Ancient history

The English attempt at a dual monarchy (1411-1435)

Last updated:2022-07-25

To obtain military aid from Henry IV of England, John the Fearless promised him some Flemish towns and his help in conquering Normandy. But the Armagnacs in turn made contact with the King of England, guaranteeing him the recovery of the provinces lost since 1369. In the Council of Henry IV, the latter prevailed over the Burgundians. An agreement was concluded in May 1412. But Jean sans Peur learned of the transaction. The Armagnacs immediately denounced the pact. It is too late:English troops land near Cherbourg, take Honfleur and cross the west of the kingdom without being worried.

Especially since the civil war is raging between Armagnacs and Burgundians. Jean sans Peur, to maintain his prestige, undertakes the program of reforms he had promised. In January 1413, he unleashed the Parisian crowd against the Armagnacs and, once the latter were massacred, imprisoned, driven out (episode of the Skinners), the rioters obtained the promulgation of a great ordinance later qualified as Cabochian, named after their leader. , the Caboche butcher. But the Parisian notables take fright in front of the troubles. They approach the Dauphin Louis de Guyenne, and the Duke of Burgundy, seeing himself isolated, abruptly abandons the game. It was the return of the Armagnacs who immediately abolished the Cabochian Ordinance (September 8, 1413) and remained in Paris for five years, despite their unpopularity.

In March 1413 Henry IV of England died, leaving the throne to his son Henry V. The latter immediately presents himself as the apostle of peace, but of a just peace which implies not only the restitution of the provinces acquired by the treaty of Brétigny, but also of those unduly torn from Jean sans Terre by Philippe Auguste. To avoid the Anglo-Burgundian alliance, the Armagnacs are ready to make many concessions. They nevertheless refuse Normandy to Henry V who, judging this province essential, decides to go to war. On August 14, 1415, he landed at Chef-de-Caux. Armagnacs and Burgundians came together in the face of the English peril. But the reconciliation is only apparent and Jean sans Peur leaves the Armagnacs to fight alone against the invader. A strong army is assembled. She met the enemy at Agincourt on October 25, 1415. She was crushed. The court of France then sought the mediation of the King of the Romans, Sigismund, who, deciding for the strongest, allied himself with Henry V. Shortly after, John the Fearless recognized Henry V as the one who, "by right" , must become king of France.

With this support, Henry V landed again in France in August 1417 and this time undertook a methodical and systematic conquest of Normandy. In Paris, the Armagnac government, weakened by the defeat at Agincourt and by the death of the Duc de Berry, the Dauphin Louis and his brother Jean de Touraine, made no attempt. It must give way to the Burgundians in July 1418. The last son of Charles VI, the future Charles VII, then aged 15, became dauphin in April 1417, was able to escape the massacre of his supporters. However, a rapprochement between Armagnacs and Burgundians took shape when the English, after having completed the conquest of Normandy, became a threat to Paris. But the murder of Jean sans Peur in Montereau on September 10, 1419, by a follower of the Dauphin, made any agreement impossible for a long time. Henry V of England who, until then, had above all sought to obtain the largest possible fraction of the kingdom, suddenly saw the crown of France within his reach. The new Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon, faithful to his vengeful attitude and unable to become himself the heir to the throne, in fact, not without scruples, sides with the English project of a dual monarchy, as preferable to the attachment pure and simple to England and imposes on Charles VI the signing of the Treaty of Troyes, on May 21, 1420 Charles VI remains king until his death, but he excludes the Dauphin from all his rights and gives his daughter Catherine in marriage to Henri V who becomes his "son" and the "heir of France". On the death of his father-in-law, Henry V will therefore crown the two crowns which will remain united forever under him and his successors. Personal union and not fusion. Each kingdom will preserve its rights, its liberties, its customs, its laws. In the meantime, Henry V, bearing the title of regent, will exercise power in the name of Charles VI and will personally retain the Duchy of Normandy.

But the Dauphin, and even more so his supporters, immediately challenged the validity of the treaty, arguing that Charles VI could not dispose of the crown as he pleased because he was only its depositary and that a fortiori his mental state took away all value. to his decision. However, the dolphin still holds central and southern France, with the exception of Guyenne. Under these conditions, Henry V was forced to undertake a long-term conquest. Shortly after, he died (August 1422). The following October 21, Charles VI in turn disappeared and, in accordance with the Treaty of Troyes, Henry, son of Henry V and Catherine, already King of England by the death of his father, became King of France by that of his grandfather. The new sovereign is a few months old and it is his uncle, the Duke of Bedford, who takes the regency. But, at the same time, the dolphin Charles proclaimed himself king under the name of Charles VII. Bedford's first concern was to revive the somewhat failing Anglo-Burgundian alliance. He also rallied the Duke of Brittany Jean V to his camp. The war then resumed. She is not favorable to Charles VII. Driven back to the south of the Loire, he was decked out by his adversaries with the ironic title of “King of Bourges”. However, Anglo-Burgundian solidarity proved to be ephemeral. Dynastic quarrels come to oppose Philip the Good to the Duke of Gloucester, Bedford's uncle. For his part, Charles VII manages to detach John V from the English clan for a time and to conclude truces lasting several years with Burgundy. The war therefore continues against the English alone. An operation, which seemed decisive, began on October 12, 1428 with the siege of Orléans, the key to the countries beyond the Loire.

