Monday, 11 May 2015

Fascinating Facts: Henry VI

This time we have a king who ruled twice, wrote miserable poetry, and nearly became a saint!

Fascinating Facts: Henry VI [1422-1461, 1470-1471]

In sharp contrast to his father Henry V, Henry VI looked on ruling as an anxious burden, distained pomp and notoriety, and distrusted pleasure.
He wrote this poem:

Kingdoms are but cares,
State is devoid of stay,
Riches are ready snares,
And hasten to decay.

Pleasure is a privy prick
Which vice doth still provoke;
Pomp, imprompt; and fame, a flame;
Power, a smouldering smoke.

Who meaneth to remove the rock
Out of the slimy mud,
Shall mire himself, and hardly scape
The swelling of the flood.
  • He was born 6 December 1421, son of the illustrious Henry V and Catherine de Valois, daughter of King Charles VI of France. He was heir to both England and France.
  • He became king of England at nine months old, and was crowned King of France when he was nine, following the execution of Joan of Arc.
  • By the time he became a man, most of England's French territories were lost, and the lords of the French kingdom supported Charles VII as king.
  • He founded Eton and King's College, Cambridge.
  • He married Margaret of Anjou when she was fifteen, the niece of Charles VII. For a long time there were no children and indeed, Henry may not have slept with Margaret, but she did eventually give him a son, Edward.
  • Two of Henry's trusted advisers, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and Richard, Duke of York, quarreled and began a war. They both claimed descent from brothers of Edward III and had their eye on the throne, because the queen had not yet had a child.
  • The country had been allowed to fall into near anarchy, and many of the administrators were corrupt and incompetent.
  • In the summer of 1453, the strain on the king caused him to suffer a complete mental collapse, and the Duke of York was named Protector. York immediately fought against the king's forces in an attempt to take the throne.
  • Queen Margaret organised the fight-back, and also her son was born, but the fight became what was later called the Wars of the Roses (the red rose for Henry's grandfather, Henry IV, who was Duke of Lancaster, and the white rose for the Duke of York).
  • The Duke of York died in battle and his heir, Edward, seized the throne and was crowned King Edward IV. Henry was a fugitive until he was captured and locked in the Tower of London, while his wife formed an alliance with the Earl of Warwick and kept up the fight.
  • Edward IV was forced to flee and Warwick restored Henry to the throne, but he was a puppet under Warwick's control.
  • Edward came back from France and won the battle against Warwick's forces. He ordered Henry killed, which was done on 21 May 1471.
  • Henry was considered a martyr and his tomb became a shrine to which pilgrims went. Miracles were reported, and later Henry VII tried to have him cannonised, but he was never made a saint.

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