Henry IV

Henry4 Head BritLib

Henry IV,



The son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and son of Edward III, and Blanche of Lancaster, at Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire


13 October 1399 at Westminster Abbey, London


20 March 1413, Westminster Palace, London


Canterbury Cathedral


  1. 5 February 1381 Mary de Bohun at Rochford Hall, Essex. or Arundel Castle
  2. 7 February 1403 Joan of Navarre at Winchester Cathedral

Succeeded by:

Henry V (son)

enry Bolingbroke was a great magnate and a vigorous man with wide interests. He was musical, well read, and a superb jouster who enjoyed the pageantry of chivalry.

In 1387, Henry had joined other barons in protesting Richard II’s mismanagement. Richard never forgave them. Twenty years later, Henry’s history as a “Lord Appellant” came back to haunt him. In 1398, Richard found reason to exile Henry for ten years while agreeing to honor his right to inherit. Richard reneged on the inheritance promise. Henry invaded and his claim for his father’s lands turned into a bid for the crown.

Richard was the son of Edward III’s oldest son. Henry was the son of Edward III’s fourth son, noble blood indeed but not the rightful heir. The country, however, needed a strong, mature, stable king. Richard was deposed, imprisoned, and starved to death.

Bolingbroke became Henry IV. The roots of the “War of the Roses,” the bloody rivalry that erupted in the reign of Henry’s grandson between the noble houses of Lancaster and York, can be found in Henry’s usurpation of his cousin’s crown.

Henry’s uncertain right to the throne meant unease at home and abroad. Owen Glendower led a Welsh rebellion. The French raided in the south. The Scots raided in the north. The English barons rebelled at the least provocation. Constantly seeking support, making concessions on taxation and rewarding large grants of crown land, Henry lived in a state of financial crisis. His reign was also, however, a time of growing prosperity and improving social conditions for the common folk

When Henry’s health began to disintegrate in 1405, his oldest son (another Henry) became prominent in the governing circle. The result was an inevitable generational conflict. Father and son reconciled, however, shortly before Henry IV’s death.

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