Bettencourts 1200-1900


14. Jean de BETHENCOURT (IV)

Born 1362 in the castle of Grainville-la-Teinturière, Cany-Barville, Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, France; According to two sources, he was never married, but these appear to be incorrect; married Jeanne de Fayel, daughter of Guillaume de Fayel and Marguerite de Chatillon, 30 Jan 1392 in Paris, France; In the second half of 1425, as he was preparing to visit the Canary Islands again, he died, attended at his death-bed by his chaplain, Jean Le Verrier. Although the text of the manuscript of Bontier and Verrier places the death of Jean de Bethencourt in 1422, Bergeron, who was not an idle investigator, in fixing the date at 1425, says, "comme il appert par plusieurs actes" (as appears in several documents). So we may reasonably accept his decision; buried 1425 in the choir of the church of Grainville-la-Teinturière.

He spent his infancy in the castle of Grainville-la-Teinturière in the company of his mother and her brother, Mathieu de Braquemont, who was also his grandmother's second husband, and later in the company of his stepfather, Roger Suhart. He was educated by his uncle, Regnault de Braquemont. In 1373 he began to take care of the larder of the Duke of Anjou as the person in charge of the distribution of bread ("pannetier"). He had children; among his descendents was the venerable Pedro de Bettencourt, great apostle of America in the seventeenth century. In 1385 Jean gave to his brother Regnault, as part of his paternal inheritance, the manor of Grand Quesnay and the lands of Huqueleu and Mauquenchy. Between 1387 and 1391 Jean de Bethencourt (IV) was chamberlain of Louis de Valois, Duke of Touraine and later Duke of Orleans. On 11 Apr 1387 he obtained from the King permission to rebuild and fortify the castle of Grainville-la-Teinturière previously destroyed as a consequence of civil war (confirmed 18 Jul 1388). On 9 Dec 1388, he obtained permission from Pope Clement VII to erect a chapel in the castle. Messire Jean de Bethencourt held the title of Baron in right of the Barony of Saint-Martin-le-Gaillard in the Comté d'Eu, where he had a strong castle which was taken and retaken several times in the wars with England. Monstrelet speaks of its final siege and ruin in 1419. It came by inheritance to Messire de Bethencourt from his grandmother Dame Isabeau de St. Martin. In 1390 he was standard-bearer in the expedition organized by the Duke of Orleans to battle the Moorish pirates that infested the Mediterranean, an expedition that ended in a fiasco, but brought him into contact with African lands.

The marriage of Jean and Jeanne was not a happy one, and in 1405, Jeanne complained to the parlement that her husband had ordered her to be confined, not permitting her to leave the house or to speak with her father and friends. He and Jeanne de Fayel had no children leaving the suggestion that his children were illegitimate. He was a squire of Charles VI of France. He was Lord chamberlain of the royal household for Charles VI, King of France. Jean de Bethencourt (IV) was Lord of Béthencourt, Saint Saire, Lincourt, Riville, Grand Quesnoy, Huqueleu, Saint-Martin-le-Gaillard, etc. He was Lord of Grainville-la-Teinturière. He was chamberlain of Charles VI of France in the Palace of Saint Paul, Paris, France.

He developed the desire to explore the Canary Islands. In Dec 1401 he sold his house in Paris, valued at 200 gold francs, and some other small pieces of property to obtain the necessary financing for his expedition to the Canary Islands. Since the amount realized was insufficient, his uncle, Robert de Braquemont, loaned him 5,000 pounds (to which he later added another 2,000), Jean to all intents mortgaging to him the fiefs of Béthencourt and Grainville. Having conceived the project of conquering the Canaries, which were then only frequented by merchants or Spanish pirates, he assembled a body of adventurers, among whom was a knight named Gadifer de La Salle, who joined him at La Rochelle, France. Bethencourt took with him his two chaplains, Brother Pierre Bontier, a Franciscan monk of St. Jouin de Marnes who later officiated at Lanzarote in the church of St. Martial de Rubicon which Bethencourt built in the castle of that name, and Jean le Verrier, a priest who was later installed at Fuerteventura as vicar in the chapel of Our Lady of Bethencourt; they were the historians of the expedition;

