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Henry VI, King of England, 1421-1471

Henry VI, King of England, 1421-1471

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Henry VI, King of England, 1421-1471

Henry VI (1421-1471) was the last monarch of the Lancastrian dynasty, and the ineffective nature of his rule played a major part in the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses.

The House of Lancaster came to the throne in 1399 when Henry of Bolingbroke returned from exile, deposed Richard II and took the throne as Henry IV. His reign was troubled by frequent revolts, but he did manage to establish his dynasty firmly enough for his son Henry V to be able to succeed without any serious problems. Henry V was the most successful member of the dynasty, and during his short reign (1413-1422) conquered large parts of France and was acknowledged as the heir to Charles VI of France. As part of this agreement Henry married Catherine of Valois, and the future Henry VI was born at Windsor in December 1421.

Within a year the situation had been transformed. Henry V died in 1422 and the infant prince inherited the throne as Henry VI when less than one year old. Soon afterwards Charles VI of France died, and Henry officially became king of both kingdoms. Unsurprisingly Charles's son Charles refused to accept this, and claimed the French throne as Charles VII.

The English held on to most of their holdings in France during Henry's long minority. Henry was blessed with capable uncles - France was ruled by his eldest uncle, John, duke of Bedford, until his death in 1435 and the English administration was run by the council, which was led by his youngest uncle, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. The French did retake Paris in 1436, but the English still held Normandy, Gascony and large areas between when Henry was declared of age in 1437.

Henry proved to be an incompetent and often disinterested monarch. He was also pious and was actively involved in his foundations at Eton College (1440) and King's College, Cambridge (1441), but his government became dominated by a small number of favourites. Even when the favourites were competent the result was to leave most of the aristocracy feeling excluded from power, causing discontent that could erupt into chaos if things didn’t go well. His general lack of interest in government also allowed local feuds to develop into major causes of instability, where stronger kings would have acted to end the violent. The most famous of these feuds, between the Neville and Percy families, eventually drove Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, previously a firm support of the dynasty, into the Yorkist camp, but they all served to add to the feeling of instability in the kingdom.

Henry was determined to end the fighting in France. In 1445 he agreed a truce with Charles VII and agreed to marry Margaret of Anjou, a relative of the French king. He also secretly agreed to hand over Maine in the hope that this would held secure peace between the two kingdoms. Instead this move only served to encourage the French and also reduced the popularity of Henry's government at home. The agreement to hand over Maine was made in writing in December 1445, but was then kept secret. Henry must have known that none of his senior advisors would have approved of the idea. His uncle Gloucester was in favour of a more vigorous war effort, while even Henry's chief advisor, William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, was opposed the idea and made a public declaration to deny any involvement. Gloucester disappeared from the scene in 1447 - on 18 February he was arrested and was to put on trial, but five days later he died. On 28 July 1447 commissioners were appointed to arrange the hand over of Le Mans, but even they weren't enthusiastic and the surrender wasn't made until 29 March 1448. Despite his opposition to this surrender, Suffolk received much of the blame.

Worse was soon to come. In the surrender documents the English had attempted to include the duke of Brittany as one of their allies, This had been true earlier in the Hundred Years War and would be the case later in the Wars of the Roses, but in 1448 Brittany was allied with France. This appears to have been a piece of legal trickery designed to allow England to interfere in Brittany without breaking their treaties with the French, but if that was the case it failed.

In March 1449 an English army attacked the Breton town of Fougères (the attack may have been ordered by Suffolk in an attempt to distance himself from the peace party). The Duke of Brittany immediately protested to Charles VII and a series of conferences were held. The English claimed that this was a dispute between allies and nothing to do with Charles, but unsurprisingly he disagreed. On 31 July 1449 Charles declared that he was no longer bound by the peace treaty, and open warfare quickly resumed. Henry's government had failed to prepare for this option, and the French invasion of Normandy was a spectacular success. At the time Normandy was ruled by Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset, but he proved unable to defend the area. He surrendered Rouen in October 1449 and Caen in the next year. The last English foothold in Normandy was gone by August 1450.

The fall of Normandy led to chaos in England. Suffolk was blamed and was arrested on 28 January 1450. He was charged with treason and corruption but was saved by Henry, who cancelled the trial and exiled Suffolk for five years. On his way across the channel Suffolk's ship was captured by a fleet of Kentish ships and the duke was murdered. Two of Henry's other senior advisors were also murdered in this period. This was followed by Jack Cade's Rebellion, a vast revolt that began in Kent and for several weeks in June and July threatened to overwhelm Henry's government.

Jack Cade's Rebellion was a turning point in Henry's reign. It was the first violent outbreak against his rule, and produced the first of many manifestos that condemned his rule. It also probably played a part in turning Richard, duke of York, from a fairly loyal supporter of the dynasty into its most determined opponent. Cade's men had apparently claimed some connection with York, who had a good claim to be Henry's heir. In the aftermath of the fall of Normandy the duke of Somerset returned to England and replaced him as Henry's favourite. In September 1450 York, who was then serving as lieutenant of Ireland, returned to England. He was probably motivated by a mix of fear that he would be implicated in Cade's revolt and suffer Suffolk or Gloucester's fate, and anger that Somerset had been rewarded for his catastrophic failure in France. He put himself forward as a friend of good government and formally asked Henry that he become the king's chief advisor.

At this stage Henry was still fairly popular and York found little support. The king stood firm and insisted that he wanted a council in which every member would have an equal voice. This would leave York outvoted and so during 1451 he attempted to act as the bringer of law and order, helping end a feud in the south-west.

Early in 1452 York attempted to resort to arms to seize control of Henry's government. His plan was to trigger pro-Yorkist demonstrations in towns around the country then raise an army which he would lead to London. The plan failed. Very few towns rose for York and very few peers joined his army. Henry was able to raise a much more powerful force, which included most of the peers including many who would be key Yorkist supporters later. The armies came face to face at Dartford, and York was forced to back down. He was lucky to escape more serious punishment, and instead went into voluntary internal exile on his estates.

Henry's government was about to suffer a series of blows from which it never really recovered. The war in France continued to go badly. Bordeaux had been lost on 29 June 1451, and the French held most of Gascony. This was one area where the link with England had been popular, and John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, was able to briefly restore the situation. He retook Bordeaux on 23 October and soon had control of most of Gascony. This success would be short-lived - on 17 July 1453 Talbot was defeated at killed at the battle of Castillon, widely seen as the final battle of the Hundred Years War. Gascony, which had been tied to the English crown for nearly 300 years, was lost forever. In the five years between the surrender of Maine and the loss of Gascony the English position in France had collapsed, and Henry's domain was now limited to Calais and the surrounding area.

News of the defeat at Castillon reached Henry early in August 1453. At this time his wife was seven months pregnant with their first and only child, Prince Edward, and Henry may not have been coping well with the stresses of pregnancy - some contemporary accounts suggest that his religious advisors had made him feel guilty about the whole pregnancy and his role in it. In early August Henry was at his hunting lodge at Clarendon, when he suffered a mental breakdown. From then until Christmas 1454 he was completely immobile and incommunicative, so needed constant care and was entirely removed from government.

Henry's first illness led directly to the outbreak of the start of the Wars of the Roses. As the senior member of the aristocracy York had the best claim to be Protector of the Realm. Prince Edward was born on 13 October (sadly to no reaction from his father), and once she had recovered Queen Margaret began to demand a role in government. At first Somerset and the council attempted to rule without the king, but by Christmas York's position had improved and Somerset was confined in the Tower. Parliament met in February 1454 and Queen Margaret officially asked to be made Protector. Given the recent collapse in France a young French princess was never going to be acceptable, and in late March Richard of York was officially appointed Protector.

Henry recovered from his breakdown at Christmas 1454. He finally met his son, and York's protectorate ended. Somerset was released and resumed his position at court. Most of York's appointments were cancelled, and the Yorkist lords began to fear that they were about to be attacked. Somerset appears to have been planning a legal challenge, and so the court party was caught out when York, Salisbury and Warwick raised and army and brought it south. The first battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought at St. Albans on 22 May 1455. The smaller Lancastrian army attempted to defend the town, but Warwick's men found their way in. Somerset, Northumberland and Lord Clifford were all killed in the fighting, and Henry himself was wounded in the fighting.

For the next few months Henry was effectively York's prisoner. York made a great show of his loyalty, but took control of the government. Henry probably suffered a second breakdown in the aftermath of the battle and wasn’t able to attend Parliament in November 1455. York was appointed as Protector for a second time, but this time Henry recovered quite quickly. On 25 February 1456 the King came into parliament and ended the Protectorate. For the moment York remained in favour, or at least in power, but this didn't last.

Henry's health appears to have been poor for the rest of his life. He was said to have been obsessed with religious devotions and spent much of his time asleep. His cause was now kept alive by his wife Queen Margaret who was determined to protect her son and his rights from the Yorkists. In August 1456 Henry joined the Queen in the Midlands, and after that spent little time in London. Queen Margaret was now able to take over control of the Royal government, slowly forcing York and his allies out.

