Henry VI

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Henry VI,

1165–97, Holy Roman emperor (1191–97) and German king (1190–97), son and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Frederick Barbarossa). He was crowned German king at Aachen in 1169 and king of Italy at Milan in 1186 after his marriage to ConstanceConstance,
1154–98, Holy Roman empress, wife of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI; daughter of King Roger II of Sicily. She was named heiress of Sicily by her nephew King William II.
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, heiress presumptive to the throne of Sicily. Henry remained in Italy as his father's representative, ravaging central Italy and forcing it to submit to imperial domination. He became regent at his father's departure (1189) for the Third Crusade and succeeded Frederick, who died in 1190. In 1191, Henry entered Italy on an expedition to secure Constance's Sicilian inheritance from TancredTancred
(Tancred of Lecce) , b. 1130 or 1134, d. 1194, king of Sicily (1190–94), illegitimate son of Roger of Apulia and grandson of Roger II of Sicily. On the death of his cousin, William II of Sicily, Tancred was crowned (1190) king.
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 of Lecce, who had illegally assumed the crown. Stopping at Rome he was crowned Holy Roman emperor by Pope Celestine III. He continued southward, but failed in the initial attempt to take Sicily. He returned to Germany, where he faced a rebellion fomented by the GuelphsGuelphs
, European dynasty tracing its descent from the Swabian count Guelph or Welf (9th cent.), whose daughter Judith married the Frankish emperor Louis I. Guelph III (d. 1055) was made (1047) duke of Carinthia and margrave of Verona.
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 and the nobles of the Lower Rhine, who opposed his attempt to absorb Thuringia into the royal demesne. Henry secured a powerful bargaining weapon when he obtained custody (1193) of King Richard IRichard I,
 Richard Cœur de Lion
, or Richard Lion-Heart,
1157–99, king of England (1189–99); third son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
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 of England, brother-in-law and ally of the Guelph leader, Henry the LionHenry the Lion,
1129–95, duke of Saxony (1142–80) and of Bavaria (1156–80); son of Henry the Proud. His father died (1139) while engaged in a war to regain his duchies, and it was not until 1142 that Henry the Lion became duke of Saxony.
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. Soon after Richard had paid a ransom, sworn fealty to Henry, and been released (Feb., 1194), peace was made. In Sicily, the death of Tancred favored the success of Henry's second expedition (May, 1194). Palermo fell in November, and on Christmas Day Henry was crowned king of Sicily. Insatiable, Henry dreamed of further expansion in the Mediterranean. He began to promote (1195) a new crusade and intimidated the Byzantine emperor, Alexius IIIAlexius III
(Alexius Angelus) , d. after 1210, Byzantine emperor (1195–1203). He acceded to power by deposing and blinding his brother Isaac II. This act served as pretext for the leaders of the Fourth Crusade (see Crusades) to attack Constantinople (1203).
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, into paying him tribute. At the Diet of Würzburg (1196) Henry proposed that the empire be made hereditary in his family, the Hohenstaufen, and in return offered unrestricted rights of inheritance to those who held fiefs from him. The proposal was defeated, though it found many supporters, and Henry contented himself with securing the election of his infant son (later Emperor Frederick IIFrederick II,
1194–1250, Holy Roman emperor (1220–50) and German king (1212–20), king of Sicily (1197–1250), and king of Jerusalem (1229–50), son of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI and of Constance, heiress of Sicily.
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) as king. Henry died of a fever at Messina just as he was preparing to invade the Holy Land. He was succeeded in Sicily by Frederick II and in the rest of the empire by Philip of SwabiaPhilip of Swabia
, 1176?–1208, German king (1198–1208), son of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. After the death (1197) of his brother, German King and Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, he unsuccessfully attempted to secure the succession in Germany of his infant nephew,
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Henry VI,

1421–71, king of England (1422–61, 1470–71).