Two early manuscripts exist detailing the story of Le Canarien. One is ms. Egerton 2709 in the British Library in London which gives preference to Gadifer de La Salle. The other, ms. mm 129 of the Bibliothèque municipale in Rouen, France, gives preference to Jean de Bethencourt. It was this latter copy which was formerly in the possession of the Béthencourt family; He had a relationship which produced a son after 1402 in Seville.

On 1 May 1402 they started from La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, France, putting in at Corunna and at Cadiz, where they stayed till the month of July, the party meanwhile becoming reduced by the desertion of twenty-seven men to only fifty-three in number. Eight days from Cadiz brought them to the island of Graciosa; from there they went to Lanzarote, landing on 30 Jun 1402, where they were well received and obtained permission to build a fort which they named Rubicon. Leaving Bertin de Berneval in charge, Bethencourt went with Gadifer to Fuerteventura but was obliged to return to Lanzarote on account of mutiny among his sailors and lack of provisions. While at Fuerteventura, Robin le Brument, master mariner of a ship which Gadifer affirmed to be his own, refused admission to Gadifer and his companions, but agreed, on condition of receiving hostages, to carry them over to Lanzarote; Although some sources indicate that Bethencourt discovered the Canary Islands, it would be more appropriate to say that he conquered and settled them as well as converting the inhabitants to Catholicism. The museum of the church of Santa Maria de Betancuria in Bethencuria, Fuerteventura, contains a replica of the banner carried by Bethencourt when he seized Fuerteventura.

It was resolved that Bethencourt should go to Spain to get together what was necessary to complete the enterprise. Gadifer remained as lieutenant, and while he was absent at the Isle of Lobos, Bertin excited disaffection against him, drew together a faction of his own with which he pillaged the castle of Rubicon and took a number of natives prisoner on 25 Nov 1402, including Guardarifa, the King of Lanzarote, who had already made friendly submission to Bethencourt. Two Spanish ships had arrived meanwhile, and Bertin, having gained over Ferdinand Ordoñez, captain of the Tranchemar, took his spoils and prisoners on board, abandoned his followers to perish miserably in Africa, and went himself to Spain.

The unfortunate Gadifer was left by this treachery on the island of Lobos without the supplies he expected to follow him, until the captain of the other Spanish ship, the Morelle, sent a canoe to his rescue and he returned to Rubicon. Here he found affairs in a sad state, no provisions, no stores, and an insufficient number of men to keep the natives in check. Meanwhile, Bethencourt was obtaining from Henry III, King of Castile, the supplies he wanted, on condition of doing homage. Castilian documents of 26-28 Nov 1402 refer to the lordship of the Canary Islands and the requested aid: 20,000 maravedis (old Gothic coin formerly used in Portugal and Spain), soldiers, arms, and provisions. Having sent home his wife in the charge of Enguerrand de la Boissière, he preferred to return to Lanzarote. On 10 Jan 1403 Bethencourt was solemnly invested by Henry III, King of Castile, with the government of the Canary Islands. He was referred to as Jean de Ventancorto in documents in Spain. Between 1404 and 1406 Jean de Bethencourt (IV) was King and Lord of the Canary Islands. Some documents refer to him as Governor of the Canary Islands. Bethencourt had learned the state of affairs on the arrival of the ship Morelle in Spain, which preceded by a short time the Tranchemar, in which the traitor Bertin arrived with his captives, and sent help to Gadifer from the king with directions to follow up the explorations.

