Friday, August 9, 2013

Henry VI

Henry VI. Reproduced in The History of England by David Hume (1826). University of Victoria Library.;jsessionid=09466909AC490899D20580FCD2BDCAD9

King from 1422 to 1461 and from 1470 to 1471 and the last Lancastrian ruler of England, Henry's reign was dominated by the Wars of the Roses.
Henry was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle. He was only nine months old when he succeeded his father, Henry V. He was crowned king of England in 1429 and, as result of his father's successes against the French, king of France in 1431. A regency council ran England until Henry was considered old enough to rule in 1437. In 1445, he married Margaret of Anjou.
Henry was a pious man whose interest in government was sporadic, who picked the wrong advisors and who was unable to prevent the power struggles that began to develop at court. Meanwhile, the dual monarchy proved too difficult to maintain; the successes of the Dauphin and Joan of Arc began to weaken England's grip on its French possessions and Normandy was lost in 1450. This only contributed to the erosion of Henry's prestige and authority.
In 1453, the king had a mental breakdown and Richard, Duke of York, was made protector. The king recovered in 1455, but civil war broke out between the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions. The ensuing struggle came to be known as the Wars of the Roses. While the Duke of York was the main figure on the Yorkist side, Margaret, Henry's queen, took charge of the Lancastrian cause. In 1460, York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield but his son took up the fight, defeating the Lancastrians at Towton in 1461 and crowning himself Edward IV. Henry fled into exile, but returned and was captured by Edward in 1465. The Earl of Warwick - previously an ally of Edward - now switched sides and restored Henry to the throne in 1470. Edward returned from exile and destroyed the Lancastrian forces at Tewkesbury in May 1471. Henry and Margaret's only son was among the Lancastrian dead. Henry VI, who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London, was murdered shortly afterwards.

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