If Henry VI had naive illusions about the likely reception of his secret revocation of Maine, the frosty response to the public announcement of just the summit meeting between himself and Charles VII should have given him pause for thought. The longest parliament of his reign ended its fourth and final session at Westminster on 9 April 1446. The chancellor, John Stafford, archbishop of Canterbury, had opened it on 25 February 1445 with a sermon expounding the text ‘righteousness and peace kiss each other’ in anticipation of the arrival of Margaret of Anjou and the hope she brought of the Truce of Tours being converted into a permanent peace.
Now, on the final day, Stafford ‘made a certain declaration in his own name and that of the . . . lords spiritual and temporal, which he desired . . . to be enrolled and enacted in the rolls of the said parliament’.1 Though couched in courteous and diplomatic language, it was nothing less than a collective washing of hands:
It has pleased our Lord to incline your highness, to his pleasure and for the well-being of both your realms and of all your subjects of the same, towards appointing a day of convention for the matter of peace and for the good conclusion of the same to be had between your most royal person and your uncle of France; and therefore you should be within your said realm of France during the month of October next coming, by God’s might. To which said motions and promptings, as he knows, it has pleased only our Lord to stir and move you; none of the lords or your other subjects of this your realm have in any way stirred or moved you to do so.2
In other words, as Suffolk had done earlier in the same parliament, the king’s advisers disclaimed any responsibility for the king’s actions in holding the summit meeting or in its outcome. Henry needed no reminder that he alone had the power to determine foreign policy but he was being told in no uncertain terms that he alone would also be held responsible for what transpired. The lords and commons had always done their duty, Stafford declared, and would labour as far as possible to assist him in accomplishing his ‘blessed intent’, but they wished the king ‘in all humility to hold them discharged and excused from anything which goes beyond this’.
The next item on the parliament roll reveals exactly why the king’s advisers were so concerned. The Treaty of Troyes, which was the foundation of the English kingdom of France, contained a clause that no ‘treaty of peace or accord with the present king’s uncle, then called Charles the Dauphin’, could be entered into, or concluded, without the assent of the three estates of both realms. This clause was now revoked, freeing Henry legally to conclude peace on any terms he chose, without having to consult his lords and commons in the English parliament. It would, of course, have been difficult to refuse the king’s request for this revocation but it would not have been impossible and parliament was as anxious as the country at large for a permanent end to the war with France. The enrolment of Stafford’s protestation, however, was an indication of the depth of public disquiet at the prospect of a peace which few knew, but many suspected, would be founded on concession.3
It was perhaps an indication of Henry’s lack of interest in his French possessions that he did not seek a similar revocation from the estates-general in his realm overseas. It was true that this body only represented Normandy, whereas the Treaty of Troyes had been approved and registered by the national assembly, to which Henry no longer had access, having lost so much of his kingdom. The estates-general of the duchy were in session throughout January 1446 but no formal revocation was sought or given. Henry did inform the representatives of his great desire for peace and his wish to come to Normandy soon to confer in person with Charles VII, but this was merely a precursor to the usual request for money. The English parliament eventually and in instalments granted two whole subsidies to be collected over two years. The estates-general approved the levying of 130,000l.t. (£7.58) followed in July by another 60,000l.t. (£3.5m) and the imposition of a tax of twelve deniers in the livre (5p in the £1). These sums were explicitly designated for the payment of the wages of the soldiers in garrison and to deal with those soldiers living off the land.4
This was still a problem twelve months after York’s personal intervention at Argentan. The estates-general described their allocation of funds in January 1446 as being ‘to put under rule and regulation the soldiers living without order imposed on them’. In February Fulk Eyton, captain of Caudebec, was dispatched from Rouen to Argentan and Caen, ‘to put and keep in order and good government a great number of men-at-arms and archers who, on the pretext that they do not have wages or pay from us, are living off our good and loyal subjects in our duchy of Normandy, without regulation, committing great and detestable evils and causing our subjects innumerable losses’. Whether Eyton performed this task as head of an armed force, or purely in his role as a commissioner, accompanied by Sir Robert Roos, is not clear but the council in Rouen awarded him a 100l.t. (£5833) bonus on top of his salary for the expenses incurred in his journeys to and from Argentan and Caen.5
