Post-classical history

CHAPTER XVI

The Truce of Leulinghem 1389–1396

The three-year truce had been agreed in June 1389 on the understanding that the time would be used to agree the terms of a final peace. However, for more than a year almost nothing happened, chiefly because of the slow pace of decision-making in England. At Westminster the whole issue was exceptionally sensitive. The fate of the ministers and household staff who had conducted Richard II’s negotiations with France in 1387 was in everyone’s mind. No one dared to agree anything without express Parliamentary approval. There was a long delay while Richard II waited for the return of John of Gaunt from Gascony and another while the issues were considered by a Great Council and then by Parliament. As a result the English negotiating position was not settled until March 1390. It was in substance a development of the line which they had taken at successive conferences in the 1380s. Richard and his ministers wanted the return of as much as possible of the territory in the south-west which had been ceded to them by the treaty of Brétigny. French claims to ultimate sovereignty in Aquitaine were by now resisted only for the sake of form. The English expected to have to concede the point and concentrated on limiting the political, judicial and military obligations associated with French sovereignty. The actual performance of homage was a sensitive issue for Richard, as it had been for previous English kings. He was not prepared to do homage to a king of France in person. Nor was he willing to do military service or to have his decisions challenged before the French King’s judges in the Parlement in Paris.

These were difficult questions, both legally and politically. The diplomats returned to the church of Leulinghem in April 1390 but more than two months of negotiations failed to produce agreement on any of them. The solution envisaged by the English was that Richard should hold Aquitaine as a fief of France but that the homage and the services due to Charles VI should be performed on carefully circumscribed conditions by whoever was in actual occupation of it. By this Richard meant John of Gaunt, to whom the duchy had recently been granted. This was not enough for the French. Their ambassadors’ instructions were very clear. They were to insist that any territories held by the English King in France would have to be held in return for liege homage. Liege homage, the closest bond of feudal dependence known to the law, implied the full range of obligations owed by a vassal to his lord including military service. The French ambassadors were empowered to make generous territorial concessions in return, but they would not discuss them until the question of homage had been settled. The English ambassadors protested rather disingenuously that this was a new demand and insisted that the issue should be deferred. The French stood their ground. On this unsatisfactory note the proceedings were adjourned at the beginning of July until October and then again until the new year while the English Parliament was summoned to consider the matter.1

In England the attempt to replace a temporary truce with a formal peace raised many ghosts and proved to be extremely controversial. Froissart visited England a few years after these events and spoke to many of those involved. He believed that the Duke of Gloucester was the main source of opposition and everything that is known about the Duke’s activities in these years bears out this judgment. Gloucester’s political defeat in 1389 had diminished his power but it had not altered his views. He loathed the French with an intense loathing. In his dealings with the princes of France he felt overshadowed by their magnificent bearing and disadvantaged by his imperfect command of French. He regarded the whole history of Anglo-French relations since 1368 as a tale of French deceit: tricky diplomacy, dishonest truces, unmanly avoidance of battle. Because the English had not been outfought in the field he could not accept that they had been defeated in the war. So he saw no reason for England to abandon its insistence on all the terms agreed at Brétigny in 1360.2

It is difficult to know how much support Gloucester’s views enjoyed among his fellow-countrymen. Froissart thought that they were shared by the whole political community outside the King’s circle. Like many of his contemporaries in France he put this down to the endemic greed, vanity and sheer love of fighting of the English military class. In the long allegory which Philippe de Mézières addressed to Charles VI in 1389 he pictured Queen Truth preaching the virtues of peace to a gathering of Englishmen. The merchants, townsmen and common people listened appreciatively. But the ‘old men-at-arms and archers’ whom Philippe called the ‘Black Boars’ muttered angrily among themselves, neither willing to agree nor daring to dissent. It was a gross over-simplification, like most arresting images. But it is fair to say that a generation of English moralists expressed very similar views about their own countrymen. In his great Latin poem Vox Clamantis, the London poet John Gower blamed the persistence of war on the pursuit of fame and booty and savagely satirised a generation of professional soldiers who were indifferent to the suffering of their victims. ‘Your tears are laughter in my ears,’ they cry from his pages. Richard II’s chamber knight Sir John Clanvowe, one of the negotiators of the truce of Leulinghem, with twenty-five years experience of war and diplomacy behind him, would have agreed. He thought that his contemporaries ‘held them worshipful that been grete werreyours and fighteres and that distroyen and wynnen manye landis’.3

Yet Clanvowe’s own career suggests a more ambiguous picture. A deeply spiritual man who wrote poetry and moral tracts, Clanvowe eventually turned against the war and died in Greece in 1391 on his way to expiate his sins in the Holy Land. He was an unusual figure but not by any means unique. Englishmen of his class were touched, although perhaps less profoundly, by the same mood of guilt, pessimism and insecurity, the same fears for the unity of Christendom and for their own salvation which had produced such a strong shift of opinion against the war in France. Lollardy, the spiritual movement inspired by John Wycliffe, had overtly pacifist overtones and made a number of converts among the military nobility including in all probability Clanvowe himself. Even Sir Robert Knolles, perhaps the most feared freebooter of the fourteenth century, performed a pilgrimage to Rome in 1389 ‘for the quieting of his conscience’ and dispersed much of his great fortune in endowing a bridge, a college and an almshouse.

The great majority of the English military nobility no doubt thought about the war in more conventional terms than this. But the truth is that even conventional opinion was divided. Much of the corps of career soldiers among the English nobility were probably instinctive opponents of peace with France. In Cheshire, admittedly an extreme case, military service was a long-standing tradition not only among gentry families but among the rich peasants and small landowners who had supplied archers for service in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France for more than a century. Peace was a serious threat in this populous county with a mainly pastoral economy offering few other possibilities of employment. The same must have been true of other areas where strong local connections with a particular captain had generated a tradition of war service. Beyond these belligerent enclaves, however, the continental view of England as a pervasively military society was much exaggerated. The financial rewards of fighting were in steep decline. The general experience was that military service was not popular among the gentry of the counties. It is unlikely that more than a quarter of English knights and squires had ever served in France and most of those had fought in just one campaign. In 1387 the Earl of Arundel had had great difficulty recruiting an army of ‘good, reputable men’ to fight under his command at sea without the usual admixture of London roughs. The gentlemen whom he approached served with overt reluctance. They turned up late for the muster, pleading that they needed to say goodbye to their friends or settle their affairs. Some of them appeared with borrowed equipment. Even among those who served regularly in the armies the balance of profit and loss was highly uncertain and there was little direct correlation between experience of war and opposition to the peace. The Duke of Gloucester was the foremost proponent of the war but he had much less experience of fighting in France than Michael Pole, Simon Burley or indeed John of Gaunt, all of whom had been supporters of the King’s peace policy. As the poet Chaucer, who had himself fought in France in the heyday of Edward III, reflected in old age: ‘there is full many a man that crieth “War! War!” that woot full little what war amounteth.’4

The evidence suggests that by the 1390s most of the English political community wanted peace with France. For more than a decade the Parliamentary Commons had objected to large-scale continental campaigns and refused to fund them from tax revenues. There is no reason to doubt that this reflected the collective sentiment of most of the knightly class who tended to dominate the proceedings of the Commons on issues of this kind. A significant fraction of the Parliamentary peerage had believed for some time that the war was unwinnable and after the debacle of 1388 theirs was probably the majority view. The main obstacle was not the vested interests of the soldiery in continuing the war, still less an endemic love of violence. It arose from political concerns about the terms on which peace was available. Great Councils and Parliaments, although they had experienced lawyers and diplomats among them, rarely understood the exigencies of diplomatic horse-trading or appreciated how limited were the areas in which compromise was possible. There was much distrust of France, even among those English politicians who were in principle for peace. There was a real fear of the wider implications of allowing Richard II to do liege homage for Aquitaine to the King of France. Everyone knew that this had proved an inherently unstable relationship in the past, which had led to the confiscation of the duchy in the reigns of all three Edwards. There was also a pervasive feeling that homage would compromise Richard’s autonomy as sovereign in England. Although Richard was not proposing to do homage for England these fears were not irrational. The neat distinction which the lawyers drew between the King’s two capacities was in practice hard to draw. The King embodied the state in his person. He could not, for example, make war on France in his capacity as King of England while in his capacity as Duke of Aquitaine he performed his duty to sustain the King of France. Issues such as a vassal’s obligation of military or court service were particularly sensitive.

The Duke of Gloucester’s skill lay in marrying his own enthusiasm for continuing the war, which was shared by only by a minority of his contemporaries, with other sentiments which were widespread and emotionally powerful: suspicion of the government and of John of Gaunt, concerns about England’s autonomy in a post-war world, ignorance of the alternatives. Gloucester had some significant allies among the Parliamentary peerage including his old colleague the Earl of Arundel, the chief of the ‘Black Boars’ according to Philippe de Mézières; perhaps the Earl of Warwick as well; and some magnates and professional captains of like mind who could not bring themselves to acknowledge the finality of defeat. Their mixture of aggressive patriotism, nostalgia for past glories and appeals to English independence of a foreign power struck a chord among the population at large, especially in London where visceral hatred of France was still strong. Gloucester did not challenge the peace programme directly. He could see that that was hopeless while it was so strongly supported by the King and the Duke of Lancaster. But he sniped at it from a distance. He looked with suspicion at every embassy’s instructions. When the ambassadors returned he raised countless detailed objections to the proposals they brought back with them. And he rallied the opposition at the successive assemblies at which Richard II and his ministers sought to build up support for their foreign policy.

*

In the meantime relations between the two countries were complicated by a sudden revival of France’s old imperial ambitions in Italy. Traditionally French policy in the peninsula had been driven by their support for the Angevin claims to the kingdom of Naples and their championship of the Avignon papacy, two axioms of French foreign policy which were closely linked. At the time of the truce of Leulinghem both depended on a twelve-year-old boy, Louis II of Anjou. Louis was destined to pass his entire life as the symbol of France’s broken dream of becoming the dominant power in Italy. He was the elder son of the great Duke of Anjou who had died in 1384 trying to expel the Hungarian usurper Charles of Durazzo from the kingdom of Naples. In 1389 the situation in the southern kingdom was complicated and delicate. Louis was formally recognised by the French King and the Avignon Pope Clement VII as King of Naples but was living in exile at Avignon with a diminutive court dominated by his formidable mother Marie of Blois. In southern Italy his partisans maintained a tenuous and insecure hold on most of the city of Naples with the aid of a small army of German and Gascon mercenaries financed from the coffers of the papal chamber. Charles of Durazzo was dead. His cause was sustained by his widow Margaret, who ruled from the city of Gaeta as regent for another boy-king, the young Ladislas of Durazzo. Their supporters still clung on to the two principal fortresses of the capital, the Castel Nuovo and the Castel Sant’Elmo, and their officials controlled most of the rest of the kingdom. In Avignon Clement VII and Marie of Blois desperately looked about for a way of sending Louis II back to his kingdom with an army that would enable him to consolidate his hold on Naples and push his power outwards into the hinterland. For Marie it represented the last chance of vindicating the claims of her family. For Clement the position was even more critical. As long as his Roman rival held Italy there was no prospect of dislodging him from the papal throne. The House of Anjou was his only significant ally in the peninsula. For years the pleas of Clement and Marie had fallen on deaf ears in Paris. Charles VI’s uncles were content to pay lip-service to Louis II’s cause. They had very little interest in installing him on the Neapolitan throne. Between them they had persistently vetoed Marie of Blois’s appeals for funds.

The dismissal of the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy in November 1388 led to a radical reorientation of French foreign policy away from northern Europe, which had been Philip’s preoccupation, towards Italy. No longer inhibited by the enormous presence of his uncles, Charles was able to indulge his affection for his cousin Louis of Anjou and his instinct for the grand gesture. Early in 1389 he presided over a meeting of his Council which resolved to support Louis II’s return to Naples with a subsidy of 300,000 florins. Another 300,000 florins was promised by Clement VII from the revenues of the French Church and more than 200,000 from the Angevin domains in France and Provence. The letter in which Charles announced the change of policy to the Neapolitans blamed his former coolness towards them on his uncles. Read out in the cathedral immediately after the annual miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, it provoked tremendous enthusiasm among the fickle crowd.5 But this was not the limit of the French King’s ambitions. Over the following months his plans for the reconquest of the Angevin kingdom of Naples were subsumed in a vaster design involving nothing less than the establishment of the French royal house as the dominant power throughout the Italian peninsula.

The prime mover in this enterprise was the King’s younger brother Louis, Duke of Touraine, a man destined to become one of the pivotal figures in French politics over the next two decades. In 1389 Louis was a slightly built, precocious young man of seventeen. Orphaned as small children, the two brothers had been brought up together by the officers of their common household under the distant tutelage of their uncles. Louis, by convention the first man in the kingdom after the King and the senior member of his Council, had suffered for eight years the same frustrating combination of high status and practical impotence as Charles himself. The experience created a lifelong bond between them. Yet they emerged from it as very different personalities. Both men shared the conventional social and religious pieties of their age and the skills and graces deemed fitting for a prince. Both were extrovert and self-indulgent, persistent gamers and womanisers. But Louis was already emerging as a politician of exceptional ability and ambition, politically astute, calculating, highly intelligent and articulate in company, with an outstanding memory and great powers of concentration. He was perennially short of money. He had been granted the small duchy of Touraine in the Loire valley on terms that it was all that he would ever receive from the royal demesne. It yielded little more than the cost of its administration. Like the Duke of Gloucester in England, Louis was constantly reminded of the contrast between his high birth and his poor endowment in a society in which land and riches were the main source of status and political power. His position was particularly painful by comparison with the splendid state of his uncles with their rich appanages and their tendency to patronise the younger princes about them.6

In January 1387 Louis had been betrothed to his fourteen-year-old cousin Valentine, the daughter of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, despot of Milan. Her father had recently seized power in Milan by overthrowing and then murdering his uncle, Bernabò, a coup which resounded across Europe and won for its author the richest principality of Italy, embracing most of the basin of the River Po and the Lombard plain. Louis’s betrothal brought him fine prospects: a large cash dowry, the county of Vertus in Champagne, which had belonged to the Milanese dynasty, the Italian principality of Asti on the marches of Lombardy and Piedmont, and the alliance of the most powerful prince in the peninsula. These advantages became progressively more valuable as Gian Galeazzo embarked on a series of wars of conquest in northern Italy which brought his power to the marches of Florence and Venice and threatened the northern cities of the papal state. But the alliance between Louis of Touraine and the despot of Milan also set up considerable tensions at the French court. The murdered Bernabò had influential kinsmen in France, including the Queen, Isabelle of Bavaria, who was his grand-daughter; and John III, Count of Armagnac, whose sister was married to one of his sons. These considerations, and perhaps also a budding jealousy, may explain why the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy delayed the ratification of Louis’s marriage contract for nearly two years. One of Louis’s first acts after his brother assumed power was to execute the document and send it urgently to Milan. Valentine arrived in France, laden with jewels and cash, in August 1389. The marriage was celebrated at Melun in the same month.7

Two weeks after his marriage Louis of Touraine accompanied his brother on his state visit to Avignon and Languedoc. On 1 November the brothers were present in the chapel of the papal palace when Louis of Anjou was crowned King of Naples. In the secret sessions with the Pope and the cardinals which followed the French King unveiled his plan to conquer central and southern Italy. A great French army would cross the Alps to enter the peninsula by the north, led by the King in person and accompanied by the Pope. There they would join forces with Gian Galeazzo and march on Rome, forcibly installing Clement VII on the throne of St. Peter. The French King was not of course proposing to undertake such an enormous enterprise without tangible rewards for the French royal house and its allies. According to information which reached Rome much later, after the secret was out, the plan was that Charles VI should be crowned by Clement as Holy Roman Emperor in the basilica of St. Peter. Gian Galeazzo Visconti, who had given private undertakings to switch his allegiance to the Avignon Pope, would be rewarded with a new north Italian kingdom extending from the Alps to the Apennines. Louis of Touraine’s own reward can be inferred with reasonable certainty. Clement VII had already dangled before Louis’s agents the prospect of a principality built around the Adriatic towns of Rimini and Pesaro and a group of cities in eastern Emilia, provided that he could conquer them from his rival. The French, however, aimed higher than that. They saw these places as the germ of the ‘Kingdom of Adria’, which Clement had once promised to create for the Duke of Anjou and might surely be induced to confer on Louis of Touraine. Precisely what territory would be comprised in the new kingdom was a delicate question but there is a good deal of evidence that Charles hoped to carve a rich principality for his brother out of the eastern and northern marches of the papal state, including the cities of Bologna, Ferrara, Perugia, Ravenna and Todi.8

Over the following months the French government made a serious attempt to put these plans into effect. Louis II of Anjou sailed from Marseille in July 1390, urged on his way by processions in the streets of Avignon and blessings pronounced by a cardinal-legate from the deck of his flagship. On 6 August his fleet of some forty galleys and sailing ships entered the Bay of Naples. The first results were highly satisfactory. A large number of troops was recruited from Angevin loyalists in the capital. In October the Castel Sant’Elmo was recaptured from the garrison of Margaret of Durazzo followed, some weeks afterwards, by the Castel Nuovo. In Paris, shortly after Christmas, an enlarged meeting of the King’s Council agreed upon the final arrangements for the march on Rome. The King and his brother and the Dukes of Burgundy and Berry would all participate. The French army would assemble at Lyon by 15 March 1391 at least 12,000 strong. Pope Clement was expected to contribute another 1,500 mercenaries and Gian Galeazzo a further 1,000. Since every man-at-arms was required to bring two fighting attendants this implied a total strength of nearly 20,000 mounted men. After the Council Louis of Touraine left at once for Italy, accompanied by the Duke of Burgundy and the Admiral, Jean de Vienne, to confer with his father-in-law in Milan.9

