Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (3 October 1390 – 23 February 1447) was "son, brother and uncle of kings", being the fourth and youngest son of Henry IV Bolingbroke, King of England by his first wife, Mary de Bohun, brother to Henry V of Monmouth, King of England, and uncle to the latter's son, Henry VI, King of England
The place of his birth is unknown, but he was named after his maternal grandfather, Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford.
During the reign of Henry IV Humphrey received a scholar's education, while his elder brothers fought on the Welsh and Scottish borders. Following his father's death he was created Duke of Gloucester in 1414, and Chamberlain of England, and he took his seat in Parliament. In 1415 he became a member of the Privy Council.
During Henry V's campaigns in France, Humphrey gained a reputation as a successful commander. His knowledge of siege warfare, gained from his classical studies, contributed to the fall of Honfleur. For his services, he was granted offices including Constable of Dover, Warden of the Cinque Ports and King's Lieutenant. His periods of government were peaceful and successful.
Upon the death of his brother, King Henry V of England in 1422, Humphrey became Lord Protector to his young nephew, the heir to the throne, King Henry VI. He also claimed the right to the regency of England, following the death of his elder brother, John of Bedford. Humphrey's claims were strongly contested by the lords of the king's council, and in particular his half-uncle, Henry Beaufort. The discovery of Henry V's will, at Eton College in 1978, actually supported Humphrey's claims.
Humphrey was consistently popular with the citizens of London and the Commons. He also had a widespread reputation as a patron of learning and the arts. His popularity with the people and his ability to keep the peace earned him the appointment of Chief Justice of South Wales. However, his unpopular marriage to Eleanor Cobham became ammunition for his enemies. Eleanor was arrested and tried for sorcery and heresy, and Humphrey retired from public life. He himself was arrested on a charge of treason on the twentieth of February, 1447. He died at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk three days later and was buried at St Albans Abbey, adjacent to St Alban's shrine. At the time, some suspected that he had been assassinated, though it is more probable that he died of a stroke.
1 Marriages and children
3 Titles, styles, honours and arms
Marriages and children
In about 1422 he married Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut and Holland, daughter of William VI, Count of Hainaut. Through this marriage Gloucester assumed the title "Count of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault", and briefly fought to retain these titles when they were contested by Jacqueline's cousin Philip III, Duke of Burgundy (see: War of Succession in Holland). They had a stillborn child in 1424.
The marriage was annulled in 1428, and Jacqueline died (disinherited) in 1436.
Meanwhile, Gloucester remarried, his second wife being his former mistress, Eleanor Cobham. In 1441, Eleanor was tried and convicted of practising witchcraft against the King in an attempt to retain power for her husband. She was exiled and imprisoned for life.
He had two children:
(Possibly) Arthur d.1447
Antigone, who married Henry Grey, 2nd Earl of Tankerville, Lord of Powys (c. 1419-1450) and then John d'Amancier.
After inheriting the manor of Greenwich, Gloucester enclosed Greenwich Park and from 1428 had a palace built there on the banks of the Thames, known as Bella Court and later as the Palace of Placentia. The Duke Humphrey Tower surmounting Greenwich Park was demolished in the 1660s and the site was chosen for building the Royal Observatory. His name lives on in "Duke Humphrey's Library", part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Duke Humphrey was a patron and protector of Oxford, donating more than 280 manuscripts to the University. The possession of such a library did much to stimulate new learning.
Duke Humphrey was also a patron of literature, notably of the poet John Lydgate and of John Capgrave. He was instrumental in bringing Italian scholarship to England, both through the purchase of books and through the scholars themselves. He corresponded with many leading Italian humanists and commissioned translations of Greek classics into Latin. His friendship with Zano Castiglione, Bishop of Bayeux, led to many further connections on the Continent, including Leonardi Bruni, Pier Candidi Decembrio and Tito Livio de Forli. Duke Humphrey also patronised the Abbey of St. Albans
Another legacy is the phrase "to dine with Duke Humphrey". This Elizabethan saying was used by poor people to avoid mentioning that they did not have the money to pay for food. At dinnertime they would excuse themselves by saying they would be eating with the Duke: Duke Humphrey's Walk being the name of an aisle in Old St Paul's Cathedral near Duke Humphrey's tomb (which, according to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, in reality was John of Gaunt's), an area frequented by thieves and beggars. In fact, Gloucester's tomb is in St Albans Abbey and was restored by Hertfordshire Freemasons in 2000 to celebrate the millennium.
The death of Duke Humphrey is the subject of a 2003 mystery novel The Bastard's Tale, by Margaret Frazer. Four hundred years before that, Duke Humphrey was a character in Shakespeare's Henry VI and Henry V.