Henry VI of England
Overview
 
Henry VI was King of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

s. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

, which were to commence during his reign. His periods of insanity and his inherent benevolence eventually required his wife, Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou was the wife of King Henry VI of England. As such, she was Queen consort of England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471; and Queen consort of France from 1445 to 1453...

, to assume control of his kingdom, which contributed to his own downfall, the collapse of the House of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

, and the rise of the House of York
House of York
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet, three members of which became English kings in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented...

.
Henry was the only child and heir of King Henry V of England
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

.
Timeline

1422    Henry VI becomes King of England at the age of 9 months.

1431    Henry VI of England is crowned King of France at Notre Dame in Paris.

1441    King Henry VI of England founds Eton College.

1450    Jack Cade's Rebellion: Kentishmen revolt against King Henry VI.

1455    Wars of the Roses: at the First Battle of St Albans, Richard, Duke of York, defeats and captures King Henry VI of England.

1460    Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick defeats the king's Lancastrian forces and takes King Henry VI prisoner in the Battle of Northampton.

1461    Wars of the Roses in England: Lancastrian King Henry VI is deposed by his Yorkist cousin, who then becomes King Edward IV.

1470    Henry VI of England returns to the English throne after Earl of Warwick defeats the Yorkists in battle.

Encyclopedia
Henry VI was King of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

 from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

s. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

, which were to commence during his reign. His periods of insanity and his inherent benevolence eventually required his wife, Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou was the wife of King Henry VI of England. As such, she was Queen consort of England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471; and Queen consort of France from 1445 to 1453...

, to assume control of his kingdom, which contributed to his own downfall, the collapse of the House of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

, and the rise of the House of York
House of York
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet, three members of which became English kings in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented...

.

Child King

Henry was the only child and heir of King Henry V of England
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

. He was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

, and succeeded to the throne at the age of nine months as King of England on 31 August 1422 when his father died, thus making him the youngest person ever to succeed to the English throne. Two months later, on 21 October 1422, he became King of France upon his grandfather Charles VI
Charles VI of France
Charles VI , called the Beloved and the Mad , was the King of France from 1380 to 1422, as a member of the House of Valois. His bouts with madness, which seem to have begun in 1392, led to quarrels among the French royal family, which were exploited by the neighbouring powers of England and Burgundy...

's death in agreement with the Treaty of Troyes
Treaty of Troyes
The Treaty of Troyes was an agreement that Henry V of England and his heirs would inherit the throne of France upon the death of King Charles VI of France. It was signed in the French city of Troyes on 21 May 1420 in the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt...

 in 1420. His mother, Catherine of Valois
Catherine of Valois
Catherine of France was the Queen consort of England from 1420 until 1422. She was the daughter of King Charles VI of France, wife of Henry V of Monmouth, King of England, mother of Henry VI, King of England and King of France, and through her secret marriage with Owen Tudor, the grandmother of...

, was then 20 years old and, as Charles VI's daughter, was viewed with considerable suspicion by English nobles and prevented from having a full role in her son's upbringing.

On 28 September 1423, the nobles swore loyalty to Henry VI. They summoned Parliament
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

 in the King's name and established a regency council
Regency Government of England 1422-1437
The Regency Government of England 1422-37 ruled while Henry VI was a minor. Decisions were made in the king's name by the regency Council made up of the most important and influential government of England, and dominated by Henry IV's son Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Bishop Henry Beaufort ,...

 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
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Pembroke, KG , also known as Humphrey Plantagenet, was "son, brother and uncle of kings", being the fourth and youngest son of king Henry IV of England by his first wife, Mary de Bohun, brother to king Henry V of England, and uncle to the...

, who was appointed Protector and Defender of the Realm. His duties were limited to keeping the peace and summoning Parliament. Henry V's half-uncle Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester
Bishop of Winchester
The Bishop of Winchester is the head of the Church of England diocese of Winchester, with his cathedra at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire.The bishop is one of five Church of England bishops to be among the Lords Spiritual regardless of their length of service. His diocese is one of the oldest and...

 (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
Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick
Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, Count of Aumale, KG was an English medieval nobleman and military commander.-Early Life:...

