chapter  9
2.3 Henry VI 1422–61
Pages 9

The unpromising situation on Henry’s accession was handled relatively well. On his deathbed, Henry V appointed as his son’s regents his two surviving brothers, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, in England and John, Duke of Bedford, in France, the latter having paramountcy. Bedford was a highly capable man and governed the Lancastrian domains in France in a conscientious fashion until his death in 1435. However, the task facing him was too great for there to be any chance of ultimate success in enforcing a permanent English sovereignty over the whole of France, and it was the debacle in France, along with Henry VI’s mental illness, which finally and fatally undermined the Lancastrian regime.2 In England, a power struggle quickly developed between the Duke of Gloucester and the Beauforts, issue of John of Gaunt by Katharine Swynford. In confirming Richard II’s legitimation of the Beauforts in 1407, Henry IV had specifically excluded them from the succession, but they appear to have inherited many of the most valuable characteristics of their Plantagenet forebears: the intelligence, the restless energy and the streak of ruthlessness and unscrupulousness which characterised the dynasty’s most successful rulers. If they could not themselves sit upon the throne, they would be the power behind it.