The History Of France

History Of Europe During The Middle Ages
Book: Book I:
Author: Hallam, Henry

Part Seven

War of Edward III. in France - Causes of his Success - Civil Disturbances
of France - Peace of Bretigni - Its Interpretation Considered - Charles V. -
Renewal of the War - Charles VI. - His Minority and Insanity - Civil
Dissensions of the Parties of Orleans and Burgundy - Assassination of both
these Princes - Intrigues of their Parties with England under Henry IV. -
Henry V. Invades France - Treaty of Troyes - State of France in the First
Years of Charles VII. - Progress and Subsequent Decline of the English Arms -
Their Expulsion from France - Change in the Political Constitution - Louis XI.
- His Character - Leagues Formed against him - Charles Duke of Burgundy - His
Prosperity and Fall - Louis Obtains Possession of Burgundy - His Death -
Charles VIII. - Acquisition of Brittany.

No war had broken out in Europe, since the fall of the Roman Empire, so
memorable as that of Edward III. and his successors against France, whether we
consider its duration, its object, or the magnitude and variety of its events.
It was a struggle of one hundred and twenty years, interrupted but once by a
regular pacification, where the most ancient and extensive dominion in the
civilized world was the prize, twice lost and twice recovered, in the
conflict, while individual courage was wrought up to that high pitch which it
can seldom display since the regularity of modern tactics has chastised its
enthusiasm and levelled its distinctions. There can be no occasion to dwell
upon the events of this war, which are familiar to almost every reader: it is
rather my aim to develop and arrange those circumstances which, when rightly
understood, give the clew to its various changes of fortune.

France was, even in the fourteenth century, a kingdom of such extent and
compactness of figure, such population and resources, and filled with so
spirited a nobility, that the very idea of subjugating it by a foreign force
must have seemed the most extravagant dream of ambition. ^a Yet, in the course
of about twenty years of war, this mighty nation was reduced to the lowest
state of exhaustion, and dismembered of considerable provinces by an
ignominious peace. What was the combination of political causes which brought
about so strange a revolution, and, though not realizing Edward's hopes to
their extent, redeemed them from the imputation of rashness in the judgment of
his own and succeeding ages?

[Footnote a: The pope (Benedict XII.) wrote a strong letter to Edward (March,
1340), dissuading him from taking the title and arms of France, and pointing
out the impossibility of his ever succeeding. I have no doubt but that this
was the common opinion. But the Avignon popes were very subservient to
France. Clement VI., as well as his predecessor, Benedict XII., threatened
Edward with spiritual arms. Rymer, t. v. pp. 88 and 465. It required
Edward's spirit and steadiness to despise these menaces. But the time when
they were terrible to princes was rather passed by; and the Holy See never
ventured to provoke the king, who treated the church, throughout his reign,
with admirable firmness and temper.]

The first advantage which Edward III. possessed in this contest was
derived from the splendor of his personal character and from the still more
eminent virtues of his son. Besides prudence and military skill, these great
princes were endowed with qualities peculiarly fitted for the times in which
they lived. Chivalry was then in its zenith; and in all the virtues which
adorned the knightly character, in courtesy, munificence, gallantry, in all
delicate and magnanimous feelings, none were so conspicuous as Edward III. and
the Black Prince. As later princes have boasted of being the best gentlemen,
they might claim to be the prowest knights in Europe - a character not quite
dissimilar, yet of more high pretension. Their court was, as it were, the sun
of that system which embraced the valor and nobility of the Christian world;
and the respect which was felt for their excellences, while it drew many to
their side, mitigated in all the rancor and ferociousness of hostility. This
war was like a great tournament, where the combatants fought indeed a
outrance, but with all the courtesy and fair play of such an entertainment,
and almost as much for the honor of their ladies. In the school of the
Edwards were formed men not inferior in any nobleness of disposition to their
masters - Manni and the Captal de Buch, Knollys and Calverley, Chandos and
Lancaster. On the French side, especially after Du Guesclin came on the
stage, these had rivals almost equally deserving of renown. If we could
forget, what never should be forgotten, the wretchedness and devastation that
fell upon a great kingdom, too dear a price for the display of any heroism, we
might count these English wars in France among the brightest periods in
history.

