Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset

Last updated
The Duke of Somerset
Arms of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset.svg
Coat of arms of Beaufort
Born26 January 1436
Died15 May 1464(1464-05-15) (aged 28)
Noble family House of Beaufort
Father Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset
Mother Lady Eleanor Beauchamp

Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset (26 January 1436 15 May 1464) was an important Lancastrian military commander during the English Wars of the Roses. He is sometimes numbered the 2nd Duke of Somerset, because the title was re-created for his father after his uncle died. He also held the subsidiary titles of 5th Earl of Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Dorset and 2nd Earl of Dorset.

House of Lancaster English noble family

The House of Lancaster was the name of two cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet. The first house was created when Henry III of England created the Earldom of Lancaster—from which the house was named—for his second son Edmund Crouchback in 1267. Edmund had already been created Earl of Leicester in 1265 and was granted the lands and privileges of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, after de Montfort's death and attainder at the end of the Second Barons' War. When Edmund's son Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, inherited his father-in-law's estates and title of Earl of Lincoln he became at a stroke the most powerful nobleman in England, with lands throughout the kingdom and the ability to raise vast private armies to wield power at national and local levels. This brought him—and Henry, his younger brother—into conflict with their cousin Edward II of England, leading to Thomas's execution. Henry inherited Thomas's titles and he and his son, who was also called Henry, gave loyal service to Edward's son—Edward III of England.

Wars of the Roses Dynastic civil war in England during the 15th-century

The Wars of the Roses were a series of English civil wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, associated with a red rose, and the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose. Eventually, the wars eliminated the male lines of both families. The conflict lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, but there was related fighting before and after this period between the parties. The power struggle ignited around social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years' War, unfolding the structural problems of feudalism, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of King Henry VI which revived interest in Richard of York's claim to the throne. Historians disagree on which of these factors to identify as the main reason for the wars.



Somerset, born about January 1436, was the son of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, and Eleanor, daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and widow of Thomas, fourteenth baron Roos of Hamlake. [1] [lower-alpha 1] From 1443 to 1448 Henry was styled Earl of Mortain or Morteign, and from 1448 to 1455 Earl of Dorset. While still a youth he fought at the First Battle of St Albans (1455), where he was wounded and his father was killed; thereby he inherited the title of 3rd Duke of Somerset. [1] [2]

Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset 15th-century English noble

Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, KG, was an English nobleman and an important figure in the Wars of the Roses and in the Hundred Years' War. He also succeeded in the title of 4th Earl of Somerset and was created 1st Earl of Dorset and 1st Marquess of Dorset, and Count of Mortain. He was known for his deadly rivalry with Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York.

First Battle of St Albans 15th-century battle traditionally marking the beginning of the Wars of the Roses

The First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22 May 1455 at St Albans, 22 miles (35 km) north of London, traditionally marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses in England. Richard, Duke of York, and his allies, the Neville earls of Salisbury and Warwick, defeated a royal army commanded by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who was killed. With King Henry VI captured, a subsequent parliament appointed Richard of York Lord Protector.

Duke of Somerset

Duke of Somerset, from the county of Somerset, is a title that has been created four times in the peerage of England. It is particularly associated with two families: the Beauforts, who held the title from the creation of 1448, and the Seymours, from the creation of 1547, in whose name the title is still held. The present dukedom is unique, in that the first holder of the title created it for himself in his capacity of Lord Protector of the Kingdom of England, using a power granted in the will of his nephew King Edward VI.

He was regarded as "the hope of the [Lancastrian] party", [3] but he also inherited the "enmities entailed upon him by his father's name". [4] He was brought to the council at Coventry, where in October 1456 an effort was made to reconcile the two parties; but the meeting was disturbed by quarrels between Somerset and Warwick, and by a brawl between Somerset's men and the town watch of Coventry. In 1457 Queen Margaret of Anjou suggested a marriage between Somerset and his cousin Joan, sister of James II of Scotland, but the proposal came to nothing. On 14 October of that year Somerset was made lieutenant of the Isle of Wight and warden of Carisbrooke Castle. Early in 1458 he took part in the council at London which again endeavoured to effect a political reconciliation, and it was agreed that Richard, Duke of York should pay the widowed Duchess of Somerset and her children an annual pension of five thousand marks as compensation for the death of the 2nd Duke. [1] He then participated in The Love Day with the King, Queen and other leading nobles.

Margaret of Anjou 15th-century French noblewoman and queen of England

Margaret of Anjou was the Queen of England by marriage to King Henry VI from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471. Born in the Duchy of Lorraine into the House of Valois-Anjou, Margaret was the second eldest daughter of René, King of Naples, and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine.

