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An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 26: The Years 1429 - 1431


Home Affairs

The general weariness with the War in France had long since lead to a sense of resignation that the War was the Crowns business and not that of the people of England. If the Crown wished to wage war in France it was free to do so, but little money was given to it by Parliament for this purpose. The Crown must pay for the war itself, and not look to the English taxpayer. If it needed to raise further funds by taxation, then it must do so in France [page ]. There were plenty of problems at home, and Parliament paid more attention to domestic affairs.

John Kempe, by now Archbishop of York, gave a gloomy state-of-the-nation address to the Parliament which met in Westminster in September 1429, when he complained dolefully of the moral state of the country; true faith, Godliness and upright justice had all but disappeared.

Lawlessness, forever a problem in England, was once again rife. Acts of brigandage against people's property and persons, especially on the roads, were everyday occurrences.

Soldiers returning from the French Wars seemed unable to shake off the habits they had learnt in France. There was a lot of trouble in the Eastern Counties. The undergraduates of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were an especial nuisance, and their pranks went beyond the high spirits of youth. They needed firm discipline, but the University authorities were not providing it. King Henry V had shown that lawlessness could be dealt with firmly [page ], and the Archbishop called upon Parliament to provide the Crown with greater means to suppress it. He was heard in respectful silence, since all knew that what he was saying was more then the truth.

Apart from this, Parliament busied itself with measures concerning Lollards, navigation on the River Severn, piracy, quartering of soldiers, false and malicious indictments, fugitive felons, and a host of other domestic issues which had nothing to do with the French Wars. Two other matters deserve special mention.

Cardinal Beaufort had returned to England to raise further soldiers for the crusade against the Hussites in Southern Germany, and his proposals met with the full approval of the Crown and Parliament. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who had been remarkably quiet when his uncle was out of the country, now took the opportunity to mount further attacks upon him. It was inappropriate that he should be both a Cardinal and Bishop of Winchester, and a Cardinal had no place on the Council. The Lords, by now thoroughly fed-up with the constant attacks upon one of their most illustrious number by the least illustrious duke of the nobility, pointedly avoided giving an answer on the first issue, and ruled firmly in the Cardinal's favour on the second; they welcomed his wisdom and experience on the Council.

In 1430, a Statute was passed to provide that Knights of the Shires should only be elected on the franchise of those who resided in the shire and possessed a freehold tenement of an annual value of at least 40/=. Lesser beings who clamoured for a say in the elections were from henceforth to be excluded, as they probably were in any case. The reader who has studied Chapter may well wonder if the Statute had any effect on the conduct of such elections, either before or after it was passed.

The whirlwind campaigns of Joan of Arc in 1429 rudely jolted people out of these narrow preoccupations with domestic affairs. Things had gone and were going very badly in France. Even before the disasters of Orleans and the battle of Patay, the Regent had requested the presence of the young King in France to bolster the English cause. Now, after the coronation of King Charles VII in Rheims on 17th July 1429, it was more than ever necessary to crown Henry in Paris as King of France, because only this would cast doubts on the legitimacy of King Charles' own coronation. The Treaty of Troyes 1420 must be seen to work. It was first necessary that he should be crowned King of England, and preparations to crown the 8-year old boy were undertaken with all speed. On 6th November 1429 he was duly crowned King Henry VI of England by Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, now an old man, with all the pomp and ceremony due to the occasion. Cardinal Beaufort returned from France to attend. John, Duke of Bedford, was too preoccupied with his duties as Regent of France at this critical moment to attend in person, and was represented by Richard Neville, the new Earl of Salisbury. John Mowbray discharged his duties as Earl Marshal of England, whilst Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester acted as Steward. The young King was attended by his guardian, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and frequently had to be carried throughout the lengthy ceremony and the subsequent banquet.

