Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester

HUMPHREY, Duke of Gloucester, called the Good Duke Humphrey (1391–1447), youngest son of Henry, earl of Derby, afterwards Henry IV, by his first wife, Mary Bohun (d. 1394), was born in 1391, probably in January or February, during his father’s absence in Prussia. He remained in England with his brothers during his father’s exile. He was made a knight on 11 Oct. 1399, the day before his father’s coronation. In 1400 he became a knight of the Garter. In 1403 he is said by Waurin (Chron. 1399-1422, p. 61) to have been present at the battle of Shrewsbury. He received a careful education, Bale says, at Balliol College, Oxford (Script. Brit. Cat. p. 583, ed. 1557), and became at a very early age a great collector and reader of books and a bountiful patron of learned men. His presents of books to Oxford began about 1411, when Richard Courtenay [q.v.], the chancellor, was enlarging and organising the university library. He was extremely dissolute, and soon after he was thirty had undermined his constitution by his excesses (Kymer’s report in Hearne, Liber Niger Scacc. ii. 550-9). His first public appointment was on 7 May 1413, soon after his brother Henry V’s accession, when he was made great chamberlain of England (Doyle, Official Baronage, ii. 22). On 16 May 1414 he was created Duke of Gloucester and Earl of Pembroke at the parliament at Leicester.

Gloucester became one of his brother’s council, and was present at the meeting of 16 April 1415 which resolved on war with France (Ord. P. C. ii. 156). He attended Henry V to Southampton, and was one of the court which tried and condemned Cambridge and Scrope for treason. He then embarked for France, where he took part in the whole campaign, commanding one of the three divisions into which the English army was divided, and actively co-operating at the siege of Harfleur (T. Livius Foro-Juliensis, Vita Hen. V, p. 9). At Agincourt (25 Oct.) Gloucester, while struggling against Alençon and his followers, was wounded and thrown senseless to the ground. He was rescued by Henry V (ib. p. 20; Redman, p. 47; Elmham, p. 121, both in Cole, Memorials of Hen. V; Wright, Political Songs, ii. 125; Nicolas, Battle of Agincourt), and was conveyed to Calais, where he soon recovered (Giles, Chron. p. 51). His services were rewarded by a long series of grants. He became lord of the march of Llanstephan, near Carmarthen (Cal. Rot. Pat. p. 265). He afterwards received other lands and offices in Wales. He was made, on 27 Nov. 1415, warden of the Cinque ports and constable of Dover Castle, and on 28 Dec. of the same year lord of the Isle of Wight and Carisbrooke. On 27 Jan. 1416 he was appointed warden and chief justice in eyre of the royal forests, parks, and warrens south of the Trent (Doyle, ii. 22).

On 30 April 1416 Gloucester received the Emperor Sigismund at Dover (Elmham, p. 133), and, if a late authority can be trusted (Holinshed, iii. 85), rode into the water with naked sword in hand and obtained from the emperor a promise that he would exercise or claim no jurisdiction in England. In September the emperor’s zeal for peace caused the assembling of a conference at Calais. John of Burgundy would only be present if Humphrey were handed over as a hostage for his safety. On 4 Oct. Gloucester rode into the water to meet Burgundy at Gravelines and surrendered himself as a hostage (Gesta Hen. V, p. 100, Engl. Hist. Soc.; Fœdera, ix. 390 sq.) He was royally entertained by Philip of Charolais at Saint-Omer, and was surrendered on 13 Oct. after Burgundy’s return. He then accompanied Sigismund on his coasting voyage from Calais to Dordrecht, where he was dismissed with presents (Walsingham, Ypodigma Neustriæ, p. 471; Capgrave, Chron. p. 315 ; cf. Aschbach, Kaiser Sigmund).

