Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameHenry PLANTAGANET VI King of England
Birth1421
Death1471
MotherQueen Catherine of VALOIS (1401-1437)
Marriage1445
SpouseMargaret of ANJOU
Birth1430
Death1482
Children
Birth1453
Death1471
Notes for Henry PLANTAGANET VI King of England
Henry VI (6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471) was King 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 regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the dynastic wars, known as the Wars of the Roses, which commenced during his reign. His periods of insanity and his inherent benevolence eventually required his wife, Margaret of Anjou, to assume control of his kingdom, which contributed to his own downfall, the collapse of the House of Lancaster, and the rise of the House of York.[1]

Child King

Main article: Dual monarchy of England and France

Henry was the only child and heir of King Henry V. He was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle, 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's death in agreement with the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. His mother, Catherine of Valois, 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 in the King's name and established a regency council 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 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 (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.

Henry's half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper, the sons of his widowed mother's relationship with Owen Tudor, were later given earldoms. Edmund Tudor was the father of Henry Tudor, later to gain the throne as Henry VII.

In reaction to Charles VII Valois's coronation as French King in Reims Cathedral on 17 July 1429,[2] Henry was soon crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey on 6 November 1429,[3] followed by his own coronation as King of France at Notre Dame de Paris on 16 December 1431.[4][5] Although it was not until a month before his sixteenth birthday on 13 November 1437 that he obtained some measure of independent authority,[6] indications of a growing willingness to involve himself in administration were apparent in 1434 when writs temporarilly changed their dating from Westminster (where the Privy Council was) to Cirencester (where the king was).[7] 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 he 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, England had lost momentum in the Hundred Years' War, while, beginning with Joan of Arc'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, who thought likewise, while Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and Richard, Duke of York, who argued for a continuation of the war, were ignored.
Marriage to Margaret of Anjou[edit source | editbeta]

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, 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 agreed to the marriage on condition that he would not have to provide the customary dowry and instead would receive the lands of Maine and Anjou from the English. These conditions were agreed to in the Treaty of Tours, 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 at Titchfield Abbey on 23 April 1445, one month after Margaret's 15th birthday. She had arrived with an entire ('ready-made') 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 in 1453) led to proportionately greater expense but also to greater patronage opportunities at Court.[9]


Margaret of Anjou
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 Duke of Suffolk, but Henry and Margaret were determined to protect him.
The ascendancy of Suffolk and Somerset[edit source | editbeta]


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2012)
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. 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, 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. He was impeached by Parliament to a background that has been called "the baying for Suffolk’s blood [by] a London mob",[10] to the extent that Suffolk admitted his alarm to the king.[11] 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.
English Royalty
House of Lancaster

Armorial of Plantagenet
Henry VI
Edward, Prince of Wales
v t e
In 1449, the Duke of Somerset, leading the campaign in France, reopened hostilities in Normandy, but by the autumn 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). 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 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.[12]
In 1451, the Duchy of Guyenne, held since Henry II's time, was also lost. In October 1452, an English advance in Guyenne 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.
Insanity, and the ascendancy of York[edit source | editbeta]

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 York presenting a list of grievances and demands to the court circle, including the arrest of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. 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 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. Henry possibly inherited his illness from Charles VI of France, his maternal grandfather, who was struck by intermittent periods of insanity over the last thirty years of his life.[13]

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, 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[edit source | editbeta]

Main article: 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 and Salisbury) took matters into their own hands by backing the claims of the rival House of York, first to the Regency, and then to the throne itself, due to York's better descent from Edward III. It was agreed York would become Henry's successor,[by whom?] despite York being older.

After a violent struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York, during which the Duke of York was killed by Margaret's forces on 30 December 1460, Henry was deposed and imprisoned on 4 March 1461 by the Duke of York's son, Edward of York, 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 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. 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 and Yorkshire was captured by King Edward in 1465 and subsequently held captive in the Tower of London.