Henry did make one attempt to end the conflict, arranging the 'Loveday' agreement of 24 March 1458 during one of his more active periods. The Yorkists agreed to pay compensation to the heirs of the lords they had killed at St. Albans and in return both sides agreed to keep the peace. This agreement had little long term impact and in 1459 open warfare broke out again. Henry VI was present with the Royal army in 1459 and this may have had a major part in the Lancastrian success at Ludford Bridge (12-13 October 1459). The Yorkist leaders were already outnumbered, but when the Calais garrison changed sides rather than fight against the king in person York and his supporters realised that they had lost and fled into exile.

The Yorkists returned in 1460, landing at Sandwich in June and defeating Henry's army at Northampton on 10 July 1460. The King was captured and escorted back to London, while Queen Margaret and Prince Edward escaped back to Wales.

In October 1460 the nature of the war changed. Until then both sides claimed to be loyal to Henry, but in October York returned from exile in Ireland and attempted to claim the throne. Henry still represented legitimate authority and the Peers were unwilling to depose him. Henry himself appears to have made no attempt to defend his position, and on 25 October agreed to the Act of Accord. Henry would remain on the throne, but his son was disinherited and York became heir to the throne.

The Act of Accord helped revive the Lancastrian cause. The dispossessed Prince was a better cause than his disappointing father, and revolts soon broke out around the country. York went north to deal with the most serious of them, but was killed at the battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460). Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, had been left behind in London to watch Henry. As the Lancastrians moved south Warwick came out of London, bringing Henry with him. Warwick then suffered a heavy defeat at the second battle of St. Albans (17 February 1461). In the aftermath of this battle the Yorkists lost control of Henry, and he was soon reunited with his wife and son.

The Lancastrians now missed their chance to enter London. York's son Edward, earl of March, beat them into the city, and the Lancastrians retreated north. Eventually Henry and Margaret ended up in York. Their sizable army was commanded by Henry Beaufort, duke of Somerset, although his position would be weakened by the absence of the king.

With Henry out of their control, the Yorkists decided to put Edward of March forward as an alternative king. This time the claim was better orchestrated and in early March he was acclaimed as Edward IV. The Yorkists then moved north, and on 29 March 1461 they defeated Henry's army at Towton. The only flaw with the Yorkist victory was that Henry and his family escaped and found refuge in Scotland.

For the next few years the Lancastrians managed to maintain a foothold in the far north of England, centred around the castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh. Queen Margaret ensured Scottish support by surrendering Berwick on 25 April 1461 but an attempt to take Carlisle failed. Henry now became something of a figurehead or a standard, to be dragged around by various Lancastrian leaders. In June 1461 he was present during a raid from Scotland that reached as far as Brancepeth, south of Durham. In 1462 Queen Margaret went to France to try and gain support. She came back in the autumn with a small mercenary force. Henry joined this army, which then retook the three Northumbrian castles. When Edward announced that he was bringing an army north, Queen Margaret decided to return to Scotland. The royal party's ship was wrecked and Henry found himself returning to Berwick in an open boat. He was also present during a failed attempt to besiege Norham in June 1463. In August 1463, after this failure, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward sailed for France and exile. They would never meet Henry again.

By the start of 1464 Henry and the Lancastrians had been forced out of Scotland, and Henry held court in the isolated Northumbrian castles. He gained an able supporter when Henry Beaufort, duke of Somerset, abandoned a brief allegiance to Edward and returned to his Lancastrian loyalty. Somerset managed to establish Lancastrian control of a large part of the north-east, forcing Edward to prepare for a major expedition north. This would prove to be unnecessary. Warwick's brother John Neville, Lord Montagu, inflicted a defeat on Somerset's men at Hedgley Moor on 24 April 1464. Somerset decided that he needed a victory before Edward arrived, and took Henry from his court in exile into the Tyne valley. Henry was a spectator from the opposite side of the Tyne as Montagu's army swept west to catch Somerset at Hexham (15 May 1464).

Henry only just evaded capture after the battle, but he was escorted into relative safety in the north-west. Henry managed to elude capture for over a year, but he was finally captured in July 1465 and taken to the Tower of London. Given that the Wars of the Roses had become increasingly bloodthirsty at the higher levels of society his survival might seem surprising, but in fact Edward had nothing to gain from killing Henry. The old king made a poor figurehead for Lancastrian resistance, and seems to have been fairly happy in the Tower. If Henry VI was killed then the Lancastrian claim would pass to his unproven young son Prince Edward, who might have made a much more effective figurehead for the Lancastrian cause.

Henry remained a prisoner in the Tower until Edward IV was forced into exile by Richard, earl of Warwick, late in 1470. In 1469-70 Warwick had made two attempts to seize control of the Yorkist regime, before being forced into exile in France. He came to terms with Queen Margaret (Angers Agreement of July 1470), and later in the year returned to England and forced Edward to flee into exile. On 6 October Warwick entered London. Henry was removed from the Tower and taken to the Bishop's Palace, where he officially resumed power. In reality Henry had no influence on his new government, and Warwick ruled.

In March 1471 Edward IV returned to England, landing on the Yorkshire coast at the head of a small army. Warwick and his allies rather bungled the campaign in the North and Midlands that should have seen Edward's tiny army defeated. On 3 March his brother Clarence, who had sided with Warwick, changed sides, and the two armies became fairly equally balanced. Warwick refused to risk a battle at Coventry and so Edward slipped past him and began a race for London.

It was soon clear that Edward would arrive before Warwick. The key Lancastrian leaders left the city on 8 April, leaving Warwick's brother George Neville, archbishop of York, in command of the defence. In an attempt to raise enthusiasm for the Lancastrian cause Henry was forced to take part in a parade on 9 April. His sword was carried before him by a veteran of the Hundred Years War and his father's standard went ahead of him, but Henry was now a shadow of even his former self, and the archbishop had to hold his hand for the entire parade. Henry was dressed in an old blue tunic and was said to have 'pleased the citizens as a fire painted on a wall warmed the old women'. It was clear that London couldn't be defended, and even the archbishop entered into negotiations with Edward.

On 11 April Edward returned to London. One of his first priorities was to regain control of Henry VI, who is said to have welcomed him and said 'Cousin of York, you are very welcome. I hold my life to be in no danger in your hands'. Edward took Henry with him as he turned back to fight Warwick, but after Warwick's defeat and death at the battle of Barnet (14 April 1471) Henry was returned to the Tower.

On the same day as the battle of Barnet Queen Margaret and Prince Edward finally landed in the south-west. They raised an army and then attempted to move north into Wales. Edward intercepted them at Tewkesbury (4 May 1471). The Lancastrians were defeated and Prince Edward was killed.

The death of Prince Edward meant that Henry was no longer needed. On 21 May Edward IV returned to London and that night the old king died, officially of 'pure displeasure and melancholy' at the news of his son's defeat and death. While this can’t be entirely discounted it is far more likely that Edward IV had him murdered to remove a potential rival.

Henry's death ended the direct male line of the Lancastrian dynasty. The next Lancastrian claimant was Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, whose claim came from Henry's Beaufort cousins, but it would only be the early death of Edward IV and the usurpation of Richard III that would give Tudor the chance to revive the Lancastrian cause and gain the throne as Henry VII.

The great tragedy of Henry's reign was that he hadn’t been competent (or interested) enough to be a successful Medieval monarch, but at the same time he hadn’t been actively malicious in the same way as Richard II. There was thus always some support for his as the legitimate monarch, and his supporters were able to maintain his cause even after the battle of Towton had seen Lancastrian authority removed from most of England and Wales.

Books on the Middle Ages -Subject Index: War of the Roses

Henry VI, King of England, 1421-1471 - History

enry's father was Henry V, King of England, and his mother was Catherine of Valois a daughter of King Charles VI, King of France. Henry became King of England in September of 1422 when he was less than a year old after the death of his father who died at the age of 34. While Henry was too young to rule, otherwise known as his minority, his uncles John Duke of Bedford and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester along with Henry Beaufort, the Cardinal Bishop of Winchester, took care of the affairs of the country. The task of Henry's education and upbringing was given to Richard Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick.

K ing Charles VI of France died in 1422 and Henry was declared to be King of France as he was the grandson of the French King and his succession to the French throne had been pledged in the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. The French throne was also claimed by Charles, the nineteen year old son of the old French King. Charles would become Charles VII, King of France.

