King Henry VI

HENRY VI (1421–1471), king of England, the only son of Henry V and Catherine of France, was born at Windsor on St. Nicholas day, 6 Dec. 1421. He was baptised by Archbishop Chichele, his godparents being his uncle John, duke of Bedford; his great-uncle Henry Beaufort [q. v.], bishop of Winchester; and Jacqueline, countess of Holland (Walsingham, Hist. Anglicana, ii. 342). His father’s death on 31 Aug. 1422 made him king of England when only nine months old. His reign was reckoned as beginning on 1 Sept. (Ordinances of P. C. iii. 3; Nicolas, Chronology of History, pp. 284, 323). On 21 Oct. his grandfather, Charles VI, died, and he was at once proclaimed king of France.

Henry V’s last directions were ignored, and parliament granted the protectorship of the little king to his eldest uncle, John, duke of Bedford, and, during John’s absence in France, to his younger brother, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (Rot. Parl. iv. 174). But the real government rested with the council, and all writs and proceedings were issued in Henry’s name. Sir Walter Hungerford [q. v.], who had been appointed by Henry V to attend on his son, was on 18 Feb. 1423 excused from his office (Ord. P. C. iii. 37), and Henry remained under his mother’s care. On 18 Nov. 1423 he was brought from Windsor and shown to the assembled parliament at Westminster. On 16 Jan. 1424 Joan, wife of Thomas Astley, was appointed his nurse, with a salary of 40l. a year, as large as that of a privy councillor (ib. iii. 131). On 21 Feb. Dame Alice Butler was selected to attend his person, with license ‘to chastise us reasonably from time to time’ (ib. iii. 143), and with the same salary as Joan Astley (ib. iii. 191), afterwards increased by forty marks. In June 1425 the council ordered that the heirs of all baronies and higher dignities then in the crown’s wardship should be brought up at court about the king’s person, each one being provided with a master at the state’s charge (ib. iii. 170), so that the palace henceforth became an ‘academy for the young nobility’ (cf. Fortescue, De Laudibus Legum Angliæ, in Works, i. 373, ed. Lord Clermont).

The council forced the king to take a personal part in public functions before he was four years old. In April 1425 he appeared at St. Paul’s, ‘led upon his feet between the lord protector and the Duke of Exeter unto the choir, whence he was borne to the high altar.’ Afterwards he was ‘set upon a fair courser and so conveyed through Chepe and the other streets of the city’ (Fabyan, Concordance of Histories, p. 594, ed. 1811). During the parliament that then assembled Henry was ‘sundry times conveyed to Westminster, and within the parliament chamber kept his royal state’ (ib. p. 594; Waurin, Chroniques, 1422–31, p. 198; Rot. Parl. iv. 261). In February 1426 he opened the ‘parliament of bats’ at Leicester, where Bedford sought to appease the fierce dissensions between Gloucester and Bishop Beaufort. On Whitsunday 1426 Bedford dubbed his nephew a knight, a number of young nobles afterwards receiving knighthood from the ‘gracious hands’ of the little king (Ord. P. C. iii. 225; Gregory, p. 160). He kept his Christmas and New-year’s court in 1426–7 at Eltham, receiving among his presents some coral beads that had once belonged to King Edward, and was amused by the games and interludes of Jack Travaill and his companions and by ‘portable organs’ (Fœdera, x. 387–8).

In May 1428 Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick [q. v.], is described as the king’s ‘master’ (Ord. P. C. iii. 294), a post for which he had perhaps been nominated by Henry V himself (Stubbs, Const. Hist. iii. 92, adopts this view from Waurin, Chroniques, 1399–1422, p. 423; and Monstrelet, Chroniques, iv. 110; Gesta Hen. Quinti, p. 159, joins Warwick with the two Beauforts; but cf. for a different view Elmham, p. 333, ed. Hearne; and Hardyng, pp. 387, 394, who says that Exeter acted first and Warwick after his death in 1427, see Beaufort, Thomas). A body of knights and squires was appointed to reside about the king, and the castles of Wallingford and Hertford were fixed for his summer habitation, and Windsor and Berkhampstead for his residence in winter (Ord. P. C. iii. 295). On 1 June Warwick was ordered ‘to be about the king’s person,’ and directed to ‘teach him to love, worship, and dread God, draw him to virtue by ways and means convenable, lying before him examples of God’s grace to virtuous kings and the contrary fortune of kings of the contrary disposition, teach him nurture, literature, language, and other manner of cunning, to chastise him when he doth amiss, and to remove persons not behovefull nor expedient from his presence’ (ib. iii. 296–300; cf. Fœdera, x. 399).

The exploits of the Maid of Orleans now prepared the downfall of the Anglo-Burgundian power in France. The French council pressed for the coronation of Henry as a counter-move to the coronation of Charles VII at Rheims on 17 July 1429. The English council was glad to have an opportunity to diminish Duke Humphrey’s power, and on 6 Nov. 1429, ‘a clear and bright day,’ Henry was crowned at Westminster in the presence of parliament. Warwick led him to the ‘high scaffold set up in the Abbey,’ where he sat ‘beholding the people all about sadly and wisely,’ and showing great ‘humility and devotion.’ The function ended with ‘an honourable feast in the great hall, where the king, sitting in his state, was served with three courses’ (Fabyan, p. 599; Gregory, Chronicle, pp. 165–170; Wright, Political Songs, ii. 140–8). Parliament at once resolved that Gloucester’s protectorship was at an end (Rot. Parl. iv. 337), and proclamation was made that the king would forthwith visit his French dominions (Ord. P. C. iv. 10–11).

On 24 Feb. 1430 the king, after service at St. Paul’s, removed from London to Kennington. Thence on Palm Sunday he went to Canterbury, where he remained for Easter (16 April). On St. George’s day, 23 April, he crossed from Dover to Calais, accompanied, it was believed, by ten thousand soldiers (Ann. S. Alban. i. 48–51; cf. Ord. P. C. iv. x.), and conducted by Cardinal Beaufort. He landed at Calais at about ten in the morning, and rode at once on horseback to high mass at St. Nicholas’s Church (Monstrelet, iv. 389; Waurin, p. 360). On 17 July he proceeded to Rouen (Ann. S. Alban. i. 52), the capture of the Maid of Orleans on 23 May probably making the journey less dangerous. But the English cause had now sunk so low that Henry was kept many months at Rouen, while vigorous, though unsuccessful, efforts were made to clear the way to Rheims for his coronation. He was at Rouen during the trial and martyrdom of the Maid of Orleans, sometimes present during the proceedings (Quicherat, Procès de Jeanne d’Arc, ii. 325, Soc. de l’Histoire de France), though Bedford, as a rule, kept him discreetly in the background.

Despairing of approaching Rheims, Bedford had to content himself with crowning his nephew at Paris. On Advent Sunday, 2 Dec., Henry made his triumphant entry into Paris by the Porte Saint-Denis. The city was gaily adorned, and municipality, university, and populace heartily welcomed him (Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris, pp. 430–3, ed. Buchon, Basin, Chronique, i. 90, Soc. de l’Histoire de France; Jean Chartier, i. 130, 131, ed. Vallet de Viriville; Monstrelet, v. 1–6, ed. Douët-d’Arcq). Henry visited his grandmother at the Hôtel Saint-Pôl. He was lodged at Vincennes till two days before the coronation. He was crowned on 16 Dec. (not 17th, as Stubbs and Pauli say) at Notre-Dame by Cardinal Beaufort. The arrangements were badly managed. The English made themselves too prominent, and the withholding of the customary largesses and pardons disgusted the Parisians (Bourgeois de Paris, pp. 434–6). On 21 Dec. Henry presided at a great council. On 26 Dec. he left Paris for Rouen. Landing at Dover on 29 Jan. (Gregory, p. 173) he entered London on 14 Feb. (ib. p. 173; other authorities make the dates 9 Feb., 19 Feb., and 21 Feb., see Pauli, v. 228). Lydgate celebrated his return by a poem, and the Londoners welcomed him with great state. A change of ministers followed. On 12 May 1432 Henry opened parliament in person, sitting through the fiery debates arising from Henry Beaufort’s challenge of his accusers, and finally declaring in favour of his great-uncle’s loyalty.

