This article was written by Ezgi Özcan.
Margaret of Anjou was born on the 23rd of March 1429 in the Duchy of Lorraine. She was the daughter of Rene, Duke of Anjou, and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine. Margaret’s father was the titular King of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem, known as “a man of many crowns but no kingdoms”. In contrary, Margaret’s mother was a Duchess in her own right, and she was ruling in the absence of her husband. Margaret of Anjou spent her early childhood in the castle of Tarascon in Provence and the Capua palace in Naples. She took education from her beautiful, witty, brave and capable mother. And she observed firsthand that a woman could govern as well as a man. It was an important lesson for her.
At the age of fourteen, her uncle Charles VII, King of France, gave her hand to Henry VI, King of England, according to the peace treaty. The terms of marriage were doubtful for England, Margaret had no dowry, and England had to give the lands of Maine and Anjou to France. With these conditions, Margaret of Anjou was an unpopular bride, even before her arrival in England.
The couple was married on 23 April 1445, Margaret was fifteen, Henry was twenty-three years old. Besides the eight years of age difference, they had very different personalities. On her wedding day, Margaret was described as “already a woman, passionate and strong and strong-willed.” Unlike her pious and calm husband. It was an ill-fated match from the beginning.
In the first five years of their marriage, Henry lost Normandy and the other territories on the other side of the Channel. Soon, just Calais remained. Henry had never been a strong child, but his mental health became weaker by the losses. Finally, in 1453 he had a total mental break down and stayed in a catatonic coma for months.
Meanwhile, Margaret was trying to hide the condition of her husband and make allies in the country. In this period she became closer to Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. During the absence of her husband, Margaret spent a great deal of effort to protect the rights of her son.
The Duke of York became the Lord Protector between 1453-54 while Henry was ill. Now she had a good reason to be anxious. Margaret was aware that the Duke was one of the strongest claimants of the English throne. In May 1455 after the recovery of the Henry, she called for the Great Council without the Duke of York. This insult set off a series of battles which lasted more than 30 years.
Margaret raised support from the Lancasterian cause, they won two battles and killed the Duke of York. But the Yorks won at Towton in 1461. And Edward, the son of the Duke of York proclaimed himself Edward IV King of England.
During this period, Margaret of Anjou was under great stress about the rights of her son. In the end, she became the Queen of Lancaster, not England. After the Towton defeat, Margaret was even more determined to win back her son’s inheritance. First, she went to Wales and Scotland with her son; then she found a way to return to France.
In France, Margaret secured the support of her cousin King Louis XI of France. During the same period, she found an unexpected ally; Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick who was called “The King Maker”. Margaret’s son and Warwick’s daughter Anne married immediately in France. But instead of uniting their armies and attack together, Margaret insisted that Warwick had to return to England to prove his loyalty. He did so, and he restored Henry VI briefly to the throne.
By the time Margaret was ready to go back to England with her son and daughter in law, Anne, the game turned in favour of the Yorks. Warwick died in the Battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471. When Margaret landed in England, she had to leave her army to fight at the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Lancastrian forces lost the battle on 4 May 1471, and her seventeen-year-old son Edward died.
Margaret had spent over the ten years fighting for the inheritance of her son. But with the death of her unique son, she lost her purpose. When they captured her, she was completely broken in spirit.
At the end of the battle, Margaret was a prisoner of King Edward IV. She lived at Wallingford Castle for a while, then at the Tower of London. She stayed there until 1475 when she ransomed by her cousin Louis XI.
Margaret lived in France as a poor relation of the King, without an independent allowance. She stayed at the castle of Dampierrre-sur-Loire, close to Anjou. Margaret of Anjou died there on 25 August 1482; she was 52 years old. Her tomb was in Agnes Cathedral, like her parents, but it was looted during the French Revolution.