King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France [Child 164] --- Part 03
DESCRIPTION: Continuation of the notes to "King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France" [Child 164]. Entry continues in "King Henry Fifth's Conquest of France [Child 164]" --- Part 04 (File Number C164C)
Last updated in version 4.2
NOTES: EDWARD III, SLUYS, CRECY, POITIERS, AND BRETIGNY
Edward III's war, as mentioned, involved three major battles. He had hoped for more, but the first phase of the war, from 1337-1341, was a complete failure on land. Edward and his Flemish allies were constantly chasing around in Flanders and northern France, but they accomplished little. The French usually had an army in the vicinity, but it consistently refused to fight -- e.g. Burne, p. 45, notes an instance early in the war where French and English armies were only twelve miles apart, but the French avoided battle; on pp. 47-49 we hear of the French and English actually coming to a battlefield, but the French still refusing to fight -- and the English couldn't go on the offensive because all their allies quit.
Gradually Edward started trusting more in his own nation and less in the allies. By 1341, his grand coalition in Flanders had dissolved and he had lost his appointment in the Holy Roman Empire (Burne, p. 63). Meanwhile, Edward was firing his ministers at home because they hadn't come up with the money he needed to keep paying off his allies. (Perroy, p. 96, remarks, "In May 1337, th[e English] set up at Valenciennes a regular market for alliances, which were bought for hard cash. It cost a great deal, for the princes of the Empire were grasping." Buying them off in fact drove Edward to bankruptcy and destroyed his bankers -- Edward's third son was called John of Gaunt because he was born in Ghent (=Gaunt). And he was born there, rather than in England, because Edward had had to leave his wife in Ghent as security for what he owed the various lords in the low countries; Perroy, p. 105.)
So high were the taxes that they must have severely damaged the English economy (Ormrod, p. 20, details the exactions made in this period -- and on p. 22 notes that Edward still spent more than he was able to collect). The French were planning invasion, and had they managed it, I suspect an exhausted England would have fallen. Ormrod, p. 24, compares the situation in 1340 to that under Edward II, implying that he thinks Edward III was in danger of deposition. In 1344, a parliament called for an end to the war, though they covered it by asking that the end be by "battle or an honorable peace" (Sedgwick, p. 28).
Yet Edward actually did better on his own than when he had with the support of the Flemish. The first big fight of the war was the naval battle of Sluys, in 1340. The English fleet attacked the fleets of their enemies at anchor off Flanders, inflicting tremendous damage and ending the threat of a French invasion (Seward, pp. 43-46; Burne believes that the English captured 190 ships, though there are no accurate estimates of casualties). The French still had enough ships to raid England, but England was now clearly stronger at sea. Edward then took the army that had won at Sluys into the Low Countries -- where it accomplished nothing. Perroy, p. 113, comments that "the period of great enterprises seemed over." On the face of it, Edward had lost the Hundred Years War after only three years.
Luckily for him, he managed to find a way to redirect the war. A succession crisis in the County of Brittany let England open a new front (Ormrod p. 26, calls this the "provincial strategy" -- ironically, something rather like it would be used against the English when they were on the defensive). When Duke John III died, the French recognized his niece Joan as heir (Burne, p. 66). This was proper under English law, since Joan was the son of John's younger full brother. The English responded by supporting John, the half-brother of the dead Duke (Burne, p. 67, notes the irony that the French followed the English law of inheritance, while the English supported the candidate who was the heir if women were excluded -- thus reversing their positions with regard to the throne of France).
Joan, who in addition to being female was apparently not physically sound (she was called "Joan the Lame"; Perroy, p. 114), could not entirely control the duchy. Brittany ended up in chaos -- the civil war became deadly serious in 1342 -- and the English were able to exploit to their own ends (Prestwich, p. 174). It didn't really do much to damage the French monarchy, but it let the English practice their tactics at a price they could afford.
By 1345, Edward was planning a fight on many fronts (Ormrod, p. 26). The French tried to counter by inciting the Scots to attack England -- but Edward III didn't let that distract him. The 1346 campaigns opened on the already active battlefields of Brittany and Guyenne, where his deputies Sir Thomas Dagworth and Henry Earl of Lancaster (often called the Earl of Derby at this time, because his father was still alive and held the Lancastrian titlewhen the campaign began) had been perfecting the English tactics for archers and men-at-arms. Derby in particular was absolutely brilliant, winning several battles against extreme odds and regaining much land for the English (Burne, pp. 101-117; he adds on page 128 that Derby should be considered one of England's great captains and laments that he is nearly forgotten).
Those campaigns offered a real opening for Edward III, because the French sent all their troops to defend those fronts (Burne, p. 120). The rest of the country was almost undefended. So Edward III in 1346 mounted the first all-English invasion of the war -- and did it amphibiously, landing on the almost-undefended coast of Normandy (Prestwich, p. 176). This was a brilliant success, since Edward had no opposition in Normandy but the French response lessened the pressure on other fronts.
Edward did a massive amount of damage to the Norman countryside (Sedgwick, pp. 35-37). He sacked Caen (Prestwich, p. 177), which had been at peace for so long that its defences were almost useless (Sumption, p. 507) but which nonetheless defied him because part of it was protected by rivers and a castle (Burne, pp. 144-145). He made a feint at Paris itself (Seward, p. 60; Burne, p. 150, thinks that this was forced upon him because he had to get across the Seine, and the one major crossing-place near his path, at Rouen, was too strongly defended, so he had to go upstream. He then rebuilt a bridge under the French noses by distracting them with small raids; Burne, p. 152). It was this army which beat the French decisively at Crecy, and which went on to capture Calais.
At first glance, the English seemed to be in great danger at Crecy. They were far from their bases, and had had much difficulty crossing the Seine and the Somme (Seward, p. 60). His army was nearly worn out, and needed rest. This was probably why Edward fought at Crecy rather than continuing to Flanders (Seward, p. 61), though Sedgwick, pp. 44-45, quotes Froissart's explanation that Crecy was in Ponthieu, a territory which belonged to Edward; supposedly Edward didn't want the French invading it..
Seward, p. 61, estimates that the English at this time had about 11,000 men -- 7000 archers, 2000 men-at-arms, and 2000 others. Sumption, p. 497, estimates that the ships which took his army to France had a capacity of 7,000 to 10,000, and believes that over half were archers. Perroy, also based on the ship capacity, argued for 8,000 riders (including both men-at-arms and mounted archers) plus 2,000 infantry. Burne, p. 138, agrees with Seward's figure of 2000 men-at-arms but estimates the whole invasion force at 15,000; on p. 167 he gives the even more amazing figure of 16,500 (neither of which I find credible, even though he uses shipping capacity as a cross-check); allowing for losses along the way, he argues for 12,000 to 13,000 Englishmen at Crecy (p. 170).
Sedgwick, p. 33, by estimating the size of the entourage of the "typical" nobleman, thinks Edward started with 20,000 men, and on p. 47 says he had 18,900 at Crecy. On p. 284 he lists some other historians' estimates: 18,900 or 19,000 or even 25,000 -- but these are patently impossible; there would have been no way to feed them; clearly these people were paying too much attention to Froissart.
We have very little knowledge of French numbers, since of course no fleet transported it and it was not a contract army in the same way as the English. One French historian, according to Burne, p. 186, actually estimated that they were fewer than the English (i.e. not even 9000 men). But just the casualty count makes this extremely unlikely, and almost every other authority accepts that the French had superior numbers; the only question is *how* superior. Burne himself, p. 176, admits he is guessing when he gives its numbers at 40,000; he seems more confident in estimating that it outnumbered the English by three to one or more. Seward, p. 63, estimates the French army at about 30,000, of whom 20,000 were men-at-arms. Sedgwick, p. 50, again has the highest total, guessing 30,000 to 60,000. However, these forces straggled up during the battle, so it would never have been possible for the French to attack with their entire strength.
