Sunday, December 12, 2010

Losing all by Winning all

 Page of Treaty of Troyes

One of the greatest humiliations in French history was the Treaty of Troyes, signed May 21, 1420, by which Charles VI and the Burgundian party in the then French civil war between the Armagnacs and Burgundians agreed to disinherit Charles VI’s son Charles VII and to make Henry V of England heir to the French Kingdom and to marry Charles VI’s daughter Catherine de Valois to Henry V.

Henry V, one of the most formidable of English kings, had recently restarted the Hundred Years War and had, in 1415, achieved the crushing and one-sided victory over the French at Agincourt. The Civil war between the French along with his own considerable military talents had enabled Henry to conquer the Duchy of Normandy in 1417-1420.

At the time Henry’s aim seems to have been extensive lands in France in full sovereignty, i.e., without having to acknowledge the overriding authority of the French crown.

In France the English successes seems to bring together the two factions. One led by the Burgundians had control over the Royal court and Paris and was led by Jean sans peur, (John the Fearless) Duke of Burgundy. The other faction had been led by first Louis Duke of Orleans and then Bernard Count of Armagnac, who in 1418 gained control of the young Charles VII, the Dauphin. The bad blood between the factions was considerable, characterized by tit for tat slaughters.

The crises had been precipitated originally by the intermittent madness Charles VI; which has he grew older became permanent. In this situation court factions developed and fought over control of the state because the king was incapable of governing some of the time and then all of the time.

In 1407 Jean sans peur arranged to have Louis Duke of Orleans assassinated. By threats and force majeur Jean was able to get a royal pardon for his murderous deed, from the now quite ill king. By 1410 government in France was paralyzed by infighting and the civil war had begun. Only occasionally in the next 10 years were the French able to act together. The resulting divisions helped produce the English victory at Agincourt.

The aftermath of said battle was mutual recriminations between the Armagnac faction and the Burgundian faction. The result was all out civil war between the factions. The result was much fighting and in Paris first one faction and then the other engaging in horrible massacres. The climax came in 1418 when the Burgundians regained control of Paris and thousands of Armagnacs and their supporters were butchered including most of the leaders. The remaining Armagnacs still had control of the young Dauphin Charles VII.

Jean and the Armagnacs were frightened by the English advance and tried to negotiate a truce and then an alliance. Several agreements were solemnized and as a final seal on the new agreement a meeting was arranged between the Dauphin, Charles VII, and Jean sans peur at a bridge located at the town of Montereau, c. 45 miles from Paris.

Apparently anxious to avenge their murdered leaders and friends the Armagnacs murdered Jean sans peur on the bridge.

The involvement of Charles VII in the plot to murder Jean sans peur is not clear. It is hard to believe that he didn’t at least know about it ahead of time and at the same time it appears that at this juncture he was very much the puppet of the Armagnac faction. In other words it is hard to believe that he was behind the plan to murder Jean sans peur. Certainly Charles VII had little reason to seek personal vengeance against Jean sans peur. It is more likely he went along with the plan. Charles VII turned into an intelligent and rather devious politician so it is hard to believe that he would see that murdering Jean sans peur was in the context of the situation of 1419 anything but a really bad idea.

The results were predictable. The gulf between the factions became much, much larger and Henry V took immediate advantage and drove a very hard bargain. Jean sans peur son Philip called le bel, the good, was not surprisingly utterly furious. The result was an unexpected opportunity for Henry V to get everything. The price of his support was that he be recognized as heir to the kingdom of France.

As for Jean sans peur himself. Given his crimes and general foulness it is very hard to see his violent death as anything but well deserved. However regardless of his personal criminality the fact remains that murdering him was a mistake and doubly so under the circumstances prevailing. The remnants of the Armagnac faction had let their personal, understandable though it was, hatred cloud sober political judgment and made things much worst for themselves and France. For not only did the murder turn many Frenchmen against them, murdering Jean sans peur at a parley, with oaths of safe conduct violated etc., was regarded as particularly loathsome. Involving the Dauphin, Charles VII, in the murder greatly damaged his position, and even worst gave an opening to the English king Henry V.1

A little over a century later a monk showing then French king Francois I the tombs of the Burgundian dukes in Dijon remarked when picking up Jean sans peur badly damaged skull:

This is the hole through which the English entered France.2
In the ensuing debacle Henry V was able to get the Royal court and the Burgundian faction to accept him as the heir to Charles VI as king of France and of course to disinherit the Dauphin Charles VII. As a diplomat Henry V had played his hand brilliantly. As for why he asked for the big prize, becoming king of France, rather than lands in full sovereignty in France? I suspect Henry felt that this was a too good opportunity to waste to get everything. So why not get everything?

