Two men on stage, one fazed out in the image, the other wearing gold robes and crown with a worried expression

Henry VI Part I

William Shakespeare

Henry VI Part I begins Shakespeare’s trilogy centred on the War of the Roses. The play follows the rise and fall of Joan la Pucelle (Joan of Arc) and the uneasy peace between England and France.


Following the death of his father, Henry V, the young Henry VI is proclaimed king under the protectorship of his uncles, the Dukes of Gloucester and Exeter.

There is conflict between Gloucester and his long-term rival, the Bishop of Winchester, and their respective supporters.

A Claim to the throne

Richard Plantagenet, having established a claim to the throne through the Mortimer line of his family, declares his animosity towards the Duke of Somerset. Each adopts a rose as an emblem for his faction: white for York, red for Lancaster.

Civil Rivalry 

Charles the Dauphin, fortified by his alliance with the mysterious maid Joan la Pucelle (Joan of Arc), dominates the battles in France. The Duke of Bedford, Henry's uncle, is killed. The English captain Talbot – a legendary warrior, much feared by the French – is also killed. His death occurs as a direct result of the continuing rivalry between York and Somerset, both of whom failed to supply reinforcements to the English troops.

Political Marriage 

Fortunes turn and Joan is captured and burned. An uneasy peace is concluded between England and France. In light of this, Gloucester engineers a politically astute marriage between Henry and the Earl of Armagnac's daughter.

The New Queen

Meanwhile, in France, Suffolk is enchanted by Margaret, the daughter of the Duke of Anjou. Suffolk woos Margaret to be Henry's queen and in order to gain her father's consent gives up the newly conquered French territories of Anjou and Maine. Suffolk returns to England and persuades Henry, against opposition from the court, to marry Margaret and make her Queen of England.