Joan Stewart, Countess of Morton Scottish princess

Joan Stewart, Countess of Morton, also called Joanna, was the daughter of James I, King of Scotland, and the wife of James Douglas, 1st Earl of Morton. She was known, in Latin, as the muta domina [mute lady] of Dalkeith.

James II of Scotland Scottish king

James II was a member of the House of Stewart who reigned as King of Scotland from 1437 until his death.

The truce, however, was hollow; Margaret continued to intrigue against York, and in October 1458 proposed that Somerset should be appointed captain of Calais in place of Warwick. War broke out in 1459, and Somerset nearly encountered Warwick at Coleshill just before the Battle of Blore Heath. After the defeat of the Yorkists at Ludford Bridge, he was on 9 October nominated captain of Calais. He crossed the Channel and was refused admittance to Calais by Warwick's adherents, but made himself master of the outlying fortress of Guisnes (appointing Andrew Trollope its bailiff). Somerset fought several skirmishes with the Yorkists between Calais and Guisnes until on 23 April 1460 he suffered a decisive reverse at the Battle of Newnham Bridge (called Pont de Neullay by the French). [5]

Battle of Blore Heath battle in the English Wars of the Roses

The Battle of Blore Heath was a battle in the English Wars of the Roses. It was fought on 23 September 1459, at Blore Heath in Staffordshire. Blore Heath is a sparsely populated area of farmland, two miles east of the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, and close to the towns of Market Drayton and Loggerheads, Staffordshire.

Andrew Trollope English soldier

Sir Andrew Trollope was an English soldier during the later stages of the Hundred Years' War and at the time of the Wars of the Roses.

During his absence the Yorkists had won the Battle of Northampton, but Somerset joined the Lancastrians at Pontefract in December 1460, captured a portion of the Yorkist forces at Worksop on 21 December, and won the Lancastrian victory at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December. He marched south with Margaret and fought at the Second Battle of St Albans (17 February 1461). This second victory was not followed up; the Lancastrians retired north, and on 29 March Edward IV won the Battle of Towton (29 March 1461). Somerset escaped from the battlefield, and in the following July was sent by Margaret to seek aid from Charles VII of France. Charles died before their arrival, but Louis XI summoned Somerset to Tours and sent him back in March 1462 laden with promises of support, but with very little else. [1]

Battle of Northampton (1460) Major battle of the Wars of the Roses

The Battle of Northampton was fought on 10 July 1460 near the River Nene, Northamptonshire. It was a major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The opposing forces were an army led by nobles loyal to King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster, his Queen Margaret of Anjou and their seven-year-old son Edward, Prince of Wales on one side, and the army of Edward, Earl of March and Warwick the Kingmaker on the other. The battle was the first in which artillery was used in England.

Battle of Wakefield 1460 battle in the English Wars of the Roses

The Battle of Wakefield took place in Sandal Magna near Wakefield in northern England, on 30 December 1460. It was a major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The opposing forces were an army led by nobles loyal to the captive King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster and his Queen Margaret of Anjou on one side, and the army of Richard, Duke of York, the rival claimant to the throne, on the other.

Second Battle of St Albans 1461 battle in the English Wars of the Roses

The Second Battle of St Albans was a battle of the English Wars of the Roses, fought on 17 February 1461, at St Albans in Hertfordshire. The army of the Yorkist faction under the Earl of Warwick attempted to bar the road to London north of the town. The rival Lancastrian army used a wide outflanking manoeuvre to take Warwick by surprise, cut him off from London, and drive his army from the field. The victors also released the feeble King Henry VI, who had been Warwick's prisoner, from his captivity. However, they ultimately failed to take advantage of their victory.

Somerset now began to consider making his peace with Edward IV. He had been attainted by parliament on 4 November 1461, and most of his lands had been granted to Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester and other Yorkists. [6] On his return from France he took command of the Lancastrian forces in Scotland while Margaret went to France, and in the autumn of 1462 he was holding Bamburgh Castle for the Lancastrians. On 24 December, however, he surrendered the castle to Sir Ralph Percy and submitted to King Edward. The king took him to London, and treated him with marked favour. He received a general pardon on 10 March 1462/1463, [7] and was restored to his dignities by act of the parliament which met on 29 April following. [8]

In English criminal law, attainder or attinctura was the metaphorical "stain" or "corruption of blood" which arose from being condemned for a serious capital crime. It entailed losing not only one's life, property and hereditary titles, but typically also the right to pass them on to one's heirs. Both men and women condemned of capital crimes could be attainted.