Return to the throne[edit source | editbeta]

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 they formed a secret alliance with Margaret. After marrying his daughter to Henry and Margaret's son, Edward of Westminster, Warwick returned to England, forced Edward IV into exile, 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.[14]
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 IV 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 was killed.
Imprisonment and death[edit source | editbeta]

Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London, in whose Wakefield Tower 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, an official chronicle favourable to Edward, Henry died of melancholy on hearing news of the Battle of Tewkesbury and his son's death.[15] It is widely suspected, however, that Edward IV, who was re-crowned the morning following Henry's death, had in fact ordered his murder.[16]
Sir Thomas More's History of Richard III explicitly states that Richard killed Henry, but is the only contemporary source that makes this claim. Another contemporary source, Wakefield's Chronicle, gives the date of Henry's death as 23 May, on which date Richard is known to have been away from London.
King Henry VI was originally buried in Chertsey Abbey; then, in 1485, his body was moved to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, by Richard III.
Legacy[edit source | editbeta]


King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Henry's one lasting achievement was his fostering of education; he founded both Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. Continuing a career of architectural patronage begun by his father, these (King's College Chapel and Eton College Chapel respectively) and most of his other architectural commissions (like his completion of his father's foundation of Syon Abbey) each consisted of a late Gothic 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 where the imprisoned Henry VI was, according to tradition, murdered as he knelt at prayer.

Arms

As Duke of Cornwall, Henry's arms were those of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points.[17] Upon his accession, he inherited use of the arms of the kingdom and impaled them with those of France to reflect the de jure dual monarchy of France and England. Hence on (our) right, the Royal Arms of his father, Henry V, and on the left, the three fleur-de-lys pattern of the French Royal Arms of the day.
Posthumous cult[edit source | editbeta]

Miracles were attributed to the king, 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 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 Henry VII began building a chapel at Westminster Abbey to house Henry VI's relics.[18] 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.[19] By the time of Henry VIII's break with Rome, canonisation proceedings were under way.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] He also intervened in the attempted hanging of Thomas Fuller who had been unjustly condemned to death, being accused of stealing some sheep. Henry placed his hand between the rope and Fuller's windpipe, thus keeping him alive, after which Fuller revived in the cart as it was taking him away for burial.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

Although his shrine was enormously popular as a pilgrimage destination during the early decades of the 16th century,[26] over time, with the lessened need to legitimise Tudor rule, the cult of Henry VI faded.

Shakespeare's Henry VI and after

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 he 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 the history plays Richard II and Richard III; Carl Wery in the 1964 West German TV version König Richard III; David Warner in 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; and James Dalesandro as Henry in the 2008 modern-day film version of Richard III.

Miles Mander portrayed him in Tower of London, 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, in which it is implied that his advisor may have been a witch.
Notes for Margaret of ANJOU
Margaret of Anjou (French: Marguerite d'Anjou) (23 March 1430 – 25 August 1482) 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. She also claimed to be Queen consort of France from 1445 to 1453. Born in the Duchy of Lorraine, into the House of Valois-Anjou, Margaret was the second eldest daughter of René I of Naples and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine.
She was one of the principal figures in the series of dynastic civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses and at times personally led the Lancastrian faction. Due to her husband's frequent bouts of insanity, Margaret ruled the kingdom in his place. It was she who called for a Great Council in May 1455 that excluded the Yorkist faction headed by Richard, Duke of York, and thus provided the spark that ignited a civil conflict that lasted for over thirty years, decimated the old nobility of England, and caused the deaths of thousands of men, including her only son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.
Margaret was taken prisoner by the victorious Yorkists after the Lancastrian defeat at Tewkesbury. In 1475, she was ransomed by her cousin, King Louis XI of France. She went to live in France as a poor relation of the French king, and she died there at the age of 52.
Contents [hide]
1 Early life and marriage
1.1 Birth of a son
2 Beginnings of the dynastic civil wars
2.1 Enmity between Margaret and the Duke of York
2.2 Leader of Lancastrian faction
3 The Wars of the Roses
3.1 Military campaigns
3.2 Defeat at Tewkesbury
4 Death
5 Margaret's letters
6 Ancestors
7 Depictions in fiction
8 Notes
9 References
Early life and marriage[edit source | editbeta]

