GLOUCESTER, Humphrey duke of (Protector of England)


b. probably Aug/Sep 1390
d. 23 Feb 1447, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk

Title: Regni Anglie et Ecclesie Anglicane Protector et Defensor ac Consiliaris Principalis domini Regis (Protector and Defender of the Kingdom of England and the English Church and principal councillor of the King)
Term: 5 Dec 1422 - 6 Nov 1429
Chronology: 5 Dec 1422, appointed protector by the king's patent
  6 Nov 1429, the office of protector lapsed with the coronation of King Henry VI
  15 Nov 1429, formally resigned the office of protector
Names/titles: Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Pembroke [from 16 May 1414]; Lord of the Isle of Wight [from 1439]

The fourth son of the Earl of Derby (later King Henry IV), Humphrey was raised to the peerage when his elder brother became King Henry V. In the first invasion of France by Henry V, he was wounded at Agincourt (25 Oct 1415). He took part in subsequent campaigns until he was appointed lieutenant of the kingdom in place of the Duke of Bedford (30 Dec 1419), and held office until Henry's return in February 1421.

Humphrey acted as lieutenant again when Bedford accompanied Queen Catherine on her trip to France (from May 1422) and claimed regency upon the accession of his nephew, Henry VI. However, Parliament passed an act providing for establishing the office of "protector and defender" (5 Dec 1422) for the Duke of Bedford. Humphrey was given power to exercise the same authority in absences of Bedford, occupied with the conquest of France. Since the powers of protector were limited by the king's Council and Parliament, Humphrey became involved in a series of intrigues against his uncle Henry Beaufort, who held a strong position in the Council. Open war was averted only by Bedford's hurried return, who effected a formal reconciliation at Leicester in March 1426, and forced Humphrey to accept Beaufort's disavowal. With the departure of Bedford (1427), Humphrey renewed his intrigues, but he lost most of his influence when the Council had Henry VI crowned as King of England on 6 Nov 1429. The office of protector lapsed with the coronation and Humphrey was forced to confirm it by formal resignation (15 Nov 1429). However, when Henry VI was taken to be crowned in France, Humphrey was made lieutenant and warden of the kingdom (23 Apr 1430), and thus ruled England for nearly two years.

After the death of Bedford in 1435, Gloucester became heir presumptive and won popularity as leader of the war party. In 1436 he commanded in a short invasion of Flanders. His position was further damaged when his wife was imprisoned in 1441 for sorcery against the king. Humphrey endeavored to thwart the Earl of Suffolk, who was now taking Beaufort's place in the Council, but he was arrested in 1447 and died in custody. [1; 2; 3; 4]

[1] "Dictionary of National Biography" (Smith, Elder, London, 1900).
[2] "The Reign of King Henry VI: The exercise of royal authority 1422-1461", by Ralph A. Griffiths (University of California Press, 1981).
[3] "Henry VI", by Bertram Wolffe (Eyre Methuen, London, 1980).
[4] "Fœdera, conventiones, litterae et cujuscunque generis acta publica, etc. etc. etc.", ed. by Thomas Rymer (London, 1704), vol. ix, pp. 830-831; vol. x, pp. 261, 436.
  Image: crayon drawing of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester by unknown artist, 15th century.
Last updated on: 13 Mar 2010 01:47:52