Gadifer had been to Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Ferro, Gomera, and Palma (all part of the Canary Islands), and returned to Rubicon after a voyage of three months. He had sent a ship to Spain with the account of his expedition, but Bethencourt himself now arrived at Rubicon (Os Bettencourt gives the date as 19 Apr 1404 but this appears to be too late, a date earlier in Feb seeming more likely) where he was received with great demonstrations of joy. He proceeded vigorously with the conquest of the natives. Finally, the king of Lanzarote submitted and asked for baptism on 20 Feb 1404, which he received with many of his people. After this, Bethencourt and Gadifer were only withheld from further conquest by want of aid from the courts of France and Spain, though application was made especially to the former. On their return from an expedition to the coast of Africa in 1404, Gadifer showed discontent that Bethencourt had not considered his interests when he did homage to the King of Castile for the government of the islands. However, he took part in an expedition against Gran Canaria on 25 Jul 1404, but the dispute was afterwards renewed, and on 9 Oct Gadifer set out for Castile to plead his case with the King. Finally, however, Gadifer, unable to prevail against Bethencourt's greater influence at the court of Castile, gave up his own cause in despair and returned to France.

Bethencourt had several encounters with the natives, but maintained his authority successfully, and the two kings of Fuerteventura, together with their people, became Christian in Jan 1405 (Os Bettencourt gives the dates as 18 and 25 Feb 1405 for each king). On 31 Jan 1405, he went to France to obtain the materials for forming a colony, was warmly welcomed at Grainville, and obtained all he required.

He left Honfleur on 9 May 1405 and returned to Lanzarote with his nephew, Maciot de Bethencourt, and was received with great joy by his own people, as well as by the inhabitants of Fuerteventura. On 6 Oct 1405 he set out on his expedition to Gran Canaria which was unsuccessful from various causes, but in Palma and Ferro, after some opposition, he formed colonies; Returning to Lanzarote, he arranged everything for the good government of the islands which he had conquered and civilized, and leaving his nephew, Maciot de Bethancourt, as governor-general, he departed universally regretted on 15 Dec 1406. He went to Spain where the king received him warmly and gave him letters of recommendation to the Pope, from whom he was anxious to obtain the appointment of a bishop for the islands. At Rome, he was well received by the Pope, who granted all he required. He then returned to France by way of Florence where he was feted by the government. Then he went to Paris and so to his own house.

An indiscreet, though perfectly innocent, word from Madame de Bethencourt with reference to her brother-in-law, Regnault de Bethencourt, produced an estrangement between her and her husband whose jealous cruelty would seem to have brought about her early death. At a festivity in honor of her husband upon his return to France from the Canary Islands, she commented to him that she should have married his brother Regnault, while Jean should have married her sister who was much older, more of an age with Jean himself. A feeling of revenge led Jean to impoverish as far as possible the property to which his brother would be the successor. It is but justice to say that before his death he saw his error, and on his death-bed was anxious to declare repentance to the brother whom he had injured.

On 13 Jun 1417 Jean de Bethencourt paid homage to King Charles VI of France for his feudal benefice of Bethencourt in Normandy. On 17 Oct 1418 Jean confirmed the powers previously granted to his nephew Maciot, permitting him to sell the Canary Islands with the exception of Fuerteventura which was to remain for his heirs. On 16 May 1419 Jean de Bethencourt pledged fealty to King Henry V of England. The wars between England and France had already caused Bethencourt many problems and, after the capture of Caudebec in Normandy in September 1418, this pledge of fealty was the only way to safeguard his possessions. Bethencourt remained in Grainville for several years, receiving from the bishop news of the islands and the good government of his nephew.

There were no children of Jean de Bethencourt (IV) and the unknown spouse mentioned above.

Jeanne de FAYEL was born after 1370 in Champagne, France. Her dowry was relatively modest. It consisted of the fief and lands of Saclas in the region of Béauce, near Éstampes, and an annual rent of 200 pounds which she had inherited from her maternal grandfather, the Count of Porcin. Perhaps because of the difficulty of maintaining those estates, situated far from his home, her husband Jean sold them after three years. She died before 1425.

There were no children of Jean de Bethencourt (IV) and Jeanne de Fayel.

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