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Henry V and the Dual Monarchy

'Not as a conqueror but as a legitimate heir' – Henry's grand gamble to unite the crowns of England and France recognised the realities of national sentiment on both sides of the Channel.

By 1420, after less than three years' campaigning, Henry V had succeeded where his predecessors had failed. He had won the crown of France. Yet the parliament held at Westminster in December that very year was the most critical his government had had to face. The Commons had begun to voice their concern at the implications for England of the Treaty of Troyes, signed seven months earlier, in which Henry was designated the heir of King Charles VI. They recalled the precedent afforded by Edward III's assumption of the French title in 1340, and petitioned for re-affirmation of the undertaking he had then given that his English subjects would never be put in subjection to him and his heirs as kings of France: a request with which Humphrey of Gloucester, the king's brother and lieutenant in England, was glad to comply.

This petition was one of several submitted in that parliament which bore witness to the Commons' awareness of the constitutional implications not only of Henry's recognition as 'Heir of France' but also of his lengthy periods of absence abroad. Henry had been away since 1417. The Commons were anxious for him to return, but at the same time feared the possibility of a dissolution when he did. To allay this legitimate anxiety, it was therefore ordained that neither this parliament nor any summoned in future by a guardian or regent should be dissolved by the arrival of the king in England during its proceedings. As it happened, Henry's homeward progress took longer than expected, and when it was rumoured that parliamentary petitions might be sent abroad to be dealt with by the king at his leisure, the Commons immediately demanded that all such petitions be answered within the realm and before they returned home. This time, however, they over-reached themselves: the request was politely refused.

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