Margaret was born on 23 March 1430[1] at Pont-à-Mousson in the Duchy of Lorraine, an imperial fief east of France that was ruled by the cadet branch of the French kings, the House of Valois-Anjou. Margaret was the second eldest daughter of René of Anjou and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine. She had five brothers and four sisters, as well as three half-siblings from her father's relationships with mistresses.[2] Her father, popularly known as "Good King René" was Duke of Anjou and titular King of Naples, Sicily and Jerusalem; he has been described as "a man of many crowns but no kingdoms".[3] Margaret was baptised at Toul in Lorraine and, in the care of her father's old nurse Theophanie la Magine, she spent her early years at the castle of Tarascon on the River Rhône in southern France and the old royal palace at Capua in Naples. Her mother took care of her education and may have arranged for her to have lessons with the scholar Antoine de la Sale, who taught her brothers. In childhood Margaret was known as la petite creature.[3]


The marriage of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou is depicted in this miniature from Vigiles de Charles VII
On 23 April 1445, Margaret married King Henry VI of England, who was eight years her senior, at Titchfield in Hampshire. Henry at the time also claimed the Kingdom of France and controlled various parts of northern France. Margaret's uncle Charles VII, who also claimed the crown of France, agreed to the marriage of his niece to his rival on the condition that he would not have to provide the customary dowry and instead would receive the lands of Maine and Anjou from the English. This provision was kept secret from the English public, since a highly negative reaction was feared.
Margaret was crowned Queen consort of England on 30 May 1445 at Westminster Abbey by John Stafford, Archbishop of Canterbury.[2] She was fifteen years old. She was described as beautiful, and furthermore "already a woman: passionate and proud and strong-willed".[4] It was felt that she already understood her duty to protect the interests of the Crown fervently.[4] She seems to have inherited this indomitability from her mother, who fought to establish her husband's claim to the Kingdom of Naples, and her paternal grandmother Yolande of Aragon, who actually governed Anjou "with a man's hand", putting the province in order and keeping out the English.[4] Thus by family example and her own forceful personality, she was fully capable of becoming the "champion of the Crown".[4]
Birth of a son[edit source | editbeta]
Henry, who was more interested in religion and learning than military matters, was not a successful king. He had reigned since he was only a few months old and his actions had been controlled by regents. When he married Margaret, his mental condition was already unstable and by the time their only son, Edward of Westminster, was born on 13 October 1453, he had suffered a complete breakdown. Rumours were rife that he was incapable of begetting a child and that the new Prince of Wales was the result of an adulterous liaison. Many have speculated that either Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, or James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, both staunch allies of Margaret, was the young prince's actual father.
Although Margaret was aggressively partisan and had a volatile temperament,[4] she shared her husband's love of learning by dint of her cultured upbringing and gave her patronage to the founding of Queens' College at Cambridge University.
Elizabeth Woodville, future Queen of England as wife of her husband's rival King Edward IV, allegedly served as her Maid of Honour. However, the evidence is too scanty to permit historians to establish this with absolute certainty as there were several women at Margaret's court bearing the name Elizabeth or Isabella Grey.[5] Elizabeth's first husband was Sir John Grey of Groby whom she married in about 1452.
Beginnings of the dynastic civil wars[edit source | editbeta]

Enmity between Margaret and the Duke of York[edit source | editbeta]


