France, Burgundy and England

'Gaul in three parts' - Charles Giry-Deloison discusses how new scholarship is affecting our view of a fifteenth-century triangle of power and diplomacy in Northern Europe.

The treaty of marriage between Henry V of England and Catherine of France, daughter of Charles VI, sworn in the Cathedral of Troyes on May 21st, 1420, marks the darkest hours of the French monarchy in the fifteenth century. In thirty-one short articles, the treaty made Henry the son of Charles VI and heir, with Henry's own heirs, to the Crown of France. It also made Henry regent until the king's death and gave him the government of the kingdom of France. The 'so-called' dauphin, Charles, was thought to be definitively isolated, having already forfeited his rights after he had had John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, assassinated at Montereau on September 10th, 1419.

Yet, far from restoring the peace in whose name the 'union of the two crowns', had been justified, the clauses of the 'shameful treaty' only reinforced the division of France. South of the Loire, half of the kingdom, where the dauphin's party held sway, still eluded the English king's control. On the borders of the territories where he strove to impose his authority as regent and heir to France, the Dukes of Brittany (John V) and of Burgundy (Philip the Good), contrived to safeguard their de facto independence. To quote Jean Favier (La Guerre de Cent Ans, Fayard, 1980), henceforth there was not one but three Frances: French France, English France, Burgundian France. Between the three, ducal Brittany negotiated her alliance for the best.

The unexpected death of Henry V on August 31st, 1422, and the long-awaited death of Charles VI (October 21st, 1422), the brutal regency of the Duke of Bedford, and the Amiens alliance of April 1423 between the three dukes (Bedford, Brittany, Burgundy), all contributed, to different extents, to aggravate the political conflict.

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