Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Readeption of Henry VI

Towton Rout by Graham Turner
After the Battle of Towton in 1461, Edward IV had good reasons to feel relatively secure on his throne. Although his rival, Henry VI was not taken prisoner until 1465, Edward had strong support from the Earl of Warwick and his own optimism and charisma to buoy him. Any battles that took place in the decade following Towton were Yorkist victories, with the exception of Edgecote Moor in 1469. That battle, however, had only convinced Edward to take his enemies more seriously, not to doubt himself. That changed when Edward was forced to flee the country to escape the joint forces of Margaret of Anjou, Warwick, and his own brother, George of Clarence.

This set of unlikely allies made it possible for Henry VI to be returned to the position that had been his since before his first birthday. Margaret had clear motivations, she had been the most staunch supporter of her husband and her son's future right to inherit from the beginning. She had been forced to unite with the former Yorkists in order to gain a victory. Warwick, disappointed that Edward was making his own decisions instead of following his guidance, had decided to gamble on an improved position for himself as counselor to Margaret and father-in-law to George. Never content with what his brother gave him, George had married Warwick's oldest daughter and hoped to steal his brother's throne.

Henry VI
With Edward in exile accompanied by his greatest supporter, his youngest brother Richard of Gloucester, his three enemies reinstated the feeble minded Henry of Lancaster as king. Warwick and Clarence were content to rule in the king's name. Henry could hardly walk any distance without support and was now famous for lengthy stretches of non-responsive insanity. The victory did not last long.

Edward had fled in October 1470, leaving his wife forced to claim sanctuary where she gave birth to the couple's first son, Prince Edward. In March 1471, Edward returned to fight for his crown and the right to someday have it placed upon his son's head.

The Lancastrians may have underestimated the popularity of the York king. Though he landed with only a small force provided for him by the Duke of Burgundy, Edward soon had additional followers, including the brother that had betrayed him time and again, George of Clarence. Finally seeing that Warwick had no intention to press his claim, George determined that he may be better off with his brother in charge after all. With both of his brothers at his side, Edward defeated Warwick at the battle of Barnet.

Edward IV
With Warwick dead, Margaret once again took up her husband's fight. Against her wishes, her only son took the field at Tewkesbury where he was killed. With nothing left to fight for, Margaret was captured and taken to the Tower to join her husband. 

Henry VI, a man who had failed to bear arms in the bloody battles that had been fought in his name, died on May 21, 1471. The cause of death was given as melancholy at the news of his son's death, but he was likely put to death at Edward's orders. His readeption had lasted approximately six months and left countless more Englishmen dead. The Wars of the Roses would seem to be over until Edward's untimely death twelve years later.

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