“excepta dignitate regali” (again)

Henry IV added these words to Richard II’s legitimisation of his half-siblings in 1407, when he had four healthy sons and two daughters. So what was the Beaufort family situation in the year that their claim to the throne was disregarded?
JOHN, MARQUIS OF DORSET AND SOMERSET was about 36, a married father of five.
HENRY, later CARDINAL, was about 32 and had already taken holy orders, then being Bishop of Winchester. He was, therefore, incapable of having legitimate children.
THOMAS, later DUKE OF EXETER, was about 30 and effectively childless – his wife and their only son may have already died, or the son may have been born later.
JOAN was about 28 and married to the Earl of Westmorland (her second husband).

It is, therefore, quite likely that the only Beauforts (by name) of future generations would be descended from Dorset, the eldest. Did Henry IV suspect, as the Statute of Merton suggests, that Dorset was Sir Hugh Swynford’s son and that later “Beauforts” would be descended only from Henry III, through the Marchioness? Was this his motivation?

See also:

The Beaufort legitimation


By super blue

Grandson of a Town player.


  1. When Richard II legitimised the children of John of Gaunt duke of Lancaster and Katherine Swynford there was no need for that wording because the whole Lancaster line, regardless of legitimate or born out of wedlock, was not supposed to have a claim to the throne which Henry Bolingbroke later usurped by deposing his cousin and disregarding the Lionel of Antwerp line that came before the Lancaster one. I personally think Henry IV was more worried about keeping the byblows of his father’s extramarital liason (which he might have resented) away from a throne he had conquered for his own family than about the possible biological father of the first Beaufort. As for the legitimisation, it was an odd one indeed since they could not boast their father’s name even afterwards, could not inherit (hence there was no reason to fear they could claim anything from their father’s line, including, at the time, remote claims to the throne) and could only pass whatever grants they received from the King to their children. Adding the wording “excepta regali dignitate” was like overkilling on the part of Bolingbroke, can it hint at some hatred towards his half-siblings?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Henry himself was a proof that people who had a claim to the throne didn’t always follow the laws of succession, and weren’t above deposing and killing their cousins. Why would he think the Beauforts would never do that, or that his own descendant were invulnerable?

      Or look at Philip IV le Bel of France, he had several sons and his dynasty looked secure – and look what happened.


  2. It is a bit of a mystery. The two eldest male Beauforts were high in Richard II’s favour, and treated generously by him. Dorset was in arms with York when the latter (effectively) capitulated at Berkeley Castle and Bishop Beaufort was actually with the Ricardian die-hards at Conwy! Although both subsequently came to terms with Henry it is *possible* that this was just them acting politically for their best advantage, rather than in brotherly love. Bishop Beaufort was part of the clique which opposed Henry in the latter years of his life. The object of this ‘party’ seems to have been to get Henry to abdicate in favour of his son. They dominated whenever Henry was too sick to rule, and were put out of office whenever he recovered.

    I agree though that in 1397 there were no real grounds to suppose the Beauforts would ever come close to the crown. Even in Henry’s reign they were 5000/1 outsiders, as he had six children ahead of them, quite apart from any other claims out there.


  3. Or he simply didn’t want his father’s bastard brood to rival his own children and descendants for the throne?

    I really don’t believe that Swynford was John’s biological father. I don’t see why John of Gaunt would have him proclaimed him his son and given lands and titles if he knew there was any chance he wasn’t his own biological son.


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