by Susan Flantzer
Born on June 20, 1389, John was the third surviving son of the future King Henry IV and his first wife Mary de Bohun. His paternal grandparents were John of Gaunt (son of King Edward III) and Blanche of Lancaster, the heiress of England’s wealthiest and most powerful peer, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. It was through Blanche that the Duchy of Lancaster came into the royal family. His maternal grandparents were Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford, and Joan Fitzalan, daughter of Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel When John was five years old, his mother died while giving birth to her last child Philippa. John had five surviving siblings:
- Henry V of England (1386–1422), married Catherine of Valois, had one child – King Henry VI
- Thomas, Duke of Clarence (1387–1421), married Margaret Holland, no issue
- Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (1390–1447), married (1) Jacqueline, Countess of Holland, Zealand and Hainault, no issue, marriage annulled (2) Eleanor Cobham, no issue
- Blanche of England (1392–1409) married Louis III, Elector Palatine, no issue
- Philippa of England (1394–1430) married Eric of Pomerania, King of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, no issue
In 1399, John’s father declared himself King Henry IV, imprisoned King Richard II, who died in 1400 under mysterious circumstances, and bypassed Richard’s seven-year-old heir-presumptive, Edmund de Mortimer. In 1403, John was made Constable of England and in 1410 he was confirmed in that position for life. His father King Henry IV died in 1413 and his brother became King Henry V. In 1414, John’s brother created him Duke of Bedford, Earl of Kendal, and Earl of Richmond.
When King Henry V died at the early age of 35 in 1422, he left his nine-month-old son Henry (VI) to succeed him as king. John served as Regent for his young nephew King Henry VI and fought many battles against the French. It was John who tried and executed Joan of Arc.
John married Anne of Burgundy, daughter of John II the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy and Margaret of Bavaria in June of 1423. The couple was childless. Anne died on November 14, 1432 at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris from the plague.
On April 20, 1433, John married 17-year-old Jacquetta of Luxembourg, daughter of Peter I, Count of Saint-Pol, Conversano and Brienne and Margaret de Baux in Thérouanne, France. The marriage was short-lived and childless as John, Duke of Bedford died on September 14, 1435 at age 46 at his Castle of Joyeux Repos in Rouen, Normandy, France. He was buried at Rouen Cathedral. John’s widow Jacquetta married Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers in 1437 and had 14 children including Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV.