Portrait of Henry VI (1421-1471), King of England, Lord of Ireland (1422-1461; 1470-1471), Duke of Aquitaine (1422-1453), Regency (1422-1437)
Henry VI (6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471) was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. The only child of Henry V, he succeeded to the English throne at the age of nine months upon his father's death, and succeeded to the French throne on the death of his maternal grandfather Charles VI shortly afterwards. Henry inherited the long-running Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), in which Charles VII contested his claim to the French throne. His early reign, during which several people were ruling for him, saw the height of English power in France, but subsequent military, diplomatic, and economic problems resulted in the decline of English fortunes in the war. Upon assuming personal rule in 1437, Henry found his realm in a difficult position, faced with diplomatic and military setbacks in France and divisions among the nobility at home. Unlike his aggressive father, Henry is described as being timid, shy, passive, well-intentioned, and averse to warfare and violence; he was also at times mentally unstable. His ineffective reign saw the gradual loss of the English territories in France. As the situation in France worsened, political instability in England also increased. Henry allowed his government to be dominated by quarrelsome nobles, and failed to prevent the eruption of regional disputes between feuding noble houses, a situation worsened by his reliance on favourites to run affairs of the realm; this in turn angered sections of the nobility, already resentful of their king's inability to defend their lands in France. Mounting problems led to increased political factionalism which, coupled with general misrule, helped to stoke unrest. Partially in the hope of achieving peace, in 1445 Henry married Charles VII's niece, Margaret of Anjou, an ambitious and strong-willed woman who would become an effective power behind the throne. The peace policy failed, leading to the murder of one of Henry's key advisors, and the war recommenced, with France taking the upper hand; by 1453, Calais was Henry's only remaining territory on the continent.
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