Margaret of Anjou

Margaret of Anjou (ănˈjō, Fr. äNzhōˈ) [key], 1430?–1482, queen consort of King Henry VI of England, daughter of René of Anjou. Her marriage, which took place in 1445, was negotiated by William de la Pole, 4th earl (later 1st duke) of Suffolk (see under Pole, family). Margaret soon asserted influence at the English court, allying herself with Suffolk and Edmund Beaufort, 2d duke of Somerset, in their rivalry with Richard, duke of York, heir presumptive to the throne. When the king became temporarily insane in 1453, York was made protector, but the birth (1453) of Margaret's son, Edward (which destroyed Richard's chances of succession), and Henry's recovery of his faculties (1454), allowed Margaret to regain the ascendancy. With the clash between the followers of York (the Yorkists) and the supporters of the king (the Lancastrians) at St. Albans (1455), the Wars of the Roses began (see Roses, Wars of the). Margaret was very active in the warfare; for 16 years she fought in defense of her son's claim to the throne. Richard of York was killed (1460), but Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, and Edward, the new duke of York (later Edward IV), took up the Yorkist cause. After the Lancastrian defeat at Towton (1461), Margaret went to Scotland with her son and husband and thence to France, where she secured aid for an abortive invasion (1463) of England. Thereafter she was forced to bide her time until, following the quarrel between Warwick and Edward IV, she made common cause with Warwick to invade England and restore Henry VI to the throne (1470). The next year Edward IV triumphed at Tewkesbury, where Margaret was captured and her son killed. The payment of ransom by Louis XI enabled her to return to France (1476), where she spent her last years in poverty.

See biography by P. Erlanger (tr. 1970); E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961); J. H. Dahmus, Seven Medieval Queens (1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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