Containing and preventing military indiscipline was almost more important now than it had ever been in the past: it was no longer just that it caused the king’s subjects to suffer, but that it endangered the maintenance of the Truce of Tours. As was the usual practice, conservators of truces had been appointed by both sides to list alleged breaches of the truce and then jointly decide culpability and agree compensation. These were critical appointments, since the effort the conservators made to see fair play in repairing infractions was usually more important than the infringements themselves. For instance, when a temporary truce was made to cover the Vendôme region for the preliminary meetings before the negotiations opened at Tours in 1444, it was a clear indication of the English administration’s determination to ensure that the truce was observed that they appointed as conservators Richard Wydeville, captain of Alençon and Fresnay, François de Surienne, captain of Verneuil, Osbern Mundeford, bailli-général of Maine, and Talbot himself. Similarly a wish to see the Truce of Tours maintained ensured that once claim and counter-claim had been heard reparation for breaches of its terms was made swiftly. In the summer of 1446, for example, the conservators from both sides meeting at Évreux and Louviers decided that 850l.t. (£49,583) should be paid out by the English.6
The situation in Normandy was not helped by the fact that it had been left leaderless. Talbot had not returned to the duchy after escorting Margaret of Anjou to England and in March 1445 had been appointed the king’s lieutenant in Ireland, a post he had previously held from 1414 to 1419. His dynamic personality was undoubtedly better suited to warfare, but his military knowledge and his ability to inspire his troops would also have been useful in the limbo following the Truce of Tours. No one could better have fulfilled Suffolk’s admonition that Normandy should be prepared for a resumption of war if the peace negotiations failed.7
But Normandy had lost not just its marshal but also its lieutenant-general and governor. The duke of York’s tenure of office, which had expired at the end of September 1445, had been extended by three months, but this too had lapsed by the end of the year. The government of Normandy was therefore temporarily carried out by a committee of the council in Rouen. York himself remained in England, hoping and expecting to return, but his reappointment was apparently delayed by an audit conducted at the exchequer into his accounts for the office. He had claimed that he was owed almost £40,000 (£21m) but at the end of July he was persuaded to accept a settlement that saw him completely forgo £12,666 13s. 4d. (£6.65m) in order to receive guarantees for the remaining £26,000 (£13.65m) due to him. Even then, though he received a substantial part of this sum fairly quickly, the outstanding debt was not paid off in full for another sixteen years.8
The empty coffers of the English state were also causing problems for the king, who was himself trying to raise funds to enable him to travel to France for his summit with Charles VII in October 1446. He had already decided that his queen should accompany him and that the historic meeting should take place near Le Mans, but such an occasion demanded lavish pageantry and display on a scale neither he nor his country could afford. His pleas for loans met with a disappointing response but Henry was determined to press ahead with his arrangements.9
On 20 July 1446 Adam Moleyns and John, lord Dudley, were sent to France to finalise the details of the meeting. Their mission was somewhat hampered by the fact that, according to their king’s written undertaking, Maine should have been surrendered to René and Charles d’Anjou on 30 April. Nothing whatsoever had been done to put this into effect and the English embassy now discovered that Charles VII would not countenance a meeting, nor even an extension of the truce, until Maine had been handed over. Inch by inch he was inexorably turning the screw on his nephew. 10
Henry and his chief minister, Suffolk, had not anticipated this development: they had counted on the summit meeting to achieve a permanent peace or, at worst, a long truce, to justify the cession of Maine. Now they faced the unenviable task of being forced to reveal that the undertaking had been given with nothing to show for it except a short-term truce which would expire on 11 November 1446. Faced with this calamity, they decided that the cession would have to be forced through in the teeth of inevitable opposition.
The two people who could be guaranteed to lead that opposition were the ones who had most to lose: Edmund Beaufort, who had succeeded his brother as earl of Somerset in 1444 and was the governor of, and greatest landowner in, Maine, and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, a consistent opponent of any territorial concessions to the French. Suffolk – for it is difficult to believe that the king himself could have displayed such guile – set about disarming them both.
