|Husband:||John + of GAUNT (1340-1399)|
|Wife:||Katherine + SWYNFORD (1350-1403)|
|Children:||Joan + of BEAUFORT (1374-1440)|
|Name:||John + of GAUNT|
|Father:||Edward III + (1312-1377)|
|Mother:||Philippa + of HAINAULT (1314-1369)|
|Birth||6 Mar 1340|
|Occupation||Duke of Lancaster|
|Death||3 Feb 1399 (age 58)|
|Name:||Katherine + SWYNFORD|
|Birth||25 Nov 1350|
|Occupation||Duchess of Lancaster|
|Death||10 May 1403 (age 52)|
|Name:||Joan + of BEAUFORT|
|Spouse 1:||Robert FERRERS (1373-1396)|
|Spouse 2:||Ralph +* of NEVILLE (1364-1425)|
|Birth||29 Jan 1374||Beaufort Castle, Anjou, France|
|Death||13 Nov 1440 (age 66)||Howden, Yorkshire, England|
|Burial||Lincoln Cathedral, Lincolnshire|
John of Gaunt (Ghent), 1st Duke of Lancaster (second creation), KG (6 March 1340 – 3 February 1399) was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. He was called "John of Gaunt" because he was born in Ghent, then known as Gaunt in English.
As a younger brother of Edward, Prince of Wales (The Black Prince), John exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of his nephew, Richard II, and during the ensuing periods of political strife, but was not thought to have been among the opponents of the king.
John of Gaunt's legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters, included Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. His other legitimate descendants included his daughters Queen Philippa of Portugal, wife of John I of Portugal and mother of King Edward of Portugal, and Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter, mother of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, through his first wife, Blanche; and by his second wife, Constance, John was father of Queen Catherine of Castile, wife of Henry III of Castile and mother of John II of Castile. John fathered five children outside marriage, one early in life by a lady-in-waiting to his mother, and four surnamed "Beaufort" by Katherine Swynford (after a former French possession of the Duke), Gaunt's long-term mistress and third wife. The Beaufort children, three sons and a daughter, were legitimized by royal and papal decrees after John and Katherine married in 1396, with the proviso that they were specifically barred from inheriting the throne ('excepta regali dignitate'). Descendants of this marriage included Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester and eventually Cardinal; Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland, grandmother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III; John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the great-grandfather of King Henry VII; and Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots, from whom are descended, beginning in 1437, all subsequent sovereigns of Scotland, and successively, from 1603 on, the sovereigns England, of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the United Kingdom to the present day. The three preceding houses of English sovereigns from 1399 - the Houses of Lancaster, York and Tudor - were descended from John through, respectively, Henry Bolingbroke, Joan Beaufort and John Beaufort.
When John died in 1399, his estates were declared forfeit as King Richard II had exiled John's son and heir, Henry Bolingbroke, in 1398, for 10 years for killing another nobleman. Bolingbroke returned from exile to reclaim his inheritance and deposed Richard. Bolingbroke then reigned as King Henry IV of England (1399–1413), the first of the descendants of John of Gaunt to hold the throne of England.
John of Gaunt was buried beside his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster, in the nave of Old St. Paul's Cathedral in an alabaster tomb designed by Henry Yevele (similar to that of his son in Canterbury Cathedral).
John of Gaunt's first wife, Blanche, was also his third cousin, both being great great grandchildren of King Henry III. They married in 1359 at Reading Abbey as King Edward III arranged matches for his sons with wealthy heiresses. Upon the death of his father-in-law in 1361, John received half of Henry's lands, the title Earl of Lancaster, and the distinction as the greatest landowner in the north of England, inheriting the Palatinate of Lancaster. He also became the 14th Baron of Halton and 11th Lord of Bowland. John inherited the rest when Blanche's sister, Maud, Countess of Leicester (married to William V, Count of Hainaut), died on 10 April 1362. John received the title "Duke of Lancaster" from his father on 13 November 1362. John was by then well established, owning at least thirty castles and estates across England and France. His household was comparable in scale and organization to that of a monarch. He owned land in almost every county in England, producing a net income of between £8,000 and £10,000 a year (several millions in today's terms).