In these years 1428-1429 which will prove to be decisive, the position of the Lancastrian sovereign seems favorable. It has, in addition to the Kingdom of England, a large part of the Kingdom of France:Guyenne, Calais and its markets, the Duchy of Normandy, the "countries of conquest", between the Normandy border and Paris, Maine, Ile-de-France, the Chartrain country, Champagne and Picardy. In addition, John V again approached the English in 1427. Finally, the latter retained the alliance of Philip the Good who had, in the kingdom, the duchy of Burgundy and the counties of Flanders, Boulogne, Artois, Rethel, Nevers, Charolais and Mâcon and, in the empire, Franche-Comté, the county of Namur, Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland. But England proper only provided occasional help in the struggle, by virtue of the principle of the dual monarchy. Finally, in conquered France, the population is far from being rallied. The English continue to be seen as invaders. His tax revenues nevertheless allowed Bedford to ensure the regular payment of a disciplined, well-equipped, but small army. The number of fighters available to the regent can be estimated at 7,000 at the cost of maximum effort.

Facing England, Charles VII retains his traditional allies, Castile and Scotland. He also found in the great princely houses - Anjou, Orléans, Bourbon, Foix, Comminges - more effective support than that given to Bedford by the French princes who officially recognized Henry VI. But, if his power is less disputed, his court is the focus of countless intrigues and he does not have a regular army. The continuation of the fighting is based on the activity of a hundred "captains of men-at-arms and traitors" each with a few dozen adventurers. Finally, the weakest point lies in the person of Charles VII, indolent, irresolute, totally devoid of prestige. For him, the outcome of the siege of Orleans is crucial because it will depend on his decision to give up or continue the fight.

The capitulation of the city seems close after the day of February 12, 1429 (Herring Day) during which the French are beaten by the escort of a supply convoy that they had intercepted. But the intervention of Joan of Arc will change the course of events. Arriving in Chinon on March 6, 1429, she met the "nice dolphin" there and succeeded in convincing him of the divine character of his mission and of the sanctity of the voices which had ordered him to drive the English out of France. Before entering the campaign, she sends a challenge to her adversaries, summoning them in the name of the "King of Heaven" to "return France". Then it enters Orleans on April 30 and forces the English leader Suffolk to lift the siege (May 8). After this success, the French take Jargeau, Beaugency and jostle the English rearguard at Patay (June 18). Jeanne then decides Charles VII to go to Reims where he is crowned on July 17th. Its legitimacy becomes manifest.

The English take fright but Charles V I I lacks energy. He seizes a few towns:Laon, Soissons, Senlis and Compiègne. Without taking any major action. Moreover, his position was shaken by the capture of Joan by the Burgundians at Compiègne (May 24, 1430). Sold to the English, the Maid was judged in Rouen by an inquisition tribunal chaired by Pierre Cauchon. She was condemned as ", heretic, relapse, apostate, idolater" and burned on May 30, 1431.

On December 17, 1431, Henry VI, who two years earlier had been crowned King of England at Westminster, was crowned King of France in Paris Cathedral. But his triumph is only apparent. Its domination is increasingly challenged on the continent and the weariness of its troops is growing. Under these conditions, Charles VII will be able to continue his work of liberation. For this, it is essential for him to obtain the Burgundian alliance. The negotiations, opened in 1432, are long. But Philippe le Bon understood that his interest is to change sides. On September 21, 1435, he signed the Peace of Arras with Charles VII. By this treaty, Charles VII officially disavows the murder of Jean sans Peur and promises to make reparation. He cedes to the Duke of Burgundy the counties of Mâcon and Auxerre, the châtellenies of Bar-sur-Seine, Péronne, Montdidier and Roye, the custody of the abbey of Luxeuil, the cities, places and seigneuries belonging to him on both sides. on the other side of the Somme as well as the Ponthieu. However, he retains the possibility of resuming his domain of the Somme against the payment of 400,000 crowns. Finally and above all, Philippe le Bon is exempted from any homage to Charles VII for the fiefs he holds in the kingdom; but, if the king dies before him, he is bound to do so towards his successor, just like his heir, if he dies before Charles VII.

The Duke of Burgundy, in addition to notable satisfactions of self-esteem, derives many advantages from this treaty. He remained virtually in control of his foreign policy, and the treaty gave him the possibility, admittedly denied later, of resuming his preeminent place with the Valois. Charles VII is far from being a complete loser. He gives up many places, but which were already in the possession of the Duke of Burgundy. In addition, the dispensation from the tribute, based on the longevity of the current king and duke, aged 32 and 39 respectively, cannot reasonably last more than thirty years. Finally, his moral concessions will be quickly forgotten. The importance of the Treaty of Arras lies elsewhere. Occurring just after the death of the Duke of Bedford, it practically put an end to the experience of the dual monarchy, an experience which had proved unsustainable in the two already very "national" countries of France and England. .