Beaufort had enjoyed effectively vice-regal powers in Maine since the county was granted to him on 19 July 1442. He controlled all military and civilian offices, had his own treasury and centre of government in Le Mans independent of those in Normandy and exercised to the full his right to grant lands to his supporters. There were only two limitations on his extraordinary powers: the grant was made to him for life only and it was revocable – if peace were agreed with Charles VII, Maine could be restored to French ownership. Suffolk relied on this clause as the stick with which to beat Beaufort into surrendering Maine but he needed to offer a carrot as well. The one that he chose was the office of lieutenant-general and governor of Normandy, which was technically vacant, though it had been all but promised to York. The most cost-effective way of preventing York’s reappointment was to discredit him, so when Adam Moleyns returned in October 1446 from his fruitless mission to France, he accused the duke of financial improprieties in his administration, in particular, diverting the funds intended for the defence of Normandy to the benefit of his own councillors.11
This charge was given added substance by the fact that one of York’s foremost captains, Sir Thomas Kyriell, had been found guilty by Talbot, in his capacity as marshal of Normandy, of withholding wages from his garrison at Gisors. Kyriell had appealed the decision and in November 1446 Thomas Bekyngton, bishop of Bath and Wells, the former keeper of the privy seal, and Ralph, lord Cromwell, the former treasurer of England, were appointed to investigate the case. Mired in accusations of corruption, embezzlement and maladministration, York could legitimately be set aside and the office he had waited for over a year to have renewed could be given to someone else.12
On 24 December 1446 Edmund Beaufort was appointed lieutenant-general and governor of Normandy, thereby effortlessly securing the post with the powers that his uncle, Cardinal Beaufort, had fruitlessly schemed so hard to secure for his elder brother. He was to hold the office for three years, commencing on 1 March 1447 (a month before the truce next expired), and he would contract to serve in Normandy at the head of an army of three hundred men-at-arms and nine hundred archers. The price he would be expected to pay for his promotion was his acquiescence and assistance in the handover of Maine.13
Beaufort might be bought, but his uncle, Gloucester, could not. The old duke was now in his fifty-seventh year and since 1441 had been sidelined from his natural place at court and in the council chamber by the disgrace of his wife. He could not be completely ignored, however, as he was still the childless king’s heir to the two crowns; he also had the best claim in the realm to act in Henry’s stead while the latter was absent in France for his proposed meeting with Charles VII. His opposition to the cession of Maine was inevitably going to be profound and vociferous and he would make a powerful figurehead round whom the dispossessed in Maine could rally.
On 14 December 1446 the writs had been issued for a new parliament to meet at Cambridge on 10 February 1447. Fearing that Gloucester would use the occasion as a platform to attack the current trend of peace policies (whether he yet knew of the promise concerning Maine is unclear), Suffolk decided to preempt his objections and silence him by having him arrested and impeached for treason. The legal grounds for such a charge are unclear, not least because no formal process was recorded and the Yorkist chroniclers who relate the whole sorry affair had their own reasons for demonising those responsible. The two charges that they allege were that Gloucester was plotting either a rebellion against his nephew in Wales or to stage a coup during parliament, killing the king, seizing the throne and releasing his own wife from her perpetual imprisonment. Though neither accusation seems credible, Henry must have been gullible enough to believe that his uncle was planning his destruction because he sanctioned the actions that followed.
On 20 January 1447 the venue for the forthcoming parliament was suddenly changed ‘for certain causes that have been declared to us’ to Bury Saint Edmunds, a quiet abbey town in the heart of Suffolk’s territorial influence. Gloucester still enjoyed a popular following in both London and the University of Cambridge: the move to Bury meant that there was less chance of a riot when his fate became known. Large numbers of armed men were drafted into the region to prevent the duke’s retinue rising to his defence and the duke was ordered to bring only a small company with him. Ten days later the justices of the King’s Bench, Exchequer and Common Pleas were ordered to adjourn their hearings from 12 February to 24 April because their presence was required at parliament. There was no precedent for such a step, which suggests that its purpose was to ensure that the most important judges in the land were available to give legal backing to the impeachment proceedings.14
According to a memo written the following year by Richard Fox, the abbot of Saint Albans, who attended the parliament, Gloucester arrived at Bury on 18 February, eight days after the chancellor delivered his opening speech on the theme ‘But to the councillors of peace is joy’. Stafford had expounded at length on the necessity of rejecting the counsel of the wicked and following that of the Holy Spirit. He announced that the parliament had been summoned to make provision for both ‘the safe and secure preservation of the most illustrious and most excellent person of the lord king’ on his journey to France to meet Charles VII and ‘the safe and secure keeping of the peace’ in his realm during his absence.15
Gloucester was greeted on his arrival by two knights of the royal household, John Stourton and Thomas Stanley, who urged him to go straight to his lodgings rather than to the king. Later in the day a posse of peers arrived to arrest him: they included Humphrey Stafford, duke of Buckingham, acting in his official capacity as constable of England, Edmund Beaufort, earl of Somerset, and Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury. All were leading members of the faction surrounding Cardinal Beaufort: though there is no suggestion that the cardinal himself was behind the final downfall of his long-term opponent, there is no doubt that his supporters readily lent their assistance.
