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SIR JAMES LANCASTER (f1. 1591—1618)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 147 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR JAMES LANCASTER (f1. 1591—1618), English navigator and statesman, one of the foremost pioneers of the British Indian trade and empire. In early life he fought and traded in Portugal. On the loth of April 1 591 he started from Plymouth, with Raymond and Foxcroft, on his first great voyage to the East Indies; this fleet of three ships is the earliest of English oversea Indian expeditions. Reaching Table Bay (1st of August 1591), and Iosing one ship off Cape Corrientes on the 12th of September, the squadron rested and refitted at Zanzibar (February 1592), rounded Cape Comorin in May following, and was off the Malay Peninsula in June. Crossing later to Ceylon, the crews insisted on returning home; the voyage back was disastrous; only twenty-five officers and men reappeared in England in 1594. Lancaster himself reached Rye on the 24th of May 1594; in the same year he led a military expedition against Pernambuco, without much success; but his Indian voyage, like Ralph Fitch's overland explorations and trading, was an important factor in the foundation of the East India Company. In 1600 he was given command of the company's first fleet (which sailed from Torbay towards the end of April 16o1); he was also accredited as Queen Elizabeth's special envoy to various Eastern potentates. Going by the Cape of Good Hope (1st of November 1601) Lancaster visited the Nicobars (from the 9th of April 1602), Achin and other parts of Sumatra (from the 5th of June 1602), and Bantam in Java; an alliance was concluded with Achin, a factory established at Bantam and a commercial mission despatched to the Moluccas. The return voyage (loth of February to 11th of September 1603) was speedy and prosperous, and Lancaster (whose success both in trade and in diplomacy had been brilliant) was rewarded with knighthood (October 1603). He continued to be one of the chief directors of the East India Company till his death in May 1618; most of the voyages of the early Stuart time both to India and in search of the North-West passage were undertaken under his advice and direction; Lancaster Sound, on the north-west of Baffin's Bay (in 740 20'N.), was named by William Baffin aftertion by withdrawing for a time from any share in the government. However, in the summer of 1378, he commanded in an attack on St Malo, which through no fault of his failed. To add to this misfortune, during his absence some of his supporters Sir James (July 1616). 102-110, See Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. vol. iii. pp. 708-715 (1599) ; Purchas, Pilgrims, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 147-164; also The Voyages of Sir James Lancaster . . . to the violated the sanctuary at Westminster. He vindicated himself somewhat bitterly in a parliament at Gloucester, but still avoiding a prominent part in the government, accepted the command on the Scottish border. He was there engaged when his palace of the Savoy in" London was burnt during the peasants' revolt in June 1381. Wild reports that even the government had declared him a traitor made him seek refuge in Scotland. Richard had, however, denounced the calumnies, and at once recalled his uncle. John's self-restraint had strengthened his position, and he began again to think of his Spanish scheme. He urged its undertaking in parliament in 1382, but nearer troubles were more urgent, and John himself was wanted on the Scottish border. There he sought to arrange peace, but against his will was forced into an unfortunate campaign in 1384. His ill-success renewed his unpopularity, and the court favourites of Richard II. intrigued against him. They were probably responsible for the allegation, made by a Carmelite, called Latemar, that John was conspiring against his nephew. Though Richard at first believed it, the matter was disposed of by the friar's death. However, the court party soon after concocted a fresh plot for the duke's destruction; John boldly denounced his traducers, and the quarrel was appeased by the intervention of the king's mother. The intrigue still continued, and broke out again during the Scottish campaign in 1385. John was not the man to be forced into treason to his family, but the impossibility of the position at home made his foreign ambitions more feasible. The victory of John of Portugal over the king of Castile at Aljubarrota, won with English help, offered an opportunity. In July 1386 John left England with a strong force to win his Spanish throne. He landed at Corunna, and during the autumn conquered Galicia. Juan, who had succeeded his father Henry as king of Castile, offered a compromise by marriage. John of Gaunt refused, hoping for greater success with the help of the king of Portugal, who now married the duke's eldest daughter Philippa. In the spring the allies invaded Castile. They could achieve no success, and sickness ruined the English army. The conquests of the previous year were lost, and when Juan renewed his offers, John of Gaunt agreed to surrender his claims to his daughter by Constance of Castile, who was to marry Juan's heir. After some delay the peace was concluded at Bayonne in 1388. The next eighteen months were spent by John as lieutenant of Aquitaine, and it was not till November 1389 that he returned to England. By his absence he had avoided implication in the troubles at home. Richard, still insecure of his own position, welcomed his uncle, and early in the following year marked his favour by creating him duke of Aquitaine. John on his part was glad to support the king's government; during four years he exercised his influence in favour of pacification at home, and abroad was chiefly responsible for the conclusion of a truce with France. Then in 1395 he went to take up the government of his duchy; thanks chiefly to his lavish expenditure his administration was not unsuccessful, but the Gascons had from the first objected to government except by the crown, and secured his recall within less than a year. Almost immediately after his return John married as his third wife Catherine Swynford; Constance of Castile had died in 1394. Catherine had been his mistress for many years, and his children by her, who bore the name of Beaufort, were now legitimated. In this and in other matters Richard found it politic to conciliate him. But though John presided at the trial of the earl of Arundel in September 1391, he took no active part in affairs. The exile of his son Henry in 1398 was a blow from which he did not recover. He died on the 3rd of February 1399, and was buried at St Paul's near the high altar. John was neither a great soldier nor a statesman, but he was a chivalrous knight and loyal to what he believed were the interests of his family. In spite of opportunities and provocations he never lent himself to treason. He deserves credit for his protection of Wycliffe, though he had no sympathy with his religious or political opinions. He was also the patron of Chaucer, whose Boke of the Duchesse was a lament for Blanche of Lancaster. The chief original sources for John's life are Froissart, themaliciously hostile Chronicon Angliae (1328-1388), and the eulogistic Chronicle of Henry Knighton (both the latter in the Rolls Series). But fuller information is to be found in the excellent biography by S. Armytage-Smith, published in 1904. For his descendants see the table under LANCASTER, HousE OF. (C. L. K.)
End of Article: SIR JAMES LANCASTER (f1. 1591—1618)

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