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Henry VI

King of England. Son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, he became king in 1422. He was crowned twice: as king of England in 1429 and as king of France in 1431. In 1445 he married Margaret of Anjou, a woman of forceful character. Henry was an extremely devout and kindly person. He was generous to the poor and abhorred cruelty and immorality. He prayed and meditated frequently and exhorted his barons to do likewise. His interest in education led to his two foundations: at Eton College (1440) and King’s College, Cambridge (1441). Yet he was not without personal courage. In 1450, during Jack Cade’s rebellion, he rode openly through the streets and refused to fight against his subjects. Unfortunately his character and temperament and bouts of mental disorder made him ill-suited for the task of ruling a politically turbulent country.

When civil war came, Richard Duke of York by 1460 had imprisoned Henry and forced him to recognize Richard (rather than his own son Prince Edward) as his heir, but Richard died that same year, and Edward of York seized the throne while Henry went into exile. Captured in 1465, Henry was held in the Tower until 1470 when, although now completely mad, he was nominally reinstated, only to be sent back to the Tower on Edward’s triumphant return to power in May 1471. Henry died probably that same month, reportedly murdered. Pilgrims soon started to visit his tomb in Chertsey, Surrey, and continued to do so after its removal to St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Miracles were reported, and Henry’s fellow Lancastrian king, Henry VII, tried unsuccessfully to obtain his canonization.L. Feehan