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Published date: 7 October 2009

The Past Masters team join Henry V in the battle for France.
Henry fought the Hundred Years War on two fronts – military and diplomatic – but was the signing of the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 his greatest victory or just a millstone around England’s neck? And more importantly, can we really cover a century of conflict in less than 30 minutes?

Author: Past Masters Duration: 29:09

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Transcription

Bob: Hi there, you’re listening to Past Masters from The National Archives. I’m Bob.

Jo: And I’m Jo.

Bob: We’re actually down in one of the reading rooms at the moment to look at a document that’s around 600 years old and it’s one of the great ‘might have beens’ of history. However at the moment, I have to say, it just looks like a very large yellow envelope.

Jo: If you’ll just give me a second to open this up. What we’re looking at here is the Treaty of Troyes, written in 1420 during the Hundred Years War between England and France. It’s just one parchment sheet, but it’s a fairly big document.

Bob: It’s about, what, a foot long by a foot and a half wide. It’s written in French I think.

Jo: It is in French. It’s not that easy to read though it’s mostly in okay condition There has been some damage, but you can see some of the very large words at the top “Perpetuelle” there and “Paix”.

Bob: Perpetual and peace.

Jo: So translated the beginning of the document goes something like:

[E 30/411]

Charles VI: Forasmuch as: in order to return to peace and remove the dissensions between the kingdoms of France and England, many notable and various Treaties, which, in time past, have been made between our noble forebears…and those of the most high prince and our most dear son Henry, King of England, Heir to France and also between ourselves and our said son… [Fades Out]

Bob: So who’s writing this?

Jo: Well, you see the box attached to the bottom?

Bob: On a red and green cord?

Jo: The box is to protect the seal which is attached to the document, like a signature.

Bob: But big, round and made of wax. It’s quite badly damaged. But there’s a king sitting on a throne.

Jo: Now that could be English or French and the writing around the edge is basically too badly damaged to tell us much but if I turn the seal over on the back-

Bob: Three fleur de lis. So it’s the French King’s seal.

Jo: It is and this is the document in which the King of France effectively hands his kingdom over to the English. It’s a hugely unpopular peace treaty in France that leads to over twenty years of continuous fighting, which is the longest period of uninterrupted conflict in the whole Hundred Years War.

Bob: Why would a French king hand over his kingdom to England?

Jo: Ah, well that’s the story. [So] can this podcast hold | The vastie fields of France? Or may we cram | Within this tiny show, the very Casques | That did affright the air at Agincourt?

Bob: What are you talking about?

Jo: It’s Shakespeare. What, only the actors are allowed to have fun?

[Titles]

Bob: So where shall we start?

Jo: Let’s start with an invasion. It’s 1415 and Britain and France have basically been at peace for 25 years.

Bob: I thought you said it was the Hundred Years War.

Jo: Well the Hundred Years War is a bit of a con. Firstly, it lasts for more than a hundred years-

Bob: No!

Jo: I know. And not only that: they take breaks. This has been the longest one. A truce agreed by Richard II in 1389 that has held more or less for a quarter of a century.

Bob: So why does it start up again?

Jo: This may shock you but medieval kings don’t value peace that highly. War is brilliant. It gets you grants of money from parliament, it keeps the nobility busy, it keeps the peasants happy as long as you’re winning and there are lots of other benefits like showing off how great you are with weapons and strategy and people writing songs about how fantastic you are. England has a new king: Henry V. He’s young, he fancies himself as a soldier and he’s keen to get back into France.

Bob: So it’s about territory as well?

Jo: Sorry, yes, land. Very important Henry wants Normandy and that’s just for starters.

Bob: Wait. Don’t the English have Normandy? Wasn’t that the whole point of the Norman Conquest, that the Duke of Normandy and the King of England are the same person.

Jo: Ah, yes back in the day when William was King. In fact when Henry II was King in the 12th century he had massive amounts of French territory. In fact as King of England he directly owned more land in France than the King of France. But since then it’s all gone pear shaped. King John managed to lose both Normandy and Aquitaine and English lands in France have shrunk to a shadow of the former selves.

Bob: And Henry wants them back. Does he provoke a war?

Jo: There’s diplomacy back and forth but finally Henry sends Ambassadors to the French making outrageous demands, for the throne of France, for lands and cash and so on and when they say no, Henry puts together a huge force of about 11,000 to attack Harfleur, a town at the mouth of the Seine and he travels with the army to take command himself.

Bob: So he lays siege to the city?

Jo: He does. Harfleur has got massive walls and is well defended but the English surround it and for five weeks they wait for the city to run out of food.

Bob: That sounds straightforward.

Jo: Well the problem when you’re an attacking army like this is where does the food to feed you come from? So the English start getting peckish themselves. But it’s also the middle of August. It’s hot and terrible disease breaks out in the English camp. Maybe a quarter of Henry’s force is killed or has to return to England. Conditions are so bad that even the nobility get sick.