After the death of his older brother Edward of Woodstock (also known as The Black Prince), John of Gaunt contrived to protect the religious reformer John Wyclif, possibly to counteract the growing secular power of the Roman Catholic Church. However, John's ascendancy to political power coincided with widespread resentment of his influence. At a time when English forces encountered setbacks in the Hundred Years' War against France, and Edward III's rule was becoming unpopular due to high taxation and his affair with Alice Perrers, political opinion closely associated the Duke of Lancaster with the failing government of the 1370s. Furthermore, while King Edward and the Prince of Wales were popular heroes due to their successes on the battlefield, John of Gaunt had not won equivalent military renown that could have bolstered his reputation. Although he fought in the Battle of Nájera, for example, his later military projects were unsuccessful.
When King Edward III died in 1377 and John's ten-year-old nephew succeeded as Richard II of England, John's influence strengthened. However, mistrust remained, and some suspected him of wanting to seize the throne himself. John took pains to ensure that he never became associated with the opposition to Richard's kingship. As virtual ruler during Richard's minority, he made unwise decisions on taxation that led to the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, when the rebels destroyed his Savoy Palace in London. Unlike some of Richard's other unpopular advisors, John was away from London at the time of the uprising and thus avoided the wrath of the rebels.
In 1386, John left England to claim the throne of Castile. However, crisis ensued almost immediately, and in 1387, King Richard's misrule brought England to the brink of civil war. Only John, on his return to England in 1389, was able to persuade the Lords Appellant and King Richard to compromise, ushering in a period of relative stability. During the 1390s, John's reputation of devotion to the well-being of the kingdom was largely restored. John died of natural causes on 3 February 1399 at Leicester Castle, with his third wife Katherine by his side.
 Military commander in FranceBecause of his rank John of Gaunt was one of England's principal military commanders in the 1370s and 1380s, though his enterprises were never rewarded with the kind of dazzling success that had made his elder brother the Black Prince such a charismatic war leader.
On the resumption of war with France in 1369, John was sent to Calais with the Earl of Hereford and a small English army with which he raided into northern France. On 23 August he was confronted by a much larger French army under Philip, Duke of Burgundy. Exercising his first command, Gaunt dared not attack such a superior force and the two armies faced each other across a marsh for several weeks until the English were reinforced by the Earl of Warwick, at which the French withdrew without offering battle. Gaunt and Warwick then decided to strike Harfleur, the base of the French fleet on the Seine. Further reinforced by German mercenaries, they marched on Harfleur but were delayed by French guerilla operations while the town prepared for a siege. John invested the town for four days in October, but he was losing so many men to dysentry and bubonic plague that he decided to abandon the siege and return to Calais. During this retreat the army had to fight its way across the Somme at the ford of Blanchetaque against a French army led by Hugh de Châtillon, who was captured and sold to Edward III. The survivors of the sickly army returned to Calais, where the Earl of Warwick died of plague, by the middle of November. Though it seemed an inglorious conclusion to the campaign, Gaunt had forced the French king, Charles V, to abandon his plans to invade England that autumn.
In the summer of 1370 John was sent with a small army to Aquitaine to reinforce his ailing elder brother, the Black Prince and his younger brother Edmund of Langley, Earl of Cambridge. With them he participated in the sack of Limoges, after which the Black Prince surrendered his lordship of Aquitaine and sailed for England, leaving John in charge. Though he attempted to defend the duchy against French encroachment for nearly a year, lack of resources and money meant he could do little but husband what little territory the English still controlled, and he resigned the command in September 1371 and returned to England. Just before leaving Aquitaine, on 21 September 1371 he married Infanta Constance of Castile at Roquefort, near Bordeaux, Guienne. The following year he took part with his father, Edward III, in an abortive attempt to invade France with a large army, which was frustrated by three months of unfavourable winds.
