Margaret of Anjou

Miniature of Margaret of Anjou from British Library, Royal 15 E VI, f. 2v (c. 1445). Image Credit: British Library.

By Catherine Capel

Margaret of Anjou was the second eldest daughter of René, Duke of Anjou, Count of Provence and King of Naples and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine and Queen of Naples. In 1445, aged fifteen, she was formally betrothed to Henry VI as a symbol of peace between France and England.  

Her time as queen, like so many before her, was dominated by conflict. Henry VI’s long-term illness from 1453 placed her at the head of the Lancastrian forces during the Wars of the Roses.

The birth of her first and only son, Edward, in the same year increased her stake in the kingdom. Margaret’s forces saw some considerable victories in 1460 at the Battle of Wakefield, where Richard, Duke of York, was killed and in 1461 at the Second Battle of St Albans.

These victories, however, we short lived. The Battle of Towton was won by Edward, future Edward IV, in 1461 and he deposed Henry, forcing Margaret to flee to the court of her cousin, Louis XI.

Still of Sophie Okonedo as Margaret of Anjou in The Hollow Crown (2012-2016). Image Credit: BBC.

Despite the brief restoration of Henry VI to the throne in 1470, defeats at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471 put an end to the Lancastrian war effort and led to the death of her son Edward. Margaret spent the last years of her life in France, and she died in 1482 an impoverished and forgotten queen.       

Recommended Reading

Helen E. Mauer, Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2005)

Helen E. Mauer and B. M. Cron, eds., The Letters of Margaret of Anjou (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2019)

Patricia-Ann Lee, “Reflections of Power: Margaret of Anjou and the Dark Side of Queenship,” Renaissance Quarterly 39, (1986): 183-217.

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