Henry VI (6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471) was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. The only child of Henry V, he succeeded to the English throne at the age of nine months upon his father's death, and succeeded to the French throne on the death of his maternal grandfather Charles VI shortly afterwards.
Henry inherited the long-running Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), in which Charles VII contested his claim to the French throne. His early reign, during which several people were ruling for him, saw the height of English power in France, but subsequent military, diplomatic, and economic problems resulted in the decline of English fortunes in the war. Upon assuming personal rule in 1437, Henry found his realm in a difficult position, faced with diplomatic and military setbacks in France and divisions among the nobility at home.
Unlike his aggressive father, Henry is described as being timid, shy, passive, well-intentioned, and averse to warfare and violence; he was also at times mentally unstable. His ineffective reign saw the gradual loss of the English territories in France. As the situation in France worsened, political instability in England also increased. Henry allowed his government to be dominated by quarrelsome nobles, and failed to prevent the eruption of regional disputes between feuding noble houses, a situation worsened by his reliance on favourites to run affairs of the realm; this in turn angered sections of the nobility, already resentful of their king's inability to defend their lands in France. Mounting problems led to increased political factionalism which, coupled with general misrule, helped to stoke unrest. Partially in the hope of achieving peace, in 1445 Henry married Charles VII's niece, Margaret of Anjou, an ambitious and strong-willed woman who would become an effective power behind the throne. The peace policy failed, leading to the murder of one of Henry's key advisors, and the war recommenced, with France taking the upper hand; by 1453, Calais was Henry's only remaining territory on the continent.
In the midst of military disasters in France and a collapse of law and order in England, the queen and the king's councillors came under criticism and accusations, coming especially from Henry VI's increasingly popular cousin Richard of the House of York, of misconduct of the war in France and misrule of the country. Starting in 1453, Henry began suffering a series of mental breakdowns, and tensions mounted between Margaret of Anjou and Richard of York over control of the government of the weak and incapacitated king, and over the question of succession to the throne. Civil war broke out in 1459, leading to a long period of dynastic conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. Henry's custody switched several times between both parties as his relatives fought for control of the throne. He was deposed on 29 March 1461 after a crushing defeat at the Battle of Towton by Richard's son, who took the throne as Edward IV. Despite Margaret continuing to lead a resistance to Edward, he was captured by Edward's forces in 1465 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Henry was restored to the throne in 1470, but Edward retook power in 1471, imprisoning Henry once again.
Henry died in the Tower during the night of 21 May 1471, possibly killed on the orders of Edward. By the end of his life, he had "lost his wits, his two kingdoms, and his only son". He was buried at Chertsey Abbey, before being moved to Windsor Castle in 1484. Miracles were attributed to Henry after his death, and he was informally regarded as a saint and martyr, the process for his official canonisation as a Catholic saint continued until the 16th century. He left a legacy of educational institutions, having founded Eton College, King's College, Cambridge and All Souls College, Oxford. William Shakespeare wrote a trilogy of plays about his life, depicting him as weak-willed and easily influenced by his wife, Margaret.