The situation in France - early 1430

Not all French military activity had ceased on the withdrawal of King Charles VII from Paris and the onset of winter in 1429. A French force had even seized Torcy, a short distance from Dieppe in October 1429, and had followed up this triumph by storming Louviers in December. On 24th February 1430, Chateau Gaillard was taken. This was reputed to be the strongest fortress in France, and in it they found and set free the unfortunate Barbazan, still languishing in the cage in which King Henry V had placed him so many years before. Then Melun fell to them.

From the Regent's position in Rouen, the English position in France looked bleak indeed unless he was strongly reinforced. Philip-the-Good was still active, but nothing short of a large number of troops from England would enable the Anglo-Burgundian Alliance to take the offensive once again. This reinforcement, accompanied by the young King, crossed the Channel on 23rd April 1430. It was said to consist of 1200 men-at-arms and 3500 archers in the normal proportions of one man-at-arms to three archers. This was a large force for the time, and it might have been larger still if men could have been persuaded to face Joan of Arc's infernal powers. A galaxy of nobles accompanied it, including some of England's most experienced soldiers and others who still had to learn how to lead troops. Richard, the young Duke of York, John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshal of England, John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who followed his charge, the young King himself, Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, John Earl of Arundel, Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon, accompanied the force with a whole lot of lesser nobles who were tried and trusted officers. Clearly England had roused herself from her torpor where France was concerned and now meant business. Then came the best news of all. Joan of Arc's magical powers had failed her, and she was a prisoner of the Burgundians.

Joan had fretted in the gilded cage designed for her by La Tremoille at the French Court, and had managed to slip away to join her soldier friends in the field. After taking part in a number of petty operations, she reached Compiegne on 24th May 1430. There, in typical fashion, she roused the garrison for an attack on the Burgundian positions at Margny. The Burgundians, although taken by surprise, rallied and drove back the attack. Joan was fighting with the rear-guard to allow the retreat into Compiegne, when a Burgundian archer seized her leg and threw her from her horse. She was now the prisoner of Philip-the-Good.

The death of Joan of Arc

A number of people expressed an interest in Joan. Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, claimed she should be surrendered to him for trial as she had been captured in his diocese. The Vicar-General of the Inquisition in Paris requested she should be handed over to him to be dealt with for disseminating 'pernicious errors'. It might have been a lot wiser for the English to leave her to Holy Church to deal with her and to attract the opprobrium for her death, but the English were not to be cheated of their prey. They ransomed her from the Burgundians and brought her to Rouen for examination and trial.

The English never had any doubt that Joan was a witch. The Regent later wrote a memorandum saying that the misfortunes of the English dated from the time she appeared before Orleans, and his view of Joan is revealing:-

".......there felle, by the hand of God as it seemeth, a greet stook [shock] upon your peuple that was assembled there in grete nombre, caused in grete partie as Y trowe of lakke of sadde beleve [lack of proper faith in God]; and of unlevefulle [probably doubts arising from lack of proper faith in God] doubt that thei hadde of a disciple and lyme of the Feend, called the Pucelle; that used fals enchaunte-ments and sorcerie; the which strooke and discomfiture,

nought oonly lessed in grete partie the nombre of youre peuple there, but as well withdrowe the courage of the remenant in merveillous wyse; and couraiged youre adverse patie and ennemys to assemble them forthwith in grete nombre."

According to the Regent therefore, the soldier's faith in God had not been enough, as it should have been, to stand up to the sorcery of the Devil which was at Joan's command. Some had deserted, whilst the others who remained with the Colours had been too frightened of the Devil to give of their best. It may be thought that the Regent's motives for writing this memorandum were not entirely honest. He had quite a lot of explaining to do for the disasters that had attended English arms since Joan's appearance, and to ascribe sorcery to her was an obvious ploy which, in that superstitious age, would have been readily accepted. On the other hand, it would appear more probable that the Regent was not dissembling, and that the fears he expressed were widely and genuinely shared among the English army.