Gloucester took part in Henry V’s second French expedition in 1417. He took Lisieux without difficulty (Redman, p. 51). On 19 Sept. he was commissioned to treat for the surrender of Bayeux (Fœdera, ix. 493). After Easter 1418 he overran the Cotentin, finding serious resistance at Cherbourg, which only surrendered on 1 Oct. after a long siege (T. Livius Foro-Juliensis, pp. 51-6 : Gregory, Chronicle, p. 121). He then joined Henry V at the siege of Rouen, where he took up quarters with the king at the Porte Saint-Hilaire (Paston Letters, i. 10; Collections of London Citizen, Camd. Soc., pp. 11, 16, 23, 25). In January 1419 he was made governor of the captured capital of Normandy (Monstrelet, iii. 308). In April 1419 he had license to treat for a marriage between himself and Blanche of Sicily, daughter of Charles, king of Navarre (Fœdera, ix. 493). Nothing further came of this. He was present at the first interview of Henry V and the French court at Meulan, and on 1 June was a commissioner to treat for peace and for Henry’s marriage (Fœdera, ix. 761). He attended Henry’s marriage on Trinity Sunday, 1420, and fought at the siege of Melun. Later in that year he was sent home to replace Bedford as regent in England (Walsingham, Hist. Angl. ii. 33). He held the December parliament in Henry’s name, and on 30 Dec. was formally appointed lieutenant of England (Fœdera, ix. 830). In February 1421 his commission was concluded by the king’s return. In the summer of 1421 Gloucester again accompanied Henry V to France. He afterwards returned to England, and replaced Bedford as regent when the latter accompanied Queen Catherine to Paris in May 1422.

Gloucester was still in England when Henry V died on 31 Aug. 1422, leaving an infant heir. On his deathbed Henry warned Gloucester not to selfishly prefer his personal interests to those of the nation (Waurin, Chron. 1399-1422,p. 423). The dying king appointed him deputy for Bedford during the latter’s presence in France. Humphrey at once entered into this position. On 28 Sept. he received the seals from the chancellor in the name of his little nephew, Henry VI. But the council exercised the executive power, and he did not venture to gainsay their acts. In the end the question of the regency was referred to parliament, which Gloucester opened on 9 Nov. (Fœdera, x. 257). He claimed the regency, both on grounds of kinship and the will of Henry V. Parliament rejected his pretensions. At last royal letters patent, confirmed by act of parliament, provided that Gloucester, during his brother’s presence in England, was only to act as principal counsellor after him, but that when Bedford was absent Gloucester was to be himself protector and defender of the kingdom and church, and chief counsellor to the king. As Bedford was likely to be fully occupied in France, Gloucester at once became protector, with a salary of eight thousand marks a year. The real power, however, remained with the council, of which Gloucester was little more than the chairman, with some small rights of dispensing the minor patronage of the crown. The new council only took office on five stringent conditions which severely limited his power.

Gloucester’s first acts fully justified the caution of Henry V and the council. Before June 1421 Jacqueline of Bavaria fled to the English court, where she was given a pension and allowed to act as godmother to Henry VI. Born on 25 July 1401, she was the only daughter of William IV, count of Hainault, Holland, and Zealand, and lord of Friesland, and of Margaret of Burgundy, sister of John the Fearless. Her first husband, who soon died, was the dauphin John, Charles VII’s elder brother. On her father’s death in 1417 she had succeeded to the sovereignty of his three counties. In 1418 she had married her second husband, John IV, duke of Brabant, her own cousin, and cousin of Philip of Burgundy. But her father’s brother, John the Pitiless, at one time bishop of Liège, wrested Holland and Zealand from her by a treaty with her weak husband, 21 April 1420. The Spanish antipope, Benedict XIII, annulled her marriage with Brabant soon after her arrival in England, and, probably in the autumn of 1422, Gloucester married her (by October 1422, Particularités Curieuses, p. 58; before 7 March 1423, Stevenson, i. 211, pref.; Saint-Remy, ii. 82; Æneas Sylvius, Commentarii, pp. 412-15, ed. Rome, 1584). Lydgatewrotea ballad to celebrate the event. On 20 Oct. 1423 she was denizened (Fœdera, x. 311). Gloucester spent Christmas at St. Albans with his wife (cf. Amundesham, i. 7). On 7 Jan. 1424 both were admitted to the fraternity of the abbey, which was afterwards his favourite place of devotion (ib. i. 66).

