CHAPTER TWENTY

A Last Military Effort

The capture of Granville placed added pressure on Talbot to bring his siege of Dieppe to a successful conclusion. This clearly could not be done without the assistance of a large expeditionary force from England. Summer campaigns in Normandy had long been dependent on the arrival of these reinforcements and York’s deed of appointment as lieutenant-general had promised him £20,000 (£10.5m) annually to pay their wages. The exchequer had struggled to pay this from the start and by the end of 1442 he was already owed half the sum due for that year with no expectation of receiving it until the next instalment of a lay subsidy was collected in May 1443.1

York also faced increasing competition for the limited resources of England as a result of Charles VII’s successful campaigns in Gascony. With intelligence reports that Charles was planning to resume his offensive with Castilian support in the spring of 1443 and that a concerted attack on Normandy was in the offing, the English council had to take a decision worthy of Solomon: whether to commit everything to the defence of one duchy and see off the threat decisively, but possibly lose the other altogether, or to divide what was available and risk losing one or both. Most of those present at the meeting when the matter was discussed on 6 February 1443 sat on the fence, unhelpfully advising that an army should be sent wherever it was most needed, but Cardinal Beaufort’s ally, the treasurer, lord Cromwell, reminded them that the money sent to Normandy the previous year had been wasted. When the council reconvened on 2 March he told them that it would be financially impossible to send two armies and that the king, his lords and captains would have to take a decision one way or the other. In the meantime a small force under two West Country knights, Sir William Bonville, the captured Rempston’s replacement as seneschal, and the veteran John Popham, set sail for Gascony in February, only to lose one of their ships and a third of their men to winter storms on the long sea voyage.2

In this crisis it was once again the Beauforts who stepped into the breach. John, earl of Somerset, had already offered the previous autumn to lead a major expedition to Gascony ‘in all possible haste’ but his appointment foundered when the council refused to cancel York’s assignment on the lay subsidy in favour of Cardinal Beaufort, whose loans would finance the expedition. By the time the council met again, on 30 March, Somerset had once more agreed to serve but, possibly at his suggestion, a radical new strategy had been devised to solve the problem of choosing between Gascony and Normandy.

The failings of the past few years had dictated that it was ‘full fitting and necessary that the manner and conduct of the war be changed’ from the defensive to the offensive. Somerset would therefore lead the largest army to set out for France since Henry VI’s expedition for his coronation in 1430; he would take the shortest route across the Channel, thus avoiding the fate of Bonville’s fleet and allowing him to land at Cherbourg, where he was captain; he would pass through lower Normandy and cross the Loire into Armagnac territory, where he would wage the ‘most cruel and mortal war that he can and may’. The primary objective was to draw Charles VII from Gascony, force him to battle, inflict on him a second Agincourt or Verneuil and so drive him in suppliant mode to the peace table. Even if these events failed to materialise, Henry VI rather lamely explained to York, the huge English army would act as a shield between Normandy and ‘the adversary’.3

Such a policy had long had its advocates in England. Gloucester, for one, had consistently argued the need for a surge in troop numbers combined with a hard-hitting offensive instead of the piecemeal war of attrition conducted by both sides. The most eloquent proponent was lord Fastolf, who had fought as a humble esquire at Agincourt, was made a knight-banneret on the field of Verneuil and had defended in arms the English kingdom of France continuously since 1417. His knowledge, experience and commitment to the war, as well as his long service as master of Bedford’s household and as a councillor of Bedford himself, York and Gloucester, entitled him to have his views heard. He had argued passionately against accepting the peace terms offered at Arras, urging instead, in words that found their echo in Somerset’s commission, ‘that the traitors and rebels must have another kind of war, and more sharp and more cruel war’. He was no friend of the Beauforts and his solution differed markedly from the policy they now initiated, but he too had advocated a scorched-earth policy on the Norman border and an end to siege warfare, unless a place ‘be right prenable’, that is, easily taken.4

Somerset’s terms for conducting this campaign were remarkably bold. Before he signed his contract he must be elevated to a dukedom and take precedence over Norfolk (who had shown no interest in the war effort), so that he ranked behind only Gloucester and York; to support his new status he wanted 1000 marks (£350,000) of additional income, though this was whittled down to 600 marks (£210,000), which was to be drawn from the grant to him of Bedford’s earldom of Kendal. His command was to be completely independent of York and he was to exercise full royal rights in any ‘countries, lands, towns, castles, fortresses and places as he shall get within the said realm and duchy and elsewhere’, including the right to acquire those places for himself and his heirs, dispose of them as he wished and appoint to all civil and military posts. He was also to have all the royal rights to gains of war, even down to the third of a third of their value which captains could claim from those who won them.

