The first contingent of the ‘great army’ promised from England had been sent to the relief of Normandy, where at least three hundred soldiers, under the command of Richard Wasteneys, were allocated to the defence of Rouen and its environs. The second contingent, consisting of eight hundred men led by Sir Thomas Beaumont, was dispatched to the aid of Paris, where the situation was now critical. Richemont was steadily closing in on the city: Corbeil to the east and Saint-Germain-en-Laye to the west both fell to his advancing armies and on 19 February 1436 Bois-de-Vincennes, just four miles to the south-east, was captured when a Scottish agent infiltrated the watch and, with the assistance of the abbess of Saint-Anthoine-des-Champs, admitted Richemont’s forces.1
On 20 February yet another strategically vital outpost fell. The citizens of Pontoise, nineteen miles north-west of Paris, shut the gates of the town against the English garrison after the greater part left on a routine foraging expedition. They then seized the few remaining soldiers from their lodgings, meeting no resistance except from the lieutenant, Sir John Rappeley, who with two others barricaded himself into one of the gatehouses, from which vantage point he bombarded the crowds below with any missiles that came to hand. One of many Englishmen who had married a Frenchwoman, he was eventually persuaded to extricate himself from a hopeless situation by surrendering into the hands of a leading citizen who was related to his wife. Having taken control of Pontoise, the citizens invited the sire de l’Isle-Adam to become their captain on behalf of Charles VII. His acceptance of this role was of the greatest significance for it could not have been done without the permission of his liege lord, Philippe of Burgundy. And although Burgundy had made his peace with Charles VII, he was not yet at war with England.2
Since December 1435, however, he had been conducting negotiations so secret that their purpose was not even noted in his own financial accounts. These involved two of his most loyal supporters, l’Isle-Adam himself, who had been captain of Paris since 1429, and Jean de Belloy, who had been the city’s sheriff from 1422 to 1429. Their role, it soon became clear, was to deliver Paris to Charles VII. The last time Charles’s troops had attempted to take the city had been in September 1429: Jehanne d’Arc had then received the first check in her military career when, as we have seen, the citizens had risen to the occasion, uniting with the garrison to repel their attackers and wounding the Pucelle herself.3
The situation was now very different. Paris was a Burgundian city and the English had held it only because the duke was their ally and allowed them to do so. Though the kingdom’s administration was based in the city, most of its employees were French and few native Englishmen had actually taken up residence there. Like most immigrants, those who had done so had mostly settled in a ghetto in the Saint-Anthoine district, near the Bastille, leaving large areas of Paris untouched by any obvious English influence. All the municipal offices and most of the military and ecclesiastical ones continued to be held by Frenchmen of the Burgundian party. The veneer of Englishness was spread very thin.
Since the Treaty of Arras the citizens of Paris had found themselves in an anomalous position. Their city remained the official capital of the English kingdom of France, yet their natural allegiance lay with its enemies. Louis de Luxembourg and his administration tried to rally support, as they had done in the past, by publicising Charles VI’s letters condemning the murderers of John the Fearless as traitors, but they were flogging a dead horse. Even Clément de Fauquembergue, the civil servant responsible for maintaining the registers of the parlement since 1417, decided Paris was a lost cause after the treaty and decamped to Cambrai. On 15 March 1436 the chancellor informed a general assembly of leading officials and citizens that anyone who wished to leave would be allowed to do so: those who remained, however, must take the oath of loyalty, wear the red cross and stay away from the walls and gates. So great was the fear of treachery that the canons of Notre Dame, whose houses backed on to the river, were ordered to seal their doors.4
As the price of corn quadrupled owing to the blockade, and the supply of herrings (the staple food throughout Lent) ran out two weeks before Easter, popular discontent reached fever pitch. There was talk of rescuing an Armagnac prisoner, Guillaume de la Haye, from the royal prisons and turning him into a ‘chief and captain’ of the mob. Ironically, then, it was not the civilians, with their notorious reputation for murderous rampages, who revolted, but the military. The supply of money had dried up even faster than that of food, and the garrison’s wages had not been paid for months on end. On 4 April four hundred of its soldiers deserted their posts: a day later they were still stealing all the food and goods they could find from the houses and churches in the parish of Notre-Dame-des-Champs, outside the city walls.5
The arrival a few days later of Sir Thomas Beaumont, with his eight hundred troops from England, could not have been more opportune. A veteran of the siege of Orléans and captain of Château Gaillard since 1430, he brought military experience that was as welcome as his reinforcements. For it had now become clear that Burgundy had indeed abandoned his neutral stance. On 3 April the three armies of Arthur de Richemont, the sire de l’Isle-Adam and Philippe de Ternant, a knight of the Golden Fleece and the duke’s own chamberlain, had joined forces at Pontoise for an assault on Paris.