It was still necessary to prove she was a witch in order to gain the maximum propaganda from the event. If the French had employed a witch, then it could be made to appear that they had resorted to the powers of the Devil and had denied their God, whilst the recent military reverses of the English could be all the more easily explained. A number of solemn prelates were gathered together in Rouen to examine Joan, among them the Bishop of Beauvais and the Vicar-General, both of whom had been so anxious to have a hand in her disposal. It is not necessary to go into all the squalid measures to which they did not hesitate to have resort, except to say that Joan, a simple country girl who did not even have Counsel to assist her, bore herself with great dignity from the time she was brought to Rouen in December 1430 until her dreadful end. On 30th May 1431, after some macabre ceremonies, she was taken to the Old Market Place in Rouen and there she was burnt.

If it is accepted that there is no elegant way to put another person to death, and no method which does not involve cruelty, the destruction of a human-being by fire must surely rank among the most revolting. The wretched victim was chained to a stake and faggots, well soaked in inflammable liquid, were placed at the feet. When all was ready, the faggots were lit. It is said that death intervened mercifully at an early stage by asphyxiation, but the accounts which history hands down to us tend to show that this was not so. The impression is left that the lower limbs were usually consumed by the flames before the sufferer died a lingering and agonising death in the furnace. People are no longer burnt, a method of execution which was abandoned at the end of the 16-century, but contemporary accounts of people who die in house fires or motor accidents tend to show that death does not come easily or quickly.

Judging by our standards, it was a repulsive crime, and by any standards, it was also a stupid one. If the English gained any political advantage, it was short-lived. Even in that hardened and brutal age, the Burgundians were shocked by what was done, as were those of the French who had some sympathies with the English. If any person was guilty, apart from the devines who examined Joan, that person was Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick who presided over the whole grisly proceeding. He must not be left to take the whole blame. Others in the English political and military hierarchies had been pressing Warwick to make such an end of Joan, and they must bear their fair share. So must King Charles VII and others in the French Court, particularly La Tremoille. Rescue by military means was out of the question, and probably the English would never have ransomed Joan, however much was offered. John, Lord Talbot, was still in French hands, as were many lesser nobles captured in 1429, and it could have been intimated to the English that things could have gone very hard for them if anything happened to Joan. This may well have caused the English to have second thoughts, particularly when allied to the findings of the French clergy who could find nothing wrong with her [page ]. Not a finger was lifted on her behalf, and La Tremoille had no difficulty in persuading his King that none would be.

In the 15th-century and for a long time afterwards, witches were feared as terrible beings who wielded the powers of the Devil, and burning them was thought to be merciful. They still had immortal souls, and fire was the only agent strong enough to cleanse such an impure soul so that it too could enter the Kingdom of God. This does not totally excuse the English. Joan could still have been shut up in some remote convent in England whence there was no possibility of escape. There the Mother-Superior, armed with all the formidable powers of the medieval Church, particularly where a soul was to be cleansed, could have applied the necessary therapy to Joan's soul. There were no doubt some of the more austere kind who would have welcomed the challenge.

Military Operations 1430 - 1431

The Burgundians retook Soissons, but otherwise found no substantial success. The Prince of Orange, campaigning in the Dauphine, was severely defeated at Anthon. Philip-the-Good was distracted by some unrest in his own Dominions and had to attend to it.

The English on the other hand, strongly reinforced from home, achieved some success. Chateau Gaillard was retaken in June 1430, and the English re-entered Aumale and Etrapagny in July. Torcy, that stronghold so close to Dieppe, fell in August. Things did not go all the English way, as the French recovered almost all of Champagne and the basin of the Oise. Nevertheless the way to Paris was sufficiently clear to appoint Lord Roos Governor of Paris even if it was still too risky to bring the young King into the City. Paris had once again an English Governor, but Lord Roos's tenure of office was short lived. Two days after his arrival, he fell into the River Marne and was drowned. Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, promoted to be the English Constable of France, was appointed in his place.