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The whole Italian adventure depended critically on English acquiescence, which proved to be its undoing. There could be no question of leaving France exposed to invasion from across the Channel while its government and most of its chivalry were far away in Italy. Charles VI and his ministers had made their plans on the assumption that there would be a peace treaty with England by the time that the army of Italy was ready. By the autumn of 1390 the slow progress of negotiations made this assumption highly questionable. So the King of France and his brother made their own attempt to break the deadlock. Richard II’s tournament at Smithfield was due to open in October. Waleran de Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol, one of the small group of French councillors concerned with negotiations with England, was a famous jouster, close to the Marmouset ministers in France and well-liked in England. He had obtained a safe-conduct to come to London accompanied by no fewer than 200 horsemen. Charles VI and Louis trans formed Saint-Pol’s visit into an official mission. They sent him on his way with a company that included the King’s private secretary, Yves Derrien, and one of his heralds as well as a fine jousting horse and two teams of minstrels to ensure that he made a suitably impressive show. It was symptomatic of the growing preference of both courts for a more intimate, less formal style of diplomacy than had been customary before the recent truce. Charles empowered Saint-Pol and Derrien to put anew pro posal before the English King and his Council. South of the Dordogne the French government was willing to restore all the provinces ceded at Brétigny except for southern Quercy. North of the river they offered Périgord, southern Saintonge and the county of Angoulême. In addition there would be a cash indemnity of 1,200,000 francs for the regions which they proposed to retain. In terms of territory this was the most generous French offer to date. Even the franco phobe chronicler of St. Albans was impressed. Charles also gave Saint-Pol a letter for Richard proposing a summit meeting between the two kings on the march of Calais. This idea had been proposed before, in 1387. It was much in favour among those who believed, like Philippe de Mézières, that only the two young kings could slough off the accumulated legacy of old resentments and suspicions which was obstructing the negotiations between their councillors. Saint-Pol stayed in England for several weeks after the tournament had closed. By the time he left it seems to have been agreed that the conference between the two kings would be held on the march of Calais at Candlemas, 2 February 1391.10

When Saint-Pol returned to France in early December he was accompanied by an English embassy led by Sir Thomas Percy. Percy was well known at the court of France and had many friends there. His instructions were to obtain further details of the French offer and to finalise the arrangements for the summit meeting. The discussions were extremely affable. The French, as their negotiators candidly observed, were not strong enough to defeat England, while England was manifestly unable to defeat France. To prolong the stalemate could serve no purpose other than to impoverish both countries. Reports reaching Avignon suggested that there were high hopes of a final peace in February, in time for the French King to depart for Italy in the following month.11

This was a serious miscalculation. Richard II’s ministers appear to have known nothing about Charles VI’s Italian adventure until a very late stage. When they discovered they were dismayed. French domination of Italy would be a serious blow to English interests. It would bring about a radical shift in the European balance of power in France’s favour. At a time when the Popes remained a major diplomatic force in European affairs it would oblige future English governments to deal with a papal court which was beholden to France. Besides, although this was a minor factor in the broader scheme of things, the English were no friends of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. They regarded him as an ally of France. Indeed, they had given asylum and pensions to two of the sons of Bernabò who were then living in exile in London. So, when the French plans became known at Westminster early in 1391, the Candlemas conference was abruptly put off. Fresh instructions were urgently sent to Percy in Paris. He was told to protest against the planned invasion of Italy, which Richard’s ministers professed to regard as a breach of the truce, and to propose that the summit meeting should be put off to midsummer. The postponement of the meeting necessarily involved suspending the Italian campaign, as the English knew. There was no alternative unless the meeting of the two kings was indefinitely postponed or the command of the army of Italy delegated to some less exalted personage. Postponing the summit would have undermined the policy of peace and low taxation on which ultimately the government of the Marmousets depended. The possibility of appointing another commander seems never to have been seriously entertained. It would probably have been impossible to recruit allies in Italy or an army of the necessary strength without the draw of the King’s presence.

Forced to choose, Charles VI’s Council quickly came to the conclusion that peace with England was a higher priority. They heard Percy out and then deputed the Duke of Bourbon to negotiate with him. On 24 February 1391 an agreement was drawn up. Charles VI and Richard II would meet on the Calais march on midsummer day, 24 June 1391. Nothing was said in the document about Italy. But the implications did not need to be spelled out. At the end of February 1391 a messenger was despatched urgently to Avignon with the news that owing to the overriding importance of making peace with England the Italian campaign would not after all take place. Ostensibly it was no more than a postponement. In fact within three months Charles abandoned the projected campaign altogether. France’s Italian dreams were henceforth to be left to Louis of Touraine to pursue for himself.12

Judging by the gifts heaped on him before he left Paris Sir Thomas Percy had accomplished his difficult mission with great skill. Yet the ease with which it was accomplished suggests that other factors were at work in addition to pressure from England. The situation in Italy was much less favourable to France’s ambitions than it had been when the projected invasion was first conceived. Urban VI had died in Rome in October 1389. Two weeks later the cardinals of the Roman obedience had elected as his successor Pietro Tomacelli, who took the name Boniface IX. The new Pope was very different from his predecessor. He was an aristocratic Neapolitan prelate in his mid-thirties, tall and imposing with a gracious manner, who proved to be an adept politician. Within a short time he had undone most of the mistakes of the rebarbative Urban. He repaired relations with the cardinals, conciliated the populace of Rome, re-established control over the disaffected cities of the papal state and made his peace with the house of Durazzo. As a result the Roman papacy was a far more formidable opponent of French interests in the peninsula in 1391 than it had been two years earlier. At the same time the city of Florence was building up a powerful coalition against Gian Galeazzo along the despot’s southern borders. It is not clear how much of this was known in France but, given their regular diplomatic contacts with Milan, Florence and Naples, Charles VI’s ministers must have known a fair amount. Some of them must already have had their misgivings about the planned invasion. The absence in Lombardy of its chief advocate and beneficiary, Louis of Touraine, no doubt made these men bolder. The whole project had been lightly undertaken and pursued with very little by way of advance planning or political forethought. Only an excuse was required to bring about the immediate cancellation of the whole enterprise.

The excuse was supplied by the mounting domestic difficulties which the Italian project provoked within France. There were too many people with an interest in making trouble in the King’s absence. The Duke of Brittany, John de Montfort, was ostensibly committed to joining the expedition. Charles VI had insisted on this. But Montfort’s relations with a government dominated by Olivier de Clisson were inevitably strained and he was openly contemptuous of the whole venture. When it came to the point he showed no sign of participating, and in the autumn of 1390 he took advantage of the government’s preoccupations to strike out against his enemies in Brittany. The most serious incident was the seizure of the major fortress of Champtoceaux on the Loire from Olivier de Clisson, which provoked howls of anger in Paris. Difficult and ultimately inconclusive negotiations with John de Montfort were in progress throughout the first three months of 1391. He was ultimately pressured into surrendering the place to the Duke of Bourbon as stakeholder. But the growing signs of a revival of the old vendettas in Brittany raised all the old concerns about John’s links with England, and must have undermined the Constable’s enthusiasm for a campaign that would take him a thousand miles from home.13

Another recalcitrant, John III, Count of Armagnac, was causing even greater concern, not least because he and his brother Bernard were close to the Duke of Brittany. They were in the last stages of negotiating a political alliance providing for mutual military assistance against ‘all their enemies and any others who may seek to injure or dishonour them’. Charles VI’s ministers almost certainly knew about this. They may also have known that Armagnac was being actively courted by Richard II’s representatives in Bordeaux with a view to a possible change of allegiance. These acts were symptomatic of the Count of Armagnac’s progressive estrangement from the government of the Marmousets after the fall of his patron, the Duke of Berry. Armagnac’s kinship with the heirs of Bernabò Visconti had inspired in his breast a deep loathing of Gian Galeazzo and a visceral hostility to his allies in France. But he was not content with simply withholding his support. In October 1390, after prolonged negotiations, he agreed to enter the service of the city of Florence, which was then at war with the despot of Milan. He undertook to furnish the city with 2,000 men-at-arms and 3,000 mounted infantry, most of whom would be recruited from the routier companies of southern France and Provence. As matters stood these men would have found themselves fighting in Italy on the opposite side to the King of France. In February 1391 the Count of Armagnac was at Avignon with a large and unruly army of mercenaries arguing with the Duke of Berry, who had been sent from the court of France to dissuade him. Some of Armagnac’s Breton companies were bought off by the French government. Another Gascon captain, the ageing Bernard de la Salle, was put up to ambush Armagnac in the Alpine passes, an adventure that cost him his company and his life. In the event Armagnac’s was the only French army to fight in Italy in 1391. The Count descended on the Lombard plain from the Susa pass in June. Within six weeks most of his men were dead, slaughtered by the Milanese army at the disastrous battle before the Lombard fortress of Alexandria. Armagnac himself died of heat-stroke as he tried to escape by swimming across a stream.14

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The midsummer meeting of the kings of England and France never happened. The reasons are obscure but it is clear that the problems, whatever they were, lay mainly on the English side. In April 1391 a Great Council met at Westminster. According to the chronicle of Westminster Abbey there was ‘much consideration and debate about alternative solutions’. It soon became apparent that the goodwill between the two courts was not shared by the wider political community in England. The magnates at Westminster expressedmisgivings about the size of the French King’s military escort. They were suspicious of French trickery. Might they not surprise Calais or the outlying forts if negotiations failed? The main concern of the magnates, however, was about the loss of control involved in allowing Richard to agree a final peace with only a handful of intimate advisers at his side. They feared that the King would commit them to an unwelcome peace and then present it to them as a fait accompli. This had of course been the object of the exercise, but the magnates were not having it. They wanted as much as possible of the treaty worked out between the diplomats with limited authority before the meeting so that they could consider it for themselves before anything was irrevocably agreed.15

Preparations had already been put in hand for the summit meeting. Immense sums, equivalent to the cost of a minor military campaign, were paid out to the King’s uncles and courtiers to enable them to appear splendidly accoutred and escorted in the wastes of the Calais marshes. But a preliminary conference on the march of Picardy failed to resolve the magnates’ concerns about direct negotiations between the two kings. Several months were consumed in fruitless shuttlecock diplomacy between Westminster and Paris. In September 1391, with less than a year to go before the truce expired, Richard gave in to his domestic critics. A new French embassy came before him at the royal manor of Eltham, led by the elderly veteran Pierre le Bègue de Villaines. They agreed to put off the summit meeting until after the terms of peace had been substantially agreed by others. The Duke of Lancaster would lead a particularly grand embassy to France the following March to negotiate with Charles VI in person. The English King’s personal role would be confined to resolving minor outstanding points at the end of the process.16

John of Gaunt was by now a confirmed advocate of peace. A treaty would secure his gains in the Iberian peninsula. It would represent his only chance of becoming the independent ruler of an enlarged principality of Aquitaine after the manner of his famous brother the Black Prince. The continuation of the war would undermine his treaty with John of Trastámara and threaten the position of his daughter, who had recently become Queen of Castile. But self-interest is unlikely to have been Gaunt’s only motive or even his main one. All that we know about his views suggests that he thought that the war was no longer in England’s interest and no longer within its means. When the plan for a fresh diplomatic conference was reported to Parliament in November the Lords were enthusiastic. Gaunt, they said, was ‘the most sufficient man in the realm’ for such a task. But however ‘sufficient’ and however committed personally, the very fact of Gaunt’s appointment meant that his powers could be limited in a way that Richard’s would not have been if he had negotiated personally. The ultimate power of decision was reserved to a larger body, a Great Council or the Lords in Parliament, who had very mixed feelings about the negotiations. It was necessary to contemplate the disagreeable possibility that the truce might expire before agreement on terms of peace had been reached. The Commons granted Richard half of a tenth and fifteenth to cover the cost of the summit meeting if Gaunt’s efforts succeeded. But they also granted a further tenth and fifteenth for war purposes if it did not.17

The English negotiating line was settled in the course of a long and argumentative Great Council at Westminster. It extended over five days from 12 to 16 February 1392. The King presided. All three of his uncles attended. The English demands as they emerged were probably more aggressive than Richard would have wished. They included the return of the whole of the territory ceded to England at Brétigny, except for the county of Ponthieu, and the payment of all the arrears of John II’s ransom. The English ambassadors were authorised to concede that Poitou, which was part of the Duke of Berry’s appanage, should remain his for life. But they were to insist that the province, the richest part of the Black Prince’s empire, should revert to Richard or his heirs after the Duke’s death. The major issue as always was the legal status of these territories. The Council was ready to make large concessions. They empowered the ambassadors to agree to French sovereignty over all the English territories in France. The Duke of Gloucester fought a solitary battle to exclude Calais from this concession but ultimately agreed that even this might be conceded. The new subsidies meant, when the clerical subsidy and a contribution from the wool duties was added, that Gaunt could confront the French King with a potential war chest of between £80,000 and £100,000 if the peace talks failed. Plans were put in hand for a major military campaign on the continent. Surveys were ordered of shipping and manpower. Preliminary arrangements were made to array men-at-arms and archers for service in France. Richard declared his intention of taking command in person.18

The long-awaited conference opened at Amiens on 25 March 1392 with a carefully choreographed ceremony. Charles VI entered the city by the Paris gate, south of the cathedral, riding side by side with Leo of Armenia. They were preceded through the gate by a corps of mounted archers, a long column of squires, some 2,000 knights, then heralds and musicians, the liveried bodyguard of the King riding two abreast and the military officers of the Crown. Behind them came the King’s uncles, his brother and cousins, a great crowd of noblemen and twenty-two prelates, all with their own large and clattering escorts. Philip de Mézières, a long-standing critic of diplomatic conferences, had been particularly harsh about these ‘Gallic pomps’, and the English had affected an ostentatious contempt for them ever since the first conference at Bruges seventeen years before. John of Gaunt arrived in the city shortly after the French court, accompanied by his brother Edmund Langley, Duke of York, the veteran diplomat Walter Skirlaw, Bishop of Durham, and John Holand, Richard’s half-brother and now Earl of Huntingdon. They had an impressive suite of their own, more than a thousand strong, but they made no attempt to match the magnificence of their hosts. They presented themselves before Charles VI and his court in the hall of the bishop’s palace still in their travelling gear.19

The ambassadors got down to business on the following day in the more intimate surroundings of the Malmaison, the building used for meetings of the town council. It was, by an irony of which the participants were probably unaware, the house in which Edward III had stayed when he came to Amiens to do homage to Philip VI in 1329. After four days of negotiation the two sides agreed to exchange documents recording their current negotiating position. The English document was broadly in line with what had been agreed at the Great Council at Westminster. The French document was substantially based on the offer made by the Count of Saint-Pol in the autumn of 1390. The differences between the two related to Calais, Poitou and the vexed question of tenure. The French wanted Calais surrendered or demolished and insisted on retaining Poitou. Tenure was to be by liege homage. Nothing less would do. They proposed, according to an English chronicler, that any difficulties associated with this should be resolved by separating the duchy from the English Crown and ceding it to John of Gaunt and his heirs in perpetuity. All of this suggested there had been no movement by either side in the course of the conference and indeed virtually no movement for the past eighteen months. John of Gaunt’s problem was that he was constrained by his instructions. The French King, who was there in person with his Council, had a freer hand but saw no reason to make concessions when none were forthcoming from John of Gaunt. Privately the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy assured Gaunt that the French document was not their last word on the subject. Further concessions might be made if Gaunt’s own powers were enlarged. The Duke of Lancaster rather reluctantly agreed on that basis to put the latest French offer before the English King. The rest of the conference was given over to discussion about the next stage. It was agreed that the ambassadors of each side would meet again at Leulinghem on 1 July 1392 to consider the English response. In the meantime the truce was extended by a little over a year until 29 September 1393.20

In spite of the lack of agreement the conference at Amiens was an important milestone. At a personal level it established a large measure of trust between the closest kinsmen and advisers of the two kings. They were grand enough to dispense with the stilted formality which had divided less exalted diplomats at previous conferences. In France the goodwill generated by the conference continued for long after it had closed. An influential element in Charles’s Council favoured substantial further concessions to the English. Jean Gerson spoke for these men when, in one of his earliest sermons before the royal court (delivered about two months after the conference), he urged the King to accept some of the English demands, however exorbitant. Peace had no price, he declared. ‘Glory in these losses for they will bring you lasting peace.’21

This attitude reflected a shared sense of insecurity provoked by the wider problems of Christendom, an intangible but increasingly significant factor in the relations of England and France. The truce of Leulinghem had been followed by a remarkable upsurge of popular enthusiasm for the crusade after a century in which the crusading spirit had been moribund in most of western Europe. In 1390 the Duke of Bourbon had organised an expedition with Genoese naval support against the port of Mahdia, a notorious lair of pirates in the Hafsid kingdom of Tunis, ‘which port is known as Africa’ said Froissart with his customary indifference to geography. This extraordinary venture attracted some 1,500 noble volunteers. The expedition was overwhelmingly French but included a small number of Englishmen, among them Sir William Neville, Sir John Clanvowe and the illegitimate sons of John of Gaunt and Sir Thomas Percy, all of them men close to Richard II’s court. The expedition ended in heavy casualties and a humiliating retreat but the outcome did nothing to deter others. English and French noblemen left to join the twice-yearly campaigns of the Teutonic Knights in Poland and Lithuania in the last period when these murderous Reisen could be called crusades. Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby, left for Prussia in July 1390 with more than a hundred companions. The Duke of Gloucester would have fought in Prussia in the winter of 1391–2 if his fleet had not been partially destroyed by a gale and driven back to the coast of Northumberland. Jean de Boucicaut went at the end of the year. While the princes debated peace at Amiens Thomas, Lord Despenser, was fighting on the Prussian march, accompanied by prominent English captains whose combined retinues must have numbered several hundred men. To some extent these men were seeking an escape from boredom and an outlet for aggressive energy which was no longer satisfied by war on the marches. But there was an important and genuine spiritual element which transcended nationality and inspired a new solidarity between the chivalry of England and France.22

