A Year of Disasters


RED Territories controlled by Henry VI of England   

PURPLE Territories controlled by the Duke of Burgundy   

BLUE Territories controlled by Charles   

YELLOW Main battles   

RED Dots English raid of 1415   

BLUE DOTS Joan of Arc’s route to Reims in 1429

The coronation of Henry VI should have been a triumphant moment in the history of the English kingdom of France. Never before had the two crowns been united in one person, nor would they ever be again. Yet the whole episode was somehow shabby, rushed and unsatisfactory. Only six months earlier the English council had still anticipated that the ceremony would take place, as tradition demanded, in Reims. Instead, because Reims was still in Armagnac hands, Henry was crowned in Paris – not even at Saint-Denis, where Pepin the Short had been crowned by Pope Stephen II in 754 in the presence of the future Charlemagne, but in the cathedral of Notre Dame.

At almost every stage of the proceedings the English managed to cause offence to their French subjects. The bishop of Paris was aggrieved that Cardinal Beaufort usurped what he felt was rightfully his role within his own church by crowning the king and singing the mass. The canons were annoyed because the royal officials failed to give them their customary offering of the gilded cup used in the service. Officials from the municipality, university and parlement were offended because they were not treated with the dignity they expected at the coronation feast: worse still for Frenchmen, the English had cooked the food four days earlier and it was ‘shocking’. The traditional celebratory jousts were a small-scale affair and did not give rise to the usual distribution of largesse. The new king also failed to grant the customary release of prisoners and abolition of certain taxes. These were all petty quibbles, but they were symptomatic of a wider discontent. As the chronicler Monstrelet noted, everything concerning the coronation was carried out ‘more in accordance with the customs of England than of France’. The citizen of Paris concluded that it was ‘probably because we don’t understand what they say and they don’t understand us’ but there must have been many who felt that this lack of sensitivity to French concerns was simply the arrogance of an English conqueror.

The ‘Englishness’ of the coronation was underlined by the absence of most of the peers of France, in particular Philippe of Burgundy. In the preceding weeks the Parisian authorities had daily announced that his arrival was imminent ‘but all this was only to keep the people quiet’. His failure to put in an appearance was a major disappointment to the Parisians but more especially to the English. His alliance had made the English kingdom of France possible: his absence at what was literally its crowning moment was therefore a significant and very public political statement. Burgundy had always liked to keep his options open. Throughout the entire period of Henry’s residence in France he had never once met the young king in person, thereby avoiding the otherwise inevitable requirement that he should give his oath of allegiance with his hands between those of the king himself. It was one thing to make a king, but quite another to give his sacred vow of obedience to him.

But there was also a more worrying reason for Burgundy’s absence. Just three days before the coronation he had agreed a six-year general truce with Charles VII. Writing to inform Henry the day before he signed the treaty, so that, ‘because of this, you do not conceive any suspicion or imagine anything sinister against me’, he claimed that he had been forced into accepting the truce. And once again he laid the blame squarely at the feet of the English, who had failed to give him the money and assistance he needed to maintain the war and protect his lands. The future burden of defending the English kingdom would now rest entirely on the English themselves.

At this juncture a gesture of commitment from the English would have been politic and welcome to Henry’s French subjects, but no sooner had the new king arrived in Paris than he was whisked back to Rouen. He had spent just three weeks in the city, leaving the citizens with nothing to show for his visit but a bill for 2297l.t. (£133,992) for staging the formal entry. The unseemly haste with which he left Paris was matched only by the speed with which he then left Rouen. Pausing only to mark his coronation by confirming the foundation of a new university at Caen (thereby offending that of Paris), he departed from Rouen on 12 January 1432, arrived in Calais fourteen days later and by 9 February was back in England. He had spent only twenty-one months in his kingdom of France and he would never set foot on French soil again.