Probably John's most notable feat of arms occurred in August–December 1373, when he attempted to relieve Aquitaine by the landward route, leading an army of some 9,000 mounted men from Calais on a great chevauchée from north-eastern to south-western France on a 900 kilometer raid. This four-month ride through enemy territory, evading French armies on the way, was a bold stroke which impressed contemporaries but achieved virtually nothing. Beset on all sides by French ambushes and plagued by disease and starvation, John of Gaunt and his raiders battled their way through Champagne, east of Paris, into Burgundy, across the Massif Central, and finally down into Dordogne. Unable to attack any strongly fortified forts and cities, the raiders plundered the countryside, raiding towns and villages, weakening the French infrastructure, but the military value of the damage was only temporary. Marching in winter across the Limousin plateau, with stragglers being picked off by the French, huge numbers of the army, and even larger numbers of horses, died of cold, disease or starvation. The army reached English-occupied Bordeaux on 24 December 1373, severely weakened in numbers and capacity having lost at least one-third of their force in action and another third to disease, and many more then succumbed to the bubonic plague then raging in the city. Sick, demoralized and mutinous, the army was in no shape to defend Aquitaine, and soldiers began to desert. Gaunt had no funds with which to pay them, and despite his entreaties none were sent from England, so in April 1374 he abandoned the enterprise and sailed for home.
John's final campaign in France was in 1378; he planned a 'great expedition' of mounted men in a large armada of ships to land at Brest and take control of Brittany. Not enough ships could be found to transport the horses, and the expedition was tasked with the more limited objective of capturing St. Malo. The English destroyed the shipping in St. Malo harbour and began to assault the town by land on 14 August, but John was soon hampered by the size of his army, which was unable to forage because French armies under Olivier de Clisson and Bertrand du Guesclin occupied the surrounding countryside, harrying the edges of his force. In September the siege was simply abandoned and the army returned ingloriously to England. John of Gaunt received most of the blame for the debâcle.
Partly as a result of these failures, and those of other English commanders at this period, John was one of the first important figures in England to conclude that the war with France was unwinnable because of France's greater resources of wealth and manpower. He began to advocate peace negotiations - indeed as early as 1373, during his great raid through France, he made contact with Guillaume Roger, brother and political adviser of Pope Gregory XI, to let the Pope know he would be interested in a diplomatic conference under papal auspices. This approach led indirectly to the Anglo-French Congress of Bruges in 1374-77, which resulted in a short-lived truce between the two sides. John was himself a delegate to the various conferences that eventually resulted in the Truce of Leulinghem in 1389. The fact that he became identified with the attempts to make peace added to his unpopularity at a period when the majority of Englishmen believed victory would be in their grasp if the French could be roundly defeated as they had been in the 1350s. Another motive was John's conviction that it was only by making peace with France that it would be possible to release sufficient manpower to enforce his claim to the throne of Castile.
 Head of GovernmentOn his return from France in 1374, John took a more decisive and persistent role in the direction of English foreign policy, and from then until 1377, owing to the fact that his father and elder brother were both ill and unable to exercise their authority, he was effectively the head of the English government. It was rumoured (and believed by many people in England and France) that he intended to seize the throne for himself and supplant the rightful heir, his nephew Richard, the Black Prince's son, but there seems to have been no truth in this and on the death of Edward III and the accession of the child Richard II Gaunt sought no position of regency for himself and withdrew to his estates..
 'King of Castile'On his marriage to Infanta Constance of Castile in 1371, John assumed (officially from 29 January 1372) the title of King of Castile and Leon in right of his wife, and insisted his fellow English nobles henceforth address him as 'my lord of Spain.' He impaled his arms with those of the Spanish kingdom. From 1372 John gathered around himself a small court of refugee Castilian knights and ladies and set up a Castilian chancery which prepared documents in his name according to the style of Pedro I of Castile, dated by the Castilian era and signed by himself with the Spanish formula 'Yo El Rey' (I, the King). He hatched several schemes to make good his claim with an army, but for many years these were still-born due to lack of finance or the conflicting claims of war in France or with Scotland. It was only in 1386, after Portugal under its new king John of Avis had entered into full alliance with England, that he was actually able to land with an army in Spain and mount an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the throne of Castile. John sailed from England on 9 July 1386 with a huge Anglo-Portuguese fleet, carrying an army of about 5,000 men plus an extensive 'royal' household and his wife and daughters. Pausing on the journey to use his army to drive off the French forces who were then besieging Brest, he landed at Corunna in northern Spain on 29 July.
