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 Lydgate]

The Canon of John Lydgate Project


The Lives of Ss. Edmund and Fremund: Introduction

King Henry VI
Henry VI: born 6 Dec. 1421 in London, d. 21 May 1472, murdered in the Tower; ascended the throne on 1 Sept. 1422 at the age of eight months; reigned: 1422-1461 and 1470-1471. Henry inherited the Lancastrian weakness of physical condition and, from his maternal grandfather, Charles VI of France, a mental condition which left him prone to seizures (he spent over a year, July 1453-Dec. 1454, in a state of torpor, from which even the birth of his son did not rouse him): through his entire reign he was little more than the puppet of one faction or another. His wife, Margaret of Anjou, frequently proved one of his most vicious enemies as she attempted to protect the rights of her son against the effects of the weakness of his father. The crises of leadership during his reign resulted in the loss of the Hundred Years War with France and the beginning of the War of the Roses with the Yorkist faction at home. In 1461, Edward of York declared himself king; in October 1470 Henry was restored to the throne, but in April 1471 Edward entered London, reclaimed the crown, and sent Henry to the Tower.

Henry's failures as king highlight a life which, under other circumstances, might have been that of a very successful monk: Henry was devout, reclusive, and a great lover of books and learning. His greatest achievements were the founding of Eton College in 1440 and King's College, Cambridge, in 1447.

While still in his minority, at the age of twelve, Henry visited the Abbey of Bury of St. Edmunds for Christmas (1433), and he stayed through Easter and until St. George's Day (21 April 1434). Abbot Curteys was given only eight weeks' notice of the royal intentions, and he immediately put 80 men to work repairing and improving the abbot's palace to receive the king ( Whittingham 9). Henry's visit to Bury is described in Abbot Curteys's Register, Part 1 (London, British Library, MS Addit. 14848), ff. 128r-128v: "De adventu regis Henrici VI ad monasterium de Sancto Edmundo 1433"; the text is printed in Ord; a summary of this description is found in the Victoria County History article on Bury (p. 65) and in Arnold's Memorials 3: xxxi-xxxii.

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© 1995 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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Last revised: 9 Nov. 1995

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