Early Years

The only son of Henry VHenry V,
1387–1422, king of England (1413–22), son and successor of Henry IV. Early Life

Henry was probably brought up under the care of his uncle, Henry Beaufort.
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 and Catherine of ValoisCatherine of Valois
, 1401–37, queen consort of Henry V of England, daughter of Charles VI of France. Married in 1420, she bore Henry the son who was to become Henry VI.
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, he became king of England when he was not yet nine months old. When his grandfather, Charles VICharles VI
(Charles the Mad or Charles the Well Beloved), 1368–1422, king of France (1380–1422), son and successor of King Charles V. During his minority he was under the tutelage of his uncles (particularly Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy), whose policies drained
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 of France, died, Henry was proclaimed king of France by the English, in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of TroyesTroyes, Treaty of,
1420, agreement between Henry V of England, Charles VI of France, and Philip the Good of Burgundy. Its purpose, ultimately unsuccessful, was to settle the issues of the Hundred Years War.
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 (1420). The French, however, recognized the son of Charles VI as Charles VIICharles VII
(Charles the Well Served), 1403–61, king of France (1422–61), son and successor of Charles VI. His reign saw the end of the Hundred Years War. Although excluded from the throne by the Treaty of Troyes, Charles took the royal title after his father's death
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During Henry's early years, England was under the protectorate of his uncles, John of Lancaster, duke of BedfordBedford, John of Lancaster, duke of,
1389–1435, English nobleman; third son of Henry IV of England and brother of Henry V. At the death (1422) of his brother and succession of his 9-month-old nephew, Henry VI, Bedford was designated as regent of France and protector of
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, who was regent in France, and Humphrey, duke of GloucesterGloucester, Humphrey, duke of,
1391–1447, English nobleman; youngest son of Henry IV and Mary de Bohun. He was well educated and had a great interest in humanist scholarship.
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. Gloucester did not wield full authority, however, for much of the actual power resided in a council dominated by Henry BeaufortBeaufort, Henry
, 1377?–1447, English prelate and statesman. The son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and his mistress (later wife) Catherine Swynford, he was half-brother to Henry IV.
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. After the English defeat by Joan of Arc at Orléans in 1429 and Charles VII's coronation at Reims shortly thereafter, the council attempted to protect English interests in France by crowning Henry king of France at Paris in 1431. After the death of Bedford in 1435 and the defection of Burgundy from the Anglo-Burgundian alliance, however, the English cause in France became hopeless.

Factional Struggles

From c.1435, Henry fell under the dominance of a faction headed first by Henry Beaufort and later by William de la Pole, 4th earl of Suffolk (see PolePole,
English noble family. The first member of importance was William de la Pole, d. 1366, a rich merchant who became the first mayor of Hull (1332) and a baron of the exchequer (1339).
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, family), both of whom opposed continuing the war in France. Suffolk negotiated a marriage for Henry with Margaret of AnjouMargaret of Anjou
, 1430?–1482, queen consort of King Henry VI of England, daughter of René of Anjou. Her marriage, which took place in 1445, was negotiated by William de la Pole, 4th earl (later 1st duke) of Suffolk (see under Pole, family).
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 in 1445. This marriage was at first favorably received in England, but when Henry, now under the influence of his wife, surrendered Maine to Charles VII, Suffolk and the queen lost their popularity.

Suffolk was impeached in 1450 and mysteriously murdered at sea while on his way to France. The rebellion of Jack CadeCade, Jack,
d. 1450, English rebel. Of his life very little is known. He may have been of Irish birth; some of his followers called him John Mortimer and claimed he was a cousin of Richard, duke of York.
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, which broke out after Suffolk's death, was but one of many riots and uprisings indicating popular dissatisfaction with the government. The faction headed by Queen Margaret and Edmund Beaufort, 2d duke of SomersetSomerset, Edmund Beaufort, 2d duke of,
d. 1455, English statesman and general. He fought in France in the Hundred Years War, receiving his first command in 1431, recapturing Harfleur in 1440, and relieving Calais in
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, which dominated the king after Suffolk's death, was opposed by Richard, duke of YorkYork, Richard, duke of,
1411–60, English nobleman, claimant to the throne. He was descended from Edward III through his father, Richard, earl of Cambridge, grandson of that king, and also through his mother, Anne Mortimer, great-granddaughter of Lionel, duke of Clarence,
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, the most powerful noble in the kingdom and heir presumptive to the throne. The struggle between these two factions developed into the dynastic battle between the Lancasters and the Yorks known as the Wars of the RosesRoses, Wars of the,
traditional name given to the intermittent struggle (1455–85) for the throne of England between the noble houses of York (whose badge was a white rose) and Lancaster (later associated with the red rose).