Warwick meanwhile found that Henry was ‘grown in years, in stature of his person, and also in conceit and knowledge of his royal estate, the which cause him to grudge with chastising,’ while in private speech ‘he hath been stirred by some from his learning, and spoken to of divers matters not behovefull.’ He therefore obtained from the council fuller powers for the regulation of the household, the prohibition of unauthorised persons from access to the king, and authority to remove the king into sundry places ‘for the health of his body and the surety of his person.’ On the king’s next visit to London the council appeared before him and admonished him to obey Warwick’s precepts (Paston Letters, i. 31–5, ed. Gairdner). Next year the return of Bedford gave some prospect of stronger government.

Henry celebrated the Christmas of 1433 at Bury St. Edmunds, remaining there or at Elmswell until after Easter (28 March) (Archæologia, xv. 66–71, gives a long account of this visit, reprinted in Monasticon, iii. 113–114, ed. Ellis, &c., where is a picture of Henry praying before St. Edmund’s shrine, from the Life of St. Edmund, the very beautiful Harl. MS. 2278, which Lydgate, the author, presented to Henry). On this occasion Henry was admitted to the fraternity of the abbey, which henceforth became a favourite resort with him. On 26 April 1434 Henry presided at a great council, where peace between Gloucester and Bedford was only secured through his personal mediation (Stubbs, Const. Hist. iii. 120; Ord. P. C. iv. 210 sq.). Soon after Bedford left England for the last time. Henry’s success as a peace-maker led him to further action in state affairs, in which he showed a precocious and unhealthy interest. Gloucester encouraged his interference, while Beaufort and Warwick were for keeping him under restraint. Their influence probably led the council on 12 Nov. 1434 to solemnly warn Henry that he was not yet endowed with so great knowledge and discretion as to be able to choose in matters of difficulty, or change the governance that had been appointed for his tender age. Even if we reject as mere flattery the assurance of the council that ‘God had endowed his grace with as great understanding and feeling as any prince or person of his age’ (Ord. P. C. iv. 267), such premature struggling for power refutes Hardyng’s story that Henry grew up almost an idiot, unable to distinguish between right and wrong. Nor was his education confined to affairs of state. Warwick taught him the use of arms. An extant inventory mentions the swords, ‘some greater and some smaller, for to learn the king to play in his tender age,’ and the ‘little harness that the Earl of Warwick made for the king ere he went over the sea, garnished with gold’ (Pauli, Geschichte von England, v. 263). Gloucester watched over his literary education.

In 1435 Bedford died and Burgundy deserted the English alliance. Henry wept bitterly at Burgundy’s treachery. In January 1437 Henry lost his mother, though her secret alliance with Owain Tudor had long deprived her of any influence with the council or control over her son’s education. In July 1437 Henry lost a good friend by Warwick’s removal from his preceptorship to undertake the regency of France (Fœdera, x. 674). This marks a stage in the king’s emancipation, since no successor seems to have been appointed. Henry had now for some time regularly attended the meetings of the council (e.g. Ord. P. C. v. 1–16). A great council was held in November at Clerkenwell Priory, where in Henry’s presence a new privy council was appointed, including all the old and some new members, with the same powers which parliament had conferred on the council of Henry IV (ib. v. 71). But Henry was now admitted into a share of the government, charters of pardon, the collation of benefices and offices and ‘other things that stand in grace’ being reserved to him ‘for to do and dispose as him good seemeth.’ In matters of great weight the council was directed not to conclude without the king’s advice, and if there arose difference of opinion, as ‘peradventure half against half or two parties against the third,’ the king had power ‘to conclude and to dispose after his good pleasure’ (ib. vi. 312–15). But the king exercised his powers so recklessly, that less than three months afterwards the council warned him that he was granting power ‘to his great disavail,’ and that his grant of the stewardship of Chirk involved a loss of a thousand marks to his sorely distressed revenues (ib. pp. 88–90). In 1439 Henry began his foundations at Eton and Cambridge.

The defection of Burgundy and the loss of Paris (1436) made the English cause in France hopeless. The death of Bedford brought Cardinal Beaufort into greater prominence. Beaufort, resolved on the restoration of peace, thought to strengthen England’s foreign relations by arranging a marriage for the king. But his first efforts were utter failures. Already in 1434 the council had suggested that peace could best be effected with Scotland ‘by way of the marriage of the king with one of the daughters of the king of Scots,’ but, fearing to incur responsibility, they referred the matter to a great council, and nothing further came of it (ib. iv. 191; cf. Pref. pp. lx, lxii). Again, in 1435, during the negotiations at Arras, it had been suggested that Henry should marry the eldest daughter of Charles VII (Fœdera, x. 643–4), but the French laid the proposal so lightly by that the English were offended (Ord. P. C. v. 361), and the rupture of the whole negotiations followed. Unable to establish new ties, the council, with similar want of success, sought in 1438 to strengthen old ones, by marrying Henry to a daughter of the new emperor Albert II, ‘if the emperor will condescend to marriage’ (ib. v. 86, 96, 97; cf. Pref. pp. xxix–xxx).

As Henry grew nearer manhood he heartily seconded Beaufort’s plans. In 1439 the cardinal and the Duchess of Burgundy, his niece, held, between Gravelines and Calais, long conferences to procure a truce. The negotiations with France failed, and the English refused to entertain any plan for marrying Henry to a daughter of his ‘adversary of France’ until a sure peace had been established (ib. v. 361). But a truce was agreed on with Burgundy, and commercial relations renewed with the Low Countries.

Better prospects for England now arose from a fresh combination of the feudal princes of France in a new praguerie against the increasing power of Charles VII (G. De Beaucourt, Hist. de Charles VII, vol. iii. chaps. vi. and viii.). If England would renounce the vain claim to the French throne, Burgundy and Brittany would have welcomed her aid, and left Normandy and Guienne in English hands. Beaufort fell in with the plan, and procured in 1440 the release of Charles, duke of Orleans (a prisoner since Agincourt), who vigorously supported the feudalists. Gloucester violently protested against Orleans’ release, and was answered by the council that it was the special desire of the king and the best way of securing peace. About 1441 Brittany, Orleans, and Alençon proposed a marriage between Henry VI and a daughter of John IV, count of Armagnac, who since 1437 had been on good terms with the English, through his fear of Charles VII (Beckington, Correspondence, ii. 206; Ord. P. C. v. 45). On 28 June 1441 ambassadors from Armagnac received their safe-conduct for England to propose the match (De Beaucourt, iii. 234, from Brequigny’s collection; Fœdera, xi. 6, dates a safe-conduct 13 May 1442, which is plainly too late). On 28 May 1442 Sir Robert Roos and Beckington, the king’s secretary, were empowered to proceed to Guienne to treat for the marriage with one of Armagnac’s three daughters (Fœdera, xi. 7). Henry, who showed the keenest interest in the business, sent after them a letter ‘signed of our own hand, the which, as ye wot well, we be not much accustomed for to do in other case,’ and directing them to make choice of the most suitable of the ladies (Beckington, ii. 181). A painter named Hans was also sent out to ‘portray the three daughters in their kirtles simple and their visages’ (ib. ii. 184). But on arriving at Bordeaux the ambassadors found that Charles VII’s invasion of Guienne had frightened Armagnac, and his mind was changed. They waited from July 1442 to January 1443, but could not even get the pictures of the ladies, because the severe frost had frozen the artist’s colours, and went home empty-handed. The prospect of the Armagnac alliance was finally destroyed a year later by the dauphin Louis’ invasion and conquest of Armagnac (Beckington, Journal, printed accurately in the Appendix to vol. ii. of the Beckington, Correspondence, and less accurately in Sir H. Nicolas’s English version published in 1828, and partly translated into French by G. Brunet in the Actes de l’Académie Royale de Bordeaux, with valuable notes by the editor; other letters of Beckington are in Letters of Margaret of Anjou, Camd. Soc.; De Beaucourt, Hist. de Charles VII, vol. iii. chap. ix.; and Ribadieu, Hist. de la Conquête de Guyenne par les Anglais, are the best modern accounts).