Edward had chosen an excellent position, on a slight rise, with a wood and small river to guard his right flank. And the French, it appears, would have had to march all the way across his front to attack his left flank, so that was probably safe too, at least in practice, though the only defensive feature was a small hamlet.
That French straggling added to their troubles. King Philip wanted to halt, sort out the troops, and attack the next day (Burne, p. 177). But the army was restless, and were coming up so fast that the ones in the rear were pushing forward the soldiers who had arrived first; finally, around evening, he gave the order to attack.
First to go in were the French (properly Genoese) crossbowmen -- who promptly learned that an army of longbowmen could demolish an army of crossbowmen. Especially since the situation meant that they had to deploy and then change the angle of their line before attacking -- a difficult maneuver indeed under the circumstances (Burne, p. 178). To top it all off, their shields and most of their bolts were still with the baggage, so they were short of ammunition (Barber, p. 66), and their bowstrings may have been wet (Sedgwick, pp. 52-53).
Seward, p. 63, speculates that the crossbowmen may have been routed within a minute. And their rout caused the first line of French chivalry to charge (Burne, p. 180, thinks the knights thought the crossbowmen cowards, and were actually attacking their own troops), and the horsemen were just as thoroughly massacred.
In the end, the French knights may have mounted as many as fifteen charges (Seward, p. 66; Burne, p. 177), lasting well into the night. Unfortunately for them, the charges were not continuous, letting the English gather the arrows needed to halt the next attack (Burne, p. 182). One did make it among the English men-at-arms, forcing the young Prince Edward and his guard to fight, but most were broken up by the archers.
The blind king of Bohemia was killed (in an extreme case of chivalric stupidity, he had insisted on charging the English even though he couldn't see them!), and Philip of France suffered an arrow wound and lost a horse. The French army was all but destroyed -- Burne, p. 181, says 1500 knights were lost just on the part of the line in front of the Prince of Wales and reports on p. 184 that the English army claimed to have found 1542 bodies of knights and men-at-arms; he makes what he admits is a very rough estimate of 10,000 "communes" killed. Seward, p. 67, seems to be following these figures; he guesses French losses at more than 10,000, including 1,500 lords and knights. Perroy, p. 119, gives no numbers and names only a few names but says that the "flower of the French nobility" was destroyed.
As Sedgwick says on p. 56, "The victory was won by the English archers, but the primal cause was the disorder in the French army, for French bravery was as conspicuous as ever."
Burne, p. 183, and Sedgwick, pp. 56-57, observe that King Philip had lost his brother, his brother-in-law, and his nephew.
(Crecy incidentally is considered to be the first battle at which artillery was used, though it is not thought to have made any real difference; Burne, p. 28; rates of fire were low and accuracy was pitiful. Barker, p. 90, notes that, as late as Agincourt, a gunner who managed to hit three targets in the course of a day was suspected of having made a pact with the devil!)
The biggest effect of Crecy was to show that the English, who until then had not been considered very good soldiers, were now some of the best in the world. The longbow had completely changed the military equation. Some historians have argued that Edward should have attacked Paris at that time -- but, as Burne, p. 205, points out, Edward probably did not realize the completeness of his victory, and in any case was running out of supplies; he needed to get back in touch with his fleet (though Burne, pp. 206-207, also argues that Edward should have tried to capture Paris). But not even Edward III had that much daring. Hence the decision to head for the coast and besiege Calais.
The moral effect of Crecy was quickly seen. The French in early 1347 brought up a relieving army -- but were afraid to fight another battle (Prestwich, pp. 178-179; Perroy, p. 120, says that Philip of Valois "seemed to have lost all energy"; Burne, pp. 214-215, says that Philip assembled 50,000 men but messed up his negotiations with the Flemings and then stuck himself in a strategically untenable spot and had to retreat). Calais was strong enough that Saul, p. 9, estimates that half the English nobles and knights eventually took part in the siege, and even so, the defenders held out until 1347. But Edward had the answer to the usual problems of a siege; he built a town for his own soldiers, to keep them safe from disease (Burne, p. 210). Calais eventually had to capitulate, with the entire French population being forced to leave, replaced by English settlers (Seward, p. 70). Calais would remain in English hands for more than two centuries -- indeed, for a full century after every other French possession was lost.
In the aftermath, Edward III would found the famous Order of the Garter, mostly of veterans of Crecy (Sedgwick, pp. 78-79, though he omits the rather tawdry story of why it was given the name it did -- most accounts say that Edward III picked up a garter dropped by Joan "the Fair Maid of Kent," and when questioned about why he was so quick to pick up a garter from a woman not his wife, said "Hone suit qui mal y pense," which is usually translated, rather loosely, "Evil to the one whom evil thinks." Joan seems to have had quite a collection of suitors, according to Sedgwick, p. 82, and others; the Earl of Salisbury and Sir Thomas Holland fought over her; the Black Prince married her after Holland died, and supposedly Edward III wanted her himself). The order endures to this day, and is still considered one of the most exclusive orders of knighthood.
The French in 1347 tried to plan a counterattack (Perroy, p. 121). They prepared an army, and also induced the Scots to attack northern England. That proved a fiasco; Edward didn't even have to send a senior noble to fight them. The Scots were defeated at Neville's Cross, and King David was captured in the process (Burne, p. 218; Seward, p. 69; Magnusson, pp. 202-204). The Scots, for almost a decade, were out of the war.
Before the French could come into action, the Black Death struck, reducing the population of both France and England dramatically. In France, both the King's wife and the dauphin's wife died. The English royal family fared better -- Edward III and all of his sons lived. But one of his daughters died, and so of course did many ordinary people (Sedgwick, p. 86). That, and lack of money, meant that the English could do little for the next few years. The French in turn were incapacitated by the plague, lack of money -- and the death of Philip of Valois in 1450. (Seward, p. 74, and Perroy, p. 107, make the ironic note that, despite being accounted a failure, Philip had actually enlarged France -- though he lost some ground in the west, he managed to gain much in the east.)
The Plague hit both countries hard; lands went vacant, buildings fell into decay, food production dropped. The governments on both sides of the channel saw their tax revenues decline dramatically. But England recovered somewhat faster -- with its lower population, it may have suffered less in the first place, and it also had the advantage that there were no "Free Companies" of brigands ("routiers") laying the nation waste (Perroy, p. 123; Seward, p. 105).
The war was quiet from 1350 to about 1355 (Seward, p. 78, though Burne, p. 224 notes that there were plenty of skirmishes; he points out on p. 230 that Sir Thomas Dagworth was killed at this time and on pp. 233-234 mentions English attempts to add to their property around Calais; it's just that there were no major campaigns). There was even a provisional peace made in 1354 (one which, amazingly, gave the English more than they would gain in 1360; Perroy, p. 129). But it collapsed when the French realized what they were giving up, and by the mid-1350s, the English were again leading armies in France. 1355 was supposed to bring a three-front campaign (Burne, p. 246), but the front in Normandy collapsed when Charles the Bad of Navarre changed sides. Edward III's campaign from Calais was aborted by a Scottish raid which caused him to return home (Burne, p. 248. Edward went on to pillage Edinburgh -- the so-called "Burnt Candlemass"; Burne, p. 250 -- but that brought him no closer to defeating France).
That left the southern army, led by Edward the Black Prince, the son of Edward III, which defeated another French army at Poitiers. This campaign followed a raid that took the Prince's forces almost to the Mediterranean (Burne, pp. 252-254). The Prince wanted to mount another such raid -- but, this time, the French were actually prepared to fight, and they also controlled his path by blocking river crossings (Burne, p. 278). Poitiers was a much, much closer thing than Crecy -- the French thought they had the Prince trapped, and were so sure of victory that they refused the Prince's offer of the release of prisoners, return of castles, and a promise that the he would not fight in France for seven years (Prestwich, p. 181; Seward, pp. 87-88).