T he Hundred Years War continued in the reign of Henry VI. The Duke of Bedford commanded the northern territories of France while Charles VII controlled the south. This was the time of the seventeen year old Joan of Arc who rescued the French at the siege of Orleans in May of 1429. Shortly after this success Charles was crowned at Rheims Cathedral and the French won several battles against the English. In response the Duke of Bedford ensured Henry was crowned even though he was still too young to rule unaided. Joan was captured by the English, and executed after a trial. In December of 1431 Henry was crowned King of France at Notre Dame in Paris. In 1435 the English lost the support of the Duke of Burgundy with the signing of the Treaty of Arras where the Duke recognised Charles as the true King of France. The Duke of Burgundy had been the chief supporter of the English and without his support further military actions in France were difficult. In 1435 the Duke of Bedford died and Paris was retaken by the French in 1436.

From 1455 until 1487 a war took place between supporters of Henry VI (Lancastrians) and the supporters of Richard Duke of York and his son Edward IV (Yorkists). The war was not a constant fight that affected the whole country and its population, but a series of battles spread out over the years.Some of the battles were fought by thousands of men. The Battle of Towton being the largest and the bloodiest.

During the late 1440's the country was being ruled poorly by King Henry VI. His wife Queen Margaret and her followers had a great influence over the weak king and in northern France many English held towns were falling to the French King Charles VII. Henry began to be openly criticised and these critisisms were being led by Richard, Duke of York. Richard himself had a good claim to the English throne being descended from Lionel of Antwerp Duke of Clarence the second son of Edward III through the female line. The Duke had the support of two strong figures of the time and both members of the Neville family. One was the Duke's brother-in-law, Richard Neville the Earl of Salisbury, and the other was the Earl's son Richard Neville Earl of Warwick.

The first battle of the Wars of the Roses took place at St. Alban's on May 22nd 1455 when the Yorkists tried to confront the King. The King had by his side the Dukes of Somerset and Buckingham, Lords Pembroke, Northumberland and Devon and around 2,000 Lancastrian men. They tried to hold the town against the Yorkists led by the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick but Warwick was able to enter the town through an unguarded spot and attack the flanks of the Lancastrian barricades. Although this battle was small it left the Duke of Somerset dead along with Lord Northumberland and Clifford. As a result of this victory power swung to the Yorkists although support from the Barons was not total. Ricard, Duke of York, became Protector of the Realm and the powerful position of Captain of Calais was given to the Earl of Warwick.

Return of the Lancastrians

Led by Richard Earl of Salisbury the Yorkists in the north mobilised an army and headed south to meet the Duke of York at Ludlow. Salisbury was intercepted by a Lancastrian army led by Lord Audley on September 23rd 1459 at Blore Heath in Shropshire. The Lancastrians were the first to attack but their first and second cavalry charges were repulsed and when the Lancastrian foot soldiers were also repulsed they turned and fled. In the battle Audley was killed and although two of Salisbury's sons were captured they were quickly released. The Yorkists had won this battle.

But the Yorkist control was soon to come crashing down. The Earl of Warwick with a force from Calais reached Ludlow and the combined army of the Yorkists attacked the King's army at Ludford Bridge near Ludlow on October 12th 1459. The men from Calais refused to fight their king and a weakened Yorkist army was defeated. Richard Duke of York and his younger son escaped and fled to Ireland while Salisbury, Warwick and Edward of March (later Edward IV) fled to Calais.

The Yorkists' banishment did not last long and an army led by the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick landed on the south coast in June of 1460 at Sandwich. With them was the young Earl of March who would become the future king of England Edward IV. After securing Kent the Yorkists marched on London where the gates were opened and they were welcomed.

The Lancastrians's Court was in Coventry at the time of the Yorkist rebels entering London. When news reached them the Lancastrians moved south to Northampton to meet the rebels. The Yorkists led by the Earl of Warwick wanted to talk but the Lancastrians led by the Duke of Buckingham wanted to fight. Although the Lancastrians had less men than the Yorkists, they did have control of a stronger position. The Yorkists managed to defeat the Lancastrians due to a section of the Lancastrian army led by Lord Grey of Ruthin moving away allowing the Yorkists through. Orders were given that the King and ordinary men should be spared, while the knights and lords should be killed. When the fighting was over the casualties were light, but the Lancastrian leaders, Buckingham, Shrewsbury and Egremont were dead and the King was captured.

Queen Margaret escaped capture and fled to Wales where she plotted her revenge.

The Duke of York claims the throne

In October 1460 Richard, Duke of York, returned from Ireland and claimed the English throne. But the nobles refused to accept his claim while King Henry was still alive. It was decided to allow Henry to remain king but after his death the Duke of York or one of his heirs would take the English throne.

Attack from the North

Queen Margaret had not wasted much time and had regrouped her forces with support from men in the north of England. Her army began attacking Yorkist controlled lands. The Duke of York took an army north to stop the Queen's progress but underestimated how much support she had. At the battle of Wakefield on December 30th 1460 the Lancastrian army defeated the Yorkists and the Duke of York along with his second son, Edmund the Earl of Rutland, were killed.

Queen Margaret continued her progress south and at the Second Battle of St. Albans on February 17 1461 the Yorkist army, led by the Earl of Warwick, was split in two and sections of the Yorkists defected to the Queen's side. The Yorkists were defeated and Warwick escaped. The King, who had been travelling with the Yorkists, was freed and he was reunited with his wife and son.

Edward, Earl of March, proclaimed King

Although King Henry was free the inhabitants of London refused the Lancastrians entrance to the city. They were concerned by reports they had heard that the Lancastrian army had pillaged St. Albans after the battle and did not want that to happen to London. Instead, on February 27th, the Londoners opened the gates to the Yorkists. In early March Edward Earl of March and Richard Earl of Warwick entered London. Edward, being the son of the late Duke of York and having a claim to the throne, was proclaimed King of England as Edward IV.

The end of the first phase of the Wars of the Roses began at the Battle of Towton on March 29 1461. Edward took an army north to deal with the Lancastrians and they met at Towton in Yorkshire. The battle is supposed to be the bloodiest battle fourght on English soil and was a major victory for the Yorkists. After the battle King Henry and the Queen retreated further north captuting some Northumbrian castles. But after a series of smaller battles over the next three years the Yorkists forced the remaining Lancastrians into exile.

The Earl of Warwick rebels

Earlier, in 1464, Edward IV secretly married Elizabeth Woodville. For the Earl of Warwick there were two problems with this. The first was that the Woodville familly were Lancastrian supporters and second was that Warwick had contacted King Louis XI of France and had attempted to negotiate a marriage for Edward to a French princess. Warwick was losing control and his power over Edward. His plan involved Edward's brother George, the Duke of Clarence. If George was to marry Warwick's daughter Isabel and become king, Warwick would be back in a position of power.

The rebellion against King Edward started in early 1469 with the mysterious Robin of Redesdale in the north of England. King Edward took an army to deal with the rebels but the rebels proved too strong and defeated Edward's men at the Battle of Edgecote Moor on July 26th 1469. Shortly afterwards Edward was captured and several of the Woodville family were executed including Earl Rivers, Queen Elizabeth's father and also one of her brothers. This rebellion, orchestrated by Warwick, soon failed as Warwick did not have the support of Parliament and had to accept Edward as King. But Warwick tried again in 1470 with another revolt against the King using Sir Robert Welles. Sir Robert was captured and confessed that Warwick was behind the plot against the King. With their treachery uncovered, Warwick and the Duke of Clarence fled to France.

Warwick joins the Lancastrians - Henry VI is King again

In France Queen Margaret and the Earl of Warwick were persuaded by the Louis XI, the French King, to put their previous differences aside and combine their resources to remove Edward IV from the English throne. They met at Anger Cathedral in July 22, 1470. Warwick promised to restore King Henry VI as the English King and as a act of faith both sides agreed that Warwick's youngest daughter Anne Neville would marry Queen Margaret's son Edward, the Prince of Wales. Equipped with over fifty ships and an army provided by King Louis, Warwick invaded England in September of 1470. King Edward was in the north at the time of the invasion and an act of treachery by John Neville, Warwick's brother, led to him fleeing the country. John Neville (Lord Montagu) had accepted Edward as King but when his title had been given to the Percies he turned against the King. Montagu had a larger army than Edward and Edward was given little option other than escaping with his life. Edward sailed with his brother Richard to the court of the Duke of Burgundy. King Henry was freed from the Tower of London and restored to the throne of England.