On 6 Dec. 1442 Henry reached his legal majority. Beaufort’s influence was undiminished, and he made a new effort to procure peace. Through the good offices of Francis, the new duke of Brittany, negotiations began about the end of 1443. In February 1444 a strong embassy, headed by William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, was sent to France. A partial truce was signed on 8 April at Le Mans, whence Suffolk went to Tours, where the king and the chief nobility of France were assembled. A definite peace was still out of the question, and Charles VII rejected all proposals to marry Henry to one of his daughters (Basin i. 154–6). Yet on 22 May 1443 the English concluded a treaty with Charles VII’s brother-in-law, René of Anjou, titular king of Sicily and actual duke of Lorraine and count of Provence, for the marriage of Henry to René’s daughter Margaret. On 24 May the solemn betrothal was celebrated before the papal legate (De Beaucourt, iii. 276–7; Lecoy de la Marche, Le Roi René, ii. 254–257; and Vallet de Viriville, Charles VII, ii. 453–4). On 28 May the treaty of Tours was signed, which secured a truce for nearly two years (Fœdera, xi. 59–67, gives a Latin text, and Cosneau, Les Grands Traités de la Guerre de Cent Ans, pp. 154–71, a more accurate French version from the Archives Nationales; M. D’Escouchy, vol. iii. Pièces Justificatives, Soc. de l’Hist. de France). This was the great triumph of the Beaufort policy, with which the young king had identified himself.

Suffolk, made a marquis in September 1444, was sent to Lorraine to fetch Margaret. King René held great feasts at Nancy, in the presence of the king and queen of France, to celebrate the marriage, which was performed by proxy by the bishop of Toul in February 1445 (De Beaucourt, iv. 93; Berry, Roy d’Armes, p. 426, in Godefroy, Charles VII). On 1 April Margaret landed at Porchester or Portsmouth (Gregory, p. 184), escorted by Suffolk, but an attack of small-pox postponed her wedding. At last Henry and Margaret were married by Bishop Ayscough at Titchfield Abbey, near Fareham, on 22 April (10 April Gregory, p. 186). Henry set in the wedding-ring a ruby given him by Beaufort the day he was crowned at Paris (Fœdera, xi. 76). On 28 May the royal pair entered London in triumph, and on 30 May Margaret was crowned by Archbishop Stafford. Magnificent tournaments concluded the wedding festivities (Wyrcester, p. 764). Lydgate celebrated the event by a bombastic poem.

Gloucester’s influence was now at an end. Henry suspected his uncle of treasonable designs, and hardly admitted him to his presence or treated him with civility (Chron. Giles, p. 33; Whethamstede, i. 179; Stevenson, Wars of English in France, i. 111). Beaufort’s great age thus threw the direction of affairs into the hands of Suffolk, who was warmly supported by king and queen alike. In July 1445 the Archbishop of Rheims and the Count of Vendôme arrived in London on a solemn embassy from France. On 15 July Henry Henry gave them audience. The French lords were much impressed by his friendliness and honest desire for peace; but a short prolongation of the truce was all that resulted. A proposal that Henry should visit France and hold an interview with Charles VII was mooted, and was much discussed during the next few years, but came to nothing (for a full account of their embassy, which illustrates Henry’s capacity for politics, see Stevenson, Wars of the English in France, i. 89–148).

Early in 1447 parliament was summoned to provide funds for the proposed ‘personal convention’ of Henry and Charles. It met on 10 Feb. at Bury St. Edmunds, a place personally acceptable to Henry, and politically safer than London because of Suffolk’s influence. Henry was escorted by a great number of armed men on his journey through Royston, Cambridge, and Newmarket, to protect him from Duke Humphrey (Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, p. 149). He ordered his uncle’s arrest as soon as the duke arrived on 18 Feb. On 28 Feb. Gloucester was dead, probably by a natural death, for Suffolk, though freely accused of the murder, was never formally charged with it, and Henry may be safely acquitted of complicity in such a deed. The parliament was dismissed without a grant being even asked for, and in March Henry left Bury for Canterbury. On 11 April the death of Cardinal Beaufort removed the other chief statesman of Henry’s minority. His executors offered Henry 2,000l. from the bishop’s great wealth, which he declined with affectionate expressions of regard for his uncle’s memory (Blakman, ‘De Virtutibus et Miraculis Hen. VI,’ in Otterbourne, ed. Hearne, p. 294).

The following years were perhaps the happiest of Henry’s life. He was happy in his domestic life, and his educational foundations at Eton and Cambridge were completed. The old factions seemed ended. The peace negotiations went on, and in March 1448 Maine was surrendered in return for a two years’ prolongation of the truce. But the French were less earnest than Henry and Suffolk, and there seemed little prospect of the definitive treaty for which Edmund Beaufort (Duke of Somerset in March 1448) and Bishop Moleyns were now negotiating. In June Henry made Suffolk a duke. On him the whole welfare of the state now rested. During these years Henry was constantly on progress. In the summer of 1446 he made a tour of various monasteries, visiting among other places the Austin friary at Lynn (Capgrave, De Illustr. Hen. p. 133; cf. Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 525). In the summer of 1448 he went north as far as Durham, where his appearance was followed by a breach of the truce with Scotland, which turned out badly for the English (Chron. Giles, p. 35).

Suffolk’s ascendency over Henry was neither unchallenged nor of long duration. Even in the council his position grew doubtful. He had aroused the jealousy of the Beauforts, and quarrelled with Cardinal Kemp [q. v.], whose nephew, Thomas Kemp, he sought to deprive of the bishopric of London, conferred by papal provision at Henry’s special request (21 Aug. 1448). The weak king was forced to declare to the pope that the letters of request for Kemp were forged, and to beg for the translation of Bishop Lumley of Carlisle to the vacant see. Henry received a well-merited rebuke from Eugenius IV (Beckington, Correspondence, i. 155–9).

Early in 1449 Francis l’Arragonois broke the truce with France by the wanton capture of Fougères. The French, who were eagerly waiting for the pretext, at once renewed the war. Normandy was rapidly conquered; Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset [q. v.], showed extreme remissness, which was naturally set down to treachery. A parliament was summoned in February to Westminster, which made liberal grants. But plague drove king and estates to hold their summer session at Winchester. In October Henry visited the Welsh marches (Paston Letters, iii. 474. The year is Mr. Gairdner’s conjecture). He was back in London before 6 Nov. 1449, on which date a new parliament assembled. It was prorogued over Christmas, which Henry and Margaret celebrated at Windsor (Wyrcester, p. 766). At Epiphany-tide the sailors at Portsmouth murdered Bishop Moleyns, keeper of the privy seal. On 16 Jan. 1450 Henry returned to Westminster, where parliament reassembled on 22 Jan. The outcry against Suffolk was now at its height. The commons at once drew up elaborate articles of impeachment, and the lords sent the duke to the Tower. The secret support of king and courtiers was of no avail, and an ingenious method was devised of satisfying clamour without condemning the favourite. On 17 March Suffolk was brought before the king and all the lords then in town. The duke submitted himself to the king, and Henry, through the chancellor, declared the charges ‘neither declared nor charged,’ and, ‘not reporting him to the advice of his lords, nor by way of judgment, ordered him into five years’ exile.’ On his way to the continent Suffolk was murdered.

