THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - PART TEN
Henry was only 3 months old when his father died in 1422 and was to be cared for by his mother until he reached the age of 5 together with his uncle Humphrey,Duke of Gloucester, who was also Regent of England. His later upbringing wouldalso be in the hands of his other uncle John, Duke of Bedford, who was Regent of France, together with several long-standing supporters of Henry V and hisBeaufort uncles.
Humphrey was born in 1391 the last son of Henry IV and was 3 years old whenhis mother died giving birth to her second daughter, Philippa. The 3 young children went to live with Sir Henry Waterton who sent Humphrey to Oxford where he studied mathematics, theology, the classics and astrology. He also enjoyed painting and poetry and was considered handsome but he and his brother Thomas were emotional and impetuous unlike Henry and John. At Oxford Humphrey became a great friend of John Bostock, a Benedictine monk who later became the Abbot of St. Albans. Humphrey venerated St, Alban and became a great collector of books. As Guardian Lieutenant of England he had meetings with Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, to raise money for the king's war in France. He was also Constable of Dover and Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1416 and became known as the Good Duke Humphrey. In 1421 he met Jacqueline of Hainhault, the Duchess of Brabant, who was escaping from her tyrannical husband the Duke of Brabant. She was not divorced from him but Humphrey fell in love with her and wished to marry her. They asked the pope for an annulment of her marriage and King Henry V told them to wait. His brother
Thomas, Duke of Clarence, died the same year at Bourge and was buried in
Canterbury Cathedral near his father Henry IV. The following year his brother the king died of dysentery and Charles VI of France died 2 months later. All this put a strain on Humphrey and he decided to marry Jacqueline without the annulment from the pope. Humphrey and Jacqueline were welcomed at St Albans Abbey with their 300 retainers who were mostly German but they soon outstayed their welcome and set sail for Hainault in 42 ships. The people welcomed them but Humphrey had to contend with constant insult from the Duke of Brabant and his great friend the Duke of Burgundy. Her husband was only angry because he held his wife's lands but as it happened the pope could find no legal reason to annul their marriage so Humphrey's marriage was illegal. Eventually he decided it was a lost cause and left Jacqueline to her fate and he returned to England. His brother John, Duke of Bedford, and his half-uncle Henry, Cardinal Beaufort, were appalled and John quickly married Anne the sister of the Duke of Burgundy to safeguard the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Humphrey would always have difficulties with Cardinal Beaufort who was 14 years his senior and had beenadvisor to the 3 previous kings. The cardinal was worried about Humphrey's uneven temperament and volatile behaviour and used his wealth to bribe the Council into stripping Humphrey of his power of regent to become Lord Protector. It was a title with no real power or vote on the Council. The Duke of Bedford agreed to this as he was as much concerned about the good of the kingdom for the young king as was Cardinal Beaufort.
Poor Humphrey was seen as a foolish knight but he soon found several ladies at Court to brighten his life such as Eleanor Cobham whom he later married. She was warmly welcomed at St. Albans Abbey and donated finely embroidered altar cloths and vestments in fine cloth of gold and crimson velvet, embroidered with the badges of Gloucester. Suns, roses, ostrich feathers and the Bohun swan used as an emblem by Henry V on his standard at Agincourt. Henry VI was crowned King of England in 1429 at Westminster Abbey just prior to his 8th birthday. He became very friendly with Eleanor and his uncle Humphrey staying with them at their new house at Greenwich called Bella Court. It was later transformed into a fortified palace with towers, a moat and was enclosed by a wall it was completed about 1427 and later became known as Greenwich Palace. Humphrey had also enclosed 200 acres around the palace now called Greenwich Park.
