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Henry VI - 1422-1461, 1470-1471

Key Facts about Henry VI

Henry was one year old when his father died and he became King of England. According to the Treaty of Troyes he also became King of France on the death of Charles VI. During his childhood his kingdom was ruled by the Duke of Bedford, who was Regent of France and by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in England.

This glorious start to Henry's reign did not last long, for by the time he was old enough to assume his role as King in 1437, England had lost much of its land in France to the French troops inspired by Joan of Arc. 1453 was a fateful year, not only because England had lost all its French possessions, except Calais, but the King's mind also gave way.

A Protector, Richard Duke of York, was named to carry on the affairs of state. On Henry's recovery in 1455 Richard was dismissed and in revenge led an army against the King.

This was the beginning of what came to be known as the Wars of the Roses. The two factions within the kingdom sided either with the King, the Lancastrians, who took a red rose as their symbol, or with the Duke of York who adopted a white rose as his emblem. In 1461 the son of the Duke of York became King as Edward IV.

He came to the throne through the efforts of his father, as Henry VI became increasingly less effective. However, the Earl of Warwick proclaimed Henry King again in 1470, but less than a year elapsed before Edward claimed the crown and had Henry executed in 1471.

Henry's temperament and delicate constitution was not suited to the rigours of kingship and he had paid little attention to court politics and administration. His interests were cultural and religious. He founded Eton College and encouraged the building of the beautiful King's College chapel at Cambridge.

After his death Henry's reputation as a good man and noble king grew and his burial place became a place of pilgrimage. In fact when Richard III became the Yorkist King, Henry's tomb was moved to Windsor so that Richard could keep an eye on the cult of Henry the 'saint'.

Key Events during the Reign of Henry VI

1422 - Henry becomes King of England on the death of his father Henry V. Two months later he becomes King of France on the death of his grandfather Charles VI.

1429 - Joan of Arc begins to expel the English from France.

1431 - Joan of Arc is burned at the stake by the English.

1437 - Henry assumes personal rule of England. Catherine of Valois, Henry V's queen, dies.

1453 - End of 100 Years' War. English driven out of France.

1454 - Henry's cousin, Richard, Duke of York, is made Protector during Henry's mental illness.

1455 - Duke of York is dismissed. He rebels against the King and takes over the government. Start of the Wars of the Roses.

1460 - Henry is defeated at the Battle of Northampton and taken prisoner.

1461 - Henry is deposed by Richard's son Edward, Duke of York, who is then crowned Edward IV.

1464 - Henry VI becomes a fugitive.

1470-71 - Henry is briefly reinstated on the throne.

1471 - Henry is murdered in the Tower of London.

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