Take Two!

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. On October 30, 1470, Henry VI gave ruling England another try when he was restored to the throne after the Earl of Warwick managed to defeat the Yorkist king Edward IV. Unfortunately, the second attempt at reigning really didn’t take.

Despite being the son of the legendary Henry V, Henry VI wasn’t a great warrior; nor was he particularly well suited to the role of 15th century monarch. He was peaceful and pious, and also afflicted with bouts of insanity which put him out of commission for long periods of time. His formidable wife, Margaret of Anjou, wore the pants in the royal family and pushed Henry to keep fighting the Wars of the Roses, which dragged on for much of the middle part of the century.

The Wars of the Roses broke out in 1455, shortly after Henry emerged from a total breakdown that lasted more than a year. During this period (and during the regency that was necessary when Henry came to the throne at just nine months of age), a number of noble families rose in power and prominence, most particularly the House of York, which was descended from both the second and the fourth surviving sons of Edward III. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, served as Protector of the Realm during the king’s year of incapacity, but his reforms were reversed by his rival, the Duke of Somerset, after the king recovered.

In an effort to do away with his opponents at court, Richard gathered an army and fought the First Battle of St. Albans, kicking off the Wars of the Roses. By 1460, his goals had changed and he decided he wanted the throne for himself and his heirs. He managed to capture King Henry at the Battle of Northampton, but then Richard and one of his sons were killed at the Battle of Wakefield. Richard’s oldest surviving son, Edward of York, took command and claimed the throne from Henry, who’d gone insane again and fled to Scotland with his wife. Queen Margaret largely directed Lancastrian resistance in England under the reign of the new king, Edward IV.

Edward owed much of his success to two major supporters: Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and George, Duke of Clarence (Edward’s younger brother). After the threesome had a falling-out, they went running to Queen Margaret and formed an alliance with her. Warwick defeated the Yorkists in battle, sending Edward off to hide, and restoring Henry VI to the throne. The strain of years of captivity and hiding had taken their toll on Henry, however, and he was essentially incapacitated. Clarence and Warwick ruled in his name.

The situation was clearly tenuous and only lasted six months. Warwick got a bit above himself and declared war on Burgundy, giving Edward IV a ready ally. Edward won a major victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury in May, 1471, killing Henry’s only son, Edward of Westminster. Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died mysteriously on the night of 21/22 May, 1471. He was buried first at Chertsey Abbey, then later moved to St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Although he as an unsuccessful king, he was very successful at fostering education: he founded both Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge, and every year the provosts of both institutions lay white lilies and roses on the spot in the Tower where Henry was allegedly put to death.

clared war on Burgundy, giving Edward IV a ready ally. Edward won a major victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury in May, 1471, killing Henry’s only son, Edward of Westminster. Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died mysteriously on the night of 21/22 May, 1471. He was buried first at Chertsey Abbey, then later moved to St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Although he as an unsuccessful king, he was very successful at fostering education: he founded both Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge, and every year the provosts of both institutions lay white lilies and roses on the spot in the Tower where Henry was allegedly put to death.



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