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HENRY VI (1421-1471)

Portrait of Henry VI, c1540. NPG.
Signature of King Henry VI

HENRY VI, King of England, son of King Henry V and Catherine of Valois, was born at Windsor on the 6th of December 1421. He became King of England on the 1st of September 1422, and a few weeks later, on the death of his grandfather Charles VI, was proclaimed king of France also. Henry V had directed that Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, should be his son's preceptor; Warwick took up his charge in 1428; he trained his pupil to be a good man and refined gentleman, but he could not teach him kingship. As early as 1423 the baby king was made to appear at public functions and take his place in parliament. He was knighted by his uncle Bedford at Leicester in May 1426, and on the 6th of November 1429 was crowned at Westminster.

Coronation of King Henry VI of England Early in the next year he was taken over to France, and after long delay crowned in Paris on the 26th of December 1431. His return to London on the 14th of February 1432 was celebrated with a great pageant devised by Lydgate. During these early years Bedford ruled France wisely and at first with success, but he could not prevent the mischief which Humphrey of Gloucester caused both at home and abroad. Even in France the English lost ground steadily after the victory of Joan of Arc before Orleans in 1429. The climax came with the death of Bedford, and defection of Philip of Burgundy in 1435. This closed the first phase of Henry's reign.

There followed fifteen years of vain struggle in France, and growing disorder at home [cf. Hundred Years' War]. The determining factor in politics was the conduct of the war. Cardinal Beaufort, and after him Suffolk, sought by working for peace to secure at least Guienne and Normandy. Gloucester courted popularity by opposing them throughout; with him was Richard of York, who stood next in succession to the crown. Beaufort controlled the council, and it was under his guidance that the king began to take part in the government. Thus it was natural that as Henry grew to manhood he seconded heartily the peace policy. That policy was wise, but national pride made it unpopular and difficult. Henry himself had not the strength or knowledge to direct it, and was unfortunate in his advisers. The cardinal was old, his nephews John and Edmund Beaufort were incompetent, Suffolk, though a man of noble character, was tactless. Marriage of King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou Suffolk, however, achieved a great success by negotiating the marriage of Henry to Margaret of Anjou in 1445. Humphrey of Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort both died early in 1447. Suffolk was now all-powerful in the favour of the king and queen [Margaret of Anjou]. But his home administration was unpopular, whilst the incapacity of Edmund Beaufort ended in the loss of all Normandy and Guienne.

Suffolk's fall in 1450 left Richard of York the foremost man in England. Henry's reign then entered on its last phase of dynastic struggle. Cade's rebellion suggested first that popular discontent might result in a change of rulers. But York, as heir to the throne, could abide his time. The situation was altered by the mental derangement of the king, and the birth of his son in 1453. York after a struggle secured the protectorship, and for the next year ruled England. Then Henry was restored to sanity, and the queen and Edmund Beaufort, now Duke of Somerset, to power. Open war followed, with the defeat and death of Somerset at St Albans on the 22nd of May 1455. Nevertheless a hollow peace was patched up, which continued during four years with lack of all governance. In 1459 war broke out again. On the 10th of July 1460, Henry was taken prisoner at Northampton, and forced to acknowledge York as heir, to the exclusion of his own son.

Richard of York's death at Wakefield (Dec. 31, 1460), and the queen's victory at St Albans (Feb. 17, 1461), brought Henry his freedom and no more. Edward of York had himself proclaimed king, and by his decisive victory at Towton on the 29th of March, put an end to Henry's reign. For over three years Henry was a fugitive in Scotland. He returned to take part in an abortive rising in 1464. A year later he was captured in the north, and brought a prisoner to the Tower. For six months in 1470-1471 he emerged to hold a shadowy kingship as Warwick's puppet. Edward's final victory at Tewkesbury was followed by Henry's death on the 21st of May 1471, certainly by violence, perhaps at the hands of Richard of Gloucester (later King Richard III).

Henry was the most hapless of monarchs. He was so honest and well-meaning that he might have made a good ruler in quiet times. But he was crushed by the burden of his inheritance. He had not the genius to find a way out of the French entanglement or the skill to steer a constitutional monarchy between rival factions. So the system and policy, which were the creations of Henry IV and Henry V, led under Henry VI to the ruin of their dynasty. Henry's very virtues added to his difficulties. He was so trusting that any one could influence him, so faithful that he would not give up a minister who had become impossible. Thus even in the middle period he had no real control of the government. In his latter years he was mentally too weak for independent action. At his best he was a " good and gentle creature," but too kindly and generous to rule others. Religious observances and study were his chief occupations. His piety was genuine; simple and pure, he was shocked at any suggestion of impropriety, but his rebuke was only "Fie, for shame! forsooth ye are to blame."

