Henry VI (1421-1471)
Born 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle, as the only son of King Henry V and Queen Katherine of Valois, Henry VI succeeded to both the thrones of England and France before his first birthday, when his father Henry V and his maternal grandfather Charles VI of France died within months of each other. Henry was crowned King of England in 1429 and, in 1431, King of France. Henry inherited the long-running Hundred Years War where his uncle Charles VII challenged his claim to the French throne. His childhood years were dominated by his uncles Cardinal Beaufort and his uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (who opposed each other). In the hope of achieving peace Henry married Margaret of Anjou, Charles VII’s niece in 1445, with whom he would have one son, Edward. But the strategy failed. Another uncle, the Duke of Bedford, was Regent of France; his death in 1435, combined with Burgundy breaking the alliance with England, led to the collapse of English rule in northern France and England lost most of its French territories. In 1453 the King had his first mental breakdown, which gave Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, the opportunity to take control over the government. In 1454 York was made Lord Protector but civil war broke out between the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions after the King's recovery in 1455. Margaret led the resistance against York and later against his son Edward IV. Henry was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1465, but in 1470 he was for just a couple months restored to the throne by the support of his half-brother Jasper Tudor, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Edward IV's younger brother George, Duke of Clarence. But the readeption would only last for a brief period. Edward returned from exile and Henry was again commited to the Tower and eventually secretly murdered there on Edward IV’s orders on 21 May 1471. Henry and Margaret's son had been killed a few weeks before at the Battle of Tewkesbry and so Edward IV had been able to ‘crush the seed’. Lancastrian rule decisively ended and Yorkist reign continued for the next fourteen years. Henry was originally buried at Chertsey Abbey but was reburied in Windsor Castle more than a decade later. He left a legacy of educational foundations, having founded the Colleges of Eton, King’s and All Souls.