The Castilian king, John of Trastámara, had expected Gaunt would land in Portugal and had concentrated his forces on the Portuguese border; he was wrong-footed by Gaunt's decision to invade Galicia, the most distant and disaffected of Castile's provinces. From August to October, John of Gaunt set up a rudimentary court and chancery at Orense and received the submission of most of the towns of Galicia, though they made their homage to him conditional on his being recognized as king by the rest of Castile. While John of Gaunt had gambled on an early decisive battle, the Castilians were in no hurry to join battle, and he began to experience difficulties keeping his army together and paying it. In November he met Joao I of Portugal at Ponte do Mouro on the south side of the Minho River and concluded an agreement with him to make a joint Anglo-Portuguese invasion of central Castile early in 1387. The treaty was sealed by the marriage of John's eldest daughter Philippa to the Portuguese King. A large part of John's army had succumbed to sickness, however, and when the invasion was mounted they were far outnumbered by their Portuguese allies. The campaign (April–June 1387) was an ignominious failure. The Castilians refused to offer battle and the Anglo-Portuguese troops, apart from time-wasting sieges of fortified towns, were reduced to foraging for food in the arid Spanish landscape. They were harried mainly by French mercenaries of the Castilian King. Many hundreds of English, including close friends and retainers of John of Gaunt, died of disease or exhaustion. Many deserted or abandoned the army to ride north under French safe-conducts. Shortly after the army returned to Portugal, John of Gaunt concluded a secret treaty with John of Trastámara under which he and his wife renounced all claim to the Castilian throne in return for a large annual payment and the marriage of his daughter Catherine to John of Trastámara's son Henry.
 Marriages and descendants
Coat of arms of John of Gaunt asserting his kingship over Castile and Leon, combining the Castilian castle and lion with lilies of France, the lions of England and his heraldic differenceJohn's first child was an illegitimate daughter, Blanche (1359-1388/89). Blanche was the daughter of John's mistress Marie de St. Hilaire of Hainaut (1340-after 1399), who was a lady in waiting to his mother, Queen Philippa. The affair apparently took place before John's first marriage, which was to his cousin Blanche of Lancaster. John's daughter, Blanche, married Sir Thomas Morieux in 1381. Morieux held several important posts, including Constable of the Tower the year he was married, and Master of Horse to King Richard II two years later. He died in 1387 after six years of marriage.
On 19 May 1359 at Reading Abbey, John married his third cousin, Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster. The wealth she brought to the marriage was the foundation of John's fortune. Blanche died of bubonic plague on 12 September 1369 at Bolingbroke Castle, while her husband was away at sea. Their son Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV of England, after the duchy of Lancaster was taken by Richard II upon John's death while Henry was in exile. Their daughter Philippa became Queen of Portugal by marrying King John I of Portugal in 1387. All subsequent kings of Portugal were thus descended from John of Gaunt.
In 1371, John married Infanta Constance of Castile, daughter of King Peter of Castile, thus giving him a claim to the Crown of Castile, which he would pursue. Though John was never able to make good his claim, his daughter by Constance, Katherine of Lancaster, became Queen of Castile by marrying Henry III of Castile.
During his marriage to Constance, John of Gaunt had fathered four children by a mistress, the widow Katherine Swynford (whose sister Philippa de Roet was married to Chaucer). Prior to her widowhood, Katherine had borne at least two, possibly three, children to Lancastrian knight Sir Hugh Swynford. The known names of these children are Blanche and Thomas. (There may have been a second Swynford daughter.) John of Gaunt was Blanche Swynford's godfather.
