Henry VI/Start of the Wars of the Roses

  • Created by: elyornais
  • Created on: 22-04-15 12:00


  • Henry VI lacked the characteristics expected of a king, regardless of his good tuition and upbringing. He was taught all lessons on how to be a king such as the art of kingship, military leadership and good governance but it did not have the desired effect.
  • Indecisive and slow to act.
  • Never commanded an army against a foreign enemy, left the kingdom's military leadership to his uncles: Duke of Bedford and Duke of Gloucester and courtiers like Somerset, Suffolk and Richard, Duke of York.
  • Could not live up to his father's reputation (he had won the battle of Agincourt and captured french lands)
  • Only time he went to battle was the occasion of Cade's rebellion.
  • Relied too much on the advice of those around him- they knew how to manipulate him.
  • Began to suffer mental health problems that led to his lapse into insanity in 1453.
  • Was more religious 'a fool of God' and interested in education not war.
  • His wife did more to do with politics and war.
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  • Failure to lead subjects to war harmed his reputation- he was expected to be like his father which could have led to his mental breakdown (early 1450s)
  • French resumed war with England after Henry V died 1422.
  • During Henry's minority, war was conducted with some success under Duke of Bedford but no major success. 10yo Henry VI was crowned king of France in 1531.
  • French were becoming more powerful with their superior resources and the English needed a strong king.

The Treaty of Tours:

  • Greatest achievement 1444- established peace that lasted until 1449.
  • Marked the marriage between Henry and Margaret of Anjou (1445)
  • Margarets dowry of 20,000 francs was never payed and Henry agreed to hand the French the strategically vital territory of Maine.
  • War resumed 1449 and it was England's fault as Henry followed the advice of Suffolk to capture the Breton town of Fougeres.
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  • War was expensive- taxes. Taxpayers reluctant to fund failure.
  • Lost Normandy in 1450 and Gascony in 1451 was a failure as it affected incomes of noble families.
  • England lost its right to rule french territories- lost loyalty of the nobility.
  • Crown was in serious debt- by 1450, Crown owed about £370,000 and king owed money to Richard, Duke of York.
  • Regular annual income fell from £120,000 to £45,000. Decrease was due to: reduction in income from customs and taxes (general trade depression), reduction of income from crown lands, increasing spending on french war. By 1455- Lancastrian dynasty was bankrupt.
  • Kings favourites: Somerset, Cardinal Henry Beaufort and Suffolk. They were rewarded well.
  • Described as 'evil councillors' and people demanded their removal so were determined to join an opposition group to those that would damage the country.
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Under-mighty Monarch

  • Control of government remained in hands of noble ministers- led to tension and rivalry at court between ambitious nobles.
  • 1447- Duke of Gloucester(Henry's uncle) was brought down by his rival, Cardinal Henry Beaufort (somerset's uncle) He didnt help his uncle and Gloucester died under mysterious circumstances.
  • Cardinal Beaufort offered Henry large sums of money as a means to control him- Henry mistook this as friendship.
  • Misunderstood seriousness of rivalry between Dukes of Somerset and York and this lead to outbreak off civil war.
  • Mishandled war in France by resuming it in 1449- loss of Normandy and fall of Suffolk (chief advisor) as he was blamed for disaster.
  • Margaret of Anjou had a strong personality and made Henry look weaker. She had lots of influence over him.
  • York resented her meddling in affairs of state. The excluded nobles became resentful but Margaret brushed them aside.
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Over-mighty Subjects

  • Richard Duke of York was a descendant of Edward III (arguably had a stronger claim)
  • Owned vast, landed estate that stretched across England and Northern France.
  • Was a capable politician, warrier and had healthy sons. Over- reaching ambition.
  • Competition for royal patronage should work out in favour to the monarch as a divided nobility would be too busy in their quarrels to challenge the Crown.
  • But Henry was weak and indecisive and allowed this to get out of hand.
  • He enabled ambitious nobles to become too powerful.
  • War between nobility.
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Exclusion of York