, whose father had been instrumental in the opposition to Richard II's reign
Lords Appellant
The Lords Appellant were a group of nobles in the reign of King Richard II who sought to impeach some five of the King's favourites in order to restrain what was seen as tyrannical and capricious rule. The word appellant simply means '[one who is] appealing [in a legal sense]'...

.

Henry's half-brothers, Edmund
Edmund Tudor
Edmund Tudor may refer to:* Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, father of Henry VII*Edmund Tudor, Duke of Somerset, son of Henry VII...

 and Jasper
Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford
Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford, 1st Earl of Pembroke, KG was the uncle of King Henry VII of England and the architect of his successful conquest of England and Wales in 1485...

, the sons of his widowed mother's relationship with Owen Tudor
Owen Tudor
Sir Owen Meredith Tudor was a Welsh soldier and courtier, descended from a daughter of the Welsh prince Rhys ap Gruffudd, "Lord Rhys". However, Owen Tudor is particularly remembered for his role in founding England's Tudor dynasty – including his relationship with, and probable secret marriage to,...

, were later given earldoms. Edmund Tudor was the father of Henry Tudor, later to gain the throne as Henry VII of England
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

.

In reaction to Charles VII Valois's coronation as French King in Reims cathedral
Reims Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Reims is the Roman Catholic cathedral of Reims, where the kings of France were once crowned. It replaces an older church, destroyed by a fire in 1211, which was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original...

 on 17 July 1429, Henry was soon crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 on 6 November 1429, followed by his own coronation as King of France at Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris , also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, is a Gothic, Roman Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. It is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris: that is, it is the church that contains the cathedra of...

 on 16 December 1431, although it wasn't until a month before his sixteenth birthday on 13 November 1437 that he obtained some measure of independent authority, before he finally assumed full royal powers when he came of age.

Assumption of government and French policies

Henry was declared of age in 1437, the year in which his mother died, and assumed the reins of government. Henry, shy and pious, 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.

After the death of Henry V
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

, England had lost momentum in the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

, while, beginning with Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
Saint Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" , is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the...

's military victories, the Valois gained ground. 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
William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk
William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, KG , nicknamed Jack Napes , was an important English soldier and commander in the Hundred Years' War, and later Lord Chamberlain of England.He also appears prominently in William Shakespeare's Henry VI, part 1 and Henry VI, part 2 and other...

, who thought likewise, while Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Pembroke, KG , also known as Humphrey Plantagenet, was "son, brother and uncle of kings", being the fourth and youngest son of king Henry IV of England by his first wife, Mary de Bohun, brother to king Henry V of England, and uncle to the...

 and Richard, Duke of York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
Richard Plantagenêt, 3rd Duke of York, 6th Earl of March, 4th Earl of Cambridge, and 7th Earl of Ulster, conventionally called Richard of York was a leading English magnate, great-grandson of King Edward III...

, who argued for a continuation of the war, were ignored.

Marriage to Margaret of Anjou

Cardinal Beaufort and the Earl of Suffolk persuaded the king that the best way of pursuing peace with France was through a marriage with Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou was the wife of King Henry VI of England. As such, she was Queen consort of England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471; and Queen consort of France from 1445 to 1453...

, the niece of King Charles VII
Charles VII of France
Charles VII , called the Victorious or the Well-Served , was King of France from 1422 to his death, though he was initially opposed by Henry VI of England, whose Regent, the Duke of Bedford, ruled much of France including the capital, Paris...

's queen consort, Marie of Anjou
Marie of Anjou
Marie of Anjou was the Queen consort of King Charles VII of France from 1422 to 1461. Her mother, Yolande of Aragon, played a leading role in the last phase of the Hundred Years' War.-Family:...