Archbishop Kemp, the faithful follower of Beaufort, was now Henry’s chief support. In April parliament reassembled at Leicester because London was unhealthy, and discussed plans for an income tax and the resumption of the royal domain. At Whitsuntide 1450 Kent rose under Jack Cade. On 6 June Henry went to London to meet the danger, lodging at Clerkenwell (ib. p. 767). On 11 June he marched through London, ‘armed at all pieces,’ and at the head of a large force to Blackheath (Gregory, p. 191). At his bidding the rebels retired. That night he slept at Greenwich; but the rebels came back to Blackheath after their victory at Sevenoaks (18 May). Panic and mutiny spread among Henry’s troops, and he hurried back to London by water. He vainly sought to propitiate public opinion by sending Lord Say to the Tower. But Henry himself shared the prevailing panic. The mayor and council besought him to tarry in the city, offering to die for him, and to pay half the cost of his household. But he fled to Kenilworth (Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, p. 67). His disorderly troops dispersed. But Kemp and Waynflete remained, and broke the back of the rising. When the danger was over Henry made a progress through Kent and Sussex, sitting at Canterbury in judgment on the rebels, and passing sentences of great severity (ib. p. 68; Chron. Giles, p. 40). After a great ‘harvest of heads’ he went on to Salisbury.

In September 1450 Richard, duke of York, came back from Ireland, posing as the successor of Gloucester, the saviour of England from anarchy, and the avenger of Normandy. He forced himself into Henry’s presence, complaining bitterly of the courtiers, who declared that he was an accomplice of Jack Cade. Henry pronounced him ‘our true and faithful subject, and our faithful cousin,’ and received him and his leading followers ‘with good cheer’ (Paston Letters, i. 151, ed. Gairdner), and was forced to appoint a new council, of which York was a member. But Somerset, now back from France, struggled eagerly to retain his position. On 6 Nov. parliament met, carefully packed with York’s partisans, and the commons agreed that York should be declared heir to the throne (Chron. London, p. 137). Somerset was arrested, and disorder rose so high that all parties united to put it down. On 3 Dec. Henry was paraded through London with his lords, all in full armour. During the recess Somerset was made captain of Calais. Early in 1451 Henry refused the commons’ request to remove him from court. The dissolution of parliament in the early summer left him as strong as ever. Henry laboured hard, as the Paston correspondence shows, to keep up his kinsman’s local influence. ‘All is nought, or will be nought,’ wrote a contemporary. ‘The king borroweth his expenses for Christmas.’ Mathieu D’Escouchy says that on Twelfth Night the king and queen could get no dinner, as they had neither money nor credit (i. 304). Debt, indecision, and faction had paralysed the government. In 1451 Guienne was lost as easily and ingloriously as Normandy.

In February 1452 York again marched to London with an army from the Welsh marches. Henry armed against him, and blocked the road to the capital. York turned aside, crossed the Thames at Kingston, and encamped at Dartford. Henry’s army encamped on Blackheath on 1 March. A great battle seemed inevitable. But Bishop Waynflete and some of Henry’s lords negotiated a compromise. Even on Henry’s side many were anxious for the removal of Somerset. Henry pledged himself to keep Somerset under arrest. York disbanded his army, but on visiting the king’s tent he found Somerset still at large, and Henry’s presence did not prevent a fierce altercation. York found that he was practically a prisoner. But fear of the marchmen saved him from the Tower, and on 10 March he was released after a solemn declaration of loyalty. An effort was now made to put Calais in a proper state of defence and improve the navy. On Good Friday Henry sought to make everything smooth by pardoning all persons guilty of disloyal acts (Whethamstede, i. 85), and on that very day 144 sealed pardons were issued from his chancery.

Anarchy still prevailed, and Henry travelled about the country in the vain hope that his presence would procure more respect for the law. In April or May he probably visited Norfolk (Paston Letters, i. 231, 233, but cf. Preface, p. lxxxiii). In July he certainly went on progress through the west. He was at Exeter on 18 July, and thence proceeded through Wells, Gloucester, Monmouth, and Hereford to Ludlow, where he arrived on 12 Aug., showing by his visit to York’s great stronghold that old feuds were at end. He then travelled through Kenilworth and Woodstock to Eltham, which he reached early in September. In October a third progress was made through the eastern midlands, during which Stamford, Peterborough, and Cambridge were visited (Gairdner, Pref. to Paston Letters, i. lxxxvi). Before the end of the year Shrewsbury had won back most of Guienne. Success abroad seemed to follow the restoration of amity at home.

In March 1453 a new parliament assembled at Reading. That town was chosen in preference to London because of the Yorkist sympathies of the London populace. Somerset managed the elections so successfully that for the first time for many years the commons and the council were at one. After Easter parliament reassembled at Westminster. On 2 July Henry thanked the commons in person for their liberal grants, and prorogued the session till November. But the hollowness of the pacification at home and the unreality of the last effort of England abroad were soon apparent.

Henry proposed to devote the summer to an extended progress. He left London for Clarendon, a hunting seat in the New Forest. Here he was suddenly (Wyrcester, p. 771) smitten with an illness that made him equally impotent in mind and body (Chron. Giles, p. 44, says his illness began on 6 July. A contemporary almanac quoted by Gairdner, Paston Letters, i. xcvii, dates it as 10 Aug.). Besides the absolute loss of his reason and memory, he could neither walk, move, nor even stand erect (Whethamstede, i. 163). In July Shrewsbury was slain at Castillon, and before the end of the year all Guienne was finally lost. On 13 Oct. the queen gave birth to her only son, Edward.

The loss of Guienne was a final blow to the influence of Somerset. The birth of an heir cut off York’s prospects of a peaceful succession to the throne, and occasioned all sorts of slanders against the queen. Henry’s illness involved a regency, and Margaret and York were rivals for the position. For a time the council went on as in the days of the minority, governing, or trying to govern, in Henry’s name. But even the existing parliament, which reassembled at Westminster in February 1454, was now friendly to York, who, as king’s lieutenant, opened the session. Somerset had been in custody since December, while Margaret’s claim to be regent was quietly put aside. The commons pressed for a new council.

Henry was now at Windsor, a hopeless idiot, ignorant even of the birth of his son. In January 1454 Buckingham and the queen presented the child to him, but he gave no sign of intelligence (Paston Letters, i. 263–4). On 15 March the council ordered a commission to be issued to three physicians and two surgeons empowering them to administer a formidable list of medicines to the king (Ord. P. C. vi. 166–7). But on 22 March the death of Cardinal Kemp brought matters to a crisis. A rumour spread abroad that the king was getting better (Paston Letters, i. 275). The next day a committee of lords was sent to Windsor to report on his health. They reached Windsor after the king had dined, and found him very weak and quite speechless (Rot. Parl. v. 240–1). On 27 March the lords ended the crisis by electing York protector until the prince came of age or as long as the king pleased. York kept Somerset in prison, vigorously endeavoured to put down private war, and succeeded in defending Calais and Jersey from French attack.

About Christmas-time Henry began to show signs of returning sanity. On 27 Dec. he sent offerings to the churches of Canterbury and Westminster. On 30 Dec. the queen brought the Prince of Wales to him. Henry recognised them, and declared that since his illness began he had not understood anything that was said to him till that time (Paston Letters, i. 315). On 7 Jan. Bishop Waynflete and the prior of St. John’s visited him, and found him quite sensible and able to engage in his pious exercises.

Henry’s restoration to sanity was a calamity. The last hope of good government was destroyed by the termination of York’s protectorate. Somerset was released in February 1455, and restored to his old offices. The ministers were changed, and York excluded from the council. Margaret and Somerset had learnt nothing from adversity, and the king simply registered their will.