The Barbary crusade and the Prussian campaigns were comparatively minor enterprises by comparison with the ancient dream of driving back the Turks and liberating the Holy Land. The advance of Islam in the Balkans provoked much anguish in France and to some extent in England also. A succession of offensives in the 1380s had brought the Ottoman Turks to the marches of Hungary and the shores of the Adriatic. In 1389 Sultan Murad had destroyed the Christian empire of Serbia on the battlefield of Kossovo. These were not the remote regions which they later became. Hungary was ruled by a French dynasty. The coastal settlements of Albania and Croatia were for practical purposes colonies of Venice. In the course of the 1390s the crusading dream briefly recovered something of its lost status as a universal western ideal. At the close of the conference at Amiens Charles VI had raised with John of Gaunt the possibility of an international crusade into the Balkans. There is no doubt that both men took the project seriously. Philippe de Mézières’s Order of the Passion, conceived many years before as a crusading order which would unite England and France against the Infidel, was at last drawing real recruits. All the royal princes at Amiens on both sides would become members or patrons of the order, together with many of the lay delegates, ministers and captains who had been present at the conference. More than eighty noblemen joined the order or were persuaded to support it. A majority were French but twenty-eight were English.23

The generosity of spirit reflected in Gerson’s sermon struck a strong chord at the court of Richard II but it generated intense scepticism in the English provinces. On 25 May 1392 John of Gaunt presented the French terms to a Great Council in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford. Unusually, the bishops had not been summoned to this gathering. In addition to the lay peerage, there were knights from the shires and a large number of experienced captains. The result was a rather military assembly in which professional soldiers or those who hoped to become professional soldiers were probably over-represented. The Duke of Lancaster described the territorial concessions that the French were willing to make. He raised the issue of homage and suggested it could be dealt with by a perpetual grant of the duchy of Aquitaine to himself. He had hardly finished his account of the proposals before the opposition made itself heard. The tone was set by the Duke of Guelders, who had recently arrived in England and was present with the King. The Duke had lost none of his visceral resentment of the French. He took the opportunity to deliver a fierce harangue against the proposals. The assembly, he said, ought to reject any treaty whatever with ‘those bombastic deceivers’. He would be the first to join the fight if Richard should take it up again. His words, according to the Westminster chronicler, were applauded by ‘men of mettle and courage’ and disparaged by ‘the indolent and chicken-hearted’. It is clear, however, that both groups were extremely critical of the terms. Opposition was particularly strong among the knights. They objected to the idea of separating Aquitaine from the English Crown by granting it to John of Gaunt and his descendants. The loss of the whole hereditary domain of the kings of England in France seemed to them to be too high a price to pay to resolve the argument about homage. There was also a more general suspicion of France and of John of Gaunt, who appeared to have used his position as England’s chief negotiator to serve his own interests as Duke of Aquitaine. At the conclusion of the proceedings the Duke of Gloucester declared, to a general murmur of approval, that there could be no question of agreeing to such proposals until they had been put before Parliament. The whole occasion had been badlymismanaged. For Richard and John of Gaunt it was the worst possible outcome. Politically they needed a consensus in support of any treaty. Since it was clear that the French would not be shifted on the question of liege homage some way had to be found of making that acceptable to English political opinion. That would take time and the next diplomatic conference was due to open in less than six weeks.24

The conference opened at Leulinghem in July 1392. The whole session was taken up with a tactical dispute about which side should disclose its hand first. The French delegation were strictly instructed to make no new offer of its own until it had received a considered response to the offer made at Amiens. The English replied that although they were empowered to modify some of the positions taken up by John of Gaunt at Amiens, the current French offer did not deserve serious attention. They were equally strictly instructed to say nothing until they had received a better one. In order to break logjams like this each government had agreed to confide more informal and flexible instructions to one of their ambassadors who could be counted on to know his sovereign’s real wishes. Unfortunately Guillaume de Melun, who was the ambassador charged with this function on the French side, was delayed on the road. As a result Sir Thomas Percy, who had been charged with the same function by Richard II, left in high dudgeon before his arrival. Both delegations recognised the absurdity of the situation. The English offered to tell their opponents what concessions they would be in a position to make if they got a better offer. The French were unmoved. The obvious solution, they suggested, was for the two kings to negotiate personally when none of these problems would arise. The English agreed but pointed to the political difficulties in their own country. They would work on it, they said, but nothing should be said in the formal record for fear of infuriating ‘certain members’ of Richard’s Council.25

*

Guillaume de Melun’s presence would probably have made no difference. The main reason for the French ambassadors’ reticence at Leulinghem was that their government was in the throes of an unforeseen political crisis which had paralysed decision-making in the French capital. On the night of 13 June 1392 an attempt was made to assassinate Olivier de Clisson. It happened in the Rue Saint-Pol in Paris, a narrow road which ran beneath the west wall of the royal palace. The Constable had been attending the festivities in the palace to mark the feast of Corpus Christi. Shortly after midnight he was making his way home on horseback, accompanied by a small group of friends and two servants with burning torches. A band of armed men sprang from a side-street shouting ‘Kill them! Death to Clisson!’ They seized the torches from the servants’ hands, threw them to the ground and fell on the Constable. Clisson’s companions fled while he tried to fend off his assailants with a dagger, the only weapon he had. He suffered three sword gashes to his legs before a heavy blow to his head propelled him from his horse into the open doorway of a baker’s shop. The attackers, who believed that they had killed him, made off. In fact Clisson had suffered only superficial wounds and within a short time he had completely recovered. Moreover he had recognised the leader of the gang as Pierre de Craon, a violent and quarrelsome nobleman from Anjou who had recently been banished from court as a result of an obscure scandal.26

The attack on the Constable provoked a hysterical response. Charles VI arrived at the scene of the attack within a few minutes accompanied by a crowd of servants, courtiers and soldiers. The King, who had always been close to Olivier de Clisson, regarded the incident as a slight to his Crown. The victim was the highest officer of his court. The attack had occurred within a few yards of his palace only minutes after Clisson had left his presence. As soon as dawn broke the Provost of the Châtelet was sent in pursuit of the attackers with a troop of armed men. Pierre de Craon had ridden through the night to Chartres, where his servants were waiting with fresh horses, and then found his way to his fortress of Sablé in Maine. It was here that he learned that the Constable had survived the attack. Realising that the King’s officers would soon be after him he fled to Brittany and threw himself on the protection of the Duke. John de Montfort had better sense than to offer asylum to such a dangerous guest. So Craon made for the English fortress of Brest and boarded a ship. There were rumours that he had taken refuge in England. Letters were addressed to the Duke of Brittany and the King of England demanding the surrender of the fugitive. In Paris Craon was summarily condemned in his absence and his property confiscated. His Paris house and a suburban mansion belonging to him were razed to the ground. The Admiral of France was sent to Maine to seize his estates and drive his wife and daughter from their home. Three of his accomplices had their hands cut off at the scene of the crime before being beheaded at Les Halles. They were followed a few days later by the aged porter of his house who appeared to have committed no crime at all other than failing to detect and denounce his master in time. Then, in early July, Pierre de Craon appeared in Barcelona and took passage for the Levant. By now, however, the news of his crime had reached the court of Aragon. A few hours out from the port he was taken off his ship by four galleys sent in pursuit by the French Queen of Aragon and brought back to the city, where he was thrown in prison to await the pleasure of the King of France.27

In Paris the fate of Craon himself had by now receded into the background. Charles VI’s ministers had seen the chance to turn the King’s rage against a more significant target, John de Montfort. So far as is known the Duke of Brittany had had nothing to do with the plot, but it proved difficult to persuade the Constable of that. The long-standing vendetta between the two rivals for control of Brittany had by now reached a fresh peak of intensity. After two childless marriages John de Montfort had married Charles of Navarre’s daughter Joan. She had recently given birth to a son, the first of eight children born to the couple. The birth of the future John V of Brittany lifted the threat that the duchy would pass to Clisson’s son-in-law John of Penthièvre and assured the permanence of the dynasty so far as any fragile infant life could do so in the unhealthy conditions of the fourteenth century. It also meant that Clisson’s ambitions could be achieved only by deploying the power of the Crown against the Duke of Brittany. The Constable’s public reconciliation with his rival, engineered by the Dukes of Burgundy and Berry in 1388, had never been more than skin-deep on either side. Relations between them progressively deteriorated until by the summer of 1391 open war had broken out in Brittany between their Breton partisans.28

For the French King’s Council there were wider issues than the dispute between two jealous and obstinate men. John de Montfort’s relations with the French royal government had become increasingly tense as the struggle between England and France seemed to be coming to an end. In the new world of international peace John would need a constitutional settlement with France. Old bones of contention were being dug up: the form of the Duke’s homage to the King and of his vassals’ homage to him, the control of crucial border fortresses, the Duke’s exercise of regalian rights to coin money and nominate bishops, the perennial irritants of Breton appeals to the Parlement of Paris and the incursions of French officials in the duchy’s affairs. With the Dukes of Burgundy and Berry, his traditional patrons, out of power, the King’s government dominated by his chief enemy and Richard II showing no interest in England’s traditional role as guarantor of Brittany’s territorial integrity, John de Montfort had very little to bargain with. In January 1392 there had been a difficult meeting between Charles VI and the Duke in the Loire city of Tours, followed by an agreement which satisfied neither of them. The Duke promised yet again to make peace with his domestic enemies. Agreement was reached, largely on John’s terms, on some of the more difficult constitutional questions. A marriage was negotiated between John’s infant son and the King’s one-year-old daughter Jeanne. But the discussions were disagreeable and the atmosphere tense. When all was done, John de Montfort executed a private deed before a notary declaring that his own concessions had been forced on him by threats. None of Charles’s ministers regarded the issues as closed. When John de Montfort wrote to the King protesting that Pierre de Craon had not received his protection and was no longer in Brittany, Charles VI and his brother were at first inclined to believe him but the Council were adamant that Craon would never have attempted such a bold stroke against the King without the support of the Duke of Brittany. Charles, angry and easily led, was persuaded. It became an obsession in the inner counsels of the King that John de Montfort should be punished for Craon’s crime.29

The King’s Council met in Paris at about the beginning of July 1392 to decide what to do. The proceedings were dominated by the Constable and by the two leading figures of the administration, Bureau de la Rivière and Jean le Mercier. All three of them were determined that the King should lead an army into Brittany to avenge the injury done to his honour by John de Montfort. To fund the substantial cost of war wages Clisson undertook to lend the government at least 80,000 francs in cash from his own resources. The King and his brother were already won over to the plan. So were the Constable’s allies and the Marmousets’ many protégés in the royal administration. The only voice urging caution was that of the Duke of Bourbon. He thought that the decision was a mistake. The case against John de Montfort seemed contrived. The attack was out of all proportion to the offence. The whole affair owed too much to the private rancours of Olivier de Clisson. ‘The Duke of Brittany is a great lord,’ Bourbon urged, ‘he might yet do you good service.’ But Charles would brook no dissent.

Contemporaries were shocked. There was no precedent for embarking on a major campaign by the fiat of the King and his ministers alone. It looked like a partisan decision, a conscious rejection of the show of deliberation and consensus which had always lent legitimacy to such decisions in the past. The Duke of Berry kept his own counsels, but among his intimates he made no secret of his disapproval. The Duke of Burgundy, who had not been consulted, was furious. He wrote to Bureau de la Rivière and other prominent ministers to protest. To some extent Philip was moved by an older conception of the public order which declined to treat private war between noblemen as a matter of state. After all, the Constable had not been attacked in the execution of his duties but on his way home after a ball and good dinner. Philip regarded the quarrel between Clisson and Craon as a matter for them, which need not concern either Brittany or France or indeed the King’s other subjects. He was concerned about the wider political implications to which the King’s councillors appeared to have given no thought at all. The decision to pick a fight with John de Montfort at this moment could serve only to drive him into the arms of the English and wreck the prospect of peace. There was substance in these fears. John’s first act on hearing of Charles VI’s decision was to send his agents urgently to England with proposals for a fresh military alliance. They came with offers to surrender the principal fortresses of the duchy into English hands and instructions to hire up to 5,000 mercenaries. The English government’s response is not recorded but there is some evidence that the Duke’s proposals were seriously considered by Richard II’s ministers.30

The French King’s army, about seven or eight thousand strong, gathered on the banks of the River Sarthe at the end of July 1392 beneath the walls of the cathedral city of Le Mans. It was overwhelmingly composed of ‘official’ contingents. In spite of their misgivings, all the royal princes were present except for the Duke of Berry, a friend and ally of John de Montfort who had contrived to have himself sent on a diplomatic mission to Avignon. The King’s brother Louis, who had been made Duke of Orléans on the eve of the campaign, appeared with a substantial battalion of his own. The officers of state and the court nobility were there with their retinues. The march provinces of Normandy, Anjou and Maine contributed important contingents. But most of the rest of the French nobility stayed away. The French-speaking nobility of eastern Brittany, traditionally loyal to the Crown, had been summoned but few of them came. Among the troops at the muster there was a detectable sense of unease. It was reported that the great noblemen about the King were pressing him ‘night and day’ to reconsider. Charles’s only response was to separate himself from the crowd of petitioners and surround himself with his Marmouset ministers. Even the news, which reached the camp at about the beginning of August, that Pierre de Craon was in Barcelona and not in Brittany failed to shake his resolve. ‘Whoever advises me to stop,’ he declared,‘advises me against my wishes and is no friend of mine.’31

On 5 August 1392, as the army began to march south through the forest of Le Mans, Charles VI had a maniacal fit. A man ran out from the forest, seized the bridle of his horse and began to shout of treason and betrayal, commanding him to stop. The man, who may have been mad, was driven off by Charles’s bodyguards but the incident unsettled the King. He had been suffering for some weeks from exhaustion, lack of sleep and periodic bouts of fever. As the sun rose in the sky it became hot and close. The King sweltered in his thick velvet tunic. Clouds of fine sand and dust thrown up by the hoofs of thousands of horses got into men’s nostrils and lungs. Riding ahead to escape the dust Charles entered a clearing close to the village of Pontvallain, accompanied only by his brother Louis and a few attendants. Behind him the page bearing the King’s lance had fallen asleep in the saddle and allowed the lance to fall from his hands, the tip striking another man’s helmet with a clang of metal on metal. The King started. Thinking he was being attacked, he drew his sword and felled the page. Then he began to strike out at anyone within range. It dawned on his companions that he no longer recognised them. None dared fight back. Three more men were killed. Several others were wounded. The rest fled or played dead. His brother Louis tried to approach him, only to be struck on the head with the sword and chased through the forest. For an hour Charles charged to and fro until his sword broke and his mount was too exhausted to continue. One of hishousehold knights finally came up behind him, jumped behind his saddle and seized him by the arms while others took away his fractured sword and dragged him from his horse, his eyes still rolling in their sockets. The King, subsiding into a coma, was carried back to Le Mans tied down to a litter. Messengers rode along the Angers road turning back each company in turn. The Brittany campaign was over.32

Charles’s fit was the first serious manifestation of a life-long illness which, so far as we can judge across an interval of more than six centuries, appears to have been a form of paranoid schizophrenia. The King’s contemporaries were mystified. The doctors crowded round the bed of the comatose King in the monastery of St. Julian at Le Mans. They pronounced that his hopes of recovery were poor. A variety of explanations was canvassed. The King’s entourage initially suspected poison and interrogated his servants. The Duke of Burgundy blamed Charles’s household officers for allowing him to lead a dissolute life at court, with its unending sequence of late nights and mornings, banquets and balls. Among the population at large the origins of the King’s illness were almost universally thought to be supernatural: a thunderbolt of God or sorcery worked by obscure and malevolent enemies.

Much of this speculation was put aside when Charles recovered consciousness after three days. He was lucid but remained weak and lethargic for several weeks. For the next thirty years of his life the French King was destined to live a life of intermittent sanity, interrupted by ever longer and more frequent ‘absences’, the delicate euphemism used by his contemporaries to describe the prolonged periods when the King would wander through the corridors of his palaces howling and screaming, not knowing who or what he was. Yet the truth was that even in his periods of lucidity Charles VI was no longer capable of governing his realm. He was gracious and could be articulate. He acted his role. But politically he was generally content to allow the factions around him to fight their battles over his head as if he were no more than a distant spectator of a performance that no longer concerned him. For France the political consequences were catastrophic, far worse than they would have been if Charles had died. So long as the King lived everything had to be done in his name. The situation was too uncertain to warrant a formal regency, which might have provided a measure of continuity and conserved the strength of the Valois monarchy. Instead power was uneasily contested between his closest relatives and was exercised intermittently by cliques with no real legitimacy in law or security in fact. The great institutions of the Valois state were riven with jealousies and divisions which mirrored those of the princes to whom their members were bound by ties of patronage and self-preservation. The ultimate consequence was a civil war of which the main beneficiary would be Henry V of England.33

In August 1392 the Duke of Burgundy moved swiftly to seize control of the government. His first acts were to announce the cancellation of the attack on Brittany and disband the army. An embassy was sent to Brittany bearing a letter from the Dukes of Burgundy and Bourbon full of gracious apologies for a campaign which had been ‘instigated by the Devil and by evil counsellors’. These measures provoked an immediate row with the Constable, who had been the leader of the ‘evil counsellors’ in question and was the financier and chief beneficiary of the campaign. Clisson at once reneged on his promise to fund the payment of war wages. The result was that the captains had to be sent away unpaid, a highly unpopular course which did nothing for Clisson’s political credit. Towards the end of August, when the King was well enough to travel, he was carried to the royal castle of Creil, isolated on its island in the Oise north of Paris. In the capital a Great Council was hastily assembled from those notables who were at hand to approve the new arrangements for the government of the kingdom. The King’s closest blood relation was Louis of Orléans, now in his twenty-first year. He made a determined bid for power. If Charles had been dead or permanently incapacitated his claim would have been unanswerable. But with the King nominally in command of his affairs the Duke of Burgundy prevailed by the sheer force of his personality and the strength of his following. Orléans was young, inexperienced and cocky. He was also widely regarded as dissolute and unstable, addicted to gambling, surrounding himself with wild friends and throwing debauched parties. His obsessive interest in sorcery and the black arts was an open secret. In some minds the connection may already have been made between the King’s illness and the evil spells of his brother’s circle. These things tended to overshadow Louis’s undoubted abilities. His claims were brushed aside.34

