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Henry Cardinal Beaufort

Henry Beaufort, the second son of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford, was born in Anjou (France) in about 1374 and educated for a career in the Church. In about 1390 their cousin Richard II of England declared him and his two brothers and one sister legitimate. (There is some confusion on this point; there seems to have been another such procedure in 1397, involving Parliament.) In 1398 Henry Beaufort was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln. When his half-brother deposed Richard and took the throne as Henry IV of England, he made Bishop Beaufort Chancellor of England in 1403, but he resigned that position the next year to become Bishop of Winchester.

Between 1411 and 1413 Bishop Beaufort was in political disgrace for siding with his nephew, the Prince of Wales, against the king, but then when Henry IV died and the prince became Henry V of England, he made his uncle Chancellor again; however, Beaufort resigned the position in 1417. Pope Martin V offered the Bishop a cardinal's hat, but Henry V would not let him accept it. Henry V died in 1422, shortly after making himself heir to France by marrying the French king's daughter, and their infant son became Henry VI of England. Bishop Beaufort and the baby king's other uncles were regents, and in 1424 Beaufort became Chancellor once more, but was forced to resign again in 1426 because of disputes with the king's other uncles.

The Pope finally made him a cardinal, and in 1427 made him Papal Legate for Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia. Beaufort continued to be active in English politics for years, fighting with the other powerful advisors to the king and always managing to extricate himself from the snares they set for him. He died on April 11, 1447 and was laid to rest in a tomb in Winchester Cathedral.

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