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Humphrey De Bohun
(1312-1360)

Earl of Hereford
Earl of Essex
Earl of Northampton
Born 25th March 1342
Died 16th January 1373, probably at Pleshey, Essex

 

Humphrey De Bohun, the only son of William, Earl of Northampton, succeeded to his father's estates and dignity in 1360, and to the Earldoms of Hereford and Essex, and the office of Constable of England, upon the demise, in the following year, of his distinguished uncle, Earl Humphrey Senior. Being only nineteen years of age at the date of the former event, he was committed to the guardianship of Richard, Earl of Arundel, and had license from King Edward III to travel.

Upon his return and his accession to the estates and ancient honours of his family, Humphrey married Joan FitzAlan, the fourth daughter of his guardian. His exalted rank and his consanguinity with the sovereign gave him a prominent station at the Royal Court; and we find him, in 1363, at the head of the noble cortege which was sent to conduct the King of Cyprus from Dover to the capital. In 1365, he was honoured with his appointment to the Most Noble Order of the Garter, upon the death of Sir Miles Stapleton, one of the original knights. In the embassy to Galeas, Duke of Milan, in 1366, Humphrey was the principal person employed to treat for the marriage between Prince Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and Violanta, the daughter of that Lord; and, in 1369, he had a command in John of Gaunt's inglorious military expedition against France. On the 5th of November 1370, the Earl was present at Westminster, as one of the witnesses to the King's public letters touching the complaints of the people of Aquitaine.

The only military achievement in which, during his short life, he is recorded to have taken a part, occurred on his being appointed, in 1371, Ambassador to the Duke of Brittany. The English flotilla, commanded by Sir Guy De Bryan, encountered, in a small bay on the Breton coast, a number of vessels under the then hostile Flemish colours and the orders of Jan Peterson. The conflict lasted three hours and, the ships being lashed together with iron chains, the loss of men on both sides was considerable. The English, at length, prevailed and Peterson, with many other prisoners, and twenty-five vessels laden with salt, was conducted to England.

The Earl of Hereford did not long survive this victory. He made his will on 12th December 1372 and died on 16th January following, at the age of only thirty-one. Some say that the King had Humphrey secretly hanged. For he appears to have been under something of a cloud in the last years of his life and rumours abounded that, during his service in France, he had been involved in the supposed poisoning of the 3rd Earl of Warwick. He was buried at the feet of his father, on the north side of the presbytery, in the church of Walden Abbey (Essex); leaving issue, by his countess, Joan FitzAlan (who survived him and died 7th April 1419), two daughters, his co-heiresses: Eleanor, who became the wife of Prince Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester; and Mary, the first consort of Henry, Earl of Derby, afterwards King Henry IV.
 

Edited from George Frederick Beltz's
"Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter" (1861).

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