English arms enjoyed further success in 1431. News of a projected assault on Rouen reached Warwick's ears, and he defeated and took prisoner Pothon de Xaintrailles at the battle of Savignies. Louviers was besieged in June 1431, and capitulated in October. The position was now thought to be sufficiently secure to bring young Henry to Paris for his coronation as King of France.

The Coronation of King Henry VI in Paris December 1431

On 2nd December 1431, Henry entered his capital of Paris. The French aristocracy stayed away, but care had been taken to make the occasion as glittering as possible by summoning as many of the English nobles as could attend. John, Duke of Bedford, the Regent of France was of course present, as was Cardinal Beaufort and the Bishop of Paris, Bishop Therouanne, fresh from his triumph of repelling Joan of Arc from the walls of Paris, and the Bishops of Noyon, Bath and Norwich. Richard, Duke of York, now a young man of nearly 20 years old, rode in the procession as did Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, and William de La Pole, Earl of Suffolk. Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, as Governor of Paris would have been there to see the Parisians dutifully cheering as young Henry exchanging salutations with his grand-mother, the Dowager Queen Isabeau of Bavaria. This forceful lady had been the chief architect of the Treaty of Troyes 1420, which gave Henry his right to be King of France [page ]. Her long and adventurous life, spiced with many amours, had not yet drawn to a close. What the Parisians made of it all is not totally clear, but it was thought wise that young Henry should reside in the fortress of Vincennes until the ceremony.

The ceremony was as splendid as careful stage management could devise. On 16th December 1431, the crown of France was placed on the head of the 10-year old boy by Cardinal Beaufort in Notre-Dame Cathedral amid cheers from the congregation. The subsequent banquet was a disorderly affair as the Parisians insisted on pressing into the hall to catch a glimpse of their new King. It was a friendly curiosity however, which not even the buffets and blows of the guards could discourage.

Philip-the Good's success in Lorraine - 1431

Philip had had little military success in 1430, but in 1431 an event occurred which may have had a profound affect on his view of the future. Charles, Duke of Lorraine died in January 1431 leaving as his heiress his daughter Isabella, Duchess of Bar. Rene de Anjou, Duke of Bar was one of the most prominent supporters of King Charles VII. [He was also the titular King of Sicily and Jerusalem] His father had been killed at Agincourt in 1415 and, besides this, his family had already given much service to the House of Valois. Philip was much disquieted that such a man should take control of the strong Duchy of Lorraine, and could not ignore such an enemy at his back when he was engaged in a life or death struggle with France.

[Rene and Isabella's daughter Margaret of Anjou later became King Henry VI's Queen, and was to play a leading part in the Wars of the Roses]

It is not known, but it is not improbable, that Philip quietly encouraged the Pretender Anthony, Compte de Vaudemont to stake his own claim to the Duchy. Anthony lost no time in doing so and appealed to Burgundy for help, which Philip was only too pleased to give. Anthony was Duke Charles' nephew, and a nephew's claim against that of a daughter was scarcely convincing unless resort was had to the Salic law, that no woman should inherit Salic land .[page ] The niceties of legal argument in any case gave way, as they so often had done before and were often to do so again, to political considerations and naked force. The Burgundian Marshal Toulougeon lead an army against Rene, which included contingents of English men-at-arms and archers. The two armies met at Bulgeville on 2nd July 1431. The Burgundians fought as King Henry V had done at Agincourt, with the dismounted men-at-arms in the centre and the archers posted behind stakes on the wings. Most of Rene's force consisted of German armoured knights who were decimated by the archers when they charged the Burgundian force. Rene was taken prisoner, and his chief captain, the unfortunate Barbazon who had spent so many years in a cage at Chateau Gaillard, was killed.