Philip of Valois, and John his son, showed but poorly in comparison with
their illustrious enemies. Yet they both had considerable virtues; they were
brave, ^b just, liberal, and the latter, in particular, of unshaken fidelity
to his word. But neither was beloved by his subjects; the misgovernment and
extortion of their predecessors during half a century had alienated the public
mind, and rendered their own taxes and debasement of the coin intolerable.
Philip was made by misfortune, John by nature, suspicious and austere; and
although their most violent acts seem never to have wanted absolute justice,
yet they were so ill-conducted, and of so arbitrary a complexion, that they
greatly impaired the reputation, as well as interests, of these monarchs. In
the execution of Clisson under Philip, in that of the Connetable d'Eu under
John, and still more in that of Harcourt, even in the imprisonment of the King
of Navarre, though every one of these might have been guilty of treasons,
there were circumstances enough to exasperate the disaffected, and to
strengthen the party of so politic a competitor as Edward.

[Footnote b: The bravery of Philip is not questioned. But a French historian,
in order, I suppose, to enhance this quality, has presumed to violate truth in
an extraordinary manner. The challenge sent by Edward, offering to decide his
claim to the kingdom by single combat, is well known. Certainly it conveys no
imputation on the King of France to have declined this unfair proposal. But
Velly has represented him as accepting it, on condition that Edward would
stake the crown of England against that of France; an interpolation which may
be truly called audacious, since not a word of this is in Philip's letter,
preserved in Rymer, which the historian had before his eyes, and actually
quotes upon the occasion. Hist. de France, t. viii. p. 382.]

Next to the personal qualities of the King of England, his resources in
this war must be taken into the account. It was after long hesitation that he
assumed the title and arms of France, from which, unless upon the best terms,
he could not recede without loss of honor. ^c In the meantime he strengthened
himself by alliances with the emperor, with the cities of Flanders, and with
most of the princes in the Netherlands and on the Rhine. Yet I do not know
that he profited much by these conventions, since he met with no success till
the scene of the war was changed from the Flemish frontier to Normandy and
Poitou. The troops of Hainault alone were constantly distinguished in his
service. ^d

[Footnote c: The first instrument in which Edward disallows the title of
Philip is his convention with the Emperor Louis of Bavaria, wherein he calls
him nunc pro rege Francorum se gerentem. The date of this is August 26, 1337,
yet on the 28th of the same month another instrument gives him the title of
king; and the same occurs in subsequent instances. At length we have an
instrument of procuration to the Duke of Brabant. October 7, 1337, empowering
him to take possession of the crown of France in the name of Edward;
attendentes inclitum regnum Franciae ad nos fore jure successionis legitime
devolutum. Another of the same date appoints the said duke his vicar-general
and lieutenant of France. The king assumed in this commission the title Rex
Franciae et Angliae; in other instruments he calls himself Rex Angliae et
Franciae. It was necessary to obviate the jealousy of the English, who did
not, in that age, admit the precedence of France. Accordingly, Edward had two
great seals on which the two kingdoms were named in a different order. But,
in the royal arms, those of France were always in the first quarter, as they
continued to be until the accession of the house of Brunswick.

Probably Edward III. would not have entered into the war merely on
account of his claim to the crown. He had disputes with Philip about Guienne;
and that prince had, rather unjustifiably, abetted Robert Bruce in Scotland.
I am not inclined to lay any material stress upon the instigation of Robert of
Artois.]

[Footnote d: Michelet dwells on the advantage which Edward gained by the
commerce of England with Flanders: "Le secret des batailles de Crecy, de
Poitiers, est aux comptoirs des marchands de Londres, de Bordeaux, et de
Bourges" (vol. v. p. 6). France had no internal trade; the roads were
dangerous on account of robbers, and heavy tolls were to be paid; fiscal
officers had replaced the feudal lords. The value of money was perpetually
varying far more than in England. (Id. p. 12.) Certainly the comparative
prosperity of the latter country supplied Edward with the sinews of war.
France could not afford to maintain a well-appointed infantry.

"Une tactique nouvelle," M. Michelet afterwards very well observes (p.
81), "sortait de l'etat nouveau de la societe; ce n'etait pas un oeuvre de
genie, ni de reflexion. Edouard III. n'etait ni un Gustave Adolphe ni un
Frederic II. Il avait employe les fantassins faute de cavaliers. . . . La
bataille de Crecy reveilla un secret dont personne ne se doutait,
l'impuissance militaire de ce monde feodal, qui s'etait cru le seul monde
militaire." Courtray might have given some suspicion of this; but Courtray was
much less of a "bataille rangee" than Crecy.]