Later I will go into the problems with the treaty here I will print a copy of the treaty as printed in The Chronicles of Monstrelet. The sections below in brackets are from an incomplete, copy of the treaty printed in, A Source Book of Medieval History.3

De Monstrelet was a Burgundian chronicler of the first half of the 15th century and was contemporary with the events he describes. His version of the Treaty of Troyes was slightly different in wording in some respects from the actual treaty which is why some of the clauses have alternative variations below them in brackets.4

Charles, by the grace of God, king of France, to all our bailiffs, provosts, seneschals, and to all the principal of our officers of justice, or to their lieutenants, greeting. Be it known, that we have this day concluded a perpetual peace, in our town of Troyes, with our very dear and well-beloved son Henry king of England, heir and regent of France, in our name and in his own, in consequence of his marriage, with our well-beloved daughter Catherine, and by other articles in the treaty concluded between us, for the welfare and good of our subjects, and for the security of the realm; so that henceforward our subjects, and those of our said son, may traffic and have a mutual intercourse with each other, as well on this as on the other side of the sea.

1. It has been agreed that our said son king Henry, shall henceforth honour us as his father, and our consort the queen as his mother, but shall not by any means prevent us from the peaceable enjoyment of our crown during our life.

2. Our said son king Henry, engages that he will not interfere with the rights and royalties of our crown so long as we may live, nor with the revenues, but that they may be applied as before to the support of our government and the charges of the state; and that our consort the queen shall enjoy her state and dignity of queen, according to the custom of the realm, with the unmolested enjoyment of the revenues and domains attached to it.

3. It is agreed that our said daughter Catherine shall have such dower paid her from the revenues of England as English queens have hitherto enjoyed, namely, sixty thousand crowns, two of which are of the value of an English noble.

4. It is agreed that our said son king Henry, shall, by every means in his power, without transgressing the laws he has sworn to maintain, and the customs of England, assure to our said daughter Catherine the punctual payment of the aforesaid dower of sixty thousand crowns from the moment of his decease.

5. It is agreed, that should it happen that our said daughter survive our said son, king Henry, she shall receive, as her dower from the kingdom of France, the sum of forty thousand francs yearly; and this sum shall be settled on the lands and lordships which were formerly held in dower by our very dear and well beloved the lady Blanche, consort to king Philip of France, of happy memory, our very redoubted lord and great grandfather.

6. It is agreed that immediately on our decease, and from thenceforward, our crown and kingdom of France, with all its rights and appurtenances, shall devolve for ever to our said son king Henry, and to his heirs.

(6. After our death [Charles VI], and from that time forward, the crown and kingdom of France, with all their rights and appurtenances, shall be vested permanently in our son [son-in law], King Henry [of England], and his heirs.)

7. Because we are for the greater part of our time personally prevented from attending to the affairs and government of our realm with the attention they deserve, the government of our kingdom shall in future be conducted by our said son king Henry, during our life, calling to his assistance and council such of our nobles as have remained obedient to us, and who have the welfare of the realm and the public good at heart, so that affairs may be conducted to the honour of God, of ourself and consort, and to the general welfare and security of the kingdom ; and that tranquillity may be restored to it, and justice and equity take place everywhere by the aid of the great lords, barons, and nobles of the realm.

(7.....The power and authority to govern and to control the public affairs of the said kingdom shall, during our lifetime, be vested in our son, King Henry, with the advice of the nobles and wise men who are obedient to us, and who have consideration for the advancement and honor of the said kingdom....)

8. Our said son shall, to the utmost of his power, support the courts of parliament of France, in all parts that are subject to us, and their authority shall be upheld and maintained with rigour from this time forward.