Constance died in 1394. John married Katherine in 1396, and their children, the Beauforts, were legitimised by King Richard II and the Church, but barred from inheriting the throne. From the eldest son, John, descended a granddaughter, Margaret Beaufort, whose son, later King Henry VII of England, would nevertheless claim the throne.
All monarchs of England and later of Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms from Henry IV onwards are descended from John of Gaunt.
The Lady and the Unicorn -possibly Blanche of Lancaster
1640 drawing of tombs of Katherine Swynford and daughter Joan BeaufortBy Marie de St. Hilaire of Hainaut, mistress:
Blanche(1359–1388/89), married Sir Thomas Morieux (1355–1387) in 1381, without issue
By Blanche of Lancaster:
Philippa (1360–1415), married King John I of Portugal (1357–1433)
John (1362–1365), he was the first born son of John and Blanche of Lancaster and lived possibly at least until after the birth of his brother Edward of Lancaster in 1365 and died before his second brother another short lived boy called John in 1366. He was buried Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester.
Elizabeth (1364–1426), married (1) in 1380 John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1372–1389), annulled 1383; married (2) in 1386 John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter (1350–1400); (3) Sir John Cornwall, 1st Baron Fanhope and Milbroke (d. 1443)
Edward (1365) he died later the same year of his birth; He was buried Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester
John (1366–1367) he most likely died after the birth of his younger brother Henry the future Henry IV of England; Buried Church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester
Henry IV of England (1367–1413), married (1) Mary de Bohun (1369–1394); (2) Joanna of Navarre (1368–1437)
By Constance of Castile:
Catherine (1372–1418), married King Henry III of Castile (1379–1406)
By Katherine Swynford (née de Roet/Roelt), mistress and later wife (children legitimised 1397):
John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset (1373–1410) – married Margaret Holland.
Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester and Cardinal (1375–1447)
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter (1377–1427), married Margaret Neville.
Joan Beaufort (1379–1440) – married first Robert Ferrers, 5th Baron Boteler of Wem and second Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland.
 Relationship to ChaucerJohn of Gaunt was a patron of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer who recorded much of the mores of England at the time of John in The Canterbury Tales. Near the end of John's life, they were brothers-in-law. Chaucer was married to Philippa de Roet; John's third wife, Katherine, was Philippa's sister. John's children by Katherine were Chaucer's nieces and nephews.
Chaucer's Book of the Duchess, also known as The Deth of Blaunche, was written in commemoration of Blanche of Lancaster, John's first wife. The poem refers to John and Blanche in allegory as the "Black Knight" and the "Lady White." "Blanche" means "white." At the end of the poem reference is made to John's marriage to Blanche by playing on the sound of their titles of Lancaster and Richmond in the form of "long castel" (line 1318) and "riche hil" (line 1319).
Some have suggested that the "long castel" line could also refer to Constanza of Castile, John's second wife, and the heraldic arms of Castile, which display a castle, part of the tradition of heraldic canting arms.
 Titles, styles, arms and honours Arms
Coat of Arms of John of Gaunt, First Duke of LancasterAs a son of the sovereign, John bore the arms of the kingdom, differentiated by a label argent of three points ermine.
 Popular cultureLancaster city centre has a public house called The John O'Gaunt. An administrative ward on the city council also bears the name.
Hungerford in Berkshire also has ancient links to the Duchy, the manor becoming part of John of Gaunt's estate in 1362 before James I passed ownership to two local men in 1612 (which subsequently became Hungerford Town & Manor). The links are visible today in the Town and Manor-owned John O'Gaunt pub, the John O'Gaunt state secondary school, as well as various street names. It is also customary for the Loyal Toast to be given by residents as "The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster". There is also a secondary school in Trowbridge, Wiltshire bearing the same name, which is built upon land that he once owned.
John held large tracts of land in Lincolnshire and the City of Lincoln. At the appropriately named site of Gaunt Street, he maintained a palace, remains of which were found in the late 1960s. A Finial window, complete, was found between two walls in the then 'West's Garage'. This was moved and now adorns the entrance through the East bail of Lincoln castle.