But his intrinsic strength was at home. England had been growing in
riches since the wise government of his grandfather, Edward I., and through
the market opened for her wool with the manufacturing towns of Flanders. She
was tranquil within; and her northern enemy, the Scotch, had been defeated and
quelled. The parliament, after some slight precautions against a very
probable effect of Edward's conquest of France, the reduction of their own
island into a province, entered, as warmly as improvidently, into his quarrel.
The people made it their own, and grew so intoxicated with the victories of
this war, that for some centuries the injustice and folly of the enterprise do
not seem to have struck the gravest of our countrymen.

There is, indeed, ample room for national exultation at the names of
Crecy, Poitiers, and Azincourt. So great was the disparity of numbers upon
those famous days, that we cannot, with the French historians, attribute the
discomfiture of their hosts merely to mistaken tactics and too impetuous
valor. They yielded rather to that intrepid steadiness in danger which had
already become the characteristic of our English soldiers, and which, during
five centuries, has insured their superiority, whenever ignorance or
infatuation has not led them into the field. But these victories, and the
qualities that secured them, must chiefly be ascribed to the freedom of our
constitution, and to the superior condition of the people. Not the nobility
of England, not the feudal tenants won the battles of Crecy and Poitiers; for
these were fully matched in the ranks of France; but the yeomen who drew the
bow with strong and steady arms, accustomed to use it in their native fields,
and rendered fearless by personal competence and civil freedom. It is well
known that each of the three great victories was due to our archers, who were
chiefly of the middle class, and attached, according to the system of that
age, to the knights and squires who fought in heavy armor with the lance.
Even at the battle of Poitiers, of which our country seems to have the least
right to boast, since the greater part of the Black Prince's small army was
composed of Gascons, the merit of the English bowmen is strongly attested by
Froissart. ^e

[Footnote e: Au vray dire, les archres d'Angleterre faisoient a leurs gens
grant avantage. Car ils tiroyent tant espessement, que les Francois ne
scavoyent dequel coste entendre, qu'ils ne fussent consuyvis de trayt; et
s'avancoyent tousjours ces Anglois, et petit a petit enqueroyent terre. Part
I. c. 162.

It is by an odd oversight that Sismondi has said (x. 295), "Les Anglais
etaient accoutumes a se servir sans cesse de l'arbalete." The cross-bow was
looked upon as a weapon unworthy of a brave man; a prejudice which afterwards
prevailed with respect to firearms. A romancer praises the Emperor Conrad,

"Par un effort de lance et d'ecu,
Conquerant tous ses ennemis,
Y a arbalestreis ni fu mis;"

quoted by Boucher in his translation of Il Consolato del Mare, p. 518. Even
the long-bow might incur this censure; or any weapon in which the combatants
fought eminus. But if we look at the plate-armor of the fifteenth century, it
may seem that a knight had not much to boast of the danger to which he exposed
himself, especially when encountering infantry.]

Yet the glorious termination to which Edward was enabled, at least for a
time, to bring the contest, was rather the work of fortune than of valor and
prudence. Until the battle of Poitiers he had made no progress towards the
conquest of France. That country was too vast, and his army too small, for
such a revolution. The victory of Crecy gave him nothing but Calais, a post
of considerable importance in war and peace, but rather adapted to annoy than
to subjugate the kingdom. But at Poitiers he obtained the greatest of prizes,
by taking prisoner the King of France. Not only the love of freedom tempted
that prince to ransom himself by the utmost sacrifices, but his captivity left
France defenceless, and seemed to annihilate the monarchy itself. The
government was already odious; a spirit was awakened in the people which might
seem hardly to belong to the fourteenth century; and the convulsions of our
own time are sometimes strongly paralleled by those which succeeded the battle
of Poitiers. Already the States-General had established a fundamental
principle, that no resolution could be passed as the opinion of the whole
unless each of the three orders concurred in its adoption. ^f The right of
levying and regulating the collection of taxes was recognized. But that
assembly, which met at Paris immediately after the battle, went far greater
lengths in the reform and control of government. From the time of Philip the
Fair the abuses natural to arbitrary power had harassed the people. There now
seemed an opportunity of redress; and however seditious, or even treasonable,
may have been the motives of those who guided this assembly of the States,
especially the famous Marcel, it is clear that many of their reformations
tended to liberty and the public good. ^g But the tumultuous scenes which
passed in the capital, sometimes heightened into civil war, necessarily
distracted men from the common defence against Edward. These tumults were
excited, and the distraction increased, by Charles King of Navarre, surnamed
the Bad, to whom the French writers have, not perhaps unjustly, attributed a
character of unmixed and inveterate malignity. He was grandson of Louis
Hutin, by his daughter Jane, and, if Edward's pretence of claiming through
females, could be admitted, was a nearer heir to the crown; the consciousness
of which seems to have suggested itself to his depraved mind as an excuse for
his treacheries, though he could entertain very little prospect of asserting
the claim against either contending party. John had bestowed his daughter in
marriage on the King of Navarre; but he very soon gave a proof of his
character by procuring the assassination of the king's favorite, Charles de la
Cerda. An irreconcilable enmity was the natural result of this crime.
Charles became aware that he had offended beyond the possibility of
forgiveness, and that no letters of pardon, nor pretended reconciliation,
could secure him from the king's resentment. Thus, impelled by guilt into
deeper guilt, he entered into alliances with Edward, and fomented the
seditious spirit of Paris. Eloquent and insinuating, he was the favorite of
the people, whose grievances he affected to pity, and with whose leaders he
intrigued. As his paternal inheritance, he possessed the country of Evreux in
Normandy. The proximity of this to Paris created a formidable diversion in
favor of Edward III., and connected the English garrisons of the North with
those of Poitou and Guienne.

