Readeption of King Henry VI

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Gold "Angel" coin of Henry's later reign, struck in either London or York, showing Archangel Michael slaying the Dragon (left) and Henry's shield being carried aboard a ship (right)

The Readeption was the restoration of Henry VI of England to the throne of England in 1470 (Peverley 2004). Edward, Earl of March, had taken the throne as Edward IV in 1461. Henry had fled with some Lancastrian supporters and spent much of the next few years in hiding in the north of England or in Scotland, where there was still some Lancastrian support. Henry was captured in 1465 and was held as a prisoner in the Tower of London.


The period we know as the readeption was so named because of the formula at the start of Henry VI’s issuants, viz ‘the forty-ninth year of the reign of King Henry VI and the first year of the readeption of his Royal power.’[1] 


King Henry VI had been king of England nearly all his life, his father Henry V having died in 1422 on campaign in France when he was only a few months old.[2] Henry VI was never a strong king like his father; unable to keep a firm hand on either government or the nobility, by the mid-1450s civil war had broken out.[3] The main protagonists were supporters of Henry and his Queen- Lancastrians- and those of the recalcitrant Richard, Duke of York, or Yorkists. These civil wars- known today as the Wars of the Roses- broke out in 1455 when Henry's army was defeated by a Yorkist one at the First Battle of St Albans, and there were further bloody encounters betwen the two sides until, eventually, in March 1461, the Yorkist army led by Edward, Duke of York, beat the royal army at Towton. This decisive engagement has been described as the biggest battle ever fought on English soil: it resulted in Edward taking the throne for himself as King Edward IV, and King Henry and Queen Margaret escaping into Scottish exile.

Edward reigned for the next ten years, supported by his close allies the Neville family- pre-eminent amonst them, Richard, Earl of Warwick. It was not particularly peaceful; until 1464, there were continuous sieges, clashes and encounters in the North of England, until these were eventually crushed by Warwick's brother John.[4] John was rewarded with the earldom of Northumberland,[5] a title that had traditionally been held by the Nevilles' bitter territorial rivals in the north, the Percy family. Warwick, however, was increasingly discontented with his former protégé, the King. Not only did he disagree with the pro-Burgundian and anti-French foreign policy Edward was pursuing, but the king had made an unpopular marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, whom Warwick appears to have considered of parvenu stock.[6] Edward's younger brother George of Clarence was also, for his own reasons, turning against Edward, and by the late 1460s, he and Warwick were in political alliance against the King. In late 1467, Warwick withdrew from the court to the north and his Yorkshire estates.[6] George was equally dissatisfied with his lot under his brother's regime, particularly as Edward had recently forbade a marriage between George and Warwick's eldest daughter, Isabel Neville.[1] The king had also recently dismissed Warwick and John's brother George from the chancellorship in, says historian Charles Ross, a "pointed" manner.[6]

Discontent with Yorkist rule

According to Jean de Wavrin, the earliest indication that Warwick had turned to treason was in July 1467; Wavrin relates that Warwick was even at this point promissing to make the young duke of Clarence king in place of his brother.[6] Certainly, though, by 1468 relations between Warwick and the King had deteriorated to such an extent that the earl was actively plotting against Edward. When a captured Lancastrian messenger alleged that Warwick was not ony conspiring against the King, but was even by now negotiating with Margaret d'Anjou. As a result, Edward summoned the earl to appear before the Royal council; Warwick refused to do so. A second royal demand for Warwick to attend upon Edward early in 1468 also met in a similar response.[6]

England at this time was less peaceful than the King would have wished, and their appears to have been a popular undercurrent of discontent; for example, a mob attcked and pillaged Earl Rivers' estates in Kent,[6] with complaints about heavy levels of taxation being common.[6] In the north, a group of malcontents gathered in arms and offered to fight with the earl of Warwick. Whilst relations between the king and the earl of Warwick apppear to have improved slightly in 1468- for instance, with both Warwick and John Neville being regular attendees at royal council, and the former also take part in the cermenonial departure of the king's sister, Margaret, who was to marry the duke of Burgundy that summer- Ross suggest that this was at least in part due to a failure of "political judgement" on the king's part .[6]

Northern rebellions

Popular politics was not irrelevant in the fifteenth century: Historian K. B. McFarlane noted that "with little to lose and grievances that were real enough" commonalty were "easily incited to rebellion by magnates they admired,"[7] and, Ross suggested, the arl of warwick was both willing and capable of exploiting these feelings.[6] In late April 1469 a large body of dissidents gathered under the leadership of one Robin of Redesdale in Yorkshire; however, John Neville appears to have dispersed them with little trouble. Almost immediately, however, another, separate but larger gathering occurred in the East Riding of Yorkshire, this time led by one Robin of Holderness.[6] This rebellion may have been in support of the Percy family's traditional claim to the earldom of Northumberland; this group, too, was scattered by John Neville, and its leader beheaded in York. In the meantime, the remnants of Robin of Redesdale's original force had regrouped and re-emerged in Lancashire; this rising, at least, is generally considered by historians to have almost certanly been a Warwick construct. In any case, it gathered a large army around it, and included many retainers and men otherwise connected to the Neville family in Yorkshire, including Sir John Conyers, the son of Lord FitzHugh, and the Nevilles' own cousin, Sir Henry Neville;[6] indeed it contained three Neville brothers-in-law.[8]

