Henry VI


Historian Quotes

  • "A king for whom the word incompetence is a pale reflection of the grisly reality" (Carpenter)
  • "Few kings have inherited so many problems...None of these were Henry's fault but his failure to address them effectivly made their escalation his responsibility" (Weir) 
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  • Henry mismanaged the nobility by having favorites (E.g Somerset, Suffolk and Cardinal Beaufort). This alienated other nobles (York)
  • York dissatisfied by being sent to Ireland. Demands of Cade's rebellion in 1450, similar to York's interests. 
  • Overmighty subjects formed. All of Henry's favorites manipulated Henry in some way. Suffolk accused of insatisable convetise. Duke of York rebelled (St. Albans and the meeting at Dartford) and put s)o much pressure on Henry that he signed the Act of Accord, disinheriting his own son. 
  • Duke of Suffolk clearly incompetant in his job as Captain of Calais (returned Maine and Anjou to the French which angered English civillians). Suffolk impeached and executed, despite Henry's attempts to protect him (Shows weakness in King's authority?)
  • Was Henry's usurption due to Overmighty Nobles or an Undermighty King? 
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  • Henry engaged in a number of expensive wars which were a drain on resources (E.g Battle of Castillon). However, it can be argued that it was necessary for him to continue the wars in France to fulfill his father's legacy. 
  • He was ineffective in accumilating finances to fund these wars. 
  • Only issued 21 Acts of Attainder and reversed all of them.
  • Over generous to his favorited subjects, giving them vast amounts of crown lands as rewards, which in turn, decreased his own income
  • Was in debt to York by £17 million in today's money
  • By the end of his reign the crown was £372,000 in debt
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Foreign Policy

  •  In 1415, during the reign of Henry V, England were in possession of the north of France (from the river Loire upwards, including Paris, Calais, Aquitaine & Rouen), Bordeaux which is on the west coast of France and the English were in alliance with Burgundy.
  •   In 1445, Henry’s marriage to Margaret of Anjou, niece of Charles VII king of France, was an attempt to strengthen foreign power and reinforce the English claim to the French throne (this was due to Edward III’s claim to the French throne. assuming the title “King of France and the French Royal Arms” which effectively started the Hundred Years War.) However this marriage had an almost opposite effect on what it was supposed to achieve, instead Queen Margaret put pressure on Henry VI to return land to France on behalf of her uncle the French King, in addition to this, instead of Charles VII paying a customary dowry for Henry’s marriage to Margaret it was decided that Henry would return Maine and Anjou to France in the Treaty of Tours, this agreement was kept a secret from the English populace and parliament. Upon discovery of the treaty, the Duke of Suffolk, who had negotiated the marriage, was scapegoated, impeached and executed.
  • Two humiliating defeats, Formigny in 1450 and Castillon in 1453, helped push the English out of Aquitaine and Normandy. By 1461 during the reign of Henry VI only Calais, a small city on the Northern coast of France 
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Government and Law

  •    Henry VI inherited the throne when he was just 9 months old; the government was well run by the regency council during his infancy.
  •    Henry’s failure to provide leadership at the centre of government left a power vacuum that members of the nobility at court attempted to fill- this instability was heightened by the fact that until 1453 Henry had no heir to the throne.
  •  The tense political situation finally reached breaking point with two events in 1453: (1) The French humiliatingly defeated the English at the Battle of Castillon, ending the Hundred Years war; (2) Henry had a mental breakdown and was unable to communicate.
  •   Henry was unable to regain control when he recovered physically in 1455 the court was dominated by his wife, who was locked in rivalry with Richard Duke of York. 
  •   In 1459 the Parliament of Devils was held. This was a declaration that Yorkists were traitors by Lancastrian nobles at Coventry. However, this created almost the opposite effect to what Maraget of Anjou desired as it created sympathy for the Yorkist cause as a result of their harsh treatment. 
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Standard Criteria

  •  Provided an heir however signs Act of Accord in October 1460, disinheriting his son Edward and declaring Richard Duke of York as his heir to the Throne.
  • Weak Personality/ Poor Soldier/ Poor leadership (e.g. Margaret of Anjou led his Lancastrian Army, and suffered mentally in 1453, fled during Cade’s Revolt in 1450, First English monarch not to lead an army against a foreign force)
  • Henry was a weak and vacillating monarch, easily dominated by his advisors, by the nobility and by his strong-willed, formidable wife Margaret of Anjou.
  • Mistook loans from favorites for acts of friendship rather than manipulation.
  •  His irrational decision making often had dire consequences (e.g. his apparent decision to punish Kent for the death of the Duke of Suffolk led to Cade’s Revolt.)
  •   He had a good claim to the throne, as his father was king.


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Battles/ Conflict

  • 1450, CADE'S REBELLION: Many unpaid soldiers returned from the war. One of Henry's key advisors (Bishop of Chichester) was lynched. Rebellion reached London. Petitioned about the need to reform govt and had grivences about Lord Saye. Henry fled London which made him look weak. Bishop of Sailsbury dragged from church and beheaded. 
  • 1455, 1ST BATTLE OF ST. ALBANS: 'Messy skirmish'. However, Somerset and Northumberland killed and Henry wounded. Henry went unprepared with Buckingham, thinking York wouldnt fight. Margaret of Anjou was now even more convinced that York had kingly ambitions
  • 1460 (AFTER PARLIAMENT OF DEVILS) BATTLE OF NORTHAMPTON: Yorkist win, Henry VI captured and Yorkists take control of his name. York reaches London and puts hand on throne, which was a surprising and unpopular move for many. Result: Act of Accord 
  • 1460 (AS A RESPONSE TO AofA) BATTLE OF WAKEFIELD: Margaret raises army to protect her son's inheritanceYork killed, severed head with a paper crown placed on the gates of York. His son, Edward becomes Duke of York and decided to make an attempt for the throne.
  • 1461 2ND BATTLE OF ST. ALBANS: Yorkist victorious and Edward is now free to crown himself king.
  • 1461 BATTLE OF TOWTON: Huge battle, Yorkists still win. The fact that although Edward was already technically king and had to have another battle anyway shows limited Yorkist support. 
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The Wars of the Roses 1450- 1509



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