An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.
Michael D. Miller
|Chapter 28: Setting the stage for peace between France and
Burgundy: Years 1432 - 1435
The lengthy truces made between Burgundy and France [pages ] were due in part to the efforts of Cardinal Albergati. The Cardinal had been appointed Papal Legate by Pope Martin V to see what could be done to end this fearful conflict which neither side seemed capable of bringing to a conclusion. There seemed no prospect of either the French or the English with their Burgundian allies emerging as victors, but only that each side would end up as losers. This prospect greatly disturbed Pope Martin. There were the humanitarian considerations of all the loss and suffering caused by the war with which the Papacy should have been, and was, greatly concerned, but there was something more than this which caused Pope Martin even greater worries.
It was no secret that Islam intended to push steadily westwards in a renewed show of aggressiveness, and the date when this would start was the only uncertain factor. Byzantium, for so long the guardian of Western Christianity's Eastern Gate, was in its final throes. This meant that little could be expected from the Orthodox wing of the Christian Church, and in any case, any help from that quarter was always regarded as suspect. [Constantinople itself was to fall to the Turks in 1453]. Germany and Austria could scarcely be expected to contain a Turkish onslaught without a lot of assistance. Three of the main sources of this help in soldiers and resources were England, France and Burgundy, who were engaged in a struggle they could not conclude but which would only serve to weaken them. The position was even graver than this. The Crusades had been a failure in spite of the brilliant success of the 1st Crusade which had established the Frankish Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th- century and had held it for nearly 100 years. Whilst it was welcome that the Knights of St John were firmly ensconced in Rhodes and there was a Christian King in Cyprus, these were no more than out-lying bastions, easy for Islam to attack but difficult for Christianity to defend. Little could be expected from Spain, which had a particular problem of her own. Islam ruled a large part of Southern Spain, and Spain had to be concerned with its expulsion before she could even consider giving help elsewhere. [Islam was only finally expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th-century].
Against these wider considerations, which scarcely crossed the minds of the Rulers of England and France, or if they did were dismissed as far away concerns of which they knew little, it made good sense to try and bring the War in France to an end and persuade the contestants to live in peace with each other. Pope Martin had therefore appointed Cardinal Albergati as Papal Legate to see what could be done towards the achievement of peace. Pope Martin V had died on 20th February 1431, but his successor, Pope Eugenius IV, saw things in the same way and renewed the Cardinal's appointment.
In Burgundy however, the Papal concerns were more sympathetically received. There was a romantic side to the nature of Philip-the-Good, and the crusading spirit remained strong in Burgundy in spite of a disastrous defeat of a Burgundian crusading force at the battle of Nicopolis 1384.
Whilst Philip still had reasons to fear his Dauphinist enemies, he could not detach himself from the conflict so that he could despatch a force of his prime fighting men in answer to any pleas from the Pope.
Affairs in England
Now that things were going a little better in France, England did not sink back totally into the boredom with the War which had so characterised the Public's view of matters in France before Joan of Arc had burst so dramatically on the scene in 1429. Already some further taxation had been authorised by Parliament in 1431. A land tax was agreed on a Knight's landholding, although it later had to be abandoned when the Peers found they too had to pay it and it therefore became uncollectable. A surtax on goods imported by foreigners had to be similarly abandoned in the face of their vigorous protests. Although these two taxes yielded nothing, the fact that they were imposed in the first place was some indication that, in some small part at any rate, Parliament was prepared to give up the parsimonious attitude towards the expense of the War which it had previously shown. A further indication was the authority given by Parliament to give security for loans of £50, 000 in respect of advances being and to be made.
Remarks have already been made on the views of the English that the detested French should be soundly chastised wherever they might show themselves, [pages ]. This does not mean that, during the period contemplated by this Chapter, this view was persisted in without any further thoughts now that it was clear that the French would not submit to such treatment. The year 1432 opened with some previously expressed views by Parliament, shaken as it was by all that Joan of Arc had achieved, that peace should be made.
