Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou: A Marriage of Unequals

By Amy Licence

 

Amy Licence’s latest book on Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou is one of her best to date. Thoroughly researched and written in such fluent and easy to read style, Amy details the turbulent and often confusing life of King Henry VI while also shining a light onto Margaret, an often-maligned Queen.

While I have read quite a lot about Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, a large portion of what I have read only details Margaret’s life in relation to her husband. She is mentioned often as a side thought, or merely reacting to the actions of those around her, yet Licence portrays Margaret as her own person. She details Margaret’s life, from her family lineage to her upbringing to the events that saw her become Queen of England. She discusses how Margaret’s upbringing, the events she witnessed, the people she knew, how these helped to form her beliefs, both religious and political.

Throughout her time as Queen, Licence details Margaret’s behaviour, decisions and reactions as an individual, rather than as an extension of her husband. It was utterly fascinating to view Margaret in this new light, to credit her with her own decisions and thoughts – as best as have been recorded – and to see that in fact, she was a strong, determined woman, rather than a she-wolf seeking nothing but revenge. In England she was defined by strict gender roles, a woman and a Queen was not to be a political leader. Yet growing up in France Margaret had seen strong women become leaders and fighters for what they believed in. Margaret was a Queen but she was also a wife and mother and it was these last two relationships that continued to push her forward, to fight for her family, despite the terrible times she endured.

Licence also explores Henry’s deeply personal religious beliefs and how these affected not only his behaviour as a man but also how it had a huge impact upon the decisions he made, or in some cases, did not make, as a King. Henry VI is often portrayed as weak and mad, having no personal strength or the ability to make decisions for himself. Yet Licence shows that Henry VI could be strong, he could be a leader, and that he often responded to the situations around him on the basis of strongly held religious beliefs, not because he was incapable of doing so.

I also valued the detail in which events and decisions were described. Major political moves were not simply mentioned and glossed over, they were discussed with depth, with primary letters often included, to show a true understanding of the events of the time. As a reader I wanted to keep reading, to find out what happened next, to learn what drove Henry and Margaret to make the extraordinary decisions that they made.

I thoroughly enjoyed Licence’s book on Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. It is clear that she has spent a great deal of time delving into primary sources to gain a deeper understanding of who Henry and Margaret were as people, not just as a King and Queen, and in doing so has brought their lives to the forefront once more. I would highly recommend adding this book to your bookshelf!

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