At the end of September 1392 the King was brought back to Paris and installed in the Hôtel Saint-Pol while the Dukes of Burgundy and Berry set about consolidating their power and purging their enemies from the royal household and administration. The leading Marmouset ministers were suspended from their functions. Bureau de la Rivière and Jean le Mercier were shut in the Bastille. Le Bègue de Villaines was taken to the fortress of Crèvecoeur. Jean de Montaigu fled to the papal court at Avignon. Clisson, who was at the royal castle of Montlhéry, was tipped off as the soldiers came down the Orléans road to arrest him, and fled to his domains in Brittany. Philip of Burgundy loathed these men. They were parvenus with ambitions above their station who had excluded him and his brother from power since 1388, indulged the King’s vices, undermined his health, monopolised his patronage and finally engineered the disastrous decision to invade Brittany. For the Duke of Berry they were also the men responsible for the judicial murder of his friend and minister Jean de Bétizac. The Marmousets had done good service to the King. But they had the vulnerability of all self-made men who rose to high office in the middle ages. ‘There is no greater menace in this world,’ intoned that faithful mirror of conventional sentiment Eustache Deschamps, ‘than a poor man raised to high estate.’ The leading Marmousets had grown rich, with ostentatious ways and fine houses, ‘lording it over the highest in the land’ in the words of the prim chronicler of Saint-Denis. Exaggerated stories were put about by their enemies. Olivier de Clisson was reported to have made a will after the recent attempt on his life in which he disposed of no less than 1.7 million francs in cash and moveables alone, a sum not far short of the entire revenues of the realm for a year. A commission of inquiry was appointed to find evidence of corruption. They were instructed to examine every case where more than 1,000 francs had been granted to a single person since the famous council at Reims which had brought the Marmousets to power. The results of their labours are not known but the allegations against the Marmousets are not borne out by the financial records which survive. Charles VI was certainly over-generous to his friends and his ministers were never shy of accepting tips or grants for their services. But the services were genuine enough and the scale of the rewards not out of line with what a successful official could expect to earn in the fourteenth century.35

Clisson’s fate was ultimately settled by a deal between Philip of Burgundy and John de Montfort. In return for the removal of his enemy from the French government John undertook to cut off all contact with the English. In December 1392 an obliging Parlement condemned Clisson in default for embezzlement and stripped him of his office of Constable. He was eventually replaced by Philip, Count of Eu, an inexperienced young man whose main qualification for the job was that he was betrothed to Jean de Berry’s daughter. There was at least a serious political case against Clisson, whose obsessive vendetta against John de Montfort was a threat to the internal peace of France and the prospect of peace with England. But the rest of the Marmousets were simply victims of the royal dukes’ thirst for revenge after four years in the political wilderness. Bureau de la Rivière and Jean le Mercier were accused of stealing more than 120,000 francs from the royal treasury, of carrying on a treasonable correspondence with the English and of taking bribes from Richard II’s ministers. If Burgundy and Berry had had their way both men would have been executed. Indeed, for several days in October, crowds gathered expectantly in the Place de Grève to enjoy the spectacle. But the disgraced ministers were saved, probably by the intervention of the Duke of Bourbon and Louis of Orléans. Nothing was ever proved against them and after more than a year in prison they were released and exonerated. It was a discreditable episode.36

The Dukes of Berry and Burgundy maintained effective control of the royal administration until Philip’s death in 1404. The royal Council was never wholly under their control but they ensured that it always included a strong caucus of their creatures. Beneath the Council Philip of Burgundy’s officials and clients secured direct control of the main organs of government, especially the financial institutions and the royal secretariat. Philip’s only real political rival was Louis of Orléans. Louis had been wrong-footed in the power struggle which followed the return of the court from Le Mans but he was still a force to be reckoned with and likely to become stronger with the passage of time. Over the following months he forged an alliance with a group of councillors who had been close to the Marmousets in their better days and were beyond the reach of Burgundy’s anger: the Duke of Bourbon, Enguerrand de Coucy, the Admiral Jean de Vienne and the Provost of the Merchants of Paris, Jean Juvénal des Ursins. The strong personal bond between Louis and his brother, which survived through all the King’s vicissitudes, gave him a measure of influence during the King’s periods of lucidity. The grant of the duchy of Orléans, one of the King’s last acts of largesse before his illness, had brought him a bigger and more prestigious appanage which he rounded out by judicious purchases in the Beauce and the Loire valley over the following years. Louis could never match the immense wealth of the Duke of Burgundy but he was now getting a substantial income from his domains, augmented by a generous pension from the royal treasury. He maintained a large household at the Hôtel de Bohême near the market of Les Halles. He took the field with an impressive military retinue. He cultivated a political following, distributing largesse with an open but discriminating hand. He even moderated the wilder aspects of his behaviour, at least in public.37

The price of Louis’s acquiescence in the new regime was its support for his Italian ambitions. It is unlikely that Philip of Burgundy had any personal enthusiasm for this project but it was worth indulging a potentially disruptive political rival if only to get rid of him. In November 1392 the ambassador of Gian Galeazzo Visconti was in Paris trying to interest the French government in reviving the plans of conquest which had been so abruptly dropped the year before. Since that setback the French viceroy in Naples, Louis of Montjoie, and the child-King Louis II of Anjou had built on their early successes. With the aid of regular shipments of bullion from the papal treasury and the Angevin territories in France and Provence they had maintained their position against the companies of Ladislas of Durazzo and his mother. By the autumn of 1392 the whole of Calabria had submitted to them. In Paris the Christmas season was the traditional time for great plans. Louis of Orléans and his supporters devised a fresh scheme for a dual invasion of Italy in the joint interest of himself and the Avignon Pope. He planned to cross the Alps into the Lombard plain in the following summer at the head of an army of 6,000 men, there to join forces with the despot of Milan. Their combined forces would enter the states of the Church from the north by the march of Bologna. Simultaneously the Duke of Bourbon would sail from Marseille with a small company of troops and money to hire more in Italy. According to reports reaching Florence Bourbon planned to march up the coast with some 4,500 men and invade the papal state from the south, making for the march of Viterbo. There he would be able to concert operations with the surviving companies of Breton and Gascon routiers around Viterbo and Urbino, the only significant forces in central Italy which still acknowledged the Avignon Pope.38

In the new year an intense diplomatic offensive was launched in support of Louis’s Italian adventure. A French embassy headed by Philip of Burgundy’s friend and confidant Gui de la Tremoille left for Milan to propose a fresh military alliance to Gian Galeazzo. Jean de Vienne went to canvass support in Florence and Genoa and probably in Bologna. Enguerrand de Coucy was sent to Avignon with another embassy charged with agreeing terms with Clement VII. Yet another mission travelled to Aragon to hire war galleys and transports. Louis’s initial objective in 1393 was the same as it had been in 1389: to carve a ‘kingdom of Adria’ out of the papal state for his own benefit. But as his plans matured they became even more ambitious. He began to intrigue with a faction of Guelph noblemen to deliver up the Republic of Genoa to him as well, thus giving him a major port and an additional point of entry into the peninsula. In the event all these pipe dreams encountered an unexpected obstacle in Clement VII himself. Clement was delighted at the prospect of his rival’s expulsion from Italy by French arms but sceptical about whether Louis could do it. Where was he going to find the troops? How would he pay them without open-ended financial support from the French Crown? Did he have enough allies among the Italian cities? These were good questions. Orléans’s ambassadors, questioned by the Pope in the council chamber of the papal palace, had no answers to them. Clement was reluctant to agree to the dismemberment of the papal state for the benefit of a prince of the fleur de lys, least of all for such an uncertain return. It was true that he had made a secret grant in very similar terms to Louis of Anjou in 1379, as Louis’s ambassadors reminded him. He had also given tacit encouragement to a very similar project two years earlier. But the Pope had come to regard these things as embarrassing mistakes which would serve only to rally the communities of central Italy to Boniface IX. It is difficult to fault his judgment on any of these points but the consequences were embarrassing. The Duke of Bourbon, who attended some of these exchanges on his way to Marseille, walked out. He returned in disgust to Paris, to the fury of the Pope and the Duchess of Anjou, both of whom had laid out large sums on shipping and supplies for his army. Much of the next two years was to be consumed in ultimately fruitless attempts to resolve the impasse.39

*

To Philip of Burgundy, all of this was an unwelcome distraction from the business of concluding a lasting peace with England. He had begun to apply himself to the question as soon as Charles VI had recovered consciousness in the monastery of St. Julian at Le Mans. The King’s illness raised some delicate issues. There was no concealing the gravity of what had happened. Richard II’s representatives had been present at Le Mans when Charles suffered his crisis and were even admitted to the bedchamber of the comatose King until they were hurriedly shooed out by the Duke of Burgundy. English spies were busy picking up gossip about the court. The English government was unlikely to agree to a permanent treaty if there were doubts about who had authority to speak for the King of France. To soothe these anxieties Philip made use of a highly unconventional intermediary. Robert de Mennot, known as ‘Robert the Hermit’, was a Norman seer who had passed most of his adult life in the east. He had recently arrived in France claiming to have been commanded by God to reconcile England and France and direct their combined energies against the Turk. Robert was a man of great eloquence and charm whose preaching had already had some impact in France. Philippe de Mézières, who was probably responsible for introducing him to the French King’s councillors, called him the ‘special messenger of God to both monarchs’. The Duke of Burgundy shrewdly judged that he would appeal to the impressionable and high-minded King of England and perhaps circumvent the cumbrous conventions of diplomatic exchange. He was not disappointed. Robert clearly did impress Richard, much as that other crusade propagandist Leo of Armenia had done before him. The upshot of his mission and of a more formal embassy which reached England at the end of September was an agreement that a fresh conference would open at Leulinghem on 9 February 1393. Both sides would be represented there at the highest levels below the kings themselves.40

The conference finally opened at Leulinghem, two months late, in April 1393. On the English side it occurred against a difficult political background. The departure of Richard’s ambassadors had been preceded by an acrimonious debate in Parliament about their instructions, in some ways reminiscent of the Stamford debate the year before. The English sources are reticent about this. There is some evidence that the Duke of Guelders may once again have served as the unofficial leader of the war party. He was certainly invited to send his ambassadors to lay his views before Parliament and may have done so. If so they had some effect, judging by reports reaching the French King’s ministers in Paris. The English government apparently had much difficulty in containing the hostility of the knights in the Commons. In some parts of England, where the tradition of military service was strong, the peace conference was viewed with grave foreboding and threats of violence. In the north-east and the Midlands resistance was being organised by professional captains who had made their careers in France. The ringleader, Sir Thomas Talbot, who had lands in Yorkshire, Cheshire and Lancashire, had been captain of Berwick and then Guines and had fought in the jousts of Saint-Ingelvert. The other participants who can be identified came from a very similar background. The Lancashire knight Sir William Clifton, another jouster at Saint-Ingelvert, had been captain of Ham in Picardy. Sir John Mascy belonged to a famous military family from Cheshire, several of whom had served for long periods in Gascony. Richard’s ministers were well aware of the problem that was brewing. They sent the Earl of Huntingdon and a local magnate, Sir John Stanley, to the north-east to reason with the leading contrariants, but they trod warily, unwilling to proceed to tougher measures for fear of precipitating a crisis which might require the conference to be postponed.41

Richard II’s chief representative at Leulinghem was John of Gaunt. He was supported by the Duke of Gloucester, who had been added to the team in order to disarm critics of the peace process at home. They were given wide discretion to make concessions. The King himself remained in Kent, in close touch with events. On the French side were the Dukes of Burgundy and Berry. They did not quite have carte blanche, in spite of their dominant position on the French King’s Council. But Charles VI established his court at Abbeville, a day’s ride south of Calais, so that the Council could meet whenever decisions were required. The two royal uncles set up their headquarters at Boulogne and travelled several times a week to Leulinghem to meet Lancaster and Gloucester. The bleak flats around the village were transformed into a scene of unparalleled splendour. The Duke of Burgundy had an immense tented pavilion, looking like a miniature walled town with avenues and streets, which was said to have a capacity of 3,000. The Duke of Lancaster’s pavilion was reported to be even grander, with chapels, arcades, law courts and markets and bell-towers sounding out the hours. At nearly £5,000, the English embassy was the most expensive mission to France for many years.

On the opening day of the conference the whole mass of noblemen, officials and clerks crammed into the church for the reading of the ambassadors’ procurations. The humble thatched church had been decked out with unbecoming tapestries depicting the great battles of the ancient world. John of Gaunt had them taken down and replaced with symbols of the Passion of Christ, an unmistakable reference to Philippe de Mézières’s crusading order. Leo of Armenia, who was present in the entourage of the French royal dukes, had recently returned from eastern Europe with reports on the situation there. Robert the Hermit preached his message of peace and unity at the fringes of the conference. The advances of the Turks were in everyone’s mind. Eustache Deschamps faithfully reflected the mood in a long lament on the divisions of Christendom, written in the opening days of the conference. It was full of conventional sentiments but infused with real optimism. Men felt that they were about to witness great events. Michel Pintoin, the monk of Saint-Denis who had recently been appointed official historiographer, was summoned to Leulinghem by the Duke of Berry to record the occasion in his chronicle. Jean Froissart took lodgings at Abbeville to be close to the gossip of the court.42

As soon as the opening ceremonies were over the four royal dukes dispensed with the usual elaborate forensic procedures and began a series of closed sessions with only a limited number of participants. The exchanges, according to the Duke of Burgundy, were ‘friendly and straightforward’. The English made it clear at once that they would not in any circumstances agree to surrender Calais. The French royal dukes, who had already decided that this point might have to be conceded, accepted this with good grace. Most of the rest of the time was given over to debate about the legal status of the English possessions in France and to haggling about the new borders of the duchy of Aquitaine. The driving force on the English side was the Duke of Lancaster. Gloucester played the part assigned to him, but his heart was not in it and he made no attempt to hide the fact. Years later he told Froissart that the French were constantly producing documents full of tricky ambiguities. ‘You French have ways of colouring your words …’, he claimed to have told Robert the Hermit to his face; the same terms ‘mean war when you want war and peace when you want peace’. He was content to do his sovereign’s bidding, he added, but if Richard II had listened to his advice he would long ago have taken back his territory in France by force and imposed a peace on his own terms.43

By the end of April 1393 the four royal dukes had made enough progress to enable detailed proposals to be submitted to both governments. The conference adjourned for three weeks for consultations. When the proceedings resumed at the end of May 1393 agreement in principle was reached almost immediately. On 16 June 1393 a protocol was drawn up and sealed, which recorded the terms to be included in a treaty of peace together with a small number of matters which it had not been possible to agree and which were reserved for direct negotiation between the two kings. The terms were remarkably generous to the English. They were to have the whole of the vast territory ceded to them at Brétigny in 1360 with the exception of Poitou, northern Saintonge and the county of Ponthieu in the north. This included Périgord, the Angoumois, Limousin, Rouergue and Quercy, and the Pyrenean enclaves of Bigorre, Gaure and Tarbes. It was more generous than any of the territorial settlements which the French had previously proposed. They also abandoned their insistence on the surrender or destruction of Calais and agreed to pay an indemnity of between 1,200,000 and 1,500,000 francs as compensation for the territories ceded at Brétigny which they were retaining. The English for their part finally gave way on the question of homage. The duchy of Aquitaine was to become once again one of the twelve peerages of France and would be held in return for liege homage. The one point on which they insisted was that it would be necessary to define the incidents of this homage more carefully. Did it include military service? Would the King of England be expected to attend Charles VI’s courts and councils as a peer of France? And what of the French King’s right to have judicial appeals from English-held territories heard in his courts? These were important and difficult questions. It was agreed that a commission of experts from each side would meet during the summer to consider them. This left four main matters to be agreed between Richard II and Charles VI personally when they met: the legal status of Calais; the fate of La Rochelle, France’s only Atlantic port south of the Seine; the thorny question whether Richard II would have to perform his homage in person now that Aquitaine had been granted to John of Gaunt; and the precise amount of the cash indemnity. The four dukes swore that the terms would in due course be embodied in a formal treaty of peace. The Duke of Gloucester, for all his misgivings, swore with the rest. Before they separated they agreed a timetable for the completion of the remaining stages. The commission of legal experts would meet in August. The four royal dukes were to reconvene at Leulinghem on 29 September to resolve any outstanding issues. The meeting of the two kings was fixed for February 1394.44  

29 French territorial proposals, 1377–1393

*

It was a measure of the latent threat which English hostility still represented for France that the Leulinghem protocol of June 1393 should have conceded so much to a defeated enemy. The herald who brought the news of the agreement to Richard II from Calais graphically described for Froissart’s benefit the joy on his face when he opened the Duke of Lancaster’s letter. Yet the English were unable to follow up their diplomatic triumph. In the last days of the conference Charles VI suffered another attack of insanity. He had violent fits. He no longer recognised his wife or any of those around him. He could not even remember who he was. The King’s second ‘absence’ was a far more serious affair than the first. It lasted for nearly six months, during which Charles disappeared from sight. Among the public at large the suspicion of sorcery hardened into certainty, and the first voices were raised identifying Louis of Orléans and his wife as the people responsible. Had the King not tried to kill Louis in that forest clearing ten months before? Did Louis not have most to gain by his brother’s incapacity? Was he not notorious for his interest in the black arts? Did Valentine not come from Italy, in popular imagination the European homeland of magicians, sorcerers and necromancers? There were reports that the Duchess of Orléans was the only person whom the King continued to recognise in his delirium. The gossip, almost certainly originating in the King’s own circle, was magnified by repetition. Sorcery, charms, curses were a delusion of the ‘common people’ according to the chronicler of Saint-Denis. But they were a potent delusion throughout the middle ages, shared by many who were ‘common’ only in the sense that they were laymen without the weight of theological learning which had long ago persuaded the Church that such things could not happen to a king. Over the following years several magicians would be employed to heal him of an illness which was itself ascribed to magic. In the autumn of 1393 Charles’s attendants summoned from Guyenne a self-proclaimed sorcerer by the name of Arnaud Guillaume, the first of a succession of such people who would be invited to cure the sick monarch, only to be condemned as heretics and brutally put to death at Montfaucon or Les Halles when their books, charms and incantations failed.45

Richard II’s ministers must have had a fair idea from their own sources about what was going on. But it was not until September 1393 that one of the French King’s councillors was sent to England to explain the situation. By then it was clear that the main obstacle to the completion of the peace was not the health of the French King but political opposition in England. The decision of Richard’s Council to ignore the unrest in the north proved in hindsight to have been unwise. Sir Thomas Talbot and his friends nailed their manifesto to the doors of parish churches in Cheshire, Lancashire and the neighbouring counties. They accused the two royal dukes of plotting to abandon the King’s claim to the throne of France without his authority. They threatened to murder them together with any other supporters of the peace whom they could lay hands on. Opposition to the peace merged with a variety of local grievances: the wider economic ills of agricultural communities; in Cheshire, hostility to a heavy local tax imposed in return for the renewal of the county’s charters and unspecific fears for its liberties; in Lancashire, the innumerable slights, jealousies and resentments provoked by John of Gaunt’s position as the dominant local landowner. By June 1393 the rebellion had reached formidable proportions. About 20,000 men according to contemporary estimates had gathered at rallying-points across the region. The Duke of Lancaster hurriedly returned to England at the end of June and passed the next three months in the north. The rebellion was put down with an adept mixture of firmness and tact. Many of the poorer rebels were bought off by offers of service with the Duke in Gascony. There was very little fighting. But the incident revealed the fault lines in English politics. The Duke of Gloucester was committed to the peace terms by his oath. Indeed, as justiciar of Chester he was bound to support his brother in putting down an armed uprising. But he was thought to have been lukewarm in his efforts. The Earl of Arundel, who had important interests of his own in the region and held views very similar to Gloucester’s, was even more equivocal. He put a large force into his castle of Holt, about ten miles south of Chester, and waited on events. John of Gaunt was convinced that Arundel was preparing to support the rebels and would have done so if a favourable opportunity had arisen. He would later openly accuse the Earl of treason.46

Seven months passed after the protocol of Leulinghem, during which the momentum achieved at the conference was lost. The commission of experts met in August 1393, a bench of lawyers presided over by a bishop on each side. After two months of deliberation they failed to reach agreement. The law is a conservative profession. After much learned research into the manner in which appeals from Gascony had been conducted when they had last been heard in the 1330s, the French jurists declared that there was no reason why the same practices should not be followed now. Since the practices of the 1330s had led to the confiscation of the duchy and precipitated the war this was not acceptable to their English counterparts. It was perhaps unrealistic to expect technical experts to resolve what was really an issue of principle. The meeting of the four royal uncles, which might have revisited this question, had had to be postponed on account of the continuing illness of the King of France. Charles did not recover his senses until shortly after Christmas 1393.