The Lords and the Common House had joined together in 'ordaining and advising' that the Regent and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester should be at liberty to treat for peace on 'convenable and expedient' terms. They also added a revealing passage:-
"consideryng the birdon of the werre, and howe grevous and hevy it is to this lande; and howe behoffull [necessary] therfore the pees were to hit".['hit' should be read as'it'.]
This plea did of course fall on deaf ears. John, Duke of Bedford, the Regent of France was still determined to achieve the aim of his dead brother, King Henry V, which was the final conquest of France. In this he was as blinkered as he had ever been in pursuit of what he thought to be a sacred object. Humphrey was just aggressive where the French were concerned [pages ].
There was still much disorder within the Kingdom, and this had not got any better since John Kempe, Archbishop of York had made his plea in 1429 for greater powers and means to put it down (page ). The Lollards had recently been far more assertive in pressing their views on the need for reform of a sinful and corrupt Church, and had been undeterred by a number of burnings and lesser 'disciplinyngs'; they were not even discouraged when the remains of John Wycliff were torn from his grave and publicly burnt as a special sign of disgrace. There had recently been a dangerous rebellion in Oxford and Abingdon, when one William Perkyns, the Bailiff of Abingdon (he sometimes called himself Mandeville), had led a mob which noisily advocated the seizing of the property of the Princes of the Church and distributing it among the poor.
The Government had re-acted vigorously in putting it down, and to press the point home, had beheaded Perkyns and his chief henchmen. There was still however unrest, and a substantial degree of public sympathy for Perkyns' aims.
Lord Cromwell's Budget
On 8th July 1433, Parliament was held at Westminster. On 13th August it had to be prorogued until 13th October because of an outbreak of plague in London. The interval was used in commanding the attendance, in even more peremptory terms than those employed in the usual form of Summons, of many Clergy and Nobles who had 'neglected to appear'.
By now the young King Henry VI was opening and attending Parliament in person. He was to hear his Treasurer, Lord Cromwell, present something like a modern budget. It contained many deficiencies, but as it was, it made the most dismal reading. The estimated revenues for the forthcoming year, excluding any grants made by Parliament, were £62, 565 from which had to be deducted some £20, 000 to pay pensions, grants and other encumbrances, although it was true that £8, 000 to £9, 000 was still to be received from taxation previously authorised. As against this, with the garrisons of Calais, Acquitaine and the Scottish Marches being estimated on a peacetime footing only, the projected expenditure was £53, 471. The schedule of debts was alarming, showing known debts at a staggering figure for those days of £164, 000.
This cannot have been the full picture. The record keeping of the time was haphazard, and not all the necessary records can have been available to the Treasurer. In any case, the position in Northern France being what it was, it was not realistic to assume the Calais garrison on a peacetime footing. The schedule of debts represented the expenses of the War for which Parliament had made no provision, and some of them dated back for many years. The £164, 000 can only have consisted of debts which were known to the Treasurer. There must have been many others of which he had no present knowledge for the reasons which follow.
What is remarkable about this 'budget' was that it made no provision for the expenses of the War In France. To keep an army of 3, 000 men-at-arms and 6, 000 archers in the field cost, in pay alone, £109, 500 a year [page ]. The exclusion of any such provision seems to confirm the assumption that payment for the War was to be made by the French provinces under English Rule, even though it must have been patently apparent that they were in no position to raise such substantial sums. Chapter describes how troops were raised and paid during the Wars of the Roses. During this period of the War in France, captains and officers raised troops under contract with the Crown and the first quarters pay was usually advanced on enlistment. What happened after the first quarter had expired seems very uncertain. The soldiers looked to their commanders for their pay, leaving it to them to recover it from the Crown. If the Crown had no money, then the commander was not reimbursed, and if he ran out of money, then the soldiers went unpaid. Payment of the Crown's soldiers seemed to enjoy only a very lowly status in the Crown's list of priorities, and in April 1423 the Calais garrison had mutinied because of the arrears in their pay. The impression is gained that the War was waged by those who were prepared to wage it, and were further prepared to take their chance of being reimbursed for their out-lays. Medieval soldiers could normally expect booty, but Northern France had been fought over for so long that there can have been precious little left that was worth the taking. Soldiering was an honourable profession, and active service was, in part at least, its own reward.