Duplicating Talbot’s tactics at Rouen, the English had already made preparations for a siege, destroying crops, seizing all available foodstuffs and burning the villages on the Seine between Paris and Pontoise; officials had also been sent out within Paris itself to find out what quantities of corn, flour and dried pulses each household held. To the citizen of Paris writing his journal, these activities were indistinguishable from the looting by the deserters. He reported with justifiable outrage that English soldiers, in their desperate search for items which could be turned into hard cash, had even sacked the abbey of Saint-Denis stealing the reliquaries for their silver and impiously snatching the chalice from the hands of the priest during mass. Such blatant sacrilege was certainly a far cry from the days when Henry V had assembled his whole army to observe the hanging of one of his own soldiers as punishment for a theft from a church.6
Learning that the enemy was approaching Saint-Denis, where all the fortifications, except for a single tower adjoining the abbey, had already been dismantled when it was retaken from the Armagnacs the previous year, Beaumont decided to intercept them. As he approached the stone bridge at Épinay-sur-Seine he encountered the advance forces of the Armagnac-Burgundian army and, after a fierce struggle, was overwhelmed. Beaumont himself was taken prisoner and at least four hundred of his men were killed. Some of those who escaped managed to get back to Paris, but others, including the sire de Brichanteau, nephew of Simon Morhier, the provost of Paris, took refuge with the English garrison in the tower at Saint-Denis, where l’Isle-Adam promptly laid siege to them. When they made an attempt to escape at daybreak they were caught and executed, Brichanteau’s body being publicly exposed outside the abbey for a day before it was buried. This brutality had the desired effect, persuading the rest of the garrison to surrender to save their own lives. L’Isle-Adam had taken Saint-Denis for the second time in six months, but this time for the other side. Saint-Denis was in Armagnac hands once again.7
The defeat of Beaumont’s force and the loss of Saint-Denis were the last straw for those Parisians whose loyalty to the current regime had only ever been purchased by Burgundian persuasion and English military success. The enemy was literally at the gate. The English armed forces were defeated and demoralised; the administration was bankrupt; the population was starving. And l’Isle-Adam, the great Burgundian hero who had rescued Paris from the Armagnacs in 1418, was ready and waiting to deliver the city from the English. He had with him a general pardon from Charles VII, sealed with his great seal, which the duke of Burgundy had procured on behalf of those Parisians who would immediately change their allegiance. Armed with this knowledge, l’Isle-Adam’s friends and contacts among the leading Parisian citizens were already at work preparing for his return. A message was smuggled out to him, telling him to be at the Saint-Jacques gate in the early hours of 13 April 1436.
L’Isle-Adam arrived at the rendezvous with Richemont, the Bastard of Orléans and several thousand troops. Shown the general pardon, the guards at the gate offered no resistance, the conspirators let down ladders and l’Isle-Adam led the way into the city. So it was that the man who had forced Charles VII, as dauphin, to flee the city in 1418 was now responsible for his restoration, as king, seventeen years later. L’Isle-Adam had the gates flung open and, to the cleverly chosen cry of ‘Peace! Long live the king and the duke of Burgundy!’, his army swept down the streets into the university district, where Burgundian loyalties had always been strong and least resistance could be expected, then across the Île-de-la-Cité into the main part of the city.