Gloucester had dealt a death-blow to English interests abroad by a marriage which directly put him in competition with Philip of Burgundy for the mastery of the Netherlands. The French rejoiced at the prospects of the overthrow of the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Letters of Gloucester and others were forged (probably at the instigation of the new constable, Arthur of Richmond; but cf. Cosneau, Le Connétable de Richemont, pp.501-3) to make Philip believe that Bedford was in secret league with his brother and was plotting his assassination (Beaucourt, Hist. de Charles VII, ii. 658-60; Desplanque, Mémoires de l’Académie de Bruxelles, tome 32, 1867, publishes the forgeries from the Lille archives and maintains the reality of the plot). But Bedford, though requesting the pope to legitimatise his brother’s marriage (Stevenson, ii. 388), really strained every effort to check Humphrey’s ambition. He joined at once with Burgundy in offering to mediate between Gloucester and Brabant. On 15 Feb.’ 1424 Gloucester accepted the offer, provided that the case were settled by March. It was not till June that the arbiters referred the question to Pope Martin V, whom Gloucester had already requested to pronounce against the validity of Jacqueline’s marriage to Brabant (ib. ii. 392-3, 401-4). But Gloucester now collected five thousand soldiers and crossed over to Calais on 16 Oct., accompanied by Jacqueline, bent on conquering Hainault (ib. ii. 397; cf. Beckington Correspondence, i. 281). He delayed a few days at Calais, whence he wrote on 27 Oct. an intemperate letter to the pope against a papal collector (ib. i. 279-80). He marched peaceably through the Burgundian territories, and, reaching Hainault, found no open resistance. On 4 Dec. the estates of Hainault recognised him as count, and next day he took the oaths and entered formally on that office. The faction of the Hoeks in Holland also rose in arms to support his claims (Beaucourt, ii. 18, 362-8; Particularités Curieuses sur Jacqueline de Bavière, No. 7 des publications de la Société des Bibliophiles de Mons, 1838; F. von Löher, Jakobäa von Bayern und ihre Zeit, 1869; Löher, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Jacobäa von Bayern in Abhandlungen der historischen Classe der bayerischen Academic der Wissenschaften, x. 1-112 and 205-336).

Philip of Burgundy concluded a truce with France and hurried to the delivery of Brabant. After a hot correspondence (printed with some variations of text in Monstrelet, ii. 213-25; Waurin; and Saint-Remy, ii. 95-105) he challenged Gloucester to a duel, and Humphrey accepted the proposal. But his enthusiasm for Jacqueline and her cause was over. He had found a new mistress in one of the ladies who had accompanied her from England. This was Eleanor Cobham, daughter of Lord Cobham of Sterborough, a handsome, greedy, sensual woman of doubtful antecedents. Taking an affectionate farewell of Jacqueline, Gloucester went back to England with Eleanor on pretence of preparing for his duel with Philip, but that Bedford and the pope forbade (Monstrelet, iv. 231; Waurin, 1422-31, i. 176; Stevenson, ii. 412-14). Burgundy overran Hainault and captured Jacqueline in June 1425. He had already occupied Holland and Zealand as the heir of the ex-bishop of Liege, who had died in January. In September Jacqueline escaped to Holland and made herself mistress of most of the country. Gloucester, though unwilling or unable to go in person, sent five hundred troops under Lord Fitzwalter to her help (Waurin, p.200). But in January 1426 she was beaten by Philip at Brouwershaven, and Gloucester grew more indifferent as her prospects darkened.

During Gloucester’s absence abroad the council had governed and Beaufort had become chancellor. He came back in April 1425 embittered by failure, broken in health, and crippled by debt. He was present at the parliament which met on 30 April, and was forbidden to continue further his quarrel with Burgundy. He was treated with great forbearance and allowed to borrow large sums of money. The council, however, strongly rebuked him, although it gave him the lucrative wardship of the Mortimer estates of the Duke of York, who was a minor. A personal quarrel between Gloucester and Beaufort followed. A riot between their supporters took place in London on 30 Oct. The council implored Bedford to return to heal the feud, and on 10 Jan. 1426 he arrived in London [see Beaufort, Henry, bishop of Winchester, d. 1447]. It was the first time that Gloucester had seen him since Henry Vs death. Gloucester signed a bond of unity, in which he agreed to form no alliance without his brother’s consent (Beckington Correspondence, i. 139-45), but efforts to reconcile his feud with Beaufort at first failed. On 18 Feb. parliament, however, met at Leicester, and the peers arbitrated between nephew and uncle. Beaufort denied a series of wild charges brought against him by Gloucester, and on 12 March Gloucester accepted his disavowal and took him by the hand. But Beaufort resigned the chancellorship.

Bedford remained in England and acted as protector. ‘Let my brother govern as he list whilst he is in this land,’ Gloucester said to his friends, ‘for after his going over into France I will govern as me seemeth good.’ He also boasted that ‘if he had done anything that touched the king in his sovereign state he would not answer for it to any person alive, save only to the king when he came of age’ (Ord. P. C. iii. 241). Before Bedford’s departure Gloucester, who was seriously ill at his house, was visited by the council, and swore that he would obey its commands. Bedford left England in March 1427, accompanied by Beaufort. Gloucester, on recovering from his illness, made offerings at St. Albans, whence he proceeded to Norwich to try some malefactors (Amundesham, i. 13). He returned to London in June.