Although Gloucester demanded to see the king, his petitions were refused and over the next few days more than forty members of his entourage, including his bastard son, Arthur, were arrested and taken away. The speed and efficiency with which the coup was carried out attest to its careful planning but no one had foreseen the effect it would have on Gloucester. He appears to have suffered a major stroke. For three days he lay in bed, unresponsive and possibly unconscious, and that was where, on 23 February 1447, he died.16
The circumstances of his death inevitably raised suspicions that he had been murdered, which is why members of both houses of parliament were invited to view his body in the abbey church next day, before it was taken for burial in the tomb he had already built close to the shrine in the abbey of Saint Albans. This public display failed to quell the rumours which would return to haunt Suffolk and his associates who had engineered Gloucester’s fall. Suffolk did himself no favours in this regard by presiding in person over the indictment of Gloucester’s bastard son and seven other leading members of the duke’s retinue on charges of treasonably marching in force to Bury to overthrow the king. Perhaps he felt some tinge of shame, however, for when Henry VI belatedly decided to pardon them as they were on the scaffold, Suffolk himself rushed to the scene of execution at Tyburn to ensure that they were cut down and released.17
They were unbelievably fortunate, not only in having their lives spared and property restored but also in being able to resume their careers. There was no such mercy for Eleanor Cobham, Gloucester’s forcibly divorced widow. In a final piece of petty vindictiveness, on the last day of parliament a statute was enacted which effectively declared her legally dead, preventing her making any claim on her husband’s estate. This meant that all his properties, titles and offices now reverted to the king – who had already promised many of them to the vultures who had circled after Eleanor’s conviction. Suffolk, for instance, had been granted the right to succeed Gloucester as earl of Pembroke as long ago as 1443. On the very day that the duke died grants from his estate were made to Queen Margaret, Henry’s new foundations at Eton and Cambridge and members of the royal household. At best this was unseemly haste. More sinister was the granting of Gloucester’s property to Sir Robert Roos and two royal officials on 13 and 18 February – ten and five days before he died – in anticipation of his conviction and forfeiture for treason. Even if it had got to that stage, it seems unlikely that Gloucester would ever have received a fair trial. Too many people had too much to lose by his exoneration.18
Cardinal Beaufort did not long survive the nephew with whom he had quarrelled so bitterly. After Somerset’s expedition in 1443, from which so much had been hoped and so little achieved, the cardinal had retired from public life and lived quietly in his episcopal residences in the country. He died, aged about seventy-two, at his magnificent palace of Wolvesey in Winchester, on 11 April 1447. Though more of a prince than a cleric, he had achieved two distinctions in his ecclesiastical career: he had held his episcopal office for almost fifty years, longer than any other English bishop, and he was, controversially, the first cardinal to keep his bishopric and reside in England. The enormous wealth of the see of Winchester had enabled him to fund the conquest and reconquest of the English kingdom of France: on at least two occasions, in 1421 and 1437, his loans amounted to more than £25,000 (£13.13m) and he had provided only slightly less for Somerset’s expedition in 1443. Without his money, and his willingness to lend it, English dominion in France might have ended where it began, in the reign of Henry V.19
Despite his commitment to the war, Beaufort was also a pragmatist who had been prepared to make territorial concessions to secure a lasting peace. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that he would have approved of the inept handling of the current peace negotiations.Even Suffolk himself appears to have feared a backlash, for once again he sought and gained the king’s personal and public sanction for his acts, this time at a meeting of the council: Henry’s approval was given added weight by the issuing of proclamations threatening appropriate punishment for anyone who slandered Suffolk.20
This suggests that criticism of the conduct of foreign policy was becoming more overt, despite the silencing of Edmund Beaufort and Gloucester. It was readily apparent that the price of peace – even if it was only a temporary truce – was increasing. To obtain an extension of the truce beyond 11 November 1446, Henry had been forced both to express again his determination to hand over Maine and to make a further disastrous concession. On 18 December Suffolk and Moleyns agreed with Charles VII’s agents, Guillaume Cousinot and Jean Havart, who were then in London, that ecclesiastical revenues from land in either obedience were to be restored to clergy who resided outside that obedience. On paper this seemed a fair arrangement, but in reality the concession was almost entirely one-sided in favour of the French – which is why a similar proposal in 1439 had been rejected.21
On 22 February 1447 a further extension of the truce, to 1 January 1448, was obtained by English ambassadors at Tours in return for an undertaking that Henry would cross the Channel for his summit meeting with Charles VII by 1 November. Also by that date, Henry promised to surrender Maine. This time, however, his promise was backed up by a confirmation of his secret undertaking made in December 1445, which he publicly sealed on 27 July, and by letters patent, issued the following day, appointing Matthew Gough and Fulk Eyton as his commissioners to take into the king’s hands all English-held places in Maine and deliver them to Charles VII’s commissioners on behalf of René and Charles d’Anjou. They were authorised to seize chattels, to compel cooperation and, if necessary, to use force: intriguingly, they were also ordered to obey not only these written commands but also instructions that Garter king-of-arms would deliver verbally to them. Edmund Beaufort (who had not yet set foot in the duchy since his appointment) and his officials were all ordered to assist Gough and Eyton in their task.22