When the alarm was raised the English formed into three companies, one of which, under Jean l’Archier, the lieutenant of the provost, ‘one of the cruellest Christians in the world . . . a fat villain, round as a barrel’, was sent to secure the Saint-Denis gate to the north. Making his way through the deserted streets shouting the rather less persuasive rallying cry of ‘Saint George! Saint George! You French traitors, we’ll kill the lot of you!’, he arrived only to find that the citizens had got there before him. They had already secured the gate and turned its cannon on him, forcing him to join the general retreat of the loyalist forces into the Saint-Anthoine district. Lord Willoughby, captain of Paris since the defection of the Burgundians, and Louis de Luxembourg had been equally unsuccessful with their companies, finding that the citizens had used against them the chains that were usually strung across the streets to hinder attackers and coming under a hail of missiles from a civilian population which scented the end of a hated regime. Outnumbered and outmanoeuvred, the English fled without taking a stand and took refuge in the Bastille.8
‘Immediately after this’, the citizen recorded in his journal, ‘the Constable and the other lords made their way through Paris as peacefully as if they had never been out of the city in their lives.’ Richemont publicly reiterated Charles VII’s general pardon for the Parisians and issued proclamations prohibiting his men from lodging in any civilian house without the owner’s permission or from insulting or robbing anyone except natives of England and mercenaries. ‘The Parisians loved them for this and before the day was out every man in Paris would have risked his life and goods to destroy the English.’9
So many Englishmen and members of their administration were packed into the Bastille that their situation was untenable but Richemont too had no desire for a siege. Willoughby and Luxembourg were therefore allowed to negotiate a heavy ransom to obtain their freedom and on 17 April they led the last Englishmen left in Paris out of the city. With them went all those who had been so compromised by their association with the regime that they could not remain, from the greatest, such as the members of the royal council, down to the door-keeper of the chambre-des-comptes, whose activities as an informer against his Armagnac neighbours made his future residence in Paris impossible. They left for Normandy with the jeers of the newly liberated population ringing in their ears. When they had gone the Parisians celebrated by ringing the church bells, singing the Te Deum and holding thanksgiving processions.10
They would soon discover that they had little to rejoice about, for they had simply exchanged one oppressive master for another. The currency, bearing Henry VI’s insignia, was devalued, huge ‘loans’ were demanded from every household, the shortage of food continued and the soldiers of the new French garrison did nothing to resist the incursions of the English but raided the neighbouring towns and villages for all the provisions they could seize. The return and restoration to office and property of those Armagnacs who had fled Paris in 1418 was also a source of conflict and grievance since it inevitably dispossessed some who had legitimately taken their place.11
There is a poignant footnote to the ‘liberation’ of Paris which reveals its human cost. Many families were divided by the civil war. For some this was a pragmatic arrangement. Georges de la Trémoïlle, for example, had joined the Armagnacs in 1418 while his brother, Jean, sire de Jonville, remained loyal to the Burgundians. As a consequence they were able to keep their family estates intact since Georges was given the lands confiscated from Jean and vice versa. This was by no means a unique arrangement. However, for others, separation from their families was forced upon them. Arnoul Turgis, for example, remained in Paris after the expulsion of the English and became an officer of the watch but his son Nicaise was one of eight royal secretaries obliged to leave and he continued in Henry VI’s service.12
The saddest story of all was that of Jehanette Roland, whose parents owned a house in the ‘English quarter’ of the rue Saint-Anthoine where she had met and fallen in love with an English herald, Gilbert Dowel, Wexford pursuivant to lord Talbot, when the latter was captain of the Bastille from 1434 to 1435. The pair had become formally betrothed just before the expulsion of the English, and afterwards Jehanette announced her intention of going to find her fiancé and marry him. Her parents and friends, afraid of the consequences in the light of the new regime, did their best to dissuade her but she declared that ‘as long as she lived, she would have no other husband’. She remained adamant even when the parlement ordered her to be imprisoned to prevent her leaving Paris.
