Scope of Project
This project identifies individuals belonging to the royal House of Lancaster.
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century. The family provided England with three kings: Henry IV of England, who ruled 1399–1413; Henry V of England, who ruled 1413–1422; and Henry VI of England and (II of) France, who ruled 1422–1461 and 1470–1471.
The House descended from Edward III's third surviving son, John of Gaunt. Gaunt did not receive a large inheritance, so he made his fortune through marriage to the heiress Blanche of Lancaster, who brought with her the considerable lands of the Earls of Leicester and Lancaster, making him the wealthiest landowner in England after the King. He was conferred the second creation of the title of "Duke of Lancaster" by his father Edward III in 1362, a year following the death of John of Gaunt's father-in-law Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. Gaunt enjoyed great political influence during his lifetime, but upon his death in 1399, his lands were confiscated by Richard II. Gaunt's exiled son and heir Henry of Bolingbroke returned home the same year with an army to reclaim the Lancaster estates, but ended riding a tide of popular opposition to Richard II that saw him take control of the Kingdom. Richard II was deposed and died in captivity, and Bolingbroke was declared King Henry IV of England. In doing so he bypassed the descendants of Edward III's second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, who eventually became the rival House of York. Henry IV was succeeded by his son Henry V, and eventually by his grandson Henry VI in 1422.
Claim to France
Henry V restated Edward III's earlier claim to the throne of France and resumed the Hundred Years War. He defeated the French in several battles, most notably in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and later allied himself with Burgundy, a cadet line of the Royal House of Valois. In 1420, the Duke of Burgundy negotiated the Treaty of Troyes between Henry and Charles VI of France, under which Henry married Charles' daughter Catherine, assumed the regency of France and would succeed to the throne on Charles' death. The treaty also effectively disinherited Charles' son, the Dauphin Charles. However, Henry V predeceased Charles VI, on whose death the French crown passed to his grandson, Henry VI, the infant son of Henry V and Catherine of France, in whose name regents reigned in England and France. Henry's claim according to the Treaty of Troyes was only recognised in those parts of France controlled by the English and their allies, while the territory south of the river Loire recognised the Dauphin Charles as King Charles VII. Charles at first did little to extend his rule beyond this territory. The intervention of Joan of Arc, culminating in Charles' royal consecration at Reims in 1429, reinvigorated the Valois' will to assert their rule to the whole of France. The English regents in Paris reacted by having Henry VI formally crowned King of France in 1431. However, the Valois' renewed efforts, including their military reforms, together with the increasing weakness of the English monarchy, which was beset by internal strife among the nobles, resulted in the House of Lancaster losing all French possessions (except Calais) in 1453, effectively putting an end to the Lancastrian Kingdom of France. However, English monarchs retained their claim to France until 1801.
War of the Roses
Henry VI was a weak monarch who suffered from periods of mental illness. In 1461, he was usurped and imprisoned by his cousin Edward of York, who proclaimed himself Edward IV of England. Henry VI was able to fight back and re-established his rule in 1470, but little under six months later was forced from the throne once again by Edward IV. He died in captivity in 1471, 17 days after his son and heir, Edward of Westminster, died at the Battle of Tewkesbury, leaving no legitimate heir of John of Gaunt. Both houses used a Rose emblem, a Red Rose for Lancaster and White Rose for York, so the conflict between the two houses was dubbed the "Wars of the Roses" by historians.
Amongst the most ardent supporters of the House of Lancaster were the Beaufort family, descended from John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford. When Gaunt and Swynford married in 1396 (some 25 years after the birth of their first child), the church rewarded them by legitimising their offspring through a papal bull. This was enshrined in an act of parliament the following year, but opinions were divided on whether the Beauforts could have any claim on the English throne. With the House of Lancaster extinct, the relatively unknown Henry Tudor proclaimed himself the Lancastrian heir from his exile in Brittany, claiming descent through his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, to John of Gaunt. In 1485, Tudor was able to use the unpopularity of the final Yorkist Richard III to take the crown as Henry VII of England. This was not to be a revival of the House of Lancaster, though, as Henry married the Yorkist heiress Elizabeth of York and founded a dynasty of dual Lancastrian and Yorkist descent, the House of Tudor.
The Lancaster inheritance, known as the Duchy of Lancaster, has remained in English and then British Royal ownership, with monarchs bearing the title Duke of Lancaster. In 2007, the Duchy was valued at £397 million pounds, and the profits are the primary source of the Monarch's income. The Red Rose of Lancaster (a rose gules) is the county flower of Lancashire. The city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania is known as the Red Rose City and its seal features the Lancastrian rose. The rivalry between Lancaster and York, in the form of the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, has continued into the present day, on a friendlier basis. For example, the annual sporting competition between Lancaster University and the University of York is called the Roses Tournament.