King Henry VI and his wife Margaret of Anjou were joined in bed by their most trusted courtiers, a historian has revealed.
Lauren Johnson has unearthed evidence in the National Archives and the medieval Ryalle Boke which suggests the royal couple did not retire to their bedroom alone.
Ms Johnson said the third party most likely existed ‘to make clear’ to the medieval king exactly ‘what he should be doing’.
Lauren Johnson has unearthed evidence which suggests King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou (pictured) did not retire to their bedroom alone
She said: ‘Was it because the famously chaste Henry – who was a virgin until he married – didn’t know what he was doing? I think it’s entirely possible that it had reached a certain point where it perhaps became necessary to make clear to him what he should be doing.
‘That couldn’t be done in a public way at all. The king’s chamber is the most private place [where] you could be having this conversation or, indeed, checking what was going on.’
Henry VI, who ruled England from when he was just nine months old, famously remained a virgin until he married Margaret of Anjou in April 1445.
The king, who fell into a catatonic state for over a year in 1453, only fathered one son, Edward, throughout their 26-year marriage.
Henry VI, who ruled England from when he was just nine months old, famously remained a virgin until he married Margaret of Anjou in April 1445
Evidence of the royal couple’s unusual arrangement was found in the Ryalle Boke of court protocol – which described how once the Henry had retired, ‘the king’s chamberlain or a squire for the body [should] come for the queen, and with her two gentlewomen and an usher’.
Another source noted how a chamberlain remained ‘in the same chamber’ when the ‘the Kinge and the Quene lie together’.
As historian Alison Weir writes, bedding ceremonies – in which a newly wedded couple were put to bed by their attendants – were common until the end of the 17th century.
She said: ‘One feature of medieval royal weddings that seems shockingly intrusive today was the public bedding ceremony, in which the newly wedded couple were put to bed together by their attendants and toasted by their guests, as the bed was blessed by a bishop or priest.
‘Then they were left alone to attend to their chief duty, the begetting of heirs to ensure the succession. This bawdy custom had died out by the end of the 17th century.’
This strange tradition is said to date back to the reign of Henry V in the 1420s.
But evidence of the medieval king and his French bride being joined in bed was not only uncovered in relation to their wedding night.
The last of the Lancastrian dynasty: Who was King Henry VI?
Henry VI was born to Henry V and Catherine of Valois, the daughter of Charles VI of France, at Windsor Castle on December 6, 1421.
He ascended to the throne when he was just nine months old after his father died due to dysentery he had contracted during the Seige of Meaux in 1421.
The medieval monarch ruled England between 1422 and 1461 and again between 1470 and 1471 after he was temporarily deposed at the Battle of Towton.
It wasn’t a peaceful reign, however, and much of it was plagued by the Wars of the Roses – an English civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster.
Henry was crowned at Westminster Abbey in November 1429 – when he was just eight years old. He travelled to Notre Dame the following year and was given the title King of France.
He married Margaret of Anjou, the daughter of René, King of Naples, in 1445 as part of a peace agreement with France. But the king’s health took a turn for the worst in 1453 when he began to exhibit symptoms of mental illness.
The monarch, by means of a ‘sudden fright’, entered into Catatonia – a state of psycho-motor immobility and behavioral abnormality.
Margaret gave birth to the couple’s only child, Edward of Lancaster, as the king remained in his catatonic state in October 1453.
The French queen emerged as a key player in the lengthy civil war as her husband remained in ill health.
After various battles led by Queen Margaret throughout the 1450s, Henry was eventually deposed by King Edward VI and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
He his reign was briefly restored after Edward VI was forced to flee in 1470.
Henry’s second rule did not last long, however, and he was deposed again following the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.
His only son, Edward, is believed to have been killed on the battlefield – thus ending the Lancastrian dynasty.