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Lancaster, Henry, Earl Of

LANCASTER, HENRY, EARL OF (c. 1281-1345), was the second son of Edmund, earl of Lancaster (d. 1296), and consequently a grandson of Henry III. During his early days he took part in campaigns in Flanders, Scotland and Wales, but was quite overshadowed by his elder brother Thomas (see below). In 1324, two years after Thomas had lost his life for opposing the king, Henry was made earl of Leicester by his cousin, Edward II., but he was not able to secure the titles and estates of Lancaster to which he was heir, and he showed openly that his sympathies were with his dead brother. When Queen Isabella took up arms against her husband in 1326 she was joined at once by the earl, who took a leading part in the proceedings against the king and his favourites, th'e Despensers, being Edward's gaoler at Kenilworth castle. Edward III. being now on the throne, Leicester secured the earldom of Lancaster and his brother's lands, becoming also steward of England; he knighted the young king and was the foremost member of the royal council, but he was soon at variance with Isabella and her paramour, Roger Mortimer, and was practically deprived of his power. In 1328 his attempt to overthrow Mortimer failed, and he quietly made his peace with the king; a second essay against Mortimer was more successful. About this time Lancaster became blind; he retired from public life and died on the 22nd of September 1345.

His son and successor, HENRY, 1st duke of Lancaster (c. 1300-1361), was a soldier of unusual distinction. Probably from his birthplace in Monmouthshire he was called Henry of Grosmont. He fought in the naval fight off Sluys and in the one off Winchelsea in 1350; he led armies into Scotland, Gascony and Normandy, his exploits in Gascony in 1345 and 1346 being especially successful; he served frequently under Edward III. himself; and he may be fairly described as one of the most brilliant and capable of the English warriors during the earlier part of the Hundred Years' War. During a brief respite from the king's service he led a force into Prussia and he was often employed on diplomatic business. In 1354 he was at Avignon negotiating with Pope Innocent VI., who wished to make peace between England and France, and one of his last acts was to assist in arranging the details of the treaty of Bretigny in 1360. In 1337 he was made earl of Derby; in 1345 he succeeded to his father's earldoms of Lancaster and Leicester; in 1349 he was created earl of Lincoln, and in 1351 he was made duke of Lancaster. He was steward of England and one of the original knights of the order of the garter. He died at Leicester on the 13th of March 1361. He left no sons; one of his daughters, Maud (d. 1362), married William V., count of Holland, a son of the emperor Louis the Bavarian, and the other, Blanche (d. 1369), married Edward III.'s son, John of Gaunt, who obtained his father-in-law's titles and estates.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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