Again protector, Gloucester returned to his old courses. He earned a stern reproof from Bedford for intriguing with his French council. During the spring of 1427 Jacqueline was in great distress, and kept sending piteous appeals for help to him and the council (Löher, Beiträge, prints them (pp.219 sq.) from the Lille Archives). Gloucester became anxious to assist her. He broke his promise to his brother, and in July persuaded the council to grant him five thousand marks with which to aid Jacqueline in Holland (Fœdera, x. 374). But the council insisted that no aggressions should be made without the consent of parliament. In January 1428 the pope annulled the marriage of Humphrey and Jacqueline.

In January 1428 the parliament, which had already assembled in the autumn before, held a second session. On 3 March Gloucester requested the lords to define his powers as protector. They answered that his powers were strictly limited by the act of his appointment, and that the title protector imported a personal duty of intendance to the actual defence of the land’ (Rot. Parl. iv. 326). They now imposed a further check on his independence by directing Richard Beauchamp [q.v.], earl of Warwick, to act as the little king’s preceptor in accordance with Henry V’s intentions. Even his personal popularity was diminished. In 1428 a number of London housewives, ‘of good reckoning and well apparrelled,’ appeared before the lords, and protested against the shame of his abandoning his wife to her distress, while consoling himself with a harlot like Eleanor Cobham (Amundesham, i. 20; Stow, Annals, p.369). Proposals were made that he should submit his claims to Hainault to Bedford and Beaufort’s arbitration (Stevenson, ii. 417-18). But in the same year Jacqueline gave up her heroic struggle. By the treaty of Delft in July she submitted to Philip; recognised him as her heir, and as co-regent of her territories; promised never to marry without his consent, and declared that she had never been lawfully married to Gloucester. Humphrey quietly acquiesced in her renunciation. Before 1431 (perhaps even in 1428, Beiträge, p.276) he married his mistress, Eleanor Cobham, who was generally styled the ‘lady of Gloucester.’ In 1433 Jacqueline married the leader of the Cabeljaus, Frans van Borsselen. On her death in 1436 Philip of Burgundy became lord of all the Netherlands. Gloucester had thus facilitated the extension of Philip’s power, while hopelessly alienating him from England.

The mistakes of his enemies alone gave Gloucester a further lease of power. So early as 1424 he had posed as the champion of English liberties against the exactions of a papal collector (Beckington Correspondence,, i. 279). On 1 Sept. 1428 Gloucester, in the king’s name, declined to recognise Cardinal Beaufort, who had just returned to England as papal legate. The request of the pope for a clerical tenth to carry on the Hussite crusade still further strengthened Gloucester’s hands. In April 1429 he demanded whether his uncle, being a cardinal, ought to be allowed to act as prelate of the Garter on St. George’s day, and the council begged Beaufort not to act, though they refused to settle the point.

The council was tired of Gloucester’s protectorate, and procured the coronation of Henry VI on 6 Nov. 1429. Parliament then declared the protectorate at an end. On 15 Nov. Gloucester resigned his position, keeping only the title of chief councillor. Gloucester failed in an attempt to exclude Beaufort from the council. But when Beaufort accompanied Henry VI on his journey to be crowned in France, Gloucester was appointed lieutenant and warden of the kingdom (21 April 1430). During the next two years, in the king’s absence, he retained this position, though finding much opposition from a powerful faction in the council, headed by Beaufort’s friend, Archbishop Kemp [q.v.] In 1431 he took an active part in the trials of Lollard priests.

On 6 Nov. 1431 he urged Beaufort’s removal both from the council and the bishopric of Winchester. On 28 Nov. he persuaded the council to draw up letters of attachment against the bishop for infringing the statute of præmunire, though their execution was put off till the king came back. On the same day Beaufort’s friends retaliated by vainly attempting to deprive Gloucester, whose greediness was notorious, of his salary (Ord. P. C. iv. 103). He seized Beaufort’s plate and jewels, and after Henry’s return in February 1432 removed Kemp from the chancellorship and dismissed the other friends of Beaufort from office. Parliament met on 12 May, and Gloucester declared that he was anxious only to act as chief councillor with the advice and assistance of the other lords, but refused Beaufort’s request that his. accusers should prefer formal charges against him. The result of the session was to confirm Gloucester in the improved position he had obtained during the king’s absence abroad.