. Henry agreed, especially when he heard reports of Margaret's stunning beauty, and sent Suffolk to negotiate with Charles, who agreed to the marriage on condition that he would not have to provide the customary dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

 and instead would receive the lands of Maine and Anjou
Anjou
Anjou is a former county , duchy and province centred on the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley of western France. It corresponds largely to the present-day département of Maine-et-Loire...

 from the English. These conditions were agreed to in the Treaty of Tours
Treaty of Tours
The Treaty of Tours was an agreement between Henry VI of England and the French King Charles VII, signed on 22 May 1444. The terms stipulated the marriage of Charles VII's fifteen year old niece, Margaret of Anjou, to Henry VI and the agreement of a 21-month truce between the Kingdoms of England...

, but the cession of Maine and Anjou was kept secret from parliament, as it was known that this would be hugely unpopular with the English populace. The marriage took place on 23 April 1445, one month after Margaret's fifteenth birthday.

Henry had wavered in yielding Maine and Anjou to Charles, knowing that the move was unpopular and would be opposed by the Dukes of Gloucester and York. However, Margaret was determined to make him see it through. As the treaty became public knowledge in 1446, public anger focused on Suffolk
William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk
William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, KG , nicknamed Jack Napes , was an important English soldier and commander in the Hundred Years' War, and later Lord Chamberlain of England.He also appears prominently in William Shakespeare's Henry VI, part 1 and Henry VI, part 2 and other...

, but Henry and Margaret were determined to protect him.

The ascendancy of Suffolk and Somerset

In 1447, the King and Queen summoned the Duke of Gloucester before parliament on the charge of treason. This move was instigated by Gloucester's enemies, the Earl of Suffolk, the ageing Cardinal Beaufort and his nephew, Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, KG , sometimes styled 1st Duke of Somerset, was an English nobleman and an important figure in the Wars of the Roses and in the Hundred Years' War...

. Gloucester was put in custody in Bury St Edmunds, where he died, probably of a heart attack, although there were contemporaneous rumours of poisoning, before he could be tried.

The Duke of York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
Richard Plantagenêt, 3rd Duke of York, 6th Earl of March, 4th Earl of Cambridge, and 7th Earl of Ulster, conventionally called Richard of York was a leading English magnate, great-grandson of King Edward III...

, now Henry's heir presumptive, 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. The new Duke of Somerset was sent to France to lead the war.

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 the Duke of Suffolk, who was the most unpopular of all the King's entourage and widely seen as a traitor. Henry was forced to send him into exile
Exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

, but Suffolk's ship was intercepted in the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

. His murdered body was found on the beach at Dover
Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

.

In 1449, the Duke of Somerset, leading the campaign in France, reopened hostilities in Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, but by the autumn had been pushed back to Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

. 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 sense of lawlessness in the southern counties of England, and Jack Cade
Jack Cade
Jack Cade was the leader of a popular revolt in the 1450 Kent rebellion during the reign of King Henry VI in England. He died on the 12th July 1450 near Lewes. In response to grievances, Cade led an army of as many as 5,000 against London, causing the King to flee to Warwickshire. After taking and...

 led a rebellion in Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 in 1450, calling himself "John Mortimer", apparently in sympathy with York, and setting up residence at the White Hart
White Hart
The White Hart was the personal emblem and livery of Richard II, who derived it from the arms of his mother, Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent", heiress of Edmund of Woodstock...

 Inn in Southwark (the white hart
STAG
STAG: A Test of Love is a reality TV show hosted by Tommy Habeeb. Each episode profiles an engaged couple a week or two before their wedding. The cameras then follow the groom on his bachelor party...

 had been the symbol of the deposed Richard II
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

). 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
Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is a commuter town situated on the London fringe of west Kent, England, some 20 miles south-east of Charing Cross, on one of the principal commuter rail lines from the capital...

. The flight proved to have been tactical: Cade successfully ambushed the force in the Battle of Solefields 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 the army. At any rate the rebellion showed that feelings of discontent were running high.

In 1451, the Duchy of Guyenne
Guyenne
Guyenne or Guienne , , ; Occitan Guiana ) is a vaguely defined historic region of south-western France. The Province of Guyenne, sometimes called the Province of Guyenne and Gascony, was a large province of pre-revolutionary France....

, held since Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

's time, was also lost. In October 1452, an English advance in Guyenne retook Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

 and was having some success but by 1453, Bordeaux was lost again, leaving Calais
Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

 as England's only remaining territory on the continent.

