In the spring of 1435 the Isle of Wight and most of the counties along the south coast of England were put on alert against the threat of French invasion. It was the first time that this had happened in many years and it was a direct response to the parlous military situation across the Channel. The rebellion in lower Normandy, the losses in the bay of the Somme and around Paris and the death of the earl of Arundel had all undermined the English kingdom of France to the point where it was no longer able to serve as a buffer against enemy attack. The situation had to be retrieved, not only to preserve English possessions in northern France but also to protect the borders of England herself.1
In Normandy the estates-general met in May at Bayeux and granted 40,000l.t. (£2.33m) to fund a new field army of up to eight hundred men-at-arms and 2300 mounted archers. In England, where a parliamentary grant was out of the question, £21,813 (£11.45m) was raised in loans from wealthy individuals, led by Cardinal Beaufort and his nephew John, earl of Somerset. This sum was allocated to pay for a new expeditionary army of over 2500 men recruited and led by lords Talbot and Willoughby. Talbot’s army sailed to France in July and made straight for Paris, relieving Orville, near Louviers, before travelling on to lay siege to Saint-Denis.2
The departure of this military expedition from England coincided with that of the deputation appointed to attend the Congress of Arras. The whole question of English involvement in these peace talks had been fraught with difficulty, not least because, on the face of it, the instigator and coordinator of the process was not the papacy, as before, but the duke of Burgundy. He had conducted the preliminary meetings, was hosting the congress at Arras, the capital of Burgundian Artois, and had issued the invitations to attend. He had done all this without prior consultation with his English allies and, as they complained, in breach of the Treaty of Troyes, which prohibited either party negotiating unilaterally with the Armagnacs. Burgundy’s role was of such concern to the English that they even approached the pope to find out whether the duke had asked to be freed from his oath to the treaty. Eugenius reassured them that he had not, but he added his own ominous injunction that the English should show a more conscientious desire for peace than they had previously done.3
Burgundy had played his cards well. The English were the last of the main parties to receive their formal invitations and, since Charles VII, the pope and the church council at Basle had already accepted and appointed delegates, the pressure on them to participate was increased. Representatives from Sicily, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland and Italy were also invited, ensuring that the eyes of all Europe would be upon the outcome.
The English had difficulty in appointing the leaders of their delegation. Their first choice was Philippe of Burgundy but this was nothing more than a political gesture designed to demonstrate that Anglo-Burgundian interests were synonymous and that the alliance remained strong. It can have been no surprise when he flatly refused the role on the grounds that he was an independent party. Cardinal Beaufort was a more obvious choice but he too declined the office, preferring to exert his influence behind the scenes, uninhibited by diplomatic protocol. Louis de Luxembourg, bishop of Thérouanne and Henry VI’s chancellor of France, was a third powerful figure who was appointed but did not, in the end, go to Arras.
By comparison with Charles VII’s embassy, which was led by three of the most important people at his court, Charles, duke of Bourbon, Arthur de Richemont, constable of France, and Regnault de Chartres, archbishop of Reims and chancellor of France, the English delegation that eventually went to the congress was relatively low-key. It was led by John Kemp, archbishop of York, a close colleague of Cardinal Beaufort and member of the English council, who had been Henry V’s first chancellor of the English kingdom of France. He was accompanied by the bishops of Norwich and Saint David’s and William Lyndwood, keeper of the privy seal. The secular representatives were – ominously for any prospect of peace – all distinguished for their military service against the Armagnacs: the earls of Suffolk and Huntingdon, Walter, lord Hungerford, and Sir John Radclyf, seneschal of Gascony. Two Norman members of Bedford’s council in France also joined the delegation: Raoul le Sage, whose years of loyal service had been rewarded with the grant of letters of naturalisation by the English parliament in 1433, and Pierre Cauchon, bishop of Lisieux, who had played such a prominent role in the trial of Jehanne d’Arc.4
The English delegates were formally empowered to negotiate for peace but in reality their ambitions were limited to securing a twenty-year truce. The hope was that such a prolonged period of abstinence from war might stabilise the situation, allowing the economies of both kingdoms to recover from the burden of war and depriving Burgundy of any excuse to break his oath to the Treaty of Troyes. The ambassadors had authority to treat for a marriage alliance with Charles VII in return for a lengthy truce but one topic was entirely outside their remit: the Treaty of Troyes itself. The foundation stone on which the English kingdom of France had been built would remain inviolate and with it Henry VI’s right to the crown of France.