Richard III of England 15th-century King of England

Richard III was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1483 until his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the protagonist of Richard III, one of William Shakespeare's history plays.

Bamburgh Castle Grade I listed historic house museum in Bamburgh, United Kingdom

Bamburgh Castle is a castle on the northeast coast of England, by the village of Bamburgh in Northumberland. It is a Grade I listed building.

Somerset, however, soon returned to his old allegiance. Early in 1464 he escaped from a castle in North Wales, where he seems to have been kept in some sort of confinement, and after nearly being recaptured made his way to Margaret on the borders. The Lancastrians now made one more effort to recover the crown, but at the Battle of Hexham on 15 May 1464 they were utterly defeated by John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu. [1] Somerset was captured in a barn at the site of what is now known as Dukes House, and beheaded shortly afterwards that same day. He was buried at Hexham Abbey. [9] [lower-alpha 2] Parliament annulled the act restoring him to his dignities, which again became forfeit and were never restored. [1] Somerset was unmarried, and his younger brother, Edmund Beaufort, was styled 4th Duke of Somerset by the Lancastrians. [10]

In 1485, some twenty-one years after his death, Somerset, along with Jasper Tudor, had all acts of attainder against him annulled in the first Parliament of Henry VII, "for their true and faithfull Allegeaunces and Services doune to the said blessed King Herrie [VI]." [11]


Somerset was described by Chastellain as "un très grand seigneur et un des plus beaulx josnes chevaliers qui fust au royaume anglais". [1] He was probably as competent as any of the Lancastrian leaders, but their military capacity was not great. [1]


Somerset had a son, Charles, with a mistress named Joan Hill. Charles, who was given the family name of Somerset, was later created Earl of Worcester in 1514. From him descend the Earls and Marquesses of Worcester and later the Dukes of Beaufort, [12] who are the last known male-line descendants of the Plantagenets and the Second House of the Counts of Anjou.[ citation needed ]



  1. Thus Somerset was a maternal nephew of Lady Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick. He was a paternal second cousin to Lady Margaret Beaufort and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (the "Kingmaker"). Somerset was also an uncle to Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.[ citation needed ]
  2. Traditionally his helmet from the battle was kept within Hexham Abbey from which it was taken by Colonel John Fenwick for use in the English Civil War. After Fenwick's death at battle of Marston Moor the helmet was retrieved along with his skull, both were returned to the Abbey. The helmet is currently on display in Hexham Old Gaol museum.[ citation needed ]
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pollard 1901, p. 157.
  2. Baumgaertner 2010.
  3. Pollard 1901 , p. 157 cites Ramsay.
  4. Pollard 1901 , p. 157 cites Stubbs, iii. 171.
  5. Pollard 1901 , p. 157 cites W. Worcester, p. 479; Chron. ed. Davies, p. 84; Hall, p. 206.
  6. Pollard 1901 , p. 157 cites Cal. Patent Rolls, 1461-5, pp. 29, 32; Stubbs, iii. 1960.
  7. Pollard 1901 , p. 157 cites Cal. Patent Rolls. 1461-5, p. 261.
  8. Pollard 1901 , p. 157 cites Rot. Parl. v. 511.
  9. btilley 2007.
  10. Pollard 1901, pp. 157–158.
  11. "Rotuli Parliamentorum A.D. 1485 1 Henry VII".
  12. Pollard 1901, p. 158.

Related Research Articles

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick 15th-century English noble

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, 6th Earl of Salisbury, 8th & 5th Baron Montagu, 7th Baron Monthermer,, known as Warwick the Kingmaker, was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander. The eldest son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, Warwick was the wealthiest and most powerful English peer of his age, with political connections that went beyond the country's borders. One of the leaders in the Wars of the Roses, originally on the Yorkist side but later switching to the Lancastrian side, he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, which led to his epithet of "Kingmaker".

Battle of Tewkesbury 1471 battle in the English Wars of the Roses

The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were completely defeated by those of the rival House of York under their monarch, King Edward IV. The Lancastrian heir to the throne, Edward, Prince of Wales, and many prominent Lancastrian nobles were killed during the battle or were dragged from sanctuary two days later and immediately executed. The Lancastrian king, Henry VI, who was a prisoner in the Tower of London, died or was murdered shortly after the battle. Tewkesbury restored political stability to England until the death of Edward IV in 1483.