York and the Nevilles raised an army in the north, and marched on London. On 21 May Duke Richard sent from Ware a letter to Henry protesting his loyalty (Whethamstede, i. 184–6), but Somerset intercepted it before it reached the king. On the same day Henry set out from London at the head of two thousand men, and rested for the night at Watford. Early on the 22nd the two hosts marched from Ware and Watford respectively to St. Albans. Henry occupied St. Peter’s Street, while York lay outside the town. For three hours the hosts faced each other, York demanding in vain an interview with Henry. But Henry swore by St. Edward he would slay all traitors. About noon the Yorkists attacked and easily carried the town. Somerset was slain, and Henry, wounded in the neck by an arrow, was captured in a tanner’s cottage. York took him to St. Alban’s shrine, and then to his room. But the victorious earls fell on their knees and declared themselves Henry’s true liegemen. Henry changed his tone with his advisers. Next day he was taken to London ‘as a king and not as a prisoner’ (Gregory, p. 198). ‘There he kept residence with joy and solemnity’ (Paston Letters, i. 327–34, and Whethamstede, i. 167–71, give the best accounts of the battle).

York was now supreme. Henry had not been seriously hurt by his wound (Paston Letters, i. 334), but was much agitated. In June he was again labouring ‘under sickness and infirmity,’ and his physicians were called in (Fœdera, xi. 366). He withdrew with the queen and prince to Hertford (Paston Letters, i. 335). He was back in London to open parliament on 9 July, and to declare his confidence in the loyalty of York, Warwick, and Salisbury. In return, the lords renewed their oaths of allegiance to Henry. Parliament was prorogued on 31 July, and Henry went back to Hertford, where he remained till October. Before the month ended it was whispered that he had again lost his reason (ib. i. 352).

On 12 Nov. 1455 York opened parliament as Henry’s lieutenant, and was again made protector. But Henry’s illness was of a different character from the absolute prostration of his first attack. He was able to transact a little business. He personally committed the government to his council, requesting that they should inform him of all matters concerning his person (Rot. Parl. v. 285–7). Next February Henry was well again. He was willing to continue York as chief counsellor, but Margaret overpersuaded him, and York was removed from office on 25 Feb. 1456.

For the next two years a hollow peace was maintained. In the absence of any powerful supporter to take Somerset’s place, the queen was forced to allow York to retain some influence and a place in the council, and Buckingham, now the strongest royalist lord, favoured a temporising policy. Henry strove hard to keep some sort of peace, and travelled diligently about the country. His presence did some good in the immediate neighbourhood, but the country as a whole was hardly governed at all. Every nobleman had his train of armed attendants, even when attending great councils. Private wars were common. When James II of Scotland threatened to break the truce to avenge his uncle Somerset, York took up the challenge in the king’s name; but soon after Henry repudiated his action, though the court reaped little good from its friendship with the Scots. Margaret, Henry, and York dwelt for the most part at long distances from each other. Henry’s separation from the queen may perhaps be significant. During the early summer of 1456 Henry was in the neighbourhood of London, mostly at Sheen and Windsor. On 18 Aug. he was at Wycombe, on the 24th at Kenilworth, and on the 29th at Lichfield. During September he moved about between Lichfield, Coventry, and Leicester (Gairdner in Paston Letters, i. ccxxviii). On 7 Oct. he presided at a great council at Coventry. The ministers were changed for more decided friends of the king, Waynflete becoming chancellor in succession to Bourchier. York, who attended the council, was now ‘in right good conceit with the king, but not in great conceit with the queen’ (ib. i. 408). Buckingham prevented an open rupture.

For the next year the court remained in the midlands, mostly at Coventry, though Stafford, Coleshill, Chester, Shrewsbury, Leicester, Kenilworth, and Hereford were also visited (ib. i. cxxix). When Henry was at Hereford in April and May the burgesses and gentry rallied loyally round him, and forced the powerful Sir William Herbert, afterwards earl of Pembroke (d 1469) [q. v.], and his wild allies to an account (ib. i. 417). But the ‘lack of governance’ exposed the coasts to French invasions, and Margaret perhaps was responsible for the sack of Sandwich, foolishly hoping to weaken York’s power by the help of foreigners.

Henry now returned to the neighbourhood of London. He was at Coventry late in September 1457 (Ord. P. C. vi. 290), and at Chertsey in October. In November he passed through St. Albans on his way back from the north (Whethamstede, i. 269). In January 1458 he held a great council, to which the lords came armed. The Yorkists occupied the friendly city, while the Lancastrians encamped outside, and the armed Londoners strove to act as police. Civil war seemed inevitable. Henry, after solemn appeals for concord, withdrew to Berkhampstead (ib. pp. 296–308; Paston Letters, i. 425). But Archbishop Bourchier seconded his efforts, and a peace which lasted a year was agreed upon. On Lady day Henry marched with the crown on his head to St. Paul’s, York following with the queen on his arm, and the rival lords succeeding arm in arm.

Henry spent part of Lent at Coventry. No preacher was allowed to preach before him until his sermon had been purged by a censor of all political allusions (Gregory, p. 203). He spent Easter at St. Albans (Whethamstede, i. 323–5), and gave his best red robe to the abbey. But the treasurer, finding it the only garment in his possession that became Henry’s royal state, redeemed it. Warwick gained a great naval victory over the French on Trinity Sunday; but in November, after a fray between his servants and those of the court, he withdrew to Calais, leaving Margaret supreme.

War broke out again in 1459. On 23 Sept. Salisbury defeated Lord Audley at Blore Heath. York and Warwick joined him at Ludlow. Henry now showed unwonted activity, keeping the field for more than a month, never resting two nights in the same spot, and encamping in late autumn in the open field. He marched from Worcester against Ludlow in the heart of the Mortimers’ country, and broke up the Yorkist army by his timely offers of clemency. On 12 Oct. the three earls fled before the royal forces, not even risking an engagement. York fled to Ireland, and Warwick and Salisbury to Calais. All England now obeyed Henry.

On 20 Nov. 1459 Henry opened a packed parliament at Coventry, which attainted all the Yorkist leaders. But his new-found energy wasted away before poverty, disorder, and selfish faction. ‘The realm of England was out of all good governance, for the king was simple and led by covetous counsel and owed more than he was worth.’ ‘For these misgovernances the hearts of the people were turned away from them that had the land in governance.’ The papal legate, Francesco Coppini, bishop of Terni, sent by Pius II to urge on Henry to a crusade against the Turks, left England in disgust, and joined the Yorkists at Calais.

Henry kept Christmas at Leicester (Wyrcester, p. 771). At the end of January 1460 he went to London. In Lent he spent three days at Crowland, praying at the shrine of St. Guthlac (Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 530). He was at his favourite Coventry when he learnt that the lords at Calais had crossed into Kent on 26 June. They secured possession of London on 2 July. On 10 July they reached Northampton, where Henry and his army had now arrived on their march to the south. Thrice Warwick sought an interview with Henry, but Buckingham prevented Henry from making any compromise. In the afternoon a battle was fought, the Yorkists gaining the victory. Henry had left Margaret and the prince behind at Coventry (Gregory, p. 209). He was himself taken prisoner in his tent (Engl. Chron. p. 97; Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, p. 74; {sc|Whethamstede}}, i. 374–5). The old protestations of loyalty were renewed, ‘whereat the king was greatly comforted.’ He was kept three days at Northampton and then taken to London, where he was lodged in the bishop’s palace by St. Paul’s (Engl. Chron. p. 98). He was not put in the Tower as a prisoner, as was believed abroad (Jean Chartier, iii. 123, ed. Vallet de Viriville). He marched through London on 16 July ‘with much royalty,’ Warwick, bareheaded, carrying the sword of state before him (Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 549). Margaret had fled to Scotland.