Opposite the Palace site, stands St.Mary's Guildhall, locally known as John O'Gaunt's stables. This large medieval building, once formed the entrance to the Football ground of Lincoln City F.C., until they moved to their present ground. It was known as The John O'Gaunt ground.
The remnants of the castle at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, once owned by John, sit on John o' Gaunt's Street.
The John of Gaunt Stakes is a British race for Thoroughbred horses run annually in June.
In William Shakespeare's play Richard II, the famous England speech is spoken by the character of John of Gaunt as he lies on his deathbed.
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
—Act II, scene i, 42–54
The Tragedy of King Richard II at Wikisource
Anya Seton's bestselling 1954 novel Katherine depicts John's long-term affair with and eventual marriage to Katherine Swynford.
The eponymous character of the US comic book series GrimJack is legally named John Gaunt. According to author John Ostrander, he took the name from the historical figure simply because it sounded impressive, without any specific historical reference.
John of Gaunt is a major character in Garry O'Connor's Chaucer’s Triumph: Including the Case of Cecilia Chaumpaigne, the Seduction of Katherine Swynford, the Murder of Her Husband, the Interment of John of Gaunt and Other Offices of the Flesh in the Year 1399.
The romance novel "Almost Innocent" by Jane Feather tells the story of a possibly fictitious illegitimate daughter of John of Gaunt, and contains much history and vivid description of John and of royal life.
John of Gaunt's armour has been on display in the Tower of London for many years, and is of exceptional size, since the man himself was 6'7" tall. However, in her biography of Katherine Swynford (2007), Alison Weir states that this is legend and that the armor in question is of German origin, not English.
Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster (also spelled Synford), née (de) Roet (also spelled (de) Rouet, (de) Roët, or (de) Roelt) (probably 25 November 1350 – 10 May 1403), was the daughter of Sir Payne (or Paen/Pain/Paon) (de) Roet (also spelled (de) Rouet, (de) Roët or (de) Roelt), originally a Flemish herald from Hainault, later knighted.
Katherine became the third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and their descendants were the Beaufort family, which played a major role in the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII, who became King of England in 1485, derived his claim to the throne from his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was a great-granddaughter of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.
The children of Paganus Ruet (argued by modern-day genealogist Lindsay Brook and followed by author Weir as "probably christened as Gilles") included Katherine, her sister Philippa, a son, Walter, and the eldest sister, Isabel (also called Elizabeth) de Roet (Canoness of the convent of St. Waudru's, Mons, c. 1366). Katherine is generally held to have been his youngest child. Weir argues, based upon her review of limited fragmentary evidence, that Philippa was the junior and that both were children of a second marriage.
Paon de Ruet is found early, in a legal document, in the form Paganus de Rodio — referring to Rodium, the mediaeval Latin form corresponding to the Roeulx, or Le Rœulx, the name of a town of 3000 inhabitants, 8 miles north-east of Mons, on the highway leading from Mons to Nivelle. Paon de Ruet may have been impelled to seek his fortune in England by the recital of the exploits of Fastre de Ruet, who accompanied John of Beaumont in 1326, when, with three hundred followers, he went to assist the English against the Scots. Fastre was the younger brother of the last lord of Roeulx descended from the Counts of Hainault. He and his brother Eustace fell into pecuniary straits, and were obliged to alienate their landed possessions. Fastre died in 1331, and was buried in the abbey church of Roeulx, while his brother Eustace survived till 1336. Paon was, like Fastre, a younger brother — possibly of a collateral line.
As the king was in the North, a number of the Flemings returned home without proceeding further than London, but Paon de Ruet was one of those who remained in England in the retinue of Philippa of Hainault, accompanying the young queen in her departure from Valenciennes to join her youthful husband Edward III in England at the close of 1327. His name does not appear in the list of knights who accompanied the queen from Hainault, however, described by Froissart to be among additional knights referred to as 'pluissier jone esquier'. Speght (1598) prefixed to his history a genealogical tree which began: 'Paganus de Rouet Hannoniensis, aliter dictus Guien Rex Armorum' describing de Ruet as Guienne King of Arms. Upon the coronation of Henry the Fifth (1413), Sir William Bruges held the same title in the fifth year of the King's reign (Edmondson 1. 104) and the same monarch was accompanied to France before Agincourt by a herald bearing that name (Wylie, Reign of Henry the Fifth 1. 493).