On 11 January 1437 she was remanded into the custody of her parents on bail of a hundred silver marks. Her fiancé, in the meantime, had remained equally steadfast and on 22 January he lodged a plea with the parlement demanding his right to marry her and take her with him. Two days later judgement was pronounced: ‘The court will not permit Jehanette to go with the said Wexford and become English during the war and the division between the king and the English.’ The case should rightly have been heard in the ecclesiastical courts, but canon law would have upheld their marriage, hence the intervention of the parlement. And since the issue was not within its jurisdiction the parlement had to invent a new justification for its decision: the marriage was acceptable in peacetime but allowing it to take place during time of war would add to the number of the king’s enemies and was therefore not permissible.13
This heartless doctrine was more explicitly set out in the case of Denise Le Verrat, who married her man, a merchant from Lucca with strong English ties, at the beginning of 1436. When he was expelled a few weeks later, she obtained permission to join him but they were then both declared rebels and all their property in Paris was confiscated. Her mother tried to get the judgement overturned on the grounds that her daughter was bound by divine and canon law to obey her husband and go to him. In 1441 theparlementupheld the forfeiture, declaring Denise had a duty to obey her prince above her husband, that she had committed a crime in joining him and, as a consequence, joining the English and that she had aggravated that crime by having four children in Rouen, thus increasing the ranks of the king’s enemies.14
To all intents and purposes the loss of Paris put an end to the English kingdom of France. Henry VI and his ministers did not drop his title or his claim to the crown but all the offices of state were, of necessity, transferred to Rouen. The duchy of Normandy and the enclave of Calais were now all that remained in English hands in northern France, and both were under threat. On 7 May Talbot dashed to the rescue of Gisors, which had been betrayed to La Hire and Xaintrailles, probably by John Baedolf, an English member of the garrison; the town had fallen but the garrison had retreated to the fortress and held out for three days before Talbot’s prompt arrival put the besiegers to flight. Perhaps as a reward for this feat, but certainly in recognition of his abilities in the field, on 9 May Talbot was appointed a marshal of France, raising him broadly to the same status as lord Scales, the seneschal of Normandy.15
At about the same time the council at Rouen received urgent messages reporting that the castle of Saint-Denis-le-Gast, eleven miles south of Coutances, had been captured by the sires de Lohéac, de la Roche and de Bueil, who were now raiding near the town, capturing supplies and threatening neighbouring Chanteloup castle. Enemy prisoners taken in the vicinity boasted that Coutances would fall but it was actually the bastille at Granville, isolated on its rocky peninsula on the edge of Saint-Michel bay, that was seized. A flurry of spies then reported that the Armagnacs were building extra fortifications and planning a raid on Saint-Lô.
Lord Scales, from his base at Domfront, issued a general call to arms throughout the bailliage on 22 May, together with an urgent order for the carpenters and labourers necessary for a siege; he also wrote to the Channel Islands requesting the aid of English ships based there for a blockade. With the marches of all lower Normandy at risk and desperate for more men, Scales took the unauthorised and unorthodox step of recruiting ‘certain soldiers, not taking or being then on any wages, living and dwelling in the open countryside on our poor and loyal subjects’; since they were poorly armed he also supplied them with bows, strings and arrows at his own expense, later struggling to obtain reimbursement from the accountants of the treasury.16
The very fact that Scales was reduced to such measures was an indictment of the dilatory military response from England. The duke of York’s ‘great army’ promised in December 1435 had still not sailed. It was not until 20 February that York eventually signed his contract to serve for a year with 500 men-at-arms and 2500 archers. Haggling over his title and powers delayed his appointment even further, for this was not to be merely the leadership of a military expedition but that of the English administration in France as well. There was not to be another regent, with independent powers, for no one could replace Bedford. Only Gloucester, the king’s sole surviving uncle, had the rank to demand such a position but his behaviour as protector of England had convinced the councils on both sides of the Channel that he could not be trusted with untrammelled power in France. Fortunately Gloucester himself was reluctant to push his claim, fearing that he would lose all power and influence in England if he left the country.
With no obvious candidate to take Bedford’s place, and the possibility that Henry might wish to make radical changes to the structure of the administration when his minority ended in a few years’ time, the royal council was determined to limit the role of the next head of the government in France. York had no doubt wanted to be, like Bedford, ‘regent and governor’, but instead he had to settle for ‘lieutenant-general’, at a salary of 30,000l.t. (£1.75m). What is more, his period of office was limited to a year and he was denied Bedford’s power to appoint to major military and civil offices or to grant lands worth more than 1000 saluts (£80,208). It was this emasculated role which would become the blueprint for future appointments, creating a conflict of interest and authority in the English kingdom of France which had not existed before. The greatest problem it caused was that, effectively, supreme authority on behalf of the king was no longer exercised by a single regent but by a lieutenant-general on a short-term contract, whose own appointment and powers were subject to the royal council in England. And that council was both too far away to understand or deal rapidly with affairs as they developed on the ground in France and also riven with faction, leaving the appointment of the lieutenant-general at the mercy of prevailing party politics.
