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Edmund Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset (1406 – May 22, 1455), sometimes styled 2nd Duke of Somerset, was an English nobleman and an important figure in the Wars of the Roses and in the Hundred Years' War.

LifeEdit

He was the fourth son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and Margaret Holland. His maternal grandparents were Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent and Alice Fitzalan. Alice was a daughter of Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel and Eleanor of Lancaster].

As a young man he became a commander in the English army in France. After his re-capture of Harfleur he was named a Knight of the Garter in 1436. After subsequent success he was created Earl of Dorset (1442) and the next year Marquess of Dorset. The year after that (1444) he succeeded his brother John as 4th Earl of Somerset in 1444.

During the five year truce from 1444 to 1449, Somerset was Lieutenant of France. In 1448 he was created Duke of Somerset.

Somerset found military success elusive after hostilities began again in 1449. By the summer of 1450 the bulk of the English possessions in northern France were in French hands. This loss lead to the fall of the king's chief minister, William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Somerset returned to England, where he took Suffolk's place as the king's counselor. A handsome and urbane courtier, his affair with King Henry V's widow, Queen, Catherine of Valois in 1427 created a political scandal.

The focus of the war with the French now turned to Gascony, in the south of France. Here the English were no more successful, losing all by 1453. Soon afterwards the king went insane, Somerset's rival Richard, Duke of York was named Lord Protector, and Somerset was imprisoned in the Tower of London. His life was probably saved only by the king's recovery. Henry VI had Somerset released and returned to his position at court.

The Duke of York was determined to depose Somerset by one means or another, and thus in May 1455 Richard, Duke of York raised an army and confronted Somerset and the king. Somerset was killed in the resulting engagement, known as the First Battle of St Albans. It was the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, which would go on to claim many of Somerset's sons and relatives.

FamilyEdit

Somerset married Eleanor Beauchamp, daughter of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and his first wife Elizabeth Berkeley sometime between 1431 and 1435 in an unlicensed marriage. Eleanor was an older half-sister of Henry de Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Warwick and Anne Neville, Countess of Warwick. She was also the widow of Thomas de Ros, 9th Baron de Ros.

Their unlicensed marriage was later pardoned on 7 March 1438, and they had the following children:

  • Eleanor, who married first James Butler, 5th Earl of Ormonde and second Sir Robert Spencer.
  • Elizabeth, died before 1472, married Henry Fitz Lewis, Knt.
  • Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset (1436–1463), his successor
  • Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Stafford (bef. 1439–1474) (not to be confused with her cousin Lady Margaret Beaufort), who first married Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford, son of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, by whom she was the mother of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, and then married Sir Richard Darell.
  • Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset(c. 1439– 4 May 1471) Captured at the Battle of Tewkesbury and killed shortly afterwards.
  • Anne Beaufort (c. 1453 – c. 1496), married William Paston, Esq.
  • John Beaufort, styled Marquess of Dorset (c. 1455– 4 May 1471); Killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury
  • Joan Beaufort died 11 August 1518. Wife firstly of Robert St. Lawrence, by whom she had a son, Nicholas St. Lawrence, and second wife of Richard Fry.
  • Thomas Beaufort (c. 1455 – c. 1463)

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