Margaret of Anjou was a warrior queen. Due to an unstable husband and king, this French noblewoman ruled England and was a major player in the War of Roses. You could almost consider her the King of England and Queen of England during the reign of her husband, King Henry VI. She was fearless, strong, proud, and determined. She was no queen consort to sit in the corner and do her embroidery, but a queen who would lead in the political ring and on the battlefield. She was truly a royal tigress.
Born March 23, 1430 in Pont-a-Mousson, Lorraine to Rene of Anjou and Isabella, the Duchess of Lorraine, Margaret was destined for royal greatness. Her uncle, King Charles VII of France married her to King Henry VI of England who was eight years older than her in reality, but in maturity Margaret was wise beyond her years. The two were married on April 23, 1445 in Hampshire, England.
King Henry VI was an odd husband for the fiery and exciting Margaret. Henry VI was more concerned with religion and learning than being a warrior king. His father, King Henry V had been one of the greatest warrior kings ever, but Henry VI was content with creating educational institutions for young learners. He also had mental instability most likely inherited from his maternal grandfather, the late King Charles VI of France. King Henry and Queen Margaret did manage to produce a son and heir named Edward of Westminster. Many believed that Edward of Westminster was not the king’s though due to his instability and was conceived during one of the numerous affairs the people believed Margaret to be having while her husband suffered mental breakdowns.
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York became a royal pain in Margaret of Anjou’s side. He had been appointed regent during Henry VI’s breakdown and was considered by many to be a true claimant to the throne. Many began to take sides, some for the Lancastrian cause represented by Margaret of Anjou and other for the Yorkist cause led by the Duke of York and his bevy of sons.
A big blow occurred on May 22, 1455 when the Lancastrians were defeated at the First Battle of St. Albans. King Henry VI was taken prisoner by the Duke of York. Margaret of Anjou got back at them by the Battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460 where the Yorkist army was defeated and Margaret had the Duke of York beheaded. It continued though in dramatic fashion on March 29, 1461 at the Battle of Towton where the son of the late Duke of York and future King Edward IV deposed King Henry VI and proclaimed himself the king. Margaret fled with the Prince of Wales to Wales and then Scotland.
The warrior queen received support from her cousin, King Louis XI of France and a surprising ally in Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the former Kingmaker of King Edward IV. An alliance was made with a marriage between Margaret’s son Edward, Prince of Wales and Richard’s daughter Anne Neville. King Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne from these efforts.
The Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury changed everything though. The Earl of Warwick was killed on April 14, 1471 leaving Margaret of Anjou to fully lead her army into battle. The Battle of Tewkesbury on May 4, 1471 left Margaret of Anjou defeated and her 17 year old son, Edward, Prince of Wales dead. King Edward IV resumed the throne and King Henry VI was left to languish in the Tower of London until his eventual mysterious death.
What happened to the proud warrior queen? Margaret of Anjou lost her spirit and pride after the death of her son and the crushing defeat to King Edward IV. She was imprisoned at Wallingford Castle and then the Tower of London until she was ransomed in 1475 by the French king.
Margaret of Anjou returned home to France. She died on August 25, 1482 in Anjou. She was buried with her parents in the cathedral of Angers, but during the French Revolution in 1789 her remains were lost and scattered about.
Margaret of Anjou appears in a number of written historical works. She is the main character in “Red Rose of Anjou” by Jean Plaidy. She is also a prominent character in the early parts of “The Sunne in Splendour” by Sharon Kay Penman. She also appears in “Henry VI” and “Richard III”, masterpieces by William Shakespeare.
Margaret of Anjou was a brave, complicated, and dynamic woman. She was a rare queen who didn’t sit back, birth babies, pray, and embroider, but helped rule, led soldiers into battle, and was at the forefront of the War of the Roses. No matter her faults or flaws, Margaret of Anjou was definitely a warrior queen.