Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter

The Duke of Exeter

Coat of arms of Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
Spouse(s) Margaret Neville of Horneby
Noble family Beaufort
Father John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
Mother Katherine Swynford
Born c.1377
Château de Beaufort, Anjou
Died 31 December 1426(1426-12-31) (aged c. 49)
Occupation Lord Chancellor; Lord High Admiral

Thomas Beaufort, 1st Duke of Exeter KG (c. 1377 c. 31 December 1426) was an English military commander during the Hundred Years' War, and briefly Chancellor of England. He was the third of the four children born to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and his mistress Katherine Swynford. To overcome their problematic parentage, his parents were married in 1396, and he and his siblings were legitimated on two separate occasions, in 1390 and again in 1397. He married the daughter of Sir Robert Neville (d. 1413) of Hornby, Margaret Neville, who bore him one son, Henry Beaufort. However, the child died young.

Under Henry IV

After the accession of his half-brother Henry IV, Beaufort was made a Knight of the Garter. In the following years he held various military posts: constable of Ludlow (1402), admiral of the fleet for the northern parts (1403), captain of Calais (1407), and admiral of the northern and western seas for life (1408/9). His most notable action during this decade was commanding the forces against the northern rebellion of 1405.

He became Chancellor of England on 31 January 1410, an office he held until 5 January 1412[1] during a time when King Henry was having trouble with the clergy, and then returned to military matters. Later in 1412 he was created Earl of Dorset.

Under Henry V

On the accession of Henry V, Beaufort was appointed Lieutenant of Aquitaine (1413) and then captain of Harfleur (1415). He spent the next years in Normandy as Lieutenant of Normandy (1416). He was created Duke of Exeter for life in 1416.

Beaufort was back in England in 1417, while the king was in Normandy, but had to deal with problems in Scotland. In 1418 he went back to Normandy with a large force, taking part in the sieges of Evreux, Ivry, and Rouen. After the fall of Rouen in 1419, he was captain of the city and conquered more of the smaller Norman cities. Finally, in 1419, he took the great fortress of Chateau-Gaillard, midway between Rouen and Paris, after a six-month siege.

During this time, Henry V had a policy of creating Norman titles for his aristocrats, thus Beaufort was created Count of Harcourt in 1418.

In 1420, Beaufort helped negotiate the treaty of Troyes. The next year he was captured at the Battle of Baugé, where his nephew Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence, was killed.

Beaufort was one of the executors of Henry V's will, and so returned to England in 1422. He served on the governing council for the infant king Henry VI, though it is likely he spent some time in France as well.

The character of Exeter in Shakespeare's play Henry V is based on Beaufort, although Beaufort was not actually created Duke of Exeter until after the Battle of Agincourt.


As a legitimated grandson of the sovereign, Beaufort bore the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a bordure gobony azure and ermine.[2]

See also


  1. Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 85
  2. Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family


Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Arundel
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Thomas Arundel
Preceded by
Lord High Admiral
Succeeded by
The Duke of Bedford
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Dorset
Duke of Exeter

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