As usual, the French seem to have had an overwhelming superiority in numbers; Seward, p. 86, estimates that the French had some three times the 6000 or so soldiers in the English army, and that the Prince didn't have a high enough proportion of archers (or, at least, they did not have enough arrows to fight as long as needed; this seems to be what Burne is saying on p. 302, followed by Featherstone on p. 129, though Burne's figures on p. 313 imply that the number of bowmen was very small -- perhaps based on Baker's chronicle, which credited the English with 4000 men-at-arms, 2000 archers, and 1500 others; Sedgwick, p. 296. Froissart also says 7500 men, but with mor archers). Burne, p. 298 and repeated in more detail on pp. 313-314, has similar numbers: 6000 English, 20,000 French. Featherstone, p. 126, agrees with the figure of 20,000 for the French, and credits the English with 6000, of whom only 2000 were archers. Sedgwick, who has a bad tendency to follow the exaggerated chronicles of the time, suggests on p. 122 that the English had 7,000-8,000 men, and on p. 126 suggests that the French had at least a three to one edge.
There is much about Poitiers that is confusing, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we have twenty or so near-contemporary sources (Burne, p. 310). The available records disagree on what was going on -- was the Prince trying to fight, or to escape? (Burne, pp. 280-281). Burne, p. 285, thinks he wanted to fight, and had been maneuvering to prevent two French forces from joining against him. Arguing against this is the fact that the Prince probably knew by this time that reinforcements led by the Duke of Lancaster could not join him, so he would be more heavily outnumbered than he expected.
Burne, pp. 290-291, seems to split the difference: The Prince stayed in position to fight, but sent his baggage train away so that he could rapidly head for Bordeaux if the French declined to attack him. This, I must say, seems an extremely risky strategy. Sedgwick, p. 133, has a variation on this which seems a little more sensible: The English expected the French to attack but were afraid they might instead try an encirclement. The English sent enough forces to the rear to give him some protection against this.
Seward, pp. 88-91 thinks that the English were trying to retreat from the field, and the French, surprised by this, launched the part of their forward division (he thinks they had four divisions in all) in an attempt to halt their escape. Its disorganized charge was halted, and the rest of the division failed to do much damage in the chaos as the main English force returned to the field. The second division was barely turned back. The third French division, that of Orleans, simply dodged the battle. (Sedgwick, p. 142, doesn't acknowledge that there was such a group.)
That left the final French division, led by the King himself. It was perhaps slow to come into action due to Orleans's misbehavior (Sedgwick, p. 142, thinks it was positioned much too far from the leading divisions.) Still, it outnumbered the remaining English, and it was fresh, but a tiny English reserve showed up at just the right time and put the French in panic. (Burne, p. 306, thinks the exhausted English actually *attacked* at this stage, though it's hard to imagine them having the strength for it. Reading the flowery speeches quoted on p. 144 of Sedgwick, my guess is that the English simply moved forward as the French came on, to assure the French did not have the advantage of momentum.) King Jean himself tried to hold his division together -- and, as a result, was captured. As an individual, he had fought very hard; as a general, he had been a disaster. (Perroy, p. 125, says that when Jean had come to the throne, he had "given proof of nothing but gallantry and military incompetence." Attaining the crown did little to change that.)
It is interesting to note that the French historian, Perroy, devotes only two paragraphs to the battle (pp. 130-131), and attributes the English victory to "stratagems unworthy of knights" (meaning that they took advantage of the terrain). Even more than Crecy, the loss at Poitiers seemed to really *bother* the French. Perhaps it is because, as Sedgwick says on p. 127, "this French army was very similar to that at Crecy, a mob of gentlemen who fought with brilliant valor and dazzling stupidity."
Featherstone, p. 134, concludes that 2500 French were killed, 2000 captured, and 4000 wounded. Seward, p. 93, reports that the French had lost 2500 men-at-arms, and that 17 counts were captured. Sedgwick says that the King, a younger son, 17 counts, and "unnumbered barons" were taken. Neillands, p. 131, claims the king, one son, 17 "great lords" and a hundred knights, although he also says that there were 13 counts and five viscounts captured, plus 2000 armored men killed. The government was in ruins, with the Estates refusing to grant taxes unless there were reforms (Perroy, p. 133) -- which, however, were implemented in a fairly arbitrary fashion. (Keen, p. 251, goes so far as to suggest that France was on the verge of coming apart, and was saved only by a peasant revolt that so frightened the nobility that they decided to keep working with the monarchy.) The Dauphin was being "terrorized" by rival factions (Perroy, p. 134), and the peasantry was revolting (Perroy, p. 135).
In that situation, the French had little choice but to negotiate. They made a dramatic offer: A large ransom for Jean (so large that Jean would be accused of selling his daughter on the marriage market to raise it; Saunders, pp, 118-119). All of Acquitaine (not just Guyenne) turned over to the English in full sovereignty -- in other words, it would be *theirs*, not a holding they had from the King of France. Plus other territories -- said to total a third of France.
Edward III blew it. The ransom was slow in coming, and Edward was the one who declared the provisional agreement violated (Perroy, p. 137). He made one last try, diplomatic and military, to gain the French throne in 1359 (Prestwich, p. 182; Burne, p. 334, notes that his destination was Rheims, where French kings were crowned).
The French, having survived Philip of Valois and now being stuck with his even worse son Jean, the former Duke of Normandy, might arguably have been better off had they taken the deal. But the army Edward led in 1359, even though it may have been the largest he ever assembled (Burne, p. 331, says it was the largest army to leave England prior to 1513) got bogged down in unsuccessful sieges, and was plagued by bad weather (Burne, p. 345). Saunders, p. 23, says that "Black Monday" was so bad that knights were actually electrocuted on their horses by lightning. One report has it that the storm was so severe that it caused Edward to make a vow that he would accept terms of peace in gratitude for surviving it.
Edward started out the 1359-1360 campaign on his best behavior, but ended up getting so disgusted that he turned the thing into a chevauchee (Burne, p. 343). This had its usual lack of effect; the whole thing was a fiasco. But the French sent negotiators even as Edward started to pull back (Burne, p. 345), perhaps fearing that the English King had another trick up his sleeve. The English, who obviously didn't, agreed to go back to the bargaining table (Perroy, pp. 138-139; Seward, pp. 98-99; Burne, p. 347, speculates that there was already an agreement made in secret but that the French were not willing to announce it while one of their cities was under siege).
The result was the Treaty of Bretigny, which was settled in 1360. It gave the English rather less than the proposal of 1358. They would get a reduced but still large ransom for King Jean, and would be given all of Aquitaine in full sovereignty. In return, Edward III would renounce the French throne.
(Note: Some, including Perroy, call the final treaty the "Treaty of Calais," since that was where it was formally ratified, using the name "Treaty of Bretigny" only for the preliminary draft. But the changes in the broad outlines are too small to make it worthwhile to differentiate -- e.g. Burne, p. 348, mentions the "Treaty of Calais" only in a two-line footnote. Unfortunately for England, one change in the details proved substantial: the renunciation of titles was postponed for a time. Neillands, p. 159, says that the final terms were that the two kings would renounce their claims -- the English claim to the throne of France and the French claim to Aquitaine -- only after November 1361 or after the French handed over the territory they were supposed to release. Curry, p. 66, thinks Edward made this change to assure that all the treaties were handed over. It was a mistake; the French would never formally renounce their control over Aquitaine. Because of glitches in the hand-over, the terms for the renunciations were never met -- meaning that the French could argue that the whole thing never came into force. It probably wouldn't have mattered had King Jean lived longer -- he was stupidly honest, and would surely have done what he said he would do. But he died in captivity in 1364, and his much sneakier, smarter son took charge; Neillands, p. 160.)
