Henry VI


Henry VI
1. 1165-97, king of Germany 1190-97; king of Sicily 1194-97; emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 1191-97 (son of Frederick I).
2. 1421-71, king of England 1422-61, 1470-71 (son of Henry V).
3. (italics) a three-part drama (Part 1, 1591-92; Part 2, 1590?; Part 3, 1590?) by Shakespeare.

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I
born Dec. 6, 1421, Windsor, Berkshire, Eng.
died May 21/22, 1471, London

King of England (1422–61, 1470–71).

Son of Henry V, he became king as an infant, and grew up a pious and studious recluse, who suffered episodes of mental instability. England's political affairs were dominated by the rivalries of a series of overpowerful ministers of the houses of Lancaster and York, and Henry's incapacity for government became one of the causes of the Wars of the Roses. In 1461 a Yorkist was proclaimed Edward IV. Henry fled, but he returned in 1464 in an unsuccessful Lancastrian rising and was eventually captured and imprisoned. After a quarrel in the York faction, he was restored to the throne in 1470. Edward fled but soon returned to defeat and kill the earl of Warwick and regain the throne. The death in battle of Prince Edward, Henry's heir, sealed Henry's fate, and he was murdered in the Tower of London soon afterward.
II

born autumn 1165, Nijmegen, Neth.
died Sept. 28, 1197, Messina, Italy

German king (1169–97) and Holy Roman emperor (1191–97) of the Hohenstaufen dynasty who acquired the kingdom of Sicily by marriage.

Crowned king in 1169, Henry took over government of the Holy Roman Empire when his father, Frederick I Barbarossa, embarked on a Crusade to the Holy Land in 1189. Soon after his coronation he faced revolts by Henry the Lion in Germany and Tancred in Sicily, but he succeeded in making peace in 1194. His efforts to make the imperial crown hereditary were unsuccessful, but his son Frederick II would become emperor after the death of Henry's eventual successor, the Welf ruler, Otto IV.

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▪ Holy Roman emperor
born , autumn 1165, Nijmegen, Neth.
died Sept. 28, 1197, Messina, Sicily
 German king and Holy Roman emperor of the Hohenstaufen dynasty who increased his power and that of his dynasty by his acquisition of the kingdom of Sicily through his marriage to Constance I (Constance), posthumous daughter of the Sicilian king Roger II. Although Henry failed in his objective of making the German crown hereditary, like the Sicilian crown, his son Frederick II, who became king of Sicily immediately after Henry VI's death, was subsequently elected Holy Roman emperor.

      A son of the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, Henry was chosen German king at Bamberg in June 1169 and crowned at Aachen in August of that year. He was married to Constance, who was 11 years older than he, in January 1186 in Milan. On the departure of Frederick I for the Holy Land on a crusade at Easter 1189, Henry (Henry III) took over the government of the empire. In 1189–90 he suppressed a revolt of Henry the Lion, former duke of Bavaria and Saxony.

      In November 1189, William II of Sicily died, leaving his father's half sister Constance heiress to the Sicilian kingdom, then consisting of the island of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian peninsula. After the death of Frederick I on crusade in June 1190, Henry VI made peace with Henry the Lion and proceeded to Italy, where he was crowned emperor by Pope Celestine III in April 1191.

      Meanwhile in Sicily a local party unwilling to be governed by a German emperor chose Tancred of Lecce, an illegitimate son of Constance's brother Roger, as king of Sicily. After his coronation, Henry, determined to conquer the Sicilian kingdom, besieged Naples. But when Henry the Lion, aided by others, once again revolted, Henry was forced to raise the siege (August 1191) and return to Germany. The Emperor's position was soon strengthened, however, by the imprisonment of King Richard I of England by Leopold V, duke of Austria, in December 1192. When the Duke turned the English king over to Henry in the following February, Richard, in order to obtain his release, agreed to surrender his kingdom to the Emperor, receive it back as a fief, and pay a ransom of 100,000 silver marks as well as an additional 50,000 marks in lieu of helping Henry conquer the Sicilian kingdom.

