King Henry’s Road, NW3

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Henry VI (December 6, 1421 – May 21, 1471) was the only English king to hold the crown in France, although by this was disputed by his uncle. Henry was the only child of Henry V, who died when his son was just nine months old. A month later his maternal grandfather, Charles VI died, leaving him with the French throne, and increasingly unstable political situation on both sides of the English Channel run by various regents. By 1445 Henry married the niece of Charles VII, the leading challenger as monarch of France. But if he had hoped that this union with the ambitious and strong-willed Margaret of Anjou would smooth things over he was mistaken. Soon the 100 Years War that had temporarily been in abeyance was resumed and soon Henry’s continental possessions were reduced to the port town of Calais. Henry’s incapacity to lead, led to a breakdown in order at home, eventually leading to the battle for succession, the War of the Roses. Henry was captured in 1465 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was restored to the throne in 1470, but his rivals retook power in 1471, killing Henry’s only son and heir, Edward of Westminster, in battle and imprisoning Henry once again. Having “lost his wits, his two kingdoms, and his only son”, Henry died in the Tower during the night of 21 May, possibly killed on the orders of King Edward. For a time he was regarded as a saint and miracles were attributed to him. However it is not in his role as monarch that Henry is remembered here, but rather for his legacy in founding Eton College in 1440 and endowing it with land around Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill in 1449.  The school’s website says: “Henry wanted his subjects to have the opportunities of gaining knowledge that he had enjoyed, and he made provision for 70 poor boys, known as King’s Scholars, to be housed and educated at Eton free of charge. Alongside them, other boys could also benefit from the free education, but they would have to pay for their accommodation.”

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