Richard II remained personally committed to a permanent peace. The first of England’s Atlantic barbicans was already in the course of evacuation. The fortress-town of Cherbourg was sold back to the heir of Charles the Bad of Navarre. The troops in the castle delivered the place up to a Navarrese garrison and sailed back to England at the beginning of 1394. Desultory negotiations were in train for the abandonment of Brest to John de Montfort. There was even talk of abandoning Calais in spite of the adamant line which English representatives had taken on the subject at successive diplomatic conferences. John of Gaunt was reported to have declared that the place ‘grieved more England and did more hurt thereto than profit for the great expenses about the keeping thereof’.47

The real test of English opinion came with the meeting of Parliament at Westminster on 27 January 1394. In his opening address the Chancellor, Archbishop Arundel, reported on the progress of negotiations with France. He had the terms of the Leulinghem protocol read out before the assembly. He told his hearers that they would be expected to offer their advice, but there would be a price to pay if the government’s proposals were rejected. If they were not willing to approve the peace they would be duty-bound to furnish the King with the means of continuing the war. The gathering which listened to these words was not a particularly martial one. Very few of them had a vested interest in the continuance of the war. Almost all of the fifty-three lay peers summoned had fought at one time or another under the command of the King or the royal princes as it was their duty to do, but only a handful of them could have been described as professional soldiers. Of the seventy-three knights of the shires who sat in the Commons thirty-four were not proper, belted knights at all. Less than half had had any significant military experience. Of those only fourteen are known to have fought in France and two in Castile, and only four had been professional captains. The opponents of the peace had lost their natural spokesman when the Duke of Gloucester put his name to the protocol at Leulinghem. It therefore fell to the Earl of Arundel to speak for the opposition. He was supported from the wings by the Duke of Guelders, who had come specially to England for the occasion.48

The debate began as soon as the Chancellor had finished speaking. His brother, the Earl of Arundel, launched into a stinging attack on the terms brought back by the ambassadors from Leulinghem and on their principal author, John of Gaunt. There were, he said, ‘certain matters close to his heart which he could not honourably conceal’. The Duke of Lancaster was too close to the King. Richard was always in his company. The King even wore Gaunt’s livery collar and ordered his retainers to do the same. Fortified by the King’s support, Gaunt was overbearing in Council and in Parliament, intimidating colleagues and preventing them from speaking their minds. Arundel criticised the use of tax revenues to support Gaunt’s expedition to Castile and the release of his debts to the Crown. He complained about the grant to Gaunt of the duchy of Aquitaine, which he believed disinherited the King. Finally he turned on the peace terms. His criticisms are not recorded in the official roll. But according to the usually well-informed chronicler of Westminster Abbey the Earl seized on the question of homage. If Richard performed liege homage to the King of France, he declared, even if it was only for his domains in France, England would become a subordinate kingdom. ‘Every Englishman having the King of England as his lord would pass under the heel of the King of France and be held for ever more under the yoke of slavery.’ John of Gaunt himself was not present in the Chamber to hear the Earl of Arundel’s words. It was the King himself who took up his defence. If he was close to John of Gaunt, Richard said, that was only natural for an uncle and his nephew. It had been his own decision to wear Gaunt’s livery collar as a ‘symbol of the love and confidence between them’ after the Duke’s return from Spain. He pointed out that the subsidy for Gaunt’s expedition to Castile and the grant of Aquitaine had both been approved in full Parliament. The Duke of Lancaster, he declared, had spent more of his own money on the King’s affairs than he owed to the Treasury. As for the agreement with the French, everything that Gaunt had done at Leulinghem had been done in accordance with his instructions and approved by the Council, of which Arundel himself was a member. In any event nothing was irrevocable yet. The lords, who had witnessed this extraordinary exchange, declared that Gaunt’s honour was safe. They forced the Earl to withdraw his allegations and apologise. Shortly after this there was another row between the two men. This time it was the Duke of Lancaster’s turn to accuse his rival. Gaunt was angry about the covert support given to the Cheshire rebels in the previous summer. He alleged that Arundel had deliberately withheld his support during the crisis. He hinted that powerful individuals were sheltering the leader of the rebellion, Sir Thomas Talbot. Arundel responded with what the St. Albans chronicler called a ‘forceful and plausible speech’ defending his own conduct. But the Lords appear to have supported Gaunt on this issue also, for at the end of the debate Arundel walked out. Shortly afterwards he obtained the King’s licence never to attend the Council or Parliament again.49

Arundel’s mistake was to turn his attack on the treaty into a general assault on the King and his principal adviser. If his language had been more measured the Lords might not have humiliated him in the way they did. For it is clear that many of them had strong misgivings of their own about the terms agreed at Leulinghem. They too were concerned about the Duke of Lancaster’s role at the conference and about the political implications of recognising French sovereignty over Aquitaine. The Lords discussed the terms jointly with the ‘more mature and substantial’ knights sitting in the Commons. They issued a joint declaration approving the idea of making peace with France in principle but rejecting the essential features of the deal which Lancaster had negotiated. They were against Richard doing liege homage for his domains in France as opposed to simple homage. They said that if he was to do homage of whatever kind to the King of France it would be necessary to have guarantees against manipulative appeals of the kind which had led to the confiscation of the duchy in the past. They also foresaw that sooner or later the treaty would break down. A conflict would then arise between Richard’s rights as King of England and his duties as a vassal of France. They wanted to deal with this by inserting a provision reviving the English claim to the throne of France if it happened. These provisos would have destroyed the whole basis of the deal.

The agreement fared no better in the Commons. The Speaker was the Lincolnshire knight Sir John Bussy, an experienced Parliamentarian and a retainer of the Duke of Lancaster, who may already have acquired his later reputation as a government fixer. But even Bussy was unable to save the protocol. The Commons followed the lead of the knights and issued a declaration in very similar terms to the Lords. England, they said, ‘should not be burdened by the said homage and ressort’. The Duke of Lancaster came in for a good deal of abuse in both Houses. The fact that as Duke of Aquitaine he was personally the main beneficiary of the agreement escaped no one’s attention. Someone suggested that if a lesser figure had put forward such terms he would have been convicted of treason on the spot, ‘but the Duke of Lancaster does as he pleases’. As for the Duke of Gloucester, he had lost much of his popularity by his participation in the conference. It was even put about that Gaunt had bribed him with the promise of an increased endowment. The Commons spurned the Chancellor’s suggestion that heavy taxation would be required if the terms were rejected. The most that they were willing to do was to allow the government to collect half a lay subsidy, which had been already granted the year before in case war broke out with France. They obviously regarded the renewal of the war as unlikely. Like the Lords they seem to have thought that there were better terms to be had. They were mistaken about this, as John of Gaunt could have told them and no doubt did.

In April 1394 the ambassadors returned to Leulinghem. Lancaster, accompanied this time by the youngest of his brothers, Edmund Langley Duke of York, represented Richard II. They reported the response of Parliament to Charles VI’s uncles. The royal dukes remained locked in conference until the end of May and then separated without agreement. All that could be salvaged from two years of intensive negotiation was another truce, this time for four years, and a promise that John of Gaunt would participate with the Dukes of Burgundy and Orléans in a joint crusade against the pagans of the eastern Baltic or the Ottoman Turks in the Balkans. An opportunity had been lost.50

The English rejection of the peace process to which the King had devoted the last five years of his life proved to be a turning point in Richard II’s public life. He was now twenty-seven years old. A handsome but rather frail and boyish-looking man, he flushed readily according to a contemporary account, and spoke with a slight stammer. Cultivated, sensitive, speaking excellent French, fastidious in his personal habits and addicted to luxury, temperamentally averse to war, he had very little in common with the majority of the English baronage. In public his manner was distant and kingly. But, like Charles VI of France, he combined this with undignified carousing with his intimates in private. The moody impulsiveness and irritability of his youth had grown worse with the years. On 7 June 1394, a few days after the return of the ambassadors from Leulinghem, his wife Anne of Bohemia died at the royal manor of Sheen. Richard had been close to Anne and after her death became increasingly introspective and emotional. He refused to enter any room where she had been. He ordered Sheen to be razed to the ground. Politically he became more unpredictable in his reactions and less inclined to take any counsel but his own. There was a revealing incident at the Queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey when the Earl of Arundel, who had arrived late, asked for permission to leave early. The King, who had till now kept his hatred of Arundel under control, seized a cane from an attendant and laid about the Earl, cutting his head and knocking him to the ground before ordering him to be imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was only released after providing a bond for his good behaviour in the enormous sum of £40,000. Richard’s anger against others who crossed him began to provoke a noticeable edginess at court. Even John of Gaunt, who had dominated Richard’s government since his return from Gascony, found that his relations with his nephew became cooler and more distant after the failure of the negotiations with France. The Duke felt it necessary to write to his nephew shortly after the incident involving Arundel, urging him not to believe slanders that he was told were being uttered against his loyalty at court. Behind these personal animosities there lay an inordinate sensitivity to criticism which became progressively more pronounced as the years passed. The King’s public appearances became more theatrical, the forms of address employed in his presence more extravagant, his official portraiture more icon-like, an image of divinely ordained kingship reinforced by elaborate court rituals borrowed from the ceremonial of the Church and the splendour of the court of France.51

*

For nearly a year after the collapse of the Leulinghem agreement of 1394 all the main protagonists turned away to attend to other problems. Richard II turned to the affairs of Ireland, which was now in serious danger of being lost to the Irish chiefs. On 16 June 1394, a few days after his ambassadors’ return from Leulinghem, he announced his intention of crossing to Ireland with an army, the first time that an English King had visited the Irish lordship since the reign of King John nearly two centuries before. The army which ultimately embarked at Milford Haven in October was at least 5,000 strong and included most of those about the King who had been involved in the negotiations with France. John of Gaunt immersed himself in the problems of Gascony, where the most serious revolt yet against his authority had broken out in April 1394. Resentful of the authoritarian ways of Gaunt’s lieutenants and frightened by inaccurate reports from England that Richard was about to cede the duchy to his uncle in perpetuity as part of a deal with France, the Estates of Gascony had repudiated his authority. In future, they declared, they would obey only officials who were directly answerable to the King. Towards the end of October, with the French negotiations for the time being in abeyance, Gaunt sailed with some 1,500 men men from Plymouth. He would be away from England for more than a year. At the court of France the Duke of Burgundy threw himself into the business of broking a permanent resolution of the Breton civil war.52

The only visible symptom of the earlier goodwill between the two courts was the crusade. The Duke of Burgundy was the driving force behind this project. He conceived ambitious plans for an elite army of knights to confront the Turks in Hungary and drive them from the Balkans. This venture was intended as the prelude to an even more grandiose plan for the liberation of the Holy Land. A budget of 520,000 francs (£87,500) was drawn up to pay for Philip’s retinue alone. Heavy taxes were demanded from his domains in Burgundy, Flanders and Artois. A Hungarian embassy was in France for much of the summer of 1394. There was intense diplomatic activity across Europe over the following winter as plans were concerted between the rulers of France, Hungary, Germany, Venice and Byzantium. John of Gaunt showed every sign of taking this project seriously. His son-in-law John Holand, Earl of Huntingdon, accompanied a French embassy to Hungary to make preliminary arrangements. His illegitimate son, Sir John Beaufort, left on a similar mission to Prussia. His agents haggled about logistics and naval support with the Venetians.53

*

On 16 September 1394 Clement VII died suddenly of a heart attack in the papal palace at Avignon at the age of only fifty-two. He was little mourned. ‘If God has thought fit to receive him into Paradise’, intoned the Datini factor in the city, ‘he has doubtless done so.’ Clement’s death proved to be a turning point in the relations of the principal western European states.

For sixteen years the declared policy of the French government had been to impose Clement’s authority in Italy by force in the belief that once he was securely installed in Rome the rest of Europe would acknowledge him. This policy, which was known in France as the voie de fait (or ‘path of force’), had its supporters even in 1394 when it had manifestly failed. Louis of Orléans, whose Italian ambitions depended on it, was still calling for the grant of the ‘kingdom of Adria’ right up to the Pope’s death. His allies on the royal Council pressed for ways to be found of financing it. Enguerrand de Coucy, who was one of those councillors, had been nominated as Louis’s captain-general in Italy.54 However, behind Louis’s back, support for the voie de fait was draining away. Men distressed by the spectacle of Christendom divided against the Turk were in no mood to support either claimant to the papal throne, least of all by force. The schism provoked intense moral misgivings in France, where the government’s role in sustaining the Avignon obedience was increasingly controversial. Even the Duke of Berry, a friend of Clement VII and long-standing supporter of Avignon, thought the schism had ‘lasted too long’ and declared that the French monarchy was shamed by it. The voie de faitcreated special difficulties for the Duke of Burgundy. Most of his Flemish subjects were partisans of Rome. It was therefore a destabilising factor in his northern dominions. In Paris it was associated with a rival centre of influence around his nephew Louis of Orléans. It also threatened to poison his dealings with England and obstruct his attempts to organise a crusade in eastern Europe.

Ever since the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy had returned to power in August 1392 there had been growing support within the French government for an alternative policy. The dukes gave some consideration to the possibility of submitting the issue to arbitration or to a general council of the Church. But the difficulty about this course was that it would almost inevitably require an adjudication that one or other Pope was unlawfully elected, and no one was likely to contemplate that with equanimity. ‘Who would want to be judged to have been a schismatic for the last twenty years?’ asked a Castilian prelate. Instead the dukes lighted on the policy which became known as the voie de cession (or ‘path of abdication’). The object of the voie de cession was to induce both pretenders to the papal throne to withdraw so that a single, incontestable candidate could be elected in their place. Early in 1394 the French royal Council encouraged the University of Paris to devise proposals for healing the schism. The University, which had never whole-heartedly accepted Clement VII, considered a number of proposals but finally came down firmly in favour of the voie de cession. In June they presented their conclusions to the King in a document laced with abuse of Clement and his court.55

Reverence for Charles V’s memory protected the Pope’s position in his lifetime. Charles VI’s response to the University’s intemperate advice was to declare that he would take no action and desired never to receive such a document again. But Clement’s death produced an immediate change of mood. The messenger from Avignon bought the news to the King at the Hôtel Saint-Pol in the middle of the mass. A Council meeting was hastily arranged. A rider was despatched with an urgent message for the cardinals, begging them to defer the election of a successor so that thought could be given to ways of healing the schism. It would be easier, they reasoned, to force one Pope to abdicate than two. The letter reached the cardinals on 26 September 1394, just as the doors of the conclave were about to be sealed. Guessing what its contents would be, they declined to receive it. Two days later they elected the Aragonese cardinal Pedro de Luna, who took the name Benedict XIII. The cardinals were as anxious as the French royal Council to bring an end to the schism. Their choice was almost certainly determined by their belief that Pedro would share their views. Before proceeding to the election each of them had sworn an oath that whichever of them was chosen would work for the unity of the Church, even to the point of abdicating the throne if a majority of the cardinals called on him to do so. Pedro had sworn the oath before his election and swore it again afterwards.56

The new Pope’s historical reputation has been overshadowed by his miserable end, but in his time he was an impressive figure. Elected at the relatively advanced age of sixty-six, he was a distinguished canon lawyer, a cultivated man of great personal holiness and a politician endowed with formidable energy and intellect and indomitable will. He had a profound knowledge of the politics of Europe, having been a cardinal for nineteen years, much of it spent in the diplomatic service of the papacy in France and Spain. But Benedict was never likely to be an easy man to work with. He was prickly and conceited. He was strongly attached to the dignity of his office and determined not to be pushed around. His election was initially welcomed in France, where he was hailed as a potential collaborator in the government’s ideas for healing the schism. However, within a very short time doubts began to emerge. An embassy sent by the new Pope to Paris arrived laden with good intentions and professions of support. Another followed in its tracks in the new year. But although they were instructed to canvass various possibilities with Charles VI’s councillors, Benedict’s emissaries were conspicuously silent about the voie de cession. The Pope, they were to say, had his own ideas about how to heal the schism, ‘sound and speedy’ ideas which, however, he proposed to keep to himself until a sufficiently eminent embassy was sent to Avignon to receive them.57 The truth was that if Benedict had ever been sincere about abdicating for the sake of Christian unity he changed his mind as soon as he was elected to the papal throne. At various times over the following years he professed interest in a negotiated settlement, an arbitration on carefully contrived terms or a revival of the voie de fait. But he never again contemplated a resolution which involved his own abdication, even as part of a deal which disposed of his rival as well.