King Edward was, however slow in responding to these multiple threats ("and slower still to link them with Neville treason," says Ross). Warwick himself appears to have been pre-occupied with a naval command. In mid-June the King deemed it necessary to personally travel to the north in order to supress Redesdale's rebellion; yet his actions have been described as "lacking urgency." Worse, by the time Edward reached Newark, his intelligence reported to im that the rebel force may have been five-times the size of the king's own.[6] He also had by now heard rumours of Warwick's involvement in the uprising, as he wrote to Warwick, Clarence and the Archbishop asking them for help and that that they were not doing the things "as the rumour here runneth." [9] They, however, set sail for Calais, where on 11 July George married George to Isabelle Neville, in defiance of the King's expressed wishes. Soon after, they wrote to the rebels in the north of England [6]

Around the same time, Edward restored Henry Percy to the earldom of Northumberland, and John Neville was promoted to Marquess of Montague.[10] Between the restoration of Henry Percy (who was released from the Tower on 27 October 1469)[11] and the return of Warwick, the King was ‘walking a tightrope’ as to whether Montagu would accept his Marquisate as compensation.[12] This all to such a degree, that it became an army large enough, and getting as far south enough (Oxfordshire, in fact) to startle the King, and to defeat the Royal army at the Battle of Edgecote Moor, six miles northeast of Banbury, on the 26 July.

On 14 August 1470 Edward was at Rippon, and was still there on 10 September, pardoning rebels, and still yet three days later[12]  when Warwick and Clarence docked in Dartmouth and the earl of Pembroke in Plymouth.[6]

In 1469, Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, rebelled against Edward along with Edward's younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence. After another, failed, rebellion in 1470 they both fled to France, where they encountered Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI. Warwick had played a huge role in helping Edward win the throne in 1461. However, after tense negotiations Warwick, Clarence and Margaret came to a deal whereby in return for French aid with an invasion, Warwick and Clarence would help restore Henry VI to the throne. Henry VI's son, Edward of Westminster, would be his heir as Prince of Wales, but if Westminster died then Clarence would become heir to the throne. This alliance was sealed by the marriage of Warwick's youngest daughter Anne Neville to Prince Edward.

Warwick's brother, John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu, deserted Edward IV when Warwick invaded in 1470, and when Edward realised he could not stand against Warwick's army, he fled to his brother-in-law, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Warwick entered London in triumph, and freed Henry VI from the Tower.

The readeption

The Readeption of Henry VI took place on 3 October 1470. However, by this point Henry was mentally too feeble to rule unaided; for example, he had to be led by the hand when he paraded through London. Following his return to the throne, all official documents began to refer to his regnal year as "the 49th year of the reign of Henry VI and the first of his readeption to royal power" (Weir 2011, p. 177).

Although being the resurrection of the Lancastrian regime, it has been described as "Lancastrian… in a Neville costume."[13]

Edward's return

Henry's return to the throne did not last long. After gaining Burgundian support, Edward IV landed in Holderness in March 1471. He defeated Warwick in the Battle of Barnet on 14 April, in which Warwick was killed, and the Lancastrians in the Battle of Tewkesbury. Prince Edward was killed, the Beaufort family almost extinguished entirely and Queen Margaret captured. Edward IV entered London on 21 May.

Local militias were raised in the north; one, led by Sir John Westerdale may even have numbered a substantial "several thousand men," and others "to the number of 6,000-7,000 milled menacingly."[14]

The royal propagandist of the Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV suggests the royal army was, "though small, well-armed and determined" and that Edward claimed he had returned solely for his duchy of York.[8] However, the King could only start raising a force of any numbers until well to the south, in Lord Hastings’s estates in the midlands (about 3,000 men in Nottingham, where he was joined by William Parr and James Harrington, with their personal forces of sixty men-at-arms). Whereas, in the north, came "not so many as supposed would have come," reported the Arrivalist.[15]


Henry VI died on 21 May, probably killed on Edward's orders.

See also


  • Peverley, Sarah L. (2004). "Adapting to Readeption in 1470–1471: The Scribe as Editor in a Unique Copy of John Hardyng's Chronicle of England (Garrett MS. 142)". The Princeton University Library Chronicle. 66 (1): 140–172. 
  1. ^ a b Hicks, M.A., False, Fleeting, Perjur'd Clarence: George, Duke of Clarence 1449-78 (Gloucester, 1980), 86.
  2. ^ "Henry VI". Retrieved 2017-09-11. 
  3. ^ Ross, J., Henry VI: A Good, Simple and Innocent Man (St Ives, 2016), 6-7.
  4. ^ Wolffe, B., Henry VI (London, 1981), 336.
  5. ^ Scofield, C. L., The Life and Reign of Edward IV (2 vols, London, 1923), 334.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Ross, C.D., Edward IV (London, 1975), 152.
  7. ^ McFarlane, K. B., England in the Fifteenth Century: Collected Essays (London, 1981), 254.
  8. ^ a b Gillingham, J., The Wars of the Roses (London (repr.) 1980), 192.
  9. ^ Matthew Lewis (15 June 2015). The Wars of the Roses: The Key Players in the Struggle for Supremacy. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4456-4636-7. 
  10. ^ Hicks, M .A., The Wars of the Roses (Totton, 2012), 195.
  11. ^ Hicks, M. A., Warwick the Kingmaker (Padstowe (repr.) 2002), 280.
  12. ^ a b Pollard, A. J., North Eastern England During the Wars of the Roses: : Lay Society, War, and Politics 1450-1500 (Oxford, 1990), 311.
  13. ^ Kendall, P. M., Warwick the Kingmaker (London (rep.) 1972), 284.
  14. ^ Goodman, A., The Wars of the Roses (New York, 1981), 75.
  15. ^ Giles , J.A. (ed.), ‘The Arrivall of Edward IV in England,’ Chronicles of the White Rose of York (Lampeter (repr.), 2004), 45.

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