The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown by Nathen Amin
|The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown by Nathen Amin|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: The family name of Beaufort played a major part in British history during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It therefore seems remarkable that little has been written about them until this present volume. From John of Gaunt's liaison with his mistress to the survival of a solitary widow and her son, destined to become the first Tudor King, the convoluted and often violent story against the strife of the fifteenth century is well told.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 344||Date: August 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
The family name of Beaufort played a major part in British history during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It therefore seems remarkable that little has been written about them until this present volume.
The prologue starts at the end of the saga, the family triumph against the odds when it had been virtually extinguished. The Beauforts were descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and third son of Edward III, and his mistress Katherine Swynford. As the leading male members of the family invariably perished on the battlefield or by execution, only a daughter was left. She left one son – Henry, Earl of Richmond, later Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty.
Nine of Edward III's thirteen children survived infancy, and the tale of their descendants is a convoluted one. Suffice to say, John of Gaunt was the father of Henry IV by his first marriage, and of the Beauforts by his mistress. The family were legitimized, although Henry IV ruled that they could not be allowed to succeed to the throne. Nevertheless, as Earls and then Dukes of Somerset, they wielded considerable power in England during the last stages of the Hundred Years' War with France and then throughout much of the Wars of the Roses. None was more mighty than Edmund, second Duke, whose rivalry with the Duke of York was largely responsible for the outbreak of the latter conflict and whose career was cut short when he was slain in the first battle of St Albans in 1455.
The family seem to have been unlucky as military commanders, his elder brother the 1st Duke having mismanaged his task as a commander of English forces in France and probably taken his own life after returning home in disgrace. Nearly all their relations, staunch adherents of the Lancastrian cause, died through violence. It did not help their cause that both Henry IV and his son Henry V died in early middle age through ill-health, and that their successor, Henry VI, was a sickly and mentally unstable individual, at the mercy of favourites and more particularly his ruthless wife Margaret. The Dukes' sister Joan fared little better. She married James I of Scotland, and was fortunate to survive an attempt on her life when her husband was assassinated. The only one to live to the age of seventy was one of the earliest members, Henry, who became Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor of England.
Most were staunch adherents of the Lancastrian dynasty. The exception was the third Duke, who had the good fortune to escape from the battlefield of Towton after a decisive victory helped make Edward IV's position on the throne as the first Yorkist King more secure. Although he had been attainted as one of the major supporters of the deposed Henry VI, he prudently made his peace with Edward and was treated with great favour. For reasons best known to himself, he changed his allegiance again, and with ex-Queen Margaret made an abortive attempt to try and restore Henry to the throne. Defeated at the battle of Hexham, he escaped to hide in a nearby barn but was captured and beheaded. He left no legitimate issue and two younger brothers, the elder of whom succeeded him as fourth Duke. He was executed after the final Lancastrian defeat the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, in which his brother was killed while fighting.
Edward IV had 'chosen to crush the seed', as the Milanese ambassador reported, and the male line was thus extinguished. The only survivor was Margaret, daughter of the first Duke, a woman who had never known her father and had been widowed shortly after giving birth to a son Henry. As related above, this was the man who would avenge the deaths of so many members of the family and despatch the Yorkist dynasty into oblivion at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. The pendulum had swung against the Beauforts time and time again, but this time it swung decisively back in their favour.
It is a fascinating story very well told, and the plate section complements the text with some very good present-day photos of relevant locations in particular. My one slight criticism is that the genealogical table at the front, in large print, omits any lifespan dates. Keeping track of all the violent dates of death would have thus been facilitated a little.
If you enjoy this title, we also recommend a life of the woman from whom the Beauforts were descended, Katherine Swynford by Alison Weir. For lives of two of the Lancastrian monarchs, The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-Made King by Ian Mortimer and Henry V: The Life of the Warrior King & the Battle of Agincourt by Teresa Cole examine much of the Beauforts' timespan in greater detail, while The Wars of the Roses by John Ashdown-Hill is an admirable account of the conflict in which so many of them met their doom.
You can read more book reviews or buy The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown by Nathen Amin at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown by Nathen Amin at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.