31 March, 2024

Henry of Lancaster and His Children

The close bonds which Edward II's cousin Henry of Lancaster, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, forged with his children have fascinated me for a long time. Here's a post about the family. 

Henry of Lancaster (b. 1280/81) and Maud Chaworth (b. February 1282) were betrothed at the end of 1291 and married before 2 March 1297. [1] They had six daughters and one son born between the early 1300s and the late 1310s or early 1320s. In birth order, the Lancaster children were, with approximate birth dates: 

1. Blanche, b. early 1300s; married Thomas Wake (b. 1298) in 1316.

2. Isabella, b. c. 1305/08; joined Amesbury Priory in 1327 and became its prioress in 1343.

3. Maud, b. c. 1308/12; married firstly William de Burgh (b. 1312), earl of Ulster, in 1327, and secondly Ralph Ufford in 1343. (Maud might have been younger than her brother Henry and the fourth of the seven siblings.)

4. Henry of Grosmont, b. c. 1310/12, only son and heir, duke of Lancaster; married Isabella Beaumont (b. c. 1315/20) in 1330. 

5. Joan, b. c. 1313/15; married John Mowbray (b. 1310) in 1328.

6. Eleanor (or Alianore), b. c. 1316/18; married firstly John Beaumont (b 1317 or 1318) in 1330, and secondly Richard, earl of Arundel (b. c. 1313), in 1345.

7. Mary, b. c. 1319/21; married Henry Percy (b. c. 1320/21) in 1334.

There is often confusion about the order in which Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth's six daughters were born, but in fact it's perfectly clear from Henry's will of 8 September 1345, which lists them in birth order and names them as Blanche Wake, Isabella, Maud, Joan, 'Alianore countess of Arundel', and Mary Percy. [2] Genealogical sites often put Isabella, the second daughter, lower down the birth order and state that she was born in 1317, but as she is known to have gone on pilgrimage that year (see below), that's impossible. Blanche the eldest daughter was named after her paternal grandmother Blanche of Artois, queen of Navarre and countess of Lancaster, and Isabella the second was named after her maternal grandmother Isabella Beauchamp, Lady Chaworth and Despenser (d. 1306), which is indirect confirmation that she was indeed the second daughter. The only uncertainty is where to place the only son, Henry of Grosmont, in the birth order; whether he had three older and three younger sisters, or two older and four younger. Maud Chaworth died in 1322 when her youngest child Mary was perhaps only a toddler, though her eldest, Blanche, had been married for six years by then. Her widower Henry outlived her by almost a quarter of a century, though never remarried.

Henry of Lancaster related to his children as individuals, not merely as pawns to use in the noble marriage market. One example is that he allowed his second daughter Isabella of Lancaster to become a nun. The children of the medieval nobility often went into the Church, but it was far more usual for a younger daughter or son to do so, not a second daughter, who would almost always be expected to marry. Normally, it would have been one of the youngest Lancaster daughters, Eleanor or Mary, who was given to the Church. This suggests that Isabella had a vocation which her father accepted and encouraged. She went on pilgrimage with Edward II's sister Mary, a nun of Amesbury (albeit one without much of a vocation) and their niece Elizabeth de Burgh née de Clare in 1317 when she was about ten or twelve years old, and her wish to do so might have been one of the early signs of her religious devotion. [3] Isabella was perhaps already living at Amesbury Priory then, at least sometimes, though officially entered ten years later on Ascension Day in 1327. She was one of thirty-six girls and young women to do so on that day, by which time she must have been at the end of her teens or in her early twenties. [4]

