Meet the monarchs: Henry VI

Henry VI, the son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, was born at Windsor Castle on December 6, 1422. At nine months old, Henry VI succeeded his father and at the death of his grandfather Charles VI a few weeks later, he was also proclaimed as the king of France. Could you imagine having a baby He was officially crowned king of England in 1429 at Leicester and king of France in 1431 at Westminster. In France, the English lost a lot of ground with the victory of Joan of Arc in 1429. The death of his uncle Bedford along with the defection of Philip of Burgundy in 1435 closed the first phase of Henry VI’s reign.

The next fifteen years was a struggle for France during the Hundred Years’ War. Henry VI had picked a team of advisers to guide him during his reign. One of Henry’s advisers, Cardinal Beaufort, controlled the council and it was under his guidance that Henry VI began to take part in government affairs. Henry VI seconded the peace policy but because of the nation’s pride the policy was unpopular and failed. Henry did not have the strength or knowledge about government affairs to prevent the power struggles that began to develop in court.

A man named William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, was noble in character and was tactless. He negotiated the marriage of Henry VI and Margret of Anjou in 1445 which earned him a lot of success. William de la Pole died in 1450 and Henry VI officially entered the last phase of dynamic struggle.

In 1453 Henry’s son was born and Henry had a mental breakdown. Richard, Duke of York became the protector and ruled England for the next year.  Henry recovered in 1455 but civil war broke out between the Lancastrian and Yorkist factions. This war later became known as the War of the Roses. While Richard, Duke of York was on York’s side, Queen Margret stood on the Lancastrian side. In 1460 Richard was killed but his son took up the fight and defeated the Lancastrians at Towton. Henry VI fled into exile when Richard’s son crowned himself king in 1461. Henry VI returned but was captured by the new king, Edward IV in 1465. Henry was later restored to the throne in 1470 by the Earl of Warwick who was previously an ally of kin Edward IV. Edward returned and destroyed Lancastian forces at Tewesbury in 1471. Henry and Margret’s only son, Edward, Prince of Wales, was among the Lancastian dead. Henry was captured in the North and was held captive in the Tower of London for six months in 1470-1471. Edward’s final victory was followed by Henry’s death in 1471 by being murdered. Henry may have been murdered by the hands of Richard of Gloucester who was later known as King Richard III.

In the latter half of Henry’s life, Henry planned the great foundations at Eton, Cambridge, and King’s College and laid the foundation-stones of both buildings.

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