About the middle of the 15th cent.
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Insanity and War

In 1453, shortly before the birth of his son, Edward, the king became insane. The duke of York was made protector (1454) in spite of the protests of Margaret, but when the king recovered, York was excluded from the council. In 1455, York met the Lancastrians at St. Albans in a conflict generally regarded as the first battle of the Wars of the Roses; Somerset was killed, and the Yorkists gained control of the council. York was again protector (1455–56), but thereafter Margaret was in control until 1460 when the Yorkist party won another victory at Northampton. Henry was made a prisoner, and York was named protector and heir apparent to the throne to the exclusion of Henry's own son.

York was killed at Wakefield in 1460, but his son Edward defeated the Lancastrian forces at Mortimer's Cross, entered London, and was proclaimed king as Edward IVEdward IV,
1442–83, king of England (1461–70, 1471–83), son of Richard, duke of York. He succeeded to the leadership of the Yorkist party (see Roses, Wars of the) after the death of his father in Wakefield in 1460.
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 in Feb., 1461. Henry, who had been rescued from Yorkist captivity at the second battle of St. Albans a few days earlier, now fled to Scotland. He remained there during most of the subsequent fighting until 1465, when he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

When Richard Neville, earl of WarwickWarwick, Richard Neville, earl of
, 1428–71, English nobleman, called the Kingmaker. Through his grandfather, Ralph Neville, 1st earl of Westmorland, he had connections with the house of Lancaster; he was also the nephew of Cecily Neville, wife of Richard, duke of York.
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, allied himself with Queen Margaret and invaded England in 1470, Henry was restored to the throne, but his second reign was short-lived. The unfortunate king was captured at the battle of Barnet and returned to the Tower. He was murdered there only days after Edward IV's final victory at Tewkesbury in May, 1471.


Henry was a mild, honest, and pious man, a patron of literature and the arts and the founder of Eton College (1440). He was, however, unstable, weak-willed, and politically naive. It was his complete inability to cope with the pressures and responsibilities of kingship that probably drove him to insanity.


See biography by K. H. Vickers, England in the Later Middle Ages (7th ed. 1950); E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961).

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Henry VI

dominated by queen and vassal; shirks responsibilities. [Br. Lit.: Henry VI]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Henry VI

1. 1165--97, king of Germany (1169--97) and Holy Roman Emperor (1190--97): added Sicily to the Empire
2. 1421--71, last Lancastrian king of England (1422--61; 1470--71); son of Henry V. His weak rule was blamed for the loss by 1453 of all his possessions in France except Calais; from 1454 he suffered periods of insanity which contributed to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses (1455--85). He was deposed by Edward IV (1461) but was briefly restored to the throne (1470)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
(2HVI I.iii.55-64) There may perhaps be glimmers in these characterizations, in the first half of the tetralogy, of the melancholy/depression that has become a defining trait of both the historical Henry VI and his Shakespearean counterpart.
(31) The accusation that Eleanor compassed the death of Henry VI identified her behaviour as high treason.
The academics who worked on the New Oxford Shakespeare, and others who had provided peer reviews of their findings, were extremely confident about Marlowe's authorship of some parts of the Henry VI plays, Taylor said.
Tarlinskaja, aware of the latest research on attribution, provides separate figures for the Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean portions of 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, Titus Andronicus, Edward III, and Arden of Faversham, (4) For 3 Henry VI, she uses the division established by Craig and Burrows, assigning Shakespeare 1.3-2.2, 24-3.2, 4.1, 5.1, 5.3-57.
However, with Henry VI we let a couple of men sneak through.
Their marriage--when she was 12--bolstered the royal House of Lancaster, led by Edmund's half-brother Henry VI. Edmund died of plague before Margaret gave birth to their son, Henry Tudor, in 1457.
In the Henry VI trilogy, Shakespeare introduces his preeminent female role, that of Queen Margaret, who survives throughout his first tetralogy of Henry VI and Richard III.
This study of the struggles of Henry V and his son, Henry VI, to establish their rule in northern France follows Dr Barker's earlier book on Henry V's great victory at Agincourt.
Although there continues to be argument as to the exact date of 1 Henry VI, the first tetralogy has always been staged after the second tetralogy in cycle productions.
As an illustration of how this works, consider three Shakespeare plays whose First Folio texts include actors' names which are not present in the corresponding quarto texts--Much Ado About Nothing, 3 Henry VI, and 2 Henry VI.