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John of Gaunt (1340—1399) prince and steward of England

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An English family descended from three illegitimate sons of John of Gaunt (fourth son of Edward III) and Katherine Swynford. The children were legitimated in 1407 but with the exclusion of any claim to the crown. Their father and their half-brother Henry IV made them powerful and wealthy: Thomas (died 1426) became Duke of Exeter, John (c. 1371–1410) was made Lord High Admiral and Earl of Somerset, and Henry (died 1447) was Bishop of Winchester and later a cardinal. As a court politician he led the so-called constitutional party against Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. The Yorkists had no love for the Beauforts, and by 1471 all three of the Earl of Somerset's grandsons had been killed in battle or executed. The male line thus ended, but their niece Margaret Beaufort (1443–1509), daughter of John, Duke of Somerset, who married Edmund Tudor, enjoyed a life of charity and patronage of learning after her son became king as Henry VII.

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