154 Henry VIth – A Weak King

An introduction to a new reign – Henry VIth, a name to make grown men tremble – and to the political leaders that dominated it. 

154 Henry VIth – A Weak King


Henry VIth - young and gormless

 There are two common images of Henry VIth, The first is of Henry as a young Henry VIth - old and frazzledman. Looking fine 'n all, but really rather lacking in gorm. And then there's an older one, where really he looks at the end of his tether. 

To be honest, the range of opinion about Henry is pretty limited – but it is there. It's affected very much by the Wars of the Rose, which affects the view point. 

So,m here's a comment on the reign from someone writing in the time of Edward IVth, the Yorkist king, while Henry is still alive in the tower: 

"the realm of England was out of all good governance…for the king was a simpleton and led by evil counsellors, and owed them more than he had. His debts increased daily, but no payments were made; all the possessions and lordships that belonged to the crown the king had given away…for these misgovernances, and for many others, the hearts of the people were turned away from them that had the land in governance, and their blessings were turned to curses."

Not good then. With Henry's death, he begins to get rehabilitated, even in the time of Yorkist Richard III. Here's the story in those days: 

‘How great his deserts were, by reason of the innocence of his life, his love of Go and the church, his patience in adversity, and his other remarkable virtues, is abundantly testified by the miracles which God has wrought in favour of those who have implored his intercession’

3 Other big players

Henry VIth had two uncles to look after him.

John, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France

John Duke of BedfordJohn was a big powerful man, competent, pious but a man of letters and a patron Anne of Burgundy of the arts. To him fell the job of maintaining the English realm of France while Henry was in his minority – and in particular, maintaining the Burgundian alliance. He was the right man for the job. And he was helped by his wife, Anne of Burgundy, 15 years his junior when they married in 1423. Anne and John seemed to  have had a happy marriage and while they held court in Rouen and Paris, Lancastrian France and the Burgundian alliance had a chance of survival. 


 Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester

Humphrey Duke of GloucesterHumph was a different proposition. Also an enthusiastic patron of the arts, who built his palace at Greenwich into a centre of culture. But despite his self confidence and pride, somehow without his brother's competence and solidity. His marriage to Jacquetta of Hainault and military adventure to win her land – which incidentally belonged to the Duke of Burgundy – ended in failure, endangered the all-important alliance, and then he casually discarded Jacquetta. He had been appointed 'tutela', or Lord Protector to the young king by Henry Vth – which he claimed made him ruler of England during the minority. Parliament diasgreed; and by making him work as part of a Council of State made him, much to his fury, just primus inter pares. 


Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester and Cardinal

Henry BeaufortWe've met Beaufort before – Chancellor of England under both Henry IVth and Henry VIth, and now for periods under Henry VIth. He was a political player, and involved in an intense running rivalry for power with Gloucester. In 1425, their rivalry would flare up into outright conflict, leading to Beaufort's temporary downfall. 





6 thoughts on “154 Henry VIth – A Weak King

  1. Oh dear hate to do this….but you are right its not going to stop me….it was agreed no music so please no second voice…

  2. I bow my head to family solidarity….which is a very real player int the War of the Roses….while Henry was sadly missing in action there are lots of fascinating people…The formidible Lady Beaufort…Lord Rivers…Warwick…The Percies….

  3. Oh yay! I love this bit, when things get interesting, what with Warwick, double dealing, exiles, returns from exiles, England losing all the bits of France, and one seriously bad-ass queen (although her cause wasn’t the best and she ended tragically).
    I’ve just been listening again to The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones on Audible, which I quite recommend, so I’m in the perfect state of mind. Time for a king who was so harmless he was terrible! Yay!

  4. Oh, apparently the book I just mentioned is also the book you mentioned in the podcast. It just bafflingly has a different title in the UK (The Hollow Crown vs. The Wars of the Roses in the U.S.).
    Great minds, and all that.

  5. Regarding the portraits of Henry VI:

    1. I believe both date to the century after Henry lived. The more youthful one to the 1540s and the older one to the 1590s.
    2. In terms of their pose they look quite similar, the king is wearing the same costume and his hands are positioned in the same way. Is it possible both are based on the same (now presumably lost) original?

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