Henry of Bolingbroke and Mary de Bohun
When Henry of Bolingbroke and his sixteen year old bride welcomed their first son into the world, I doubt that even they knew what their futures would hold. The year was 1387, and the month could have been August or September; the date wasn't important enough to be recorded, and yet it was important. For on that day, in the tower above Monmouth Castle's gatehouse an English king was born. For a time, he was called Henry of Monmouth; he wasn't an heir to the the throne, but he was of noble birth. Young Henry's grandfather was none other than John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III. His father, Henry of Bolingbroke, was the Duke of Derby and a supporter of Richard II, at least at the time of Henry's birth.......... loyalty was far from a given, and it lent an edge in what were very shifty times; you placed your allegiance where it held the most advantage, and at that time, the advantage was with the King.
Henry's mother was also of noble birth. Mary Bohun and her sister Eleanor were the only heirs to their father's vast estates; something that was unquestionably appealing to their suitors. Eleanor, was the first to be married, and her husband, Thomas of Woodstock tried to keep the estate within his own personal coffers by suggesting Mary make what he believed would be an extremely advantageous marriage; he wanted her marriage to be within the Church; he advised and pressured her to become a bride of Christ, a nun. Would the match have had its advantages? Yes, it would have been the best possible pairing, for him.
Fortunately, for Mary, and unfortunately for Thomas, his brother John had other ideas. Granted, those ideas found no welcome from either Eleanor or her husband, but it didn't matter; John of Gaunt didn't argue with his brother about his plan for Mary to wed his son; he didn't need to argue; he simply kidnapped her, took her right out of the convent. There she'd been, just a young girl conceding to the wishes of her family, and believing the Church would be her life. How surprised she must have been to have what she thought would be her future change so abruptly; that she would be married at a mere twelve years old in the halls of Arundel Castle, that she would be pregnant at thirteen, and a mother at sixteen. Would she ever have believed that the man she'd marry would one day be King, or that her firstborn son would also ascend to the English throne? That is something we'll never know.
Mary bore her husband seven children, and brought him great wealth; she is also credited with bringing him great joy, but any joy they'd had would have ended when she passed from this world while giving birth to their seventh child on June 4, 1394; she was twenty-six years old. Mary Bohun never saw her husband become King, and I'm sure that she never dreamt it for her son, but in the end, the little nun became a queen that never was; she was wife to Henry IV and mother to the boy who would become Henry V of England.
Being an heir to nobility, and the grandson of one of the most influential men of the 1300's dictated Henry's upbringing. He was taught to ride, hunt, and also trained for knighthood. Academics were also an important part of his upbringing; he was fluent in three languages; well versed in music, he played the harp, studied law and theology, and read extensively. His education was so advanced for the time, that upon his ascension to the throne, Henry V was the first English king to effortlessly read and write in his native tongue. Chess was a favorite game, and also a game that his parents had enjoyed playing together.
Economic hardship was a reality long before Henry's birth. Richard II had first asserted royal authority during the period following the "Black Death." The people of England were dissatisfied, new legislation limited wages but failed to regulate prices. Peasants revolted against John of Gaunt's government policies, and the king himself was under scrutiny from the newly formed Lords Appellant for bestowing questionable generosity on his favorites. One of these Lords was none other than Henry's father; his loyalty to Richard was once again at an end, for the time being.
It was 1387, and Derby in full support of his uncle, the Thomas, Duke of Gloucester joined him in armed battle against his king. Never one to give up his options, he once again changed his mind; his change of mindset may have had something to do with his father, but nonetheless he changed it. King Richard accepted his change of heart because his needed Derby's alliance on the battlefield, but he never really trusted him again and grew ever more suspicious as years went by.
In July 1390, Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Derby decided that he needed some adventure, and rather than joining the crusaders making their way to Barbary, he decided to make his way to Lithuania in order to serve with the Teutonic knights. His journey to Lithuania was an adventure in itself; he saw Venice, visited Cyprus, and stopped in Jerusalem. Upon his return to England, he was once again drawn into battle, but this time he fought alongside the troops of both his king and his father. Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Derby was made Duke of Hereford by his king in 1397; a year later he was charged with treason and banished; two years later he would return to England and be elected king by the Parliament. Richard II was quickly captured, deposed, and murdered while in prison. Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Derby, Duke of Hereford, and usurper of Richard II's throne became Henry IV, King of England. His first-born son would become Henry V, and that is where our story begins.
Prince of Wales - King of England
The way in which Henry IV took the English throne set the tone for his entire reign. As King, he faced rebellion; rebellion of Richard's supporters when he was ordered deposed, and mass as a response to his murder. Owen Glyndwr (Glendower), rode at the head of an uprising in Wales that would last for eight years, as did the powerful families of Percy and Mortimer in Scottland. Mortimer actually had a stronger claim to the throne than Henry did, and the Archbishop of York voiced his opposition of Henry's claim to the throne. The rules of proper ascension were broken; the wrong man had been crowned, and the murder of Richard II followed closely by the coronation of Henry IV laid the first stones for what would later become the War of the Roses.
Henry IV had seen his son created the Prince of Wales in 1399. His predecessor, Richard II had knighted him, given him title, and it is said had a huge influence in his upbringing during his father's exile. Both Richard II and Henry's uncle, Henry Beaufort oversaw the future king's education and training, but neither one knew what they were preparing him for, no one had known or dreamed that he would one day be King.
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