The coronation of the ten-year-old king was a natural and probably necessary reaction to that of Charles VII. As Bedford had argued, doing homage and taking the oath of loyalty to a consecrated king would bind Henry’s French subjects more closely to the English regime. The problem neither he nor anyone else had foreseen was that it also committed the English more fully to supporting what was now Henry’s divinely sanctioned right to the French crown. An uncrowned and unconsecrated king might, at some future date, have been able to renounce his claim in order to secure peace on advantageous terms but an anointed king had a sacred duty to uphold the crown God had bestowed upon him. The possibility of a diplomatic rather than a military solution to the future security and survival of the English kingdom of France had just become more difficult to achieve.5 The coronation, combined with the king’s first visit to his French capital, had offered a unique opportunity to whip up enthusiasm for the English regime which was completely thrown away. It is difficult to believe that Bedford would have acted so high-handedly or insensitively, but throughout the period of the king’s residence in France he had been sidelined. All real power had been in the hands of the great council and its president, Cardinal Beaufort, who not only ran the government but also bank-rolled it with his loans. And mistakes had been made.

One of the reasons military wages were so badly in arrears was that the treasury had been ordered to pay soldiers individually instead of through their captains, a policy which had to be reversed when Bedford resumed the regency because it was so impractical. Beaufort was also responsible for a huge increase in gifts of lands and captaincies to Englishmen, many of them his supporters who had come over on the coronation expedition: this caused resentment among long-serving English and Norman captains and, more seriously, created a problem for the future by putting the military infrastructure in the hands of those who would not reside permanently in France.

Beaufort had also quarrelled personally with Bedford, who on 12 October 1431 had been forced to accept, under protest, that in future he would hold the office of regent as a commission from the king and council, rather than as his birthright, a change which introduced the possibility that he could be dismissed from office. Beaufort was undoubtedly behind this restriction on the regent’s office, which was in line with the assertion of conciliar supremacy over Gloucester’s role as protector of England. His reasoning for doing so at this juncture was probably because he was thinking of remaining behind once Henry VI returned to England. Since his arrival in France in 1429 he had worked hard to create a new power base for himself there. As president of the council in France he had effectively controlled administrative and diplomatic affairs there, confining Bedford’s role to the military sphere. He therefore had little incentive to return to a marginalised position in England. If he wanted to retain his own powers in France he needed to limit those of Bedford once the latter resumed the regency on the king’s departure, hence the issuing of a formal commission for the office. Though Bedford was forced to accept this, because he needed his uncle’s money to shore up the war effort, he was not prepared to concede what was effectively a sharing of the regency. When the king left France Bedford made a small but significant change to his title: henceforth he would be ‘Governor and Regent’, emphasising the all-embracing nature of his appointment.

Beaufort had dominated the coronation, which perhaps explains why it was so badly handled as far as the Parisians were concerned. He may also have been responsible for the abrupt ending of the king’s residence in France because his own position in England was once again under serious attack. In November 1431 Gloucester, who was determined to prevent his uncle resuming public office in England, had brought a prosecution against him for becoming a cardinal without resigning his see of Winchester: if Beaufort did not appear in person to defend himself within two months, he was liable to forfeiture under the statute of praemunire. Returning with the king would obviously offer him some protection, which is why they set out for England together so soon after the coronation.

When they reached Calais, however, Beaufort’s courage deserted him. Pleading a summons from the new pope, he obtained permission to go to Rome but instead stayed in Calais to await the arrival of his gold and jewels, which he had ordered to be shipped over to him. He had done this in secret and in contravention of laws controlling the export of precious metal, so when Gloucester found out, he had the perfect excuse to confiscate it all. And as his treasury was the security for his loans, Beaufort was now not only penniless but powerless too.

Unable to resist going for the kill, Gloucester dismissed all Beaufort’s supporters in the English government and prepared to indict his uncle for treason. This proved to be a step too far for those who feared Gloucester’s despotic tendencies and parliament intervened once again to impose a settlement. Beaufort was fined £6000 (£3.15m), refundable within six years if he proved his innocence, and required to make a loan of a further £6000: in return all the charges against him were dropped and his treasury was restored. Nevertheless, his influence over the king and the council, which he had been rebuilding since 1429, was at an end. Excluded from political power in both England and France, he was forced to fall back on his diocesan duties, which must have been a novel and frustrating experience for him.