And that, of course, was the Gordian knot at the heart of the peace negotiations. The English had no option but to stand by the Treaty of Troyes. To renounce all, or even part, of it would invalidate the legal basis of their claim to the French throne and deprive them of any justification for their continued presence in northern France.5 For the Armagnacs there could be no question of peace unless and until the English accepted Charles VII as the true king of France: their ambassadors had instructions to refuse any English offer which did not include a renunciation of the French crown. With the question of sovereignty unresolved, there could be no compromise and no diplomatic solution to the war.
As a forum for a general peace settlement between England and France the Congress of Arras was therefore bound to fail. All three parties knew this but the whole process was brilliantly stage-managed to place the onus for the failure on the English. Throughout August 1435 the Armagnacs gradually raised their offers. They began by repeating the derisory terms which Henry V had rejected as inadequate in July 1415. Since these did not even take account of the Agincourt campaign, let alone the English conquests which had changed the face of northern France from 1417, there was no prospect of their being accepted. By contrast, therefore, their final offers seemed munificent: they conceded the whole of the duchy of Normandy, together with certain places in the marches of Picardy, and a marriage with a French princess, in return for a full and final renunciation of the French crown, which could be deferred for seven years until Henry VI came of age, and the release of the duke of Orléans, for whom a reasonable ransom would be paid. In the meantime, however, the English were to surrender all other places they occupied and restore to their lands and property in Normandy all those who had been expelled by their conquest.6
It was impossible for the English to accept such terms. Their apparent generosity obscured the fact that the English were effectively being required to give up everything they had acquired in France since 1415, including Paris itself, so that their king could exchange his crown for an empty dukedom from which his own supporters had been expelled and which he would hold subject to Charles VII. However bad the military situation, it did not warrant the acceptance of such a settlement. Since there was nothing more to be said, archbishop Kemp withdrew his embassy from Arras and returned to England, thereby handing the propaganda victory to the Armagnacs. The English, they declared, were proud, obstinate and unreasonable; they had refused to make any concessions and, by walking out of the negotiations, had declared themselves the enemies of peace. One cannot imagine that Henry V, a master tactician in the field of diplomacy as well as that of battle, would have allowed himself to have been so wrong-footed.
The Congress of Arras had been carefully choreographed to provide Philippe of Burgundy with the excuse he needed to break with the English. It had given him an international forum in which to demonstrate his own personal commitment to securing a general peace and the intransigence of the English. They had refused to accept the Armagnacs’ ‘reasonable offers’ and therefore, in accordance with the terms of the agreement he had reached at Nevers with his brothers-in-law, Philippe would transfer his loyalties to Charles VII. Cardinal Beaufort made a last-ditch intervention, breaching diplomatic protocol to obtain a private interview with Philippe in which he pleaded so passionately for him to remain loyal that the sweat ran from his brow. On 6 September Beaufort admitted defeat and left Arras with his entourage, each one of whom was dressed in the cardinal’s vermilion livery with the word ‘honour’ embroidered on his sleeve. It was a fitting reproach to the duke, who had been Beaufort’s personal friend and colleague for so many years.7
Four days later, on the sixteenth anniversary of the murder of John the Fearless at Montereau, a solemn requiem mass was held for the duke at Arras. (A similar anniversary mass for the death of Henry V on 31 August had been boycotted by all except the English.) Afterwards Philippe of Burgundy gathered all the remaining delegates together and sought their opinion as to whether he should proceed unilaterally to make peace with Charles VII. Naturally they voted with one accord in favour. The only remaining stumbling block was Burgundy’s sacred oath to the Treaty of Troyes, which had been sworn at the altar, but Cardinals Albergati and Lusignan, the papal and conciliar legates who had presided over the congress, had already helpfully commissioned lawyers to see if it could be annulled. Their opinion had declared it legally invalid on the twin grounds that it had endangered Burgundy’s immortal soul by committing him to bloodshed and that Charles VI had no power to disinherit his own son. The cardinals now endorsed this opinion and undertook to free the duke from his obligations.8
