BOHUN, the name of a family which plays an important part in English history during the 13th and 14th centuries; it was taken from a village situated in the Cotentin between Coutances and the estuary of the Vire. The Bohuns came into England at, or shortly after, the Norman Conquest; but their early history there is obscure. The founder of their greatness was Humphrey III., who in the latter years of Henry I., makes his appearance as a dapifer, or steward, in the royal household. He married the daughter of Milo of Gloucester, and played an ambiguous part in Stephen's reign, siding at first with the king and afterwards with the empress. Humphrey III. lived until 1187, but his history is uneventful. He remained loyal to Henry II. through all changes, and fought in 1173 at Farnham against the rebels of East Anglia. Outliving his eldest son, Humphrey IV., he was succeeded in the family estates by his grandson Henry. Henry was connected with the royal house of Scotland through his mother Margaret, a sister of William the Lion; an alliance which no doubt assisted him to obtain the earldom of Hereford from John (1199). The lands of the family lay chiefly on the Welsh Marches, and from this date the Bohuns take a foremost place among the Marcher barons. Henry de Bohun figures with the earls of Clare and Gloucester among the twenty-five barons who were elected by their fellows to enforce the terms of the Great Charter. In the subsequent civil war he fought on the side of Louis, and was captured at the battle of Lincoln (1217). He took the cross in the same year and died on his pilgrimage (June 1, 1220). Humphrey V., his son and heir, returned to the path of loyalty, and was permitted, some time before 1239, to inherit the earldom of Essex from his maternal uncle, William de Mandeville. But in 1258 this Humphrey fell away, like his father, from the royal to the baronial cause. He served as a nominee of the opposition on the committee of twenty-four which was appointed, in the Oxford parliament of that year, to reform the administration. It was only the alliance of Montfort with Llewelyn of North Wales that brought the earl of Hereford back to his allegiance. Humphrey V. headed the first secession of the Welsh Marchers from the party of the opposition (1263), and was amongst the captives whom the Montfortians took at Lewes. The earl's son and namesake was on the victorious side, and shared in the defeat of Evesham, which he did not long survive. Humphrey V. was, therefore, naturally selected as one of the twelve arbitrators to draw up the ban of Kenilworth (1266), by which the disinherited rebels were allowed to make their peace. Dying in 1275, he was succeeded by his grandson Humphrey VII. This Bohun lives in history as one of the recalcitrant barons of the year 1297, who extorted from Edward I. the Confirmatio Cartarum. The motives of the earl's defiance were not altogether disinterested. He had suffered twice from the chicanery of Edward's lawyers; in 1284 when a dispute between himself and the royal favourite, John Giffard, was decided in the latter's favour; and again in 1292 when he was punished with temporary imprisonment and sequestration for a technical, and apparently unwitting, contempt of the king's court. In company, therefore, with the earl of Norfolk he refused to render foreign service in Gascony, on the plea that they were only bound to serve with the king, who was himself bound for Flanders. Their attitude brought to a head the general discontent which Edward had excited by his arbitrary taxation; and Edward was obliged to make a surrender on all the subjects of complaint. At Falkirk (1298) Humphrey VII. redeemed his character for loyalty. His son, Humphrey VIII., who succeeded him in the same year, was allowed to marry one of the king's daughters, Eleanor, the widowed countess of Holland (1302). This close connexion with the royal house did not prevent him, as it did not prevent Earl Thomas of Lancaster, from joining the opposition to the feeble Edward II. In 1310 Humphrey VIII. figured among the Lords Ordainers; though, with more patriotism than some of his fellow-commissioners, he afterwards followed the king to Bannockburn. He was taken captive in the battle, but exchanged for the wife of Robert Bruce. Subsequently he returned to the cause of his order, and fell on the side of Earl Thomas at the field of Boroughbridge (1322). With him, as with his father, the politics of the Marches had been the main consideration; his final change of side was due to jealousy of the younger Despenser, whose lordship of Glamorgan was too great for the comfort of the Bohuns in Brecon. With the death of Humphrey VIII. the fortunes of the family enter on a more peaceful stage. Earl John (d. 1335) was inconspicuous; Humphrey IX. (d. 1361) merely distinguished himself as a captain in the Breton campaigns of the Hundred Years' War, winning the victories of Morlaix (1342) and La Roche Derrien (1347). His nephew and heir, Humphrey X., who inherited the earldom of Northampton from his father, was territorially the most important representative of the Bohuns. But the male line was extinguished by his death (1373). The three earldoms and the broad lands of the Bohuns were divided between two co-heiresses. Both married members of the royal house. The elder, Eleanor, was given in 1374 to Thomas of Woodstock, seventh son of Edward III.; the younger, Mary, to Henry, earl of Derby, son of John of Gaunt and afterwards Henry IV., in 1380 or 1381. From these two marriages sprang the houses of Lancaster and Stafford.
See J.E. Doyle's Official Baronage of England (1886), the Complete Peerage of G. E. C(okayne), (1867-1898); T.F. Tout's "Wales and the March during the Barons' War," in Owens College Historical Essays, pp. 87-136 (1902); J.E. Morris' Welsh Wars of King Edward I., chs. vi., viii. (1901).
(H. W. C. D.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)