Royal Bastards

No discussion of the role of Royal Bastards and their place in the history of the English Monarchy would be complete without discussing the role of the Beaufort family. Under the rules of common law a child was considered illegitimate if born prior to the marriage of their parents, unless legitimated by a special Act of Parliament.

John of Gaunt, a son of King Edward III and the First Duke of Lancaster, fathered four illegitimate children with Kathryn Swyford. They married in 1396 and the couple’s children, John, Henry, Thomas & Joan Beaufort, were declared legitimate twice by parliament during the reign of King Richard II, in 1390 and 1397, as well as by Pope Boniface IX in 1396.

Although grandchildren of Edward III and therefore next in the line of succession after their father’s legitimate children from his first two marriages their half brother Henry IV, introduced a provision barring the Beaufort children and their descendants from claiming the English throne. This was later revoked by Edward VI, placing the Beaufort’s and their descendants back within the legitimate line of succession.

The Beaufort family played a major role in the Wars of the Roses. John and Katherine’s daughter, Joan Beaufort, was grandmother of Edward IV and Richard III; the Tudor dynasty was directly descended from John and Katherine’s eldest child, John Beaufort, great-grandfather of Henry VII, who based his claim to the throne on his mother’s descent from John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III; Henry’s claim was strengthened by marrying Elizabeth of York, eldest daughter of Edward IV

John Beaufort’s daughter Joan, married James I of Scotland and was therefore a forbear of the House of Stuart.

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