Somerset further demanded that, like his own contract of service, his brother’s seven-year grant of office as captain-general and governor of Anjou and Maine should henceforth be held under the great seal of England rather than France, meaning that he would no longer be subordinate to York; when that term of office ended, or if York’s council in Normandy successfully overturned the grant, as it was trying to do, then Somerset insisted that he should take his brother’s place. And he wanted the county of Alençon too. As these terms suggest, Somerset was just as interested in personal aggrandisement and the old Beaufort scheme of acquiring Bedford’s inheritance in France as he was in defending Normandy. Gascony does not seem to have featured at all in his thinking, other than as a subsidiary beneficiary of the plan to induce Charles VII to withdraw from the duchy to confront Somerset’s army.

Somerset was well aware that his conditions for accepting leadership of this expedition went well beyond those ever sought by previous captains. They were also a direct challenge to the authority of York as lieutenant-general. Somerset had already warned that any powers granted to himself would be ineffectual, ‘seeing that my said lord of York hath the whole power before of all the said realm and duchy’ and he refused to serve unless he had York’s goodwill and ‘consentment’. (Neither he nor his brother had served in France since York’s appointment as lieutenant-general, so this was not a threat to be taken lightly.) To make it more difficult for York to withhold that consent, Somerset persuaded the malleable king to write to him in person, telling him of the new arrangements.

As a sop to York, Somerset’s own cumbersome title was to be that of ‘lieutenant and captain-general of our duchy of Gascony and of our realm of France in the areas in which our very dear and beloved cousin the duke of York does not actually exercise the power given to him on our behalf’. This was so vague as to be meaningless. Did it mean that if Somerset recaptured Dieppe or Granville, for instance, these places would belong to him, rather than be restored to the duchy and York’s authority? Somerset’s trump card was the king’s agreement to the independent status of his commission: no one ‘neither in this realm nor beyond the sea’ could command him to do anything which was contrary to his ‘own will and intent’.5

One of the reasons why Somerset obtained such extraordinary concessions was that the twenty-one-year-old Henry was genuinely concerned to promote and strengthen the extended royal family. Unmarried and childless himself, with no legitimate cousins, the prolific Beauforts were his nearest blood relatives, though their illegitimate descent from John of Gaunt debarred them from the throne. Henry believed that Somerset’s high birth entitled him to command, despite his lack of military experience. A more powerful reason was that Cardinal Beaufort was prepared to finance the expedition – if it was led by his nephew. In the three years since 1439 he had loaned just 13,000 marks (£4.55m); for Somerset’s mobilisation he would lend £20,000 (£10.5m) to pay the army’s wages for six months and £1167 (£612,675) to enable it to ship across the Channel. It was the largest amount of money he had ever loaned in a single year and it dwarfed the £5250 (£2.76m) which was the sum total of all other loans.6 Henry’s weakness of character had once again allowed the personal and factional ambitions of his courtiers to triumph over the needs of his kingdom overseas.

News of Somerset’s appointment and the unusual latitude of his powers was received with consternation by York and the council in Rouen, which had not been consulted on this important issue so closely affecting the duchy. In June York sent a high-level delegation, led by Talbot, Andrew Ogard, the treasurer John Stanlawe and the royal secretary Jean de Rinel, to seek formal clarification of Somerset’s authority and if necessary register a formal protest. Their concerns were not appeased when York sought the £20,000 which his contract had promised him and was urged to ‘take patience for a time’ because Somerset’s expedition was very expensive and would leave little to spare for other enterprises. Clearly there would be no money or manpower available for the recovery of Dieppe, Granville, Louviers or Évreux, which was the duchy’s own military priority. The deputation urged the king to reconsider, or at least limit Somerset’s powers, but its pleas fell on deaf ears. Somerset’s commission remained unchanged and Talbot, who should then have been reinforcing his siege of Dieppe, could only obtain a promise of a single light warship to aid his enterprise.7