On 21 September 1435 the Treaty of Arras was concluded in a ceremony held at the abbey of Saint-Vaast. The cardinals formally absolved Burgundy from his oath to the Treaty of Troyes; the duke of Bourbon and Arthur de Richemont offered a public apology at the altar on behalf of their king for the murder of the duke’s father; and Philippe swore a new oath of peace with, and loyalty to, Charles VII. The terms of the new treaty, which were widely circulated and appear in many chronicles of the time, were extraordinarily generous to the duke. In addition to punishing his father’s murderers by exiling them and confiscating their property, Charles promised to expiate the crime by funding religious foundations and masses in the duke’s memory. He confirmed Philippe in possession of all the lands the English had granted him and ceded to him all the French crown possessions on the Somme. Finally he exempted the duke personally from having to do homage to him and his subjects from having to do military service to the crown. Unlike the Treaty of Troyes, Burgundy was not required to commit himself to war against his former allies, only to seek to include them in the peace.9
The Congress of Arras had been a triumph for Philippe of Burgundy. He had extricated himself with honour from his English alliance, won major concessions from his new sovereign and emerged as a dominant figure on the world stage. What he did not know was that he was merely a puppet whose strings had been pulled by the Armagnacs. Charles VII had no intention of honouring the terms of the Treaty of Arras. He had bought the duke by its overt promises but, more insidiously, he had also bought those whom the duke trusted most. Sixty thousand saluts (£4.81m) had been paid out in bribes on 6 July 1435 to Nicolas Rolin, the chancellor of Burgundy, who drafted the treaty, and eight members of the ducal council, ‘bearing in mind that this peace and reconciliation is more likely to be brought about by our cousin’s leading confidential advisers, in whom he places his trust, than by others of his entourage’. Even the duke’s wife, Isabella of Portugal, had been won over. As Beaufort’s niece she might have been expected to support the Anglo-Burgundian alliance but had instead exerted her influence and negotiating skills on behalf of the Armagnacs, and the following December was rewarded by Charles VII with an annual rent of £4000 (£2.1m) for her services in negotiating the ‘peace and reunion’.10
Such widespread deception and corruption did not bode well for the future of the new alliance, but for the English the Treaty of Arras was a disaster. They were now completely isolated. That perennial waverer the duke of Brittany had already made his peace with Charles VII the previous year; so had Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor. The defection of Burgundy was the final blow. And at this critical moment the one man who might have been able to salvage something from the wreckage was lying on his deathbed.
Bedford had been ailing for some time. The heavy burden he bore in maintaining his brother’s legacy in both the field and the council chamber had taken its toll on his physical strength and the reverses of the preceding months seem to have hastened his end. As he lay dying he knew that Burgundy had deserted and that the future of the English kingdom of France was in jeopardy as never before, but there was nothing more he could do. He died on 14 September 1435, aged forty-six, at Rouen castle, in the heart of the realm to which he had devoted so much of his life. Unlike most Englishmen in France, he chose to be buried there. On 30 September he was interred ‘magnificently’ near the high altar in Rouen cathedral, close to the tombs of his ancestors Rollo, the Viking founder of the duchy of Normandy, and Richard I of England, whose ‘Lionheart’ had been buried in Rouen.11
Bedford’s contribution to the English kingdom of France cannot be over-emphasised. Like his brother Henry V, he led by example, providing energetic and decisive military leadership and never fearing to risk his own person in combat but also demonstrating a considerable political ability to reconcile and unite disparate interests. Though he undoubtedly acquired enormous wealth and extensive lands because of his position, he never abused his power and often financed campaigns out of his own pocket rather than allow them to fail. He showed a genuine commitment to his French subjects, endeavouring always to administer justice even-handedly and, in strong contrast to Charles VII, refusing to countenance their exploitation or oppression by the military.