Margaret of Anjou's arms as Queen consort of England...[6]
After retiring from London to live in lavish state at Greenwich, Margaret was occupied with the care of her young son and did not display any signs of overt belligerence until she believed her husband was threatened with deposition by the ambitious Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York,[7] who, to her consternation, had been appointed regent while Henry was mentally incapacitated from 1453 to 1454. The duke was a credible claimant to the English throne and by the end of his regency there were many powerful nobles and relatives prepared to back his claim. The Duke of York was powerful; Henry's advisers corrupt; Henry himself trusting, pliable, and increasingly unstable; Margaret defiantly unpopular, grimly and gallantly determined to maintain the English crown for her progeny. Yet at least one scholar identifies the source of the eventual Lancastrian downfall not as York's ambitions nearly so much as Margaret's ill-judging enmity toward York and her over-indulgence in unpopular allies.[8] Nevertheless, Queen Margaret was a powerful force in the world of politics. King Henry was putty in her hands when she wanted something done.[9]
Margaret's biographer Helen Maurer, however, disagrees with earlier historians having dated the much-vaunted enmity between the Queen and York to the time he obtained the office of the regency. She suggests the mutual antagonism came about two years later in 1455 in the wake of the First Battle of St. Albans, when Margaret perceived him as a challenge to the king's authority. Maurer bases this conclusion on a judicious study of Margaret's pattern of presenting gifts; this revealed that Margaret took a great deal of care to demonstrate that she favoured both York and Somerset equally in the early 1450s. Maurer also claims that Margaret appeared to accept York's regency and asserts there is no substantial evidence to back up the long-standing belief that she was responsible for the Yorkists' exclusion from the Great Council following Henry's recovery (see below).[10]
The late historian Paul Murray Kendall, on the other hand, maintained that Margaret's allies Somerset and William de la Pole, then Earl of Suffolk, had no difficulty in persuading her that York, until then one of Henry VI's most trusted advisers, was responsible for her unpopularity and already too powerful to be trusted. Margaret not only convinced Henry to recall York from his post as governor in France and banish him instead to Ireland, she repeatedly attempted to have him assassinated during his travels to and from Ireland, once in 1449 and again in 1450.[11] Somerset and Suffolk's joint responsibility for the secret surrender of Maine in 1448, and then the subsequent disastrous loss of the rest of Normandy in 1449 embroiled Margaret and Henry's court in riots, uprisings by the magnates, and calls for the impeachment and execution of Margaret's two strongest allies. It also might have made an ultimate battle to the death between Margaret and the House of York inevitable by making manifest Richard's dangerous popularity with the Commons. Richard of York, safely returned from Ireland in 1450, confronted Henry and was readmitted as a trusted advisor. Soon thereafter, Henry agreed to convene Parliament to address the calls for reform. When Parliament met, the demands could not have been less acceptable to Margaret: not only were both Somerset and Suffolk impeached for criminal mismanagement of French affairs and subverting justice, but it was charged as a crime against Suffolk (now a duke) that he had antagonised the king against the Duke of York. Further, the demands for reform put forward included that the Duke of York be acknowledged as the first councillor to the king, and the Speaker of Commons, perhaps with more fervour than wisdom, even proposed Richard, Duke of York, be recognised as heir to the throne.[12] Within a few months, however, Margaret had regained control of Henry, Parliament was dissolved, the incautious Speaker thrown in prison, and Richard of York retired to Wales for the time being.[13]
In 1457, the kingdom was again outraged when it was discovered that Pierre de Brézé, a powerful French general and an adherent of Margaret, had landed on the English coast and burnt the town of Sandwich. As leader of a French force of 4,000 men from Honfleur, he aimed at taking advantage of the chaos in England. The mayor, John Drury, was killed in this raid. It thereafter became an established tradition, which survives to this day, that the Mayor of Sandwich wears a black robe mourning this ignoble deed. Margaret, in association with de Brézé, became the object of scurrilous rumours and vulgar ballads. Public indignation was so high that Margaret, with great reluctance, was forced to give the Duke of York's kinsman Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, a commission to keep the sea for three years. He already held the post of Captain of Calais.[14]

Leader of Lancastrian faction

Hostilities between the rival Yorkist and Lancastrian factions soon flared into armed conflict. In May 1455, just over five months after Henry VI recovered from a bout of mental illness and Richard of York's regency had ended, Margaret called for a Great Council from which the Yorkists were excluded. The Council called for an assemblage of the peers at Leicester to protect the king "against his enemies". York apparently was prepared for conflict and soon was marching south to meet the Lancastrian army marching north. The Lancastrians suffered a crushing defeat at the First Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455. Somerset was killed, Wiltshire fled the battlefield and King Henry was taken prisoner by the victorious Duke of York.

