Margaret of Anjou was a powerful queen who, in fighting to protect the interests of her husband and son of the house of Lancaster, lost them both but gained a reputation for both bravery and ruthlessness. Margaret was born about 1430 during the Hundred Years War between England and France. Earlier in the century English war efforts had been highly successful. The king of France, Charles VI, had periodic bouts of insanity, and the government was chaotic. Henry V of England, of the royal house of Lancaster, was a strong military leader who resumed the war. His triumph at Agincourt in 1415 had led eventually to the French signing the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. By the treaty, Henry married Charles VI's daughter Katherine, ruled as regent, and would be king after Charles's death. Charles's son, Charles the Dauphin, was disinherited. But Henry, strong and vigorous as he seemed, died only two years later, a few months before Charles VI. Henry and Katherine's son, Henry VI, at nine months, became King of France and England. Henry V's brothers fought among themselves as they tried to rule England and France for the infant king, while the Dauphin held court in exile at Bourges. During the 1430s the English allied themselves with the Burgundians, rivals of the Dauphin Charles's party. Around the time of Margaret's birth, the young peasant girl Joan of Arc, hearing the voices of the saints, persuaded the Dauphin to give her an army that relieved the siege at Orleans and then led Charles to Rheims to be crowned Charles VII, thus turning the tide of the war.
Margaret was the fourth surviving child of René of Anjou and Isabelle of Lorraine. René was the great-grandson of the French king John the Good, and his sister Mary was the wife of Charles VII, so Margaret was both cousin to the king and his niece by marriage. When Margaret was five she was sent to live with her paternal grand-