[Footnote f: Ordonnances des Rois de France, t. ii.]

[Footnote g: I must refer the reader onward to the next chapter for more
information on this subject. This separation is inconvenient, but it arose
indispensably out of my arrangement and prevented greater inconveniences.]

There is no affliction which did not fall upon France during this
miserable period. A foreign enemy was in the heart of the kingdom, the king a
prisoner, the capital in sedition, a treacherous prince of the blood in arms
against the sovereign authority. Famine, the sure and terrible companion of
war, for several years desolated the country. In 1348 a pestilence, the most
extensive and unsparing of which we have any memorial, visited France as well
as the rest of Europe, and consummated the work of hunger and the sword. ^h
The companies of adventure, mercenary troops in the service of John or Edward,
finding no immediate occupation after the truce of 1357, scattered themselves
over the country in search of pillage. No force existed sufficiently powerful
to check these robbers in their career. Undismayed by superstition, they
compelled the pope to redeem himself in Avignon by the payment of forty
thousand crowns. ^i France was the passive victim of their license, even after
the pacification concluded with England, till some were diverted into Italy,
and others led by Du Guesclin to the war of Castile. Impatient of this
wretchedness, and stung by the insolence and luxury of their lords, the
peasantry of several districts broke out into a dreadful insurrection. [A.D.
1358.] This was called the Jacquerie, from the cant phrase Jacques Bonhomme,
applied to men of that class; and was marked by all the circumstances of
horror incident to the rising of an exasperated and unenlightened populace. ^j

[Footnote h: A full account of the ravages made by this memorable plague may
be found in Matteo Villani, the second of that family who wrote the history of
Florence. His brother and predecessor, John Villani, was himself a victim to
it. The disease began in the Levant about 1346; from whence Italian traders
brought it to Sicily, Pisa, and Genoa. In 1348 it passed the Alps and spread
over France and Spain; in the next year it reached Britain, and in 1350 laid
waste Germany and other northern states; lasting generally about five months
in each country. At Florence more than three out of five died. Muratori,
Script. Rerum Italicarum, t. xiv. p. 12. The stories of Boccaccio's
Decamerone, as is well known, are supposed to be related by a society of
Florentine ladies and gentlemen retired to the country during this pestilence.

Another pestilence, only less destructive than the former, wasted both
France and England in 1361. Sismondi bitterly remarks (x. 342) that between
four and five millions who died of the former plague in France merely
diminished the number of the oppressed, producing no perceptible effect. But
this is exaggerated. The plague caused a truce of several months. The war
was in fact carried on with less vigor for some years. It is, however, by no
means unlikely that the number of deaths has been overrated. Nothing can be
more loose than the statistical evidence of mediaeval writers. Thus 30,000
are said to have died at Narbonne. (Michelet, v. 94.) But had Narbonne so many
to lose? At least, would not the depopulation have been out of all proportion
to other cities?]

