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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Henry VI of England

Henry was born on December 6, 1421 at Windsor Castle. He succeeded to the throne as King of England the day after his father's death, Henry V, on September 1, 1422 at the age of nine months. He was the youngest person ever to succeed to the English throne.

On October 21, 1422, Henry became the King of France as well, as upon his grandfather Charles VI's death in accordance with the Treaty of Troyes of 1420. His coronation as King of France was held at Notre Dame de Paris on December 16, 1431. He was crowned by his great-uncle, the Cardinal- Bishop of Winchester, who also insisted upon singing the Mass, much to the annoyance of the Bishop of Paris whose cathedral was being used for the occasion.

He was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents.

  Wikipedia Commons

Even at the age of three, Henry showed pious tendencies. It is claimed the prince would kick and scream in indignation of the profanation of having to travel on the Sabbath.

The saintly King Henry VI founded Kings College at Cambridge University. He left instructions for a choir of six lay clerks and 16 boys to be trained at the college school and to sing at daily services.

Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou on April 23, 1445 at Titchfield Abbey in Hampshire. She was 15-years-old, eight years younger than Henry when they wed and was described as beautiful, and furthermore "already a woman: passionate and proud and strong-willed."

The marriage of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou is depicted in this miniature from an illustrated manuscript of Vigilles de Charles VII by Martial d'Auvergne

After the death of King Henry V, England lost momentum in the Hundred Years' War, beginning with Joan of Arc's military victories. In August 1453, Bordeaux was lost, leaving Calais as England's only remaining territory on the continent. On hearing of the loss of Bordeaux, Henry experienced some kind of mental breakdown and became completely unresponsive to everything that was going on around him for more than a year.

From then on, Henry suffered periods of mental illness which eventually required his wife, Margaret of Anjou, to assume control of his kingdom.

At times, Henry suffered from a depression so grim that he couldn't speak. When he had one of his attacks, doctors were unable to stir the king despite using such treatments as pulling his nose and hair and blistering him with hot irons.

Disaffected nobles who had grown in power during Henry's reign (most importantly Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick) took matters into their own hands by backing the claims of the rival House of York for the throne, due to York's better descent from Edward III. Thus the Wars of the Roses began.

On July 10, 1460 the Earl of Warwick, defeated the king's Lancastrian forces in the Battle of Northampton. After the battle, Henry was found in his tent by Warwick, March and Fauconberg. Showing him proper respect they escorted him to Delapre Abbey, then Northampton, and finally London, where the tower garrison surrendered soon after.

Henry was rescued from imprisonment after the Second Battle of St Albans, but then deposed on March 29, 1461 by the victory at Towton of the Duke of York's son, Edward of York, who then became King Edward IV.

Richard Caton Woodville's The Battle of Towton

By this point, Henry was suffering such a bout of madness that he was apparently laughing and singing while the Second Battle of St Albans raged.

The Yorkists won a final decisive victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury on May 4, 1471, where Henry's son Edward was killed. Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died during the night of May 21, 1471.

According to the Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV, Henry died of melancholy on hearing news of the Battle of Tewkesbury and his son's death  It is widely suspected, however, that Edward IV had in fact ordered his murder.

The site in the Tower of London (the Wakefield Tower) where Henry VI died

King Henry VI was originally buried in Chertsey Abbey; then, in 1484, his body was moved to St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, by Richard III.

Henry was venerated as a saint by many after his death, because of his piety; for instance some that sought his intercession for headaches put on his hat hoping it would cure it their ailment.

Source Wikipedia

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