Insanity and the ascendancy of York

In 1452, the Duke of York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
Richard Plantagenêt, 3rd Duke of York, 6th Earl of March, 4th Earl of Cambridge, and 7th Earl of Ulster, conventionally called Richard of York was a leading English magnate, great-grandson of King Edward III...

 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
Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire, in the West Midlands region of England. Lying on the River Severn, it is a civil parish home to some 70,000 inhabitants, and is the primary settlement and headquarters of Shropshire Council...

. The court party, meanwhile, raised their own similar-sized force in London. A stand-off took place south of London, with York presenting a list of grievances and demands to the court circle, including the arrest of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, KG , sometimes styled 1st Duke of Somerset, was an English nobleman and an important figure in the Wars of the Roses and in the Hundred Years' War...

. The king initially agreed, but Margaret intervened to prevent the arrest of Beaufort. By 1453, his 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 slipped into a mental breakdown
Mental breakdown
Mental breakdown is a non-medical term used to describe an acute, time-limited phase of a specific disorder that presents primarily with features of depression or anxiety.-Definition:...

 and became completely unaware of everything that was going on around him. This was to last for more than a year, and Henry failed even to respond to the birth of his own son and heir, who was christened Edward
Edward of Westminster
Edward of Westminster , also known as Edward of Lancaster, was the only son of King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou...

. Henry possibly inherited his illness from Charles VI of France
Charles VI of France
Charles VI , called the Beloved and the Mad , was the King of France from 1380 to 1422, as a member of the House of Valois. His bouts with madness, which seem to have begun in 1392, led to quarrels among the French royal family, which were exploited by the neighbouring powers of England and Burgundy...

, his maternal grandfather, who coped with intermittent periods of insanity over the last thirty years of his life.

The Duke of York, meanwhile, had gained a very important ally, Richard Neville, 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
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

, while many of York's supporters spread rumours that the king's child was not his, but Beaufort's. Other than that, York's months as regent were spent tackling the problem of government overspending.

Wars of the Roses

On 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
Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick
Richard Neville KG, jure uxoris 16th Earl of Warwick and suo jure 6th Earl of Salisbury and 8th and 5th Baron Montacute , known as Warwick the Kingmaker, was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander...

 and Salisbury
Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury
Richard Neville, jure uxoris 5th Earl of Salisbury and 7th and 4th Baron Montacute, KG, PC was a Yorkist leader during the early parts of the Wars of the Roses.-Background:...

) took matters into their own hands by backing the claims of the rival House of York
House of York
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet, three members of which became English kings in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented...

, first to the Regency, and then to the throne itself.

After a violent struggle between the houses of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

 and York
House of York
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet, three members of which became English kings in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented...

, Henry was deposed and imprisoned on 4 March 1461 by his cousin, Edward of York
Edward IV of England
Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England...

, who became king, as Edward IV. By this point, Henry was suffering such a bout of madness that he was apparently laughing and singing while the Second Battle of St Albans
Second Battle of St Albans
The Second Battle of St Albans was a battle of the English Wars of the Roses fought on 17 February, 1461, at St Albans. The army of the Yorkist faction under the Earl of Warwick attempted to bar the road to London north of the town. The rival Lancastrian army used a wide outflanking manoeuvre to...

 raged, which secured his release. But Edward was still able to take the throne, though he failed to capture Henry and his queen, who fled to Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. 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. Henry, who had been safely hidden by Lancastrian allies in Scotland, Northumberland
Northumberland
Northumberland is the northernmost ceremonial county and a unitary district in North East England. For Eurostat purposes Northumberland is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "Northumberland and Tyne and Wear" NUTS 2 region...

 and Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

 was captured by King Edward in 1465 and subsequently held captive in the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

.

Return to the throne

Queen Margaret, exiled in Scotland and later in France, was determined to win back the throne on behalf of her husband and son. By herself, there was little she could do. However, eventually Edward IV had a falling-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
Louis XI of France
Louis XI , called the Prudent , was the King of France from 1461 to 1483. He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the House of Valois....

 they formed a secret alliance with Margaret. After marrying his daughter to Henry and Margaret's son, Edward of Westminster
Edward of Westminster
Edward of Westminster , also known as Edward of Lancaster, was the only son of King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou...