The French King’s uncles and ministers declined to wait to hear Benedict’s ‘good and speedy’ ideas. Fortified by the support of the cardinals, they resolved to force his hand. On 2 February 1395 an assembly of the French Church met in Paris to advise the King how to bring an end to the schism. More than a hundred representatives of the higher clergy and the leading universities of France were present. It is clear that sentiment was divided. Even among the universities’ representatives there was an important minority who were concerned about the implications of secular governments determining what was ultimately a question of canon law. But the King’s uncles were determined to get the advice they wanted. The sessions were held in the Sainte Chapelle of the royal palace on the Île de la Cité and attended by the Chancellor of France and a host of royal councillors. They procured the election as president of the assembly of Simon de Cramaud, the intelligent and worldly Bishop of Poitiers. Simon was a famous orator and fixer who was fast becoming one of the most influential figures on Charles VI’s Council. He knew what was expected of him. He manipulated the procedure of the assembly, carefully selecting the speakers, cutting short debate whenever it moved into awkward territory and marginalising dissenters. After two weeks of this the assembled churchmen declared the voie de fait militarily and politically impracticable and pronounced by a large majority in favour of the voie de cession. It was decided to send the most impressive possible embassy to Avignon with an intimidating retinue of soldiers and attendants. The Dukes of Berry, Burgundy and Orléans would all take part. A separate delegation from the University of Paris was to accompany them. Their instructions were to present Benedict XIII with the decision of the assembly and to call for his abdication as soon as a similar commitment could be extracted from his rival. The French King’s ministers did not under-estimate the difficulty of bringing this about. An agreement would be required among the states of Europe, including those which belonged to the Roman obedience. The logic of their position was not spelled out but must have been clear enough to contemporaries. In the (highly probable) event that neither Pope would co-operate the principal nations of Europe would have to be persuaded to withdraw their obedience from both claimants. Ultimately, as Simon de Cramaud had recognised in his own speech to the assembly, it would probably be necessary to force both of them from their seats.58

France’s adoption of the voie de cession was an extremely unwelcome development from Louis of Orléans’s point of view. It brought about a revolution in French policy towards Italy which had important consequences for the play of factions in the Hôtel Saint-Pol. Louis’s Italian schemes all ultimately depended on a close alliance with his father-in-law, Gian Galeazzo Visconti of Milan. Everything changed with the abandonment of the voie de fait, for it meant that Gian Galeazzo was no longer an indispensable collaborator. At the same time Louis’s enemies were gathering strength at court. Foremost among them was the 25-year-old Queen, Isabelle of Bavaria. Forced by her husband’s illness to fend for herself among the cabals of the Hôtel Saint-Pol, Isabelle was becoming a force to be reckoned with. She shared the hostility of her Wittelsbach relations to Gian Galeazzo. She resented the ambitions of her brother-in-law and his Visconti wife and the ostentatious preference of the King for Valentine during his bouts of insanity. She may also have shared the widespread prejudice which blamed the pair for his ill-health.

At the time of the Paris assembly Enguerrand de Coucy was in Italy. He was actively engaged in the conquest of Liguria in the interests of Louis of Orléans and his father-in-law. Coucy and his Italian allies had occupied the port of Savona with nearly 3,000 troops, the first stage of a carefully planned offensive against Genoa itself. In December 1394 Enguerrand negotiated a fresh alliance between Louis of Orléans and Gian Galeazzo which, like earlier agreements of its kind, envisaged the invasion of the papal state in Italy. Louis, who was well aware of what was being done in his name, must have been counting on his personal influence over his brother to get support for this venture in Paris. But the French King was a broken reed by now, even when he was lucid. The republic of Genoa had astutely countered Enguerrand de Coucy’s moves against the city by sending its ambassadors to the court of France to offer the lordship of the republic to Charles VI himself. Better the distant lordship of the King of France than the closer embrace of the all-powerful despot of Milan and his aggressive son-in-law. At the end of February 1395 the Genoese ambassadors were in Paris waiting on the French King’s answer. While they waited the Queen joined forces with Philip of Burgundy to put an end to Louis’s Italian dreams. Charles VI was prevailed upon to accept the Genoese offer in principle, subject to negotiating the details. The conduct of French policy in Italy was abruptly taken out of Louis’s hands. He was forced to give up Savona and his Genoese ambitions in return for a cash payment. Enguerrand de Coucy was ordered to desist from his operations in Liguria and then recalled to France. In Paris Louis and his friends, marginalised in Council, nursed their resentments and grew progressively more hostile to the government of the King’s uncles.59

On 22 May 1395 the three French Dukes entered Avignon across the Pont-Saint-Bénézet, followed by a suite of more than 5,000 soldiers and attendants. Five days later, on 27 May, the Pope, in the presence of the assembled cardinals and officers of his court, unveiled his own plan for healing the schism. This proved to be the so-called voie de convention. It involved a meeting between the two popes and their colleges of cardinals at some neutral place on the borders of France at which their claims could be debated and resolved. Benedict professed himself confident that if the conference were once held his rivals could not fail to perceive the legitimacy of his own claims. The royal dukes begged to differ. They thought that the Pope’s proposal was naive. It could lead only to delay, sterile argument and failure. Over the following days there was a series of futile meetings. Benedict played for time, asking for written memoranda and proposing special commissions to study the issue. The Duke of Berry, who served as the French spokesman, dismissed all this as a waste of time. Charles VI had resolved upon the voie de cession and would accept nothing less. Berry declined to enter into lengthy debates on the issue. He called for the Pope’s immediate assent.

Having got nothing out of Benedict the Duke of Berry assembled the cardinals at Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on the French side of the Rhône and browbeat them into declaring, each in turn, his own opinion. A large majority pronounced in favour of the voie de cession. Most of them, including the solid core of French cardinals, were probably voicing their true preference. Some of them dared not say anything else. One protested against the whole proceeding and another agreed but with qualifications which rendered his support valueless. Armed with the cardinals’ declarations, the French royal princes returned to the audience hall of the papal palace to insist on their position. The Pope demurred. He asked to speak to each of the three Dukes privately and then to their principal councillors. He protested with dignity that lay governments could not ordain the fortunes of the papacy, least of all a single lay government. He objected to the high-handed way that he had been treated. He declared that the cardinals were saying one thing to the French princes and another to him. On 24 June 1395 the cardinals came before him in a body to declare their conviction that the voie de cession was the only solution. A week later, at another audience, they threatened to give the Pope formal advice to abdicate, thereby obliging him to comply if he was to honour the oath that he had sworn at the time of the conclave. There was an embarrassing scene. Benedict declared that the cardinals had no power to act in that or any other respect without his consent. He forbade them to have any further dealings with the French royal dukes or to sign the declarations, and confiscated the drafts which they had brought with them. The Pope was isolated but immoveable. On 8 July 1395 he put an end to all further discussion. At a final audience in the presence of the French delegations and the whole body of cardinals he announced that he would have nothing to do with the voie de cession. He would ‘rather be burned alive’. ‘Holy Father’, the Duke of Berry responded, ‘do you want to have any authority in France?’ After nearly two months in the papal city the three royal dukes returned empty-handed to Paris.60

*

Even in their greatest moments of hubris the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy knew that France could not achieve the concerted withdrawal of both popes alone. If the voie de cession was to be pursued it would be necessary to reach an accommodation with England, which was the principal patron of the Roman obedience. The King’s uncles were counting on the support of Richard II. There were good reasons for their confidence. The English government, although firmly committed to the Roman obedience, was certainly not committed to the current incumbent. At the time of his election in 1389 they had seriously considered declining to recognise either pontiff and in effect pursuing their own version of the voie de cession five years before it was adopted in France. Since then, there had been a succession of disputes with Boniface IX about taxation, patronage and jurisdiction. John of Gaunt expressed his own views with characteristic bluntness. Buttonholed during the sessions of the Amiens conference by the Provençal jurist Honoré Bonet, who was there as part of the French delegation, Gaunt observed that it was unreasonable to expect the English to abandon the Roman obedience while the two countries were at war and Avignon remained a dependency of France. But, he added, he personally thought little of either claim and believed that the ultimate solution would be the abdication or deposition of both Popes once the war was over. ‘I am telling you that when peace is made between our Kings there will be one Pope, not before.’ Richard II held very similar views and made no secret of them when French diplomats visited his court.61

Towards the end of February 1395, shortly after the Paris assembly closed, a French embassy was sent urgently to England with instructions to find their way to Richard II in Ireland. The moment was somewhat delicate. It was well known that ever since the death of Anne of Bohemia Richard’s councillors had been looking about for a diplomatically advantageous marriage for him. Several possibilities had been rather noisily explored. Currently the favoured choices were a daughter or sister of the King of Navarre or else Yolande, the sole surviving child of the King of Aragon. England’s negotiations with the Spanish kingdoms were extremely unwelcome to the French court for a number of reasons. In the first place a marriage alliance with either Navarre or Aragon would further undermine French influence in the Iberian peninsula, a sore point at a time when English princesses were already married to the kings of Castile and Portugal. An alliance with Yolande of Aragon would be particularly objectionable, for the lady was already betrothed to Louis II of Anjou. Louis was counting on Aragonese naval support for his continuing struggle to reconquer the Kingdom of Naples from the House of Durazzo. Worst of all, Richard’s current marriage plans would remove the opportunity to negotiate a marriage between Richard and a French bride as part of a wider agreement between the two kings to restore the peace of western Europe and heal the papal schism. French agents were hastily despatched to Pamplona and Barcelona to obstruct the English proposals there, which they did with some success. Meanwhile the French ambassadors in Ireland were instructed to suggest any of three eligible cousins of Charles VI. They reached Richard towards the end of April 1395, probably at Waterford, where he was in the process of receiving the submissions of the Irish chiefs and winding up a highly successful campaign. The English King’s initial reaction is not recorded. None of the ladies on offer was as desirable, diplomatically speaking, as the Iberian princesses. But before Richard had a chance to consider their offer with his councillors the French significantly increased the stakes.62

Richard II returned to England in May 1395. Shortly after his arrival another French embassy appeared before him with instructions to offer him the hand of Charles VI’s eldest daughter Isabelle, who was then just five years old. The bearer of this proposal was none other than the visionary moral reformer and crusade propagandist Robert the Hermit. He brought with him a personal letter from the King of France, dated 15 May 1395, which was couched in ecstatic and emotional terms. Charles begged the English King to help him ‘rebuild the walls long ago sundered by mortal war of the united temple of God that is France and England’. He wrote of his ‘tearful recollection of our forbears’ war, which had now lasted sixty years, years in which so many evils have occurred, so many Christian souls have perished, so many churches been destroyed and women raped.’ God in his special goodness had reserved to him and to Richard, men hitherto innocent of bloodshed, the task of reconciling their two nations in spite of the opposition of those around them. ‘Let us make ourselves God’s auxiliaries and hold fast to the vocation to which he has called us as young men to bring about the sweet peace for which all Christendom longs.’ This remarkable diplomatic document, with its extravagant rhetoric and high-blown phrases, was certainly not drafted by Charles himself or any of his ministers or officials. The sentiments are authentic, but the author was probably the Ancient Recluse of the Celestine convent in Paris, Philippe de Mézières. It was accompanied by a document which was unquestionably his. Philippe’s Letter to Richard II was a prolix treatise, written in the same discursive and allegorical style, which had been commissioned by the French King and composed at lightning speed over the past two months. Its main purpose was to encourage Richard to override the domestic opponents of peace with France. Specifically, Philippe tried to persuade the English King to abandon his existing marriage plans in favour of a union with Isabelle which would serve the wider interests of peace between England and France. He foresaw a time when, the peace made, the two kings would join forces to heal the papal schism and expel the Turks from eastern Europe.63

This direct appeal to Richard’s emotions was shrewdly judged and very much in line with what was known about the English King’s views. Richard had never shown much interest in participating personally in a crusade but he had been attracted by the crusading ideal ever since he had first received Leo of Armenia at his court. His long-standing belief that the war was a disaster for England and Christendom was based at least in part on moral conviction. But it was increasingly reinforced by other, more prosaic considerations. The King’s financial situation had progressively deteriorated throughout the 1390s, a problem which was masked by windfall receipts in the early part of the decade but was causing serious concern by 1395. Parliament had been reluctant to authorise public taxation since the truce of Leulinghem. Yet the garrisons at Calais and Brest and on the Scottish march remained a heavy financial commitment in spite of the suspension of hostilities. At the same time Richard was expensively reinforcing his political position at home by increasing the size and splendour of his household and the number of his retainers in the shires. So when Richard replied that he was ‘well pleased’ with the French King’s letter of 15 May his words were more than the conventional diplomatic courtesies.64

From an early stage Richard resolved upon the marriage to Isabelle and took charge personally of the task of driving the project forward. In July 1395 Jean Froissart arrived in England after an absence of nearly three decades, armed with a sheaf of introductions, to collect evidence for his history. He found the country alive with gossip about current negotiations with France. A few days after landing at Dover the chronicler joined the court at Leeds Castle and was presented to Richard II, whom he had last seen at his baptism in Bordeaux cathedral. His account of his reception graphically reveals the tensions at the English court. The Gascon knight Jean de Grailly, who rode with him up the London road from Leeds, filled him in on the current state of English politics. The King, he said, was enthusiastic about the French marriage. Like Charles VI and his ministers he was looking at the proposal in the wider context of a European peace. The language which Jean de Grailly attributed to him might have been lifted from the French King’s letter. The war with France had lasted too long, Richard had told his advisers. ‘Too many gallant men have died, too many evil deeds perpetrated, too much destruction and bloodshed inflicted. All Christendom is weakened by this war.’ But the project had also reignited old quarrels. Beyond the royal court dissenting voices were already making themselves heard. Some declared themselves to be astonished that the King should think of marrying the daughter of his enemy. Some opined that the princess was too young, others that she would be too French. Much of what Grailly told Froissart was confirmed by Sir Richard Stury, a councillor with whom the chronicler had a long discussion some days later. Both of the chronicler’s informants regarded the Duke of Gloucester as the main threat to the King’s position. ‘Malicious and devious’ according to one, ‘proud, arrogant and dangerous’ according to the other, Gloucester was still bitterly resented for his role in the judicial murders of 1388 and feared for his ability to appeal to the country at large. The Duke of Lancaster, potentially Richard’s strongest ally, was far away in Bordeaux. Gloucester, cowed by his brother’s power in England and frightened of his influence over the King, plotted to keep him there indefinitely.65

For a few months a semblance of unity was maintained by pitching the English terms for the marriage alliance too high. A ‘solemn’ embassy was instructed to proceed to Paris, the first English embassy of its kind to appear in the French capital for many years. It was led by Robert Waldby, the absentee Archbishop of Dublin, who was one of England’s foremost experts on Gascon affairs. He was accompanied by that veteran of past diplomatic conferences John Gilbert, Bishop of St. David’s. But the real principals were Richard’s close friends and collaborators, Edward Earl of Rutland (Edmund Langley’s son) and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham. The ambassadors were instructed to demand a dowry of two million gold francs (£333,334) but were given discretion to come down to a million. At the same time, if the atmosphere seemed right they were to propose a second royal marriage between Rutland himself and Isabelle’s younger sister Joan. It was their territorial demands which were the main obstacle to progress. The English ambassadors were instructed to call for the surrender of the whole of the territory ceded to England at the treaty of Brétigny including Poitou, northern Saintonge and Ponthieu, which had been withheld from the French offer of 1393, all of it to be held free of homage. Normandy was to be settled on the eldest son of the marriage and Anjou and Maine on the second, to be held ‘as fully and completely as any King of England had ever held them’, which presumably meant as fiefs of France. Scotland was to be conquered with French assistance and settled on the third son if there was one. On top of all this Richard wanted to be allowed to maintain his existing coat of arms with the arms of France crossed with those of England. These extravagant demands, if they had been met, would have recreated an English state in France comparable with the twelfth-century empire of the Angevins at its grandest. It is unlikely that anyone in England seriously expected them to be met. They were designed to exploit the obvious desire of the French government for a settlement and were no doubt expected to provoke a round of horse-trading. Richard’s ministers must have hoped that in the course of the bargaining the French might be induced to abandon their insistence on liege homage which had created so much political difficulty for him in England.66

If so they were destined to be disappointed. The English ambassadors made their formal entry into Paris at the end of July 1395, shortly before the return of the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy from Avignon. They remained there for a month. We are told that they were magnificently entertained, that their accommodation cost the French treasury the enormous sum of 500 livres a day and that their stay was punctuated by splendid banquets in the presence of the King. There is no record of their discussions with the French ministers. But it is clear that the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy were in no mood to entertain the English demands even in the aftermath of their humiliation at the hands of Benedict XIII. Instead of engaging in the bargaining that the English Council had anticipated they rejected the ambassadors’ demands out of hand and declined to discuss them further. Short of liege homage, the only deal which they were willing to contemplate was a long truce.67

Richard now had to confront the dilemma which his extravagant proposals had merely deferred. A long truce would mark a grave diplomatic defeat. It would bring France almost all the advantages of peace for a generation but without requiring it to make any of the territorial concessions which had been so painfully negotiated over the past twenty years. The parties would simply stand on the territory which they held. Charles VI would retain all the provinces of the south-west which had been conquered since 1369, including those which his ministers had offered to restore in 1393. The English King would be left with nothing but the narrow strip of territory along the Atlantic coast and the shores of the Gironde, which was all that remained of the duchy of Aquitaine. The only advantage for England in such a deal was that it would enable the domestically contentious issue of liege homage to be parked. Richard would undoubtedly have preferred to concede the issue of liege homage but he had tried to persuade Parliament to endorse this course in January 1394 and failed. So, determined to have peace in one way or the other, he resolved upon a long truce with no quid pro quo at all other than the hand of Isabelle of France. Initially he tried to limit the truce to five years but when the ambassadors returned to Paris in October 1395 the French royal Council insisted on longer. Over the next six months Richard conceded twenty years and then twenty-eight. He does not appear to have consulted anyone about this radical break with England’s traditional negotiating line, beyond his Council and his closest relatives and friends.68

In Paris progress was slow. Diplomatic business was repeatedly interrupted during the winter as Charles VI moved erratically between lucidity and depressive violence. His attendance at audiences and Council meetings became increasingly irregular. Court factions fought for influence as the King’s servants kept him immured in his rooms at the Hôtel Saint-Pol, while outside the palace walls speculation ran riot. Reports that he had been bewitched by the Duchess of Orléans, which had first surfaced in 1393, became so persistent that Valentine was obliged to withdraw from Paris to her husband’s estates. It was not until February 1396 that the French King appeared to have recovered well enough for the business to resume. On 9 March terms were finally agreed with the English representatives. Isabelle was to marry Richard II with a dowry of 800,000 gold francs (£133,333). Neither Isabelle herself nor any children of the marriage were to have any claim to appanages in France. So much for Richard’s proposal that they should be endowed with Normandy, Anjou and Maine. The current truce was to be extended for twenty-eight years until 29 September 1426 and was to apply to the allies of both sides. Elaborate arrangements, born of the bitter experience in the past two decades, were made for itsenforcement. In the south-west, where patis and ransoms were still legally due to the routier captains, a bipartite commission was set up to ‘moderate’ the more onerous agreements.