For education he was really zealous. Even as a boy he was concerned for the upbringing of his half-brothers, his mother's children by Owen Tudor [cf. Edmund and Jasper Tudor]. Later, the planning of his great foundations at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, was the one thing which absorbed his interest. To both he was more than a royal founder, and the credit of the whole scheme belongs to him. The charter for Eton was granted on the 11th of October 1440, and that for King's College in the following February. Henry himself laid the foundation-stones of both buildings. He frequently visited Cambridge to superintend the progress of the work. When at Windsor he loved to send for the boys from his school and give them good advice.

Henry's only son was Edward, Prince of Wales (1453-1471), who, having shared the many journeys and varying fortunes of his mother, Margaret, was killed after the battle of Tewkesbury (May 4, 1471) by some noblemen in attendance on Edward IV.

(C. L. Kingsford)





      Excerpted from:

      Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol XIII.
      Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910. 286.







Other Local Resources:




Books for further study:

Dockray, Keith. Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and
           the Wars of the Roses: A Source Book.
           Little, Brown & Co., 2006.

Shakespeare, William. Henry VI, parts, I, II, AND III.
           Signet Classics, 1983.

Watts, John. Henry VI and the Politics of Kingship.
           Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Weir, Alison. The Wars of the Roses.
           Ballantine Books, 1996.

Wolffe, Bertram. Yale English Monarch - Henry VI.
           Yale University Press, 1997.




Henry VI on the Web:


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Index of Encyclopedia Entries:

Medieval Cosmology
Prices of Items in Medieval England

Edward II
Piers Gaveston
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Roger Mortimer, Earl of March

Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Edward III
The Battle of Crécy, 1346
Edward, Black Prince of Wales
Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster
Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Thomas of Woodstock, Gloucester
Richard of York, E. of Cambridge
Richard Fitzalan, 3. Earl of Arundel
Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
The Good Parliament, 1376
Richard II
Lords Appellant, 1388
Richard Fitzalan, 4. Earl of Arundel
Archbishop Thomas Arundel
Thomas de Beauchamp, E. Warwick
Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford
Ralph Neville, E. of Westmorland
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Edmund Mortimer, 3. Earl of March
Roger Mortimer, 4. Earl of March
John Holland, Duke of Exeter
Michael de la Pole, E. Suffolk
Hugh de Stafford, 2. E. Stafford
Henry IV
Edward, Duke of York
Edmund Mortimer, 5. Earl of March
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Sir Henry Percy, "Harry Hotspur"
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester
Owen Glendower
The Battle of Shrewsbury, 1403
Archbishop Richard Scrope
Thomas Mowbray, 3. E. Nottingham
John Mowbray, 2. Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Fitzalan, 5. Earl of Arundel
Henry V
Thomas, Duke of Clarence
John, Duke of Bedford
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
Richard, Earl of Cambridge
Henry, Baron Scrope of Masham
William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Montacute, E. Salisbury
Richard Beauchamp, E. of Warwick
Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
Cardinal Henry Beaufort
John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset
Sir John Fastolf
John Holland, 2. Duke of Exeter
Archbishop John Stafford
Archbishop John Kemp
Catherine of Valois
Owen Tudor
John Fitzalan, 7. Earl of Arundel
John, Lord Tiptoft

Charles VII, King of France
Joan of Arc
Louis XI, King of France
Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy
The Battle of Castillon, 1453



The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485
Causes of the Wars of the Roses
The House of Lancaster
The House of York
The House of Beaufort
The House of Neville

The First Battle of St. Albans, 1455
The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459
The Rout of Ludford, 1459
The Battle of Northampton, 1460
The Battle of Wakefield, 1460
The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461
The 2nd Battle of St. Albans, 1461
The Battle of Towton, 1461
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, 1464
The Battle of Hexham, 1464
The Battle of Edgecote, 1469
The Battle of Losecoat Field, 1470
The Battle of Barnet, 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471
The Treaty of Pecquigny, 1475
The Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485
The Battle of Stoke Field, 1487

Henry VI
Margaret of Anjou
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville
Richard Woodville, 1. Earl Rivers
Anthony Woodville, 2. Earl Rivers
Jane Shore
Edward V
Richard III
George, Duke of Clarence

