Veneration of King Henry VI forbidden in York

Letter of Archbishop Booth forbids veneration of Henry VI at York Minster, 27th October 1479

Following the death of Henry VI in 1471, a cult emerged based on his holiness. The cult was primarily based around his piety, and it became hugely popular in the years after the Kings death: as a pilgrim site, it was second only to that of Thomas Becket.

In 1475 a new rood screen was installed at York Minster. Remarkably, the screen included a statue of King Henry VI. The screen and statue became a source of adoration of the King.

Soon the popularity of the statue posed a problem. It was fast becoming a shrine to the deceased Lancastrian monarch. The Yorkist regime chose to limit the reverence in which the former King was held in the City of York.

The Fabric Rolls of York Minster contain the response, and notes made by Raine, a Victorian antiquarian, who says:

“In Yorkshire, the Lancastrians were a very numerous body… In the Minsters of Ripon and York I find that there were images of him [King Henry VI] erected, to which adoration was doubtless paid… The feeling of veneration towards the royal sufferer was not extinguished, as in 1479 we find an order from Archbishop Booth, that no worship should be paid to his image”.

The reason given was that there was no Papal permission for such veneration and that the King had not been laid to rest in the Minster. Such removal of the right to venerate Henry VI was not nationwide, though. It was permitted for pilgrims to visit his tomb, though this was moved during Richard IIIs reign to its present site, in Windsor.


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