The probability is that the £164, 000 represented only the debts from loans to the Crown, because records of these would have been readily available. The sum cannot have included the outstanding pay of the soldiers on active service in France, because more likely than not, the Treasurer had no means of knowing what this was. He was content, as was Parliament, with the assumption, which was never the full truth, that the soldiers pay and the other war expenses were a charge on the French taxpayer with which neither he nor Parliament need concern themselves.
Thus Lord Cromwell's budget, alarming as it was, gave only the best possible picture of a most disturbing position. His Lordship was to find that it is one thing to prepare and present accounts, and quite another to get them and his proposals for clearing the debts looked into. People do not like poring over bad financial news, and figures deter in any case. Twice he called for a day to be set for consideration of his budget, and twice his plea went unheard.
Parliament felt more comfortable with other business.
The attitude of the English tax-payer
It has often been said that Parliament willed the War in France but refused to pay for it. It is suggested that this statement is both untrue and unfair.
In the early stages of the War, King Henry V had found that Parliament was happy to go to war and made some generous grants of taxation to pay for it. In doing so, it did not envisage an everlasting war which by 1433 had dragged on for 18 years. Already in 1431, [page ]
Parliament had petitioned, without any success, for the making of a peace treaty which would bring the war to an end. It had, for a long time before then, even during King Henry V's last Parliament in 1420, exhibited a marked reluctance to finance the War any further. [page ] Again it has been said that this reluctance arose because of a mean and niggardly steak in the English who were happy to see the French chastised wherever they could be found, but were not willing to provide the necessary money.
In fact there is a far simpler and less discreditable reason for the parsimony of the Knights of the Shires and the Burgesses of the Cities and Towns who were sent by their electors to sit in Parliament. Few, if any, of the benefits of final victory would come their way or that of the common man and woman in the street. In the event of victory, the King's dominions would be enlarged and he would be an ever wealthier and more glorious King. There would be titles and further estates for the Great Magnates who had much to gain from a successful war. But where was the profit for the common man? Precious little was likely to come his way. Maybe there would be opportunities for settlement abroad and this may have an appeal for some. Maybe the country would be more glorious if it had a foreign empire, but glory had never put food on the table or paid the wages of a business. What was in it for them? To this there seemed to be only one answer, and that was virtually nothing worth having.
If therefore the King and the Nobles desired to fight a foreign war which would enrich themselves and themselves alone, then let them find the necessary money and not expect the English taxpayer to foot the bill. If it came to the point, were not the benefits of good and fair English administration being offered to the French in place of the abominable government which had previously been their lot?
They could not expect to get something for nothing. They should pay for these benefits, and not expect the English taxpayer to give them something out of the goodness of his heart.
John, Duke of Bedford, the Regent of France ("Duke John")
One of the pieces of business which Parliament found more attractive was an address, made on 24th November 1433 to the King by the Common House, although the Lords later associated themselves with it. Duke John (he will be thus known when he was in England and not discharging any of his functions as Regent of France) had already done more than his duty in France, and had earned his rest, or at least an easier life. He would be better employed acting as Regent in England until King Henry VI came of age in a few years time.
It made better sense that his wisdom and experience should be available to the Council and Parliament rather than he should continue to bear all the discomforts and dangers of campaigning in France. He was in any case the heir to the Throne, and to go on risking his life was foolish. To some, the prospect of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the heir to the Throne after Duke John, himself succeeding to the Throne held scant appeal.
Duke John, who had crossed to England to attend Parliament, expressed himself to be greatly touched by this compliment, and saw no ulterior motive behind it. He retired to consider it, promising an early answer.
Duke John was now more than 40 years of age, which was an advanced age for the time, even if 40-year olds were commonly quite vigorous. He was a big man, large of limb and somewhat substantial around the waistline. War was, and is, a young man's game, and such a man as Duke John could not be expected to go on for ever fighting battles, conducting sieges, climbing scaling ladders and doing all the other things involved in fighting a war. There has been some speculation that the removal of Duke John from France was tantamount to abandoning the War [Ramsey Vol 1 page 455]. This cannot be so, since there were plenty of younger and very able men to take his place, perhaps with a less grandiloquent title. It seems that genuine concern for his health played a bigger part, coupled with a desire to have readily available the counsels of such a wise and experienced man of proven integrity in whom everyone had confidence. This was more than could be said for his brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. There was however another factor which may have weighed with some minds when making this address to the King.