While Henry was being welcomed back to London with lavish pageantry and by cheering crowds, Rouen was in the grip of the most serious attempt ever made to take the city during English rule. Marshal Boussac had assembled a force of six hundred men-at-arms at Beauvais and hidden them in the woods near Rouen. On the night of 3 February 1432, 120 of them, under the command of Guillaume de Ricarville, were sent on foot to the castle, where they were secretly admitted by Pierre Audebeuf, a Swiss traitor in the garrison. The sleeping English were completely taken by surprise and fled as best they could: the captain of Rouen, the earl of Arundel, who was trapped inside the great tower, made a dramatic escape by having himself lowered over the walls in a basket. With most of the castle in his hands, Ricarville went back to Boussac to bring the rest of the men, as agreed, only to find that they refused to help him and set off back to Beauvais.

Abandoned and unable to defend the entire castle without reinforcements, Ricarville’s men retreated into the great tower with as many supplies as they could find. The English hastily called in reinforcements and weaponry, including one hundred gun-stones sent from Vernon; surrounding the tower, they began a bombardment that would last thirteen days and inflict such damage that it became indefensible, forcing Ricarville’s men to surrender. Geoffroi Thérage was said to have executed 105 of them in a single day, including Audebeuf, who, as a traitor, was beheaded and quartered: his limbs were then displayed on the town gates and his head on a lance.

That such a bold attempt was possible, and so nearly succeeded, in the heart of the English administration just weeks after the coronation was a remarkable indictment of the missed opportunity to encourage unity and loyalty presented by that occasion. It was also an indication that the Armagnacs regarded their general truce with Burgundy as an opportunity to exploit the weaknesses in the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. With the duke’s troops removed from the field, the military burden fell entirely on the English, though some Burgundians, including l’Isle-Adam and Jehan de Luxembourg, continued to serve in English pay. English garrison forces being stretched to the limit increased the potential for Armagnacs to take strongholds by surprise. And in this they were aided by the fact that the Armagnac-Burgundian truce had hugely raised the hopes of the civilian population that a full peace settlement would follow. In the circumstances it is not surprising that the attempted betrayal of Rouen was only the first of nearly a dozen recorded conspiracies in 1432.

The most spectacular and successful occurred early in the morning of 12 April 1432. Two merchants from Chartres, who had been captured by the Armagnacs and persuaded to change sides, brought a dozen carts laden with barrels from Orléans into their home town. The gates were opened for them because they were well known, had safe-conducts and allegedly brought salt, which was in short supply. Yet once most of the wagons were safely through the gates the ‘carters’ blocked the drawbridge by killing the horse in the shafts of the next wagon and a number of soldiers leapt out of the barrels in which they were hiding. They killed the guards at the gate and secured the gatehouse. The Bastard of Orléans, Raoul de Gaucourt and La Hire (who was back in the field having just escaped from his prison at Dourdon) were waiting a short way off with an army and, at the agreed signal, charged into the town. They met with little resistance because their collaborator (and, if Monstrelet is to be believed, the man who conceived the plan), a Dominican friar, had arranged to preach an important sermon at the farthest end of the town, so that all the citizens would be gathered there. The town was taken before most of the startled citizens were even aware that the enemy was inside their gates. The Burgundian bishop of Chartres was killed in the street trying to fight his way out and all those who had ‘governed for the English’ were beheaded the following day.