In 1433 Burgundy and Bedford were on the verge of quarrelling. In April the council sent Gloucester to join Bedford and Beaufort at Calais to conduct the projected negotiations for peace. He remained abroad from 22 April to 23 May (Fœdera, x. 548, 549; but cf. Plancher, Histoire de Bourgogne, vol. iv. preuves, p. cxxxv). But nothing resulted from Gloucester’s efforts, and in the parliament which met in July the financial difficulties of the administration were fully exposed. Bedford had come over to the parliament. Gloucester was forced to renew his former declaration of concord, and even to follow his brother’s example and content himself with a reduced salary of 1,000l. But he became more and more jealous of Bedford, and in a great council in April 1434 he came forward with an offer to go to France and carry on the war on a new system. This was indignantly resented by Bedford, and rejected by the council. The young king endeavoured to restore harmony. But Bedford at once withdrew to France, joined in the great conference at Arras, which Gloucester persistently opposed, and died on 14 Sept. 1435. His death made Gloucester next heir to the throne.

The defection of Burgundy had just taken place, and the event stirred up the warlike feeling in England, which Gloucester dexterously used to his own advantage. On 1 Nov. he was appointed in parliament captain of Calais for nine years (Rot. Parl. iv. 483). Calais was besieged before he was ready to go to its assistance, and he had the mortification of seeing it relieved by his enemy, Edmund Beaufort, the cardinal’s nephew. After long delays his troops assembled at Sandwich about 22 July 1436 (Fœdera, x. 647). On 27 July he was appointed the king’s lieutenant over the new army (ib. x. 651). He crossed to Calais on 28 July at the head of ten thousand men, and accompanied by Warwick and Stafford. On 30 July he was solemnly appointed count of Flanders, Philip having been adjudged to have forfeited the territory by his treason to the lawful king of France (ib. x. 652). After leading a hasty foray through Flanders in the first few days of August (1-16 Aug. Stevenson, ii. xix-xx; 1-12 Aug. Engl. Chron. p. 55; nine days, Wyrcester, p. 761; cf. Waurin, Chroniques, 1431-47, pp. 200-6), Gloucester abruptly returned home. Impotent in court and council, he became more popular with the country now that he posed as the uncompromising champion of the English rights in France. In his bitter but fruitless protest against the release of Orleans in 1440 (Fœdera, x. 764-7; Stevenson, ii. 440-51), he denounced Beaufort and Kemp with much bitterness for sacrificing the interests of the country to their fondness for peace with France, and accused them of personal dishonesty and the meanest treachery. A dignified protest of the council answered his graver charges (Stevenson, ii. 451-60), and on 28 Aug., when Orleans solemnly swore in Westminster Abbey, before the king and lords, to observe the treaty of his release, Gloucester left the church as the mass began (Paston Letters, i. 40). He immediately went to South Wales. He had been nominated chief justice of the district in February 1440, on resigning the chief justiceship of North Wales, which he had held since 1427 (Doyle, ii. 23).

Gloucester’s period of power was now at an end. He still attended council, but he was in a minority. He obtained no further public appointments. A grave domestic trouble further complicated his position. Eleanor Cobham had long held dealings with professors of the black arts. Roger Bolingbroke, `that was a great and cunning man in astronomy,’ encouraged her to believe that her husband would become king, and he, in conjunction with Thomas Southwell, canon of St. Stephen’s, Westminster, exposed a wax doll, modelled like King Henry, to a slow fire, in the belief that, as the wax gradually melted, the health of the king would equally dwindle away. The intrigue was divulged. Bolingbroke and Southwell were arrested, and on Sunday, 23 July 1441, Bolingbroke abjured his black art on a high stage at Paul’s Cross during sermon time, and accused the lady of Gloucester of being his instigator to treason and magic. Thoroughly alarmed, Eleanor fled on Tuesday night to the sanctuary at Westminster. The two archbishops, Cardinal Beaufort, and Ayscough, held a court in St. Stephen’s Chapel, before which she was called upon to answer charges of `necromancy, witchcraft, heresy, and treason,’ and by their judgment she was imprisoned on 11 Aug. at Leeds Castle in Kent. She remained at Leeds until October, when a special commission was appointed, including the earls of Huntingdon, Stafford, and Suffolk, and some of the judges, before whom Bolingbroke and Southwell as principals and Eleanor as an accessory were indicted of treason. On 21 Oct. another commission of bishops met at St. Stephen’s Chapel, and Eleanor was brought before them. She admitted some of the articles, but denied others. Finally, after witnesses had been examined, she ‘submitted her only to the correction of the bishops.’ On 13 Nov. she appeared again to receive the sentence of penance and imprisonment. For three days she perambulated London streets bareheaded and with a burning taper in her hand, which she offered at various churches. She was then committed to the ward of Sir Thomas Stanley, one hundred marks a year being assigned for her maintenance, and was at first imprisoned in Chester Castle (Devon, Issue Rolls of the Exchequer, p. 441; Ellis, Original Letters, 2nd ser. i. 105; but cf. Wyrcester, p. 763). In October 1443 she was transferred to Kenilworth (Fœdera, xi. 45; cf. Devon, pp. 447-8). In July 1446 she was imprisoned in the Isle of Man (Ord. P. C. vi. 51). She is said to have been imprisoned in Peel Castle until her death. Bolingbroke was hung and quartered, the witch of Eye, another of Eleanor’s allies, was burnt, and Southwell died in the Tower. Humphrey, daring not to intervene, ‘took all things patiently and said little’ (Grafton, p.588, ed. 1569).