More than this, however, he had actually made his home in France, not only acquiring a number of properties in Rouen and Paris but also building his own house at Rouen to which he gave the heart-felt, if suburban-English-sounding, name Joyeux Repos. Though often wrongly blamed for acquiring Charles VI’s magnificent library on the cheap and breaking it up, he had been a munificent patron and promoter of French artists and scholars, commissioning many of the most important illuminated liturgical manuscripts of the period and translations of secular and religious texts: under his patronage Rouen became a major centre of book production to rival Paris, and Caen acquired its university. Bedford had also been a generous benefactor of the church, giving valuable plate and vestments which he commissioned from French craftsmen, founding a Celestine monastery at Joyeux Repos and in his will leaving many bequests to churches in Rouen. In recognition of his piety and munificence, in 1430 the cathedral chapter at Rouen had formally admitted him as a canon, even though he was not a clergyman.12
Bedford had his critics ranging from the humble Robin le Peletier of Valognes, who accused him of ‘being good for nothing except levying taxes and oppressing the people’, to his brother Gloucester. On the whole, however, his contemporaries admired him and even those historians who think that he should have dedicated his talents to a better cause believe that his motives were good and he had done the best he could. The citizen of Paris considered his ‘nature quite un-English, for he never wanted to make war on anybody, whereas the English, essentially, are always wanting to make war on their neighbours without cause’. Among his adversaries he was widely respected as ‘noble in lineage and virtues, wise, generous, feared and loved’ and, more succinctly, ‘wise, humane and just’.13
Bedford’s death and Burgundy’s defection dealt a crippling blow to the English kingdom of France from which it would never recover. Within a single week its twin bulwarks had gone, and there was no one of their stature to replace them. And just ten days after Bedford’s demise the third architect of the Treaty of Troyes, Queen Isabeau, widow of Charles VI and mother of Charles VII, died in Paris. Though her death was insignificant compared with that of Bedford, it was a further loosening of the bonds of alliance and its timing must have seemed to contemporaries further proof that God had set his face against the English.
Isabeau died on 24 September. That same day the Armagnacs who had held Saint-Denis for almost four months finally agreed to surrender after a five-week siege by an Anglo-Burgundian force, led by lords Willoughby and Scales and the sire de l’Isle-Adam. There had been heavy casualties, including Sir John Fastolf’s nephew Sir Robert Harling, who was killed in an unsuccessful assault which cost more than eighty English lives, but the town’s recapture enabled Queen Isabeau to be buried alongside her husband in Saint-Denis. Nevertheless, it was still too dangerous to allow the funeral cortège to travel by land and it was instead conveyed with all due honour by boat down the Seine.
The recovery of Saint-Denis turned out to be the last occasion on which English and Burgundian troops fought side by side but it provided no relief for the beleaguered citizens of Paris. The very night of the capitulation, in what was surely a coordinated attack, the Armagnacs took Meulan, twenty-four miles west of Saint-Denis, with the aid of two fishermen, who hid a ladder in their boat and entered the town by climbing up the sewers which emptied into the Seine. The English garrison and their captain, Sir Richard Merbury, were caught by surprise and the Armagnacs took possession of the bridge. The main Parisian supply route from Normandy was now controlled by the enemy and as a consequence the price of essential foodstuffs soared. To compound the city’s sufferings the fifteen hundred Armagnac soldiers allowed to leave Saint-Denis under the terms of the capitulation took to the field, looting, pillaging and kidnapping around Paris with impunity.14
Without Bedford’s steadying hand at the helm the whole of the English kingdom of France seemed about to founder as the Armagnacs took advantage of the withdrawal of Burgundy to launch an all-out campaign against the English. Matthew Gough and Thomas Kyriell set out from Gisors with a force to retake Meulan but they were intercepted and defeated by Ambroise de Loré and Jean de Bueil; Gough himself was taken prisoner. While Arthur de Richemont and the Bastard of Orléans tightened their grip on Paris, the constable unleashed his dogs of war, giving the mercenary captains who had previously operated independently against Burgundy in the east of France free rein to attack Normandy.
