The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King

Maurice Keen writes:

Mortimer’s account of Henry’s upbringing and early career is full and perceptive. His father ensured that he knew the courtly manners and style befitting a nobleman of his standing, and he showed early skill in the aristocratically fashionable sport of jousting. He was a serious reader, with whom ‘men of great literary attainments’ enjoyed conversing, according to Capgrave’s De Illustribus Henricis, and had a great love of music: he possessed a cither and recorder, and was probably the composer of two early pieces of polyphony. This passion he shared with his first wife, Mary, whom he married when she was 11 and he 13. Their relationship grew to be one of real affection, and she bore him four sons and two daughters before her death in 1394; she also, as an heiress of Bohun, brought estates that gave him substantial independent wealth. This meant that when Henry came into his vast ducal inheritance of Lancaster, he would possess land-based power far superior to that of any other English peer, and second only to the king’s.

(LRB 5 June 2008)

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