Henry Beaufort

Beaufort, Henry (bōˈfərt) [key], 1377?–1447, English prelate and statesman. The son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and his mistress (later wife) Catherine Swynford, he was half-brother to Henry IV. He was declared legitimate (1397) and made bishop of Lincoln (1398) by Richard II, and under Henry IV served as chancellor (1403–4) and became (1404) bishop of Winchester.

On the accession of his friend Henry V, Beaufort again was chancellor (1413–17). At the Council of Constance, Beaufort swung (1417) English influence to help elect Pope Martin V, but Henry refused to let him accept the pope's reward of a cardinalate. When in 1422 the infant Henry VI succeeded to the throne, Beaufort became involved in a vigorous struggle for power with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. Beaufort's enormous wealth (he loaned money to the government for the war in France) and political skill gave him the advantage, and he served again as chancellor (1424–26).

Made a cardinal (1426) and papal legate, he preached a crusade against the Hussites in Bohemia in 1429, but the troops he raised were diverted to join the English army in France. In 1431 he crowned Henry VI as king of France in Paris. Beaufort defeated (1432) an attempt by Gloucester to remove him from the see of Winchester and by 1437 enjoyed complete ascendancy. He and his faction, which was later led by William de la Pole, 4th earl and 1st duke of Suffolk (see under Pole, family), sought to end the French wars.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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