Parliament was summoned by Henry’s writ for October. Henry amused himself with hunting at Eltham and Greenwich, ‘biding the parliament’ (Paston Letters, i. 525). York now came back from Ireland to London, ‘breaking open the doors of the king’s chamber,’ so that Henry, ‘hearing the great noise and rumour of the people, gave him place and took another chamber’ (Engl. Chron. p. 99; cf. Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, p. 170, and Whethamstede, i. 377). On 16 Oct. York formally claimed the throne. The lords besought the king to find objections to his claim, ‘insomuch as your highness has seen and understood divers chronicles’ (Rot. Parl. v. 375–6). The judges shirked deciding so grave a matter. At last the lords plucked up courage to reject York’s claim; but, as power was in his hands, a compromise was arranged, to which Henry, regardless of his son’s rights, readily agreed, ‘for a man that hath little wit,’ said Gregory (Chron. p. 208), ‘will soon be feared of death.’ He was to keep his throne for life, and York was to be his successor.

Henry went in procession to St. Paul’s with York as a sign of concord, and York gave up his quarters in the palace, where Henry again bore sway (Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 549). The Yorkists boasted that he was ‘excellently disposed’ (Cal. State Papers, Venet. 1202–1509, pp. 94, 96). He attached himself particularly to Warwick, whom he ‘kept all to himself’ (ib. p. 95). When York marched out against Margaret, who was now in arms in the north to maintain her son’s rights, Henry remained in London with Warwick, keeping the Christmas feast with him at the bishop’s palace near St. Paul’s (Wyrcester, p. 775). On 29 Dec. Margaret defeated and slew York at Wakefield, and marched south to release her husband. But on 2 Feb. 1461 Edward, the new duke of York, won the battle of Mortimer’s Cross. On 12 Feb. Henry was taken northwards to fight against his wife, and rested at St. Albans. On 17 Feb. the second battle of St. Albans resulted in a complete victory for the northerners. ‘The king took the field at Sandridge, and there he saw his people slain on both sides’ (Engl. Chron. pp. 107–8). On the Yorkists’ retreat he was left to his fate, Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriel alone remaining with him, trusting to Henry’s promise that they should receive no harm (Rot. Parl. v. 477; Engl. Chron. p. 108; Whethamstede, i. 393). Some northern lords led the king to Lord Clifford’s tent, where Henry, who was very much affected, met Margaret and her son. He blessed Edward solemnly, and dubbed him knight (Gregory, p. 214; Whethamstede, i. 394). But neither his plighted word nor his entreaties could save Bonville and Kyriel from Margaret’s vengeance (Cal. State Papers, Venet. p. 99). His personal action becomes less and less important. The Yorkists denounced him as forsworn.

The queen’s army advanced as near London as Barnet, but then withdrew to Dunstable. This hesitation to advance was fatal to their cause. The victors of Mortimer’s Cross now joined Warwick, and on 4 March 1461 Edward was proclaimed rightful king in London, without even waiting for parliament. Henry and Margaret retreated to York with their ‘northern robbers’ (Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, pp. 172–3), cruelly devastating the country they traversed. Edward IV hurried in pursuit, and won on Palm Sunday, 29 March, the decisive battle of Towton. Henry was not on the field, preferring to pass so holy a day in prayer at York (Pol. Vergil, p. 110, Camd. Soc.; Basin, i. 299). He fled northwards in panic flight. It was said in London that he was besieged ‘in a place in Yorkshire called Corumbr, such a name it hath or much like,’ but stole away ‘at a little postern on the backside’ (Paston Letters, ii. 7). It is more certain that he fled through Newcastle to Berwick. He secured a good reception in Scotland by surrendering Berwick to the Scots (Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, pp. 77–8). Accompanied by Margaret and the Prince of Wales he now crossed the border, ‘full of sorrow and heaviness’ (Gregory, p. 217). In November Edward IV’s parliament attainted him. He is henceforth described by the Yorkists as ‘Henry late in deed but not of right king of England.’

Henry’s subsequent movements are difficult to trace. The rumour that he took refuge in Wales (Cal. State Papers, Venet. 1202–1509, p. 111; Monstrelet, iii. 96, puts it a little later) is apparently of Flemish origin, and is improbable, though accepted by Dr. Lingard (Hist. Engl. iv. 73) and Dr. Pauli (Geschichte von England, v. 367). It is more probable that Henry never left Scotland or its neighbourhood, as the Crowland continuator says, for the next four years (Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 533). In the summer of 1461 he was reported to be at Kirkcudbright ‘with four men and a child,’ while Margaret and Prince Edward were at Edinburgh (Paston Letters, ii. 46). But before February 1462 Linlithgow Palace was prepared for his reception (Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vii. 49). Sums were also spent for his entertainment at Durisdeer and Lanark (ib. p. 60). Before July 1462 food was provided for him at Edinburgh at the house of the Black Friars (ib. p. 145), and the accounts of the Edinburgh custumars for the year July 1462 to July 1463 include other expenses on his behalf (ib. p. 211). Margaret was forced to pledge a gold cup to her entertainers, and in January 1464 Henry gave a charter to Edinburgh, allowing the citizens to trade with England on payment of no higher dues than the Londoners paid (ib. Pref. p. xxxvi; Charters of Edinburgh, p. 119, Burgh Records Society). He had previously sought to win over the Earl of Angus by an English dukedom. But other influences were at work. Charles VII’s death was a great blow to Henry’s cause, while the Lord of the Isles and Douglas signed a treaty with Edward IV (Fœdera, xi. 475, 484, 487).

While Henry rested inactive in Scotland, Margaret vigorously upheld the Lancastrian cause, though her now open association with France and Scotland cut off the last hope of English sympathy, except in the wild north, where the traditional devotion to the house of Lancaster remained strong. She spent the summer of 1462 abroad, coming back in October with Pierre de Brezé and a small French force. By November Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, and Bamburgh were in her hands, Henry himself accompanying her army. But on Edward’s approach Henry retired to Scotland. Before the end of the year Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh were again lost. Alnwick surrendered in January 1463, though De Brezé came to its help. Later in the year a Scottish force, together with Henry and the Scottish queen-dowager, appeared on the border and besieged Norham (Gregory, p. 220). But on Warwick’s approach they retreated. Margaret now sailed for Flanders with her son, leaving Henry in Scotland, ‘not without great grief’ (Basin, ii. 50).

In the spring of 1464 the north again rose in favour of Henry. Henry joined the rebels. But Montague’s victories of Hedgley Moor (25 April) and Hexham (15 May) crushed the rising. Henry narrowly escaped capture in the hot pursuit that followed the latter battle, his pages, clad in blue sammet, and his cap of state falling into Montague’s hands. In June the Scots concluded a truce for fifteen years with Edward, and abandoned Henry (Fœdera, xi. 525). But the peasantry and gentry of the north still proved faithful, and for a whole year Henry lurked in disguise in the wild hill country that separates Lancashire and Yorkshire. It was reported abroad that he took refuge in a monastery, disguised in monastic garb (Basin, ii. 53). He was more than once entertained at Crackenthorpe, near Appleby in Westmoreland, at the house of John Machell (Fœdera, xi. 574). At another time he was hiding in the Furness Fells (Gregory, pp. 232–3). But his favourite refuge seems to have been Upper Ribblesdale, and traditions of his sojourn still survive at Bolton West (Whitaker, Hist. of Craven, p. 129, ed. 1878). At last he was recognised by a monk of Abingdon, named Cantlow, ‘while sitting at dinner at Waddington Hall,’ in Ribblesdale, just opposite Clitheroe (Warkworth, Chronicle, p. 5, as corrected by J. G. Nichols in Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ii. 181, 228, 316). Henry escaped for the moment, but was captured hard by ‘in Clitheroe Wood, beside Brungerly Hippingstones, by Thomas Talbot of Bashall and his cousin John.’ Sir James Harington instigated the capture, and conducted Henry to London (Fœdera, xi. 548). Henry’s only companions when he was taken were a monk, a doctor, and a servant (Wyrcester, p. 785).

