We’re still of John of Gaunt phase one – Henry was the youngest surviving child of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, born in 1367 at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire. Like his father before him John wished to ensure that his son was married to an heiress.
Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton died without male heirs but left two co-heiresses – Eleanor and Mary. Eleanor married Henry of Bolingbroke’s uncle Thomas Duke of Gloucester. Thomas moved to Pleshey Castle in Essex and encouraged Mary to go into a nunnery. Had she done so then he would have inherited all of Humphrey’s titles and wealth by right of his wife Eleanor. Mary had been three years old when her father died and together with her sister she became a royal ward. The marriage between Thomas and Eleanor took place in 1374 when Eleanor was eleven although she didn’t leave her mother until she was fourteen.
Mary’s mother, Joan FtizAlan, had other ideas than her daughter becoming a nun so took her to Arundel Castle to visit her aunt having come to an arrangement with John of Gaunt – whether John wanted to spite his brother or saw an opportunity to provide his son with a wealthy wife can only be speculated upon. In any event Henry was married to Mary sometime in 1380. Thomas was apparently so cross at being thwarted that his relationship with John never recovered.
The newly married pair were supposed not to co-habit but a son Edward was born in 1382 who lived only four days. In September 1386 Mary gave birth to her a son named Henry. It is possible that there has been a confusion about Edward and that Mary and Henry were not his parents at all – the gap between pregnancies suggests that Henry was the eldest son born after Mary was deemed old enough to live with her groom. Thomas followed in 1387, John in 1389, Humphrey in 1390, Blanche in 1392, and Philippa in 1394. Records indicate that Henry sent apples and pears as well as shell fish to his pregnant wife. Mary died in 1394 in her mid twenties.
And that’s all swimmingly straight forward. As you might expect Mary de Bohun was descended from Henry III so she needed a papal dispensation to marry Henry of Bolingbroke as he was a second cousin.
The complications to this strand of the family tree are not from Plantagenet marriages as despite the fact that Henry IV had four sons who survived to adulthood he had only two legitimate grandsons. Blanche married the Duke of Bavaria and had a son called Rupert in 1409. He died in 1426. Henry of Monmouth (Henry V) married Katherine of Valois following his victory at Agincourt. The couple had one son Henry of Windsor who became Henry VI when he was a baby following Henry V’s untimely death.
Katherine of Valois would eventually marry her keeper of the wardrobe – a certain Owen Tudor. Though there was a suspicion that she had conducted an affair with Edmund Beaufort (grandson of John of Gaunt) who may have had designs on the dowager queen until the regency council required any prospective groom of Katherine to forfeit his lands unless he had permission from the king to marry. The affair if it happened was in 1427 – when Henry VI was six – so a long wait for him to be old enough to give permission. Edmund disappeared from the scene and Katherine got herself secretly married to Owen who didn’t have to worry overly much about forfeiting much in the way of possessions. There is a suspicion is some circles that Katherine was pregnant with Beaufort’s child. There is no written evidence. The Tudors had no claim to the throne by their father or by Katherine of Valois irrelevant of paternity. The Tudor claim when it arrived would be by marriage to Margaret Beaufort.
The other contentious widow is Jacquetta of Luxembourg who became the Dowager Duchess of Bedford when John of Bedford died in 1435. Jacquetta chose to marry a household knight – which was a bit of a comedown for a duchess – bearing in mind a woman took on her husband’s rank. Her second husband was Richard Woodville. With her new husband she had sixteen children – including Elizabeth Woodville.
As an interesting aside three of the wives on this particular tree were accused of being witches for political reasons. Joan of Navarre was accused of being a witch because Henry V wished to control her dower lands in order to draw the revenue from them to pursue his campaigns agains the French. Eleanor Cobham was accused of witchcraft to topple her husband good duke Humphrey from power on the regency council and Richard III accused Jacquetta of witchcraft resurrecting a story concocted by the Earl of Warwick – both of whom resented the rise of the Woodvilles.