THE FAILURE OF BRETIGNY; RICHARD II AND HENRY IV
Ironically, although the French at once started turning land over to the English, the victorious Peace of Bretigny almost immediately resulted in a turn for the worse for the English. The single biggest reason was probably money. England had "won" the war, but even with the extra revenue that brought it, she was financially exhausted. They never saw most of the money from Jean's ransom; after months in luxurious captivity (he actually grew fat while in England; Saunders, p. 24), he was set free to raise it, could not get his people to pay it, and had one of the hostages he had given escape to visit his young wife. This was a technical violation of the treaty, and caused Edward to ask a slight modification of the treaty. The Estates balked, and Jean went back into English custody, where he died in 1364, at the age of about 45 (Perroy, p. 142), perhaps of partying too much (Seward, p. 200).
The English leaders, meanwhile, were starting to wear out. Edward III at the time of Bretigny was pushing fifty, and though he was still competing at tournaments as late as 1359 (Prestwich, p. 205), he was starting to lose his energy; by the time he died in 1377, he was a non-entity even though he was still only 65 (Ashley-Great, p. 134). When the French used a legal quibble to claim that the treaty need not be fully implemented, he was stuck (Barker, p. 15; Perroy, p. 116, claims that the French had not the right to concede sovereignty of Acquitaine, but this argument is silly; it would make us all pretenders to be king of somewhere).
Edward's younger sons, such as John of Gaunt, were not particularly good leaders (Prestwich, p. 189). Sir Thomas Dagworth had been killed a decade earlier. Henry of Derby and Lancaster died in 1361. Sir John Chandos was killed in 1369 (Seward, p. 111) or 1370 (Saunders, p. 4, who tells an embarrassing tale of him slipping on ice as he got off his horse and being killed; compare Sedgwick, pp. 269-270, who says he suffered the fatal blow as a result of being blind on one side from an earlier war injury).
Plus England was still suffering the after-effects of the Black Death. There were still more than enough men to fight France (French booty was all over England, and the money from ransoming French prisoners had made many a low-born man rich, according to Prestwich, pp. 202-203; attacking France seems to have attracted men the way gold rushes attracted prospectors a few hundred years later), but they weren't as restless, simply because there was now enough land for all.
An attempt by the English to open a second front by gaining a foothold in Italy promptly failed; Edward III's second son Lionel was married to 13-year-old Violante Visconte in 1368 (Saunders, pp. 133-135), but died in October that year, causing the potential alliance to unravel (Saunders, pp. 136-137. There were no children of the marriage.)
To top it all off, the Black Prince, who should have been in his prime, was ruined -- he had engaged on an expensive campaign to restore king Pedro the Cruel to the throne of Castile. This, like the attempt to gain a foothold in Italy via Lionel, was almost a proxy war between England and France, but the English expended far more troops and money -- and wasted them, because they demanded so many concessions from their side of the conflict that Pedro's government was unable to hold together (Prestwich, p. 183).
The Black Prince won a great battle at Najera in 1367, and Pedro was temporarily restored -- but Pedro was so vicious that he was soon re-expelled (Perroy, p. 156, says that Pedro was "intelligent, brave, and self-assertive, but so brutal that he estranged most of his subjects" -- and this in an age when brutality was the norm, not the exception! Pedro lasted only two years after that, being murdered in March 1369; Neillands, p. 166; Perroy, p. 157).
Pedro obviously could not pay the costs of the campaign (about all he paid was a large ruby which became part of the British Crown Jewels; Jarman, p. 52), which left the Black Prince to pay for it from the revenue of Acquitaine -- and it bankrupted him (Seward, p. 107; Perroy, p. 159; Sedgwick, p. 261, says that he had to dismiss his army unpaid, causing them to go raiding in France, disturbing the peace with French, and adds on pp. 262-263 that he ended up imposing extreme taxation).
The cost of the invasion was not just cash. It cost lives as well. The English army, which should have been guarding the French frontier, had been devastated by disease.
The Prince himself came back with some sort of bug; according to Saul, p. 10, it started with dysentery, but he never recovered; Sedgwick, p. 22, mentions the suggestion that it was dropsy, i.e. an edema, but does not describe the source of the excess water. Sedgwick, p. 284, mentions frequent haemorrhages. By 1370, he had to be carried on campaign in a litter (Seward, p. 112). He was so weak that he went home to England in 1371 (Sedgwick, p. 273), and though he recovered a little, he only once, very briefly, was able to go on campaign again (Sedgwick, p. 275), and that expedition never arrived due to bad weather (Seward, p. 114).
The Prince left the war in France to his less effective brother John of Gaunt, who was not a good enough general to win on his own account and was too unpopular to be able to help someone else fight. Prince Edward died in 1376, a year before his father (Seward, p. 108). That meant that Edward III's heir was his grandson, Richard II, who was still a boy; the Black Prince had married relatively late, and Richard was his second son -- the elder boy, Edward, had died young (Sedgwick, p. 272) -- so Richard II was only ten when he succeeded.
It would have been a wonderful time for the Pope to step in to end the war, but there still wasn't much the Papacy could do to control the situation. In the aftermath of the Anglo-French peace of 1360, the routiers who had previously raided western and northern France turned their attention to Provence (Saunders, p. 30) and even Avignon (Renouard, p. 52), causing perhaps as much trouble as the political unrest in Italy, but by that time, the Papacy was settled in Avignon. (The "Great Company," which would come to dominate Italy, formed seemingly spontaneously in late 1360; Saunders, p. 30. It went on to attack Avignon; Saunders, p. 48. There were suggestions that Edward III encouraged this rather than take such scoundrels back to England.) The Papacy remained under French influence during the period when the consequences of Bretigny were worked out.
Meanwhile, the French changed their approach. There was unrest in Paris (Guerard, p. 103), which convinced the Dauphin, the future Charles V, that things could not continue as they were.
The death of Jean II died helped tremendously. The French from that time decided that there would be no more big battles for them! Charles V, physically weak and inclined to intellectual rather than physical pursuits, could hardly hope to lead an army anyway -- Seward, p. 103, notes that he was called "Charles the Wise," but the title was meant in the sense of "Charles the Learned" or "Charles the Bookish." Perroy, p. 132, says he was "worthless as a soldier" and had fled the field at Poitiers -- slightly ironic in that Perroy had said earlier that King Jean should have done the same. Saunders, p. 147, describes him as "handsome, but thin and pallid, weakened by an obscure illness that left him easily exhausted"; she speculates that he suffered from arsenic poisoning, perhaps based on the fact that his hair and nails fell out in 1360.
When the Pope called a crusade, Charles ignored him -- "all his efforts were bent on not fulfilling his obligations under the treaty of Bretigny" (Renouard, p. 56). But if Charles could not lead, he could organize an army, and get the royal finances into better shape (Seward, p. 109) -- far more important than mere generalship.
Similarly Bertrand du Guesclin, the new Constable of France, had proved a poor general in the Castilian campaign; Perroy, pp. 148-149, declares him a "mediocre captain, incapable of winning a battle or being successful in a siege of any scope," but admits that the new French King Charles V "found [in him] a fitting leader for the commonplace tasks which alone remained within [France's] power."
Du Guesclin did manage to get many of the "routiers," or independent raiders, out of France -- but he did that by luring them to the war in Spain; Perroy, p. 156. Others left for Italy -- it is noteworthy that Sir John Hawkwood, who later became a very strong force in Italian politics, went to Italy in 1361 (Saunders, p. xvii). Keegan, p. 80, refers to this time as the "Duguesclin war" and calls it a "Fabian" policy (a word also used by Seward, p. 110): Avoid battle, take a weak little property here and there, eventually putting a strong point under enough pressure that it had to give in. There was no "glory" in it -- but there was no risk of a major defeat, and it slowly but steadily undercut the English position.