Ralph Neville, 2. Earl of Westmorland
Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick
Edward Neville, Baron Bergavenny
William Neville, Lord Fauconberg
Robert Neville, Bishop of Salisbury
John Neville, Marquis of Montagu
George Neville, Archbishop of York
John Beaufort, 1. Duke Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2. Duke Somerset
Henry Beaufort, 3. Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 4. Duke Somerset
Margaret Beaufort
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond
Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
Humphrey Stafford, D. Buckingham
Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Humphrey Stafford, E. of Devon
Thomas, Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby
Sir William Stanley
Archbishop Thomas Bourchier
Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex
John Mowbray, 3. Duke of Norfolk
John Mowbray, 4. Duke of Norfolk
John Howard, Duke of Norfolk
Henry Percy, 2. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 3. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 4. E. Northumberland
William, Lord Hastings
Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter
William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford
Thomas de Clifford, 8. Baron Clifford
John de Clifford, 9. Baron Clifford
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
Thomas Grey, 1. Marquis Dorset
Sir Andrew Trollop
Archbishop John Morton
Edward Plantagenet, E. of Warwick
John Talbot, 2. E. Shrewsbury
John Talbot, 3. E. Shrewsbury
John de la Pole, 2. Duke of Suffolk
John de la Pole, E. of Lincoln
Edmund de la Pole, E. of Suffolk
Richard de la Pole
John Sutton, Baron Dudley
James Butler, 5. Earl of Ormonde
Sir James Tyrell
Edmund Grey, first Earl of Kent
George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent
John, 5th Baron Scrope of Bolton
James Touchet, 7th Baron Audley
Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy
Robert Hungerford, Lord Moleyns
Thomas, Lord Scales
John, Lord Lovel and Holand
Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell
Sir Richard Ratcliffe
William Catesby
Ralph, 4th Lord Cromwell
Jack Cade's Rebellion, 1450


Tudor Period

King Henry VII
Queen Elizabeth of York
Arthur, Prince of Wales
Lambert Simnel
Perkin Warbeck
The Battle of Blackheath, 1497

King Ferdinand II of Aragon
Queen Isabella of Castile
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

King Henry VIII
Queen Catherine of Aragon
Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Jane Seymour
Queen Anne of Cleves
Queen Catherine Howard
Queen Katherine Parr

King Edward VI
Queen Mary I
Queen Elizabeth I
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
James IV, King of Scotland
The Battle of Flodden Field, 1513
James V, King of Scotland
Mary of Guise, Queen of Scotland

Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Louis XII, King of France
Francis I, King of France
The Battle of the Spurs, 1513
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Eustace Chapuys, Imperial Ambassador
The Siege of Boulogne, 1544

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex
Thomas, Lord Audley
Thomas Wriothesley, E. Southampton
Sir Richard Rich

Edward Stafford, D. of Buckingham
Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire
George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford
John Russell, Earl of Bedford
Thomas Grey, 2. Marquis of Dorset
Henry Grey, D. of Suffolk
Charles Somerset, Earl of Worcester
George Talbot, 4. E. Shrewsbury
Francis Talbot, 5. E. Shrewsbury
Henry Algernon Percy,
     5th Earl of Northumberland
Henry Algernon Percy,
     6th Earl of Northumberland
Ralph Neville, 4. E. Westmorland
Henry Neville, 5. E. Westmorland
William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester
Sir Francis Bryan
Sir Nicholas Carew
John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford
Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral
Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Henry Pole, Lord Montague
Sir Geoffrey Pole
Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Bourchier, 2. Earl of Essex
Robert Radcliffe, 1. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 2. Earl of Sussex
George Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon
Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter
George Neville, Baron Bergavenny
Sir Edward Neville
William, Lord Paget
William Sandys, Baron Sandys
William Fitzwilliam, E. Southampton
Sir Anthony Browne
Sir Thomas Wriothesley
Sir William Kingston
George Brooke, Lord Cobham
Sir Richard Southwell
Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre
Sir Francis Weston
Henry Norris
Lady Jane Grey
Sir Thomas Arundel
Sir Richard Sackville
Sir William Petre
Sir John Cheke
Walter Haddon, L.L.D
Sir Peter Carew
Sir John Mason
Nicholas Wotton
John Taylor
Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
Cardinal Reginald Pole
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London
Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London
John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester
John Aylmer, Bishop of London
Thomas Linacre
William Grocyn
Archbishop William Warham
Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham
Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester
Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford

Pope Julius II
Pope Leo X
Pope Clement VII
Pope Paul III
Pope Pius V

Pico della Mirandola
Desiderius Erasmus
Martin Bucer
Richard Pace
Christopher Saint-German
Thomas Tallis
Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent
Hans Holbein, the Younger
The Sweating Sickness

Dissolution of the Monasteries
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
Robert Aske
Anne Askew
Lord Thomas Darcy
Sir Robert Constable

Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The First Act of Succession, 1534
The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
The Second Statute of Repeal, 1555
The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men
Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Fleet Prison
Assize
Attainder
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer
Praemunire


The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster
"Sanctuary"


Images:

Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's Panoramic View of London, 1616. COLOR
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London




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