John, Duke of Bedford, was born in 1389 at Monmouth and proved himself an able soldier and a good diplomat. As admiral of the fleet he had won a great sea battle over the French at Harfleur and twice been given the guardianship of England. After his brother Henry V died in 1422 he was given the regency of France and achieved much in advancing the English claim on France. He held many titles and estates in France but was a devoted uncle and servant of his young nephew King Henry VI. John found it difficult to keep France together as the towns and villages were over-run by ‘freebooters’ bands of robbers and murderers terrorizing the peasants. There was still the faction between rival claimants for the throne and leadership of France who did not accept English rule. The Burgundians even though they were allies of England and the Dauphinists followers of Charles Vl's true heir. It is during this period that we hear of Joan of Arc ‘The Maid of Orleans’ who was a young peasant girl, very pious and prayed in the local church every day. She began to hear voices and had visions telling her to lead an army with the Dauphin and save France. She wore men's clothes and armour and led a vast army against the English recapturing many towns until she reached Rheims where she had the Dauphin crowned Charles VII of France. This did not please the Burgundians and they managed to capture Joan and sold her to the English. She was charged with heresy by rejecting the authority of the Church in claiming a personal revelation, prophesying and denying her womanhood by dressing as a man and wearing armour. She was burnt at the stake in 1431 in the market place at Rouen as an example against any threat to England's claim to the French throne. In 1435 the Duke of Burgundy decided to abandon his alliance and joined the Dauphinists gaining more control and the Duke of Bedford did not have the funds to continue using a vast army. He took ill that year and died being buried in the cathedral at Rouen but the structure he built survived a further 15 years and he was favourably respected. King Henry VI came of age in 1435 aged 16 he was a lanky youth with a mournful look, weak of body and mind and was much the pawn of Cardinal Beaufort. He was however a pious and devout king and would have been happy to live the life of a monk. He detested violence, cruelty and bloodshed, had no understanding of politics or statecraft and certainly no great leader of men.
He did however have a deep interest in learning and established Eton College in 1440 and later founded the College of St. Nicholas in Cambridge for 12 students. Henry decided to enlarge his College in Cambridge to take 70 students from Eton to complete their education. In 1448 it was written that he desired the Cambridge College to be renamed as ‘The King's College of Our Lady and St. Nicholas.’ The area chosen was cleared of old medieval houses but unfortunately Henry's mental illness inherited from his maternal grandfather, Charles VI, and the beginning of ‘"The War of the Roses’ in 1455 caused a halt to any further building.
During a meeting in France the Duke of Burgundy suggested that Henry VI should relinquish the throne of France, Cardinal Beaufort offered to release the Duke of Orleans to try and keep peace with France. Humphrey was furious as Henry V had always said he should not be released but as it happens the duke no longer wished to bother with politics and retired to his country chateau. Humphrey left service at Court in disgust and went into Wales. Cardinal Beaufort took the opportunity to attack the Duke of Gloucester through his wife Eleanor, arresting her and several of his friends. They were accused of witchcraft and Eleanor was tried in 1441 and sentenced to death by burning. The young king saved her perhaps remembering her kindness to him as a young boy. She lost her status and was stripped of all honours and made to do public penance. One friend was hanged and the other burned at the stake in Smithfield. Eleanor spent the rest of her life in captivity being moved from one prison to another until she finally died in Beaumaris Castle in 1460. In 1445 Henry, aged 24, married Margaret of Anjou, the 16-year-old daughter of the Duke of Lorraine and sister to the Queen of France but it would prove to be a disastrous match that would destroy the House of Lancaster. Margaret was cunning and manipulative and dominated her weak husband, when the couple had married Parliament realized that Margaret's dowry was much reduced and all her property had reverted to France. Humphrey and most of the Council were angry with the Beauforts for allowing this to happen but the duke, accepting the marriage, let Henry and Margaret spend their honeymoon at his palace at Greenwich and the Queen took a liking for it. Humphrey was in fact the heir presumptive after the death of John, Duke of Bedford, and had already retired from Court and living at his Greenwich Palace. The king was happy with his bride and took offence at his uncle Humphrey's protests so needed little persuading to summon him to Parliament. The duke unaware of any plot to his person took his usual retinue of 80 supporters and servants. He was separated from them and arrested by the High Constable and kept alone in his room. That night he fell into a coma but he managed to rally enough to confess his sins and receive the last rites before he died in 1447. Orders had already been made out to divide his properties and wealth according to the king's wishes. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, had built a chapel for himself in St. Albans Abbey and he would be remembered for his influence on education and scholarship in England. He had an early interest in Humanism and the new learning of Erasmus and Thomas More bringing a rebirth of learning that would be known as The Renaissance.