Another Dominican friar was the ringleader in a conspiracy to deliver Argentan to the neighbouring enemy garrison of Bonsmoulins. An unfortunate merchant, Guillaume du Val, was also arrested because he had made regular trips to Bonsmoulins to negotiate the ransom and release of a trading partner held prisoner there. His visits were entirely legitimate because he had obtained permission to make them from Henry VI’s lieutenant in Normandy. Nevertheless, under torture so severe that he lost the use of an arm and a leg, du Val revealed that the French had failed to persuade him to assist them in taking Argentan. He also confessed that he had recognised a man from the garrison at Bonsmoulins dining in disguise at the house of the Dominican. Implicated by his association with the traitors, as well as for not informing the authorities of his suspicious encounters, du Val was fortunate to escape with his life. It was only the fact that he had taken his place as a defender on the town walls when the alarm was eventually raised that secured him his pardon.

Friars were particularly active as spies and enemy agents because their itinerant life and religious habit allowed them to travel from place to place and across political boundaries without raising suspicion. Charles VII regularly employed them as messengers and spies. One, known by the code-name Samedi passé, was sent ‘many times’ to Calais and other places ‘to discover the enterprises of the English’; captured and tortured seven times, he spent twelve years in an English prison before he managed to escape, but was ultimately rewarded for his services by becoming a pensioner of the French crown. In Paris in September 1432, however, the unlikely traitors were the abbess of Saint-Anthoinedes-Champs and some of her nuns, who were arrested and taken into custody for plotting with the abbess’s nephew to kill the gatekeepers at the Porte Saint-Anthoine and betray the city to the enemy.

Not even Englishmen could always be trusted. At the beginning of June 1432 several Englishmen were executed at Pontoise for plotting with the citizens of the town to betray it to the Armagnacs. Later in the year Thomas Gernes and his companion were captured by the garrison at Domfront. For reasons which were not explained, but perhaps because they had settled on the land or had been captured and were unable to pay their ransoms, they had joined the enemy garrison at the castle of Gontier-sur-Orne. Before they were executed as ‘Englishmen, traitors, thieves, brigands, enemies and adversaries’ the two confessed that they had also committed a ‘certain treason . . . which, quite simply, without having had this confession, could not have been discovered’.

The surest method of preventing such betrayals was to offer peace, security and a plentiful supply of the necessities of life. None of these things was in Bedford’s gift. Even the elements conspired against him. The winter of 1431–2 had been exceptionally long and hard. In January the Seine froze to a depth of two feet all the way upriver from Paris to Corbeil, stopping all the watermills in the city; ships on their way from Rouen to the capital were unable to pass beyond Mantes, so their much-needed cargoes of perishable food rotted. Constant frost, hail and bitter cold throughout the spring destroyed the buds and flowers of fruit and nut trees, ruining the prospects for the autumn harvest. Heavy rains and floods in July were followed by scorching heat in August which burned the vines and made the corn crop fail, creating a shortage of bread but also prolonging the scarcity by ensuring that there would be no stocks of seed corn to plant the following year. Famine and disease always went hand in hand but it was young people and small children who fell victim to the epidemic sweeping through Paris.1

Bedford did what he could to alleviate the situation, concentrating his efforts on trying to prevent Armagnac raids, which disrupted trade and destroyed the countryside, by recapturing their bases. After retaking Louviers he had, at the request of the estates-general of Normandy, kept three hundred men-at-arms and nine hundred archers in the field under the command of lord Willoughby. His specific remit was to recover several fortresses on the Norman frontier within a twenty-mile radius of Sées, including Bonsmoulins and Saint-Cénéry, and substantial sums had been granted to support his campaign.

The reason for targeting these strongholds as a priority was that their captain was Ambroise de Loré, marshal of the duke of Alençon, and on 29 September 1431 he had led seven hundred men in a daring raid from Saint-Cénéry. They had managed to travel undetected for fifty-five miles through the heart of Normandy, the last ten of them with the aid of guides who led them through valleys and covert ways to the outskirts of Caen. Their objective was the annual Michaelmas fair which was always held in the open fields between the town and the abbey of Saint-Étienne.