In 1347, Ruet was sent to the siege of Calais, and was one of two knights deputed by Queen Philippa to conduct out of town the citizens whom she had saved.
[Froissart, 5.215 : "Et au matin elle fist donner a casqun sys nobles [say, $150], et Ies fist conduire hors de l'oost par messire Sanse d'Aubrecicourt et messire Paon de Ruet, si avent que il vorrent, et que il fu avis as deus chevaliers que il estoient hors dou peril, et au departir il les commanderent a Dieu, et retournerent li chevalier en l'oost."] He had returned to the lands of Hainault, probably by 1349, and Katherine was born the following year.
 LifeKatherine's birth date in 1350 is assumed to be 25 November, as that is the feast day of her patron, St. Catherine of Alexandria. The family returned to England in 1351, and it is likely that Katherine stayed there during her father's continued travels.
Katherine married in St Clement Danes Church, Strand, London in abt. 1366 to "Hugh" Ottes Swynford, a knight from the manor of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire, son of Thomas Swynford and Nicole Druel. Katherine was known to have borne the following children by him: Thomas (21 September 1368 – 1432), Blanche (born 1 May 1367), and possibly Margaret Swynford (born c. 1369), who was a nun nominated at the prestigious Barking Abbey by command of Richard II.
Katherine became attached to the household of John of Gaunt as governess to his daughters Philippa of Lancaster and Elizabeth of Lancaster. The ailing duchess Blanche had Katherine's daughter Blanche (her namesake) placed within her own daughters' chambers and afforded the same luxuries as her daughters; additionally, John of Gaunt stood as godfather to the child. Katherine's sister, Philippa, attached to Queen Philippa's household, married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, whose poem The Book of the Duchess commemorated Blanche's death by plague in 1369. Speght (1598) said of Philippa's marriage: 'He [Chaucer] matched in marriage with a Knight's daughter of Henault, called Paon de Ruet, king of Armes, as by this draught appeareth, taken out of the office of the Heraldes.' M Speght's authority Stow (1592) recorded: 'He [Chaucer] had to wife the daughter of Paine Roete alias Gwine [ed. 1631, Guian] king at armes, by whom he had issue Tho. Chaucer.'
Sometime after Blanche's 1369 death, but before the Duke's second marriage, Katherine and John of Gaunt consummated a romantic affair which would entail four children being born out of wedlock to the couple, and would endure as a lifelong relationship. Two years after the death of the Duke's second wife, Infanta Constance of Castile, Katherine and John of Gaunt married on 13 January 1396 in Lincoln Cathedral. Records of their marriage kept in the Tower and elsewhere list: 'John of Ghaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married Katharine daughter of Guyon King of Armes in the time of K. Edward the 3, and Geffrey Chaucer her sister'. John and Katherine's four children had been given the surname "Beaufort" and were legitimized as adults by their parents' marriage with approval by King Richard and the Pope. Although legitimized, the Beauforts were barred from inheriting the throne by a clause in the legitimation act inserted by their half-brother, Henry IV, although modern scholarship has disputed the authority of a monarch to alter an existing parliamentary statute. This was later revoked by the monarch Edward VI, placing Katherine's descendants back within the legitimate line of inheritance; in fact, the Tudor dynasty, including Edward, were direct descendants of John and Katherine's eldest child, John Beaufort.
Katherine Swynford's tomb in 1809Katherine survived John by four years, dying on 10 May 1403. She then became dowager Duchess of Lancaster. Her tomb and that of her daughter, Joan Beaufort, are under a carved-stone canopy in the sanctuary of Lincoln Cathedral. Joan's is the smaller of the two tombs; both were decorated with brass plates — full-length representations of them on the tops, and small shields bearing coats of arms around the sides and on the top — but those were damaged or destroyed in 1644 during the English Civil War. A hurried drawing by Dugdale records their appearance.