[Footnote i: Froissart, p. 187. This troop of banditti was commanded by
Arnaud de Cervole, surnamed l'Archipretre, from a benefice which, although a
layman, he possessed, according to the irregularity of those ages. See a
memoir on the life of Arnaud de Cervole, in the twenty-fifth volume of the
Academy of Inscriptions.]

[Footnote j: The second continuator of Nangis, a monk of no great abilities,
but entitled to notice as our most contemporary historian, charges the
nobility with spending the money raised upon the people by oppressive taxes,
in playing at dice, "et alios indecentes jocos." D'Achery, Spicilegium, t.
iii. p. 114 (folio edition). All the miseries that followed the battle of
Poitiers he ascribes to bad government and neglect of the commonweal: but
especially to the pride and luxury of the nobles. I am aware that this writer
is biassed in favor of the King of Navarre; but he was an eye-witness of the
people's misery, and perhaps a less exceptionable authority than Froissart,
whose love of pageantry and habits of feasting in the castles of the great
seem to have produced some insensibility towards the sufferings of the lower
classes. It is a painful circumstance, which Froissart and the continuator of
Nangis attest, that the citizens of Calais, more interesting than the common
heroes of history, were unrewarded, and begged their bread in misery
throughout France. Villaret contradicts this, on the authority of an
ordinance which he has seen in their favor. But that was not a time when
ordinances were very sure of execution. Vill. t. ix. p. 470. I must add that
the celebrated story of the six citizens of Calais, which has of late been
called in question, receives strong confirmation from John Villani, who died
very soon afterwards. L. xii. c. 96. Froissart of course wrought up the
circumstances after this manner. In all the coloring of his history he is as
great a master as Livy, and as little observant of particular truth. M. de
Brequigny, almost the latest of those excellent antiquaries whose memoirs so
much illustrate the French Academy of Inscriptions, has discussed the history
of Calais, and particularly this remarkable portion of it. Mem. de l'Academie
des Inscriptions, t. i.

Petrarch has drawn a lamentable picture of the state of France in 1360,
when he paid a visit to Paris. I could not believe, he says, that this was
the same kingdom which I had once seen so rich and flourishing. Nothing
presented itself to my eyes but a fearful solitude, an extreme poverty, lands
uncultivated, houses in ruins. Even the neighborhood of Paris manifested
everywhere marks of destruction and conflagration. The streets are deserted;
the roads overgrown with weeds: the whole is a vast solitude. Mem. de
Petrarque, t. iii. p. 541.]

Subdued by these misfortunes, though Edward had made but slight progress
towards the conquest of the country, the regent of France, afterwards Charles
V., submitted to the peace of Bretigni. [A.D. 1360.] By this treaty, not to
mention less important articles, all Guienne, Gascony, Poitou, Saintonge, the
Limousin, and the Angoumois, as well as Calais, and the county of Ponthieu,
were ceded in full sovereignty to Edward; a price abundantly compensating his
renunciation of the title of France, which was the sole concession stipulated
in return. Every care seems to have been taken to make the cession of these
provinces complete. The first six articles of the treaty expressly surrender
them to the King of England. By the seventh, John and his son engaged to
convey within a year from the ensuing Michaelmas all their rights over them,
and especially those of sovereignty and feudal appeal. The same words are
repeated still more emphatically in the eleventh and some other articles. The
twelfth stipulates the exchange of mutual renunciations; by John, of all right
over the ceded countries; by Edward, of his claim to the throne of France. At
Calais the treaty of Bretigni was renewed by John, who, as a prisoner, had
been no party to the former compact, with the omission only of the twelfth
article, respecting the exchange of renunciations. But that it was not
intended to waive them by this omission is abundantly manifest by instruments
of both the kings, in which reference is made to their future interchanges at
Bruges, on the feast of St. Andrew, 1361. And, until that time should arrive,
Edward promises to lay aside the title and arms of France (an engagement which
he strictly kept ^k), and John to act in no respect as king or suzerain over
the ceded provinces. Finally, on November 15, 1361, two commissioners are
appointed by Edward to receive the renunciations of the King of France at
Bruges on the ensuing feast of St. Andrew, ^l and to do whatever might be
mutually required by virtue of the treaty. These, however, seem to have been
withheld, and the twelfth article of the treaty of Bretigni was never
expressly completed. By mutual instruments, executed at Calais, October 24,
it had been declared that the sovereignty of the ceded provinces, as well as
Edward's right to the crown of France, should remain as before, although
suspended as to its exercise, until the exchange of renunciations,
notwithstanding any words of present conveyance or release in the treaties of
Bretigni and Calais. And another pair of letters-patent, dated October 26,
contains the form of renunciations, which, it is mutually declared, should
have effect by virtue of the present letters, in case one party should be
ready to exchange such renunciations at the time and place appointed, and the
other should make default therein. These instruments executed at Calais are
so prolix, and so studiously enveloped, as it seems, in the obscurity of
technical language, that it is difficult to extract their precise intention.
It appears, nevertheless, that whichever party was prepared to perform what
was required of him at Bruges on November 30, 1361, the other then and there
making default, would acquire not only what our lawyers might call an
equitable title, but an actual vested right, by virtue of the provision in the
letters-patent of October 26, 1360. The appointment above mentioned of
Edward's commissioners on November 15, 1361, seems to throw upon the French
the burden of proving that John sent his envoys with equally full powers to
the place of meeting, and that the non-interchange of renunciations was owing
to the English government. But though an historian, sixty years later
(Juvenal des Ursins), asserts that the French commissioners attended at
Bruges, and that those of Edward made default, this is certainly rendered
improbable by the actual appointment of commissioners made by the King of
England on the 15th of November, by the silence of Charles V. after the
recommencement of hostilities, who would have rejoiced in so good a ground of
excuse, and by the language of some English instruments, complaining that the
French renunciations were withheld. ^m It is suggested by the French authors
that Edward was unwilling to execute a formal renunciation of his claim to the
crown. But we can hardly suppose that, in order to evade this condition,
which he had voluntarily imposed upon himself by the treaties of Bretigni and
Calais, he would have left his title to the provinces ceded by those
conventions imperfect. He certainly deemed it indefeasible, and acted,
without any complaint from the French court, as the perfect master of those
countries. He created his son Prince of Aquitaine, with the fullest powers
over that new principality, holding it in fief of the crown of England by the
yearly rent of an ounce of gold. ^n And the court of that great prince was
kept for several years at Bordeaux.

