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Henry IV of England
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Henry IV of England

Henry IV (April 3, 1367 - March 20, 1413) was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire - hence the other name by which he was known, "Henry Bolingbroke". His father, John of Gaunt was the third surviving son of King Edward III of England. After supporting his cousin, King Richard II of England, in some early difficulties, Bolingbroke was exiled and disinherited in 1398. Returning the following year on September 30, 1399 he deposed Richard and took the throne, rising from Henry, Duke of Lancaster to King Henry IV. Henry's coronation, on October 13, 1399, is notable as the first time following the Norman Conquest that the monarch made an address in English.

In 1380 Henry married Mary de Bohun; they had two daughters and four sons, one was the future Henry V of England. One of their daughters, Philippa in 1406, married Eric of Pomerania, king of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Mary died in 1394, and in 1403 Henry married Joanna of Navarre, the daughter of Charles d'Albret, King of Navarre. She was the widow of John IV of Brittany, with whom she had four daughters and four sons, but she and Henry had no children.

Henry's reign was marked by widespread rebellion, including the revolt of Owen Glendower who declared himself Prince of Wales in 1400, and the rebellion of Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland. The king's success in putting down these rebellions was due partly to the military ability of his eldest son, Henry, who would later become King Henry V of England.

In 1406, English soldiers captured the future James I of Scotland as he was going to France. James remained a prisoner of Henry for the rest of Henry's reign.

The later years of Henry's reign were marked by serious health problems. He had some sort of disfiguring skin disease, and more seriously suffered acute attacks of some grave illness in June 1405, April 1406, June 1408, during the winter of 1408-9, December 1412, and then finally a fatal bout in March 1413. Medical historians have long debated the nature of this affliction or afflictions. The skin disease might have been leprosy (which in any case didn't mean precisely the same thing as it does to modern medicine), perhaps psoriasis, a symptom of syphilis, or something else. The acute attacks have been given a wide range of explanations, from epilepsy to some from of cardiovascular disease.

In 1413, he died in the Jerusalem Chamber in the house of the Abbot of Westminster. He was buried in Canterbury Cathedral. His body was well embalmed, as an exhumation some centuries later established.

Preceded by:
Richard II
King of England Succeeded by:
Henry V
Lord of Ireland


Peter McNiven, "The Problem of Henry IV's Health, 1405-1413", English Historical Review , 100 (1985), 747-772