Henry VI was born at Windsor Castle, 6th December 1421. His parents were Henry V and Catherine de Valois. He ascended the Throne on 1st September 1422 and his coronation was at Westminster Abbey, on 6th November 1429; repeated St Paul's Cathedral, 13th October 1470. He married Margaret, daughter of the Count of Anjou and they had one child, a son, Edward (died 1471).
Henry presided over his first parliament from his mother's arms. Although he was crowned King of France in Paris (1431), the conquests of Henry V were soon lost. By 1453 only Calais remained. Henry was incapable of leading an army and, partly perhaps as a result of the French disasters, suffered his first attack of insanity in 1452. Richard, Duke of York reigned as Protector until Henry recovered in 1455, when the rivalry between Lancaster and York was developing into civil war. Henry was captured in 1460, deposed in 1461, briefly restored by Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, 'the Kingmaker', in 1470, before being finally returned to the Tower where he was stabbed to death by an unknown hand.
The French recovery was inspired by Joan of Arc and the coronation of Charles VII at Reims (1429). The English began to suffer defeats, their allies deserted them, and parliament had to provide ever-growing sums for what had become an unsuccessful war. Peace proved elusive. Even Henry's marriage to a formidable French princess in 1445 brought only a breathing space.
A rising in Kent led by Jack Cade (1450), partly provoked by dislike of the King's favourites, succeeded in taking London while Henry cowered in Kenilworth Castle.
The dynastic conflict that began in the 1450s was later called the Wars of the Roses (the red rose of Lancaster versus the white rose of York). Beginning as a revolt against weak government, it became a challenge to the throne when Richard, Duke of York (1311-60) formed an alliance with the powerful Earl of Warwick. The Yorkists won the Battle of Towton (1461) and Richard's son, Edward IV, became king. Warwick, dissatisfied with his rewards, sided with the Lancastrians in 1469, and Henry VI was briefly restored (1470-1). The efforts of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Edward IV's younger brother and guardian of the younger Edward V, to seize the crown himself alienated Lancastrians as well as Yorkists, and his overthrow by Henry Tudor (1485) marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. In over 30 years, a state of open war existed for only about 15 months, and social disruption, except among the higher nobility, appears to have been minimal. The leader of the Lancastrian cause, given the feebleness of Henry VI, was his forceful queen, Margaret of Anjou (1429-82). After Towton she fled to France, returned with a French army, was defeated but returned again with more French soldiers, forcing Edward IV, in turn, to flee. Imprisoned in 1471, she was ransomed in 1475 and left England for good.
Henry died in the Tower of London, 21st May 1471 and was buried at Chertsey Abbey; removed to St George's Chapel, Windsor, 1484.