Henry IV., founder of the royalty of the house of Lancaster, supposed to have been born at Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire, April 4, 1366, died in Westminster, March 20, 1413. He was the eldest son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III. and of Blanche, daughter and heiress of Henry Plan-tagenet, duke of Lancaster, great-grandson of Henry III. His first title was earl of Derby. At the age of 15 he married Mary Bohun, daughter of the earl of Hereford, who was descended from Edward I. In his youth Henry delighted in tournaments and adventures. In 1390 he went to the assistance of the Teutonic knights, serving in Prussia and Lithuania. He then went to Barbary. Returning to England for a season, he set out on a journey to Palestine in July, 1392. He travelled by the way of Dantzic, Konigsberg, Vienna, Friuli, and Venice, sailing from the last named place for Rhodes, whence he returned to England in 1393, visiting on the way Venice, Milan, Piedmont, Savoy, and France. Richard II. made him duke of Hereford in 1397. In 1398 he brought an accusation of traitorous designs against the duke of Norfolk, who denied it, and appealed to the trial by battle.

The arrangements for fighting were all completed, when the king put an end to the contest, banishing both parties, Norfolk for life, and Hereford for ten years. Subsequently Hereford's term of exile was reduced to six years; but when, on his father's death, he became duke of Lancaster, Richard banished him for life, and seized his immense possessions. Lancaster resolved to return home, ostensibly to assert his claim to his property, but with the intention of obtaining the crown. This course was advised by his friends. He landed at Ravenspur, July 4, 1399, with a small force, the king being absent on an expedition in Ireland, and declared that his only object was to establish his right to his hereditary possessions; but he became immediately the chief of the opposition that had been created by Richard's follies and crimes, and was joined by persons of all classes, from the Percies to the humblest commoners. Success followed his movements; and when Richard returned he was unable to resist, and became Lancaster's prisoner, resigning the crown, which parliament conferred upon the duke, who thus became Henry IV. (Sept. 30, 1399). The only person who objected was the bishop of Carlisle. The new king affected to trace his right to the crown to his descent from Edmund of Lancaster, who was said to have been the elder brother of Edward L, but to have lost his inheritance from some personal deformity.

This claim was not valid, and Henry had only such right as came from conquest and parliamentary election. This defect in his title led him to court the clergy, who were now troubled by the Lollards; and though his father had been the greatest patron and supporter of Wycliffe, Henry became the persecutor of the reformers. The statute de hoeretico comburendo (for the burning of heretics) was adopted in 1401, and it was not allowed to remain a dead letter. Henry's reign was mostly passed amid conspiracies and civil and foreign Avar, and he spared few of his enemies. He found the Welsh his constant foes, and was more than once attacked by the Scots. The Percies broke with him in 1403, though they had been the chief instruments in his elevation; and the battle of Shrewsbury was fought in July, 1403, and Henry Percy, called Hotspur, defeated and slain. Other attempts were made to depose him, but, though not without great difficulty, the king triumphed over his enemies, Glen-dower in Wales alone proving unconquerable, though much reduced. An English vessel took the ship on board of which Prince James, heir apparent of the Scotch crown, was going to France, and the prince remained a captive for many years.

The feeling between France and England during this reign was extremely bitter, because Richard, who had espoused for his second wife a daughter of the French king, was popular in the former country. Henry became unpopular shortly after his elevation to the throne, though as a subject he had been the favorite of all classes. His first wife died in 1394, leaving four sons, who were among the most eminent men of that age, and two daughters. His second wife was Joanna of Navarre, widow of the duke of Brittany, whom he married in 1403, and by whom he had no issue.