Their attack came out of the blue. The terrified merchants and citizens abandoned their stalls and goods and fled back towards the town in such numbers that the gatekeepers were unable to open or close the gates for the press of the crowd. Soldiers from the garrison tried to make a sortie to rescue them, but were beaten back so decisively that the Armagnacs were almost within the walls themselves. Loré knew, however, that he did not have enough men to take the town and had the presence of mind to draw his troops back. He had achieved what he wanted, striking terror into the heart of Normandy and gaining a rich haul of merchandise, horses and prisoners. Many of those taken captive were wealthy merchants and citizens of Caen, who were brought back to Bonsmoulins to be held until ransomed: the demand for Guillaume du Val’s business partner alone was 2000 saluts (£160,417) in cash, two lengths of silver cloth and other, more minor items.

When news reached Loré that Willoughby had laid siege to Saint-Cénéry with a huge artillery train, he obtained permission from the duke of Alençon to attempt a relief operation, and set up camp fifteen miles away in two villages either side of the river Sarthe connected only by a single bridge. Getting wind of this, Matthew Gough led a detachment out from the besieging army under cover of night: at dawn he fell upon those in Vivoin, catching them by surprise and overwhelming them.

The cries of those being attacked attracted the attention of those lodged at Beaumont-le-Vicomte, who saw the English standards already flying around Vivoin. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Loré launched a counter-attack with the small force of bowmen available to him, to buy time for the soldiers on the other side of the river to cross over to join him. After several hours of indecisive fighting, during which the Armagnacs were constantly reinforced by those from Beaumont-le-Vicomte filing steadily over the bridge, they eventually carried the day.

The English fled, leaving Matthew Gough a prisoner in enemy hands. It was all the more frustrating that they had actually captured Loré himself, who had been badly wounded, only for him to be rescued before the day was out. Worse still, his men were so infuriated when they mistakenly thought he had been killed that they massacred all their English prisoners in an act of revenge which breached the laws of war. The next day Willoughby abandoned his siege of Saint-Cénéry, leaving behind several of the great guns and siege engines in his haste to withdraw without further losses.

Bedford, meanwhile, was equally unsuccessful. At the beginning of May he had begun his second attempt in two years to relieve Paris by taking Lagny-sur-Marne. Despite throwing several temporary bridges across the Marne and building a fortified encampment surrounded by ditches which was larger than Lagny itself, his troops made no headway. They had to endure floods and a heatwave so powerful that some of the men-at-arms died from heatstroke because they were encased in armour: Bedford himself was said to have collapsed with exhaustion. And long-promised reinforcements from England failed to arrive.

Early in August the Bastard of Orléans, Raoul de Gaucourt, Gilles de Rais and Roderigo de Villandrando brought a large army to the relief of Lagny garrison. While the rest drew up in battle formation and kept the English busy with diversionary skirmishes and attacks on their encampment, Gaucourt slipped into Lagny from the other side with reinforcements and desperately needed supplies. The rest of the Armagnac army then withdrew towards Paris, still in battle formation, forcing Bedford to choose between continuing his siege and pursuing them to prevent an attack on the capital. When Bedford sent a message offering to fight them in a pitched battle, he was told in no uncertain terms that ‘they had done what they came to do’ and there was therefore no need for battle. Without the twelve hundred reinforcements, who were only just embarking from England, Bedford did not have enough men both to maintain the siege and protect Paris. On 20 August 1432 he therefore reluctantly raised his siege and returned to the capital, much to the disgust of its citizens, who were too afraid of the resurgent Armagnacs to venture into the countryside for the grape harvest, so that a shortage of wine was added to the lengthening list of their miseries.