9. Our said son shall exert himself to defend and maintain each of our nobility, cities, towns and municipalities in all their accustomed rights, franchises, and privileges, so that they be not individually nor collectively molested in them.

10. Our said son shall labour diligently, that justice be administered throughout the realm, according to the accustomed usages, without exception of anyone, and will bodily defend and guard all our subjects from all violence and oppression whatever.

11. It is agreed that our said son king Henry shall appoint to all vacant places, as well in the court of parliament as in the bailiwicks, seneschalships, provostships, and to all other offices within our realm, observing that he do nominate fit and proper persons for such offices, fully acquainted with the laws and customs of the country, so that tranquility may be preserved, and the kingdom flourish.

12. Our said son will most diligently exert himself to reduce to our obedience all cities, towns, castles and forts, now in rebellion against us, and of the party commonly called Dauphinois or Armagnac.

13. For the more secure observance of these articles, and the more effectually to enable our said son king Henry to carry them into execution, it is agreed that all the great lords, as well spiritual as temporal, all the cities, towns, and municipalities within our realm, and under our obedience, shall each of them take the following oaths: They shall swear obedience and loyalty to our said son king Henry, in so much as we have invested him with the full power of governing our kingdom of France in conjunction with such counsel of able men as he may appoint. They will likewise swear to observe punctually whatever we, in conjunction with our consort the queen, our said son king Henry, and the council, may ordain. The cities, towns, and municipalities, will also swear to obey and diligently follow whatever orders may particularly affect them.

14. Instantly on our decease the whole of the subjects of our kingdom shall swear to become liegemen and vassals to our said son king Henry, and obey him as the true king of France, and, without any opposition or dispute, shall receive him as such, and never pay obedience to any other as king or regent of France but to our said son king Henry, unless our said son should lose life or limb, or be attacked by a mortal disease, or suffer diminution in person, state, honour, or goods. But should they know of any evil designs plotted against him, they will counteract them to the utmost of their power, and give him information thereof by letters or messages.
15. It is agreed that whatever conquests our said son may make from our disobedient subjects shall belong to us, and their profits shall be applied to our use; but should any of these conquests appertain to any noble who at this moment is obedient to us, and who shall swear that he will faithfully defend them, they shall be punctually restored to him as to the lawful owner.

16. It is agreed that all ecclesiastics within the duchy of Normandy and the realm of France, obedient to us, to our said son, and attached to the party of the duke of Burgundy, who shall swear faithfully to keep and observe all the articles of this treaty, shall peaceably enjoy their said benefices in the duchy of Normandy, and in all other parts of our realm.

17. All universities, colleges, churches, and monasteries, within the duchy of Normandy or elsewhere, subject to us, and in time to come to our said son king Henry, shall freely enjoy all rights and privileges claimed by them, saving the rights of the crown and of individuals.

18. Whenever the crown of France shall devolve by our decease on our said son king Henry, the duchy of Normandy, and all the other conquests which he may have made within the kingdom of France, shall thenceforward remain under the obedience and jurisdiction of the monarchy of France.

19. It is agreed that our said son king Henry, on coming to the throne of France, will make ample compensation to all of the Burgundian party who may have been deprived of their inheritances by his conquest of the duchy of Normandy, from lands to be conquered from our rebellious subjects, without any diminution from the crown of France. Should the estates of such not have been disposed of by our said son, he will instantly have the same restored to their proper owners.
20. During our life all ordinances, edicts, pardons and privileges, must be written in our name, and signed with our seal; but as cases may arise which no human wisdom can foresee, it may be proper that our said son king Henry should write letters in his own name, and in such cases it shall be lawful for him so to do, for the better security of our person, and the maintaining good government ; and he will then command and order in our name, and in his own, as regent of the realm, according as the exigency of the occasion may require.
21. During our life our said son king Henry will neither sign nor style himself king of France, but will most punctually abstain there from so long as we shall live.

22. It is agreed that during our life we shall write, call and style our said son king Henry as follows: Our very dear son Henry, king of England, heir to France and in the Latin tongue, Noster praecharissimus filius Henricus rex Anglias heeres Franciae.

