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JOHN OF GAUNT LANCASTER

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 146 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN OF GAUNT LANCASTER, Du= OF (1340-1399), fourth son of Edward III. and Queen Philippa, was born in March 1340 at Ghent, whence his name. On the 29th of September 1342 he was made earl of Richmond; as a child he was present at the sea fight with the Spaniards in August 1350, but his first military service was in 1355, when he was knighted. On the i9th of May 1359 he married his cousin Blanche, daughter and ultimately sole heiress of Henry, duke of Lancaster. In her right he became earl of Lancaster in 1361, and next year was created duke. His marriage made him the greatest lord in England, but for some time he took no prominent part in public affairs. In 1366 he joined his eldest brother, Edward the Black Prince, in Aquitaine, and in the year after led a strong contingent to share in the campaign in support of Pedro the Cruel of Castile. With this began the connexion with Spain, which was to have so great an influence on his after-life. John fought in the van at Najera on the 3rd of April 1367, when the English victory restored Pedro to his throne. He returned home at the end of the year. Pedro proved false to his English allies, and was finally over-thrown and killed by his rival, Henry of Trastamara, in 1369. The disastrous Spanish enterprise led directly to renewed war between France and England. In August 1369 John had command of an army which invaded northern France without success. In the following year he went again to Aquitaine, and was present with the Black Prince at the sack of Limoges. Edward's health was broken down, and he soon after went home, leaving John as his lieutenant. For a year John maintained the war at his own cost, but whilst in Aquitaine a greater prospect was opened to him. The duchess Blanche had died in the autumn of 1369 and now John married Constance (d. 1394), the elder daughter of Pedro the Cruel, and in her right assumed the title of king of Castile and Leon. For sixteen years the pursuit of his kingdom was the chief object of John's ambition. No doubt he hoped to achieve his end, when he commanded the great army which invaded France in 1373. But the French would not give battle, and though John marched from Calais right through Champagne, Burgundy and Auvergne, it was with disastrous results; only a shattered remnant of the host reached Bordeaux. The Spanish scheme had to wait, and when John got back to England he was soon absorbed in domestic politics. The king was prematurely old, the Black Prince's health was broken. John, in spite of the unpopularity of his ill-success, was forced into the foremost place. As head of the court party be had to bear the brunt of the attack on the administration made by the Good Parliament in 1376. It was not perhaps altogether just, and John was embittered by reflections on his loyalty. As soon as the parliament was dissolved he had its proceedings reversed, and next year secured a more subservient assembly. There came, however, a new development. The duke's politics were opposed by the chief ecclesiastics, and in resisting them he had made use of Wycliffe. With Wycliffe's religious opinions he had no sympathy. Nevertheless when the bishops arraigned the reformer for heresy John would not abandon him. The conflict over the trial led to a violent quarrel with the Londoners, and a riot in the city during which John was in danger of his life from the angry citizens. The situation was entirely altered by the death of Edward III. on the 21st of June. Though his enemies had accused him of aiming at the throne, John was without any taint of disloyalty. In his nephew's interests he accepted a compromise, disclaimed before parliament the truth of the malicious rumours against him, and was reconciled form-ally with his opponents. Though he took his proper place in the ceremonies at Richard's coronation, he showed a tactful modera- 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 frcm 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 136o. 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.
End of Article: JOHN OF GAUNT LANCASTER
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