Depth 3 - Renewed crises and challenges, c1449-61


To what extent did key personalities of Henry VI's reign affect the governance of England from 1449 to 1461?

The personality of Henry VI

  • His reign was politically vunerable from the start - needed councils to rule England and France
  • Was expected to take control at 14/15 years old - however didn't and nobles still in power

Henry VI: saint or sinner?

  • Seen as bad king - phsyically and mentally weak, indecisive, easily swayed, poor judge
  • Had no military interest - never led into battle, had no authority over the men
  • Poorly dressed for a king, disliked hunting, feasting, jousting etc. - not kingly 
  • Lack of extravagant clothes reflective of crown debt - made diplomacy more difficult
  • Some argue he was a poor ruler because he focused too much on being pious - spent a lot of time in prayer, set up King's College Cambridge and Eton to train priests - too spiritual
  • 1471 - Henry died - was a push from Lancastrians to make him a saint - Edward IV needed to surpress these claims
  • Henry VII wanted to promote sainthood of Henry VI because he was of Lancastrian descent - encouraged interpretations like Shakespeare - thought Henry VI was too devout to be king
  • Others argue he was just useless - ineffective ruler led to nobles gaining too much power - the system couldn't survive without a monarch, so led to civil war
  • Others argue he was involved with government but was immoral in character
  • However, Henry VI faced many difficulties:
  • Followed Henry V, who was the perfect king - high expectations
  • Treaty of Troyes left him with 2 kingdoms to manage - one of which hated him
  • Difficult financial situation - Henry V spent a lot of money on war with France
  • Henry had no example of how a king should rule - only bickering nobles
  • Also, had hereditary illness - bouts of insanity left him unable to rule

The personality and influence of Margaret of Anjou

  • After lots of French defeats, some English nobles fed up
  • Somerset and Suffolk arranged the Treaty of Tours:
  • Henry VI to marry Margaret of Anjou (niece of Charles VII)
  • No dowry to be provided - English to pay for the entire wedding
  • Surrender of Maine - kept secret because would outrage people
  • 1445 - Margaret came to court - nobmenen (Gloucester) opposed her marriage - she seeked support in Somerset and Suffolk - led to reputation of factionalism
  • Margaret presented very badly by contemporary chroniclers - hostile towards her because she was a French woman. 'Medieval mysogyny' essentially meant men were scared of women having power (lots of literature). Foreign queens often seen as spies forwarding interests of their country
  • Margaret actively opposed York and Warwick - sought to control the king herself
  • Very protective over son's claim - thought York wanted to claim throne (which he did)
  • Lancastrian troops had bad reputation for looting etc.
  • Margaret encouraged vengeful acts, e.g. 'Parliament of Devils'

The impact of Henry VI and


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