A trace of Gloucester’s influence may be found in the petition of the parliament of 1442 that noble ladies should be tried by their peers in the spirit of Magna Carta (Rot. Parl. v. 26). Gloucester, although chiefly occupied with literature, still urged his old policy, and seems to have pressed the Armagnac marriage as a counter-scheme to the plan of Beaufort to marry Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou. But he reconciled himself to the triumph of his enemies, welcomed Margaret on her arrival in England, and even proposed in the House of Lords a vote of thanks to Suffolk for his exertions in concluding the match (ib. v. 73). He made, however, a long oration in the parliament of 1445 urging the violation of the truce (Polydore Vergil, pp. 69-70, Camden Soc.) But Henry VI was now thoroughly prejudiced against him, and Suffolk was a more active and less scrupulous enemy than the aged cardinal. In giving audience to the great French embassy in 1445, the young king publicly rejoiced over Gloucester’s discomfiture (Stevenson, i. 111), and Suffolk informed the envoys privately that if Gloucester had the wish to hinder the establishment of peace he no longer had the power (ib. i. 123). Henry gradually grew to fear that Gloucester had some designs against his person. He denied his uncle his presence and strengthened his body-guards (Giles, Chron. p.33; Whethamstead, i. 179). Some efforts were made to call Humphrey to account for his protectorship. Hall believed that he actually was accused, but made a clever defence, and was acquitted (Chronicle, p. 209). Waurin says that he was driven from the council (Chron. 1431-7, p. 353).

Affairs came to a crisis in 1447. Parliament met at Bury on 10 Feb., but Humphrey was not present. The king was carefully guarded. It was reported that Gloucester was in Wales stirring up revolt (Engl. Chron. p.62). But he was really on his way to the parliament, suspecting no evil, and hoping to secure a pardon for Eleanor Cobham (Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 150). He was attended by fourscore horsemen, mostly Welsh. On 18 Feb. he rode by Lavenham to Bury. About half a mile from the town he was met by a royal messenger, who ordered him to go straight to his lodgings. The duke entered the Southgate at about eleven o’clock, and rode through the ill-omened Dead Lane to his lodgings in the North Spital of St. Saviour’s on the Thetford Road. After he had dined, the Duke of Buckingham and other lords came to him, one of whom, Lord Beaumont, put him under arrest. In the evening some of his followers were also arrested, and most of the rest during the next few days. The duke was kept in strict custody and fell sick. On Thursday, 23 Feb., at about three in the afternoon, he died. Next day his body was exposed to the lords and knights of the parliament and to the public. The corpse was then enclosed in a leaden coffin and taken with scanty attendance by slow stages to St. Albans, where a `fair vault’ had already been made for him during his life. On 4 March he was buried on the south side of the shrine of St. Albans. A ‘stately arched monument of freestone, adorned with figures of his royal ancestors,’ was erected by Abbot Whethamstead. It is figured in Sandford’s `Genealogical History,’ p. 318, and Gough’s `Sepulchral Monuments,’ iii. 142. In 1703 the tomb was opened, and the body discovered ‘lying in pickle in a leaden coffin’ (Gough, iii. 142).

Gloucester’s servants were accused of conspiracy to make their master king, and of raising an armed force to kill Henry at Bury (Fœdera, xi. 178). Five were condemned, one of whom was his illegitimate son Arthur (Gregory, p. 188), but at the last moment they were pardoned by the king’s personal act. The suddenness of the duke’s death naturally gave rise to suspicions of foul play; but friends of the duke, like Abbot Whethamstead (Reg. i. 179) were convinced that his death was natural. His health, ruined by debauchery, had long been weak. His portraits depict him as a worn and prematurely old man. He had already been threatened with palsy (Hardyng, p. 400), and the sudden arrest and worry might well have brought about a fatal paralytic stroke (Gregory, p. 188; Giles, Chron. pp. 33-4; Fabyan, p. 619). Fox’s contem’porary narrative of the parliament at Bury, the best and fullest account of his last days, says no word of foul play (English Chron. ed. Davies, pp. 116-18; cf. however ib. p. 63). Abroad it was believed that he had been strangled (Mathieu D’Escouchy, i. 118; Basin, i. 190), and the Duke of York was regarded as his murderer, but this is improbable. In the next generation still wilder tales were told (Chastelain, Œuvres, vii. 87, 192, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove; cf.Grafton,p.597,ed.1569). But the fact that Suffolk was never formally charged with the murder in the long list of crimes brought up against him when he fell is almost conclusive as to his innocence.

