Eleanor de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester was born in 1365/6 and died in 1399. Eleanor was the eldest daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, 2nd earl of Northampton, 7th earl of Hereford, 6th Earl of Kent and his wife Joan Fitzalan. Along with her younger sister Mary de Bohun she inherited her father’s estates upon his death. At that time Eleanor was aged 7. It made her an incredibly wealthy heiress and and valuable wardship. Her worth was such that aged ten she was married to the youngest of King Edward III’s sons, Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester.
Eleanor’s wealth made her an ideal match for the king’s youngest son. The primary means of providing for the king’s sons was through marriages. This had seen John of Gaunt marry Blanche of Lancaster which granted him her lands and titles by right of her inheritance, with them then being his own in his own right following her death. The same method was utilised to provide for Thomas of Woodstock. In 1374 he was granted the right to marry Eleanor de Bohun and several manors of the de Bohun inheritance to provide him with an income. Eleanor de Bohun and Thomas of Woodstock, 1st duke of Gloucester, then married in 1376.
The marriage saw John of Gaunt gift silver goblets to Eleanor. Thomas was appointed as Constable of England, a role that had been hereditary within the de Bohun family. As Eleanor was not yet of age, Edward III granted his son and daughter-in-law and annuity of 1000 marks, derived from de Bohun manors. This would provide the couple with an income until Eleanor was old enough to receive livery.
It is known that Eleanor’s younger sister, Mary, was raised in the household of Eleanor and Thomas. The chronicler Jean Froissart suggested that the couple intended that Mary should enter a convent in order for them to take control of her share of the de Bohun inheritance. It is unclear whether Froissart was accurate in that assessment. Mary never did enter a convent but that may have been prevented by the manner in which John of Gaunt seized her and married his son, Henry Bolingbroke, to her.
Gaunt’s intervention came in 1380, shortly after Mary had been granted her share of the inheritance and whilst Thomas of Woodstock was out of the country. It left Eleanor attempting to manage the estates and tackle the political fall out of her sisters seemingly forced marriage. The union of Eleanor’s sister with Henry Bolingbroke became a protracted affair that lasted until 1384 when Mary’s share was placed into Henry Bolingbroke’s hands. It illustrates the right to inherit of women, the fact that marriages could be arranged via wardships, as was the case for Eleanor, or forced by powerful magnates, as was the case with Mary. Similarly it illustrates that land management could be changed. Thomas had been nominally responsible for managing Mary’s share of the inheritance, benefitted from that, but then was left with no choice but to transfer a large share of the de Bohun lands into the hands of Henry Bolingbroke.
Westminster Abbey – Eleanor de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester.
Kathryn Warner – Eleanor de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester, and Mary de Bohun, Countess of Derby
Feminae – Eleanor de Bohun
Effigies and Brassings – Eleanor de Bohun
Eleanor de Bohun’s effigy at Westminster Abbey. Find a Grave