Beaufort, Edmund, Duke of Somerset


Beaufort, Edmund, Duke of Somerset
   1) (c. 1406–1455)
   Through his quarrel with Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset, helped initiate the political conflicts that eventually escalated into the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   Edmund Beaufort was a younger son of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset (d. 1409), eldest of the legitimated children of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster (1340–1399), by his mistress Katherine Swynford (d. 1403). As a branch of the house of LANCASTER, the BEAUFORT FAMILY held a claim to the Crown that could possibly rival the claim of the house of YORK. Beaufort succeeded his elder brother John as earl of Somerset in 1444 and as duke of Somerset in 1448. He served in FRANCE from the 1420s, recapturing Harfleur in 1440 and relieving CALAIS in 1442. In 1446, he succeeded York as lieutenant of France, but his failure to hold Normandy against French assaults, though not entirely his fault, earned him great unpopularity. In 1450, anger over the defeats in France sparked JACK CADE’S REBELLION, which in turn led to the overthrow and murder of HENRY VI’s chief minister,William de la POLE, duke of Suffolk. Despite his unpopularity and his military failures, Somerset enjoyed Henry’s con- fidence and assumed leadership of the royal government. York, angered by Somerset’s appointment to the French governorship and believing him to be ambitious for the throne, attacked the duke as an obstacle to needed reforms and as a traitor responsible for the loss of France. Holding few lands of his own, Somerset was staunchly loyal to Henry VI, upon whom he depended for favor and office. The king frustrated all York’s attempts to remove Somerset from power until 1453, when the onset of Henry’s mental illness initiated York’s FIRST PROTECTORATE and allowed the duke to commit Somerset to the TOWER OF LONDON. Released immediately upon Henry’s recovery in early 1455, Somerset was acquitted of all charges and restored to office. Fearing perhaps that Somerset meant to destroy him,York and his noble allies, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his son Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, took arms against the COURT. After failing to achieve Somerset’s surrender, York and his allies attacked a royal party at the Battle of ST.ALBANS in May 1455. The battle ended when York’s forces slew Somerset. Considering his father’s death a murder, Henry BEAUFORT, third duke of Somerset, intensified his family’s rivalry with the house of York, thereby ensuring the continuance of civil strife.
   See also Dartford Uprising; Henry VI, Illness of; Hundred Years War; other entries under Beaufort
   Further Reading: Allmand,C.T., Lancastrian Normandy, 1415-1450 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983);“Edmund Beaufort,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard- Walwyn, 1991), pp. 285–287; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999);Wolffe, Bertram, Henry VI (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981).
   2) (1439–1471)
   Edmund Beaufort, younger son of Edmund BEAUFORT, second duke of Somerset, led the Lancastrian cause during the second phase (1469–1471) of the WARS OF THE ROSES. Although deprived of his title and property by a Yorkist act of ATTAINDER in January 1465, seven months after the execution of his elder brother Henry BEAUFORT, third duke of Somerset, Edmund Beaufort was regarded as fourth duke of Somerset by the Lancastrians and later by his cousin, the first TUDOR king, HENRY VII. In July 1460, Beaufort was captured by the Yorkists and imprisoned at CALAIS and in the TOWER OF LONDON, where he remained in confinement until 1463. By 1464, Beaufort was in exile in FRANCE with Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU and her son, Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER. Beaufort, now calling himself duke of Somerset, had no part in the restoration of HENRY VI engineered by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, in the autumn of 1470. After spending the first weeks of 1471 in BURGUNDY seeking aid for the READEPTION government from Duke CHARLES, Somerset returned to England in February. He gave little support to Warwick, and was not present at the Battle of BARNET in April, preferring to wait on the south coast for the arrival of Queen Margaret and her son.
   After receiving news of Warwick’s defeat and death, Somerset urged the queen to continue the fight, convincing her that the Lancastrian cause was stronger without Warwick and his adherents. Given command of the Lancastrian army that gathered around the queen in the West Country, Somerset met EDWARD IV at the Battle of TEWKESBURY on 4 May 1471. The battle was a disaster for the house of LANCASTER because Prince Edward was killed on the field, destroying any hope of the dynasty’s restoration. Before taking refuge in Tewkesbury Abbey, Somerset was said to have slain his fellow commander, John WENLOCK, Lord Wenlock, for not properly supporting his troops during the battle. Hauled out of SANCTUARY, Somerset was executed in Tewkesbury on 6 May. With the duke’s younger brother John Beaufort dead on Tewkesbury field, Somerset’s execution ended the direct male line of the BEAUFORT FAMBEAUFORT, ILY and transmitted the family’s claim to the throne to Henry Tudor, then earl of Richmond, the son of Somerset’s cousin, Margaret BEAUFORT, Countess of Richmond.
   See also Edward IV, Restoration of; other entries under Beaufort
   Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); Hammond, P.W., The Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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  • Somerset, Henry Beaufort, 2nd duke of, 2nd Earl Of Dorset — ▪ English noble born 1436 died May 15, 1464, Hexham, Northumberland, Eng.       leading Lancastrian in the English Wars of the Roses (Roses, Wars of the).       He was the eldest son of Edmund Beaufort, the 2nd duke; and, as duke of Somerset,… …   Universalium


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