Friends and foes differ very much in their accounts of Henry’s treatment in captivity. According to the Lancastrians Warwick met him at Islington, and led him thence in procession through Cheap and Cornhill to the Tower, with his legs bound under the horse by leathern thongs, and a straw hat on his head, the mob hooting at him and insulting him (ib. p. 785; Warkworth, p. 5; Fabyan; Caspar Weinrich, Danziger Chronik, quoted in Pauli, v. 370). The Yorkist writers say Henry was treated ‘with all humanity and reverence’ (Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 539). Reasonable sums were certainly set apart for his maintenance (Devon, Issues of the Exchequer, cx–cxv, Record Commission). William Kimberley, a chaplain who gratuitously performed the daily offices before Henry, was afterwards largely rewarded by Edward IV (ib. p. 490). Henry was also allowed to receive visitors. He professed indifference for the loss of his earthly kingdom, provided that he was allowed the regular enjoyment of the sacraments of the church. It was reported that while occupied in his religious exercises he saw visions and prophesied. Though sinking more and more into physical and mental decrepitude, he was still able to justify his policy and reign. ‘My father was king of England,’ he replied to one who reproached him for usurpation, ‘and peacefully possessed the crown for the whole of his life. His father, my grandfather, was king before him. And I, a boy, crowned almost in my cradle, was accepted as king by the whole realm, and wore the crown for nearly forty years, every lord swearing homage and fealty to me, as they had done to my forefathers’ (Blakman, pp. 303–5). But Lancastrians believed that he suffered hunger, thirst, insults, blows during the five dreary years that followed. He was dirty, sickly, ill-dressed, and neglected. Stories were told of serious wounds inflicted on him by brutal keepers, met only by the meek response, ‘Forsooth and forsooth, ye do foully to smite a king anointed thus’ (ib. p. 302). But as long as Prince Edward lived it was Edward IV’s obvious interest to keep Henry alive.

After more than five years of imprisonment an unexpected revolution restored Henry to the throne. Warwick, Clarence, and Margaret formed a league against Edward IV, who fled on 3 Oct. 1470 to Flanders. On 5 Oct. old Bishop Waynflete and Archbishop Neville, Warwick’s brother, went down to the Tower. They found Henry ‘not so worshipfully arrayed nor so cleanly kept as should seem such a prince.’ He was released, newly arrayed, treated with great reverence, and conducted to Westminster (Warkworth, p. 11). He was ‘a shadow,’ ‘like a sack of wool,’ ‘as mute as a crowned calf’ (Chastellain, v. 490, ed. Kervyn).

Henry’s restoration was officially dated from 9 Oct. 1470. On 21 Oct. he wore his crown in public (Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 554). On 26 Nov. he presided over a parliament at Westminster. Just before Christmas he sent a message to his scholars at Eton, who now lived in great poverty, having only escaped suppression through the personal influence of Waynflete (Lyte, Hist. of Eton College, pp. 58–66). He was more of a puppet than ever, and Warwick was constituted lieutenant of the kingdom. But in March 1471 Edward IV landed at Ravenspur. At first he recognised Henry, but declared himself king at Nottingham, and in Easter week was outside London.

Henry was residing at the Bishop of London’s palace by St. Paul’s. On Wednesday 10 April Archbishop Neville made a last effort to kindle up enthusiasm for him. He was led through the chief streets of London on horseback. But so little spirit was shown in his favour that Neville thought it best to make terms with Edward. On Thursday at dinner-time the recorder and leading citizens let in King Edward, who went straight to the bishop’s palace, where the archbishop ‘presented him to Henry’ (Arrival of Edward IV, p. 17, Camd. Soc.). ‘Cousin, you are welcome,’ Henry said to Edward. ‘My life will be safe in your hands’ (Kirk, Charles the Bold, ii. 86). Good Friday was spent in London, but on Easter eve Edward marched out against Warwick to Barnet, taking Henry with him. On Easter day the battle of Barnet was fought and Warwick slain. Henry, who had been put in the thick of the fight, escaped without a wound, and was taken to the Tower.

Margaret now landed in the west, but on 4 May 1471 was defeated and captured at Tewkesbury, and Edward her son was slain. On 21 May Edward IV entered London in triumph. The death of the prince destroyed the last motive for keeping Henry alive. The insurrection of the Bastard of Fauconberg [see Fauconberg, Thomas] in Kent showed how dangerous Henry might become. He was therefore slain the very night of Edward’s arrival. It was given out that he died ‘of pure displeasure and melancholy,’ but both in England and abroad Richard of Gloucester was looked upon as his murderer. Even the Yorkist chronicler of Crowland (p. 550) does not deny that Henry came to a violent death. The most circumstantial account relates how Henry died ‘on a Tuesday night, 21 May, betwixt xi and xii of the clock, the Duke of Gloucester being then at the Tower and many others’ (Warkworth, p. 21). Next day his body was exposed in St. Paul’s, ‘and his face was open that every man might see him, and in his lying he bled.’ His body was afterwards exposed at the Black Friars, and then conveyed in a barge to Chertsey, where it was buried in the lady chapel of the abbey (ib. p. 21). Official records show that his obsequies were decently performed (Devon, pp. 496–7; cf. Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 556; Basin, ii. 271).

The Yorkishmen worshipped Henry as a saint and martyr, and many miracles attested his holiness (Blakman; Fabric Rolls of York Minster, pp. 82, 208–10, Surtees Soc.). Prayers were composed to him (Trevelyan Papers, pp. 53–60, Camd. Soc.), and two short Latin prayers attributed to Henry were reverently handed down; the editions of the ‘Sarum Hours’ between the end of the century and 1536 contain both sorts of prayers (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 509). Henry VII sought for his formal canonisation from Julius II, and Blakman, his old chaplain, collected the evidences of his sanctity. But nothing definite came of it. Hall says that Henry VII found the fees demanded at Rome so great that he grudged the money. Under Richard III Henry’s body was removed from Chertsey to Windsor, where Henry VII planned the erection of a great chapel for the sacred corpse, but the monks of Chertsey petitioned for its return; Westminster Abbey also put in a claim, on the ground of Henry’s own wishes. After listening to all the arguments, Henry VII decided for Westminster (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. p. 97; Stanley, Memorials of Westminster Abbey, pp. 152–7 and 506–21). The first design of the structure now called Henry VII’s Chapel was to make it the shrine of the martyred king. But Henry VII died before the proposed translation was effected, and it is not quite certain whether Henry VI’s remains still rest in the south aisle of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor or were privately removed to an obscure and unmarked tomb at Westminster.