(22. It is agreed that during our life-time we shall designate our son, King Henry, in the French Language in this fashion, Nortre tres cher fils Henri, roi d’angleterre, heritier de France; and in the Latin Language Noster praecarissimus filius Henricus, rex Angliae, heres Francae.)

23. Our said son king Henry will not impose any taxes on our subjects, except for a sufficient cause, or for the general good of the kingdom, and according to the approved laws and usages observed in such cases.

24. That perfect concord and peace may be preserved between the two kingdoms of France and England henceforward, and that obstacles tending to a breach thereof (which God forbid) may be obviated, it is agreed that our said son king Henry, with the aid of the three estates of each kingdom, shall labour most earnestly to devise the surest means to prevent this treaty from being infringed: that on our said son succeeding to the throne of France, the two crowns shall ever after remain united in the same person, that is to say, in the person of our said son, and at his decease, in the persons of those of his heirs who shall successively follow him: that from the time our said son shall become king of France the two kingdoms shall no longer be divided, but the sovereign of the one shall be the sovereign of the other, and to each kingdom its own separate laws and customs shall be most religiously preserved.

(24.....[It is agreed] that the two kingdoms shall be governed from the time that our said son, or any of his heirs shall assume the crown, not divided between different kings at the same time, but under one person who shall be king and sovereign lord of both kingdoms; observing all pledges and all other things to each kingdom its rights, liberties or customs, usages and laws, not submitting in any manner one kingdom to the other.)

25. Thenceforward, therefore, all hatreds and rancour that may have existed between the two nations of England and France shall be put an end to, and mutual love and friendship subsist in their stead: they shall enjoy perpetual peace, and assist each other against all who may any way attempt to injure either of them. They will carry on a friendly intercourse and commerce, paying the accustomed duties that each kingdom has established.

26. When the confederates and allies of the kingdoms of France and of England shall have had due notice of this treaty of peace, and within eight months after shall have signified their intentions of adhering to it, they shall be comprehended and accounted as the allies of both kingdoms, saving always the rights of our crown and of that of our said son king Henry, and without any hindrance to our subjects from seeking that redress they may think just from any individuals of these our allies.

27. It is agreed that our said son king Henry, with the advice of our well-beloved Philip duke of Burgundy, and others of the nobles of our realm, assembled for this purpose, shall provide for the security of our person conformably to our royal estate and dignity, in such wise that it may redound to the glory of God, to our honour, and to that of the kingdom of France and our subjects; and that all persons employed in our personal service, noble or otherwise, and in any charge concerning the crown, shall be Frenchmen born in France, and in such places where the French language is spoken, and of good and decent character, loyal subjects, and well suited to the offices they shall be appointed to.

28. We will that our residence be in some of the principal places within our dominions, and not elsewhere.

29. Considering the horrible and enormous crimes that have been perpetrated in our kingdom of France, by Charles, calling himself dauphin of Vienne, it is agreed that neither our said son king Henry, nor our well beloved Philip duke of Burgundy, shall enter into any treaty of peace or concord with the said Charles, without the consent of us three and of our council, and the three estates of the realm for that purpose assembled.

(29. In consideration of the frightful and astounding crimes and misdeeds committed against the kingdom of France by Charles, the said Dauphin, it is agreed that we, our son Henry, and also our very dear son Philip, duke of Burgundy, will never treat for peace or amity with the said Charles.)

30. It is agreed, that in addition to the above articles being sealed with our great seal, we shall deliver to our said son king Henry, confirmatory letters from our said consort the queen, from our said well-beloved Philip duke of Burgundy, and from others of our blood royal, the great lords, barons, and cities, and towns under our obedience, and from all from whom our said son king Henry may wish to have them.
31. In like manner, our said son king Henry, on his part, shall deliver to us, besides the treaty itself sealed with his great seal, ratifications of the same from his well-beloved brothers, the great lords of his realm, and from all the principal cities and towns of his kingdom, and from any others from whom we may choose to demand them.

In regard to the above articles, we, Charles king of France, do most solemnly, on the word of a king, promise and engage punctually to observe them; and we swear on the holy Evangelists, personally touched by us, to keep every article of this peace inviolate, and to make all our subjects do the same, without any fraud or deceit whatever, so that none of our heirs may in time to come infringe them, but that they may be for ever stable and firm.