Edward returns from exile and the Battle of Barnet

King Louis declared war on the Duke Burgundy when he learnt that he was harbouring King Edward. In response, the Duke agreed to give Edward ships and men to return to England and take back the English throne. Edward landed back in England in March 1471. Because of bad weather his ships landed several miles apart on the north east of England but within days his army had regrouped and began to gain support. Edward's army was given a boost in numbers when his brother George, Duke of Clarence, abandoned Warwick's side and gave his support to Edward. By April Edward reached London where the citizens opened the gates to his army. King Henry was arrested and places back in the Tower of London. The Earl of Warwick had left Coventry to confront Edward. The armies met at Barnet just north of London in thick fog. The two battle lines overlapped and Warwick's Lancastrian men commanded by the Earl of Oxford were able to get around the Yorkists commanded by Lord Hastings. Hastings' men fled back to London with Oxford's men in hot pursuit. On the other side of the battle the Yorkists, led by Richard, were outflanking the Lancastrians and took the advantage pushing their enemy back. When Oxford's men returned to the battle they were mistakenly fired upon by their fellow Lancastrians and fled. By early evening Lord Montagu and the Earl of Warwick were dead. The Lancastrians were defeated. Queen Margaret, the wife of Henry VI, and her son Edward the prince of Wales landed at Weymouth on the very same day as the Battle of Barnet. Their intention was to assist the Earl of Warwick, but she arrived too late. Determined to avenge the Barnet defeat, the Queen and her army marched north towards Wales and men she could count on to join her army. Edward had thought of this and to cut the Queen off from Wales, had taken control of the bridges across the River Severn.


Henry was the only child and heir of King Henry V. He was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle. He succeeded to the throne as King of England at the age of nine months on 1 September 1422, the day after his father's death [3] he remains the youngest person ever to succeed to the English throne. On 21 October 1422, in accordance with the Treaty of Troyes of 1420, he became titular King of France upon his grandfather Charles VI's death. His mother, the 20-year-old Catherine of Valois, was viewed with considerable suspicion by English nobles as Charles VI's daughter. She was prevented from playing a full role in her son's upbringing.

On 28 September 1423, the nobles swore loyalty to Henry VI, who was not yet two years old. They summoned Parliament in the King's name and established a regency council to govern until the King should come of age. One of Henry V's surviving brothers, John, Duke of Bedford, was appointed senior regent of the realm and was in charge of the ongoing war in France. During Bedford's absence, the government of England was headed by Henry V's other surviving brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was appointed Lord Protector and Defender of the Realm. His duties were limited to keeping the peace and summoning Parliament. Henry V's uncle Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester (after 1426 also Cardinal), had an important place on the Council. After the Duke of Bedford died in 1435, the Duke of Gloucester claimed the Regency himself, but was contested in this by the other members of the Council.

From 1428, Henry's tutor was Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, whose father had been instrumental in the opposition to Richard II's reign. For the period 1430–1432, Henry was also tutored by the physician John Somerset. Somerset's duties were to 'tutor the young king as well as preserv[e] his health'. [4] Somerset remained within the royal household until early 1451 after the English House of Commons petitioned for his removal because of his 'dangerous and subversive influence over Henry VI'. [5]

Henry's mother Catherine remarried to Owen Tudor and had two sons by him, Edmund and Jasper. Henry later gave his half-brothers earldoms. Edmund Tudor was the father of King Henry VII of England.

In reaction to the coronation of Charles VII of France in Reims Cathedral on 17 July 1429, [6] Henry was soon crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey on 6 November 1429, [7] aged 7, followed by his own coronation as King of France at Notre Dame de Paris on 16 December 1431, aged 10. [7] He was the only English king to be crowned king in both England and France. It was shortly after his crowning ceremony at Merton Priory on All Saints' Day, 1 November 1437, [8] shortly before his 16th birthday, that he obtained some measure of independent authority. This was confirmed on 13 November 1437, [9] but his growing willingness to involve himself in administration had already become apparent in 1434, when the place named on writs temporarily changed from Westminster (where the Privy Council met) to Cirencester (where the King resided). [10] He finally assumed full royal powers when he came of age at the end of the year 1437, when he turned sixteen years old. [11] Henry's assumption of full royal powers occurred during the Great Bullion Famine and the beginning of the Great Slump in England.

Henry, who was by nature shy, pious, and averse to deceit and bloodshed, immediately allowed his court to be dominated by a few noble favourites who clashed on the matter of the French war when he assumed the reins of government in 1437. After the death of King Henry V, England had lost momentum in the Hundred Years' War, whereas the House of Valois had gained ground beginning with Joan of Arc's military victories in the year 1429. The young King came to favour a policy of peace in France and thus favoured the faction around Cardinal Beaufort and William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, who thought likewise the Duke of Gloucester and Richard, Duke of York, who argued for a continuation of the war, were ignored.

As the English military situation in France deteriorated, talks emerged in England about arranging a marriage for the king to strengthen England's foreign connections [12] and facilitate a peace between the warring parties. In 1434, the English council suggested that peace with the Scots could best be effected by wedding Henry to one of the daughters of King James I of Scotland the proposal came to nothing. During the Congress of Arras in 1435, the English put forth the idea of a union between Henry and a daughter of King Charles VII of France, but the Armagnacs refused even to contemplate the suggestion unless Henry renounced his claim to the French throne. Another proposal in 1438 to a daughter of King Albert II of Germany likewise failed. [12]

Better prospects for England arose amidst a growing effort by French lords to resist the growing power of the French monarchy, a conflict which culminated in the Praguerie revolt of 1440. [12] Though the English failed to take advantage of the Praguerie itself, the prospect of gaining the allegiance of one of Charles VII's more rebellious nobles was attractive from a military perspective. In about 1441, the recently ransomed Charles, Duke of Orléans, in an attempt to force Charles VII to make peace with the English, suggested a marriage between Henry VI and a daughter of John IV, Count of Armagnac, [13] a powerful noble in southwestern France who was at odds with the Valois crown. [14] An alliance with Armagnac would have helped to protect English Gascony from increasing French threats in the region, especially in the face of defections to the enemy by local English vassals, [15] and might have helped to wean some other French nobles to the English party. [16] The proposal was seriously entertained between 1441 and 1443, but a massive French campaign in 1442 against Gascony disrupted the work of the ambassadors [17] and frightened the Count of Armagnac into reluctance. [18] The deal fell through due to problems in commissioning portraits of the Count's daughters [19] and the Count's imprisonment by Charles VII's men in 1443. [20]

Cardinal Beaufort and the Earl of Suffolk persuaded Henry that the best way to pursue peace with France was through a marriage with Margaret of Anjou, the niece of King Charles VII. Henry agreed, especially when he heard reports of Margaret's stunning beauty, and sent Suffolk to negotiate with Charles, who consented to the marriage on condition that he would not have to provide the customary dowry and instead would receive the province of Maine from the English. These conditions were agreed in the Treaty of Tours in 1444, but the cession of Maine was kept secret from Parliament, as it was known that this would be hugely unpopular with the English populace. The marriage took place at Titchfield Abbey on 23 April 1445, one month after Margaret's 15th birthday. She had arrived with an established household, composed primarily not of Angevins, but of members of Henry's royal servants this increase in the size of the royal household, and a concomitant increase on the birth of their son, Edward of Westminster, in 1453, led to proportionately greater expense but also to greater patronage opportunities at Court. [21]

Henry had wavered in yielding Maine to Charles, knowing that the move was unpopular and would be opposed by the Dukes of Gloucester and York, and also because Maine was vital to the defence of Normandy. However, Margaret was determined that he should see it through. As the treaty became public knowledge in 1446, public anger focused on the Earl of Suffolk, but Henry and Margaret were determined to protect him.

In 1447, the king and queen summoned the duke of Gloucester to appear before parliament on the charge of treason. Queen Margaret had no tolerance for any sign of disloyalty toward her husband and kingdom, thus any suspicion of this was immediately brought to her attention. This move was instigated by Gloucester's enemies, the earl of Suffolk, whom Margaret held in great esteem, and the aging Cardinal Beaufort and his nephew, Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset. Gloucester was put in custody in Bury St Edmunds, where he died, probably of a heart attack (although contemporary rumours spoke of poisoning) before he could be tried. [b]

The duke of York, being the most powerful duke in the realm, and also being both an agnate and the heir general of Edward III (thus having, according to some, a better claim to the throne than Henry VI himself), probably had the best chances to succeed to the throne after Gloucester. However, he was excluded from the court circle and sent to govern Ireland, while his opponents, the earls of Suffolk and Somerset, were promoted to dukes, a title at that time still normally reserved for immediate relatives of the monarch. [22] The new duke of Somerset was sent to France to assume the command of the English forces this prestigious position was previously held by the duke of York himself, who was dismayed at his term not being renewed and at seeing his enemy take control of it.