Convinced that he could surpass the quality and quantity of the army which had accompanied York to Normandy in 1441, Somerset had offered to raise one thousand men-at-arms, of whom four would be barons, eight bannerets and thirty knights. The council wisely trimmed this back to eight hundred men-at-arms and in the event Somerset could only muster 758: his much-vaunted aristocratic contingent consisted of a single banneret, Sir Thomas Kyriell, and just six knights. Extra archers had to be drafted in to substitute for the missing nobility. His plans for embarkation were equally overambitious. When he signed his contract on 8 April the date for his muster and departure had been set at 17 June. Rightly appreciating the urgency, Somerset had twice suggested an earlier date, but he did not turn up even on 17 June or on a deferred occasion. The delay cost £500 (£262,500) daily and many of those who had mustered promptly deserted, taking the king’s wages with them; others mustered twice in different places, enabling them fraudulently to claim two sets of wages. Observing this chaos and delay, the council finally lost patience on 9 July and ordered him to leave immediately, ‘all excuses ceasing’. Even then it was not until the end of July that he set sail with an army whose final numbers were still in dispute but, according to the musters, consisted of one banneret, six knights, 592 men-at-arms and 3949 archers.8

A fleet of three hundred ships ferried this huge army to Cherbourg at the beginning of August, together with all its baggage, horses, supplies and a vast artillery train, including twenty cartloads of ribauldequins (a medieval version of the machine gun with up to twelve barrels firing a volley of shots at the same time), a new cannon and a bridge of barrels that Somerset had ordered to be made for him at the king’s cost ‘to pass the rivers that he shall find in his way’. Even before he got to his first river, Somerset encountered difficulties: he did not have enough carts and wagons to transport all his equipment. He therefore decided to levy a charroy, the local tax designed for such occasions, in the six vicomtés through which he passed: this enabled him to requisition all available transport, even from church property, and raise money to pay the wages of those accompanying them. Since he was armed with letters patent from the king ordering all royal officials in the realm of France and the duchy of Normandy to obey his commands diligently, they did so, but under protest, since the vicomtés were indisputably within York’s jurisdiction and they had no authorisation from him.9

Details of Somerset’s campaign are sketchy and confused. By 17 August he was at Avranches, seventy-three miles south of Cherbourg, ordering a charroy for the 120 carts he needed for the next stage of his journey. Then, according to plan, he marched through Maine and into Anjou, at some point being joined by his brother, Edmund Beaufort, and Matthew Gough. Like him, they both had significant landed interests in Maine. Having joined forces they ravaged and burned Anjou right up to the walls of Angers. And there they stopped. The river Loire was just two miles further south but they made no effort to cross it or invade into enemy territory. Instead they retreated thirty-nine miles north-west into northern Anjou to lay siege to Pouancé, a town belonging to the duke of Alençon. It is possible that, in reaching Angers, the army had run on too far and too fast in its campaign of devastation, for the order on 17 August for levying the charroy at Avranches had specified Pouancé as the destination for the wagons.10

Whatever the reason, the siege of Pouancé proved fruitless, unless its real objective was to draw out d’Alençon from his main stronghold at Château-Gontier twenty-five miles away. Certainly a relief army did gather there and, when spies brought this information to Pouancé, Matthew Gough was dispatched with a sizeable force to intercept them. Catching them by surprise, he succeeded in routing them and bringing back a number of prisoners. Though an undoubted victory, it was not another Agincourt or Verneuil, and no one of note was captured, least of all Alençon himself.11

When several weeks of siege had failed to persuade Pouancé to submit, Somerset decided to cut his losses and try somewhere else. Fifteen miles further north, just inside the Breton border, lay La Guerche, which also belonged to Alençon. Its Armagnac garrison had plagued English territories in Maine, including those belonging to the Beauforts; in 1438 Somerset’s brother Edmund had captured it briefly and extorted a four-year truce from Alençon. That truce was now at an end. Somerset could also argue that a truce with Brittany which he himself, as lieutenant-general, had negotiated in June 1440 had also technically lapsed. Not only had the old duke died in August 1442 but also the existence of Alençon’s garrison at La Guerche was in breach of the Breton undertaking not to shelter England’s enemies.

Somerset therefore had no compunction in laying siege to the town: its inhabitants surrendered and those with Armagnac connections were arrested. Somerset’s men pillaged the surrounding countryside while their captain, also acting like an écorcheur, demanded a ransom of 20,000 saluts (£1.6m) from the new duke of Brittany, François I, to release La Guerche and prolong the truce. Half that sum was paid on 16 October, with the remainder due after Christmas.12

Since Henry VI had ceded his royal right to the gains of war to Somerset, the latter had made himself a handsome profit. He had also created a major diplomatic incident. The furious duke, who had offered his services as a mediator for peace talks with Charles VII and actually had an embassy in England for that purpose at the time, protested through his ambassadors and demanded reparations. Henry VI was particularly mortified as the leader of the embassy, Gilles de Bretaigne, was the duke’s brother and his own particular friend. He immediately disowned Somerset’s actions, offered restitution and showered Gilles with gifts including a pension of 1000 marks (£350,000), two ‘books of song for his chapel’ which had belonged to the recently deceased Louis de Luxembourg and a gold cup containing £100 (£52,500). A formal reprimand was sent to Somerset from the council which even Cardinal Beaufort signed.13

From La Guerche Somerset retired into Maine, where he undertook the reduction of Beaumont-le-Vicomte, an important Armagnac fortress commanding the main road between Alençon and Le Mans, both places where his brother happened to be captain. Though the Beauforts had again expected that a relief army would be sent, none materialised, and the fortress surrendered. It was the last action of the campaign, for though Somerset’s contract of service was for a year, the wages of his men had not been paid beyond the end of the six months that had already expired. Another clause in his extraordinary contract allowed him to return home if the payments fell into arrears, which is exactly what he chose to do. At the end of December he disbanded his army in Normandy, where some of the men joined the garrison at Falaise and others were left to live off their wits and the countryside, much to the distress of the local population. The infamous artillery train, whose transport had caused so many problems, was later discovered where Somerset had left it, with his lieutenant at Avranches.14

Somerset returned to England at the beginning of January 1444 to find that he was a disgraced man. His expedition had not been a complete failure but neither had it been the hoped-for triumph. The manner and conduct of the war had not been changed dramatically: despite the weight of expectation and the precious resources poured into it, his campaign resembled nothing so much as those that had always been waged on the frontiers. The Beauforts had benefited more than the realm or the duchy. More damaging was the deep offence he had caused to the dukes of Brittany and Alençon, driving them into the arms of Charles VII at a time when both were potential English allies.

Somerset’s insistence on having full personal control of his expedition now came back to haunt him. He was held entirely responsible for its failure to achieve great things. Though no formal charges were laid against him, he may have been banished from court and council, as he retired permanently to his private estates at Wimborne in Dorset. He died there a broken man, at the age of forty, on 27 May 1444: rumour had it that he had committed suicide. Even before he died formal inquiries were launched into the ‘crimes, murders, mutilations, abuses, robberies, pillages, exactions and other offences and evils’ committed by the soldiers he had abandoned in Normandy. Posthumously he was accused of levying the charroy illegally and corruptly: in 1446 another inquiry revealed he had received just over 5210l.t. (£303,917) from it and his executors were pursued for monies he had obtained from the crown for his expenses and equipment.15

Somerset was emphatically not the right man to lead a major offensive, not just because of his lack of military experience but because he was in poor health even before he left England and was not fit for the rigours of campaigning in the field. Undoubtedly he embarked upon his expedition believing that it was in the best interests of England and Normandy – interests which he regarded as synonymous with those of the Beauforts and the preservation of their possessions in Maine. It was therefore ironic that the diversion of resources to his expedition and, even more, his insistence on his right to independent command, caused irreparable damage to Normandy.

From the moment of his landing at Cherbourg in August 1443 to his final departure five months later Somerset never once made contact with the duke of York or the council at Rouen. He therefore did not know that on 12 August the dauphin, the Bastard of Orléans, Raoul de Gaucourt and the count of Saint-Pol had entered Dieppe with a reinforcement of sixteen hundred men. This was the third and largest relief column to enter the town since Talbot had built his bastille there, and the captain, Charles Desmarets, already had several hundred men-at-arms at his service, including Guillaume de Ricarville, whose bold coup in 1432 had captured Rouen castle. The arrival of such a huge relief force, however, was a clear indication that an attempt was about to be made to break the siege.16

At eight o’clock on the morning of 14 August 1443 the dauphin had his trumpets sounded to launch an assault on the English bastille. He had brought with him five or six wooden bridges on wheels and several cranes to assist in levering them into position over the ditches surrounding the bastille. By this means his men were able to rush the bastille walls, only to meet with a barrage of missiles and arrows from the garrison which killed up to a hundred of them and wounded several hundred more. Urged on by the dauphin, and encouraged by the arrival of between sixty and eighty large mechanical crossbows brought by the citizens of Dieppe, they renewed their assault and, after fierce hand-to-hand fighting, they carried the day. More than three hundred of the defenders were killed and the dauphin ordered all surviving native French-speakers to be executed as traitors: eight men-at-arms, four archers and two cannoneers were duly hanged. Sir William Peyto, Sir John Ripley and Henry Talbot were among the prisoners. The dauphin ordered that the bastille should be dismantled and all the artillery found there was carried into Dieppe to add to the town arsenal.17

This disaster could have been avoided if Somerset had diverted his army to Dieppe – and in taking on the dauphin he could have won the major victory which later eluded him in Anjou. Instead a siege which had lasted ten months was broken off and no attempt to reinstate it would be made again. Dieppe, like Granville, Louviers and Évreux, would remain permanently in Armagnac hands.