Gloucester left no issue by Jacqueline or Eleanor. Two bastards of his are mentioned: Arthur, already referred to, and Antigone, who married Henry Grey, earl of Tankerville (Sandford, p. 319; Doyle, iii. 511). A portrait of Gloucester from the Oriel College MS. of Capgrave’s `Commentary on Genesis’ is engraved in Doyle’s ‘Official Baronage,’ ii. 22. Another picture, from a window in old Greenwich church, is engraved in the Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Bodleian, 1697. He is usually described as handsome.

Gloucester was a man of great and restless energy, hot-tempered and impulsive, of gracious and popular manners, eloquent, plausible, and affable. His title of the ‘good duke’ is due, not to his moral virtues, but to the applause of the men of letters whom he patronised and the popular notion that he was a patriot. Shakespeare’s portrait of him hands down the popular tradition, and nearly all the chroniclers, foreign and native, praise him; but the broad facts of his life show him unprincipled, factious, and blindly selfish. Dr. Pauli compares him to John of Gaunt, but the political aspect of his career rather suggests analogies with Thomas of Woodstock.

Though no believer in popular miracles, Gloucester adhered to the orthodox traditions of his family, and was the patron and visitor of monasteries, the friend of churchmen, the hunter of heretics. Lydgate boasted that Humphrey maintained the church with such energy ‘that in this land no Lollard dare abide.’ He transferred some alien priories in his hands to swell the endowments of Eton (Devon, p. 447), and invented ingenious devices to enable the monks of St. Albans, to whom he granted St. Nicholas priory, Pembroke, to evade the statute of mortmain (Whethamstead i. 92; Dugdale, Monasticon, ii. 201, 243). He was a great collector of ecclesiastical ornaments and jewels, some of which came after his death to Eton (Lyte, pp. 25, 27; Ecclesiologist, xx. 304-15, xxi. 1-4). Though avaricious, he was a liberal giver. He was a real student and lover of literature, and an indefatigable collector of books. His reading was very wide (Beckington Correspondence, i. 290). His chief studies were in the Latin poets and orators, medicine and astronomy, Latin versions of Plato and Aristotle, and Italian poetry, including Dante, Petrarch, and especially Boccaccio. The catalogue of his books presented to Oxford best indicates the range of his tastes (Anstey, Munimenta Academica, pp. 758-72). His only Greek book was a vocabulary.