In the later years of Henry's reign, the monarchy became increasingly unpopular, due to a breakdown in law and order, corruption, the distribution of royal land to the king's court favourites, the troubled state of the crown's finances, and the steady loss of territories in France. In 1447, this unpopularity took the form of a Commons campaign against William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, who was the most unpopular of all the king's entourage and widely seen as a traitor. He was impeached by Parliament to a background that has been called "the baying for Suffolk's blood [by] a London mob", [23] to the extent that Suffolk admitted his alarm to Henry. [24] Ultimately, Henry was forced to send him into exile, but Suffolk's ship was intercepted in the English Channel. His murdered body was found on the beach at Dover. [25]

In 1449, the Duke of Somerset, leading the campaign in France, reopened hostilities in Normandy (although he had previously been one of the main advocates for peace), but by the autumn he had been pushed back to Caen. By 1450, the French had retaken the whole province, so hard won by Henry V. Returning troops, who had often not been paid, added to the lawlessness in the southern counties of England. Jack Cade led a rebellion in Kent in 1450, calling himself "John Mortimer", apparently in sympathy with York, and setting up residence at the White Hart Inn in Southwark (the white hart had been the symbol of the deposed Richard II). [26] Henry came to London with an army to crush the rebellion, but on finding that Cade had fled kept most of his troops behind while a small force followed the rebels and met them at Sevenoaks. The flight proved to have been tactical: Cade successfully ambushed the force in the Battle of Solefields (near Sevenoaks) and returned to occupy London. In the end, the rebellion achieved nothing, and London was retaken after a few days of disorder but this was principally because of the efforts of its own residents rather than those of the army. At any rate the rebellion showed that feelings of discontent were running high. [27]

In 1451, the Duchy of Aquitaine, held by England since Henry II's time, was also lost. In October 1452, an English advance in Aquitaine retook Bordeaux and was having some success, but by 1453 Bordeaux was lost again, leaving Calais as England's only remaining territory on the continent.

In 1452, the Duke of York was persuaded to return from Ireland, claim his rightful place on the council, and put an end to bad government. His cause was a popular one and he soon raised an army at Shrewsbury. The court party, meanwhile, raised their own similar-sized force in London. A stand-off took place south of London, with the Duke of York presenting a list of grievances and demands to the court circle, including the arrest of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. The king initially agreed, but Margaret intervened to prevent the arrest of Beaufort. By 1453, Somerset's influence had been restored, and York was again isolated. The court party was also strengthened by the announcement that the queen was pregnant.

However, on hearing of the final loss of Bordeaux in August 1453, Henry VI experienced a mental breakdown and became completely unresponsive to everything that was going on around him for more than a year. [28] He even failed to respond to the birth of his son Edward. Henry VI may have inherited a psychiatric condition from Charles VI of France, his maternal grandfather, who was affected by intermittent periods of insanity during the last thirty years of his life. [c] During his bout of insanity, Henry VI was attended by the surgeons Gilbert Kymer and John Marchall. Thomas Morstede had previously been appointed royal surgeon and died in 1450.

The Duke of York, meanwhile, had gained a very important ally, Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, one of the most influential magnates and possibly richer than York himself. York was named regent as Protector of The Realm in 1454. The queen was excluded completely, and Edmund Beaufort was detained in the Tower of London, while many of York's supporters spread rumours that Edward was not the king's son, but Beaufort's. [29] Other than that, York's months as regent were spent tackling the problem of government overspending. [30] [ page needed ]

Around Christmas Day 1454, King Henry regained his senses. Disaffected nobles who had grown in power during Henry's reign, most importantly the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury, took matters into their own hands. They backed the claims of the rival House of York, first to the control of government, and then to the throne itself (from 1460), pointing to York's better descent from Edward III. It was agreed that York would become Henry's successor, despite York being older. [30] [ page needed ] In 1457, Henry created the Council of Wales and the Marches for his son Prince Edward. 1458, in an attempt to unite the warring factions, Henry staged The Love Day in London.

There followed a violent struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York. Henry was defeated and captured at the Battle of Northampton on 10 July 1460. The Duke of York was killed by Margaret's forces at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, and Henry was rescued from imprisonment after the Second Battle of St Albans on 17 February 1461. By then, however, Henry was suffering such a bout of madness that he was apparently laughing and singing while the battle raged. He was defeated at the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461 by the Duke of York's son, Edward. Edward failed to capture Henry and his wife, who fled to Scotland. During the first period of Edward IV's reign, Lancastrian resistance continued mainly under the leadership of Queen Margaret and the few nobles still loyal to her in the northern counties of England and Wales.

Following his defeat in the Battle of Hexham on 15 May 1464, Henry found refuge, sheltered by Lancastrian supporters, at houses across the north of England. By July 1465, he was in hiding at Waddington Hall, in Waddington, Lancashire, the home of Sir Richard Tempest. Here, he was betrayed by "a black monk of Addington" and on 13 July, a group of Yorkist men, including Sir Richard's brother John, entered the home to arrest him. Henry fled into nearby woods, but was soon captured at Brungerley Hippings (stepping stones) over the River Ribble. [31] He was subsequently held captive in the Tower of London. [32] [33]

While imprisoned, Henry did some writing, including the following poem:

Kingdoms are but cares
State is devoid of stay,
Riches are ready snares,
And hasten to decay
Pleasure is a privy prick
Which vice doth still provoke
Pomps, imprompt and fame, a flame
Power, a smoldering smoke.
Who meanth to remove the rock
Owst of the slimy mud
Shall mire himself, and hardly scape
The swelling of the flood. [34]

Queen Margaret, exiled in Scotland and later in France, was determined to win back the throne on behalf of her husband and her son, Edward of Westminster. By herself, there was little she could do. However, eventually Edward IV fell out with two of his main supporters: Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and his own younger brother George, Duke of Clarence. At the urging of King Louis XI of France they formed a secret alliance with Margaret. After marrying his daughter Anne to Henry and Margaret's son, Warwick returned to England, forced Edward IV into exile, and restored Henry VI to the throne on 3 October 1470 the term "readeption" is still sometimes used for this event. However, by this time, years in hiding followed by years in captivity had taken their toll on Henry. Warwick and Clarence effectively ruled in his name. [35]

Henry's return to the throne lasted less than six months. Warwick soon overreached himself by declaring war on Burgundy, whose ruler responded by giving Edward IV the assistance he needed to win back his throne by force. Edward returned to England in early 1471, after which he was reconciled with Clarence and killed Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. The Yorkists won a final decisive victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471, where Henry's son Edward of Westminster was killed. [d]

Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London again, and when the royal party arrived in London, he was reported dead. Official chronicles and documents state that the deposed king died on the night of 21 May 1471. In all likelihood, his opponents had kept him alive up to this point rather than leave the Lancasters with a far more formidable leader in Henry's son, Edward. However, once the last of the most prominent Lancastrian supporters were either killed or exiled, it became clear that Henry VI would be a burden to Edward IV's reign. The common fear was the possibility of another noble using the mentally unstable king to further their own agenda.

According to the Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV, an official chronicle favourable to Edward IV, Henry died of melancholy on hearing news of the Battle of Tewkesbury and his son's death. [36] It is widely suspected, however, that Edward IV, who was re-crowned the morning following Henry's death, had in fact ordered his murder. [e]

Sir Thomas More's History of Richard III explicitly states that Richard killed Henry, an opinion he might have derived from Philippe de Commines' Memoir. [38] Another contemporary source, Wakefield's Chronicle, gives the date of Henry's death as 23 May, on which date Richard, then only eighteen, is known to have been away from London.

Modern tradition places his death at Wakefield Tower, a building of the Tower of London, but this is not supported by evidence, and is unlikely, since the tower was used for record storage at the time. Henry's place of death is unknown, though he was imprisoned within the Tower of London. [39]

King Henry VI was originally buried in Chertsey Abbey then, in 1484, his body was moved to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, by Richard III. When Henry's body was exhumed in 1910, it was found to be 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall. Light hair had been found to be covered in blood, with damage to the skull, strongly suggesting that the king had indeed died by violence. [40]

Architecture and education Edit

Henry's one lasting achievement was his fostering of education: he founded Eton College, King's College, Cambridge and All Souls College, Oxford. He continued a career of architectural patronage started by his father: King's College Chapel and Eton College Chapel and most of his other architectural commissions (such as his completion of his father's foundation of Syon Abbey) consisted of a late Gothic or Perpendicular-style church with a monastic or educational foundation attached. Each year on the anniversary of Henry VI's death, the Provosts of Eton and King's lay white lilies and roses, the respective floral emblems of those colleges, on the spot in the Wakefield Tower at the Tower of London where the imprisoned Henry VI was, according to tradition, murdered as he knelt at prayer. There is a similar ceremony at his resting place, St George's Chapel. [41]

Posthumous cult Edit

Miracles were attributed to Henry, and he was informally regarded as a saint and martyr, addressed particularly in cases of adversity. The anti-Yorkist cult was encouraged by Henry VII of England as dynastic propaganda. A volume was compiled of the miracles attributed to him at St George's Chapel, Windsor, where Richard III had reinterred him, and Henry VII began building a chapel at Westminster Abbey to house Henry VI's relics. [42] A number of Henry VI's miracles possessed a political dimension, such as his cure of a young girl afflicted with the King's evil, whose parents refused to bring her to the usurper, Richard III. [43] By the time of Henry VIII's break with Rome, canonisation proceedings were under way. [44] Hymns to him still exist, and until the Reformation his hat was kept by his tomb at Windsor, where pilgrims would put it on to enlist Henry's aid against migraines. [45]