Thus it was that sixty years of war were brought to an end with a whimper. There was no agreement about territory or homage or even the English claim to the crown of France. None of the great issues which had divided England and France since the days of Philip the Fair and Edward I were addressed. At the French court the outcome was viewed with much satisfaction. The Duke of Burgundy marked the occasion with a magnificent banquet in the Hôtel d’Artois. Three days later, on 12 March 1396, Richard was betrothed by proxy to Isabelle at a ceremony in the Sainte-Chapelle performed by that great apostle of the voie de cession, Simon de Cramaud. The princess, who was not yet seven years old, at once became known in accordance with French court etiquette as Queen of England. In Paris the mood was full of joy and optimism. Men said that the war which had been provoked by the marriage of Isabelle of France to Richard’s great-grandfather Edward II would now be closed by his marriage to another Isabelle. Especially, they added, as the English would not be getting an inch of territory out of the deal.69

The great question was whether Richard would be able to carry the English political community with him once this fact was appreciated. The King did not expect the truce to be popular. He recalled John of Gaunt from Gascony at the end of 1395 at least in part in order to bolster his political position. He even toyed with the idea of seeking French military assistance to put down a rebellion in England. Charles VI’s ministers, who were well informed about English politics in this period, were concerned. They sent their ambassadors, accompanied by the formidable figure of Robert the Hermit, to reason with the Duke of Gloucester, whom they correctly identified as the most dangerous of the dissentients. Gloucester received his visitor with frigid courtesy at his manor of Pleshey in Essex and listened to his emotional oratory over two full days. But he remained as belligerent as ever. Robert, he observed, might have the ear of kings and princes in both countries but he, Gloucester, knew better than to take his advice on a matter of this importance. He blamed his brothers Lancaster and York for the way things had turned out. He had tried to reason with York, he said, but without success. Lancaster was not even worth arguing with. The King had not asked for his own views but if it had been up to him he would never have allowed the French to get away with their treacherous repudiation of the treaty of Brétigny. After the difficulties of the last few years no one under-estimated Gloucester’s power to make trouble. Richard told the Count of Saint-Pol that his uncle still had powerful allies among the nobility and was actively engaged in trying to stir up the Londoners. Yet, once the deed was done, it proved difficult to rally opposition to an agreement that resolved nothing and conceded nothing but merely brought an end to the fighting. Richard was careful to avoid giving Gloucester a platform. The truce was not formally proclaimed until 1398, when the previous four-year truce was about to expire. Judging by contemporary reports very little information about it was available. Unusually for a major diplomatic initiative, the King did not consult Parliament or even, so far as is known, a Great Council. For the moment opposition remained muted, to the obvious relief of politicians in both countries.70

*

On 28 March 1396, some three weeks after the English ambassadors had put their seals to the agreements in Paris, the Duke of Burgundy presided over a meeting in the Hôtel Saint-Pol in Paris at which the final arrangements were made for the departure of the Balkan crusade. The long delay had deprived the venture of most of its leaders. John of Gaunt, in failing health and preoccupied by political problems in Gascony and England, had pulled out in the autumn. Philip of Burgundy and Louis of Orléans had withdrawn not long afterwards, almost certainly because their presence was required in France for the final stages of the negotiations with England. Philip of Burgundy’s 25-year-old heir John, Count of Nevers, was appointed as the nominal leader of the expedition. In reality the command was exercised by his immediate subordinates: Enguerrand de Coucy; the Constable, Philip Count of Eu; the Admiral, Jean de Vienne; and the Marshal, Jean de Boucicaut. In spite of the presence of some German knights and a few hundred English and Gascon soldiers under Gaunt’s illegitimate son John Beaufort, the crusade remained a largely French affair. The names of the captains who served in it read like a roll-call of the French campaigns of the past three decades in France and Flanders, Spain, Italy and Scotland. In the course of May at least three armies comprising some 10,000 men in all gathered on the Rhône and the Saône before passing through Germany and northern Italy to converge on Hungary.71

At the beginning of August 1396, as the crusaders reached the Danube, Richard II travelled to Calais with his Chancellor and principal advisers to meet the Duke of Burgundy. His main purpose was to agree the final arrangements for taking delivery of his child-bride. He also wanted, he said, to visit the town, which he had never seen; to seal his personal friend ship with the dominant personality in the French government; and to talk about the healing of the papal schism, a subject on which he had so far offered congenial words but no firm commitment. Richard was dazzled by the grandeur of the Valois court and by the wealth and apparent solidity of the French state. Never one to do things by halves, he went to great lengths to impress Philip with his own substance. He had the streets of Calais lined with citizens in livery to receive him. He built a vast audience chamber of timber for their first meeting. He presided at mass in St. Nicholas’s church wearing his crown and carrying his sceptre. And he agreed, to Philip’s great satisfaction, to declare his conversion to the voie de cession, a decision made without any formal consultation with the English Church for no other reason than to curry favour with the Duke of Burgundy. The two men agreed that Richard would meet Charles VI on the march of Calais at the end of September, when outstanding issues would be discussed and appropriate announcements made to the world at large. Isabelle of France would be delivered to him on the same occasion.

In spite of the splendour of the display at Calais there was a noticeable edginess in Richard’s dealings with the French King’s uncle. He knew that there were strong misgivings in England about the truce, the wisdom of the French marriage and the voie de cession.The Duke of Gloucester and his friends looked on sullenly as Richard extended the hand of friendship to the enemies of his father and grandfather. The University of Oxford, which like most of the English Church regarded the Avignon papacy as a political creature of the French government, had only recently rejected the voie de cession outright after a debate which had unleashed a fierce tide of anti-French sentiment among clerical pamphleteers in England. At Calais Richard seemed to be glancing over his shoulder all the while at the state of opinion in England and looking for security in a closer relationship with France. In a moment of candour, he told the Duke of Burgundy that although he and the men who were with him were content with what they had agreed, none of them could be sure that the English people would endorse it.72

The meeting of the kings, which had been talked about on and off since 1387, finally happened at the end of October 1396. The site chosen was the bleak borderland at the edge of the pale of Calais between Guines and Ardres, which became famous more than a century later as the site of Henry VIII’s Field of Cloth of Gold. An immense operation had been required on both sides of the Channel, costing the equivalent of a short military campaign. The French budget for the occasion was 100,000 francs (£16,666) in addition to the substantial sums which would be spent on food and accommodation by the towns through which the royal cortege would pass on its way across northern France. The English were reported to have spent even more: 40,000 marks (£26,666) according to one estimate, a quarter of which went on gifts for Charles VI and the French royal princes. A vast palisaded encampment was prepared, filled with some 240 gaily coloured pavilions and two great tented reception halls. The ceremonies were carefully choreographed. On the morning of 26 October 1396 Richard II rode out of Calais towards the camp accompanied by the Dukes of Berry and Orléans, while Charles VI approached with the Dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester from Saint-Omer. Each of them was escorted by 400 knights and squires armed only with swords and daggers and by unarmed pages. Artillery, longbows and crossbows were, by agreement, kept out of sight and far away. On the following afternoon the two monarchs met at a post driven into the ground in the middle of the encampment. Their entourages dismounted and knelt on the ground as they shook hands and kissed. The royal dukes offered them sweetmeats and spiced wine. Precious gifts were exchanged. Both kings then walked hand in hand to the French pavilion nearby, followed by their advisers. There they conferred in private for four hours. The ceremony was repeated on the following day in spite of a torrential rainstorm and was followed by another long conference. The kings swore a great oath to observe the truce, never to arm or allow others to arm against each other and to bend all their energies to achieving a formal peace ‘with no cavilling, trickery or special pleading’. The following day was a Sunday. It was on the Monday that a tearful Princess Isabelle, dressed in a blue velvet dress sewn with golden fleurs de lys and wearing a diadem of gold and pearls, was carried by the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy to Richard’s pavilion. She was taken away by a delegation of English ladies led by the Duchesses of Lancaster and Gloucester. Four days later, on 4 November 1396, she was brought to the church of St. Nicholas in Calais where Richard married her. She was five days short of her seventh birthday. Her dolls were included in her trousseau. The first instalment of the dowry, 300,000 gold francs, was weighed out on the day of the ceremony and a receipt delivered.73

The final meeting occurred on the evening of the following day in a council chamber of the citadel of Calais. Richard II presided. The Dukes of Berry and Burgundy and the Count of Melun were present on the French side and the Dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester and the Earl of Rutland on the English. The assembled princes issued what amounted to a joint communiqué covering points which had presumably been agreed during the conferences of the past few days. In the first place they declared that there would be an immediate reduction of a quarter in all patis currently being levied on the Gascon march. The concession, although undoubtedly humane, was made at the direct expense of the Gascon professional soldiers to whom most of these patis were owed. Secondly they declared that in spite of the long truce to which Richard had committed himself, negotiations for a permanent peace were not dead. No firm commitment was made, however, on any of the major issues which had divided England and France. The matter was left to the mutual goodwill of the two kings and their representatives. The four royal dukes would meet again on 1 April 1397 to resume the previous discussions. Finally it was agreed to send a joint embassy to Rome and Avignon. The King of Castile had already agreed to participate in this delegation and it was proposed to invite the German King to do so as well. The ambassadors were to be led by the egregious Robert the Hermit. Their instructions were to declare to the two claimants to the papal throne that the kings were determined to impose the voie de cession. By the end of September 1397 they would expect them to have abdicated so that a third could be elected in their place.74

These major concessions to France’s current foreign policy objectives were accompanied by another, even more remarkable, which was not disclosed in the joint communiqué. A month before the summit meeting, on 29 September 1396, Charles VI’s government had sealed a five-year military alliance with the Florentine Republic. The French committed them selves to intervene in Italy to defend the city-state, whose territory was then hard-pressed by Gian Galeazzo Visconti’s captains and allies. In return they were to be allowed to appropriate, with limited exceptions, whatever they could conquer in the domains of Gian Galeazzo in Lombardy. A few days later, on 4 October, Charles VI committed himself to accepting the sovereignty of Genoa. Under the terms of the formal treaty, which was sealed by the King’s agents in the ducal palace in Genoa on the day before his meeting with Richard II, the Genoese transferred the sovereignty of the city and its territory to the King of France, who under took to defend them against the Visconti state of Milan. A French nominee was to be appointed as their governor. The King had already made plans for putting his undertakings into effect. He proposed to lead an army across the Alps in the spring. These acts marked the final repudiation of France’s alliance with the despot of Milan and the Italian policy of Louis of Orléans. Gian Galeazzo’s herald, who was seen standing among the group of heralds at the side of the marquee where the Kings were banqueting, was abruptly stripped of his master’s arms, dismissed from the King’s presence and told never to appear at court again. Meanwhile Charles VI pressed the English King to supply an English contingent to support his invasion of Lombardy. It was an extra ordinary suggestion. The project served no discernible English interest. It was contrary to England’s traditional policy of trying to contain France’s ambitions beyond its frontiers. But Richard agreed to participate, apparently at his own cost. A substantial English force was promised, 15,000 men according to reports reaching Italy, commanded by two of Richard’s closest collaborators, the Earls of Rutland and Nottingham.75

It is this brief moment of concord which seems to be represented in the Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery in London, one of the most beautiful objects to survive from the late middle ages and an image rich in enigmatic political symbolism. The Diptych, which Richard II must have commissioned shortly after his marriage to Isabelle, is a small portable altar-piece. The King is shown at the age of his coronation, an idealised young man wearing a jewelled crown. He is being presented to the Virgin and Child by St. John the Baptist and the two English royal saints, St. Edmund and St. Edward the Confessor, while angels crowd around, their eyes fixed upon him. It is a strikingly narcissistic image of sacral kingship, very characteristic of the official portraiture which Richard deliberately promoted in the final years of his reign. The King and the angels are all wearing his emblem of the white hart together with the livery collars of broom pods which Charles VI had adopted as his own emblem. Behind the Virgin one of the angels holds a banner with a pennant of St. George, at the top of which there is an orb, enamelled with an image of England, a green, wooded island dominated by a white, turreted castle and surrounded by a sea of silver leaf. Here, two centuries before Shakespeare gave the words to John of Gaunt, was the sceptred isle, ‘this fortress built by nature for herself against infection and the hand of war … this precious stone set in the silver sea … this England.’76

Notes

1 PPC, i, 19–21 (formal instructions), 22–4 (permitted concessions); BN Coll. Dupuy 306, fols. 77vo–78vo; *Moranvillé (1889), 367–9. Dates and participants: PRO E364/24, m. 1 (Durham); BN PO 1053, d’Erians/17, 20–22; BN Clair. 177/137–9. Parliament was summoned on 12 Sept. 1390 to consider (among other things) the terms of peace:CCR 1389–92, 99; Parl. Rolls, vii, 174 (1).

2 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 314–15, 384–5, xv, 80–1, 110, 120–1, 154, xvi, 1–5.

3 Mézières, Songe, i, 402; Gower, Vox Clamantis, Lib. V, caps. 5, 7, Lib. VII, caps. 1, 4, in Works, iv, 208–9, 214–18, 273, 279; The Two Ways, ed. V.J. Scattergood, The Works of Sir John Clanvowe (1965), 69.

4 Clanvowe: Westminster Chron., 480. Lollardy: see A. Hudson, The Premature Reformation (1988), 368–70; Select English Works of John Wyclif, ed. T. Arnold, iii (1871), 137–8; Registrum Johnanis Trefnant Episcopi Herefordensis, ed. W.W. Capes (1916), 369–70, 377–9; McFarlane (1972), Part II. Knolles: Foed., vii, 641; ODNB, xxxi, 956. Cheshire: Bennett (1983), 165–8, 173–4, 180–3, 190–1; Morgan (1978); Morgan (1987), 121–78. It has been estimated that there were about 10,000 families in England from which men-at-arms were drawn: C. Given-Wilson, The English Nobility in the Late Middle Ages (1987), 72. The largest number that ever served in a continental army in this period was 3,000 in John of Gaunt’s expedition of 1373–4. Of forty Gloucestershire knights and squires known to have been active in the reign of Richard II, nine had served in France, seven of whom had served for a single campaign: Saul (1981), 288–92 (the only systematic regional survey); cf. Walker (1990)[1], 42–50. Arundel: Walsingham,Chron. Maj., i, 810–12. ‘War!’: The Tale of Melibeus, in Works, iv, 203.

5 Cron. siculum, 84–6.

6 Christine de Pisan, Livre des fais, i, 172–4; ibid., Livre corps policie, 46; Juvénal, Hist., 88; Chron. r. St.-Denis, iii, 738; Nicolas de Baye, Journal, ed. A. Tuetey, ii (1888), 294. Touraine: BN Fr. n.a. 3653, nos. 406–7; *Jarry (1889), 418.

7 Jarry (1889), 47–8, *392–406; Bouard, 83, 85–99; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 608–10.

8 Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 622–4. Charles’s plans: Westminster Chron., 464–6; Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 908–10; Choix de pièces, i, 112–17 (esp. 114–15); *Jarry (1889), 406–7, 419–30; *Romano, 611–23; *Durrieu (1880)[2], 41–52 (esp. 42–3), 61–8 (esp. 63–4); *Champollion-Figeac (1844), 28–39. Cf. ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, 119; *Valois (1896–1902), ii, 177n2; Dok. Gesch. Schismas, 50, 61–2; *Mirot (1933), 537–41.

9 ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xii, 122, 123, 123–4, 127; Cron. siculum, 94, 97,88–100; Diurnali Monteleone, 55; Valois (1896–1902), ii, 168; Dok. Gesch. Schismas, 61. Army: Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 282; AD Côte-d’Or B1479, fol. 14vo, B1480, fol. 38; *Mirot (1933), 537, 538;*Terrier de Loray, PJ. nos. 133–4; Pièces rel. Louis d’Orléans, nos. 20–1.

10 Lettres de rois, ii, 261–2; Westminster Chron., 450; BN PO 1053 d’Erians/19; CCR 1389–92, 216; Pièces rel. Louis d’Orléans, no. 17 (pp. 53, 56); BN Fr. 25706/259. Offer: Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 904. The territorial proposals were later said to be substantially the same as those made at Amiens in March 1392: *Moranvillé (1889), 372–3. Summit: *Dipl. Corr., 224 (correctly dated to 1390); Parl. Rolls, vii, 174 (1); Dok. Gesch. Schismas, 50–1. On St.-Pol’s past diplomatic activities, 1389–90: Foed., vii, 634, 667.