As a reward for the public confirmation of the undertaking to deliver Maine, the Bastard of Orléans, who headed the July embassy to London, extended the truce and deadline for Henry’s crossing to France by a further six months to 1 April 1448. The appointment of the commissioners for the handover earned modifications to the terms of the restitution of ecclesiastical revenues and, more importantly, for the first time a genuine concession that ‘reasonable provision’ should be made for Englishmen who lost their lands in Maine.23
How to deal with the dispossessed of either side had always been a stumbling block in any negotiated settlement but it was one that had grown increasingly insurmountable as the years passed, the conquest became entrenched and a whole new generation of land and office holders had emerged who had legitimately and peaceably acquired their possessions from the first wave of invaders. Their rights were arguably as valid as those of the original owners but one or other of them would have to lose out if any territorial concession was made. The cession of Maine brought this problem to the fore.
On 23 September 1447 Matthew Gough and Fulk Eyton presented themselves before Osbern Mundeford, the bailli-général of Maine and captain of Le Mans on behalf of Edmund Beaufort. They showed Mundeford their letters from Henry VI ordering the surrender of Maine, and required him to hand over the places in his charge. Mundeford politely but firmly refused, claiming quite correctly that the letters were addressed ‘primarily’ to Beaufort and contained no official discharge from his office for Mundeford himself.24
This was, of course, a useful delaying tactic, but it was also true that a captain was legally obliged by his contract of service to surrender his office only to the person who had appointed him. In 1434, for example, Oliver Adreton, the English lieutenant of Bernay, had similarly refused to surrender his office without letters of discharge from lord Willoughby, who had appointed him; what is more, John Salvein, the bailli of Rouen, whose command he refused to obey, had to go to Lisieux to obtain the official discharge before Adreton would relent. Given what was riding on the surrender of Maine, Mundeford was wise to insist on having his formal release from office before he committed the rash act of handing over the capital of the county to the enemy.
Mundeford reproved Gough and Eyton for failing to secure his letters of discharge from Beaufort before they approached him but offered to send for them himself, with all diligence and at his own cost, adding that he needed them ‘in order to avoid blame and reproach in times to come’. Till then he would continue to hold the town and castle of Le Mans with all his power.25
Since Beaufort was still in England there would be a considerable delay in obtaining his releases and it would be impossible to meet the deadline of 1 November 1447 for implementing the handover. This was, no doubt, what Beaufort himself intended, since he was still holding out for full compensation for his losses in Maine before taking up his post as lieutenant-general in Normandy. Henry was furious at the delay, since it reflected on his honour as a prince, and he suspected that Beaufort was complicit in the prevarication of his officials. On 28 October he wrote a peremptory letter to Beaufort ordering ‘as you dread our displeasure’ that he, Mundeford, Richard Frogenhalle and all the other officers should deliver their places to his commissioners without further excuses or delays. Anticipating that Beaufort himself might use the same excuse, Henry took the precaution of adding that this letter would be the earl’s sufficient warrant, quittance and discharge for the surrender.26
Belatedly Henry and Suffolk had realised that if they wanted the cooperation of the men on the ground in Maine they would have to tackle the question of compensation. On 13 November a major meeting of the English council decided that Beaufort should receive an annual pension of 10,000l.t. (£583,333), to be drawn from the revenues of Normandy, but no provision was made to recompense those whose livelihoods depended on their small estates and offices. For them compensation would be sought from the French.27
On 31 October 1447 a two-day conference had opened in the chapter-house at Le Mans between Charles VII’s agents, Cousinot and Havart, and Henry VI’s officers, Sir Nicolas Molyneux, master of the king’s chambre-des-comptes at Rouen, Osbern Mundeford, the bailli-général of Maine who had refused to surrender his charge, and Thomas Direhille, vicomte of Alençon. It was a measure of the importance of the whole question of compensation that some five hundred interested parties attended, ranging from members of the nobility and the church to citizens and merchants.28
The first day of the conference was given over to tedious but necessary formalities. Cousinot related the four-year history of the promise to deliver Maine and produced the documentation, including Henry VI’s secret undertaking made in December 1445 and his and Havart’s delegated powers from Charles VII to make ‘reasonable provision’ for the dispossessed. The English queried the authenticity of their letters of appointment on the grounds that there were so many erasures and emendations and that they did not recognise the signature of the notary who had produced the copy.