Numerous miracles were credited to the dead king, including his raising the plague victim Alice Newnett from the dead and appearing to her as she was being stitched in her shroud. [46] He also intervened in the attempted hanging of a man who had been unjustly condemned to death, accused of stealing some sheep. Henry placed his hand between the rope and the man's windpipe, thus keeping him alive, after which he revived in the cart as it was taking him away for burial. [47] He was also capable of inflicting harm, such as when he struck John Robyns blind after Robyns cursed "Saint Henry". Robyns was healed only after he went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of King Henry. [48] A particular devotional act that was closely associated with the cult of Henry VI was the bending of a silver coin as an offering to the "saint" in order that he might perform a miracle. One story had a woman, Katherine Bailey, who was blind in one eye. As she was kneeling at mass, a stranger told her to bend a coin to King Henry. She promised to do so, and as the priest was raising the communion host, her partial blindness was cured. [49]

Although Henry VI's shrine was enormously popular as a pilgrimage destination during the early decades of the 16th century, [50] over time, with the lessened need to legitimise Tudor rule, his cult faded. [51]

Shakespeare's Henry VI and after Edit

In 1590 William Shakespeare wrote a trilogy of plays about the life of Henry VI: Henry VI, Part 1, Henry VI, Part 2, and Henry VI, Part 3. His dead body and his ghost also appear in Richard III. Shakespeare's portrayal of Henry is notable in that it does not mention the King's madness. This is considered to have been a politically-advisable move so as to not risk offending Elizabeth I whose family was descended from Henry's Lancastrian family. Instead Henry is portrayed as a pious and peaceful man ill-suited to the crown. He spends most of his time in contemplation of the Bible and expressing his wish to be anyone other than a king. Shakespeare's Henry is weak-willed and easily influenced allowing his policies to be led by Margaret and her allies, and being unable to defend himself against York's claim to the throne. He only takes an act of his own volition just before his death when he curses Richard of Gloucester just before he is murdered.

In screen adaptations of these plays Henry has been portrayed by: James Berry in the 1911 silent short Richard III Terry Scully in the 1960 BBC series An Age of Kings which contained all the history plays from Richard II to Richard III Carl Wery in the 1964 West German TV version König Richard III David Warner in The Wars of the Roses, a 1965 filmed version of the Royal Shakespeare Company performing the three parts of Henry VI (condensed and edited into two plays, Henry VI and Edward IV) and Richard III Peter Benson in the 1983 BBC version of all three parts of Henry VI and Richard III Paul Brennen in the 1989 film version of the full cycle of consecutive history plays performed, for several years, by the English Shakespeare Company Edward Jewesbury in the 1995 film version of Richard III with Ian McKellen as Richard James Dalesandro as Henry in the 2007 modern-day film version of Richard III and Tom Sturridge as Henry to Benedict Cumberbatch's Richard III in the 2016 second BBC series The Hollow Crown, an adaptation of Henry VI (condensed into two parts) and Richard III. Miles Mander portrayed him in Tower of London, a 1939 historical film loosely dramatising the rise to power of Richard III.

As Duke of Cornwall, Henry's arms were those of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points. [52]

Henry VI of England

Henry’s mom Catherine remarried to Owen Tudor and had two sons by him, Edmund and Jasper. Henry later gave his half-brothers earldoms. Edmund Tudor was the daddy of King Henry VII of England.

From 1428, Henry’s tutor was Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, whose father had been instrumental within the opposition to Richard II’s reign. For the interval 1430–1432, Henry was additionally tutored by the doctor John Somerset. Somerset’s duties had been to ‘tutor the younger king in addition to preserv[e] his well being’. [4] Somerset remained inside the royal family till early 1451 after the English House of Commons petitioned for his removing as a result of of his ‘harmful and subversive affect over Henry VI’. [5]

On 28 September 1423, the nobles swore loyalty to Henry VI, who was not but two years outdated. They summoned Parliament within the King’s title and established a regency council to control till the King ought to come of age. One of Henry V’s surviving brothers, John, Duke of Bedford, was appointed senior regent of the realm and was in cost of the continued battle in France. During Bedford’s absence, the federal government of England was headed by Henry V’s different surviving brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was appointed Lord Protector and Defender of the Realm. His duties had been restricted to holding the peace and summoning Parliament. Henry V’s uncle Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester (after 1426 additionally Cardinal), had an vital place on the Council. After the Duke of Bedford died in 1435, the Duke of Gloucester claimed the Regency himself, however was contested on this by the opposite members of the Council.

Henry was the one little one and inheritor of King Henry V. He was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle. He succeeded to the throne as King of England on the age of 9 months on 1 September 1422, the day after his father’s dying [3] he stays the youngest individual ever to succeed to the English throne. On 21 October 1422, in accordance with the Treaty of Troyes of 1420, he turned titular King of France upon his grandfather Charles VI’s dying. His mom, the 20-year-old Catherine of Valois, was considered with appreciable suspicion by English nobles as Charles VI’s daughter. She was prevented from enjoying a full position in her son’s upbringing.

Having “misplaced his wits, his two kingdoms and his solely son”, [2] Henry died within the Tower throughout the evening of 21 May, presumably killed on the orders of King Edward. Miracles had been attributed to Henry after his dying and he was informally thought to be a saint and martyr till the sixteenth century. He left a legacy of instructional establishments, having based Eton College, King’s College, Cambridge and, (along with Henry Chichele), All Souls College, Oxford. Shakespeare wrote a trilogy of performs about his life, depicting him as weak-willed and simply influenced by his spouse, Margaret.

Amidst navy disasters in France and a collapse of regulation and order in England, the Queen and her clique got here underneath accusations, particularly from Henry VI’s more and more fashionable cousin Richard, Duke of York, of misconduct of the battle in France and misrule of the nation. Starting in 1453, Henry had a sequence of psychological breakdowns, and tensions mounted between Margaret and Richard of York over management of the incapacitated King’s authorities and over the query of succession to the English throne. Civil battle broke out in 1455, resulting in a protracted interval of dynastic battle referred to as the Wars of the Roses. Henry was deposed on 4 March 1461 by Richard’s son, who took the throne as Edward IV. Despite Margaret persevering with to guide a resistance to Edward, Henry was captured by Edward’s forces in 1465 and imprisoned within the Tower of London. Henry was restored to the throne in 1470 however Edward retook energy in 1471, killing Henry’s solely son and inheritor, Edward of Westminster, in battle and imprisoning Henry as soon as once more.

As the state of affairs in France worsened, there was a associated enhance in political instability in England. With Henry successfully unfit to rule, energy was exercised by quarrelsome nobles, whereas factions and favourites inspired the rise of dysfunction within the nation. Regional magnates and troopers getting back from France fashioned and maintained rising numbers of non-public armed retainers, with whom they fought each other, terrorised their neighbours, paralysed the courts, and dominated the federal government. [1] Queen Margaret didn’t stay unpartisan and took benefit of the state of affairs to make herself an efficient energy behind the throne.

Henry inherited the long-running Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453), by which his uncle Charles VII contested his declare to the French throne. He is the one English monarch to have been additionally topped King of France (as Henry II, in 1431). His early reign, when a number of folks had been ruling for him, noticed the head of English energy in France, however subsequent navy, diplomatic, and financial issues had significantly endangered the English trigger by the point Henry was declared match to rule in 1437. He discovered his realm in a tough place, confronted with setbacks in France and divisions among the many the Aristocracy at residence. Unlike his father, Henry is described as timid, shy, passive, well-intentioned and averse to warfare and violence he was additionally at occasions mentally unstable. His ineffective reign noticed the gradual loss of the English lands in France. Partially within the hope of attaining peace, in 1445 Henry married Charles VII’s niece, the formidable and strong-willed Margaret of Anjou. The peace coverage failed, resulting in the homicide of one of Henry’s key advisers, William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and the battle recommenced, with France taking the higher hand by 1453, Calais was Henry’s solely remaining territory on the continent.

Henry VI (6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471) was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and once more from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. The solely little one of Henry V, he succeeded to the English throne on the age of 9 months upon his father’s dying, and succeeded to the French throne on the dying of his maternal grandfather, Charles VI, shortly afterwards.

Primary Sources

1444. Prid. Kal. Jan. St. Peter's. Rome. (f. 120.)
To Henry, king of England. Dispensation, at his petition (containing that for the peace and tranquillity of the realms of France and England he has contracted marriage per verba legitime de presenti with Margaret, daughter of René (Renati), king of Sicily, and for the said reason desires its speedy consummation and adding that the sea voyage to England is during the winter apt to be prolonged by reason of storms and tempests), to solemnly celebrate the nuptials before the church and consummate the said marriage on days when it is forbidden to do so. Apostolice sedis. (Cincius | xxxxv. Bonannus. Jo. de Mota. B. de Callio. Coll[acionata] per me P. Parui Johannis.)

