As a child the guardianship of Henry VI fell upon his uncles; Humphrey Duke of Gloucester and John Duke of Bedford. While Bedford continued the war in France Gloucester entertained a desire to become Protector of the Realm. His ambitions to become regent were continually blocked by the Royal Council and in particular by Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester.
In December 1436 Henry VI signed his first royal warrant. He was fifteen years old. A year earlier a twenty four year old Richard of York had been appointed Lieutenant and Governor of France and Normandy, replacing John Duke of Bedford who had been killed at Rouen. Although Richard had some success in France he was later replaced and posted to the Lieutenantship of Ireland by Beaufort.
In 1441 Gloucester's wife was convicted of practicing sorcery against the young Henry VI, charges having been brought by Beaufort. Beaufort now took full control of the guardianship aided by his nephew Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk.
In 1444 Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou (see picture) but continued to allow Somerset and Suffolk to control his affairs. With a string of defeats in France, Somerset and Suffolk became increasingly unpopular. They had never been trusted by the commons, and when Margaret became allied to them her own popularity fell. In 1447 Humphrey Duke of Gloucester temporarily reappeared in opposition but was arrested and soon after died. Henry Beaufort also died a few weeks later. Suffolk was impeached and murdered on his way to exile in Flanders. Somerset stubbornly held on to power. In 1448 the fortunes of the Woodvilles took another turn.
Meanwhile the Duke of Somerset remained unpopular. Anger at his influence reached breaking point in 1450 with Jack Cade's rebellion. A confrontation between Henry VI and Cade's rebels ended without battle. However, Richard of York now stepped forward as the head of active opposition to Somerset and his court faction. With the support of the Neville family (Richard Earl of Salisbury and Richard Earl of Warwick) he attempted to impeach Somerset and instigated two armed demonstrations. He was arrested in 1452 but agreed to abandon opposition in order to fight in France. With defeat at Castillon in July 1453, France was lost.
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