Study Guide

Henry VI Part 3 Summary

By William Shakespeare

Henry VI Part 3 Summary

Read the full text of Henry VI Part 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


Let's begin with a super brief recap of where things ended up at the end of Henry VI, Part 2. King Henry was losing the battle for the crown, so his wife Margaret told him to get back to London, where he has a bunch of fans. Henry's opponent, York, won the battle. However, Henry (more importantly, his crown) was nowhere to be found, so York hurried back to London to find him.

In Part 3, we pick up right where we left off: York enters the throne room with his sons and supporters. When Henry arrives with his posse, he and York argue about who has a better claim to the throne. After a boatload of name-calling and mudslinging, York and Henry strike up a deal: Henry will reign until he dies, and then York and his heirs will take over. Win-win, right?

The peace is short-lived. Margaret hates the deal since it totally cuts her son out of inheriting the kingdom. York's sons think the whole deal isn't worth it, because Henry will probably outlive their dad anyway. So, the two sides start fighting. Again. Margaret captures York and mocks him by putting a paper crown on his head. Then she chops it off—his head, that is—and sticks it on the city gates.

York's sons aren't going to just sit around while Margaret—er, Henry—er, okay, actually Margaret rules with an iron first. Edward, York's eldest son, takes over his dad's campaign for the crown (and not just a paper one this time). They rally their troops and decide to go to France for help.

Unfortunately, Margaret has the same idea. Three's a crowd at the French court, where Margaret and Warwick (Edward's right-hand man) vie for King Lewis's (aka Louis) money and troops. Warwick sweetens the deal by adding that his guy Edward will marry Lewis's sister so that France and England will have a strong alliance. Lewis thinks that sounds promising, and it's a done deal... until a letter arrives from England saying that Edward has gone and married Lady Grey.

This throws everyone into a tizzy. Lewis changes his support from Edward to Henry. Margaret finally gets the troops she needs. And Warwick is so bitter that he changes sides, too.

Back in England, the York brothers disagree about what to do next. George and Richard hate Edward's new wife and think it was a bad decision for him to marry her. George splits off from his bro and creates his own army; he goes to the coast and teams up with Warwick. Richard lets us in on a little secret: he doesn't care about Edward's or George's armies, because he wants to be king himself.

How many people does Richard need to dispose of before that happens? He starts making a list. And he's not checking it twice.

Meanwhile, Henry is being held prisoner in the Tower of London. Warwick and George pull a prison break and get him out. The only issue is, he's decided he doesn't really want to be king anymore... he'd rather be a shepherd. Um, okay. He appoints Warwick and George co-protectors of England until his own son can take over.

Eventually, all the players go to battle. Warwick dies. Margaret delivers a rousing speech to her troops to tell them to keep fighting, but it isn't enough: they lose, and Edward kills or imprisons most of his enemies—including Margaret's son. Margaret asks Edward to kill her, too, but he refuses.

Richard sneaks away and kills Henry in the Tower, but not before Henry has a chance to deliver a nasty (or prophetic) speech about what will happen to Richard. Hmm. Check out Richard III to see if it all comes true, but we'll warn you: it probably won't be pretty.

Edward and Lady Grey welcome their new baby boy, and everyone celebrates the new king... except for Richard, who quietly schemes in the back.