11 PRO E403/532, m. 9 (10 Dec.); Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 904; Dok. Gesch. Schismas, 50–1.

12 PRO E364/24, m. 2 (Percy & Clifford); E403/532, mm. 16, 20 (9, 23 Feb.); Chron. premiers Valois, 316–17; *Moranvillé (1889), 369–70; ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, 127; Dok. Gesch. Schismas, 67; *Valois (1896–1902), ii, 179n6. Bernabò: PRO E403/524, mm. 14, 20 (16 July, 23 Aug.); E403/527, mm. 20, 22 (25 Jan., 7 Feb.); E403/530, mm. 14, 16 (13, 23 July).

13 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 282–3; Morice, Preuves, ii, 555–6, 573–4; BN Fr. 20405/9, 20885/77–82; John IV, Actes, nos 786 (p. 494), 983A (p. 573).

14 John IV, Actes, nos. 779A-B, 780; Foed., vii, 693; ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, 127–30; *Durrieu (1880)[2], 62–3, 75–7, 80–102, 234–47; Bouard, 128–9.

15 Westminster Chron., 456–8; cf. Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 904.

16 PRO E403/533, mm. 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 14 (6, 10, 13, 27 May, 6, 16 June, 11 July, 12 Aug.); PRO E364/24, m. 6d (Stury, Stanley); BN PO 671, Chantemelle/26–29; 2633, Saqueville/33, 37–9; Westminster Chron., 478; Dipl. corr., no. 135; *Moranvillé (1889), 370–1; Parl. Rolls, vii, 196 (10).

17 Parl. Rolls, vii, 196, 197–8 (10, 15). Clerical subsidy: CFR, xi, 33, 71–4.

18 *Baldwin, 493–6; *Moranvillé (1889), 371–2.

19 Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 736–40. Mézières: Songe, ii, 293.

20 *Moranvillé (1889), 371–4, 377; Chronographia, iii, 102–4; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 376–88; Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 918–20; Westminster Chron., 486, 490 (muddled). Truce: Foed., vii, 719–20.

21 Gerson, Oeuvres, vii (2), 446, 447–9.

22 Barbary: Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 648–71; Chron. Bourbon, 218–57; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 151–9, 211–53, 269–80; Chronographia, iii, 100; Westminster Chron., 432, 448–50; Stella, Ann. Gen., 194. Poland: Rechnungen, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 28, 35, 109–29; Expeditions, xliii, xlv; Westminster Chron., 444–8, 478, 480–4; BN PO 1913, Meingre/7; [A. Molinier], ‘Campagne de Boucicault en Prusse’, BEC, xxxviii (1878), 491–2.

23 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 387; *Moranvillé (1881), 30–2.

24 Westminster Chron., 488–90; Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 920–2; Knighton, Chron., 544; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xiv, 388–9. For those summoned, see PRO E403/538, m. 9 (12 July).

25 Foed., vii, 721–3; Moranvillé (1889), 376–8; Dipl. Corr., no. 151; Le Bis, ‘Pratique’, no. 1.

26 *Lefranc, 450–2; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 4–14; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 2–4; Chronographia, iii, 104. On Craon: *Broussillon, ii, nos. 1235–8, 1249, 1252, 1255, 1264, 1269, 1300; *Jarry (1889), 417; Chron. premiers Valois, 330–1; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 1–4; Juvénal, Hist., 44; ‘Mémoire de P. de Craon’, 105, 106–7. His financial difficulties: *Broussillon, ii, p. 227 and nos. 1242, 1256, 1258–9, 1261, 1265, 1268, 1271, 1292; Henneman (1996), 29078.

27 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 11–13, 15, 13–21; ‘Chron. Brioc.’, col. 6; ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xii, 137; Chron. premiers Valois, 322–3; *Broussillon, ii, nos.1273–6, 1278–80; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 6–8; *Courteault, 441–2.

28 ‘Chron. Brioc.’, col. 62; Chron. r. St.-Denis, i, 720–2; John IV, Actes, no. 983 (p. 576).

29 ‘Chron. Brioc.’, cols. 63–8; Morice, Preuves, ii, cols. 577–8, 581–8, 594; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 362–8; ‘Séjours’, 453–4; John IV, Actes, nos. 795–9, 803–5. Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 8–10; Bouchart, Gr. chron. Bretagne, ii, 185 (late). Cf. for preliminary embassies: *Terrier de Loray, PJ nos. 135–6; BN PO 584 Canard/15, 1320 Giac/28, 1878 Martreuil/9, 2828 Thigonville/3; BN Clair. 140/59, 204/104.

30 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 10–12; ‘Chron. Brioc.’, cols. 67–8; Chron. premiers Valois, 330–1; Juvénal, Hist., 89–90; Chron. Bourbon, 261–3; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 22–3, 25–6. Loan: BN Fr. 4482, p. 242. The army must have been summoned not later than the beginning of July, for companies began to muster at Le Mans from the 18th: BN Clair. 42, p. 3142; 51, p. 3857vo; Morice, Preuves, ii, 597–616. Alliance proposed: PPC, i, 41–7, 89–93.

31 Rey (1965), ii, 387n2; Morice, Preuves, ii, 597–616; Pièces rel. Louis d’Orléans, no. 39; Chronographia, iii, 104–5; BN Fr. 4482, pp. 167–235; BN Clair. 841, pp. 167–235; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 28–9, 34, 32–4.

32 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 18–20; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 29–30, 35–43; ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xii, 138; Chron. premiers Valois, 323–4; Chronographia, iii, 105; Chron. Bourbon, 264–5.

33 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 22–4; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 43–5, 48–51; Chron. premiers Valois, 324–5. Cf. Jarry (1889), 430 (processions).

34 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 47, 49; BN Fr. 4482, pp. 242, 269; ‘Chron. Brioc.’, col. 68; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 24–6; ‘Séjours’, 457; Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 229; Chronographia, iii, 106. Louis’s ways: Mézières, Songe, ii, 466–9; Juvénal, Hist., 88, 96; *Carbonnières, 816–17; Deschamps, Oeuvres, vii, 120–1.

35 Chron. premiers Valois, 324–5, 335; Valois (1888), 97–103; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 10, 26–8; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 53–4, 56–71; Chronographia, iii, 106–7; Deschamps, Oeuvres, iv, 122; Moranvillé (1888), 158–9; Rey (1965), ii, 573–7.

36 John IV, Actes, no. 930 (p. 543); ‘Chron. Brioc.’, 69; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 71–4, 96–7, 98–9, 202–4; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 28–30; Istore, ii, 411; ‘Chron. Pays-Bas’, 287; Juvénal, Hist., 92, *774; Chronographia, iii, 106–7; Moranvillé (1888), 159–62, *373–4; Choix de pièces, i, 117–19, 128; AN X1a 1477, fol. 409vo (involvement of Bourbon and Orléans); BN Clair. 191/27.

37 Valois (1888), 98–100; Vaughan, 44–5; Jarry (1889), 82–93, 98–100, 103–6; Nordberg, 13, 15–16, 41–60; Juvénal, Hist., 96.

38 *Jarry (1889), 419–24, 434–5; Chron. Siculum, 99–110, 111; ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xii, 142, xiii, 58–9. Clementist companies in march of Viterbo: *Durrieu (1880)[2], 59–60.

39 ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xiii, 58–9, 61, 63–5, 65–9; *Jarry (1889), 426–30; Jarry (1892), 248; Jarry (1896), 40–5, *368 [1, 2], *396–7; Choix de pièces, i, 112–17; ‘Inv. lettres rois d’Aragon’, nos. 93–6; *Durrieu (1880)[2], 61–8; Favier (1966), 627, 628; Titres Bourbon, ii, no. 3923.

40 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 22; PRO E403/538, m. 12 (10 Sept.) (spies); Mézières, Letter, 86, 103, 105, 106, 108; Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 10; Dipl. Corr., nos. 150–1; Le Bis, ‘Pratique’, nos. 1–2. On Robert: Jorga, 479–80; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 188–90.

41 Edinburgh U.L., Ms. 183, fol. 144vo; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 74; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 108–9; Foed., vii, 746; PRO C47/14/6 (44); Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 944. Participants: Bellamy (1964–5), 261–3. On the Mascys: Morgan (1987), 76, 108, 110–11, 135, 137, 138, 164.

42 Foed., vii, 738–9; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 110–12, 116–17, 120; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 74–8; Inv. AD Nord, iv, 19; Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 940; Deschamps, Oeuvres, vii, 293–311, esp. 308. Gaunt was the only English ambassador identified by name when the conference was first proposed in Aug. 1392: Dipl. corr., no. 150. Gloucester appears to have been added by early Jan. 1393: PRO E403/541, m. 12 (9 Jan.). English expenditure: PRO E403/541, mm. 17, 22 (25 Feb., 1 Apr.); E403/543, mm. 5, 12, 16, 17, 18 (10 May, 4, 12 June, 15, 22 July); E403/546, m. 7 (12 Nov.). Dates: ‘Séjours’, 459–60; Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 232; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 110–12.

43 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 78; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 109–23.

44 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 82; John IV, Actes, no. 930; Foed., vii, 748; Chron. premiers Valois, 331; Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 133; *Palmer (1966)[2]; PRO E36/188, pp. 85–6; Dipl. Corr., no. 197. For earlier French proposals: ‘Voyage de N. de Bosc’, 309–15, 324–5, 326–7; Moranvillé (1889), 372–3.

45 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 122–3, 127–8, 260; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 86–94; Juvénal, Hist., 98, 100–1; Chronographia, iii, 110.

46 ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xiii, 75; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 94; Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 944–8, 956; Parl. Rolls, vii, 264–6 (20, 21); Foed., vii, 746. Date of G. de Melun’s mission: PRO E403/546, m. 3 (12 Oct.). Local grievances: Morgan (1987), 193–4; Walker (1990)[1], 171–3. Lancaster and Gloucester returned from France on 20 June:Westminster Chron., 514.

47 Lettres de rois, ii, 268–9; PRO E364/26, m. 2d (Durham); E364/27, m. 2d (Sergeaux, Newton, Rouhale, Puy); E30/1583, 1629; Foed., vii, 753; Dipl. Corr., no. 197; Chronographia, iii, 110. Cherbourg: PRO E30/316; Foed., vii, 756–7, 759–60, 764–5; Cat. Arch. Navarra (Comptos), xx, 367, 645; PRO E101/41/24. Brest: Morice, Preuves, ii, 576; PPC, i, 47–50. Calais: Eulogium, iii, 369; English Chron., 7.

48 PRO E403/546, m. 20 (17 Feb.). Statistics extracted from Hist. Parl..

49 Parl. Rolls, vii, 249, 258–9, 264–5 (1, 11, 20, 21); Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 956. Arundel licence: CPR 1391–6, 405.

50 Parl. Rolls, vii, 259–60, 262–3 (12, 16, 17); Westminster Chron., 516–18; PRO C76/78, m. 18; E101/320/9; E364/27, m. 5d (Hereford); Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 236; Foed., vii, 766, 769–76. Crusade: *Cartellieri, 145–6, 148–9. I do not accept the argument of Palmer (1971), ch. 9, that the Leulinghem agreement was destroyed by Gascon opposition to the transfer of Aquitaine to John of Gaunt. The idea that John of Gaunt might do homage for Aquitaine instead of Richard II had been raised by the French on several occasions as a method of dealing with Richard’s reluctance to do homage. It was seriously contemplated by the English between 1390 and 1392, but killed by the hostility of the Council of Stamford. Only for a brief period in 1392 did Richard consider separating Aquitaine from his Crown.

51 See Hist. Vitae, 134, 166–7, and the portrait panel and funeral effigy in Westminster Abbey, both dating from ca. 1395; Usk, Chron., 18; Brown, Colvin & Taylor, 998 (Sheen); Walsingham, Chron. Maj., i, 960–2; Foed., vii, 784, 785; CCR 1392–6, 368; Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 29.

52 Cal. Letter Books H, 412; CPR 1391–6, 451–2; PRO E101/402/20, fols. 31–40vo (mutilated at end). York: Foed., vii, 789–90. Gaunt: PRO E30/1232 (notarised narrative of the city of Bordeaux); Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 135; Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 19. Palmer (1972), 158–60 accepts the statement in Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 157–9, that the revolt was provoked by the grant of the duchy to Gaunt and his heirs in perpetuity. But the original grant (Foed., vii, 659–60) was for life only, and no grant in wider terms was ever enrolled on the Gascon roll. Froissart’s story is also inconsistent with the notarised narrative and with Richard II’s declaration on 10 September 1394 that he had never granted Aquitaine to Gaunt for any longer term than his life: see Arch. mun. Bordeaux, i, no. 66. D. of Burgundy: AN J243/79; BN Coll. Bourgogne 53, fols. 227, 230, 100, p. 55; Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 236–7; John IV, Actes, nos. 982–983B, 985; Morice, Preuves, ii, 633–43, 655–6; ‘Chron. Brioc.’, cols. 73–6.

53 Delaville le Roulx, i, 229–32, *ii, 18–20; Palmer (1972), 200–4, 240–2; Paviot (2003), 24–31; Vaughan, 61–4. Venetians: Cal. S.P. Venice, i, nos. 115, 117.

54 ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xiii, 95, 96; *Durrieu (1880)[2], 69–74; Bouard, 172; Jarry (1896), ch. 3, 4.

55 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 94–100, 130–82; Chart. Univ. Paris, iii, nos. 1680, 1680, 1683–4; Valois (1896–1902), ii, 224–71; Vaughan, 184–6; *Goñi Gaztambide, 170; Kaminsky, 53–6.

56 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 184; Vet. script. ampl. coll., vii, 479–80, 483; Ehrle, ‘Afterconcils von Perpignan’, v, 403; Valois (1896–1902), iii, 16.

57 Vet. script. ampl. coll., vii, 437–8, 483–7; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 204–6; Ehrle, ‘Neue Materialen’, vi, 160–2.

58 Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 218–44; Vet. script. ampl. coll., vii, 438–58, esp. 449; Kaminsky, 124–34; Cramaud, De substraccione, 231–2.

59 Jarry (1896), 78–9, 83–94, 120–1, 127–8, 154–5, *370[4], *403–20; *Jarry (1892), 558–70; Bouard, 183, 188–9; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 400–2; Choix de pièces, i, 134–6; *Perroy (1933), 412–14. Queen’s role: Bouard, 190–1; Pitti, Chron., 94.

60 Vet. script. ampl. coll., vii, 487–530; ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xiv, 14–22. Session of 8 July: Valois (1896–1902), iii, 62–3; S. Baluze, Miscellanea, ed. J.D. Mansi, ii (1762), 594.

61 PPC, i, 14b; Palmer (1968), 518–19; Bonet, Somnium, 92; *Valois (1896–1902), iii, 76n3, 620–3.

62 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 155; PRO E364/28, m. 6d (bp. St. David’s); E159/172 (Brev. bar., Hilary), m. 1, and ibid. (Brev. bar., Mich.), m. 3; E403/549, m. 15, 17 (22 Mar., 3 Apr.); Foed., vii, 794–5; *Palmer (1971)[2], 16–17; Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 109. For Navarre, see Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 155. For Aragon, see ‘Inv. lettres rois d’Aragon’, no. 105; Alpartil, Chron., 16–17. Cf. Palmer (1971)[2], 2–8, 13–16 (overstates the significance of negotiations with Aragon).

63 Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 172; *Froissart, Chron. (KL), xviii, 573–5; Foed., vii, 802–5; Mezières, Letter, esp. 77, 140–2, 145; Palmer (1971)[2], 8–10.

64 Given-Wilson (1986), 214–15, 270–1, 282–6; Tout (1920–37), vi, 108; *Froissart, Chron. (KL), xviii, 574.

65 Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 140–2, 146, 154–6, 164, 165–6.

66 Foed., vii, 802–5; *Palmer (1972), 256–7. Retinues: BN Fr. 7621, fol. 187; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 328.

67 PRO E364/29, m. 1 (bp. St. David’s, Nottingham, Rutland, abp. Dublin), m. 7 (Scrope); Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 328; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 183.

68 PRO C76/80, m. 18; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 358–62; Foed., vii, 811–12.

69 Foed., vii, 813–30; Chaplais, English Med. Dipl. Practice, nos. 262, 270, 276; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 412–14. Bewitched: ibid., ii, 402–8; Lehoux, ii, 351n1.

70 Walsingham, Ann., 187–8; Foed., vii, 811, viii, 43; PRO E101/402/15, m. 5; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 238, 195–202, 272–3; *Le Bis, ‘Pratique’, no. 4[7].

71 *Atiya, 144–8; Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 250; Cron. volgare, 208; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 218–21, 230, 318–20; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 428–30; Livre fais Bouciquaut, 90; Chronographia, iii, 129–30; Palmer (1972), 239–40; Paviot (2003), 31–2, 36–7. Numbers: see Atiya, 67.

72 Foed., vii, 834; Chaplais, English Med. Dipl. Practice, no. 57 (b); Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 444–50; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 273–6; Anglo-Norman Letters, no. 174. Dates: PRO E101/320/16; E101/403/10; Itin. Ph. le Hardi, 255. Oxford, pamphleteers: Perroy (1933), 366–78; Valois (1896–1902), iii, 76–9, esp. *78n2.

73 Choix de pièces, i, 133–4; Le Bis, ‘Pratique’, no. 3; Walsingham, Ann., 188–94; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 450–72; Froissart, Chron. (KL), xv, 297–307; Meyer, ‘Entrevue’; Chaplais, English Med. Dipl. Practice, no. 197. Oath: *Froissart, Chron. (KL), xviii, 582–3. Dolls: *Mirot (1902), 155. Dowry: Foed., vii, 846–7.

74 *Perroy (1933), 414–15. Castile: *Goñi Gaztambide, 171–2; Kaminsky, 158. Robert: Valois (1896–1902), iii, 115n3.

75 J.C. Lunig, Codex Italiae Diplomaticus, i (1725), 1101–4; Pitti, Cron., 104–6; ‘Ann. arch. Datini’, xiv, 35; Chron. r. St.-Denis, ii, 464–6; Jarry (1896), 170–4, 191–3, 215n5, 517–32; Bouard, 214–18, 221; Parl. Rolls, vii, 312–13 (9–10); Arch. Stat. Lucca Reg., ii.2, no. 1615. Gian Galeazzo’s attacks on Florence: Cron. volgare, 212–13.

76 Richard II, Act II, Scene 1, ll. 40–50.

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