John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster

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John of Gaunt (Ghent), 1st Duke of Lancaster, KG (6 March 1340 – 3 February 1399) was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. He was called "John of Gaunt" because he was born in Ghent (in modern Belgium), Gaunt in English.

John exercised great influence over the English throne during the minority of his nephew, Richard II, and during the ensuing periods of political strife, but was not thought to have been among the opponents of the King.

John of Gaunt's legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters (the other party in the Wars of the Roses, the Yorks, being the male descendants of his older brother, Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, and younger brother, Edmund), included Kings Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI. His other legitimate descendants included his daughters Queen Philippa of Portugal, wife of John I of Portugal and mother of King Edward of Portugal, and Elizabeth, Duchess of Exeter, mother of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, through his first wife, Blanche; and by his second wife, Constance, John was father of Queen Catherine of Castile, wife of Henry III of Castile and mother of John II of Castile. John fathered five children outside marriage, one early in life by a lady-in-waiting to his mother, and four surnamed "Beaufort" by Katherine Swynford (after a former French possession of the Duke), Gaunt's long-term mistress and third wife. The Beaufort children, three sons and a daughter, were legitimized by royal and papal decrees after John and Katherine married in 1396, with the proviso that they were specifically barred from inheriting the throne ('excepta regali dignitate'). Descendants of this marriage included Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester and eventually Cardinal; Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland, grandmother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III; John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, the great-grandfather of King Henry VII; and Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots, from whom are descended from 1437 all subsequent Sovereigns of Scotland, and successively from 1603 Sovereigns England, of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the United Kingdom to the present day. The three preceding houses of English sovereigns from 1399 - the Houses of Lancaster, York and Tudor - were descended from John through, respectively, Henry Bolingbroke, Joan Beaufort and John Beaufort.

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