      Henry the Lion came to terms with the Emperor in March 1194, and Henry VI was then free to turn his attention to Sicily. He had already, in January 1194, concluded the Treaty of Vercelli with the towns of Lombardy, thus ensuring their loyalty. His task was also made easier by the death in February 1194 of Tancred, who left as his heir a mere boy, William III. Thus, when Henry went to Italy in May 1194, he met with little resistance. He entered Palermo on November 20 and was crowned king of Sicily on December 25.

      In the winter of 1195–96, Henry induced about 50 princes to agree to make the succession to the crown of the Holy Roman Empire hereditary, and at the Diet of Würzburg (April 1196) a majority voted for it. A minority, however, continued to oppose it, and at the Diet of Erfurt (October 1196) this opposition was increased. Finally, Henry had to be content with the election of his son Frederick as German king in the customary way in December.

      In 1197, when Henry was in southern Italy preparing a crusade, a rebellion against his rule broke out in the Sicilian kingdom, which was put down with savage cruelty. In the same year Henry died of malaria at Messina.

Additional Reading
Peter Csendes, Heinrich VI (1993); and David Abulafia, Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor (1988, reprinted 1991), a biography of Henry VI's son that provides useful introductions to the life and times of the father.

▪ king of England
born Dec. 6, 1421, Windsor, Berkshire, Eng.
died May 21/22, 1471, London
 king of England from 1422 to 1461 and from 1470 to 1471, a pious and studious recluse whose incapacity for government was one of the causes of the Wars of the Roses (Roses, Wars of the).

      Henry succeeded his father, Henry V, on Sept. 1, 1422, and on the death (Oct. 21, 1422) of his maternal grandfather, the French king Charles VI, Henry was proclaimed king of France in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Troyes (1420) made after Henry V's French victories.

      Henry's minority was never officially ended, but from 1437 he was considered old enough to rule for himself, and his personality became a vital factor. There is evidence that he had been a headstrong and unruly boy, but he later became concerned only with religious observances and the planning of his educational foundations (Eton College in 1440–41, King's College, Cambridge, in 1441). Home politics were dominated by the rivalries of a series of overpowerful ministers—Humphrey, duke of Gloucester; Henry, Cardinal Beaufort; and William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk. After Suffolk's fall (1449) the contenders for power were the Lancastrian Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset, and Richard, duke of York, a cousin of the King whose claim to the throne, by strict primogeniture, was better than Henry's. Meanwhile, the English hold on France was steadily eroded; despite a truce—as part of which Henry married (April 1445) Margaret of Anjou, a niece of the French queen—Maine and Normandy were lost and by 1453 so were the remaining English-held lands in Guyenne.

      Henry had a period of mental disturbance (July 1453–December 1454), during which York was lord protector, but his hopes of ultimately succeeding Henry were shattered by the birth of Edward, prince of Wales, on Oct. 13, 1453. A return to power of Somerset in 1455 made war inevitable, and although he was killed at the first Battle of St. Albans (May 1455), Queen Margaret gradually undermined York's ascendancy, and fighting was renewed in 1459. After the Yorkists had captured Henry at Northampton (July 1460), it was agreed that Henry should remain king but recognize York, and not his own son Edward, as heir to the throne. Although York was killed at Wakefield (Dec. 30, 1460), and Henry was recaptured by the Lancastrians at the second Battle of St. Albans (Feb. 17, 1461), York's heir was proclaimed king as Edward IV in London on March 4. Routed at Towton in Yorkshire (March 29), Henry fled with his wife and son to Scotland, returning to England in 1464 to support an unsuccessful Lancastrian rising. He was eventually captured (July 1465) near Clitheroe in Lancashire and imprisoned in the Tower of London. A quarrel between Edward IV and Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (Warwick, Richard Neville, 1st earl of, 2nd earl of Salisbury), led Warwick to restore Henry to the throne in October 1470, and Edward fled abroad. But he soon returned, defeated and killed Warwick, and destroyed Queen Margaret's forces at Tewkesbury (May 4, 1471). The death of Prince Edward in that battle sealed Henry's fate, and he was murdered in the Tower of London soon afterward.

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Universalium. 2010.

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