A thrilling new account of the tragic story and troubled times of Henry VI, who inherited the crowns of both England and France and lost both.
Firstborn son of a warrior father who defeated the French at Agin- court, Henry VI of the House of Lancaster inherited the crown not only of England but also of France, at a time when Plantagenet dominance over the Valois dynasty was at its glorious height.
And yet, by the time he died in the Tower of London in 1471, France was lost, his throne had been seized by his rival, Edward IV of the House of York, and his kingdom had descended into the violent chaos of the Wars of the Roses.
Henry VI is perhaps the most troubled of English monarchs, a pious, gentle, well-intentioned man who was plagued by bouts of mental illness. In The Shadow King, Lauren Johnson tells his remark- able and sometimes shocking story in a fast-paced and colorful narrative that captures both the poignancy of Henry’s life and the tumultuous and bloody nature of the times in which he lived.
Johnson (So Great a Prince) seeks to reclaim the unhappy Lancastrian king from the "simple saint" myth with a thorough examination of his difficult circumstances and his pious, peace-oriented personality. The early death of warrior-king Henry V left an infant with a claim to both the English and French thrones and substantial French holdings, but the gentle, insecure Henry VI ultimately lost everything. Surrounded by such strong-willed figures as Richard, Duke of York, who dominated his life, and the queen, Margaret of Anjou, who tried to save him, Henry's cowed reaction to family infighting, significant personal losses, and his own inadequacies doomed him to failure, forcing him to eventually renounce his son's claim with the Act of Accord in favor of Yorkist Edward IV. Johnson allows for a bit of fun with the multiple English monarchs (including Richard III and Henry VII), showing how closely intertwined these warring factions actually were. This dense exploration of Henry's boyhood shows how his passive personality and bouts of psychosis (during which his wife, a stronger ruler, stepped in) led to his making disastrous decisions. Johnson's intense look at the earthly failures that defined Henry VI's unpopular reign and the transformation of a medieval king's fatal flaws into the basis for a devoted posthumous following is a treat for committed Anglophiles.