Battle of Barnet 1471 engagement in the Wars of the Roses

The Battle of Barnet was a decisive engagement in the Wars of the Roses, a dynastic conflict of 15th-century England. The military action, along with the subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury, secured the throne for Edward IV. On 14 April 1471 near Barnet, then a small Hertfordshire town north of London, Edward led the House of York in a fight against the House of Lancaster, which backed Henry VI for the throne. Leading the Lancastrian army was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who played a crucial role in the fate of each king. Historians regard the battle as one of the most important clashes in the Wars of the Roses, since it brought about a decisive turn in the fortunes of the two houses. Edward's victory was followed by 14 years of Yorkist rule over England.

Battle of Towton 1461 battle in the English Wars of the Roses

The Battle of Towton was fought on 29 March 1461 during the English Wars of the Roses, near the village of Towton in Yorkshire. A culminating battle in the dynastic struggles between the houses of Lancaster and York for control of the English throne, the engagement ended in an overwhelming victory for the Yorkists. It brought about a change of monarchs in England, with the victor, the Yorkist Edward IV having displaced the Lancastrian Henry VI as king, and thus driving the head of the Lancastrians and his key supporters out of the country.

Edmund Beaufort (died 1471) 15th-century English noble

Edmund Beaufort, styled 4th Duke of Somerset, was an English nobleman, and a military commander during the Wars of the Roses, in which he supported King Henry VI.

John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu 15th-century English noble

John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu was a major magnate of fifteenth-century England. He was a younger son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and the younger brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the 'Kingmaker'.

Battle of Hexham 1464 battle in the English Wars of the Roses

The Battle of Hexham marked the end of significant Lancastrian resistance in the north of England during the early part of the reign of Edward IV.

Battle of Ludford Bridge

The Battle of Ludford Bridge was a largely bloodless battle fought in the early years of the Wars of the Roses. It took place on 12 October 1459, and resulted in a setback for the Yorkists. Although this seemed to be a triumph for the rival Lancastrians at the time, they had thrown away their advantage within six months.

Thomas de Ros, 9th Baron de Ros English noble

Thomas de Ros or Roos, 9th Baron de Ros of Helmsley was a follower of the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses.

John Clifford, 9th Baron Clifford, 9th Lord of Skipton was a Lancastrian military leader during the Wars of the Roses in England. The Clifford family was one of the most prominent families among the northern English nobility of the fifteenth century, and by the marriages of his sisters John Clifford had links to some very important families of the time, including the earls of Devon. He was orphaned at twenty years of age when his father was slain by partisans of the House of York at the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of St Albans in 1455. It was probably as a result of his father's death there that Clifford became one of the strongest supporters of Queen Margaret of Anjou, consort of King Henry VI, who ended up as effective leader of the Lancastrian faction.

Events from the 1460s in England.

John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset, Earl of Dorset was a scion of the Beaufort family, who fought for the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses.

Robert Hungerford, 3rd Baron Hungerford English nobleman

Robert Hungerford, 3rd Baron Hungerford (c.1429–1464) was an English nobleman. He supported the Lancastrian cause in the War of the Roses. In the late 1440s and early 1450s he was a member of successive parliaments. He was a prisoner of the French for much of the 1450s until his mother arranged a payment of a 7,966l ransom. In 1460 after successive defeats on the battlefield he fled with Henry VI to Scotland. In 1461 he was attainted in Edward IV's first parliament, and executed in Newcastle soon after he was captured at the Battle of Hexham.

Loveday, 1458 Arbitration event during the Wars of the Roses

The Loveday of 1458 took place at St Paul's Cathedral on the 25th of March that year. It was the culmination of weeks of negotiations initiated by King Henry VI in an attempt to resolve rivalries within his nobility. English politics had become increasingly factional during Henry's reign, and this had been exacerbated in 1453 when he had become mentally incapacitated. This had effectively left the government leaderless, and eventually the King's cousin—and at the time, heir to the throne—Richard, Duke of York was appointed Protector during the King's illness. Alongside York were his allies from the politically and militarily important Neville family. When the King returned to health a year later, the protectorship ended but the partisanship within government did not. Supporters of King Henry and Queen Margaret have been loosely called "Lancastrians", as the house of Lancaster, while the duke and his party are considered "Yorkists", after his title of Duke of York. The Duke of York felt increasingly excluded from government, and, in May 1455—possibly fearing an ambush by his enemies—York led an army against the King at the First Battle of St Albans. There, in what has been called more of a series of assassinations than a battle, the personal enemies of York and the Nevilles—the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland, and Lord Clifford—perished.



Peerage of England
Preceded by
Edmund Beaufort
Duke of Somerset
2nd creation
Title next held by
Edmund Beaufort