The king's mother Catherine had no say in her son's life and had been forbidden to remarry by Parliament. She was still a young woman and soon fell for the charms of her wardrobe master Owen Tudor and bore him 2 sons, Edmund and Jasper. Their relationship had been discovered in 1437 and Owen was imprisoned at Newgate and Catherine was sent to Bermondsey Abbey where she died in childbirth. The king pardoned Owen and welcomed his half-brothers creating Edmund the Earl of Richmond, who would be the father of the future Henry VII, and Jasper the Earl of Pembroke.
In 1415 Richard, Earl of Cambridge, had been executed as a traitor, he had married Anne Mortimer sister and heiress to Edmund the 5th Earl of March. Edmund was a direct descendant of Lionel the 2nd son of Edward III whereas Henry V was descended from John of Gaunt the 3rd son and Richard had attempted to gain the throne for his brother-in-law. Their son Richard became the Duke of York in 1416 when his paternal uncle Edward died at Agincourt and he also inherited the earldom of March when his maternal uncle Edmund died without an heir in 1425. Richard was knighted in 1426 and later resided in the royal household and received all his lands in1432. He succeeded the late Duke of Bedford as Lieutenant General of France in1436 but returned to England and was replaced by the Earl of Warwick. The old earl died in 1439 and Richard returned in 1440. In 1443 Cardinal Beaufort had his nephew John, Earl of Somerset, made Captain General of France and Aquitaine in order to keep an eye on the Duke of York. The earl proved to be most incompetent and not a good organizer or leader and refused to tell his captains anything of his plans as he didn't have any. He seized a Breton town and returned it to its duke for money and this did not encourage much faith in the English. John had been created the Duke of Somerset but he returned to England and was made a laughing stock and banished from Court and died shortly afterwards possibly by his own hand in 1444. Cardinal Henry Beaufort died 2 months after Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in 1447 leaving king Henry to the domination of his queen. The Cardinal had been very rich and powerful and had used his wealth to control the king and make him dependant on him. He also made profit from money lending to support the continual conflicts in France whilst seeming to want peace. Later that year Richard, Duke of York, had finished his term of office and was replaced by Edmund, John's younger brother who had inherited the new title as the 2nd Duke of Somerset and Richard was appointed Lieutenant in Ireland for 10 years. This was a form of veiled exile to keep him out of England and like Humphrey the Duke of Gloucester, had been misused by the Council. During his service in Ireland Richard of York had started calling himself Richard Plantagenet affirming his royal descent. In 1450 the men of Kent led a rebellion but it was not about peasants but the misuse of power and poor administration from the highest of Parliament to the lowest of the gentry. The King was forced to flee from place to place until the leader was caught and beheaded. Richard, Duke of York, left his post in Ireland and returned to England to take up his late father's cause.
Edmund, Duke of Somerset, was blamed for the loss of territory in France but the king would not accept this and appointed him Constable of England, Commander-in-Chief of the army in the king's absence and Supreme Judge in the Court of Chivalry. This caused conflict between Richard and the king including the magnates, men of wealth and power. They still held many retainers giving them livery and badges of identification and all these retainers were becoming a law unto themselves. The system became corrupt and would not be dealt with until the reign of Henry VII.
Richard was aware that if Henry died childless his closest heirs were Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and his niece Margaret Beaufort daughter of the late Duke John. Margaret had been born in 1443 so was only one year old when her father died. She was brought up as a royal ward and betrothed to the Duke of Suffolk for a time but at the age of 14 she would be married to Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.