The loyalties of Philip-the-Good, Duke of Burgundy, to the Anglo-Burgundian Alliance could now be regarded as very suspect. He had recently signed truces for lengthy periods with King Charles VII, [pages ]and he had long-standing ties of marriage among the French Court; two of his sisters were married to nobles close to the French King. [page ] It would be the height of folly to give him cause for offence, but Duke John had recently done so in a way that was singularly, and uncharacteristically, tactless. Anne, Duchess of Bedford, one of Philip's many sisters, had died on 14th November 1431, mourned by all who knew her. Anne was a much loved person, who had befriended the Parisians and had shared in their privations. She had not been afraid to intercede for Joan of Arc in a way that compelled admiration. Anne had been in the habit of visiting the sick in hospital, and had there caught the infection from which she died. Duke John had been distraught by her loss, but not for very long. By May 1433, he had married a very pretty girl of 17. Jacquette (or Jacqueline) was the daughter of Peter, Compte de St Pol, and the niece of the Bishop of Therouanne and of John of Luxembourg. [Jacquette later married into the Wydeville family. As such she will figure again in the story of the Wars of the Roses]
Duke John may have felt the need for an alliance with one of the greatest houses of Burgundy, and may also have thought that such a match would be taken by Philip as a compliment, but Philip had not even been consulted. Duke John knew that Philip thought the Bishop had gained too much ascendancy over him, and in any case John of Luxembourg was one of Philip's chief commanders. Marriages for political reasons were common enough, but marriage into the de St Pol family, one of the most highly placed and influential families of Burgundy, without even consulting its Duke was an affront. Philip showed his annoyance when he attended a meeting, arranged by Cardinal Beaufort, with Duke John at St Omer. In former times, it would have been unthinkable that these two men, who had shared so much together, would have stood on the finer points of protocol. Now they could not even agree who should first approach the other, and parted without even meeting at all. To such frigid depths had a once intimate and cordial relationship sunk. There may have been some in Parliament who thought that Burgundy would never be held to the Alliance, if indeed she could be held at all, unless a new man now dealt with her Duke.
On 18th December 1433, Duke John set out his conditions for accepting the post of Regent of England, and here we see a further reason to doubt Bishop Stubb's suggestion that, on the accession of King Henry IV in 1399, a compact had been made that members of the Council should only be appointed with Parliament's approval.[pages ] Parliament readily accepted Duke John's terms that a list of persons should be made of those prepared to serve on the Council, and that no changes should be made except with the agreement of himself and the rest of the Council. He should summon Parliament, and should appoint officers of the King's Household, ministers and judges. Provision should be made for those who had served the Crown well, particularly in France.
There were probably other conditions, but those which are described indicate that Duke John, with Parliament's ready agreement, intended to rule as a medieval monarch had traditionally done until his nephew came of age to rule himself.
Duke John's return to France
In the end, nothing came of the proposal that Duke John should remain in England, because he thought it was his duty to return to France. Before he did so, he had to endure one of the gad-fly attacks which his brother Humphrey had hitherto reserved for their uncle, Cardinal Beaufort, to the Cardinal's great discomfiture.[pages ]
On 26th April 1434, Humphrey put before the Council his proposals for the further prosecution of the War in France. On many points, he was critical of Duke John and his subordinate commanders. The Council, on Duke John's request, ordered that the proposals should be submitted in writing, and that Duke John should have an opportunity to reply.
This was duly done and on 5th May the Council gave their answer in an address to the King. The contemptuous tone in which the Council, which included some who had held commands in France, rejected the proposals is thus shown:-
"My Lord of Gloucestre's offre..shuld with Goddes grace have be of greet availle.....if it had be or were possible to be put in execution."