The war officially resumed in 1369 (Prestwich, p. 184) when the French started again hearing complaints from Gascon nobles against the English administration (Seward, p. 110. The opportunity was the extreme taxation the Black Prince had inflicted after Najera, and the fact that the Treaty of Bretigny hadn't been formally carried out gave them an excuse; Neillands, p. 167. Perroy, p. 160, thinks that Charles V felt "embarrassment and hesitation" when the nobles of Acquitaine appealed to him, but the English historians pretty consistently disagree, and certainly Charles V was not slow to take advantage. Even Perroy admits that Charles kept his plans very secret until he could spring his trap). In that same year, Edward III again started claiming the title King of France (Saunders, p. 147).
And, yet again, the Pope was unable to act as a moderator -- Urban V, who had tried to move back to Rome in 1367 (Saunders, p. 109, says that France, and King Charles V, were "appalled"), headed back to Avignon in 1370 to try to deal with the situation, and died there three months later (Saunders, pp. 152-153), before he had any chance to influence things (Renouard, p. 61. Urban almost certainly intended to return to Rome if possible, but he didn't live long enough, and because he died outside Italy, the Italians felt betrayed). And, without his energy, the papal entourage again set up camp in Avignon, under French influence. The next Pope, Gregory XI, was held in Avignon for years by the renewed war (Renouard, p. 64). Having condoned a massacre to rebuild his power (Saunders, pp. 216-221), he finally returned to Rome in 1377 -- and died there just over a year later (Renouard, p. 66).
Nearly everything else was turning to French advantage, too. In 1366, the French had paid enough of King Jean's ransom that most of the major hostages went free (Perroy, p. 158). To be sure, some were supposed to come back if the ransom payments halted -- but the English no longer had any hold on them. And, in fact, the hostages never went back into custody once the money stopped.
Even this cheating proved an advantage to the French government. Charles V cut off the money to England -- but, because he hadn't actually paid off the ransom, he was able to continue the taxes which had been levied to raise the ransom! -- Perroy, p. 162.
And England was in a bad state in 1369. The plague was back, and horrible weather caused severe shortages of food (Saunders, p. 149. There would be several famines in the mid-1370s also; Saunders, p. 195). There was no way Edward could raise a major army at the time. He couldn't even induce the Free Companies of routiers back from Italy; Hawkwood and others found the pickings there too rich (Saunders, pp. 149-150. Saunders thinks Edward III wanted Hawkwood to stay in Italy to distract the Pope, but this is hard to believe -- if he wanted to distract the Pope, he'd go to Avignon!).
Early in the period, the English at least found a way to punish the French for their betrayal -- they would more regularly "wage the chevauchee." This was an early version of the "scorched earth campaign" such as William T. Sherman would use in marching across Georgia. An English band would set out to bring fire and sword to as large an area of France as possible. This had been a part of the English policy from the beginning (the army that won at Poitiers had set out expecting simply to wage the chevauchee). Now it was the main strategy. Since the French would not fight, there was little danger to the English, and they did the French economy significant harm. But there was no winning the war that way. And, eventually, even raiding proved economically difficult for the English.
By the time Edward III died in 1377 (Seward, p. 116), English possessions in Gascony were about the same as they had been fifty years earlier, when Edward came to the throne: the coastal strip from Bordeaux to Bayonne (Prestwich, p. 184). Strategically, their situation may even have been worse, since the French had driven a salient into the middle of the coastal strip (Perroy, p. 165; Seward, p. 115), so Bordeaux and Bayonne were no longer mutually supporting. The allies of the English also lost control of most of Brittany. In 1377, the Forty Years War (the name it might have been given had not Henry V come along) looked like a strategic draw, despite the fact that the English had won all the major battles and had gained Calais.
As Prestwich says on pp. 186-187, "The reversal of English fortunes in Edward III's declining years was almost as remarkable as the earlier successes. The lack of firm direction by the ageing king was revealed in a want of coherent planning. The earlier grand strategies of simultaneous attacks from various fronts had been abandoned in favour of what appeared to be aimless raids, often launched too late in the year to do much damage." In 1376, the so-called "Good Parliament" tried for reforms, but the Black Prince died before it ended (Sedgwick, p. 283), and Edward III was senile, and little could be done to rescue the decrepit government.
Ormrod, p. 10, notes that "Edward III is now often seen as a rather second-rate ruler, stubborn and selfish in his foreign ambition, weak and yielding in his domestic policies." There is much truth in this; Edward III did little to strengthen the government of his nation (and his grandson would pay for it). But he did start a tradition -- of chivalry, and of expansionism. We may call this bad. But it clearly inspired Henry V.
The Crecy war had one noteworthy effect which is rarely mentioned in the military histories: To make the whole thing work, Edward III needed the consent of the people being taxed to pay for it. Edward consulted regularly with his nobles -- thus forming the first true parliaments. Ormrod, pp. 193-194, counts 48 parliaments in Edward's fifty year reign, and another nine quasi-parliamentary councils.
Edward's assemblies were a far cry from the modern form of parliamentary government (few, according to Ormrod, lasted more than a month, and 17 lasted ten or fewer days; some were only four days long), but they were a major step. England, and England alone, has had parliamentary government ever since -- with the result that descendants of Edward III still sit on the English throne, two centuries and more after the last descendent of the Valois were set aside in France. The fact that England had a strong parliament also made it easier for Henry V to assemble his armies in 1415. The government was still stronger than parliament -- OxfordCompanion, p. 426, notes that the reforms of the Good Parliament (which lasted an amazingly long 73 days) were overturned within about a year -- but it was a step in the right direction.
For fifty years -- from shortly after 1360 to 1413, during the latter part of the reign of Edward III and the whole reigns of Richard II (1377-1399) and Henry IV (1399-1413), the English made no serious attempt to defeat the French. Perroy, p. 169, seems to imply that they would have lost all of Guyenne in 1377 had not John Neville of Raby won enough small successes to make the French temporarily stop spending money on reconquest. But the biggest factor in English Guyenne's survival was probably the death of Charles V, leaving a 12-year-old Charles VI as king (Neillands, pp. 171-172). Charles VI was not competent, and Richard II was initially a minor also, plus he wasn't aggressive.
Richard II, in fact, wanted to end the French conflict altogether; he raised no armies, floated offers to turn Guyenne over to the French if they would allow an English duke to rule it (Saul, p. 211, who notes that Richard made John of Gaunt Duke of Aquitaine, though of course when Gaunt's son Henry IV ascended, that eliminated the whole idea since the Duke of Aquitaine was once again King of England), and made noises about supporting the French Pope during the schism (though Saul, p. 232, notes that this was really dependent on a peace with France). Richard and his government also refused to give any serious help to the anti-French forces in Flanders, meaning that these firm (if only intermittently effective) English allies were brought under French domination (Saul, pp. 138-140). Plus, in the early 1390s, he and the French negotiated for years, and according to Saul, p. 218, no one really even knows why the negotiations finally failed.
It's easy to see why Richard wanted out: The French came very close to winning the war in the first few years of his reign, attacking Calais,picking up more land in Gascony, and heavily raiding the English south coast (Saul, pp. 33-34, though on p. 208 he argues that Richard's real reason was that he wanted to go on crusade. Possible, but the idea of Richard II on a crusade strikes me as pretty scary -- for the other crusaders).
