Henry VI

Henry6 CROPPED BritLib

Henry VI,

1422-1461

1470-1471

Born:

6 December 1421, son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, at Windsor Castle

Crowned:

  1. 5 November 1429, as Henry VI of England, at Westminster Abbey, London
  2. 16 December 1431, as Henri II of France, at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Died:

21 May 1471, murdered in the Tower of London

Buried:

St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

Married:

23 April 1445, Margaret of Anjou, at Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire

Succeeded by:

Edward IV (cousin)

enry VI was the third king of the house of Lancaster. His father’s death in August 1422 made him, at 9 months old, England’s youngest king. As heir to his maternal grandfather Charles VI, he was also crowned king of France. No future king of England would have this distinction.

During Henry’s minority, the French forces, invigorated by an indomitable girl named Joan of Arc, took back most of the lands so stunningly conquered by Henry’s father. Finally, only Calais remained in English hands.

Henry, meanwhile, grew up religious, generous and honest. In 1453, he suffered an intense mental breakdown. Two months after his collapse, Henry’s forceful wife Margaret of Anjou gave birth to their son Edward. During Henry’s prolonged incapacity, his competent and popular cousin, Richard, Duke of York, came to the forefront.

A bitter struggle for power ensued, between York’s adherents and those of the Lancastrian king and his queen. The “War of the Roses” lasted for thirty years.

Ultimately, Richard of York’s son took the crown as Edward IV in 1461, winning a clear victory over Henry’s Lancastrian forces at the Battle of Towton. Henry, by now reduced to a state of permanent simplicity, was deposed and imprisoned. His queen fought on for the sake of their son. There were battles won and battles lost, unlikely alliances made and broken, deeds of glory and deeds of treachery. In 1470, when the fortunes of the Lancastrians were running high, Henry was even briefly restored to the throne.

The hopes of the Lancastrians were doomed, however, when Edward IV won a decisive victory at Tewkesbury, a battle that brought death to Henry’s son, young Edward of Lancaster. Edward IV returned triumphantly to London. That very night Henry, still gently mad, was killed in the Tower, undoubtedly on Edward’s orders.

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