House of Beaufort
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Armorial of Beaufort
|Country||Kingdom of England|
|Ancestral house||House of Plantagenet (legitimised)|
|Founder||John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset|
|Current head||David Somerset, 11th Duke of Beaufort|
The House of Beaufort is an English noble family, which originated in the fourteenth century and played an important role in the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century. The name Beaufort refers to a castle in Champagne, France (now Montmorency-Beaufort), once the possession of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, third son of King Edward III.
The family is descended from John Beaufort (1371-1410), John of Gaunt's son by his then-mistress Katherine Swynford. Gaunt later married Swynford, and their children were legitimized, but were officially barred from succeeding to the throne ("excepta regali dignitate"). They had three other children, also Beaufort: Henry, Thomas, and Joan.
The Beauforts were a powerful and wealthy family from the start, and rose to greater power after their brother and uncle became King Henry IV in 1399. John had already been created Earl of Somerset in 1397. His second son John became the first Duke of Somerset in 1443.
The third son, Henry, became a bishop, Lord Chancellor, and a Cardinal; the fourth son, Thomas, became Duke of Exeter; and the daughter, Joan, married Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland. Henry and Thomas had no children, but Joan's many descendants included the Dukes of York, Warwick the "Kingmaker", the Dukes of Norfolk, the Dukes of Buckingham, the Earls of Northumberland, and Henry VIII's last queen, Catherine Parr.
Henry VII traced his claim to the English crown through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, granddaughter of John Beaufort, and great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt. (Since all legitimate descendants of John of Gaunt were dead, the original exclusion of the Beaufort line was set aside.)
The Beauforts suffered heavily in the Wars of the Roses. Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset and his three elder sons were killed in the war, leaving no legitimate male heir. The male line was continued through Charles Somerset, 1st Earl of Worcester, illegitimate son of Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset.
Henry Somerset, 3rd Marquess of Worcester (1629–1700) was the great-great-great-great-grandson of Charles Somerset. He assisted in the Restoration to the throne of Charles II. In 1682, Charles created Henry Somerset the first Duke of Beaufort.
The Beaufort family in the male line is today represented by David Somerset, 11th Duke of Beaufort.
Notable Beauforts included:
- John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset (c. 1371–1410).
- Henry Beaufort, 2nd Earl of Somerset (c. 1401–1418).
- John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset (c. 1404–1444).
- Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scotland (c. 1404–1445)
- Thomas Beaufort, Count of Perche (c. 1405–1431)
- Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset (c. 1406–1455).
- Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Devon (1409–1449)
- Henry Beaufort (c. 1375-1447), Cardinal Bishop of Winchester
- Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter (c. 1377–1426)
- Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland (c. 1379–1440)
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