Somerset’s determination to do things his own way meant that York and the council were not kept informed of either his whereabouts or his plans. Breton intelligence probably alerted them to his seizure of La Guerche, for, at the end of October, a messenger was sent from Lisieux to Brittany to locate him, find out about his army and report back to Rouen. The only contact between the English administration and Somerset was informal and at one remove: in December an ambassador of the duke of Orléans on his way for an audience with York at Rouen met and travelled with Somerset as he made his way home from Falaise to Caen.18

Though Somerset was answerable to the English government, his refusal even to communicate, let alone cooperate, with the Norman administration was reprehensible. The disappointment in England over his singular lack of achievement in his campaign was as nothing to the bitterness in Normandy. The authority of York and his council had been undermined and Somerset’s personal enrichment rubbed salt in the wound. York was still owed his £20,000 (£10.5m) for the year and the straitened finances were felt in all the military operations within the duchy. At the end of October 1443, for instance, lord Scales was personally owed 600l.t. (£35,000) for his own employment and more than ten times that amount for the unpaid wages of fifty-one men-at-arms and 318 archers he had withdrawn from garrisons elsewhere in the duchy for a field army to contain the depredations of the Granville garrison. Nothing more clearly illustrates the necessity of scraping together funds from all available sources at this period than the fact that, considering ‘the present need and the slenderness of our finances, he liberally condescended’ to accept a one-off payment of 3000l.t. (£175,000), two-thirds of which was to come from Norman sources but a third from York’s (unpaid) money from England.19

Somerset’s expedition did mark a turning point in the conduct of the war, but not in the way he had hoped. The Breton embassy which had arrived in England in August 1443 had brought an invitation from the duke to accept his mediation for a resumption of peace negotiations. Undoubtedly this came with the prior endorsement of Charles VII: the timing suggests that by reopening the diplomatic channels for peace, which he had kept firmly closed since the release of Charles d’Orléans, he was hoping to undermine, or even forestall, any military success by Somerset’s army. Henry VI had leapt at the chance of peace when it was first offered but he had always been pacific by nature. Somerset’s failure to impose a military solution persuaded even the most hawkish members of the council that a negotiated settlement was now the only way forward. Within weeks of Somerset’s ignominious return the formal peace process began anew.

On 1 February 1444 the king and his council took the momentous decision to send William, earl of Suffolk, to France to treat for a peace or a truce with ‘our uncle of France’ and to discuss Henry VI’s marriage with a French princess. Suffolk was now one of the most powerful figures at court, his star having risen as those of the elderly Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort declined. As steward of the royal household he had gained influence over the young king by identifying with his interests, but he had astutely avoided polarising court opinion against him. His record of military service in France from 1415 to 1429, and finally in 1435 and 1436, and his participation in many previous peace embassies, including Arras, are symptomatic of his beliefs in the need to preserve England’s French possessions by military force and in the benefit of seeking peace from a position of strength.

In the wake of Somerset’s expedition, however, the English were not in a position of strength and Suffolk had strong reservations about assuming the leadership of a peace embassy, particularly as the French had specifically asked him to do so. Aware that he was setting himself up for a fall, and with Somerset’s example of the dangers of personal responsibility still vividly before him, Suffolk protested against his appointment to the council. Ultimately, at the king’s insistence, he accepted the role, but only after he received royal letters patent giving him absolute indemnity against being held to account for anything he did in good faith while carrying out the king’s orders with regard to either the peace or the marriage. In other words, responsibility for the mission and its outcome began and ended with the king.20

Suffolk’s reluctance to lead the embassy was genuine and well founded. It was an unenviable position. His instructions came from a king who was determined to have peace at almost any price and he was negotiating with another king whose very survival had depended on his guile. Suffolk had sought the appointment of experienced associates and in Adam Moleyns and Sir Robert Roos received them: Moleyns, in particular, was a professional lawyer and diplomat, keeper of the privy seal as of 11 February 1444, a noted humanist whose Latin ‘was the best written in England since Peter of Blois’ and in his spare time bishop of Chichester.21