[Footnote k: Edward gives John the title of King of France in an instrument
bearing date at Calais, October 22, 1360. Rymer, t. vi. p. 217. The treaty
was signed October 24. Id. p. 219.]

[Footnote l: Rym. t. vi. p. 339.]

[Footnote m: It appears that, among other alleged infractions of the treaty,
the King of France had received appeals from Armagnac, Albret, and other
nobles of Aquitaine, not long after the peace. For, in February, 1362, a
French envoy, the Count de Tancarville, being in England, the privy council
presented to Edward their bill of remonstrances against this conduct of
France; et semble au conseil le roy d'Angleterre que considere la fourme de la
ditte paix, que tant estoit honourable et proffitable au royaume de France et
a toute chretiente, que la reception desdittes appellacions n'a mie este bien
faite, ne passee si ordenement, ne a si bon affection et amour, comme il droit
avoir este fait de raison parmi l'effet et l'intention de la paix et
ailliances affermees et entr'eux semble estre moult prejudiciables et
contraires a l'onneur et a l'estat du roy et de son fils le prince et de toute
la maison d'Angleterre, et pourra estre evidente matiere de rebellion des
subgiez, et aussi donner tres-grant occasion d'enfraindre la paix, si bon
remede sur ce n'y soit mis plus hastivement. Upon the whole they conclude
that if the King of France would repair this trespass, and send his
renunciation of sovereignty, the king should send his of the title of France.
Martenne, Thes. Anec. t. i. p. 1487.

Four princes of the blood, or, as they are termed, Seigneurs des Fleur de
Lys, were detained as hostages for the due execution of the treaty of
Bretigni, which, from whatever pretence, was delayed for a considerable time.
Anxious to obtain their liberty, they signed a treaty at London in November,
1362, by which, among other provisions, it was stipulated that the King of
France should send fresh letters, under his seal, conveying and releasing the
territories ceded by the peace, without the clause contained in the former
letters, retaining the ressort: et que en ycelles lettres soit expressement
compris transport de la souverainete et du ressort, &c. Et le roi
d'Angleterre et ses enfans ferront semblablement autiels renonciations, sur ce
q'il doit faire de sa partie. Rymer, t. vi. p. 396. This treaty of London was
never ratified by the French government; but I use it as a proof that Edward
imputed the want of mutual renunciations to France, and was himself ready to
perform his part of the treaty.]