In confirmation whereof, we have affixed our seal to these presents.
Given at Troyes, 21st day of May, in the year 1420, and of our reign the 40th.
Sealed at Paris with our signet, in the absence of the great seal.
Signed by the king in his grand council.
J. Millet
The treaty provided for the creation of a dual monarchy united only in the person of the monarch. The treaties as many provisions that clearly indicate the two realms are to be kept separate, with their own laws and customs, and personal. Henry agreed to employ Frenchmen in France and Englishmen in England. On both sides there was fear of one side coming to dominate the other.

Hence the clauses guaranteeing the rights and privileges of various groups and institutions. Including but not limited too, nobility, towns, universities etc.

The extent of French humiliation is indicated in the various clauses mentioning Normandy. Those clauses indicated that Normandy would continue to be separately governed by Henry V and would not be reincorporated back into the French realm until after Henry V had succeeded Charles VI as king of France. Further the Burgundians who had lost land in Normandy during the English conquest, which Henry V had distributed to his supporters, (overwhelmingly English) would not get it back.

The actual defects of the Treaty as a legal document are patently obvious which probably explains the emphasis in the document on oath taking. Which were designed to make breaking the oath to accept the treaty very hard.

The most obvious defect was that one of signatories, Charles VI, king of France was insane and quite incapable of entering into valid contracts. As such any treaty with his signature on it was so much, legally speaking, waste paper.

Secondly it is too put it mildly very dubious that the king of France could dispose of his kingdom as if it was a personal possession and disinherit the legitimate heir. Of course the fact, mentioned above, that Charles VI was also quite mad at the time made the whole thing even more dubious.5

It is the above problem that accounts for the treaties many statements regarding oaths and getting the approval of the various estates, parliaments, the different classes of people, etc. Of course given that more than half of France rejected the treaty such approval as Henry V got from the various estates etc., was legally dubious.

Also for a treaty designed to be a peace treaty it talked a lot about war and enforcing obedience. There are clauses calling for continual war against the Dauphin, Charles VII and his supporters until they are subdued. In other words it called for continued war. And of course disinheriting Charles VII virtually assured a prolonged bloody war. That clause (29) making it impossible to make a separate peace with the Dauphin was also a call to perpetual war.

Further the treaty called for the Burgundians to be compensated for land taken by Henry V in Normandy with land captured from the Dauphin’s supporters. Which again was a call for perpetual war.

Also the treaty wasn’t quite clear about what would happen if Henry V predeceased Charles VI. Which Henry V did. This rather sophistical argument was later given as one of the reasons for Philip le bel to break the treaty.6

Another reason, and by far the most important one, given by Philip le bel to break the treaty was the limitation on making peace with the Dauphin, Charles VII. Philip le bel’s legal experts considered this clause to be such a violation of a Princes Christian duty to seek peace that it was along with the rest of the treaty null and void as being insupportable and immoral. In other words it violated the basic laws governing relations between states and men and as such had no legal standing.7

Thus right from the start the treaty had grave defects in and of itself.

In terms of less legalistic issues. The treaty faced the problem that the Burgundian faction was at best only lukewarm in support of the treaty. Philip le bel and most of the Burgundian faction quite simply didn’t like Henry V or the English. In fact in Lancastrian France there was little enthusiasm for Henry V as king of France. Even such Burgundian supporters as the Bourgeois of Paris there was precious little liking for Henry V or the English and much animosity and in fact hate. For a time the quite real, almost rabid hatred of the Burgundians for the Armagnacs gave grudging support to the English cause of a dual monarchy. But it was to put it bluntly a very weak reed. Philip le bel, despite his very great hatred of the Armagnacs and the Dauphin for the murder of his father had no love of Henry V or the English and if Dauphin was not swiftly overwhelmed would start moving to reconciliation with him.

Another problem was that before the treaty the Dauphin, Charles VII was firmly in the grasp of one faction, the Armagnacs, afterwards all those Frenchmen who were outraged by his disinheritance and the prospect of an English king becoming king of France became his supporters. Thus making Charles VII more than just the nominal head of one faction but the head of coalition of forces trying to preserve French independence. It also gave Charles VII room to maneuver and lessen his dependence on the Armagnac faction and create an independent power base.