It was a poor omen for the future prospects of the English kingdom of France that the lengthy debate over the office of the lieutenant-general delayed the sealing of York’s formal commission until 8 May 1436–by which time Paris had fallen and his sphere of authority had shrunk from a kingdom to a duchy.17
Despite the military imperative, York had refused to leave until his powers were settled. Even the council became frustrated with his failure to embark, ‘praying you that, considering the great jeopardy that the said countries stand in . . . and also the great hurt and loss that daily falls upon us, without longer delay, with your retinue, take your passage into our said realm and duchy, to the consolation and comfort of our true subjects there’. The duke, like the leaders of the earlier contingents, blamed lack of available shipping – a direct result of the council’s own lack of foresight in disbanding and selling off Henry V’s navy. In a belated acknowledgement of this, and in an attempt to protect both English shipping and the southern coast, the council encouraged ship-owners to become privateers, relaxing Henry V’s stiff penalties for breaking safe-conducts and allowing them to keep any booty or ships they might acquire.18
Since every other port on the Channel coast between Harfleur and Calais now belonged to the enemy, York was obliged to disembark at Honfleur, the nearest port to Rouen still left in English hands. Some of his troops were mustered there on landing on 7 June but, all told, the combined army of York and the earls of Suffolk and Salisbury, who accompanied him, amounted to only 4500 men. Even if the 1770 already sent in the advance forces were added to this, England had provided 6270 men, rather than the 11,100 Henry VI had promised. And York’s army, unlike the earlier contingents which had contracted to serve for two years, was committed only for a year.19
York made his way straight to Rouen, where he took up residence in some style for the next three months. He seems to have interpreted his role as being administrative rather than leading from the front in the field and had the good sense to entrust the active military campaigns to those most experienced and capable, whom he appointed his own lieutenants-general for the waging of war. Scales would continue to hold the marches of lower Normandy against the threat from the Bretons, the duke of Alençon and the garrison of Mont-Saint-Michel. Talbot, ably assisted by William Neville, lord Fauconberg, who within the next twelve months would be given his own independent command in the central marches based at Évreux and Verneuil, set about the recovery of the Caux region with the aid of York’s reinforcements. By the end of the year a large part of what had been lost to the Armagnacs was back in English hands, though no attempt had been made to lay siege to either Harfleur or Dieppe, and Fécamp, which had been recaptured, was lost again a few days later when the expelled garrison gained access to the town by removing the iron grate through which a stream flowed out under the town walls.20
The castle of Lillebonne, a few miles east of Tancarville, was retaken by a clever, if risky, stratagem devised by Fulk Eyton, Talbot’s captain at neighbouring Caudebec. He persuaded a captured member of the Lillebonne garrison, who was unable to pay the ransom demanded, to collaborate in return for his freedom. He was told to go back to his garrison and act as though nothing had happened. To allay suspicions he was to continue taking part in nightly raids from Lillebonne, returning there with Englishmen from Caudebec whom he claimed to have captured, thus building up a contingent within the castle. This he did until finally he came back with a party of several horses and men ‘disguised as prisoners’. Once they were on the bridge they abandoned their pretence, seized the porter, gained entrance and promptly made themselves masters of the castle and those within it. For this ‘signal service’, which ended the disruption to traffic on the Seine, Eyton was rewarded with the gift of 3510l.t. (£204,750), which was levied as a tax on the inhabitants of the duchy.21
While the English were distracted by the loss of Paris and the need to defend Normandy, Philippe of Burgundy decided that this was an opportune moment to seize Calais. This was a logical extension of his long-term plan to annex all the Low Countries which, ironically, he had been able to carry out so far because his English allies had kept the Armagnacs occupied elsewhere. The fulfilment of this objective had been one of the reasons why he had defected, leaving Calais and its marches isolated from Normandy and vulnerable. As the home of the Staple, which had the monopoly on the export of wool, England’s most valuable commodity, to the continent, Calais was vital to the financial interests not only of England, but also those areas of the Low Countries, in particular Flanders, which depended on the supply of high-quality wool to make cloth. The Flemings deeply resented both this monopoly, which arbitrarily drove up their own costs, and the increasingly successful trade in home-produced English cloth, which undercut their products. The Treaty of Arras had freed the duke to place a ban on English imports into his dominions and the resulting stockpile of unsold wool at Calais was a tempting prospect to Flemish merchants and weavers.
