Jean Bethencourt, seigneur de, a French navigator, born in Normandy, died in 1425. He was chamberlain of Charles VI. of France, and having been ruined in the Anglo-French wars, he organized in 1402, with Gadifer de la Salle and others, an expedition from La Ro-chelle in quest of* adventures. After touching at the Spanish ports, and taking on board a Guanche prince, Augeron, whom he found at Cadiz, he sailed for the Canaries. He visited the islands separately, and constructed a fort on Lanzarote. Finding his forces insufficient to subdue the natives, he returned to Spain for reinforcements, leaving Gadifer in command, who succeeded in subjugating a considerable number of the natives before Bethencourt's return and resumption of the supreme power under the title of seigneur or lord of the islands. He converted the king to Christianity in 1404, and the conversion of the greater number of the Guanches followed. Bethen-court wished to extend his conquests to Africa, but dissensions arose between himself and Gadifer, which were decided by Henry III. of Castile in favor of Bethencourt. The latter introduced French laborers into the islands, had a bishop named by the pope in 1405, and, after deputing his nephew as governor, returned to France in 140G, spending the rest of his life on his estates.
His achievements are related in L'Histoire de la premiere descourerte et con-qiieste des Canaries (Paris, 1630). His nephew was the founder of a Spanish family (Betan-curt or Betancur) which is still prominent.