'Vatican Regesta 363: 1444-1445', in Calendar of Papal Registers Relating To Great Britain and Ireland: Volume 8, 1427-1447, ed. J A Twemlow (London, 1909), pp. 249-250. British History Online [accessed 22 September 2017].

[S4] C.F.J. Hankinson, editor, DeBretts Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, 147th year (London, U.K.: Odhams Press, 1949), page 20 . Hereinafter cited as DeBretts Peerage, 1949.

[S5] #552 Europaische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der europaischen Staaten. Neue Folge (1978), Schwennicke, Detlev, (Marburg: Verlag von J. A. Stargardt, c1978-1995 (v. 1-16) -- Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, c1998- Medieval Families bibliography #552.), FHL book Q 940 D5es new series., vol. 2 table 26.

[S6] G.E. Cokayne with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959 reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 174. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.

[S7] #44 Histoire de la maison royale de France anciens barons du royaume: et des grands officiers de la couronne (1726, reprint 1967-1968), Saint-Marie, Anselme de, (3rd edition. 9 volumes. 1726. Reprint Paris: Editions du Palais Royal, 1967-1968), FHL book 944 D5a FHL microfilms 532,231-532,239., vol. 1 p. 232.

[S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), pages 131-132. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Families.

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[S16] #894 Cahiers de Saint-Louis (1976), Louis IX, Roi de France, (Angers: J. Saillot, 1976), FHL book 944 D22ds., vol. 2 p. 83, vol. 3 p. 161, vol. 11 p. 833.

[S18] Matthew H.C.G., editor, Dictionary of National Biography on CD-ROM (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1995). Hereinafter cited as Dictionary of National Biography.

[S20] Magna Carta Ancestry: A study in Colonial and Medieval Families, Richardson, Douglas, (Kimball G. Everingham, editor. 2nd edition, 2011), vol. 2 p. 571.

[S23] #849 Burke's Guide to the Royal Family (1973), (London: Burke's Peerage, c1973), FHl book 942 D22bgr., p. 203.

[S32] #150 [1879-1967] A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage, Together with Memoirs of the Privy Councillors and Knights (1879-1967), Burke, Sir John Bernard, (London: Harrison, 1879-1967), FHL book 942 D22bup., 1967 ed. p. 65.

[S37] #93 [Book version] The Dictionary of National Biography: from the Earliest Times to 1900 (1885-1900, reprint 1993), Stephen, Leslie, (22 volumes. 1885-1900. Reprint, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1993), FHL book 920.042 D561n., vol. 26 p. 56-59.

[S69] #2251 The Royal Bastards of Medieval England (1984), Given-Wilson, Chris and Alice Curteis, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), FHL book 942 D5g., p. 154.

[S81] #125 The Royal Daughters of England and Their Representatives (1910-1911), Lane, Henry Murray, (2 voulmes. London: Constable and Co., 1910-1911), FHL microfilm 88,003., vol. 1 p. 245-246 table 2 pt. 2.

[S98] #18 Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der europäischen Staaten (1953-1978), Isenburg, Wilhelm Karl , Prinz von and Frank Baron von Freytag-Loringhoven, (5 volumes. Marburg: J.A. Stargardt, 1953-1978), FHL book 940 D5f FHL microfilms 251,160 items 1-3., vol. II T 61, 34.

[S99] #711 Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, (Gloucester: John Bellows, 1876-), FHL book 942.41 C4bg., vol. 12 p. 24, 49.

[S333] #773 The History and Antiquities of the County of Rutland: Compiled from the Works of the Most Approved Historians, National Records and Other Authentic Documents, Public and Private (1811), Blore, Thomas, (Stanford: R. Newcomb, [1811]), FHL book 942.545 H2b (British X Large Folio)., p. 98.

[S825] Patronage, pedigree and power : in Medieval England, Ross, Charles, (Gloucester : A. Sutton, 1979 Totowa, New Jersey : Rowman & Littlefield), 942 H2pat., p. 19.

Henry VI, King of England, 1421-1471 - History

HENRY VI, King of England, son of King Henry V and Catherine of Valois, was born at Windsor on the 6th of December 1421. He became King of England on the 1st of September 1422, and a few weeks later, on the death of his grandfather Charles VI, was proclaimed king of France also. Henry V had directed that Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, should be his son's preceptor Warwick took up his charge in 1428 he trained his pupil to be a good man and refined gentleman, but he could not teach him kingship. As early as 1423 the baby king was made to appear at public functions and take his place in parliament. He was knighted by his uncle Bedford at Leicester in May 1426, and on the 6th of November 1429 was crowned at Westminster.

Early in the next year he was taken over to France, and after long delay crowned in Paris on the 26th of December 1431. His return to London on the 14th of February 1432 was celebrated with a great pageant devised by Lydgate. During these early years Bedford ruled France wisely and at first with success, but he could not prevent the mischief which Humphrey of Gloucester caused both at home and abroad. Even in France the English lost ground steadily after the victory of Joan of Arc before Orleans in 1429. The climax came with the death of Bedford, and defection of Philip of Burgundy in 1435. This closed the first phase of Henry's reign.

There followed fifteen years of vain struggle in France, and growing disorder at home [cf. Hundred Years' War]. The determining factor in politics was the conduct of the war. Cardinal Beaufort, and after him Suffolk, sought by working for peace to secure at least Guienne and Normandy. Gloucester courted popularity by opposing them throughout with him was Richard of York, who stood next in succession to the crown. Beaufort controlled the council, and it was under his guidance that the king began to take part in the government. Thus it was natural that as Henry grew to manhood he seconded heartily the peace policy. That policy was wise, but national pride made it unpopular and difficult. Henry himself had not the strength or knowledge to direct it, and was unfortunate in his advisers. The cardinal was old, his nephews John and Edmund Beaufort were incompetent, Suffolk, though a man of noble character, was tactless. Suffolk, however, achieved a great success by negotiating the marriage of Henry to Margaret of Anjou in 1445. Humphrey of Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort both died early in 1447. Suffolk was now all-powerful in the favour of the king and queen [Margaret of Anjou]. But his home administration was unpopular, whilst the incapacity of Edmund Beaufort ended in the loss of all Normandy and Guienne.

Suffolk's fall in 1450 left Richard of York the foremost man in England. Henry's reign then entered on its last phase of dynastic struggle. Cade's rebellion suggested first that popular discontent might result in a change of rulers. But York, as heir to the throne, could abide his time. The situation was altered by the mental derangement of the king, and the birth of his son in 1453. York after a struggle secured the protectorship, and for the next year ruled England. Then Henry was restored to sanity, and the queen and Edmund Beaufort, now Duke of Somerset, to power. Open war followed, with the defeat and death of Somerset at St Albans on the 22nd of May 1455. Nevertheless a hollow peace was patched up, which continued during four years with lack of all governance. In 1459 war broke out again. On the 10th of July 1460, Henry was taken prisoner at Northampton, and forced to acknowledge York as heir, to the exclusion of his own son.

Richard of York's death at Wakefield (Dec. 31, 1460), and the queen's victory at St Albans (Feb. 17, 1461), brought Henry his freedom and no more. Edward of York had himself proclaimed king, and by his decisive victory at Towton on the 29th of March, put an end to Henry's reign. For over three years Henry was a fugitive in Scotland. He returned to take part in an abortive rising in 1464. A year later he was captured in the north, and brought a prisoner to the Tower. For six months in 1470-1471 he emerged to hold a shadowy kingship as Warwick's puppet. Edward's final victory at Tewkesbury was followed by Henry's death on the 21st of May 1471, certainly by violence, perhaps at the hands of Richard of Gloucester (later King Richard III).

Henry was the most hapless of monarchs. He was so honest and well-meaning that he might have made a good ruler in quiet times. But he was crushed by the burden of his inheritance. He had not the genius to find a way out of the French entanglement or the skill to steer a constitutional monarchy between rival factions. So the system and policy, which were the creations of Henry IV and Henry V, led under Henry VI to the ruin of their dynasty. Henry's very virtues added to his difficulties. He was so trusting that any one could influence him, so faithful that he would not give up a minister who had become impossible. Thus even in the middle period he had no real control of the government. In his latter years he was mentally too weak for independent action. At his best he was a " good and gentle creature," but too kindly and generous to rule others. Religious observances and study were his chief occupations. His piety was genuine simple and pure, he was shocked at any suggestion of impropriety, but his rebuke was only "Fie, for shame! forsooth ye are to blame."

For education he was really zealous. Even as a boy he was concerned for the upbringing of his half-brothers, his mother's children by Owen Tudor [cf. Edmund and Jasper Tudor]. Later, the planning of his great foundations at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, was the one thing which absorbed his interest. To both he was more than a royal founder, and the credit of the whole scheme belongs to him. The charter for Eton was granted on the 11th of October 1440, and that for King's College in the following February. Henry himself laid the foundation-stones of both buildings. He frequently visited Cambridge to superintend the progress of the work. When at Windsor he loved to send for the boys from his school and give them good advice.

