Henry Beaufort

Cardinal Henry Beaufort (c. 1375 – 11 April 1447), Bishop of Winchester, was an English prelate and statesman who held the offices of Bishop of Lincoln (1398) then Bishop of Winchester (1404) and was from 1426 a Cardinal[1] of the Church of Rome. He served three times as Lord Chancellor and played an important role in English politics.

Henry Beaufort
Cardinal, Bishop of Winchester
Cardinal Henry Beaufort
Term ended1447
PredecessorWilliam of Wykeham
SuccessorWilliam Waynflete
Other posts
Consecration14 July 1398
Created cardinal24 May 1426
by Pope Martin V
RankCardinal Priest
Personal details
Bornc. 1375
Château de Beaufort, Anjou,
Kingdom of France
Died11 April 1447 (aged 7172)
Wolvesey Castle, Winchester,
Kingdom of England
BuriedWinchester Cathedral
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
ParentsJohn of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford
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He was a member of the royal House of Plantagenet,[2] being the second son of the four legitimised children of John of Gaunt (third son of King Edward III) by his mistress (later wife) Katherine Swynford.


Beaufort was born in Anjou, an English domain in France, and educated for a career in the Church. After his parents were married in early 1396, Henry, his two brothers and one sister were declared legitimate by Pope Boniface IX and legitimated by Act of Parliament on 9 February 1397, but they were barred from the succession to the throne.[3][4][5]

On 27 February 1398, he was nominated Bishop of Lincoln, and on 14 July 1398, he was consecrated.[6] After Henry of Bolingbroke deposed Richard II and took the throne as Henry IV in 1399, he made Bishop Beaufort Lord Chancellor of England in 1403,[7] but Beaufort resigned in 1404 when he was appointed Bishop of Winchester on 19 November.[8]

Between 1411 and 1413, Bishop Beaufort was in political disgrace for siding with his nephew, the Prince of Wales, against the king, but when King Henry IV died and the prince became King Henry V, he was made Chancellor once again in 1413, but he resigned the position in 1417.[7] Pope Martin V offered him the rank of Cardinal, but King Henry V would not permit him to accept the offer.

Henry V died in 1422, two years after he had married Catherine of Valois, daughter of King Charles VI, who had disowned his son Charles in favor of Henry in the Treaty of Troyes. Henry and Catherine's infant son Henry VI, the Bishop's great-nephew, succeeded Henry as King of England, and, in accordance with the Treaty, succeeded Charles as King of France. Bishop Beaufort and the child king's other uncles formed the Regency government,[9] and in 1424, Beaufort became Chancellor once more, but was forced to resign in 1426 because of disputes with the king's other uncles, in particular Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.[7]

Pope Martin V finally appointed Beaufort as Cardinal in 1426.[7] In 1427, he made him the Papal Legate for Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia, and directed him to lead the fourth "crusade" against the Hussites heretics in Bohemia. Beaufort's forces were routed by the Hussites at the Battle of Tachov on 4 August 1427.[10]

After the capture of Joan of Arc in 1431, legend has it that Beaufort was present to observe some of the heresy trial sessions presided over by Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais. However, the full record of the trial, which lists all those who took part in her trial on a daily basis shows that he was not there.[11] His sole appearance is on the day of her abjuration (26th May 1431). The formal record does not include Beaufort's presence at her execution but legend has it that he wept as he viewed the horrible scene as she was burned at the stake. This legend derives from what is now known as the Rehabilitation Trial of Joan of Arc which culminated in an examination of numerous witnesses in 1455 and 1456 in which one of the 27 Articles of Enquiry was that Joan had died in "such a manner as to draw from all those present, and even from her English enemies, effusions of tears." [12] A number of witnesses at this re-trial inferred or declared his presence including one of the original trial judges, one Andre Marguerie, Canon of Rouen, who asserted that Beaufort had reprimanded his chaplain for complaining that the Bishop of Beauvais's sermon was too favourable to Joan. However, it is not clear to which sermon Marguerie was referring.[12]

In a spirit of contrition and reconciliation, in 1922 a statue of Joan of Arc (carved under the supervision of Sir Ninian Comper) was placed beside the entrance to the Lady Chapel in Winchester Cathedral diagonally facing Cardinal Beaufort’s tomb and chantry chapel.[13]

Beaufort continued to be active in English politics for years, fighting with the other powerful advisors to the king. He died on 11 April 1447.[8]

Affair and daughter

When Henry was Bishop of Lincoln, he supposedly had an affair with Alice FitzAlan (1378–1415), the daughter of Richard FitzAlan and Elizabeth de Bohun and the widow of John Charleton, 4th Baron Cherleton.

Henry fathered an illegitimate daughter, Jane Beaufort, in 1402, who some make Alice's daughter. Both Jane and her husband, Sir Edward Stradling, were named in Cardinal Beaufort's will. Their marriage about 1423 brought Sir Edward into the political orbit of his shrewd and assertive father-in-law, to whom he may have owed his appointment as chamberlain of South Wales in December 1423, a position he held until March 1437.[14]


  1. Miranda, Salvador. "Henry Beaufort". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  2. Rosenthal, Joel Thomas (1970). "The Training of an Elite Group: English Bishops in the Fifteenth Century". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (New Series ed.). 60 (5): 7. JSTOR 1005966.
  3. Cokayne Complete Peerage Volume XII pp. 40–41
  4. Schofield, Nicholas; Skinner, Gerald (2007). The English Cardinals. Oxford, UK: Family Publications. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-871217-65-0.
  5. Williams, David (1996). British Royalty. London, UK: Cassell. pp. 240–41. ISBN 0-304-34933-X.
  6. Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 256
  7. Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 87
  8. Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 277
  9. Griffiths 1981, p. 23.
  10. Harriss, G.L. (1987). "Henry Beaufort, 'Cardinal of England'". Proceedings of the 1986 Harlaxton Symposium: England in the Fifteenth Century. Woodbridge, UK: Paul Watkins Publishing: 123–24.
  11. The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc translated in full by W.P.Barrett,, George Routledge & Sons,1931
  12. Pernoud, Regine (1955). The Retrial of Joan of Arc. Translated by J.M.Cohen. Methuen & Co.
  13. Bullen, Michael; Crook, John; Hubbuck, Rodney; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2010). Hampshire: Winchester and the North. Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England. Yale University Press. p. 390. ISBN 978-0-300-12084-4.
  14. Griffiths, Ralph Alan (1994). Conquerors and Conquered in Medieval Wales. Alan Sutton. ISBN 978-0-7509-0515-2.


Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Edmund Stafford
Lord Chancellor
Vicegerent in England to Henry VI

Succeeded by
Thomas Langley
Preceded by
Thomas Arundel
Preceded by
Thomas Langley
Succeeded by
John Kemp
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas Thebaud
Dean of Wells
Succeeded by
Nicholas Slake
Preceded by
John Bokyngham
Bishop of Lincoln
Succeeded by
Philip Repyngdon
Preceded by
William of Wykeham
Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by
William Waynflete
Preceded by
Alemanno Adimari
Cardinal Priest of S. Eusebio
Succeeded by
Richard Olivier de Longueil
Academic offices
Preceded by
Philip Repyngdon
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Thomas Hyndeman

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