady Margaret Beaufort and she would be the link by which the Tudors claimed the throne when Henry Tudor, Margaret’s son, won the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485. This post is not the time to discuss the Beaufort claim to the throne or the legitimacy of it – suffice to say she was Plantagenet.

Somehow I managed to miss Thomas, born in 1405 or there about, off the family tree but he died without heirs.

Edmund Beaufort was the 1st earl’s fourth son – John of Gaunt’s grandson for those keeping track. He was made Count of Mortain in 1427 and then Earl of Dorset in 1438 – five years later he was elevated to a marquess and the following year he succeeded his brother John as the Earl of Somerset. Not bad for such a junior member of the family. In 1427 it is believed by some and certainly according to rumour of the time that he had an affair with his cousin’s widow – Katherine of Valois. However, cousin Humphrey, the son of Henry IV who was a leading member of Henry VI’s regency council in England passed a law ensuring that unless a prospective husband of the dowager queen (i.e. Katherine) had her son’s permission to marry all his lands would be forfeit. Henry VI had a lot of growing up to do before he could grant permission for anything and Edmund had too much to lose to risk marrying Katherine – which is possibly why her eldest son with Owen Tudor was called Edmund. This is of course hypothesis and without any sound written evidence – but what’s not to like about a good conspiracy theory? In any event Edmund Beaufort was an early victim of the Wars of the Roses being killed on 22 May 1455 at the Battle of St Albans.

Edmund married Eleanor Beauchamp (a sister of the Earl of Warwick’s – the Kingmaker’s- wife Anne Beauchamp – Edmund being Lancastrian and the Earl of Warwick being Yorkist.) The couple had ten children. The Beaufort line despite four sons became distinctly female as a result of the Wars of the Roses. Henry was executed following the Battle of Hexham in 1464. Edmund was executed by the Yorkists after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. HIs brother John had been killed during the battle. Thomas died young.

Edmund Beaufort’s daughter Margaret (not to be confused with the Lady Margaret Beaufort- they were cousins) married Humphrey Stafford in 1455. Humphrey was badly wounded at the Battle of Albans and appears to have succumbed to the plague in the same year. The couple’s son Henry became the Duke of Buckingham. He was required to marry Katherine Woodville. He was a buddy of the Duke of Gloucester’s but rebelled against him in 1483 after he’d turned himself into Richard III. He was executed for his pains.

Another daughter Eleanor was married off to the 5th Earl of Ormonde but he was executed in 1461 so she married Sir Robert Spencer of Spencercombe in Devon. Her eldest daughter married yet another cousin and a good Lancastrian having been raised at the court of Henry VII – Henry Percy 5th Earl of Northumberland – it also possibly ensured that whilst of a good line that the Percy family did not become too powerful in Henry Tudor’s mind.

Still going? Anne married into the Paston family of letter writing fame and one of her daughters, for Yorkshire readers of the History Jar, married Sir John Saville of Thornhill. And I think that’s more than enough for one day.

The key things about this branch of the family – apart from the fact they all insist on marrying their cousins – for land, power and increasingly to bind loyalties tighter during time of trouble is the fact that the Beaufort line demonstrate the dangers of a family going to war – the result is an heiress. It is also notable that the more junior that the girls become, the less their marriage portion must be because they marry gentlemen rather than lords and so the family moves into obscurity for all but the local enthusiast. In addition to the unappealing dowry there’s also the problem of being on the losing side of a civil war – daughters of traitors are harder to marry off – unless there’s a swap in monarch of course.


And yes I know I’ve still got Joan and Margaret Beaufort the daughters of the first Earl of Somerset to write about but this post is already too long.

Weir, Alison Britain’s Royal Families

7 thoughts on “Earls and Dukes of Somerset -Beaufort

  1. Good read love this period. Seems Treason act has been violated in Brighton which some 3,881 have signed to say we go totally against the Queen and her Government and we demand Royal titles must be torn off Prince Harry and his wife. This is history in the making as all must be jailed on charge of High Treason I think it must be.

  2. I am descended from this line…Would you be willing to continue by reporting the significant roles their progeny continued to play over time throughout the evolution of our planet…for example in the founding of America, the Renaissance, the Elizbethan and Victorian eras

    • I’m quite happy to ramble through history so far as the industrial revolution but then I usually halt unless there is something specific that I have an interest in – for example the Jacobite Rebellions. I probably will continue to meander through the Plantagenet family tree on occasion but will stop looking specifically at them for the time being after Christmas when I return to Norman England, detour to the borders between England and Scotland during the Tudor period, and close down a few monasteries courtesy of a certain Thomas Cromwell. I’m sure, however, that somewhere in 2020 I will encounter a few more Plantagenets! Family trees are fascinating aren’t they?

  3. First, have a Happy Christmas, Julia.

    I love this so much, I am always happy when you cover this family/period.

    As an American descendant, I am proud of my Plantagenet, Lancaster, York, FitzAlan, Holand, Boleyn & Knollys blood.

    Thank You,

    Deborah

    • Deborah, We must be related then, because I am as well. I wonder if Julia would be willing to connect us. It is interesting to follow the dna of these lines in American history to see the who, what, where, why and how they evolved. Largely a hidden history.

  4. Jean, If Julia will give you my email, I would be quite happy to talk to you. Or, you could Facebook me under my name, I am not sure how many Reed’s there are there though.

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