[Footnote n: Rym. t. vi. pp. 385-389. One clause is remarkable; Edward
reserves to himself the right of creating the province of Aquitaine into a
kingdom. So high were the notions of this great monarch in an age when the
privilege of creating new kingdoms was deemed to belong only to the pope and
the emperor. Etiam si per nos hujusmodi provinciae ad regalis honoris titulum
et fastigium imposterum sublimentur; quam erectionem faciendam per nos ex tunc
specialiter reservamus.]

I have gone something more than usual into detail as to these
circumstances, because a very specious account is given by some French
historians and antiquaries which tends to throw the blame of the rupture in
1368 upon Edward III. ^o Unfounded as was his pretension to the crown of
France, and actuated as we must consider him by the most ruinous ambition, his
character was unblemished by ill faith. There is no apparent cause to impute
the ravages made in France by soldiers formerly in the English service to his
instigation, nor any proof of a connection with the King of Navarre
subsequently to the peace of Bretigni. But a good lesson may be drawn by
conquerors from the change of fortune that befell Edward III. A long warfare,
and unexampled success, had procured for him some of the richest provinces of
France. Within a short time he was entirely stripped of them, less through
any particular misconduct than in consequence of the intrinsic difficulty of
preserving such acquisitions. The French were already knit together as one
people; and even those whose feudal duties sometimes led them into the field
against their sovereign could not endure the feeling of dismemberment from the
monarchy. When the peace of Bretigni was to be carried into effect, the
nobility of the South remonstrated against the loss of the king's sovereignty,
and showed, it is said, in their charters granted by Charlemagne, a promise
never to transfer the right of protecting them to another. The citizens of
Rochelle implored the king not to desert them, and protested their readiness
to pay half their estates in taxes, rather than fall under the power of
England. John with heaviness of heart persuaded these faithful people to
comply with that destiny which he had not been able to surmount. At length
they sullenly submitted: we will obey, they said, the English with our lips,
but our hearts shall never forget their allegiance. ^p Such unwilling subjects
might perhaps have been won by a prudent government; but the temper of the
Prince of Wales, which was rather stern and arbitrary, did not conciliate
their hearts to his cause. ^q After the expedition into Castile, a most
injudicious and fatal enterprise, he attempted to impose a heavy tax upon
Guienne. This was extended to the lands of the nobility, who claimed an
immunity from all impositions. Many of the chief lords in Guienne and Gascony
carried their complaints to the throne of Charles V., who had succeeded his
father in 1364, appealing to him as the prince's sovereign and judge. [A.D.
1368.] After a year's delay the king ventured to summon the Black Prince to
answer these charges before the peers of France, and the war immediately
recommenced between the two countries. ^r

[Footnote o: Besides Villaret and other historians, the reader who feels any
curiosity on this subject may consult three memoirs in the 15th volume of the
Academy of Inscriptions by MM. Secousse, Salier, and Bonamy. - These
distinguished antiquaries unite, but the third with much less confidence and
passion than the other two, in charging the omission upon Edward. The
observations in the text will serve, I hope, to repel their arguments, which,
I may be permitted to observe, no English writer has hitherto undertaken to
answer. This is not said in order to assume any praise to myself; in fact, I
have been guided, in a great degree, by one of the adverse counsel, M. Bonamy,
whose statement of facts is very fair, and makes me suspect a little that he
saw the weakness of his own cause.

The authority of Christine de Pisan, a contemporary panegyrist of the
French king, is not, perhaps, very material in such a question; but she seems
wholly ignorant of this supposed omission on Edward's side, and puts the
justice of Charles V.'s war on a very different basis; namely, that treaties
not conducive to the public interest ought not to be kept. - Collection des
Memoires, t. v. p. 137. A principle more often acted upon than avowed!]

[Footnote p: Froissart, part i. chap. 214.]

[Footnote q: See an anecdote of his difference with the Seigneur d'Albret, one
of the principal barons in Gascony, to which Froissart, who was then at
Bordeaux, ascribes the alienation of the southern nobility, chap. 244. -
Edward III., soon after the peace of Bretigni, revoked all his grants in
Guienne. - Rymer, t. vi. p. 391.] [Footnote r: On November 20, 1368, some time
before the summons of the Prince of Wales, a treaty was concluded between
Charles and Henry King of Castile, wherein the latter expressly stipulates
that whatever parts of Guienne or England he might conquer he would give up to
the King of France. - Rymer, t. vi. p. 598.]

 

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