Henry and the English believed Normandy would be in their hands permanently but there were fewer English in the duchy than expected. Settlers had intermarried and some had returned to England and by 1449 there were only 500 English in Harfleur compared to the 10,000 put there by Henry V in 1416. Many knew only English rule and there were fewer troops and less revenue but Charles VII was doing well. He had built up a standing army and had reclaimed all but Aquitaine and Calais and in 1453 King Henry sent an army of 3,000 men led by John Talbot the Ist Earl of Shrewsbury to defend Aquitaine but they were defeated and the earl was killed. All that King Henry V had gained during the last 30 years was lost and all that England held was Calais and that would be lost in 1558 by Queen Mary Tudor. The Hundred Years War was at an end but not many had yet realized it. Henry VI was at his hunting lodge at Clarendon in Wiltshire when the weight of kingship and losses in France brought on his madness and he retreated into his early childhood. He ate and slept but could not walk and the same year Queen Margaret gave birth to a son and he was given the name of Edward. Richard had been made regent during the king's illness and by the Christmas of 1454 the king was well again. The Court flared again with internal conflict and the leading families started to take sides between a weak king and a powerful duke who was almost as rich as the king. Richard, as regent, had put the Duke of Somerset in the Tower and the king was far from pleased and the first battle in ‘The War of the Roses’ was at St. Albans in 1455. Somerset was killed and the Yorkists won, the king was taken under escort to London and was to rule in name only with Richard as his principle councillor. Starting his second year as regent and defender of the realm/ Queen Margaret did not like this and used French soldiers in another battle and this time the Lancastrians won. Richard fled to Ireland and his son Edward with the earls of Warwick and Salisbury fled to Calais. In 1457 the king's half brother Edmund, Earl of Richmond, died of a fever within the year of his marriage to Margaret Beaufort leaving her 7 months with child, the future Henry VII. The king's other half brother, Jasper, Earl of Pembroke, was given the post of Constable of Denbigh Castle in Wales from 1457 to 1461.
Early in 1460 Edward and the two earls returned to England and were joined by the men of Kent and marched to London with a manifesto for Parliament asserting loyalty but wanted an end to misrule by the king. There was another battle which the Yorkists won and Richard left Ireland assuming the trappings of royalty. He bore the arms of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and nearing London he unfurled the banner of England and a naked sword held before him he entered London formally laying claim to the Crown. His claim was based on his superior right of descent through his mother Anne Mortimer. This was not acceptable to Parliament as it indicated that the 3 previous kings had had no valid title to the throne. However Parliament compromised and Henry VI was to retain the throne for his lifetime but his son was to be disinherited in favour of Duke Richard and his heirs. Queen Margaret was not in agreement with this and fled to Scotland where she bought the support of King James III. Later in the year of 1460 her supporters assembled an army at York and defeated the Yorkists killing Richard and his 2nd son Edmund, Earl of Rutland. Richard’s head was placed over the city gate wearing a paper crown. The future of the Yorkists was now in the hands of Richard's 1st son Edward who fought another battle in 1461 and won. Owen Tudor was caught fighting for King Henry and was executed by the Yorkists. His son Jasper fled for Brittany with his young nephew Henry, now Earl of Richmond heir of the Lancastrian dynasty. Edward now aged 21 was crowned King Edward IV and after another battle in 1465 Henry VI was imprisoned. Queen Margaret continued to menace the North of England for 3 years until she left for France with her son. King Edward IV was very much under the influence of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was not satisfied with the position and power he held. Warwick caused a split and grievance between several Yorkists and Edward fled to Holland. Warwick's attempt to govern failed so he released Henry VI from prison and restored him to the throne in 1470. Edward IV returned in 1471 with an army defeating and killing Warwick in the battle. King Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, fought and massacred the Lancastrians in the battle of Tewkesbury and Henry's son Edward was brutally murdered in the Abbey where he had taken refuge. Queen Margaret was also found taking refuge in a religious house and was taken to London with King Edward and sent to live in the custody of the Duchess of Suffolk. Henry VI died in the tower several weeks later believed murdered by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Poor Henry had nowhere to rest in peace and nobody seemed to care. He was finally given a place of rest at St. George's Windsor. In 1476 King Louis XI of France ransomed Margaret for 50,000 crowns as part of a deal with King Edward who insisted that she renounce all her English claims. Louis also requested that she sign over her French inheritance from her parents to him and he would give her a pension for the rest of her life. Queen Margaret of Anjou died in 1482 aged 52.
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - William I to Henry II click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Richard I and King John click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Henry III click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Edward I click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Edward II click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Edward III click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Richard II click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Henry IV click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND - Henry V click
THE PLANTAGENET KINGS OF ENGLAND -