There was a flurry of activity in the Lancaster family in 1327 once Henry was restored to his rightful inheritance from his executed older brother Thomas early in Edward III's reign, and things returned to something at least vaguely approaching normality after all the chaos of Edward II's reign. In early 1327, Henry's niece Queen Isabella granted him the marriage rights of two important young noblemen: John Mowbray, son and heir of Lord Mowbray (executed 1322), and William de Burgh, heir to his late grandfather's earldom of Ulster and to his wealthy mother Elizabeth de Burgh, with whom Isabella of Lancaster had gone on pilgrimage in 1317. [5] Henry married his third daughter Maud to William de Burgh, who was born in September 1312, and his fourth daughter Joan to John Mowbray, who was born in November 1310. In short, he may have matched the couples by personality, rather than merely assigning the third daughter to the elder of his two wards and the fourth daughter to the younger. Perhaps he thought that Maud, who had a stronger and more outgoing personality than her quiet younger sister Joan, was better equipped to handle leaving England for Ireland and to deal with the conflicts and troubles faced by the Anglo-Irish nobility there.

Kenneth Fowler, biographer of Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth's only son and heir Henry of Grosmont, pointed out many years ago that the five of Henry of Lancaster's daughters who married continued living with him even after they had wed. By 1334, all the Lancaster siblings except the nun Isabella were married, yet they and their spouses spent most of their time living with Henry, even Blanche, who had married as early as 1316. [6] Mary, the sixth daughter and youngest Lancaster sibling, stayed with her father until she married Henry Percy in 1334 and for some years afterwards as well. And a surviving account of Henry's second daughter Isabella the nun shows that she regularly left Amesbury Priory to stay with her father for long periods. [7] This would normally not have been allowed, but as Henry of Lancaster was powerful, wealthy and royal, it was permitted for pretty much the same reasons that Edward II's sister Mary was allowed to leave Amesbury and visit her father's and brother's courts whenever she felt like it. During one year in the early 1330s, Isabella of Lancaster stayed with her father for a total of ninety-six days at Kenilworth, and the next year visited Henry at Tutbury and Kenilworth for a few weeks. She stayed with him on yet another occasion in 1334, accompanied by ‘the ladies of her chamber.’ On the way back to Amesbury after one visit, her eldest sister Blanche, Lady Wake, travelled with Isabella and ended up staying at the priory with her for at least six months (she paid some of her own expenses). Isabella left the priory yet again in 1336, and travelled from York to Leicester with her second youngest sister Eleanor, the fifth Lancaster daughter. Eleanor and Mary sent letters to Isabella at Amesbury Priory in 1334 and in the same year, Isabella sent gifts for Mary’s wedding to Henry Percy, future Lord Percy. 

Henry of Lancaster's only son and heir Henry of Grosmont married Isabella, second daughter of Edward II's kinsman Henry, Lord Beaumont, in 1330, and in the same year the fifth Lancaster daughter Eleanor married Isabella's brother John, future Lord Beaumont, their father's heir. Henry Beaumont fled to the Continent and spent much of the period 1329/30 outside England after making his opposition to the regime of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer known, and Henry, earl of Lancaster, took Beaumont's family under his protection. Henry of Grosmont and his young wife Isabella Beaumont spent much time with his father, sisters and brothers-in-law over the next few years. Grosmont was at Leicester with his wife Isabella, his father and his sisters Blanche and Eleanor in June and September 1330, was with his father at Kenilworth in September 1333 and June 1338, and with him again on numerous other occasions. The Lancaster siblings attended a famous jousting tournament at Cheapside in London in September 1331 together, and in April 1348 Blanche, Lady Wake and her niece Elizabeth de Burgh (b. July 1332), Maud's only child from her first marriage to William de Burgh (d. June 1333), watched Henry of Grosmont compete in a tournament at Lichfield. William sometimes lived in Ireland, but on other occasions lived with the Lancasters. He visited a jousting tournament with his brother-in-law Grosmont in February 1328, and was still with the Lancasters in June that year. [8]