By the mid-1380s, the situation was so bad that England was afraid of an all-out invasion. Perroy, p. 191, has no explanation for what happened next: "For some obscure reasons, the expedition was called off. Was the adventure found to be too risky, the strength available too small? Or did Philip [of Burgundy] put on a costly act simply to frighten England, and was he satisfied when he obtained the reopening of the wool trade between England and Flanders? We do not know." (Saul's explanation, p. 156, is that the French lacked the money to put their armada to sea.
Whatever the explanation, it was lucky for England that the invasion was cancelled; Richard's government had little real plan to fight it (Seward, pp. 133-134). In the whole reign, there were no great land battles, and only one major sea battle, in which the Earl of Arundel defeated a larger French convoy in early 1387 (Saul, p. 168). Even this was minor enough that I have never seen the battle given a name.
The boy-king's council at first didn't even have money from parliament to fight the threat (Saul, p. 47, notes that there were *six* parliaments in the first four years of Richard's reign, most of which voted money, but somehow the cash never accomplished anything). And when they tried to mount a counter-offensive, it was late and accomplished nothing except to show that England was short on quality generals at this time (Saul, pp. 35-36). Their one major success in the early period was taking over Cherbourg, but the English obtained that by diplomacy with Charles of Navarre, not by conquest (Saul, p. 41).
Taxes in these early years were so heavy (Saul, p. 56) and Richard II's administration was so inefficient, that he in fact faced the first great peasant revolt in English history, Wat Tyler's rebellion (Ashley-Great, pp. 146-147. It is interesting to note that there were only two really major peasant revolts in English history -- Tyler's of 1381 and Jack Cade's of 1450 -- and both came during the Hundred Years War, and both came at a time when the English were clearly losing and desperate to try to fight back. Of the two, Tyler's was the more dangerous, and came about when attempts to evade an exorbitant poll tax failed; Saul, p. 57. The common people, with their population still much reduced by the Black Death, simply couldn't pay what was asked; Saul, p. 60). Perroy also blames Lollard agitation (p. 182), but Perroy (who after all was French and seems to have little knowledge of non-Catholic faiths) didn't understand Wycliff or Lollardy; the revolt did have some "communist" elements, but they almost certainly were not Lollards.
The 14-year-old King Richard did much to calm and control Tyler's rebels -- but the rebellion's failure just meant that the abuses which caused the rebellion went unchecked. Indeed, Richard had temporized during the negotiations (Saul, pp. 67-69), and it led to a reign of terror and perhaps was a foreshadowing of what Richard would become. Richard never did manage to promote meaningful reforms; it's doubtful that he ever realized how messed-up his government was. (To be fair, when the Lords Appellant forcibly took charge in the late 1380s, they proved just as incompetent. But not even having control taken out of his hands knocked any sense into Richard.)
Richard's only attempt at a foreign adventure was two visits to Ireland, which were part invasion and part progress to awe the locals. Even there, he didn't want much responsibility; his main goal in the first was to create a palatine territory for his favorite Robert de Vere (Saul, p. 274). His response to the French invasions was to seek a truce. This was agreed to in 1389, and Richard held to it for the rest of his life (Seward, p. 138), doing his best to negotiate a lasting peace (Perroy, p. 198). To calm tensions, he gave away Brest and Cherbourg, leaving England with only Calais in northern France and the remnants of Guyenne in the south. This was the period when the king tried to give Guyenne to his uncle John of Gaunt, in effect washing his hands of the whole area.
Richard eventually married as his second wife a daughter of the French king (Seward, p. 139, Barker, pp. 15-16) -- though Isabella of France was only a quarter of his age (she was six when the French offered the marriage; Saul, p. 226), and pre-pubescent even when he died; they of course left no children. After Richard's deposition and death, Henry IV used her as a bargaining chip against France (Perroy, p. 214), but in 1400 allowed her to go back to France, where she remarried at 16 and died in childbirth at 19 (Barker, p. 17). It seems Richard and his government tried to secure a true treaty with France, but couldn't come up with a deal that both the French government and the English parliament would accept -- but, in return for the French marriage, they did secure a 28 year truce, which in many ways was better than a peace since it didn't cause the sort of wranglings over precise interpretations that had spoiled earlier treaties (Saul, p. 227). In practice, the truce lasted less than two decades -- but Richard was long gone by them.
Shortly before Richard's first truce, John of Gaunt's son Henry of Bolingbroke's wife, Mary de Bohun, bore her first surviving son, Henry. (There had apparently been an earlier pregnancy resulting in a boy who died at birth, perhaps because the mother was so young -- only 11 or 12, according to Allmand, p. 8.) A record from the reign of Henry VI documents his birth near Monmouth (Allmand, p. 7), so he was called "Henry of Monmouth."
The young man was a member of the royal family, but with half a dozen people senior to him (including Richard II, who as yet was too young for anyone to know that he would die childless; Allmand, p. 8). No one realized that the young man would be particularly significant(Jarman, p. 32), so the date of his birth is not firmly known (Earle, p. 12). Allmand notes that references to his age make it possible that it was 1386 or 1387. The likely dates are August 9 or September 16. Allmand notes that his parents were in Monmouth in 1386, and so favors that year; the majority of other sources I have checked seem to prefer 1387 (e.g. Jarman, p. 32 says September 16 1387).
Mary de Bohun died in 1394, at the age of 24, bearing her sixth child (Earle, p. 12; Allmand, p. 9). She ended up with four sons and two daughters -- seemingly a fine flock, but three of the boys (Henry, the eldest; Thomas, the second, and John, the third) would die well before the age of fifty, and neither Thomas, nor John, nor Humphrey (the fourth boy) would leave a legitimate child.
Henry was considered significant enough that a marriage into the ducal house of Brittany was considered in 1395 (Allmand, p. 10), but this fell through -- and, in an "I'm My Own Grandpa" touch, Henry IV later married the girl's mother.
(Shakespeare fans please note: Although Shakespeare made Henry V and Harry "Hotspur" Percy contemporaries, Hotspur was a generation older. In 1388, just a year or two after Henry's birth, Hotspur -- already a young adult -- would command at the Battle of Otterburn. Hotspur was killed in 1403, a seasoned veteran of about forty, at a time when Henry of Monmouth was still in his mid teens. Allmand, p. 19, in fact notes that, initially, Hostspur was appointed to lead the council that managed Wales for the young Prince!)
Perroy, p. 255, declares that Henry was "the first King of England [since the Norman conquest, presumably] who had some English blood in his veins." This is not quite true -- Henry II and all succeeding kings were descended from Saint Margaret of Scotland, the sister of Edgar the Atheling, the last scion of the dynasty of Wessex who was briefly chosen King after the Battle of Hastings. And Richard II's mother was Joan "the Fair Maid of Kent." Still, Perroy is right in that Mary de Bohun brought some blood of the English nobility into the family. This meant that Henry was culturally English, even if his ancestry was mostly from Normandy and other European monarchies.
Prince Harry was born soon after a "changing of the guard." The late 1370s was a bad period for deaths of kings and noble. Just one year after Edward III died in 1377, Pope Gregory XI, who had taken the Papacy back to Rome, followed him into the grave (Renouard, p. 66).
If the Papacy had been a poor peacemaker during its stay in Avignon, things now became far worse. Gregory had done a terrible job of managing Italian affairs; most of the Papal States had rebelled (Saunders, pp. 206-207) and Italy was almost completely out of control. The 16 cardinals who met to choose Gregory's successor were besieged by a Roman mob which wanted an Italian Pope (Renouard, p. 68). They chose an Italian -- but one who promptly made himself disliked by many; Urban VI, according to Renouard, p. 69, "showed himself to be coarse, rude and tactless to an extraordinary degree." The disgusted French cardinals declared the election invalid and chose another Pope, Clement VII. The result was the "Great Schism" (not to be confused with the real Great Schism of 1054 which split Orthodoxy from Catholicism; this one simply split Catholic Christianity, without producing any doctrinal differences).