Philip-the-Good considers his position

With his chosen successor safely installed in Lorraine, Philip did more than merely breath a sigh of relief. He gave some serious thought to the future. Exactly why was Burgundy fighting at the side of England in a War which had already lasted for 16 years, and seemed no nearer a conclusion than when it had started? Certainly an English King of France was preferable to a King from the House of Valois whose favourites were his political enemies,  Their dearest wish was to do him harm if they could. Certainly a final Anglo-Burgundian victory over the French would result in French provinces being made over to Burgundy; that the English neither could nor would deny him. Certainly he wished to punish his father's murderers. The dead body of one of them, who was killed at the battle of Vernueil 1424,  had been gibbeted as a mark of disgrace, and time was gradually removing the rest. And yet it could scarcely be said that an English King of France, once crowned, would sit securely on his Throne until the French were finally beaten, and that, like the other objectives, looked as distant a prospect as it had ever done. The French had proved them-selves to be most resilient, not because of their King, but in spite of him.

Philip was a cool and cautious man who seldom gave way to anger,  Even when he did, he rarely permitted anger to dictate his courses. He had for instance plenty of occasion for wrath at the marriage of Jacqueline and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and at their subsequent expedition to Hainault. [pages ] Angry he undoubtedly was, but anger never clouded his judgement or ruled his handling of two preposterous situations. He dealt with them by letting an impulsive adversary make a series of errors, and then quietly took advantage of them. His irritation with the Regent's marriage with Jacquette in 1434 was given a freer rein,  [page ] but even then he did not entirely give way, as many might have done, to an impulsive and theatrical show of affront; he buried the incident into a grander design, the signing of a peace treaty with France. [page ] There is an existing portrait of Philip with his son and successor, Charles-the-Bold (or Rash). The abundant hair is thick at the back, and comes down into a fringe over a high forehead. A long and prominent nose surmounts a firm if sensuous mouth and a determined chin. The face is dominated by the large dark eyes, which gaze out on the world with a mixture of gentleness and resolve. They are the eyes of a man who takes in all that they see, and then ponders it deeply, weighing one thing with another before he makes his decision what he should do. He has seen and suffered much, he has much experience of the deviousness of others, and when he makes his decision, he carries forward resolutely what he has resolved needs to be done.

Burgundy, by direct rule and a system of alliances, now stretched from Flanders almost to the Alps. Burgundy was a power to be reckoned with, and was not to be pushed around. His French enemies might hate him, but they could scarcely touch him. The English trade with Flanders was a consideration, but England needed it as much as Burgundy did, and it was hardly likely to cease when merchants wanted to make bargains and do business with each other. There had recently been some trouble between Namur and Liege and he had dealt with that, but it must have been a warning that he would do better to look after his own existing, and extensive,  dominions rather than seek to add to them. Lastly, he had to decide whether he was more French or English in his outlook. He personally liked and trusted John, Duke of Bedford, the Regent of France, who had never let him down, even during the dark days of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester's escapade to Hainault [page ]. Moreover, his own sister Anne was married to the Regent, so there were ties of marriage between them. But he could not over-look the rise of a new generation in England, new,  thrusting, ambitious men whom he had no reason either to like or trust. Soon John, Duke of Bedford would be yesterday's man, and he would then have to deal with others whose quantity he did not know. Would he not be wise to make his peace with France now when he could do so from a position of strength?

Philip felt the need to tread cautiously before he abandoned the Anglo-Burgundian Alliance, and not only because he loathed La Tremoille and had no respect for his Royal Master. In the wake of the battle of Bulgneville, he signed a limited truce at Chinon. It was to last for two years. On 13th December 1431 at Lille, a bare 3 days before King Henry VI was crowned in Paris as King of France, the truce was extended. It was now made general, and was to last for six years. There had been truces before, but none had ever lasted for anything like these times. Absorbed by the coronation ceremonies in Paris, nobody on the English side seemed to realise that Burgundy was, slowly but surely, slipping towards France.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003