John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt was the third of Edward III's five surviving sons. By marriage to Blanche of Lancaster in 1359, he became Duke of Lancaster, which made him the most powerful nobleman of the realm. When the king fell ill, Gaunt ruled the country in his stead. He was a shrewd statesman, but his unorthodox methods and inability to compromise antagonized the Church and the Commons. Many suspected that he was aiming for the crown, but they were proved wrong when Gaunt stood faithfully to his young nephew King Richard II.
His second marriage to Constance of Castile entitled Gaunt to the crown of Castile, and he spent a greater part of the 1380's on the continent, pursuing his claim and protecting the English territories in France. During Richard's luckless reign Gaunt withdrew from English politics and lost part of his influence, yet Lancaster remained powerful. Gaunt died in January 1399, and when several months later king Richard was deposed, Gaunt's son, Henry Bolingbroke, was crowned Henry IV, the first of the Lancastrian kings.
|History, Middle English Period, Political, Kings + Rulers, 100 Years War|