The whole process took so long that it was not until the following day, 1 November – the day Henry VI had promised to deliver Maine, as Cousinot pointed out – that the conference reassembled after attending high mass in the castle. Molyneux, who acted as the English spokesman throughout the proceedings, then set out his own documentation, stating that Henry VI’s letters promising delivery of Maine were conditional on lifelong alliances between his king and René and Charles d’Anjou, a twenty-year truce with Anjou and Maine and ‘reasonable provision . . . which is properly understood to mean due compensation’. Cousinot could not produce any letters of alliance or truce, or a licence from Charles VII permitting these to go ahead, claiming he had left them behind at Sablé for fear of attack on the road. Without that security and the ‘reasonable provision’ agreed beforehand, Molyneux argued that the handover should not take place.
Cousinot insisted that the question of the truce and alliance was irrelevant, since neither was mentioned in Henry VI’s letters ordering the handover to take place on 1 November ‘all excuses and hindrances notwithstanding’. As for compensation, he agreed that the letter did mention ‘reasonable provision’ but he pointed out that no date had been set for its being made and he disputed that it was the equivalent of compensation. Any ‘reasonable provision’ made before the handover took place would turn it into ‘a sort of sale’, which Charles VII had never intended.
This was as specious an argument as Molyneux’s earlier challenge to Cousinot’s powers as a commissioner. Molyneux’s response was to reiterate his case but beg ‘to be excused if he could not speak and articulate in French words as [well as] he could do in his mother tongue’. This was not a denial of his ability to speak and understand French: Molyneux had spent the previous twenty-five years in France and had been Bedford’s receiver-general in Anjou and Maine before rising to his present position. His legal and financial skills had also long been employed for his own benefit, beginning with the legally binding agreement he made (in French) at Harfleur on 12 July 1421 with his English brother-in-arms, John Winter, for the division of their spoil and investment of the proceeds, and continuing with a successful career in property speculation in Rouen.29 None of these things could have been achieved without a good understanding of French and an ability to speak it proficiently.
What Molyneux was actually doing was falling back on the age-old ploy used by English ambassadors whenever they did not wish to concede a point: they declared that they did not understand French, the international language of diplomacy, and wished everything to be conducted and recorded in Latin.30 Cousinot understood the game, responding that Molyneux ‘excused himself for not speaking eloquently in the French language, it not being his mother tongue, however, he possessed intelligence and prudence and knew how to communicate in French and in Latin as well as [Cousinot] himself could do’. Once more he demanded that Maine be handed over without excuses and when many of those present, including the Bastard of Salisbury and lord Fastolf’s proctor, added their appeals for compensation to Molyneux’s, he stated that it was not for him to interpret Henry VI’s letters or cause his promises to be kept. He was unable to do anything more, he added, because his powers as Charles VII’s commissioner ran out that very day. All the English could do was feebly announce that they would seek further instructions from Henry VI, leaving Cousinot and Havart with no option but to depart from Le Mans empty-handed.31
Like so many earlier Anglo-French negotiations, the conference had foundered on the fundamental problem that neither side trusted the other to do what they promised to do: the French believed the English were determined to avoid delivering Maine, just as the English were convinced that the French would not offer compensation once they had achieved their goal of acquiring the county. The only difference now was that the English at the conference were at loggerheads not only with the French but also with their own government. Henry VI had promised to cede Maine and he was determined to see it through.