As well as being extremely close to their father, the Lancaster siblings also often visited, wrote to and demonstrated their affection for each other. In February 1332, Henry of Grosmont and Eleanor of Lancaster stayed with their sister Blanche Wake at Deeping in Lincolnshire, and Blanche’s husband Thomas Wake was one of the men who accompanied Grosmont to Spain in 1343. Wake, on excellent terms with his father-in-law Henry, earl of Lancaster, for many years, and a member of his council, visited Henry in Leicester in July 1339 and gave him one of his manors in Yorkshire. [9] Like Henry Beaumont, Thomas Wake fled from England in early 1330 after taking part in the conspiracy of the earl of Kent, his sister Margaret's husband, and returned in November 1330; his wife Blanche spent the period with her father and siblings and attended the weddings of her siblings Henry of Grosmont and Eleanor to the Beaumont siblings that year. There was a considerable age difference between Blanche the eldest Lancaster sister and her youngest siblings, and she was probably just about old enough to be Eleanor and Mary's mother. Despite being practically another generation to her youngest sisters, she was remarkably close to them.

Isabella of Lancaster the nun of Amesbury kept in touch with Blanche, Lady Wake by letter, and the two eldest siblings seem to have been particularly close. In the early 1330s they visited Salisbury, Winchester and King’s Somborne in Hampshire – a manor which had belonged to their late mother Maud Chaworth, now held by their father – together as well as spending at least half a year in each other’s company at Amesbury Priory. Eleanor, dowager Lady Beaumont, stayed in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire with the fourth sister Joan and her husband Lord Mowbray in September 1343, and in January 1345 visited her father in Leicester with her soon-to-be second husband the earl of Arundel, shortly before they wed. [10] The third sister Maud of Lancaster visited the papal court at Avignon in 1343, and made requests of the pope on behalf of 'Henry earl of Lancaster her father and Eleanor Beaumont her sister'. [11] Henry of Grosmont talked in 1344 of his 'sincere affection' for his 'dearly beloved sister' Isabella when granting a favour to Amesbury Priory, and when his sister Maud was widowed for a second time and left with a baby daughter (Maud Ufford, future countess of Oxford) in 1346, Grosmont and his household officials helped her look after her affairs. [12] In 1337, Grosmont gave his eldest sister Blanche and her husband Thomas Wake one of his manors, to pass after their deaths to Thomas’s foundation of Haltemprice Priory in Yorkshire, and in 1361 he appointed Blanche as one of the executors of his will, a clear sign of his trust in her. Of his six sisters, Grosmont seems to have spent the most time with Eleanor, perhaps because they were married to the siblings Isabella and John Beaumont, and because her second husband the earl of Arundel was a close associate of his. [13] 

Five of Henry of Lancaster and Maud Chaworth’s seven children had children of their own, the exceptions being the two eldest: Isabella was a nun and then a prioress, and Blanche's marriage of more than thirty years to Lord Wake produced no offspring. One thing that strikes me is that in all cases, there was a delay of a few years between their wedding and their first pregnancy, and not all of the delay can be explained by the girls' youth when they married. Eleanor was born around 1316/18, married her first husband John Beaumont in 1330 when they were both about 12 or 13, and had her first child Henry Beaumont in late 1339 or early 1340; Mary was born around 1319/21, married Henry Percy in 1334, and had her first child Henry Percy the younger (future first earl of Northumberland) in November 1341; Joan married John Mowbray in 1328 and gave birth to her only son John Mowbray the younger in June 1340 when she was at least twenty-five, though her two daughters may have been older; Maud married William de Burgh in 1327 and had her first child Elizabeth de Burgh in July 1332; and Isabella Beaumont married Henry of Grosmont in 1330, and their first surviving child Maud of Lancaster was born in April 1340, though another daughter is mentioned in 1338/39 who must have died in infancy. Seemingly, Henry of Lancaster encouraged his children and their spouses not to rush into parenthood. 

Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester, died on 22 September 1345, and was outlived by all seven of his children. Isabella the second sister, prioress of Amesbury, was alive on 30 January 1348 but died before 4 February 1349. [14] Joan the fourth sister, Lady Mowbray, died on 7 July 1348, 7 July 1349, or 7 July 1350. In early 1348, John Mowbray and 'Joan his wife' (Johane sa femme) presented a petition to Edward III, so she was obviously still alive then, but by early March 1351 her widower John Mowbray had married his much younger second wife Elizabeth, daughter of John de Vere, earl of Oxford (b. 1312). Joan of Lancaster definitely died on 7 July, the feast of the Translation of St Thomas Becket; the date is given in the Sarum Missal (Translacio sancti Thome Martyris: Obitus domine Iohanne domine de Moubray filie Comitis Lancastriae)but no year is provided. [15]

Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster and earl of Leicester, Lincoln and Derby, was the third of the Lancaster siblings to pass away, dying in his town of Leicester on 23 March 1361 (among other sources which confirm Henry's exact date of death, the 23rd of March is also recorded in the Sarum Missal). The youngest sibling, Mary, Lady Percy, died eighteen months later on 1 September 1362, just six days before Edward III's sister Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland, also died. Eleanor, countess of Arundel and Lady Beaumont, died on 11 January 1372, and Maud, dowager countess of Ulster and Lady Ufford, on 5 May 1377, a few weeks before her kinsman Edward III. Blanche, Lady Wake, eldest of the siblings, was the last of them to die, and finally passed away between 3 and 11 July 1380 when she must have been at least 75 and perhaps closer to 80. Her heir by blood was her brother Henry's namesake grandson Henry of Lancaster, earl of Derby (b. 1367), who became Henry IV in 1399, and the heir to the dower lands she held from her long-dead husband Thomas Wake was Thomas's niece Joan of Kent, dowager princess of Wales, Richard II's mother.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1281-92, p. 464; CPR 1292-1301, p. 239.
2) Early Lincoln Wills: An Abstract of All the Wills and Administrations Recorded in the Episcopal Registers of the Diocese of Lincoln, 1280-1547, ed. Alfred Gibbons (Lincoln, 1888), p. 18.
3) The National Archives E 101/377/2.
4) J. E. Jackson, 'Consecration of Nuns at Ambresbury, A.D. 1327', The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, vol. 18 (1879), p. 287; 'A Fragment of an Account of Isabel of Lancaster, Nun of Amesbury, 1333-4', ed. R. B. Pugh, in Festschrift zur Feier des zweihundertjährigen Bestandes des Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchivs, vol. 1, ed. Leo Santifaller (Vienna, 1949), p. 487.
5) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-30, pp. 8, 26.
6) Kenneth Fowler, The King’s Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361 (1969), p. 27.
7)  'A Fragment of an Account of Isabel of Lancaster', pp. 487-98.
8) Fowler, The King’s Lieutenant, p. 27; Kenneth Fowler, 'Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361', PhD thesis, University of Leeds, 1961, pp. 19, 542-44; The National Archives DL 25/966/751, DL 25/2184, DL 25/2061.
9) Fowler, 'Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361', pp. 20, 155 note 2; TNA DL 25/964/749.
10) 'A Fragment of an Account', pp. 489, 491-92, 496, 497; TNA SC 1/39/143; Warwickshire County Record Office CR 162/238.
11) Petitions to the Pope 1342-1419, ed. W.H. Bliss, p. 31.
12) 'A Fragment of an Account', p. 493; Fowler, 'Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361', pp. 590-91; CPR 1345-48, pp. 96, 372, 401, 449-50, 470; CPR 1348-50, p. 97.
13) TNA DL 25/330; A Collection of All the Wills Now Known to be Extant of the Kings and Queens of England, ed. John Nichols and Richard Gough (London, 1780), p. 86; Fowler, King's Lieutenant, p. 216.
14) Calendar of Close Rolls 1346-49, p. 428; CCR 1349-54, p. 5.
15) TNA SC 8/167/8311; Calendar of Papal Letters 1342-62, pp. 375, 385; The Sarum Missal, ed. J. Wickham Legg (1916), p. 515.