It would cost at least £50, 000, and Parliament had made it clear that it was in no mood to authorise taxation to meet such expenditure. The Crown's credit-worthiness had sunk to such a low level that nobody would lend the money. In a revealing passage:-
"....your commissioners ordeyned in every shire of your lande but late agoo to borowe can wel reporte."
The Council went on to record its indignation that there had been leaks for which there could only have been one source - Humphrey himself - that proposals before the Council would, if accepted, have relieved the people of taxes for many years to come. By now the Council was well used to Humphrey's mischief-making, and can only have wondered on what new grounds he would next mount an attack upon the Crown's faithful servants. It seemed impossible to stop him.
As a start, it accepted without question Duke John's responses when they were given three days later, and denied Humphrey a further right to reply to them. The King, on the Council's advice, closed the matter by declaring his confidence in both his uncles, a form of words which concealed any reservations anyone might have had in Humphrey's case.
Duke John returned to France at the end of June 1434.
Before he did so, he attended two meetings of the Council on 9th and 20th June. There he outlined reasons why the War in France should be given up and a peace-treaty sought. Principally because he was quite unable to bring himself to face any possibility other than King Henry VI was also the rightful King of France, he invited other conclusions, namely that the War should continue. The sufferings of the people of Paris were very great and they needed assistance. Much blood had been spilt, and much treasure had been expended, but final victory remained as remote as ever. No doubt Humphrey's proposals (the figures are not available), envisaged a most substantial effort, but the Council had regarded these as impracticable, and it seems its annoyance with Humphrey, and in particular his criticisms of Duke John, had played some part in their rejection. What was now proposed by Duke John was woefully inadequate to reach the goal of final victory, but nonetheless the Council accepted his suggestions as being more realistic of the effort that England was now in a position to make. The revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster should be charged to put 200 men-at-arms and 600 archers in the field. If it was willing to do this, Duke John would make a similar force available from his own resources. The Calais garrison, which had remained peacefully guarding Calais, should now take the field.
There is an interesting list, given in answer to a request from Philip-the-Good, of the English strengths in France in 1433 and 1434:-
Commander Position Strength
Lord Willoughby Somme 1600 men
John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon Brittany March 1200 men
John, Earl of Arundel Maine 900 men
These figures excluded the garrisons in France, Normandy, Anjou and Maine, which were airily stated to be 'more than 6, 000 men'. A more detailed analysis produced the figure of 3, 837. A slender reinforcement of 1600 men was thought to be enough to complete the Conquest of France.
[Like all medieval figures, the numbers of men available must be regarded as suspect. Even if the true numbers were greater, they are unlikely to have been substantially so]
What does not seem to have crossed the minds of any of the members of the Council is that, without Burgundy once again firmly on England's side, there was not even the distant hope of final victory over the French. Again nobody seemed to accept that England was now exhausted by the War, and that final victory was an illusion. The English people were weary of the War, Parliament would not pay for it, and it had wrecked havoc on England's social structure because of the current lawlessness which is a consequence of any war. As Duke John himself said, he grieved to see the English people did not stand:-
"......in so greet wele and plente of good as I have seen them doo before this tyme."
The party in favour of continuing the War had again carried the day. If anyone thought it should be concluded (and Duke John himself had toyed with the idea), then they did not urge this view with any force.
The War in France
Burgundy now had a truce with France which would not expire until the end of 1437. It was a singularly uneasy cessation of hostilities. The French did not hesitate to attack and capture towns in Burgundian hands and Philip-the -Good, instead of mildly protesting, did his best to expel them by military means. What he could not do was to take the field at the side of his erstwhile allies.
Philip did not immediately place any prohibition on Burgundians taking service with the English colours, and many did so, among them Marshal de Lisle-Adam and the Regent's new father-in-law, Peter, Compte de St Pol. With their welcome help, the English could only just hold their own. The great English effort of 1431 had spent itself, as great efforts are apt to do, and the result was a stalemate once again, but this time with an important difference. In 1421 to 1429, there was also a stalemate, but the English and their Burgundian allies were, slowly but surely, gaining the upper hand. Now the balance of success was with the French.
