John Holland, Duke of Exeter and Earl of Huntingdon

HOLLAND, JOHN, Duke of Exeter and Earl of Huntingdon (1395–1447), was second son of John Holland, duke of Exeter (1352?–1400) [q. v.] His elder brother Richard died 3 Sept. 1400, prior to the reversal of his father’s attainder. He was born at his father’s residence at Dartington in Devonshire on 18 March 1395, and baptised the same day in the parish church there. He was made knight of the Bath in 1413. In 1415 he took part in the trial of Richard, earl of Cambridge, and accompanied Henry V on his expedition into France. He was one of the leaders in the reconnoitre before Harfleur, and distinguished himself by his valour at Agincourt (Political Songs, ii. 125, Rolls Ser.). In 1416, probably in recognition of his services, he was restored in blood, and to the earldom of Huntingdon. On 4 May 1416 he was made a knight of the Garter, and next day was appointed lieutenant of the fleet (Fœdera, ix. 344), and in that capacity accompanied Bedford on his expedition for the relief of Harfleur in the following July. Exactly a year later he was in command of the fleet which completely defeated the Genoese off Harfleur, and so cleared the way for Henry V’s second expedition. He again took part in the siege of Caen, and in the spring of 1418 was given a separate command, and captured the towns of Coutances and Avranches. At the siege of Rouen in the autumn he held the chief command on the left bank of the Seine. He displayed conspicuous bravery at the surprise of Pontoise on 30 July 1419, and was afterwards made captain of Gournay and Gisors. On 1 Dec. in that year he was commissioned to carry out the destruction of hostile castles and other dangerous strongholds in Normandy, and obtained a grant of forfeited lands in Normandy. In 1420 he defeated the French at Fresney, and, in company with Sir John Cornwall, laid siege to Fontaines-la-Vagant, and also to the castle of Clermont; in the latter place his efforts at subjection were unsuccessful. During the autumn he served at the siege of Melun, and on its capture he was made governor; in further reward for his services on this occasion he was appointed constable of the Tower of London for life on 20 Aug. 1420. After this he accompanied Henry V on his triumphal entry into Paris. Here Henry appointed him a resident custodian of King Charles of France, with a retinue of five hundred men. In 1421 he fell into the hands of the Dauphinists, when Clarence was defeated at Beaujé on 22 March. He remained in captivity until 1425, when he was exchanged for the Count of Vendôme (Rot. Parl. iv. 300), but he was forced to pay a very heavy ransom for his release, in consideration of which Henry VI granted him an annuity of 123l. 6s. 8d. in 1428. On 24 Oct. 1429 he obtained license to marry Anne, widow of Edmund Mortimer, earl of March. In the following April he again visited France with the English army, and proceeded to the Duke of Burgundy’s aid at Compiègne. He remained some time in the duke’s company, being with him at the surrender of Gournay. Subsequently the duke left him before Compiègne, and from that place he retreated with John of Luxemburg to Noyon (see a letter from Burgundy in Letters and Papers, Henry VI, ii. 158 sqq. Rolls Ser.) He was present at Henry VI’s coronation at Paris in 1431. His first wife must have died soon after the birth of his son and heir Henry, as in 1432 he obtained license to marry Beatrice, a natural daughter of John, king of Portugal, widow of Thomas, earl of Arundel, who had taken an active part in obtaining his father’s execution at Pleshey. She died 14 Nov. 1439, and Huntingdon subsequently married Anne, eldest daughter of John de Montagu, third earl of Salisbury.

In 1432, after receiving a grant of the office of marshal of England, to hold during the minority of the Duke of Norfolk, he returned to France, and next year was in command in Normandy. In July 1435 he was one of the English representatives at the conference of Arras to treat for peace with the French; after this he seems to have returned to England, and was a commissioner for guarding the east and west marches towards Scotland. Later on in the same year he was appointed admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine for life. In 1436 he was engaged on the defence of Calais against Burgundy (Fœdera, x. 646), and in March 1438 was in command of the expedition despatched to the relief of Guisnes. The possession of his various offices, more honourable than remunerative, led him to sue the king for a grant of an annual allowance; five hundred marks a year was accordingly given him until he should receive a grant of lands to that value. On 26 March 1439 he was the king’s lieutenant in Aquitaine, 1,000l. being paid to him before taking up the office. He seems to have returned to England soon after, but was again sent on a military expedition into France, during which he besieged and captured Tartras; he was also appointed governor of Aquitaine, and was still there in June 1442 (ib., xi. 8). On 6 Jan. 1443 he was advanced to the dukedom of Exeter, the title lost by his father on his attainder, and shortly afterwards he received the license that he and his heirs male should take their places in all parliaments and councils next to the Duke of York. In 1445 the lordship of Sparre in the duchy of Aquitaine was conferred upon him, and probably about the same time he received a grant of the earldom of Ivry.

In 1445 and 1446 his son Henry was joined with him in the enjoyment of the office of admiral and constable of the Tower; this was probably on account of a decay in his own health, as in the latter year he made his will. One of his last public acts seems to have been the reception, on his approach to London, of the king of France in July 1445.

He died 5 Aug. 1447, and was buried in a chapel within the church of St. Catherine, beside the tower; his son and heir Henry was then aged seventeen years. An inventory of his jewels and debts is preserved among the muniments of the dean and chapter of Westminster.

[Gesti Henrici Quinti (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Elmham’s Vita Henrici Quinti (ed. Hearne); Hardyng’s Chronicle; Walsingham Historia Anglicana (Rolls Ser.); Waurin’s Chroniques (Rolls Ser.); Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VI (Rolls Ser.); Rymer’s Fœdera (orig. ed.). Nicolas’s Battle of Agincourt; Puiseux’ Siège de Rouen; Dugdale’s Baronage; Doyle’s Official Baronage.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 27
Holland, John (1395-1447) by William John Hardy

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