From his Lancastrian ancestors Henry inherited a weakly body, and from Charles VI an impaired mind. He is described as ‘tall of stature and slender of body, whereunto all his members were proportionately correspondent, of comely visage, wherein did glisten his bountifulness of disposition’ (Polydore Vergil, pp. 156–7, Camden Society; Hall, Edward IV, fol. xxxiii, original edition). There are original pictures of him preserved at Eton and in the National Portrait Gallery, which have been often engraved. Lacking resolution, and without knowledge of men, he was always under the influence of a stronger mind, and, though suspicious, liable to be deceived. In the latter part of his reign he was the puppet of every faction; the kingdom drifted into anarchy, and his mind broke down beneath his troubles. Yet Henry was no dullard. Hall is probably right in describing him as ‘neither a fool nor very wise.’ But, although he recognised his position as a constitutional sovereign and had some sound political views, his heart was never in business. He was well educated, knowing French and Latin, and well versed in history, which, after the scriptures, was his favourite study. The debates of the council of Basel keenly interested him. He bitterly lamented the schism between the council and the papacy, and rejoiced in Pope Eugenius’s efforts to restore the unity of Eastern and Western Christendom (Beckington, ii. 49, 155). His life was that of a scholar and pious recluse, not caring for amusements, though diverting himself at times with hawking and hunting, despising pomp, and always practising excessive humility. He dressed very simply, with a long cloak and round cape ‘like a townsman.’ Regardless of the long pointed shoes of fashion, he constantly wore ‘round shoes like a rustic.’ On great days he would wear a hair shirt underneath his gorgeous robes. He was assiduous in attendance at divine worship, paid his tithes with exemplary regularity, and administered with scrupulous care his church patronage. He said grace before meals ‘like a monk,’ and always had on the table a dish representing the five wounds of Christ. He avoided gossip, though fond of sermonising both in speech and letters. He was specially devoted to English saints, procured the canonisation of St. Osmund, and sought to obtain for Alfred the honours of sanctity (ib. i. 119). Henry’s piety was no mere form. ‘There was not in the world a more pure, more honest, and more holy creature’ (Polydore Vergil, p. 70, Camden Soc.). Strongly attached to his family, and unswervingly faithful to his queen, who from the first exercised commanding influence over him, he carefully watched over the education of his half-brothers, Jasper and Edmund Tudor, and was morbidly anxious about the morals of his household. Yet his petty inquisitorial ways did not prevent him from inspiring real devotion among his domestics. He was so liberal that he alienated his domains and wasted his revenues in foolish presents ({sc|Whethamstede}}, i. 248–52); so merciful that it was hard to persuade him that robbers and traitors ought not to go scot-free. His excessive shyness and modesty sometimes verged towards the ludicrous. His strongest expletive was ‘Forsooth and forsooth,’ though when very emphatic he would swear ‘By St. John!’ He hated cruelty and brutal punishments, and was often plunged into fits of silence and ecstatic visions in which the age discerned something miraculous (Blakman, ‘De Virtutibus et Miraculis Hen. VI,’ in Otterbourne, ed. Hearne, pp. 286–305, contains the fullest account of Henry’s personal characteristics).

Henry VI had imbibed Duke Humphrey’s ardent love of letters and liberal patronage of learning. He showed the keenest interest in the universities, and displayed some ingenuity in his efforts to enrich poor foundations from his scanty resources. He lamented the decline of Oxford, and urged the bishops to promote graduates as the best way of encouraging students (Beckington, i. 55). He watched with interest the university of Caen, founded in his boyhood by Bedford (ib. i. 123), and granted a charter in 1438 to Chichele’s new foundation of All Souls. But he early concentrated his chief energies on his twofold foundation at Eton and Cambridge, in which he sought to reproduce on a grander scale Wykeham’s two colleges of St. Mary at Winchester and Oxford. His chaplain, John Langton, master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, first inspired him with the idea. In 1439 he took the preliminary step of procuring the advowson of the rectory of Eton. In July 1440 he personally inspected Winchester College. On 11 Oct. 1440 he issued the charter of foundation of the ‘King’s College of our Lady of Eton beside Windsor.’ The parish church of Eton was by it extended into a college under a provost and fellows, with which were associated a school and an almshouse. Henry made William of Waynflete, then master of Winchester, successively master and provost. For many years he watched the foundation with the closest attention, constantly altering and enlarging his scheme, and gradually developing the school at the expense of the almshouse. He procured both papal and parliamentary sanction for his plans, and mostly employed the revenues of the suppressed alien priories for endowments. He laid himself the foundation-stone of the chapel (Capgrave, De Illustribus Henricis, p. 133), though want of funds made its progress slow. His final plans for the chapel (‘the king’s own avyse’) contemplated a building on a colossal scale, but the nave was never begun, and the choir not completed until long after Henry’s death. He showed minute care in buying up little scraps of property round the college to allow for its extension. He displayed the keenest interest in his Eton boys, with whom he was brought into constant intercourse through his frequent residence at Windsor. He delighted in giving them presents and good advice. He used to choose the masters with the greatest care, saying that it mattered little if the music in chapel were indifferent so long as his scholars grew in wisdom and piety (Blakman, p. 296).

Henry occupied himself with almost equal zeal in the foundation of the supplementary college at Cambridge. His first charter to the ‘King’s College of our Lady and St. Nicholas’ was issued on 12 Feb. 1441. On 2 April 1441 Henry laid the first stone of his college. Here, as at Eton, the original plans for a small college were gradually enlarged. The present vast chapel of King’s College, though not completed until long after Henry’s time, is the only part of the existing structure which corresponds to his magnificent designs. He laid the first stone of it on 25 July 1446. Between 1445 and 1453 Henry made constant visits to Cambridge to watch over the progress of his foundations, staying mostly at the King’s Hall, a college now absorbed in Trinity. The foundation of Queens’ College, Cambridge, by Margaret of Anjou (1448) must be attributed mainly to Henry’s influence. Henry’s university policy forms a connecting link between that of Wykeham and that of Wolsey. His conversion of foreign monasteries into English secular colleges, and his displacement of regular clergy by scholars anticipates an important aspect of the Reformation. The whole scheme and nearly every detail of it is plainly the result of Henry’s personal efforts (Lyte, History of Eton College; Willis and Clark, Architectural History of Cambridge; Mullinger, History of the University of Cambridge give the best accounts of Henry’s foundations. The Eton bulls and charters are printed in Beckington, Correspondence, ii. 270–311, and in Heywood and Wright, Statutes of King’s College, Cambridge, and Eton College. Beckington’s Correspondence fully illustrates every side of Henry’s interest in the universities).

[Capgrave’s contemporary life of Henry, De Illustribus Henricis, pp. 125–39 (Rolls Ser.), contains little but pious ejaculations. The only full personal characterisation is that of Blakman in Hearne’s Otterbourne. The English chronicles of the reign are meagre and unsatisfactory, throwing little light on Henry’s personal life. The chief among them are William of Wyrcester’s disjointed rough diaries, published in Stevenson’s Wars of English in France, vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 743–793; the Fragmentary English Chronicle published as a supplement to Hearne’s Sprot; an English Chronicle, 1377–1461, ed. Davies (Camd. Soc.); Warkworth’s Chronicle (Camd. Soc.); the two continuations of the Croyland Chronicle in Fell’s Scriptores, vol. i., 1687; John Rous or Ross, Hist. Regum Angliæ, ed. Hearne; Chronicle of London, ed. Nicolas, 1827; Gregory’s Collections of a London Citizen; Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles (these last both edited by J. Gairdner for the Camd. Soc.); Chronicon Incerti Scriptoris, ed. Giles; Abbot Whethamstede’s Register (Rolls Ser.) (important between 1455 and 1460); the Restoration of Edward IV (Camd. Soc.). Some of the chronicles are conveniently collected, though ill edited, in Giles’s Chronicle of the White Rose. The later writers, such as Polydore Vergil, Hall, and Fabyan, are sometimes useful. The most important French and Burgundian writers are Monstrelet, ed. Douët-d’Arcq, Comines, ed. Dupont, Mathieu D’Escouchy, and T. Basin, all in Soc. de l’Histoire de France. Others are in Godefroy’s Collection. Jean Chartier is quoted from Vallet de Viriville’s edition, Bibliothèque Elzévirienne. Wright’s Political Songs, Lydgate’s Poems, and the songs collected in Archæologia, xxxix. 318–47, illustrate another aspect of the reign. Beckington’s Correspondence (Rolls Ser.), Stevenson’s Wars of the English in France (Rolls Ser.), and Nicolas’s Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, vols. iii–vi., are the most essential collections of documents, along with Rymer’s Fœdera, vols. x–xii., orig. edit., and Rolls of Parliament, vols. iv. and v. The Paston Letters are very important. Mr. Gairdner’s introductions throw much light on the whole period. They constitute, with Stubbs’s Const. Hist. vol. iii., and Pauli’s Geschichte von England, vol. v., the best modern accounts of the reign. G. Du Fresne de Beaucourt’s Hist. de Charles VII is a useful modern authority for the French side.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 26
Henry VI by Thomas Frederick Tout

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