, Warwick returned to England, defeated the Yorkists in battle, and restored Henry VI to the throne on 30 October 1470. 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.

Henry's return to the throne lasted less than six months.
Warwick soon overreached himself by declaring war on Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

, whose ruler responded by giving Edward IV the assistance he needed to win back his throne by force. He won a decisive victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury
Battle of Tewkesbury
The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were completely defeated by those of the rival House of York under their monarch, King Edward IV...

 on 4 May 1471, where Henry's son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales was killed.

Imprisonment and death

Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

, where he died during the night of 21/22 May 1471. In all likelihood, Henry's 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. According to the Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV
Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV
The Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV. in England and the Finall Recouerye of His Kingdomes from Henry VI. A.D. M.CCCC.LXXI is a chronicle from the period of the Wars of the Roses. As the title implies, the main focus of the work is Edward IV's arrival in England in 1471 to reclaim his crown...

, an official chronicle favourable to Edward, Henry died of melancholy on hearing news of the Battle of Tewkesbury
Battle of Tewkesbury
The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were completely defeated by those of the rival House of York under their monarch, King Edward IV...

 and his son's death. It is widely suspected, however, that Edward IV, who was re-crowned the morning following Henry's death, had in fact ordered his murder.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 in both Henry VI and Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

accuses Edward's younger brother Richard of Gloucester
Richard III of England
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

 (later to become Richard III) of the murder. His source was likely Sir Thomas More's History of Richard III, which explicitly states that Richard killed Henry; however, one contemporary source, Wakefield's Chronicle, gives the date of Henry's death as 23 May, on which Richard was known to have been away from London. In any case, as Shakespeare was writing what was acceptable to the Tudors, this information is questionable.

King Henry VI was originally buried in Chertsey Abbey
Chertsey Abbey
Chertsey Abbey, dedicated to St Peter, was a Benedictine monastery located at Chertsey in the English county of Surrey.It was founded by Saint Erkenwald, later Bishop of London, in 666 AD and he became the first abbot. In the 9th century it was sacked by the Danes and refounded from Abingdon Abbey...

; then, in 1485, his body was moved to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

.

Legacy

Henry's one lasting achievement was his fostering of education; he founded both Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

. Continuing a career of architectural patronage begun by his father, these (King's College Chapel
King's College Chapel, Cambridge
King's College Chapel is the chapel to King's College of the University of Cambridge, and is one of the finest examples of late Gothic English architecture, while its early Renaissance rood screen separating the nave and chancel, erected in 1532-36 in a striking contrast of style, has been called...

 and Eton College Chapel
Eton College Chapel, Eton
Eton College Chapel is the chapel of Eton College, an independent school in the United Kingdom.Never completed due to the Wars of the Roses, the Chapel should have been a little over double its current length; a plaque on a building opposite the West End marks the point to which it should have...

 respectively) and most of his other architectural commissions (like his completion of his father's foundation of Syon Abbey
Syon Abbey
Syon Monastery , was a monastery of the Bridgettine Order founded in 1415 which stood until its demolition in the 16th c. on the left bank of the River Thames within the parish of Isleworth, in the county of Middlesex on or near the site of the present Georgian mansion of Syon House...

) each consisted of a late Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 or Perpendicular-style church with a monastic and/or educational foundation attached. Each year on the anniversary of Henry VI's death, the Provosts of Eton and King's College, Cambridge lay white lilies and roses, the floral emblems of those colleges, on the spot in the Wakefield Tower at the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 where the imprisoned Henry VI was, according to tradition, murdered as he knelt at prayer.

Arms

As Prince of Wales, Henry's arms were those of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points. Upon his accession, he inherited use of the arms of the kingdom and impaled them with those of France to reflect the de jure joint monarchy of France and England. Hence on (our) right, the Royal Arms of his father, Henry V, and the right, the three Fleur-de-Lys pattern of the French Royal Arms of the day.

