Beaufort, John 1403-1444, first Duke of Somerset, military commander, was the son of John Beaufort, eldest son of John of Gaunt, by Catherine Swynford, who was created Earl of Somerset and died in 1409. John the younger succeeded to the earldom on the death of his brother Henry in 1419. He was early inured to arms, and fought at the age of seventeen with Henry V in France. In 1421 the Duke of Clarence, the king's brother, being sent against the dauphin in Anjou, advanced rashly against him with his vanguard, and being surprised as he crossed a marsh was killed, and Somerset, who was with him, was taken prisoner. Soon ransomed, the latter continued fighting in France under Henry VI, his nearness to the throne insuring him high command. But though made K.G. about 1443, duke in 1443, and captain general in Aquitaine and Normandy, the Duke of York was preferred as regent of France. Somerset returned home in disgust and died the next year—by his own hand it is said, being unable to brook the disgrace of banishment from court which his quarrel with the government had brought upon him.
Chronicles of Walsingham and Croyland.
Contributor: H. A. T. [Henry Avray Tipping]