With the Lagny garrison free to continue raiding several times a week up to the gates of Paris and disrupting essential supplies of food and firewood into the capital, the Parisians would continue to suffer the consequences of Bedford’s failure for years to come. Their problems were compounded by the epidemic which continued to rage in the city and, on 13 November, claimed its most important victim. Anne, duchess of Bedford, was twenty-eight years old. Her marriage was childless but her quiet and unobtrusive diplomacy had done much to bolster relations between the two dukes personally and in the wider context of their supporters. ‘She was good and beautiful,’ the citizen of Paris lamented. ‘The Parisians loved her . . . and with her died most of the hope that Paris had, but this had to be endured.’ Her funeral exemplified the union of French and English customs which she and Bedford had promoted. Parisian priests led the processions wearing black stoles and carrying candles. Then, as her body was lowered into the grave, the English took over, singing most movingly, ‘in the fashion of their own country’, the polyphonic music for unaccompanied voices which had been pioneered in the royal chapel and become famous throughout northern Europe.

The severing of this link opened another small but significant crack in the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. The strains were beginning to tell. Burgundy’s announcement of his six-year truce with Charles VII in 1431 had raised popular hopes and expectations that a general peace might follow, especially as it was widely known that the new pope, Eugenius IV, was determined to broker an end to the conflict and had sent his envoy, Cardinal Albergati, to France to mediate a settlement. None of the parties involved had requested or even wanted this intervention but neither could they afford to offend the head of the universal church by refusing to cooperate with his initiative. Their unwillingness to engage in any meaningful way with the peace process doomed the talks to failure.

In November 1432 Albergati chaired a three-way conference at Auxerre between the English, Burgundians and Armagnacs. It soon became clear that nothing concrete could be achieved. All the arguments that would be rehearsed so many times over the coming years were trotted out on this occasion. The English had already decided as long ago as May 1431 that they could not commit Henry VI to a peace treaty while he was still legally a minor, but they were willing to accept a truce. The Armagnacs insisted that the French prisoners held in England since Agincourt should be a party to the proceedings: this was not unreasonable as the dukes of Orléans and Bourbon and the count of Eu were all Armagnac and no lasting peace could be made unless they were reconciled with the Burgundians. They refused, however, even to consider a peace unless Henry first surrendered his claim to the French throne, which was unacceptable to the English.

Philippe of Burgundy, who was in the happy position of being able to play the two sides off against each other, sought only the best possible deal for himself. What he wanted from the Armagnacs, apart from an apology and compensation for the murder of his father, was the cession to him of the county of Champagne. In the end all that could be agreed was that they should meet again in March 1433 and the Agincourt prisoners should be involved. When the commissioners returned to Paris the citizen noted in his journal that they had ‘done nothing except spend a great deal of money and waste their time’, a bitter but accurate description of the intransigence on all sides.

A miserable year for Bedford and the English kingdom of France ended with the unexpected rebellion of a Norman who had been an important supporter of the regime from the beginning of the conquest. Raoul Tesson, sire du Grippon, had submitted early to Henry V and in April 1422 had been rewarded with the gift of all the land and property confiscated from his brother, Jean, who had left Normandy for Armagnac territory and never returned. On 21 August 1429, in the crisis caused by the Pucelle’s victories, Tesson had been appointed captain of Saint-Lô, replacing the earl of Suffolk, who had been captured at Jargeau. It was a significant display of trust in him, for the town was strategically important and had recently been subjected to a number of raids by the garrison of Mont-Saint-Michel During Henry VI’s sojourn in Rouen Tesson had come to swear his oath of loyalty in person to the young king, and in June 1432 he had personally served at the siege of Lagny with a large contingent of twenty-one men-at-arms and sixty-three archers, almost half of whom he had had to find himself.

Six months later, however, Tesson was a ‘traitor and disobedient’. The earl of Arundel was forced to take most of his garrison from Rouen and race to Saint-Lô to resist and repel ‘by battle or otherwise’ the duke of Alençon’s army, which had entered Normandy to take the town by means of Tesson’s treachery. Perhaps as a result of Arundel’s diligence, the attempt to take Saint-Lô failed. Tesson withdrew with his family and household to Mont-Saint-Michel, where in 1433 they participated in a sea raid on Granville, the rocky peninsula at the northernmost point of the bay, capturing several English ships and bringing them back to the island. Tesson’s extensive possessions were confiscated and lands, worth an annual 875l.t. (£51,042), were granted in March 1433 to Richard Merbury, the English captain of Gisors.

