Growing up, I had an early love for history. It was one of my favorite subjects every year in school. Surprisingly, I had to fight for my grades–because the emotionless dates just wouldn’t stick in my brain. The stories did.
The stories that scared me for some reason were those of the Kings and Queens, Dukes and Duchesses, knights, and castles. Shakespeare scared me because it made no sense! All of these other things just reminded me of Shakespeare.
Years down the road, I ended up turning my path onto a traditional English degree. The field I wanted needed that degree. ….sigh. I squared my shoulders and prepared to finally understand great literature, because traditional English degrees involve lots and lots of literature. The biggest, baddest class was one I saved until the very last semester: British Renaissance Literature. Shakespeare’s time.
What began as the class I feared the most ended up leading to an absolute love for all things Kings and Queens, Dukes, Duchesses, castles… you get the point. I’ve since read voraciously about King Henry VIII–thanks in part to this class and partially due to Phillipa Gregory making history come ALIVE for me on the pages of The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance.
That leads me to today’s post. King Henry VIII was undoubtedly one of the most tyrannical, controversial kings that ever ruled England and so much of our society and world as we know it has rippled out from his acts. I could write on and on about King Henry VIII. Really. It’s my favorite time frame.
But today’s post is about Henry VI, not Henry VIII. So, how does my love of tyrannical Henry VIII relate to Henry VI being crowned King of England?
I’m not actually sure. I’ve spent years and years learning of King Henry VIII and the years surrounding his life and death. I haven’t taken the time to learn the rest of that time frame. I just spent more time than I’d like to admit to this evening trying to figure out how King Henry VIII was related/tied to King Henry VI. It’s not the great-grandfather relationship I’d suspected, as I’m sure most of us would assume. Maybe you wouldn’t. In case you’re curious, I found the following image and I’ve highlighted our infamous Henry VIII and where King Henry VI was on this family chart.
So, my entire knowledge of King Henry VI came from my internet research tonight because the topic sparked my interest. I didn’t realize I knew nothing about him, which led to me needing to know about him! What did I learn about King Henry VI? Here are some interesting facts I dug up…
Birth and Early Life
- Born December 6, 1421 in Windsor Castle click here if you’re interested in Windsor Castle tidbits
- He was the only child of King Henry V
- His mother–Catherine of Valois–was prevented from playing a significant role in her son’s life by the English due to her lineage scroll to the Child King section to read about his mother
- A regency council ruled for Henry until he was of age
- Ascended to the throne of England when he was only 9 months old, upon his father’s death in August of 1422. To this day, he is the youngest person to ever succeed to the English throne.
- Reigned as King of England from 1422 to 1461
- In July of 1460, Richard of York took him captive (in the Tower of London) but he was rescued by December of the same yea
- Was dethroned in 1461 when Richard’s son–Edward VI–took claim of the throne
- Was restored to the throne in 1470 by the Earl of Warwick–but held his claim for only about 6 months
- Edward VI defeated him again in 1471 and imprisoned him in the Tower of London again
- Succeeded to the French throne upon the death of his grandfather–Charles VI in October of 1422
- Was highly disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453
- Had lost claim to the French throne by 1453 (leading to a mental breakdown)
Marriage & Family
- Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou in 1445 in an attempt to make peace in the Hundred Years War. She was Charles VII’s niece (Charles was contesting his right to the throne). This peace attempt was unsuccessful. Click here to read about Margaret of Anjou
- Margaret was only 15 years old when they married.
- Their only son–Edward of Lancaster–was born in October of 1453. He was not quite 18 when he died in battle in 1471; he was also the only heir apparent to ever die in battle.
Social/Cultural Facts of this Time Frame
- France was involved in the Hundred Years War –in which succession to the throne was being contested. Henry VI inherited this confict from his father and consequently only held claim to the French throne for 31 years. Hundred Years War–Wikipedia
- Henry VI suffered a mental breakdown as a result of the Hundred Years War not going his way and losing his claims to France. Richard of York stepped in temporarily for a year until he recovered. Richard of York info
- The War of the Roses began in the year 1460–which was essentially a civil war for the right to the English throne–spearheaded by none other than Richard of York who had so kindly helped the King out. More on the Wars of the Roses
- Henry VI was captured, dethroned, rescued, and captured again within a 5 year time frame (1460 to 1465) in the conflict with Richard of York and Edward VI. No wonder he had so many mental breakdowns!
- Shakespeare wrote about King Henry VI–in which he was portrayed as a weak man who was controlled by his wife. Not a very flattering portrait of this downtrodden king. Work #1 Work #2 Work #3
- Shakespeare’s works were heavily influenced by politics and the monarchy–especially by Queen Elizabeth. It is speculated that he didn’t mention any madness or mental breakdowns of Henry VI since it could reflect badly upon Elizabeth who had ties to his family line. scroll to the Shakespeare’s Henry VI and After section
- (*Speculation) Henry VI was captured and held in the Tower of London instead of killed. It is speculated that he’d been kept alive because his son was a much stronger threat to the claim/fight for the throne. Once his son died in battle, he died not long after. Some say he died of heartbreak upon learning his son had died; others speculate that Edward had him killed since his son was no longer a threat. skip to the Imprisonment and Death section for this speculation
- Henry VI’s half brother Edmond Tudor would become father to Henry VII–who sired Henry VIII. Now we found the connection!! check out the Child King section for this info!
- Henry VI died while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1471.
- It is speculated his death was ordered by Edward VI who had just defeated him yet again.
How He Affected History
(This section could be MUCH bigger, so forgive me for just listing the few that stood out to me!)
- Educational Institutions
- Founded Eton College
- Founded King’s College
- Founded Cambrige
- Founded All Soul’s College
- War of the Roses–this shifted power from the Plantagenet line to the York line, which led to the Tudor line.