It is ironic to note that Clement VII, whose election was certainly more irregular, had probably more and stronger supporters (Renouard, p. 69). Being the "French" Pope had clear advantages; he certainly had more revenue (Renouard, p. 73), though both Papal pretenders came in with empty treasuries. The split lasted through the next several reigns (Saul, pp. 84-85; Seward, p. 123). France and England naturally supported rival Popes, so there was now no available mediator. It would be difficult even to call in a third party, since one side or the other would claim the mediator supported the wrong Pope. The Schism, for instance, killed plans for Richard II to marry an Italian noblewoman (Saul, p. 84. We might note that Geoffrey Chaucer had been one of the negotiators who set up the preliminary arrangements). It was not until 1415, at the Council of Constance, that a real attempt was made to heal the schism, and even that did not convince the deposed Benedict XIII, who claimed the Papal title until his death in 1422 (Renouard, p. 78). The last successors of this anti-Papal line were not put aside until 1431 (Renouard, pp. 136-137).
If the English managed to retain some land in Guyenne in the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV, it was only because the French were distracted. The French constable du Guesclin was killed in 1380, and three months later Charles V died (Seward, p. 125). Charles was only in his early forties, but of course he had always been sickly. He had still done a brilliant job of reviving France after the disastrous reign of his father (Perroy, p. 145).
Charles V made perhaps only two mistakes: On his deathbed, he bankrupted his son's government by abolishing the hated hearth tax (Perroy, p. 174). And he started the process which created the mighty Dukedom of Burgundy (Perroy, p. 148) -- though, to be fair, his only other real alternative was to give a smaller Duchy of Burgundy to Charles the Bad of Navarre, who had been fighting him off and on for years. Charles the Bad had been cheated many times -- he should have been king of France! -- but this final insult led him into a rebellion which at last ended his pretensions. And Edward III, who felt bound by his treaty with France, was unable to intervene; Perroy, pp. 151-152. Charles V's diplomacy had the peculiar effect of making a Flemish heiress wife of two consecutive Dukes of Burgundy -- and of founding the dynasty which nearly overthrew France.
Most English historians seem to be amazed that the French did not win the war in the period immediately after Charles's death. The Frenchman Perroy, p. 177, has a different take: "During his sixteen years' reign, at once healing and exhausting, Charles V had accomplished a great task: the destruction of the Treaty of Calais [=Bretigny], which was the master-thought of this persistent and crafty man. But he had rekindled the war, and his slender resources did not enable him to end it. The dilemma in which he had placed the kingdom was not removed by his death. Unable to win the war, France was forced to continue it, without hope of a definite success.... By fits and starts the two countries had outrun their strength. Neither one nor the other could achieve a decision." He notes on p. 189 that tax revolts continued even after the hearth tax was abolished.
In addition, the death of Charles V turned loose the royal dukes, many of whom spent their strength on ventures irrelevant to the reconquest of France -- several, e.g., started meddling in Italy (Perroy, pp. 204-205).
Charles V was succeeded by Charles VI, who went mad in 1392 (Neillands, p. 186) (he actually killed four of his own attendants before being restrained; Seward, p. 143. This is based on Book IV, section 44 of Froissart's Chronicles, though much of it is corroborated elsewhere). The disease was at first intermittent (Perroy, p. 194), but the problem became worse and worse over time. His genes for madness would, in time, come close to destroying both France and England.
(I really wish we could go back and do genetic testing on the family of Charles VI -- among them Henry VI of England, who went catatonic in the 1450s, leading to the first Yorkist protectorate and then to the first battle of Saint Albans when he recovered [Wilkinson, p. 176]; Henry VII, the majority of whose children died young and whose uncle Jasper was childless; Henry VIII; who left no legitimate grandchildren and whose partners suffered many miscarriages; and Henry's sister Margaret Tudor, who managed to bear an heir to the King of Scotland but later suffered her own miscarriage; according to Griffiths, p. 61, there are also indications that Charles's daughter Catherine, the mother of Henry VI, suffered some sort of mental illness in her later years.)
(Seward, p. 144, suggests that Charles VI's problem was porphyria, which is often said to be the disease that afflicted George III of England; this is probably based on the fact that Charles suffered his first bout on a bright, hot day -- Earle, p. 79 -- and light and heat can bring on porphyria. Charles also had the sort of delusions typical of porphyria; Jarman, p. 24, says that he was "a gibbering figurehead who sat unwashed in a threadbare palace convinced that he was made of glass and would shatter at a touch"; compare Gillingham, p. 75. But I must admit that I think there is more involved; though Charles VI does sound very much like a victim of porphyria, too many of Charles VI's descendents had problems which do not fit the disease. And while porphyria produces delusions, so too does schizophrenia -- and it has active and passive phases. In the passive phase, the sufferer is not delusional but is usually less capable than before the illness first struck. What's more, schizophrenia usually comes on in adolescence or early adulthood, which fits.)
Nor were the Charles VI's sons able to help; the first two Dauphins died young (Seward, p. 179), and the third, the future Charles VII (Jean Darc's Dauphin, Charles the Well-Served) was still young (born 1399) and completely lacking in energy.
With the King unable to rule, the reign of Charles VI turned France over to the factions led by his relatives. Guerard, p. 105, describes the situation this way: "Charles VI (1380-1422) was a child of twelve showing but little promise. Power fell to his uncles, the dukes of Anjou, Berry, Burgundy, and Bourbon. The royal system, as organized under Philip the Fair, was still so precarious and so ill-understood, it had proved so oppressive and at time[s] so incompetent, that there was a demand for... a complete return to feudal custom.... [T]he royal dukes proceeded to ransack the treasury for ambitious purposes of their own, Naturally, the bourgeois counselors of Charles the Wise, contemptuously called the Marmousets, were dismissed.
"In 1389, on attaining his majority, the young king thanked his uncles and recalled the Marmousets. But three years later, Charles VI, whose frail wits had not been able to stand a mad pace of pleasure, went insane; and, although he had lucid moments, he was unfit to rule for the remaining thirty years of his life."
And his cousins weren't that much better -- the Duke of Burgundy was reckless, and his son John of Nevers, the future John the Fearless, who succeeded him in 1404 (Neillands, p. 194), was worse -- he was simply rash. He insisted on crusading against the Turks -- and was captured by Sultan Bayezid at Nicopolis in 1396, and had to be ransomed (at a very high price) by the taxpayers of Burgundy and France (Neillands, p. 187). Just three years after succeeding to the Dukedom, John the Nut-Case would start a civil war in France by assassinating the Duke of Orleans (Neillands, p. 196).
Throw in the monetary crises in France, and the French government was unable to accomplish much for the next several decades. Even without the hearth tax, the burden on the peasants was very high, partly due to the potmetal currency (Perroy, p. 189) but mostly due to the fact that different factions, when they came to power, had to bring in their own office-holders, and scoop up every cent of cash to pay them (Perroy, pp. 222-224). In effect, the population was paying for two governments rather than one, and neither one any good.
(There were some curious parallels between England and France in this period. Both were ruled by underage kings, neither of whom was very effective. Both had trouble with uncles and councils. Richard II at least didn't leave any children with genes for madness; he seems to have left no children either legitimate or illegitimate, and no extramarital affairs; Saul, p. 94. Though he does seem to have loved his wife Anne of Bohemia genuinely; her death was very hard on him. The problem with Richard's otherwise exemplary sexual conduct was that he left no heir -- which in turn led to the succession quarrels which occupied England, off and on, for a century.)
It is interesting to note that the precipitating event for Richard II's deposition was his treatment of Henry of Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, whom Richard exiled. Yet Richard kept the young Henry of Monmouth at his court and treated him well; Earle, p. 31 -- though he also took him to Ireland during the invasion of that country (Allmand, p. 14), just possibly as a hostage.