Humphrey’s donations first gave the university of Oxford an important library of its own. So early as 1411 his gifts begin. Acting through his physician, Gilbert Kymer (Munimenta Academica, p. 758), he gave 129 volumes in 1439. The masters thanked him, and ordered his commemoration as one of their greatest benefactors (ib. pp. 326-30). Other gifts followed, until the university in 1444 resolved to move their books from the convocation house on the north side of St. Mary’s Church, and build a new library as an upper story of the divinity school, which had been begun in 1426, and towards the building of which Humphrey had already contributed. The masters offered the duke the title of founder (Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, p. 7, 2nd edit.), and obtained from him a promise of a contribution of 100l. towards the work, together with all the rest of his books. In 1446 the university elected Kymer chancellor for a second time at Humphrey’s recommendation (Wood, Fasti Oxon. p. 51, ed. Gutch). But Gloucester died intestate, and his gift was obtained in 1450 after considerable difficulty (ib. p.8; cf. Lyte, p.322). The central part of the reading-room of the Bodleian Library, now called DukeHumphrey’s Library, was finished by the munificence of Thomas Kemp, bishop of London. But the contents were dispersed in the days of Edward VI, and only three volumes of the duke’s collection now remain in the Bodleian; others exist at Oriel, St. John’s, and Corpus Christi Colleges, and six are in the British Museum (ib. p.323; cf. Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, pp. 6-13, 2nd edit.; and Ellis, Letters of Eminent Literary Men, pp. 357-8, Camden Soc.) Some are also in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, and a metrical translation of Palladius `de re rustica,’ now at Wentworth Woodhouse, contains a curious prologue describing the contents of Humphrey’s library (Anthenæum, 17 Nov. 1888, p. 664). Among the learned men whom the duke patronised was Titus Livius of Forli, who left his home to search out some princely protector, and found the warmest welcome from him (Vita Henrici V, pp. 1-2, ed. Hearne). Gloucester made him his poet and orator, procured for him letters of denization in 1437 (Fœdera, x. 661), and encouraged him to write his life of Henry V. Leonard Aretino translated at his request Aristotle’s `Politics’ into Latin, and proposed to dedicate the work to him. Two manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, one of which was Humphrey’s own copy, contain a long and eulogistic dedication to Gloucester. It has been printed in H. W. Chandler’s `Catalogue of Editions of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in the Fifteenth Century,’ pp. 40-4. But Aretino ultimately dedicated his book to Eugenius IV. Leland’s account of this transaction (p. 443) is confused and inaccurate. Pietro Candido Decembrio, the friend of Valla, offered him a translation of Plato’s ‘Republic.’ Peter de Monte, the Venetian, dedicated to him his book, `De Virtutum et Vitiorum inter se Differentia’ (Cat. MSS. Bibl. Bodl. i. 173; Agostini, Scrittori Veniziani, i. 368). Humphrey also had in his pay, as secretary, Antonio da Beccaria of Verona, whom he employed to translate into Latin six tracts of Athanasius, the manuscript of which is still in the British Museum. Æneas Sylvius celebrated his love for the poets and orators. Nor were English men of letters neglected. He was the friend of John Whethamstead, the scholarly abbot of St. Albans. Bishop Beckington was his chancellor and devoted to his service. He promoted Bishop Pecock, despite his rationalistic tendencies. He was the chief patron of Capgrave,the Austin friar of Lynn, who calls him ‘the most lettered prince in the world,’ and dedicated to him, among other works, his `Commentary on the Book of Genesis,’ the presentation copy of which is still preserved at Oriel College, and resolved to write his life (De Illust. Hen. p. 109). He urged John Lydgate to translate Boccaccio’s `Fall of Princes’ into English (Lydgate, Prologue), gave him money in response to his poetic appeal (Lydgate, Minor Poems, p. 49, Percy Soc.), and was extravagantly eulogised by him. He patronised William Botoner. Kymer, his physician, was a man of mark. Nicholas Upton revered him as his special lord, and dedicated to him his heraldic book, ‘De Militari Officio’ (Upton, De Stud. Milit. pp. 2-3, ed. 1654). George Ashley, the poet, was one of his servants (Letters of Margaret of Anjou, p. 114, Camden Soc.) There is something almost Italian about him, both in his literary and in his political career.

A promenade in St. Paul’s Cathedral, much frequented by insolvent debtors and beggars in the sixteenth century, was popularly styled `Duke Humphrey’s Walk,’ from a totally erroneous notion that a monument overlooking it was Duke Humphrey’s tomb. ‘To dine with Duke Humphrey,’ i.e. to loiter about St. Paul’s Cathedral dinnerless, or seeking an invitation to dinner, was long a popular proverb (cf. Shakespeare, Richard III, act iv. sc. iv. l. 176).

[Stevenson’s Wars of the English in France, Whethamstead’s Register, Amundesham’s Annals, Beckington’s Letters, Cole’s Memorials of Henry V, Waurin’s Chroniques, Anstey’s Munimenta Academica, all in Rolls Series; Davies’s English Chronicle, Gairdner’s Collections of a London Citizen and Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, Letters of Margaret of Anjou, all in Camden Soc.; Monstrelet, Jean le Févre, Seigneur de Saint-Remy, T. Bassin, all in Soc. de l’Histoire de France; Williams’s Gesta Henrici V (Engl.Hist. Soc.); Rymer’s Fœdera; Rolls of Parliament; Nicolas’s Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council; Chastellain’s Œuvres, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove; T. Livius Foro-Juliensis’s Vita Henrici V, ed. Hearne; Dugdale’s Baronage, ii. 198-200; Stubbs’s Const. Hist. vol. iii.; Pauli’s Geschichte von England, vol. v.; F. von Löher’s Jacobäa von Bayern, especially Fünftes Buch, Humfried von England; Dufresne de Beaucourt’s Hist. de Charles VII; Leland’s Comment.; Tanner’s Bibl. Brit. pp. 420-1; Pauli’s Pictures of Old England, trans, pp. 373-407 (a good popular account).]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 28
Humphrey (1391-1447) by Thomas Frederick Tout

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