King Henry was still nominally ruling the country, but his efforts were so feeble that one wonders about his health. OK, he had never been an outstanding ruler, but for quite a time he had made a fair fist of the job. Now he seems to be laid back almost to the point of being horizontal.
As mentioned in the last post, Margaret of Anjou was coming increasingly to the fore. As Helen Maurer points out in her outstanding work on the Queen, Margaret did not take up this role until events pretty much forced her to do so. Once she did, however, she triggered a long-standing hostility against female rule that was deeply rooted in English culture. (OK, yes I know about the various powerful women who ruled as dowagers over their estates, or who influenced their husbands and so on, but rule of the state was another matter.)
Margaret has been vilified as a monster for too long. That the men of the time often exhibited sexist attitudes is no real wonder; modern historians have less excuse.
The Queen had little option in the circumstances but to try to influence events. Some of her actions were undoubtedly ill-advised, and she became quite blatantly partisan, instead of sticking to the mediating role that was traditional for queens - and indeed other noblewomen. However she gets a fair bit of blame for things she did not do, and a lot of the hostility generated against her was not so much based on what she did, but on the fact she was a woman doing it.
From her point of view she had a position and a son to protect, and the Duke of York must have looked like a real threat to both. She would have been well aware of his superior hereditary claim to the throne and his widespread support among the people. Given that she obviously distrusted York her hostility to him is understandable.
The problem for the Lancastrian side was that Margaret's strong involvement was a propaganda bonus for the Yorkists, for the plain fact was that a fair proportion of the 'electorate' did not like a 'grete and stronge laboured woman' ruling the country and were only too open to anything that might be said against her. The Yorkists did not call her a witch, but they used the next-favourite weapon in the tool kit for dealing with over-mighty females. They began to question the legitimacy of her son. The rumour went out that the dead Somerset was the real father of the Prince of Wales.
It will remembered that at the time of the Prince's birth Henry had been 'out of it' with mental illness, and his subsequent reaction to the knowledge he had a son was one of bewilderment. This doubtless added flavour to the rumours, but despite Henry's oddities there is no real reason to suppose the Prince was illegitimate. Queens were heavily attended, and for them to commit adultery took some ingenuity. The complicity of a third party would almost certainly have been involved, but no one ever came forward to offer evidence, even in the years after 1461 when such evidence would surely have been richly rewarded.