The chances of the treaty working in the long term were to put it bluntly poor. The longer it took to crush Charles VII and his supporters the more likely the whole setup would unravel. The opposition of more than half of France could not be wished away. Further this opposition was allied to the fact that what French support there was of the treaty was grudging and lukewarm, based mostly on hatred of the Armagnac faction than on any positive belief in the treaty.

As for Henry V and English. By the treaty Henry V yoked English policy to an all or nothing outcome, which meant all too likely prolonged if not perpetual war. It precluded negotiation since the English would only treat on Charles VII giving up everything and being left nothing. This was war to the knife / to the death. It also morally tied English policy to an untenable position, i.e., acceptance of an English king as king of France. Basically the English would not settle for anything less than total capitulation by Charles VII and his supporters. Charles VII could not compromise on his claim to be king of France because to do so would put his entire position in danger.

The results were terrible with the price paid by the French people. The war which had restarted in earnest in 1415 was not even momentarily interrupted by the Treaty of Troyes (1420) but continued without a truce until 1444. In that year a temporary truce was finally negotiated. (Truce of Tours). English negotiations were constantly hamstrung by the insistence by many Englishman that they were entitled to all that the Treaty of Troyes gave them, including kingship of France, irregardless of the fact that by 1444 the English would be lucky to keep anything. For the French they could not accept Henry VI’s (Henry V’s son) claim to the throne of France without undermining Charles VII’s claim to the throne.

The war was renewed in 1449 and in 1450 the English were expelled from Normandy, and by 1453 the English were entirely expelled from France. The war ended in complete defeat for England, and in an ironic coda to the Treaty of Troyes Henry VI whose mother Catherine de Valois was married to Henry V at Troyes in the events associated with the Treaty of Troyes inherited from his grandfather, Charles VI his madness. And like in France madness in a king precipitated civil war.

Henry V’s bold diplomatic move at Troyes aiming at having it all ended up with nothing except losing all.8

Henry V meeting Catharine de Valois

1. For the sources for the above narrative see: De Monstrelet, Enguerrand, The Chronicles of Monstrelet, v. 1, William Smith, London, 1840, see pp. 320-438, Seward, Desmond, The Hundred Years War, Atheneum, New York, 1978, pp. 143-188, Allmand, Christopher, The Hundred Years War, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988, pp. 26-31, Perroy, Edouard, Perroy, The Hundred Years War, Capricorn Books, New York, 1965, pp. 219-244, Barker, Juliet, Conquest, Little, Brown, London, 2009, pp. 3-45, Curry, Anne, The Hundred Years War, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1993, pp. 89-108, Seward, Desmond, Henry V As Warlord, Penguin Books, London, 1987, pp. 130-151, Allmand, Christopher, Lancastrian Normandy 1415-1450, C;arendon Press, Oxford, 1983, pp. 1-49.

2. Seward, 1978, p. 180.

3. De Monstrelet, pp. 439-442. Ogg, F. A., A Source Book of Medieval History, American Book Company, New York, 1907, p. 443.

4. Curry, pp. 12-13.

5. Dickinson, Joycelyne Gledhill, The Congress of Arras, 1435, Clarendon Press, Oxford,1955.

6. IBID, Seward, 1978, p. 230.

7. IBID, Dickinson.

8. See Seward, 1978, pp. 189-265, 1987, pp. 159-169, 214-220, Curry, pp. 103-121, Griffiths, R.A., The Reign of King Henry VI, Sutton Pub, London, 2004, pp. 178-230, 443-550, Allmand, 1988, pp. 26-36, The Bourgeois of Paris, A Parisian Journal 1405-1449, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1968, Perroy, 235-322, Barker, Allmand, 1983, pp. 211-283.

Pierre Cloutier


  1. Anonymous1:53 pm

    I have to say that the photografy you have at the top is not the ''Treaty of Troyes''. Its a maedieval MSS, but not the Treaty about you talk.

    Thanks for the article.

  2. Thanks for the correction. I have no idea how I put a page from a Medieval manuscript there instead. I have replaced that picture with a image that is suppose to be of the Treaty of Troyes.