Henry VI – Part One

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The marriage of Henry V and Catherine, daughter of Charles VI of France, led in 1421 to the birth of a son, who was given the same name as his father. When Henry V died on 31 August 1422 his son, then aged only nine months, became Henry VI of England. Two months later, on the death of Charles VI, the child was proclaimed King of France.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, became Protector of England and John, Duke of Bedford, was appointed Regent of France and commander of the English army.

These two men, both brothers of Henry V, together with a Great Council made up of members of the most powerful families, were left to carry on the work of a well-loved king now dead.

Childhood

Henry VI proved to be strong in neither mind nor body. He received a thorough education and is said to have been mild, virtuous and pious; he was fond of literature and (surprisingly) of the hunt. Sadly, he inherited the physical weakness of some of those belonging to the House of Lancaster and through his mother the mental instability of Charles VI of France. When he was young his shortcomings could be overlooked, as others were responsible for running the country. However, when he was older he was expected to rule as a king should rule. Unfortunately, throughout his life Henry VI was swayed from one side to another by powerful nobles with agendas of their own. Henry’s mother played little part in the education and upbringing of her son. This was left mostly to others in the royal circle.

Catherine and Sir Owen Tudor

In the late 1420s the widowed Catherine developed a relationship with a handsome Welsh courtier, Sir Owen Tudor, with whom she had four children: three sons and a daughter. When Catherine died in 1437 Sir Owen was arrested and imprisoned. He escaped in 1438 but was recaptured and held in Windsor Castle.

The following year he received a general pardon from Henry VI and was reunited with his lands and possessions. Additionally, he was granted a pension and given a position in the king’s Court. In 1442 two of Sir Owen’s sons (the third is believed to have been a monk), Edmund and Jasper, both half-brothers of Henry VI on the maternal side, were also welcomed into the king’s circle. Later, in 1452, Edmund was created Earl of Richmond and Jasper Earl of Pembroke. Both proved to be loyal to Henry VI and were steadfast supporters of Lancastrian policy and interests. 

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