On 15 March the English ambassadors landed at Harfleur. They made their way first to Rouen, presumably to consult with the lieutenant-general and council, then to Le Mans in Maine. Vendôme, where it had eventually been arranged that the first meetings would take place on 8 April, lay in enemy territory but roughly equidistant between English Le Mans, Orléans (whose duke would play a part in the proceedings) and Tours, where Charles VII regularly held court. From Vendôme they were escorted to Blois, where they were met by Suffolk’s former prisoner, Charles d’Orléans, then on 16 April to Tours, where the dukes of Anjou, Brittany and Alençon were waiting to introduce them to Charles VII the following day. A Burgundian delegation made its way into Tours on 3 May but the duke himself did not attend: he was deliberately being marginalised by Charles, who, in what should have been a warning to the English, had reneged on the promises he had made at Arras. The last to arrive was the person who had absolutely no voice in the proceedings, but without whom there would be no peace: Margaret, the fourteen-year-old daughter of René, duke of Anjou, whom Charles had selected as Henry VI’s bride.22

At what point Margaret’s name had been put forward is not clear, but the speed of the settlement after her arrival suggests that it had been discussed and approved even before Suffolk left England. Quite why she should have been thought a suitable wife for the king of England and France is also unclear. She was a Valois princess in that she was the great-granddaughter of Charles V, but she was only the niece by marriage of Charles VII. Her father and uncle, René and Charles d’Anjou, enjoyed privileged and influential positions at court, having been brought up with Charles, but her grandmother, the formidable Yolande of Aragon, had died in November 1442. She had, more appropriately, already been touted as a potential bride for the counts of Saint-Pol, Charolais and Nevers but nothing had come of the negotiations, not least because of her father’s slender means and inability to substantiate his claims to a glittering array of patrimonies – the kingdoms of Sicily, Naples, Aragon and (through his wife) Majorca and the duchies of Lorraine and Bar.23

A more suitable bride, as far as the English were concerned, would have been one of Charles’s own daughters. Catherine, the eldest, had already been married off at the age of eleven to Philippe of Burgundy’s son, the count of Charolais, and the third, Yolande, had been betrothed to the prince of Piedmont before her second birthday. Joan, Jeanne and Madeleine, aged between nine and one, were all available and their youth did not make them unacceptable: after all, Richard II had been twenty-nine when, in pursuit of the same goal of peace with France, he had married Charles VII’s six-year-old sister Isabelle. There were two objections to marriage with a daughter of Charles. The first, which could have been overcome, was that from the English point of view the Treaty of Troyes had disinherited that branch of the family and to marry one would implicitly reinstate the legitimacy of their claims. The second, which was insuperable, was that Charles himself had no intention of allowing a marriage which would inevitably lead to a formal partition of France and might even endanger the succession of his own son.24

So it was that the unfortunate Margaret became the sacrificial offering on the altar of peace. Except that it was not the permanent peace for which the English had hoped, nor even the ‘half-peace’, the twenty-year truce, which the French had offered before. Irrespective of the claim to the crown, neither side would concede the right to full sovereignty over Normandy, Gascony and Calais. All that could be agreed was a general military truce to last for just twenty-two months beginning on 1 June 1444 and ending on 1 April 1446. Two days later the marriage agreement was drawn up and two days after that, on 24 May 1444, the formal betrothal took place in the church of Saint-Martin at Tours.25

The ceremony was conducted at the altar by the papal legate and Suffolk stood in for Henry VI. It was witnessed by two putative kings, Charles VII and René d’Anjou, and a future undisputed king, the dauphin Louis, together with their wives and a host of the French nobility. A notable absentee was Regnault de Chartres, archbishop of Reims. Having lost three brothers at Agincourt and his father in the Burgundian seizure of Paris in 1418, he had committed his life to the peace process, endeavouring to reconcile Armagnacs and Burgundians, English and French. He had come to Tours to assist in the negotiations but had collapsed and died just before they began in earnest.26

There was a second ghost at the feast. In the chapel behind the choir lay the body of Marshal Boucicaut, whose internationally celebrated life as the great chivalric hero of France had been abruptly cut short with his capture at Agincourt. Six years later, Boucicaut had ignominiously ended his days as an English prisoner in an obscure Yorkshire manor-house.27 He had lived to see the Treaty of Troyes and the triumph of the English: now, in death, he was a witness to the event which would bring about their final destruction.

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