There were no important battles, and the list of sieges, captures, re-captures, marches and counter-marches is tedious to the reader. There were a few actions of note which demonstrate how things were going. In March 1432, Marshal de Boussac made a daring march on Rouen. He took the English by surprise and captured one of the towers of the City's wall. John, Earl of Arundel only escaped capture by climbing down the ramparts in his night-shirt. There was no general rising in the City as the Marshal had hoped, and he prudently called off the action. Jean, Compte de Dunois, the so-called Bastard of Orleans had more success with Chartres. On Palm Sunday 1432, he hid soldiers under the provisions being taken by cart into the City. They routed the surprised garrison, and killed the staunchly Burgundian Bishop. Lord Willoughby and Matthew Gough suffered a severe defeat in Maine. The Regent had laid siege to Largny in May 1432, and had bombarded it for 3 months. In August 1432, Jean the Bastard, accompanied by Raoul de Gaucourt and a Spanish mercenary, Captain Villandrada, marched to its relief. Keeping the English occupied by attacking their camp, they gained time for the convoy and its provisions to enter the City. They then marched off in the direction of Paris, secure in the knowledge that they had enable Largny to force the abandonment of the siege. The action had been fought on an extremely hot day. Many had died of heat-stroke, and the Regent fell ill from heat-exhaustion.
The indefatigable Cardinal Albergati had managed to get all three parties, France, England and Burgundy to attend a peace conference in Auxerre in November 1432. The French refused to make any territorial concessions, and would not even agree a truce. They demanded that the Agincourt prisoners, now just the Dus des Orleans and Bourbon, should be brought to France to give their advice. The English had to seek instructions on this, and the Cardinal adjourned the conference until 23rd March 1433. The re-convened conference took place on the due date at Seine-Port, a small village between Corbeil and Melun, where the English said they would bring their prisoners to Dover. If the French would go to Calais, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, sent specially for the purpose, would see to it that they would have every facility to consult with them. This time it was the French who had no instructions, and the Cardinal went to see King Charles VII to find out what he could persuade him to do. The English kept their word, and brought their prisoners to Dover and sent Gloucester to Calais, but all to no avail. When the conference met for a third time in June and July 1433, all the French would agree to was a four month truce. The English flatly rejected this. This was too much, even for Cardinal Albergati, and he went home in despair.
The Regent arrived back in France in late June or early July 1434. He found a bad situation awaiting him. One Richard Venables had decided that life in the army held few rewards, and had set himself up in Normandy as a free-lance.
There he and his henchmen had slaughtered the peasants in the village of Vicques close to Falaise. The English Government of France had caught and hanged Venables, and to prevent such a thing happening again, had armed the country people. They promptly turned their newly-gained weapons against the English. Though no match for the English soldiers, the peasants were not discouraged even by a wholesale massacre at St Pierre-sur-Dives in August 1434. In December, they even mounted attacks on Bayeaux and Caen. Although repelled, they joined the Duc d'Alencon in a demonstration before Avranches. There was no general rising, but the English Government lived in daily fear of one, and were greatly perplexed how to deal with it should the worst happen.
During this period, there was one event which made it possible for Philip-the-Good to take a more favourable view of King Charles VII's government. Arthur of Brittany, Constable of France and Compte de Richemont, decided that he had had enough of his erstwhile protege La Tremoille. He found that the House of Anjou in the person of Charles d' Anjou, Compte de Maine, and Charles's sister, the Queen of France, lent ready ears to what he proposed. In 1433, with the connivance of the Captain of Chinon, armed men entered the fortress at dead of night and dragged La Tremoille from his bed. In the ensuing uproar, King Charles VII became greatly agitated. Courage was never King Charles's strong point, and the Queen had much ado to pacify him, and only succeeded when she assured him that the dreaded Arthur was not present. Initially disposed to cut off La Tremoille's head, Arthur and Charles accepted a ransom of 6, 000 ecus to let him retire to his castle of Sully. He was to play no further part in politics. King Charles was told very firmly that Charles de Anjou would be his chief minister, and that the time of the 'adventurers' was over. From now on, France was to be ruled by respectable people. By now, Charles was thoroughly frightened and tamely accepted the situation.
|Copyright © Michael D. Miller 2003|