Margaret of Anjou Facts:
Known for: Queen Consort of Henry VI of England, figure in the Wars of the Roses and the Hundred Years' War, character in four plays by William Shakespeare
Dates: March 23, 1429 - August 25, 1482
Also known as: Queen Margaret
Father: Rene (Reignier), "Le Bon Roi Rene," Count of Anjou, later Count of Provence and King of Naples and Sicily, titular King of Jerusalem. His sister Marie d'Anjou was the Queen Consort of Charles VII of France
Mother: Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine
Margaret of Anjou Biography:
Margaret of Anjou was raised in the chaos of a family feud between her father and her father's uncle in which her father was for some years imprisoned. Her mother, Duchess of Lorraine in her own right, was well-educated for her time, and since Margaret spent much of her childhood in her mother's company, and that of her father's mother, Yolande of Aragon, Margaret was certainly well-educated as well.
On April 23, 1445, Margaret of Anjou married Henry VI of England. Her marriage to Henry was arranged by William de la Pole, later duke of Suffolk, part of the Lancastrian party in the Wars of the Roses; the marriage defeated plans by the House of York to find a bride for Henry. The King of France negotiated for Margaret's marriage as part of the Truce of Tours, which gave control of Anjou back to France provided for peace between England and France, temporarily suspending the fighting known later as the Hundred Years' War. Margaret was crowned at Westminster Abbey.
In 1448, Margaret founded Queen's College, Cambridge. She played a significant role in her husband's reign, responsible for raising taxes and for match-making among the aristocracy.
Henry had inherited his crown when he was an infant, King of England and claiming kingship of France by inheritance. The French Dauphin, Charles, was crowned as Charles VII with the aid of Joan of Arc in 1429. and Henry had lost most of France by 1453. During Henry's youth he had been educated and raised by Lancastrians while the Duke of York, Henry's uncle, held the power as Protector.
In 1453, Henry was taken ill with what has usually been described as a bout of insanity; Richard, Duke of York, again became Protector. But Margaret of Anjou gave birth to a son, Edward (October 13, 1451), and the Duke of York was no longer the heir to the throne. Rumors later surfaced -- useful to the Yorkists -- that Henry was unable to father a child and that Margaret's child must be illegitimate.
After Henry recovered, in 1454, Margaret became actively involved in the Lancastrian politics, defending her son's claim as the rightful heir. Between the different claims to the succession, and the scandal of Margaret's active role in leadership, the Wars of the Roses began at the battle of St. Albans, 1455.
Margaret played a very active role in the struggle. She outlawed the Yorkist leaders in 1459, refusing recognition of York as Henry's heir. In 1460, York was killed. His son Edward, now Duke of York and later Edward IV, allied with Richard Neville, Warwick, as leaders of the Yorkist party.
In 1461, Margaret and the Lancastrians were defeated at Towton. Edward VI, son of the late Richard, Duke of York, became King. Margaret, Henry, and their son went to Scotland; Margaret went on to France and helped arrange for French support for an invasion of England. The forces failed in 1463. Henry was captured and sent to the Tower in 1465.
Warwick, called "Kingmaker," helped Edward IV in his initial victory over Henry VI. Falling out with Edward, Warwick changed sides, and supported Margaret in her cause to restore Henry VI to the throne, which they succeeded in doing in 1470. Warwick's daughter Isabella Neville was married to George, Duke of Clarence, son of the late Richard, Duke of York. Clarence was the brother of Edward IV and also brother of the next king, Richard III. In 1470, Warwick married (or perhaps formally betrothed) his second daughter, Anne Neville, to Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Margaret and Henry VI.
Margaret returned to England in April, 1471, and on the same day, Warwick was killed at Barnet. In May, 1471, Margaret and her supporters were defeated at the battle of Tewkesbury. Margaret and her son were taken prisoner. Her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed. Her husband, Henry VI, died in the Tower of London, presumably murdered.
Margaret of Anjou was imprisoned in England for five years. In 1476, the King of France paid a ransom to England for her, and she returned to France. She lived in poverty until her death in 1482 in Anjou.
Margaret of Anjou in Fiction
Shakespeare's Margaret of Anjou: Called Margaret and later Queen Margaret, Margaret of Anjou is a character in four plays, Henry VI Parts 1-3 and in Richard III. Shakespeare compresses and changes events because his sources are incorrect, or for the sake of the literary plot, so Margaret's representation in Shakespeare is more iconic than historical. Margaret, for instance, was nowhere near Edward IV at the time that Shakespeare has her cursing the various Yorkists. She was in Paris from 1476 until her death in 1482. When she curses Elizabeth to suffer as Margaret suffered, by losing a husband and son, she leaves out that she (Margaret) was involved as well in the deaths of the father of Edward IV and Richard III. Shakespeare's audience may well have remembered those facts, however, which would make more strongly what seems to be Shakespeare's point: the repetitive pattern of murders between the related families of the houses of York and Lancaster.
Priory of Sion: Margaret's father Rene was allegedly the ninth Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, an organization popularized by literature such as The DaVinci Code. The organization's existence is generally dismissed by historians as based on forged evidence.
More women's history biographies, by name:
- Portrait of Margaret of Anjou - a 19th century illustration based on medieval images