Posthumous cult

Miracle
Miracle
A miracle often denotes an event attributed to divine intervention. Alternatively, it may be an event attributed to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that a god may work with the laws...

s were attributed to the king, and he was informally regarded as a saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 and martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

, addressed particularly in cases of adversity. The cult was encouraged by Henry VII Tudor
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

, 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 at the time of Henry VIII's break with Rome, canonisation proceedings were under way. Hymns to him still exist. 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. With lessened need to legitimise Tudor rule, the cult of Henry VI faded.



Shakespeare's Henry VI and after

In 1590, William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 wrote a trilogy of plays about the life of Henry VI: Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, Part 1 or The First Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare, and possibly Thomas Nashe, believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

, Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, Part 2 or The Second Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

, and Henry VI, part 3
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VI, Part 3 or The Third Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

. He also appears as a ghost in Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

. In screen adaptations of these plays he has been portrayed by James Berry in the 1911 silent short Richard III, dramatising a part of Shakespeare's play, Terry Scully
Terry Scully
Terry Scully was a British theatre and television actor.After making his name in the theatre, from the 1960s onwards he became more known for TV work...

 in the 1960 BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 series An Age of Kings, which contained all the history plays from Richard II to Richard III, Carl Wery
Carl Wery
Carl Sebastian Martin Wery was a German actor.- Filmography :* 1933: Keinen Tag ohne Dich* 1935: Königswalzer...

 in the 1964 West German TV version of König Richard III, David Warner
David Warner (actor)
David Warner is an English actor who is known for playing both romantic leads and sinister or villainous characters, both in film and animation...

 in Wars of the Roses, a 1965 filmed version of the Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 performing the three parts of Henry VI (condensed and edited into two plays, Henry VI and Edward IV) and Richard III, Peter Benson
Peter Benson (actor)
Peter Benson is a British actor probably best known as Bernie Scripps in the popular ITV1 TV-series Heartbeat, a drama about the police in Aidensfield in the 1960s. Benson has played Bernie Scripps in the series since 1995. In the TV-series 'Bernie' Scripps is running Aidensfield Garage, and the...

 in the 1983 BBC Shakespeare versions of all three parts of Henry VI and Richard III, Paul Brennen in the 1989 film versions of the full cycle of consecutive history plays performed, for several years, by the English Shakespeare Company
English Shakespeare Company
The English Shakespeare Company was an English theatre company founded in 1986 by Michael Bogdanov and Michael Pennington to present and promote the works of William Shakespeare on both a national and an international level....

, Edward Jewesbury
Edward Jewesbury
Edward Jewesbury was a British actor, notable for his film, stage and television work and as a member of the Renaissance Theatre Company. In his later years he appeared in such television comedies as Yes Minister and Blackadder II.His son Ian was a senior civil servant at the UK Department of...

 in the 1995 film version of Richard III
Richard III (1995 film)
Richard III is a 1995 drama film adapted from William Shakespeare's play of the same name, starring Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, John Wood and Dominic West....

(1995), with Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen
Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE is an English actor. He has received a Tony Award, two Academy Award nominations, and five Emmy Award nominations. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction...

 as Richard, and James Dalesandro in the 2007 modern-day film version of Richard III.

Miles Mander
Miles Mander
Miles Mander , born Lionel Henry Mander , was a well-known and versatile English character actor of the early Hollywood cinema, also a film director and producer, and a playwright and novelist.-Early life:Miles Mander was the second son of Theodore Mander, builder of Wightwick Manor, of the prominent...

 portrayed him in Tower of London
Tower of London (1939 film)
Tower of London is a 1939 black-and-white historical film and quasi-horror film released by Universal Pictures and directed by Rowland V. Lee. It stars Basil Rathbone as the future Richard III of England, and Boris Karloff as his fictitious club-footed executioner Mord. Vincent Price appears as...

, a 1939 horror film loosely dramatising the rise to power of Richard III.

J.K. Rowling mentions Henry VI in her book The Tales of Beedle the Bard
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book of children's stories by British author J. K. Rowling. It purports to be the storybook of the same name mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book of the Harry Potter series....

, in which it is implied that his advisor may have been a witch
Witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

.
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