In 1459, hostilities resumed at the Battle of Blore Heath, where James Touchet, Lord Audley, was defeated by a Yorkist army under Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury.
The Wars of the Roses[edit source | editbeta]

Military campaigns

While she was attempting to raise further support for the Lancastrian cause in Scotland,[15] her principal commander, Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset,[16] gained a major victory for her at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460 by defeating the combined armies of the Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury. Both men were beheaded and their heads displayed on the gates of the city of York. As Margaret was in Scotland at the time the battle had taken place, it was impossible that she issued the orders for their executions despite popular belief to the contrary.[17] She followed up with a victory at the Second Battle of St Albans (at which she was present) on 17 February 1461.[18] In this battle, she defeated the Yorkist forces of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, and recaptured her husband. It was after this battle that she, in a blatant act of vengeance, ordered the execution of two Yorkist prisoners-of-war, William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville, and Sir Thomas Kyriel, who had kept watch over King Henry to keep him out of harm's way during the battle. The king had promised the two knights immunity, but Margaret gainsaid him and ordered their executions by decapitation. It is alleged that she put the men on trial at which presided her son. "Fair son", she allegedly asked, "what death shall these knights die?" Prince Edward replied that their heads should be cut off, despite the king's pleas for mercy.[18]

The Lancastrian army was beaten at the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461 by the son of the late Duke of York, Edward IV of England, who deposed King Henry and proclaimed himself king. Margaret was determined to win back her son's inheritance and fled with him into Wales and later Scotland. Finding her way to France, she made an ally of her cousin, King Louis XI of France, and at his instigation she allowed an approach from Edward's former supporter, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who had fallen out with his former friend as a result of Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and was now seeking revenge for the loss of his political influence. Warwick's daughter, Anne Neville, was married to Margaret's son Edward, Prince of Wales, in order to cement the alliance, and Margaret insisted that Warwick return to England to prove himself before she followed. He did so, restoring Henry VI briefly to the throne on 3 October 1470.

Defeat at Tewkesbury

By the time Margaret, her son and daughter-in-law were ready to follow Warwick back to England, the tables had again turned in favour of the Yorkists, and the Earl was defeated and killed by the returning King Edward IV in the Battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471. Margaret was forced to lead her own army at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471, at which the Lancastrian forces were defeated and her seventeen-year old son was killed. The circumstances of Edward's death have never been made clear; it is not known whether he was killed in the actual fighting or executed after the battle by the Duke of Clarence. If he died in battle, he would have been the only Prince of Wales ever to do so. Over the previous ten years, Margaret had gained a reputation for aggression and ruthlessness, but following her defeat at Tewkesbury and the death of her only son, she was completely broken in spirit. After she was taken captive by William Stanley at the end of the battle, Margaret was imprisoned by the order of King Edward. She was sent first to Wallingford Castle and then was transferred to the more secure Tower of London; in 1472 she was placed in the custody of her former lady-in-waiting Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk, where she remained until ransomed by Louis XI in 1475.[19]

Death[

Margaret lived in France for the next seven years as a poor relation of the king. She died in Anjou on 25 August 1482 at the age of 52. She was entombed next to her parents in Angers Cathedral, but her remains were removed and scattered by revolutionaries who ransacked the cathedral during the French Revolution.

Margaret's letters

There are many letters extant written by Margaret during her tenure as queen consort. One was written to the Corporation of London regarding injuries done to her tenants at the manor of Enfield, which comprised part of her dower lands.[20] There is another letter which she wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury.[21][22] The letters are compiled in a book edited by Cecil Monro, which was published for the Camden Society in 1863.[23] Margaret typically headed her letters with the words "By the Quene".[24]
Last Modified 18 Aug 2013Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh