Henry VI, Part 2

Henry was more martyr than king and developed a cult after he was slain.

Quotes from The Brothers York by Thomas Penn:

“As a shuffling Harry was led the short distance to the west door of St Paul’s – Westminster, apparently, was too much of a stretch – his physical frailty and mental instability were palpable. In the intervening decade he had become, if anything, more detached, more unearthly. One Londoner followed the standard Lancastrian line, explaining away Henry’s ‘ghostliness’ as ‘saintliness’; another delicately summed up the problem, observing that he was ‘no earthly Caesar’. The Burgundian chronicler Georges Chastellain put it more bluntly. The king was ‘ordered like a crowned calf’, his uncomprehending gaze taken by his handlers as assent. ‘And’, Chastellain added, the real ‘governor and dictator of the realm’ was Warwick, who ‘did everything’.”

“In a last-ditch attempt to boost Londoners’ morale, George Neville ordered Henry VI to be put on a horse and led through the city’s streets. Where, ten years previously, Edward’s hastily constructed inauguration ceremonies had convinced most Londoners, this limp procession backfired spectacularly. His hand held all the way by Neville – perhaps in reassurance, perhaps to stop him falling out of his saddle – Henry was dressed in a shabby long blue gown, ‘as if’, remarked one observer, ‘he had no more clothes to change with’, adding that the whole thing was more ‘like a play than the showing of a prince to win men’s hearts.'”

“At St Paul’s, to the singing of the Easter hymn Salve festa dies, celebrating God’s victory over hell, Edward offered up his battle standards, ripped and shredded by gun- and arrowfire. He then had Henry VI paraded through London, to the Tower. In a spitefully effective touch, the Lancastrian king was dressed in the same blue gown that he had been wearing since his ineffectual display of regality the previous Thursday.”

Quotes from The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy:

“Henry VI had been an unassuming man in his own lifetime, dressing in farmer’s boots, wearing the gown and rolled hood of a slightly run-down urban worthy; up to the Reformation his shabby hat could be tried on by Windsor pilgrims suffering from headache. He liked to appear to his clients in just such unassuming garb, dressed like a pilgrim, unshaven, and walking up and down with a friendly face, ‘giving…no little ground of hope and amazement.'”

“The victims of political struggles might become martyrs, and popular devotion to such ‘saints’ might be the vehicle for criticism of or resistance to the political status quo. A number of the fifteenth-century English cults had a strong political dimension, like the anti-Lancastrian cult of Archbishop Scrope of York, executed for treason by Henry IV, or the anti-Yorkist cult of Henry VI…Henry VII attempted to mobilize the cult of Henry VI in support of his own dynasty, building a magnificent chapel at Westminster Abbey to house Henry VI’s relics, and promoting his cause at Rome. The process foundered in the late 1520s, but ‘good King Harry’ would almost certainly have been canonized had not bad King Harry’s matrimonial affairs strained and eventually broken ties with Rome.”

“What was true of the Virgin applied, to a lesser degree, to all the saints. They too could be appealed to as loving friends, who would not be too hard on poor weak flesh and blood. In the cases of saints like Archbishop Scrope or Henry VI, this emphasis was related to their own histories: the victims of persecution or judicial murder could be expected to have a special tenderness for those who suffered similar injustice. The fact that Henry VI had been wrongfully imprisoned and treated, as his biographer Blacman commented, ‘like a thief or an outlaw’, together with his well-known readiness during his lifetime to forgive malefactors, meant that he could be called on to rescue those whose human law had judged beyond the pale.”

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