Philippe of Burgundy’s defection had raised feeling against him in England to fever pitch: his ambassadors were arrested and the London mob pillaged the houses of Flemish merchants. Gloucester also continued to harbour resentment towards the duke for thwarting his own ambitions in Hainault in 1424. Always an advocate of Calais, whose lieutenancy he had resumed on his brother’s death, when English spies reported that Burgundy was preparing an assault on the town, he leapt into action with an alacrity that had been noticeably lacking in his support for the English kingdom of France. He had the backing of both parliament and the city of London, where the mercantile interest was powerfully represented.22
As part of his price for financing the campaigns of 1436, Cardinal Beaufort had procured a two-year independent commission in Anjou and Maine for his nephew, Edmund Beaufort, so that he could protect Bedford’s inheritance in those counties and his own interests in Mortain. Beaufort had recruited two thousand men, sixteen hundred of them archers, in preparation for what was intended to be a field campaign, and they were ready to sail in April. At the last minute, however, because these were the only forces available, Gloucester diverted Beaufort to the defence of Calais, where his field army was so effectively deployed in raids into Flanders that he was rewarded with election to the Order of the Garter. John Radclyf, the lieutenant of Calais, meanwhile kept both citizens and garrison on their toes, having the alarm bell rung to signify an attack ‘but there was none; for Sir John Radclyf did it for a sport, because it was Saint George’s Day, and for that he wanted to see how [quickly] soldiers would buckle and dress themselves in their armour’.23
The attack was slow in coming but it was made by one of the biggest and best-equipped armies fielded in recent years. The wealthy Flemish cities of Ghent and Bruges, in particular, provided men from their civil militias and guns of every description. Three huge cannon were even sent from Burgundy on a journey that took forty-nine days and required roads and bridges to be reinforced: at Châlons-sur-Marne they had to be loaded on to boats as they could not cross the bridge. The smallest was none other than the Shepherdess, which had accompanied Jehanne d’Arc from Orléans to the siege of La-Charité-sur-Loire, where it had been acquired by Perrinet Gressart, who had presented it to the duke of Burgundy. A larger cannon, Prussia, was carried on a cart pulled by a team of thirty horses while the largest, Burgundy, was so heavy that it required two separate carts hauled by forty-eight horses to pull the barrel and thirty-six the chamber. In all, the duke’s records reveal he had access to ten bombards, around sixty veuglairesand fifty-five crapaudeaux (both smaller versions of the cannon), 450 culverins or handguns, several thousand cavalry lances and 450,000 crossbow bolts.24
Despite this wealth of artillery, Burgundy would later claim that he never fired a shot at Calais. He entered the Calais marches in the middle of June and captured Oye, Marck, Balinghem and Sangatte in swift succession, only Guînes, five miles south of Calais, holding out under bombardment from his ‘great brass gun’. By 9 July he was encamped before the town itself, employing several artists to paint a vista of the salient points to plan his attack and waiting for his fleet to arrive to complete the blockade. He had some thirty-five ships of varying sizes and different nationalities, including nine small Breton boats, prepared to sail from Sluis, in Zeeland, and fourteen hundred marines on his payroll, but what he did not have was a prevailing wind. So he had to sit there, seething with frustration, while the contrary winds which kept his fleet pinned into its harbour blew English ships daily into Calais.25
It was not until 25 July that Burgundy’s fleet finally arrived but, to the dismay of the Flemish militias on shore, all it did was scuttle a few ancient boats in the harbour to prevent English ships entering or leaving, and then depart. Since they had misjudged the depth of the water, the people of Calais were able to go out at low tide, dismantle the boats for firewood, remove the stones for building work in the church of Saint Mary and open up the harbour for business again.
On 28 July the English garrison sallied out, destroyed the wooden bastille of the men of Ghent and killed its defenders; that night the remaining Ghenters panicked when they heard reinforcements from England disembarking in Calais, packed their bags and decamped. The next morning the men of Bruges, discovering that they had been abandoned, deserted too. They left behind their provisions and much of their renowned artillery. The whole débâcle was so shameful that the duke (who blamed the Flemish) later claimed that he had never fired a shot or summoned the inhabitants to surrender: since these were the two requirements for formally commencing a siege, he could therefore comfort himself with the thought that he had merely ‘lodged before’ Calais, rather than ‘laid siege to’ it and failed.26
In the meantime, anxious for revenge on his old adversary, Gloucester had determined to lead an army to the relief of Calais in person. In a remarkable display of what could be done if the political will was there, he raised an army of almost eight thousand men and set sail for Calais, arriving on 2 August. He was cheated of his moment of glory, for the Burgundians had already gone. He vented his wrath, as he had done a decade before, in leading his men on an eleven-day raid into Flanders, burning towns and crops and driving a great haul of cattle back into Calais. It was poor compensation for being deprived of the opportunity to inflict a crushing defeat on Burgundy and, in the process, make good his claim to the county of Flanders, which Henry VI had granted to him just before he crossed the Channel. Nevertheless, the most serious threat to Calais in decades had been averted and Burgundy and the Flemish humiliated: such things were music to the ears of Londoners, and Gloucester returned in triumph to a hero’s welcome.27