In 1453, Henry VI
went mad. He recovered for a brief period in 1455, but from then onward suffered from what appeared to be schizophrenia
. One historian has described him from this point onwards as a "useful political vegetable
This was the culmination of five years of problems for the a King who had never been a strong ruler anyway. In 1450, he lost Normandy to the French, there was a Burgundian embargo on cloth, and the Kingdom went bankrupt (the last two are clearly connected). And the source of this embargo on cloth? A Burgundian alliance with the hated French!
Along with all this, Henry VI's dear friend and ally the Duke of Suffolk was impeached and executed after been blamed for the Normandy loss. The King attempted to grant a pardon to Suffolk and send him away, but parliament intercepted his boat and executed him!
The culmination of the problems in this year, and in many ways caused by the problems of the year, was Cade's Rebellion - a frightening show of the King's weakness.
Popular support for the King's greatest rival, the Duke of York continued to grow after this event and through 1451, because he was seen to be standing up for Cade. In 1452, the Duke of York was antagonistic towards the King's ally the Duke of Somerset and marched an army to meet him into Dartfood. This was doubtless due to the Duke of York seeing Somerset as a favourite of the King, and taking offence as such.
In 1454, the madness struck. In the same year, Henry VI's son was born - but he was unable to recognise the child due to his madness, which furthered rumours that the child was Somerset's bastard. Richard of York took a protectorate of the country, and the second most powerful magnate in the country, the Duke of Warwick, began to support York's cause! This was disaster indeed: now both the most powerful and second most powerful magnates were against the Lancastrians.
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