Also defaced in 1644, and removed of any precious or semi-precious metals, was the tomb of her father Paon de Ruet / Roet in St. Paul's, near Sir John Beauchamp's tomb (commonly called Duke Humphrey's). It was recorded that "Once a fair marble stone inlaid all over with brass, nothing but the heads of a few brazen nails are at this day visible, previously engraven with the representation and coat of arms of the party defunct, thus much of a mangled funeral inscription was of late times perspicuous to be read". It, along with the tombs of many others, including John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster's, were completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The former inscription regarding Paganus Roet (styled as 'Guinne', 'Guyenne', or 'Gwinne' the king at arms or master of arms, often shortened simply to the frank reference to 'armes' as 'Guiles' or 'Giles') was as follows: " Hic Jacet Paganus Roet Miles Guyenne Rex Armorum Pater Catherine Ducisse Lancastrie." By 1658, viewed without its brass plaquard and effigies, it was described by Dugdale as: "In australi ala, navi Ecclesue opposita (prope tumulum D. Johannis de Bellocampo), sub lapide marmoreo, jacet Paganus Roet, Rex Armorum tempore Regis Edwardi tertii".
 Children and descendantsBy Hugh Swynford:
Margaret Swynford (born c. 1363), became a nun at the prestigious Barking Abbey in 1377 with help from her future stepfather John of Gaunt, where she lived the religious life with her cousin Elizabeth Chaucer, daughter of the famous Geoffrey Chaucer and Katherine's sister Philippa de Roet.
?Dorothy Swynford (born c. 1366). It was suggested in 1846 by Thomas Stapleton that there was a third daughter named Dorothy who married Thomas Thimelby of Poolham near Horncastle, Lincolnshire, who was Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1380 and died in 1390. There is no current evidence to support this claim.
Sir Thomas Swynford (1367–1432), born in Lincoln while his father Sir Hugh Swynford was away on a campaign with John of Gaunt in Castile fighting for Peter of Castile.
Blanche Swynford (after 1375), named for the Duchess of Lancaster, and also a godchild of John of Gaunt.
By John of Gaunt:
Coat of arms that Katherine Swynford adopted after her marriage to John of Gaunt as Duchess of Lancaster: three gold Catherine wheels ("roet" means "little wheel" in Old French) on a red background. The wheel emblem shows Katherine's devotion to her patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel.John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset (1373–1410)
Henry Beaufort, Cardinal (1375–1447)
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter (1377–1426)
Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland (1379–1440)
The descendants of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt are significant in British history. Their son, John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, was great-grandfather of Henry VII, who established the Tudor dynasty and based his claim to the throne on his mother's lineage to John of Gaunt's father, Edward III. John Beaufort also had a daughter named Joan Beaufort, who married King James I of Scotland and thus was an ancestress of the House of Stuart. John and Katherine's daughter, Joan Beaufort, was grandmother of the English kings Edward IV and Richard III, whom Henry VII defeated at the Battle of Bosworth; Henry's claim was strengthened by marrying Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV. It was also through Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmoreland that the sixth queen of Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, descended. John of Gaunt's son — Katherine's stepson — became Henry IV after deposing Richard II (who was imprisoned and died in Pontefract Castle, where Katherine's son, Thomas Swynford, was constable and is said to have starved Richard to death for his stepbrother). John of Gaunt's daughter by his first marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, Philippa of Lancaster, was great-great-grandmother to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and mother of Mary I of England. John of Gaunt's child by his second wife Constance, Catherine (or Catalina), was great-grandmother of Catherine of Aragon as well.
 In literatureKatherine Swynford is the subject of Anya Seton's novel Katherine (published in 1954) and of Alison Weir's biography Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess (ISBN 0-224-06321-9). Swynford is also the subject of Jeannette Lucraft's historical biography Katherine Swynford: The History of a Medieval Mistress. This book seeks to establish Swynford as a powerful figure in the politics of fourteenth-century England and an example of a woman's ability to manipulate contemporary social mores for her own interests.
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