Richard II, in the late 1380s, had been brought to heel by the "Lords Appellant" -- Humphrey of Gloucester, Richard's uncle; the Earl of Arundel; the Earl of Warwick, the Mowbray Earl of Nottingham (later Duke of Norfolk), and Henry of Bolingbroke. The latter two eventually came over to Richard's side, and the former three were eliminated in the 1390s (though Goodman, p. 186, argues that they had created a precedent for opposing a monarch which came back into play in 1399.) Then Nottingham/Norfolk and Bolingbroke had a falling-out. It came to the point where they were about to hold a trial by combat in 1398 -- when Richard stepped in and exiled *both*, even though at least one of them was certainly on Richard's side (Allmand, p. 11).
Mowbray, who was banished for life, would die in exile. Not Bolingbroke. Initially his exile was supposed to be temporary -- but when, in early 1399, Bolingbroke's father John of Gaunt died, Richard II made the exile permanent (Allmand, pp. 11-12), probably so Richard could take over the Duchy of Lancaster that Bolingbroke should have inherited.
Richard seemed completely oblivious to his danger. He actually went to Ireland with an army to try to settle the messy situation there. Bolingbroke invaded England in Richard's absence -- and quickly gained enough support to overthrow the King (Allmand, p. 13, though on p. 14 he describes how it was made legally to appear an abdication).
Even without his treatment of Bolingbroke, it's possible that Richard would have eventually been deposed anyway, because he was clearly attempting to create an absolute monarchy. Indeed, a semi-divine monarchy; Perroy, p. 200, notes that Richard actually petitioned the Pope to canonize his great-grandfather Edward II (who, no matter how badly he was mistreated by his subordinates, was no saint!). But Bolingbroke's invasion meant that the crown went to the House of Lancaster, rather than to the youth of the Mortimer family who was Richard's proper heir (at least if succession in the female line was allowed in England -- which it was generally agreed that it was). The key effect of Bolingbroke's invasion was to make Henry of Bolingbroke into King Henry IV, and to make his son Henry of Monmouth, the future Henry V, the Prince of Wales.
Allmand, p. 15, makes an interesting point here: "Richard [II] might be said to have destroyed himself, politically at least. None the less there remained the uncomfortable fact that the new king's de facto possession of the throne was his only true claim to power. He might be the head of by far the richest family in England.... [y]et his possession of the throne of England had stemmed from a decision to use force to secure it. Early on the young man whose right to the title 'Prince of Wales' depended on his acceptance, albeit tacit, of his father's usurpation had learned that a legal claim was always rendered stronger if military might was there to support it. As his father had done in England in 1399, so the future Henry V would do in France some twenty years later."
Henry of Monmouth quickly became a major landowner: As heir to the throne, he became Prince of Wales (a title which still meant something in 1399 -- Henry would spend much of his father's reign fighting Owen Glendower and other Welsh rebels), Duke of Cornwall, and Earl of Chester. Those titles were standard for the king's heir. But Henry IV also made him Duke of Lancaster and Duke of Aquitaine (Allmand, pp. 16-17). This at once gave Prince Harry a lot of responsibility and an interest in the French conflict.
It is ironic to note that, in 1406 when Parliament officially acted on the succession, it officially declared that "heirs general" could succeed to the English throne -- that is, that females counted in the succession. Thus Henry IV, whose claim to the throne -- insofar as it was not rule by conquest -- was due to being Richard II's heir male (Tuck, p. 221), declared that the succession should not be by heirs male! (Allmand, ppp. 30-31) -- an irony already noted in the time of Edward III, when Edward had converted many earldoms to succeed in male line but sought the crown of France due to his descent in female line (Tuck, p. 152).
In France, by this time, the leading contenders for power were the Dukes of Burgundy, the first of whom (Philip the Bold) was the uncle of Charles VI, and the Dukes of Orleans, the first of whom was the king's brother. The Queen, who had much influence, initially supported the Burgundian faction, but when Philip of Burgundy died in 1404 and was succeeded by his son John the Fearless (Seward,p. 148), Isabel instead gave her attention to the Orleans faction (so much so that she was accused, possibly accurately, of sharing his bed). The rivalry soon became war to the knife; John the Fearless assassinated Orleans in 1407 (Guerard, p. 106; Perroy, pp. 226-227).
The assassination was twice fortunate for the English, since Orleans, though not a very good soldier, had been pushing back the English in Guyenne; his death may have saved the remaining English territory (Barker, p. 17; Seward, p. 145), and Henry IV (who was always broke because of the rebellions against him; Seward, p. 144) had no means to fight back. The French became particularly hostile to the English after the deposition of Richard II in 1399 -- since Richard was married to a French princess, and had not pursued the war, his overthrow was regarded as a hostile act (Ashley-Stuart, p. 35. The French were about the only ones who still liked him -- Seward, p. 142, comments that Richard had become "almost insanely tyrannical" and notes that he had very little support from the barons at the end).
Even better for the English, from the time Orleans was assassinated, France was split into two factions, the Burgundians and the Armagnacs (the latter named for the Count of Armagnac, whose daughter would marry the son of Orleans a few years after the assassination). The mad king of course could not intervene, so there was nothing to keep the factions from each others' throats. The Burgundians took control of Paris in 1409 (Barker, p. 18), but it did not last. The Armagnacs drove them out -- only to spoil their prospects by inaugurating a reign of terror (Barker, p. 60, notes an instance of the Armagnacs slaughtering a city full of their own supporters, and doing so with great cruelty). Even when the government managed to produce useful legislation, the power of the factions meant that it could not be enforced (Perroy, p. 229).
Talk about an opportunity for an outsider! The English did not intervene at first, partly because Henry IV was still not secure on the throne (Perroy, p. 213, notes that at one point Henry IV actually tried to rewrite history to make his ancestor, the younger brother of Edward I, an older brother, since that would strengthen Henry's claim; seemingly to support this argument, Henry halted the regular maintenance King Edward I had ordered for his tomb; Hutchinson, p. 54), partly because the king was in poor physical condition (suffering from an undiagnosed by extremely debilitating disease; Earle, p. 69) and partly because they couldn't figure out which French faction would offer the better deal (Barker, p. 19).
It is possible that this issue caused some friction between Henry the father and Henry the son; both, according to Allmand, p. 48, wanted to regain the large Acquitaine promised by the Treaty of Bretigny, but the son probably wanted a more activist policy. Indeed, two English forces landed in 1411 and 1412 -- and supported different sides in the French struggle, first Burgundy in 1411 and then the Armagnacs in 1412 (Perroy, pp. 230-231; Wagner, pp. 18-19; Allmand, p. 54, thinks that the 1411 intervention was arranged by Prince Henry, while the 1412 intervention was set up by Henry IV when the Armagnacs offered far better terms. Given-Wilson, p. 503, also thinks that the Armagnacs made an offer too good for Henry IV to refuse, while the younger Henry was more worried about how much trouble Burgundy could cause to the English if they went against him).
As it turned out, the English invasion helped to force the French factions into a very temporary alliance, leaving the English with little reward for their expenses, although it did manage to strengthen the English position in Guyenne (Given-Wilson, pp. 509-512).
This seems to have led to a distinct coolness between father and son. Henry IV, perhaps with the support of parliament, dismissed his entire council, including the prince (Allmand, pp. 50-51). There was talk that the prince might be disowned entirely, with his younger brother Thomas of Clarence being declared heir to the throne (Clarence, not the prince, was given command of the 1412 intervention in France). It appears two factions were forming: Henry IV and his second son Thomas, and Prince Henry and his half-uncles the Beauforts. From 1411, the Prince's faction was entirely out of power (Allmand, p. 53).
Last updated in version 4.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.