"... more than things long past." The Death of John of Gaunt

"The setting sun, and music at the close,As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest last,Writ in remembrance, more than things long past." (John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's "Richard II")

Ford Madox Brown: "John Wycliffe reading his translation of the bible to John of Gaunt" (1847-1848)

Today, on 3 February in 1399, 614 years ago, John of Gaunt died at the age of 58 in Leicester.

The colourful and controversial ancestor of the Lancastrian kings of England and younger brother of the "Black Prince" Edward of Woodstock was not only the richest landholder of England in his time, almost king of Castille, the man who tipped the scales towards rebellion with his head tax when Wat Tyler and his supporters decided they'd had it, but a bon vivant and connoisseur of the arts.

The 1st Duke of Lancaster wields his considerable influence to this day by being a patron both to John Wycliffe and Geoffrey Chaucer, the formative figures in establishing English as a modern language in the 14th and 15th century.

The painting above by the pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown is called "John Wycliffe reading his translation of the bible to John of Gaunt" (1847-1848, 1859-1861), symbolising this impact of two of the most important characters in late medieval history.

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