John Gaunt

John Gaunt

1st Duke of Lancaster, third surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Gennegau
Date of Birth: 06.03.1340
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of John Gaunt
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Training as a Knight
  4. Knighthood and Inheritance
  5. Rise to Power
  6. Influence and Later Years
  7. Military Career

Biography of John Gaunt

Early Life and Education

John Gaunt, also known as John of Gaunt, was born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1340. He was the third surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. His nickname "Gaunt" means "of Ghent" as he was born there. He was the founder of the House of Lancaster, which included English kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. Little is known about his early life, but it is believed that he had a typical upbringing for the time.

Training as a Knight

At the age of seven, John was expected to become a page to a prominent baron known for his military exploits. He would have learned humility, obedience, courtesy towards women, as well as fencing and horsemanship. This training continued until he reached the age of 14 when he became a squire. It is likely that John served as a page and squire to his uncle, Henry of Grosmont, who was famous for his military skills. He accompanied his uncle on numerous military campaigns in France.

Knighthood and Inheritance

Usually, the period of service as a squire lasted from 14 to 21 years old, but for noble families, it was often shortened. In November 1355, at the age of almost 16, John Gaunt, along with his older brother Lionel and 25 other squires, was knighted before his father's expedition to France. He inherited a significant fortune from his father-in-law, Henry of Grosmont, the Duke of Lancaster, as well as land from his father. By 1362, John became the largest landowner in England, owning 30 castles and estates in England and France. His wealth was comparable to the king's, and he was granted the title of Duke of Lancaster by the king in the same year.

Rise to Power

From 1363 to 1365, taking advantage of the absence of his older brothers in England, John managed to strengthen his influence at his father's court and became his chief advisor. In early 1371, due to his older brother Edward's failing health, John assumed the role of the de facto ruler of Aquitaine until the end of the year. During this time, he married the eldest daughter of the recently deceased Pedro the Cruel, which resulted in him inheriting the titles of King of Castile and Leon. However, these titles remained mostly nominal, although John made several attempts to assert his claims through military means.

Influence and Later Years

John Gaunt wielded significant influence during the reign of his young nephew, Richard II, as well as in the subsequent period of political instability. He did not openly side with Richard's opponents. After John's death in 1399, all his extensive lands were confiscated by the crown because his son Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, had been exiled from the country in 1398 on charges of treason. A few months after his father's death, Bolingbroke returned to England, deposed Richard II, and ascended to the throne.

Military Career

Since his early youth, John Gaunt participated in numerous military campaigns throughout France, Spain, England, and Scotland. He fought in the Hundred Years' War and took part in punitive operations and internal conflicts. Below is a list of some of his notable military actions:

- Battle of Crecy (1346)
- Siege of Calais (1346-1347)
- Battle of Poitiers (1356)
- Capture of Limoges (1370)
- Castilian Civil War (1366-1369)
- Battle of Najera (1367)
- Scottish campaigns (1380-1384)

John Gaunt's military career spanned several decades, and his exploits solidified his reputation as a skilled and experienced commander.