John Bedford, Duke of, an English soldier and statesman, born about 1389, died in Rouen, France, Sept. 14, 1435. He was the third son of Henry IV. of England and of Mary de Bo-hun, daughter of the earl of Hereford. He was knighted in 1399, at the coronation of his father, and became governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed and warden of the Scottish marches. His brother Henry V. in 1415 conferred upon him the dukedom of Bedford, and appointed him governor and commander-in-chief of England, while he vindicated in France his right to that realm. Henry V. in 1422 designated on his deathbed the duke of Bedford as regent of France during the minority of Henry VI., then one year old, and the fourth son of Henry IV., the duke of Gloucester, as regent of England. So great was Bedford's renown, that parliament set aside the king's will so far as to make him also protector of England, excepting during his absence beyond seas, when his brother the duke of Gloucester was to discharge this function. The proceedings on this occasion established an important constitutional precedent in favor of the prerogatives of parliament over the crown.
Bedford first offered the regency of France to the duke of Burgundy, on whose refusal he assumed the office in virtue of the treaty of Troyes in 1420, the dukes of Burgundy and Brittany having renewed their adherence to this treaty, and the union between them being cemented by Bedford and the duke of Brittany both marrying daughters of the duke of Burgundy. After the death of Charles VI. of France (Oct. 21, 1422) Bedford proclaimed Henry VI. as king of both countries; but war soon broke out with Charles VII., who was defeated at Crevant (1423), and overwhelmed at Verneuil (1424), where Bedford commanded in person and displayed great skill, but was unable to follow up his victory. Jacqueline of Luxemburg, wife of the duke of Gloucester, had eloped from her first husband, the duke of Brabant, who contested her Hainaut possessions with Gloucester; and when they were invaded by the latter, the duke of Burgundy came to the assistance of his kinsman of Brabant. In addition to the defection of the Bur-gundian forces, Bedford was crippled by the vexatious course of his brother and of parliament, and by intestine agitation in England. Nevertheless, his victories would probably have culminated in the conquest of France if it had not been for the raising of the siege of Orleans by the interposition of Joan of Arc. Bedford, with reinforcements from the garrison towns of Normandy, followed Charles VII. to Paris. Before the walls of the capital he succeeded in repulsing the maid of Orleans, and in capturing her while she was attempting to make a sally from Compiegne (May 24, 1430); and he was subsequently the principal agent in bringing her to the stake.
After the death of his wife, Nov. 14,1432, he widened still more the breach between him and the duke of Burgundy by marrying Jacquette, daughter of the earl of St. Pol, one of Burgundy's vassals. Cardinal Beaufort exerted himself in vain to reconcile the two princes. At length a treaty of peace was agreed upon, but this was regarded as hostile to English interests, and Bedford's death was hastened by mortification a fortnight before its official ratification. He was a patron of letters, and acquired for London the royal library of Paris. - The dukedom of Bedford was revived in 1694, and conferred upon William Russell, 5th earl of Bedford, the progenitor of the present ducal family.