As a result, at the end of October Dieppe fell to Charles Desmarets and Pierre de Rieux in a dramatic coup: Desmarets and six hundred men secretly scaled the walls on the harbour side before dawn, then broke open the gates facing Rouen to admit the marshal and his men. Not only the town but all the ships in the harbour fell into Armagnac hands, giving them an enormous haul of plunder and prisoners. The fall of Dieppe, just thirty-six miles from Rouen, was an enormous shock: as Monstrelet put it, ‘all the English generally throughout Normandy were very deeply distressed, and not without cause, for this town of Dieppe was remarkably strong and well protected, and situated in one of the good areas of Normandy’. If Dieppe could fall, where else was safe?15
Worse was to come. Desmarets established himself as captain of Dieppe and was soon joined by Xaintrailles and a number of other freelance captains, notably Anthoine de Chabannes and the two Bastards of Bourbon, who were commonly known as theécorcheurs, or flayers, because of their unspeakable savagery: a report into their excesses in the county of Burgundy in 1439 includes ‘people crucified, roasted on spits and hanged’. Their arrival was the catalyst for a second popular revolt, this time in the Caux region of upper Normandy. Several thousand Normans, some of them well armed, others simple peasants with make-shift weapons, put themselves under the command of a man named Le Caruyer and went to Dieppe to offer their assistance against the English.16
The strategy of the campaign that followed was to capture the coastal towns, which allowed the English to control the Channel and to ship foodstuffs, men, weapons and ammunition into the English kingdom of France. If these supply lines could be cut off, then Normandy, but more importantly, Paris, could be isolated and starved into submission. The combined Armagnac forces, led by Marshal de Rieux, but including Le Caruyer’s people’s army and many dispossessed Norman noblemen, such as Jean d’Estouteville and Guillaume de Ricarville, who had led the coup at Rouen, first made their way to Fécamp, which surrendered on Christmas Eve; two days later Montivilliers capitulated without a fight. Harfleur proved a stronger nut to crack: the English garrison, under the command of William Minors, repelled an assault and killed some forty attackers but he too was obliged to surrender when a band of inhabitants (later mythologised as the ‘One Hundred and Four’ who had been dispossessed by Henry V’s capture of the town and barred from the privileges of citizenship) opened the town gates to the Armagnacs. Minors, the garrison and some four hundred Englishmen within Harfleur were allowed to leave, taking their goods with them. Within fifteen days seven or eight other towns and fortresses were also taken and a large part of the Caux region was now in Armagnac hands. Significantly this included Tancarville and Lillebonne, as the enemy army pushed down the Seine towards Rouen. By the beginning of 1436 some two to three thousand Armagnacs were garrisoned in upper Normandy.17
A disaster on an epic scale was unfolding yet the English authorities seemed paralysed by indecision and lack of leadership. The most senior figure in the kingdom was the chancellor, Louis de Luxembourg; though he did not let his clerical status as bishop of Thérouanne stand in the way of active military service, it effectively disqualified him from taking command in the field. He might have looked for military assistance to his brother Jehan de Luxembourg and nephew Jehan, count of Saint-Pol: neither of them had yet sworn to observe the Treaty of Arras but their position as subjects of Philippe of Burgundy made it difficult for them to lead a campaign against the duke’s new allies.
Bedford had perhaps foreseen these difficulties. In June 1435, when his own health was failing, Arundel had just met his death at Gerberoy and Saint-Denis had been captured by the Armagnacs, he had revived the post of seneschal of Normandy, which, under the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, he had been obliged to abolish on the death of Charles VI. The seneschal was the chief military officer of the duchy, with a role comparable to that of the constable of France. To revive the office at this particular moment suggests that Bedford recognised that an independent English military command might be needed in Normandy and he entrusted the post to Thomas, lord Scales, one of his longest-serving and most trusted captains, who had previously acted as his regional lieutenant.18
Scales’s authority, however, did not extend beyond Normandy and in any case as captain of Domfront he was fully occupied maintaining that dangerous frontier against the resurgent Armagnacs and the Bretons, who, his spies reported, were prefabricating bastilles in preparation for shipping them to the coast to set up a fortress between Coutances and Granville.19 Unless and until a new regent was formally appointed by the English council, it was difficult for anyone to coordinate and lead a military response to the new Armagnac offensive. And without men and money from England the situation might be irretrievably lost.
In desperation the estates-general, meeting at Rouen, sent a petition to Henry VI which was presented to him at Westminster on 3 December 1435. In it they expressed as strong a criticism as they dared of the English rejection of Charles VII’s offers at the Congress of Arras. They had rejoiced on learning that Charles would concede the duchy of Normandy ‘because between England and Normandy there is not only alliance but unity of blood and common origin’. A speedy and definitive peace was essential after twenty years of suffering warfare and if Henry wished to reject peace against the wishes of his Norman subjects, then he must prosecute the war with vigour under the leadership of a prince of the royal family who would be able to impose his authority on the duchy and especially on the military.20