Henry's only son was Edward, Prince of Wales (1453-1471), who, having shared the many journeys and varying fortunes of his mother, Margaret, was killed after the battle of Tewkesbury (May 4, 1471) by some noblemen in attendance on Edward IV.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XIII.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 286.

Brief Restoration

Henry VI was restored to his kingship by the Lancastrians on October 31, 1470, but the alliance with Warwick was short-lived. On April 14, 1472, Warwick was killed in battle by Yorkist forces. Desperate, Margaret led what remained of the Lancastrian army into a final battle against the Yorkists on May 4, 1471. The Battle of Tewkesbury was a devastating loss for the Lancastrians. Henry and Margaret’s son Edward was killed, Margaret’s strong will was crushed, and the hapless Henry would be killed after the battle.

Further Reading

There is no standard biography of Henry VI, although much of the source material is in print. Detailed studies of the period include Sir Charles W. C. Oman, Warwick the Kingmaker (1891) Cora L. Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth (1923) and Jack R. Lander, The Wars of the Roses (1966). General histories of the period are Alec Reginald Myers, England in the Later Middle Ages (1952), and Ernest Fraser Jacob, The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485 (1961).

8. George III of England (1738-1820)

Famously derided by poet Percy Bysshe Shelley as 𠇊n old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,” George III showed his first signs of mental illness in 1765, early in his reign, but did not permanently succumb to his affliction until 1810, a year before Parliament made his son regent. George III ruled during a tumultuous era that including the American Revolution—the Declaration of Independence is addressed to him𠅊s well as the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that followed it. Some medical historians believe George’s illness, which was characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, general breakdowns and abdominal pains, was caused by the enzyme disorder porphyria, though a retroactive diagnosis remains tricky.

Henry VI

Henry VI (1421-1471) was the last Lancastrian monarch: a child king who struggled to exert authority as an adult. (The precedents set during his minority are important for understanding events at the accession of the next child king, Edward V). Disputes between Henry VI’s senior nobles led to armed conflict. Despite the best efforts of his queen, Margaret of Anjou, many of his subjects lost confidence in his kingship. Following a disastrous Lancastrian defeat at the Battle of Towton, Henry was ousted from the throne in 1461 by Edward IV. After four years in exile or on the run, Henry became a prisoner in the Tower of London. Internal squabbles among the Yorkists led to his brief ‘readeption’ in 1470 but the following year Edward IV regained the throne and Henry’s only child, Edward of Lancaster, was killed in battle. Henry’s death was widely assumed to have been murder.

Historians continue to debate the reasons for his failure as king: Was his upbringing by kinsmen in perpetual conflict so traumatic that he failed to learn the skills of kingship? Did he fail to mature mentally into adulthood? Was he unfortunate in that his well-meaning disposition could not cope with an age of exceptionally ambitious noblemen? Was he too saintly for kingship or too wilful and capricious? Or had his father bequeathed him an impossible situation with an unwinnable war in France that was compounded by marriage to a queen who antagonised his nobility?

Henry was born 6 December 1421, the son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois. Their marriage was a result of the Treaty of Troyes whereby Henry V became heir to Catherine’s father, Charles VI of France. Henry V died 31 August 1422 and Charles VI on 21 October the same year, leaving Henry VI king of both kingdoms while not yet a year old. His eldest uncle, John Duke of Bedford, was appointed regent of English France. His younger uncle, Humphrey duke of Gloucester, believed that he should be regent in England. Other nobles, chiefly Henry VI’s Beaufort great uncles, determined that instead England should be ruled by a council of which Gloucester should be the chief member as ‘Protector and Defender of the Realm’.

On 5 November 1429 Henry was crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey and the following year he travelled to France for a coronation in Paris on 16 December 1432. Gloucester ceased to be Protector once Henry VI was crowned, although he remained chief councillor except when his brother, the Duke of Bedford, was in England. On 19 May 1436 his tutor and governor, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick resigned and no successor was appointed so that Henry seems to have drifted towards his majority, still dependent on his councillors. By the early 1440s his closest companion was the steward of his household, William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk: Bedford was dead and Beaufort and Gloucester had lost much of their authority. In 1444 Suffolk negotiated a truce with France and Henry’s marriage to the French queen’s niece, Margaret of Anjou. They were married on 22 April 1445.

Despite the marriage, and the very unpopular decision to surrender control of Maine, hostilities resumed in July 1449. Meanwhile royal finances were in a parlous state. Henry nonetheless spent lavishly on his religious and educational foundations: Eton College, and King’s College, Cambridge. Suffolk was increasingly blamed both for the financial disaster and for the failure of policy in France as Charles VII regained Normandy. Suffolk was impeached in February 1450. Henry tried to protect him, refusing to make a decision on the charges against Suffolk. Suffolk was banished for five years but was captured at sea and executed. It was the fallout from this which led to Jack Cade’s rebellion.

Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who had been forced out of Normandy, now became Henry’s closest councillor. Henry repeatedly rejected Richard Duke of York’s attempts to oust Somerset. In 1453 Henry ennobled his Tudor half brothers, Edmund and Jasper, and gave them the wardship of Margaret Beaufort, whom Edmund promptly married. He appeared to have recovered politically from the disasters of 1450 and his queen, Margaret of Anjou, was finally pregnant. But in July 1453 news arrived of a catastrophic defeat at Castillon in Gascony. Shortly afterwards Henry collapsed mentally and physically, unable to speak or feed himself, let alone respond to the birth of his son, Edward of Lancaster. After months of crisis, York became Protector of the Realm on 25 March 1454.

After Henry’s recovery the following Christmas, York was relieved of office and by the spring of 1455 the Lancastrian status quo had resumed. York and his closest allies, the earls of Salisbury and Warwick, were excluded from a Great Council summoned in April that year and this proved the trigger for the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, at St Albans on 22 May 1455. Henry did not participate in the fighting but was wounded in the neck. Somerset was killed and York essentially took control of the government. He briefly became Protector again, but was unable to command sufficient support among the nobility.

Following the collapse of York’s second protectorate, Henry and his queen were frequently in the Midlands with Coventry functioning almost as a second capital. After military conflict broke out again in 1459, a parliament held here attainted the Duke of York and his allies. The Lancastrian triumph proved shortlived. York’s son, Edward Earl of March, together with the earls of Salisbury and Warwick, defeated Henry’s forces at Northampton and effectively took him prisoner as their puppet king. On 31 October 1460 he had to accept the Act of Accord which disinherited his own son in favour of the Duke of York.

After York’s death at the Battle of Wakefield, Margaret of Anjou and her son escorted forces still loyal to Henry southwards. The Earl of Warwick took Henry with him when he went to face this army, perhaps hoping men would be unwilling to attack. It was a significant miscalculation as Warwick was defeated and Henry was reunited with his queen and their son. However, the citizens of London refused them entry. Not wanting to lay siege to their own capital, the royal family withdrew. They were all in York when their army was defeated at Towton by the new king Edward IV.

Mary of Gueldres, queen regent of Scotland, initially offered Henry and his family support. He remained in Scotland, occasionally joining raids into northern England, while Queen Margaret sought help in France. He was eventually forced into northern England by an Anglo-Scottish truce and was captured in July 1465. At his brief restoration in 1470-1 Henry again seems to have been no more than a puppet of the Earl of Warwick and his allies. Henry’s son was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury and his queen was brought back to the capital in Edward IV’s custody. He died within hours of Edward IV’s arrival.

The widespread assumption that Henry VI had been murdered despite his sacred status as a king inspired some to venerate his as a saint. Many miracles were allegedly witnessed at his tomb at Chertsey. In 1484 Richard III moved his body to St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where Edward IV was buried.

“The traditional view that Henry was the epitome of Christian virtue is myopic. At the other extreme, K. B. McFarlane’s view that he never acquired the mental equipment of an adult is contradicted by evidence. Nor is it easy to endorse B. P. Wolffe’s verdict of a wilful and untrustworthy incompetent. Rather does he seem well intentioned with laudable qualities, especially in relation to war, education, and religion, but with other qualities that were obstacles to effective kingship—extravagance, generosity, compassion, and suspicion. He disappointed many of his subjects by failing to provide fair and effective justice. He lacked foresight and discrimination instead, simplicity was the abiding characteristic that contemporaries ascribed to him. He was neither uneducated nor unintelligent, but he remained inexpert in government and politics, and found it difficult to assert his independence and to concentrate on kingly matters in which he had little interest.”

Ralph Griffiths, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Henry VI’s book of psalms can be viewed online here.

A stunningly 15th century illustrated ‘Life’ of Henry’s tutor, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick – the Beauchamp Pageant – can be viewed here. It includes images of Henry’s life too if you click at least ten pages into the book.

Watch the video: The Betrayal And Revenge Of King Edward. Wars Of The Roses. Real Royalty (May 2022).