Margaret of Anjou was born on the 23 of March 1429 in the province of Lorraine. She was the daughter of René, Duke of Anjou and a neice of Charles VII. Margaret spent her early years living in the Rhone Valley and in Naples, where she was given a full education by her mother and the scholar, Antoine de la Salle.
In 1444, England made peace with France and Margaret was betrothed to King Henry VI ; she married him in April of the next year at Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire. The marriage was unpopular, Margaret being French, and became more so with time as no heirs were born. When the royal couple’s first, and only child, was born in 1453 it was even claimed that Henry was not the father. Margaret clearly dominated the couple and also tried to dominate politics. Unfortunately she wielded a very French view on most things and would never truly understand English politics – something that led her to make some grave mistakes.
When King Henry fell ill in 1453, a seven-month pregnant Margaret tried to claim the regency, but found no support forthcoming, even from her allies. By the time she gave birth to a son, Edward, in October at Westminster Palace, the question regarding the regency had still not been settled. Then in 1454, Margaret’s mortal enemy, the Duke of York became regent and she was placed out of the way at Windsor Castle.
When the King was captured at the Battle of Northampton in 1460, Margaret did not submit, but instead became the real impetus behind the Lancastrian cause. The Queen raised an army and killed York, who was pushing his claim to the throne, at Wakefield along with several other prominent Yorkists. She then defeated the infamous Earl of Warwick at the battle of St. Albans where she was reunited with her husband.
In 1461, Henry and Margaret’s army was crushed at Towton. In 1462, she went to France where she persuaded Louis XI to finance an invasion. The invasion failed and Margaret and her supporters were forced to withdraw to Scotland. The Lancastrians suffered several more defeats and in 1465, Henry was captured.
Margaret lived in exile with her son until 1470 when her old enemy, Warwick arrived to make his peace with her and bring new hope to the Lancastrian cause. An alliance was formed between the two, and sealed with marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales to Warwick’s daughter Anne. The ‘Kingmaker’ soon restored Henry to the throne, but the Earl was defeated and killed at Barnet, before Margaret could join her husband.
Nevertheless, Margaret invaded with her own army the same year, but Edward in turn defeated her at Tewkesbury where her son was slain, along with many of the Lancastrian nobility. Her husband Henry was murdered in the Tower, just two weeks later leaving no figurehead for the remaining Lancastrians to follow.
After Tewkesbury, Margaret spent some time in the Tower, where she was eventually ransomed by the French King Louis. She died in her native province of Anjou, a poor and broken woman on August 25, 1482.