  • York was excluded from the centre of power depite being the king's closest living male relative.
  • King's chief advisers, Suffolk and Somerset opposed him. They lead a faction that enabled them to monopolise royal patronage and would not share power with York.
  • The queen didn't like or trust York becuase of his forcefulness, his blood relationship with the king and his claim to the throne. When Gloucester died, York became heir-presumptive but Margaret succeeded in keeping him at arms length from the king and court.
  • York was too stubborn arrogant and demanding. Had no patience and preffered confrontation and challenge.
  • Served twice as the king's military commander in France so mortified when he was replaced by Somerset- York suspected Somerset for having kingly ambitions(somerset had a claim to throne)
  • He was owed £38,000 by the crown for his service and wanted to be paid some of it or be appointed to a meaningful role- he was appointed with the lieutenancy of Ireland.
  • Debts remained unpaid and he survived only with financial assistance from friends and sale of some of his properties.
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Fall of Suffolk and Act of Resumption

  • 1449- England defeated with loss of Glascony and Normandy under Somerset- York's complaints valid.
  • Suffolk and Somerset blamed for defeats. Henry VI called on parliament to raise money for war but they refused and charged Suffolk with treason- accused of misgovernment, mismanaging war and financial corruption- imprisoned in Tower.
  • Henry VI intervened and banished him to France for 5 years but the ship was intercepted in the channel and he was captured by his enemies.
  • Price of further grants of taxation- Commons demanded king approve of passing act of resumption.
  • Passing this act made it possible to recover most of the grants of land with which the king rewarded favourites over previous decades.- Humiliation for king as it undermined his authority and ability to offer rewards.
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Cade's Rebellion

  • Rebels led by Cade who was nothing more than a murderous criminal. Rebels pledged loyalty to the king but made demands:
  • Removal and punishment of royal officials guilty of corruption and misgovernment in Kent.
  • Fair and impartial justice, restoration of law and order.
  • Removal of evil councillors.
  • Appointment of Dukes of York, Buckingham and Exeter to the royal council.
  • Rebellion collapsed but still executed a number of royal courtiers.
  • York left Ireland and returned to london in Sep 1450.- Greeted with enormous public support.
  • York presented king with list of grievances- two bills of complaint.
  • First Bill: Concerned with position of Heir, debts and fact that his advice has been ignored.
  • Second Bill: General grievances similar to the ones that Cade's rebels had drawn up.
  • York persuaded king to meet some demands, backed by 3000 armed retainers, he was appointed to royal council.
  • Somerset still dominated King's council, money owed to York not paid and position as heir-presumptive not legally recognised. Somerset was made Captain of Calais- control of the largest army.
  • 1452 York's army met the king's but most powerful nobles remained loyal to king- York outnumbered and forced to submit. Queen got pregnant- blow to his position as heir-presumptive.
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Henry VI's insanity and York's Protectorate

  • Aug 1453- Henry heard of defeats in France that ended english victory in 100 years war- he suffered mental breakdown.
  • Margaret worked with Somerset in politics to exclude York from power and make herself regent.
  • Appaled nobility who turned on Somerset and supported York- Margaret tried to conciliate enemies by imprisoning Somerset in the tower.
  • Nevilles supported York and MoA could not prevent York from assuming the power and authority of protecter and defender of the realm in 1454.
  • Protectorate short lived (12 months) but reduced size and expenditure of royal household and restored greater law and order.
  • He failed to have Somerset put on trial for treason. Still gained little support from noble families.
  • Prince Edward born in 1453- York posed threat to his inheritance- determined to destroy York even after Henry recovered (1454).
  • Henry declared York as his pricipal royal advisor but this was short lived as Margaret convinced him to exclude York from decision making process on important matters.
  • Somerset released and appointed captain of Calais.- Henry became puppet of MoA- York fled North to raise an army with support of Nevilles.
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St Albans

  • 1455- York led supporters into rebellion against Henry VI. Aims: destruction of Somerset, elimination of Margaret's influence, control of the king. No intention of taking crown, just wanted to be king's chief councillor(power behind throne).
  • Somerset and queen convinced he was plotting treason.
  • Henry VI summoned York to Leicester to explain himself, York arrived with 3000+ men while king had less than 2000 so had to negotiate- led to battle which was a skirmish but Somerst and Northumberland were killed.
  • York still lacked noble support needed to contol king and gov. Compromise reached - York reappointed to council and became principal advisor + York had Warwick appointed to Captain of Calais. King lapsed into insanity again.
  • 1455-1456 York served again as protector.
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Loveday 1458

  • Peace was fragile and short lived.
  • Loveday was an attempt at reconcillation.
  • Distrust and suspicion still lingered and eventually turned into bloody conflict.
  • Staged- members of rival factions marched arm in arm into St Paul's Cathedral- sought to heal divisions between victims and victors at Battle of st Albans.
  • Superficial and fooled no-one
  • Bitter feud developed between Margaret and Warwick- she tried to have him arrested but failed.
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Blore Heath and 'rout' of Ludford

  • Queen and Buckingham raised army to destroy Yorkists.
  • York and supporters (Salisbury and Warwick) each raised an army.
  • Lancastrians under Lord Audley intercepted Salisbury at Blore Heath. Audley Killed. Yorkists merged armies and awaited Lancastrians.
  • Henry VI turned up and part of the Yorkists defected to th Lancastrians.
  • York, Salisbury and Warwick fled leaving their troops to surrender. Yorkist leaders left England- York in Ireland, Salisbury, Warwick and Edward took shelter in Calais.
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Parliament of Devils

  • MoA persuaded Henry to call a Parliament in Coventry to publicly disgrace York.
  • Met in 1459, parliament branded York, Salisbury and Warwick as traitors, sentenced them to death and had their lands and goods seized. Disinherited Yorkist leaders' heirs- shocked nobility and turned some against Crown.
  • Harsh treatment backfired as it made them seek revenge.
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Northampton and Wakefield: Death of York

  • June 1460- Yorkist invasion, Warwick, Salisbury and York's heir, Edward returned to England with army of 2000.
  • Took on London with ease and recruited more troops.
  • Warwick's yorkist army encountered Henry VI army near Northampton. Lancastrians (led by Buckingham) heavily defeated.
  • Henry VI captured and Buckingham executed. Margaret and her son escaped.
  • Control of gov not enough for York and after this victory he claimed throne for himself forcing Henry to agree to Act of accord:
  • Henry VI was to remain king, Henry's son was disinherited, Margaret banished for life, succession entrusted to Richard of York and his offspring recognised as heirs by the law.
  • Queen refused to accept and raised troops in the north. York, his son Edmund and Salisbury marched to Yorkshire to meet her in battle.
  • at Wakefield, Yorkists were crushed by larger Lancastrian force.
  • York and his son Edmund were killed and Salisbury was captured and later executed.
  • York's head with a paper crown on it was stuck on the walls of York. Succeeded by 19yo Edward, Earl of March.
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Yorkists Triumphant

  • Margaret hurried to rescue her husband from Warwick's custody.
  • Yorkists under Warwick suffered another defeat at second Battle of St Albans (1461)
  • Henry released but Margaret failed to follow up her victory by not taking London.
  • Warwick fled to Welsh border to join with Edward.
  • Edward marched north to intercept a Lancastrian army- victory at Mortimer's Cross that was planned and led by him.
  • Edward proclaimed king on 4 March 1461.
  • Before he could be crowned, he had to march north to confront Lancastrians.
  • Following day was Battle of Towton - more than 50,000 men involved, great slaughter.
  • Henry VI, MoA and their son fled to Scotland while Edward returned to London to be crowned. Yorkist Triumph.
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