Henry’s response was concerned and conciliatory: he informed them that parliament had decided to send a great army of at least 2100 men-at-arms and nine thousand archers to stay as long as was necessary to force the Armagnacs to suspend their hostilities. Since Henry himself was only just fourteen and his uncle, Gloucester, had no intention of leaving his power base in England, the army would be led by Richard, duke of York, an unlikely choice in such a crisis, given that he was just twenty-four and a military novice; moreover he had very little knowledge of France, having visited the country only once before, as part of Henry’s retinue for the coronation expedition of 1430. He was, however, of royal blood, being descended from Edward III through both his parents (an inheritance that would later lead him to challenge Henry VI’s right to the English throne), and was married to Cecily Neville, the king’s cousin. He would be accompanied by two of his Neville brothers-in-law, Richard, earl of Salisbury, and William, lord Fauconberg, and their cousin, Edmund Beaufort. The significance of these associates was that all three were nephews of Cardinal Beaufort, who would personally fund the forthcoming campaign with loans to the tune of some £28,000 (£14.7m). The only senior member of the company who had extensive military experience was William, earl of Suffolk, who had served in France from 1417 until his capture by Jehanne d’Arc in 1429; despite his peaceful proclivities since then, he had no qualms about returning to arms in this crisis.21
Henry had promised that, weather permitting, the advance party would set out before the end of December and the rest of the army by the end of January. The Norman ambassadors, waiting to cross the Channel with the first contingent, became increasingly desperate as news arrived of the fall of Harfleur and the Caux rebellion and the weeks ticked by without action. They appealed again to the English council, warning of the dangers of delay, and even to Gloucester himself, urging him to take personal control of affairs in France. On 16 January Sir Henry Norbury and Richard Wasteneys, who were leading the advance party and had not been able to assemble enough shipping to cross together, were ordered to go separately: ‘Praying you both, and straightly charging you, that you speed thitherward in all goodly haste that you may, for the more comfort of our said true subjects and to the rebuke of our enemies.’22
The first contingent of 970 soldiers finally set sail at the end of January; storms at sea delayed the departure of Sir Thomas Beaumont with his company of eight hundred men until the end of February and York’s ‘great army’, reduced to a mere 4500, of whom nearly four-fifths were archers, did not even embark for Normandy until the end of May.23 Such a dilatory response could not keep pace with the course of events in France.
As the Armagnac forces in Normandy advanced down the Seine towards Rouen, lord Talbot stepped up to the mark, taking over the captaincy of Rouen and sending his lieutenant, Fulk Eyton, with reinforcements to defend Caudebec, the last remaining stronghold still in English hands between the capital and the rebel army. With over four hundred men at his disposal Eyton did not hesitate to launch a sortie when the rebels approached the town, successfully driving them off and scattering them. Talbot immediately followed this up with sorties of his own from Rouen in which he deliberately set about a scorchedearth policy, driving all livestock into Caudebec and Rouen and destroying whatever he could not take with him. This had the desired effect, stripping the locality of anything which might provide sustenance or support for the enemy and preventing them living off the land round Rouen.24
Although the insurgents and most of the Armagnac captains were thus forced to retire, Rouen was not yet out of danger. At the end of January La Hire and Xaintrailles, at the head of six hundred soldiers, set out from Beauvais and Gerberoy with the intention of taking the city by surprise. Perhaps because they failed to make contact with the conspirators inside Rouen, or they were warned that reinforcements had arrived and it was too well guarded, they retired to the village of Ry, ten miles to the east. In the early hours of 2 February 1436 Talbot, Scales and Kyriell led a thousand men from the garrison and, catching them unawares, attacked them before they could get to their horses. Many were killed and a great number of prisoners, horses and supplies were taken; La Hire and Xaintrailles managed to escape, though they were pursued for many miles and La Hire received a number of serious wounds.25
This bold and decisive action, so characteristic of Talbot, ended the immediate threat to Rouen, but the popular rebellion had now spread to lower Normandy. On 25 January the vicomtes of Mortain, Avranches and Vire were ordered to enquire secretly and report back immediately as to why one Boschier, ‘a captain of the common people’, had held a ‘huge gathering’ in that area. Every loyal subject was ordered to wear the English red-cross badge, on pain of being treated as a rebel, and expressly prohibited, regardless of rank, from going armed or gathering in arms unless ordered to do so by the king’s officers. The vicomtes were commanded to stock all walled towns and fortresses with provisions and military equipment in preparation for a siege.
Letters and spies passing between the frontier fortresses and the council in Rouen in the spring of 1436 confirmed that Boschier was indeed leading a popular insurgency and that his objective was thought to be the Cotentin region, suggesting that he was in touch with the Armagnacs of upper Normandy. Attempts to dissuade the rebels from taking up arms by offering them redress for their grievances were rejected and ultimately the insurgency had to be put down by force. On 28 March lord Scales issued a summons to arms to all the nobility of the bailliage of the Cotentin and took to the field. The rebels were routed in a pitched battle at Saint-Sever, eight miles west of Vire, in which Boschier himself and around a thousand of his followers were killed.26