Another long, hard winter, with frosts nearly every day until Easter and long periods when the Seine was again frozen, preventing the shipment of supplies into Paris, did nothing to raise spirits. ‘There was no bread eaten in Paris except such as used to be made for dogs’, the citizen complained, ‘and even that was so small that a man’s hand would cover a fourpenny loaf.’ In Calais the garrison became so desperate when the English government failed yet again to pay their wages that they mutinied: they seized the wool belonging to the merchants of the Staple, the company which held the monopoly on the export of English wool, and forcibly ejected Sir William Oldhall, Bedford’s deputy in the town.

For Bedford these setbacks were made worse by the knowledge that he could expect little or no aid from England, where Gloucester’s government was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. The previous year had seen only one English expedition sent to France: led by lords Camoys and Hungerford, it had consisted of only twelve hundred men and its departure had been delayed until August because no money was available to pay its wages until Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort had settled their quarrel, reopening the stream of loans from Beaufort. Once again it had been too little too late, and as a consequence Lagnysur-Marne had been lost.

The situation had not improved over the winter and Bedford faced the prospect of beginning a new campaigning season without substantial support from either England or Burgundy. It was perhaps for this reason that he decided to align himself more closely with one family which had remained steadfastly loyal and supportive. Louis de Luxembourg, bishop of Thérouanne, was a former president of the chambre-des-comptes in Paris, a member of the Norman council and, since 1424, chancellor of France; his brother, Jehan de Luxembourg, count of Guise and Ligny, had consistently provided military support in the field and served in person regularly with the Anglo-Burgundian army. Their brother, Pierre, was count of Saint-Pol, in Artois, and it was his daughter, Jacquetta, that Louis de Luxembourg suggested Bedford should marry.

The marriage meant that Bedford could continue to rely on the military support of the house of Luxembourg but it also had political advantages. It strengthened ties with the Low Countries, where England had substantial trading and economic interests, and with the Emperor Sigismund, who was Jacquetta’s cousin. It also rejuvenated Bedford’s own territorial ambitions in Artois, which had been thwarted by the death of Anne of Burgundy and the birth of a legitimate son and heir to her brother. His new bride, who was just seventeen, ‘frisky, beautiful and gracious’, might provide the forty-three-year-old Bedford with a legitimate heir. (He already had two bastards from liaisons before he married Anne.) After all, Philippe of Burgundy had had two childless marriages yet his third wife, Isabella, was now expecting his second son. (Philippe allegedly managed the prodigious feat of fathering twenty-six bastards, though only one of his three legitimate sons survived infancy.)

The marriage was celebrated in Artois on 20 April 1433 at Louis de Luxembourg’s episcopal seat of Thérouanne. Whatever political advantages Bedford may have hoped to gain by it were nullified by the reaction of the duke of Burgundy. Philippe was offended by both the haste of the remarriage and the fact that the count of Saint-Pol had not sought his permission for it, as he was bound to do because the duke was his feudal overlord. It was a further affront to Burgundy’s dignity that the wedding had taken place within his own county of Artois, albeit in a royal enclave that was not subject to his jurisdiction.

Cardinal Beaufort, who had always enjoyed a good personal relationship with Burgundy, was so concerned about the situation and its potential to split the Anglo-Burgundian alliance that he organised a special meeting between the two dukes at Saint-Omer at the end of May. His object was to effect a reconciliation but he had not counted on the depth of personal pride and pique involved. Both dukes arrived in the town but neither would make the first move to accept the subservient role of visiting the other: Bedford claimed precedence as regent; Burgundy refused to cede it because Saint-Omer was in his territory. Nothing Beaufort could do or say would persuade them to put aside their differences and they left Saint-Omer without having met. It was, like the coronation, another opportunity lost, for they would never meet again.