This post continues from Margaret of Anjou’s Influence on Cersei Lannister.
Like Cersei after Robert’s death, Margaret had to unofficially function as the head of government. When Henry VI went “mad” and lapsed into an unresponsive state for nine months, Margaret tried to hold the various factions together to prevent other claimants from usurping Henry. In Cersei’s case, the Baratheon brothers and Robb Stark both threatened to oust the Lannisters from the throne. In Margaret’s case, the disaffected Richard of York had gone from being merely discontent into a potential usurper gathering followers. While both women were good at gathering power, neither was good at keeping it. In A Storm of Swords, Tywin effectively ousts Cersei from the king’s council. Margaret’s support fluctuated and she had nobody loyal to her through blood.
In some ways, both Cersei and Margaret should have been men. In Season 2, Tywin characterizes Cersei as being like Arya and not interested in dolls and such things. Later, in Season 3, Cersei argues with her father and tells him that he overlooks her for being a woman, that she is the only one who defends his legacy.
In “The Climb,” we get a fuller picture of not only Joffrey’s depravity but also Cersei’s acknowledgement of it. Ultimately, we see how Joffrey tormented and slaughtered Ros for his amusement. However, before this, Tyrion confronts Cersei, demanding to know if she ordered the Kingsgaurd to kill him during the Battle of the Blackwater. Cersei quietly acknowledges that it was Joffrey who gave the order. Cersei knows her son is a monster. During “Myhsa,” she tells Tyrion the only thing that prevented her from throwing herself off the rocks into the sea was her children—even Joffrey.
Margaret of Anjou’s son, Edward of Westminster (aka Edward of Lancaster) was also reputed to be a monster. In 1467, an ambassador to France wrote that Edward “already talks of nothing but cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne.” Edward seems to have had little regard for life. Even as a seven-year old child, he showed little leniency. When the Lancastrians captured a couple of knights after the Battle of Wakefield, his mother asked Edward what death the knights should suffer. Without blinking, he replied they should have their heads chopped off.
In spite of Edward’s reputedly bloodthirsty nature, Margaret cared for nothing more than defending her son’s claim to the throne. Whether this was because she cared for her son or she herself had limited regard for non-royal lives, it is hard to say. However, even after Edward IV overthrew Henry VI, Margaret did not stop conspiring to retake the throne – even from exile in France. Ultimately, she allied herself with Warwick the Kingmaker in 1470 hoping to overthrow Edward.
Ultimately, Margaret’s son died in the Battle of Tewkesbury. By some accounts, Edward IV’s brother Clarence’s men captured Edward of Westminster and speedily executed him. Edward’s death coupled with Margaret’s defeat broke her. After Tewkesbury, Edward’s men captured and imprisoned Margaret. Finally, in 1475, Louis XI paid Edward IV a ransom for her and she lived out the rest of her days in France in relatively poverty.
The Reign of King Henry VI by R. A. Griffiths
Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England by Helen Maurer
Susan Higginbotham has an article about Margaret of Anjou here
Susan Higginbotham gives an excellent list of resources on her website
Many books that provide a general overview of the Wars of the Roses, such as the so-named ones by Michael Hicks and Alison Weir, often discuss Margaret of Anjou.
By Jamie Adair