Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MAY 21st  

On this day in history in 1471, died Henry VI.  

Henry VI was a monarch who became king of England at nine months old, king of France at ten months old, and lost the French throne once and the English throne twice.

Henry was born in 1421, at Windsor, the only son of Henry V of England and Catherine of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France. His father, Henry V, had conquered France and reached an agreement with the French king, Charles VI, that he, Henry V, would ascend the French throne on Charles’ death.  When Henry V died on 1st September 1422, Henry VI became king of England, aged nine months, and, when Charles VI of France died on 21st October 1422, Henry VI became king of France.  

While Henry was a minor, the government was conducted by his uncles, in particular Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Henry, Cardinal Beaufort. Henry concerned himself with religious and educational matters. He founded Eton College in 1440, King’s College, Cambridge in 1441, and studied scripture, growing up to be an unworldly weak minded individual.

The lack of firm government caused the French to rebel, under Joan of Arc, and many French possessions were lost. Henry tried to come to terms with the French by marrying Margaret of Anjou, of the French Royal family, but English hold on France gradually withered, and eventually the French Dauphin, son of Charles VI, proclaimed himself king of France.  

In 1453, Henry became insane, and the affairs of government were dealt with by Richard, Duke of York, whose claim to the throne was better than Henry’s, and who hoped to succeed to the crown when Henry died. Richard’s hopes were shattered when Queen Margaret gave birth to a son Edward. Richard rose in rebellion against Henry followed by many noblemen who were dissatisfied by the loss of French lands.  

During the succeeding Wars of The Roses, Richard was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, and the victorious Lancastrians chopped of Richard’s head and exhibited it on a pole on the walls of the city of York. The Yorkists fought back and won a decisive victory at St Albans in 1461, when Richard’s son deposed Henry and proclaimed himself king as Edward IV. Henry fled ignominiously to Scotland.  

In 1464, Henry returned to England in an attempt to regain the throne, but was defeated at the battle of Clitheroe, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1470, a dispute between Edward IV and Richard, earl of Warwick, caused Warwick to rebel against Edward and restore Henry to the throne.  In 1471, Edward gathered an army and defeated Henry’s forces at the Battle of Tewksbury. Both Warwick and Henry’s son, Prince Edward, were killed in battle. Henry was deposed once more, and imprisoned in the Tower, where he was murdered, some say by the Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III, on 21st May 1471.  

Henry was buried at Chertsey Abbey and, in 1485 his body was moved to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Many miracles were ascribed to Henry after his death and many believed him to be a saint. Every year, on the anniversary of Henry’s death, the Provosts of Eton and King’s College Cambridge lay roses and lilies on the site of his death.

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