Bob: Not the nobility!

Jo: Oh yes. The Bishop of Norwich and the Earl of Suffolk both die and others have to be stretchered back home. Even when you’re not actually fighting the enemy, a medieval army is a dangerous place to be.

Bob: But the siege does hold?

Jo: It does and Henry demands the town’s surrender. Now, we don’t know what was in that document so here’s how William Shakespeare does it in his play Henry V, written in 1599.

Henry: This is the latest Parle we will admit:
Therefore to our best mercy give yourselves,
Or like to men proud of destruction,
Defy us to our worst: for as I am a Soldier,
A Name that in my thoughts becomes me best;
If I begin the battery once again,
I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur,
Till in her ashes she lie buried.
The Gates of Mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh’d Soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand, shall range
With Conscience wide as Hell…

Bob: So he’s not mucking about, that’s the point. If he doesn’t get his way, he’s going to be killing some people.

Jo: Now in fact the town doesn’t surrender. Henry undermines the walls, he bombards them with siege engines, he sets fire to the gatehouse but the city holds out for another four weeks before finally surrendering on September 22nd. It’s a slow grind, not the quick win the huge force must have hoped for.

Bob: What does he do to the city when he’s got it?

Jo: He doesn’t waste time punishing the citizens, he moves on as quickly as possible.

Bob: I was expecting serious violence.

Jo: It’s coming. The army spends the next month moving deeper into Normandy. The idea is to reach the safety of Calais, which is firmly in English hands. But Henry doesn’t make it. The way is blocked by a massive French force and it’s clear that the English army will have to fight its way to safety.

Gesta: When we reached the crest of the hill on the other side we saw emerging from the valley about a mile from us, hateful swarms of Frenchmen…they took up their position just over half a mile from us, filling a broad field like an innumerable swarm of locusts…And then everyone who had not previously cleared his conscience by confession put on the armour of penitence…[Fade in nighttime cricket type noises] and when at last we were at the last rays of light, and darkness fell between us and them, we still stood in the field and heard our foes, everyone calling, as the manner is, for his comrade, servant and friend, dispersed by the multitude. Our men began to do the same, but the king ordered silence throughout the whole army…under penalty of the right ear in the case of a yeoman or below, with no hope of pardon…[Fade in some bonfire crackle] And when our enemies considered the quietness of our men and our silence, they thought we were struck with fright at our small numbers…so they established fires and strong watches…And it was said they thought they were so sure of us that they cast dice that night for our king and nobles.

Bob: What’s that from?

Jo: That’s the Gesta Henrici Quinti, the deeds of Henry V, an account in Latin of Henry’s life that was probably written by his Chaplain Thomas Elmham.

Bob: And he was present at the battle?

Jo: He was. On that extraordinary next day. Friday 25th October 1415. The English forces were significantly outnumbered, but historians now think that the chroniclers who say that the French force was much, much bigger than the English were mistaken.

Bob: Why do they think that?

Jo: Well the muster records, the accounts that show the pay of the English soldiers, many of them are here at the Archives and they show larger numbers of men than were traditionally thought to have been present at the battle.

Bob: Are there any other differences between the two armies?

Jo: The English army is mainly archers. Almost three quarters of Henry’s army are longbowmen.

[The sound of loads of arrows shooting through the air]

And this means that as they advance towards the French, mainly mounted knights or foot soldiers there’s a withering hail of bowfire. The best archers can fire an arrow every four seconds and there are 7000 of them. The French cavalry charge the archers but it doesn’t stop the fire and it means that when the French men-at-arms meet the front ranks of the English they’re scared, confused and hurting.

[The sound of vicious medieval combat]

Gesta: And then the battle grew hotter and our archers shot…their arrows through the flanks of the enemy, the battle continually renewing. And when their arrows were exhausted, they seized axes, swords and lances from those who were lying on the ground and beat down, wounded and killed the enemy with them…In the three places where there was a concentration of our forces, the piles of dead and those crushed in between grew so much, that our men climbed on these heaps which grew higher than a man and slew those below, with swords, axes and other weapons.

Bob: Brutal. Where’s Henry in all this?

Jo: Henry himself fights hand to hand on the ground with the men-at-arms, not on horseback. The French are bogged down in muddy churned up ground, their lines are too close together, there’s nowhere for them to go.

Bob: What happens next?

Jo: The one’s at the back, the rearguard, just melt away. They saddle up and retreat. There’s a pause in the fighting and English get some time to search the heaps of bodies for any survivors who could maybe be taken for ransom.

Bob: So they start looting the bodies?

Jo: Absolutely. Great reason to be on a 15th century battlefield. Everyone likes a bit of loot – though it would have been mostly weapons and equipment.

Bob: Do the French surrender or have they all just run away?

Jo: Well the end of the battle is quite confusing. There may have been a few ebbs and flows in the fighting. It lasts about four hours but even when it seems the battle might be over the English are still apparently worried about a counterattack. That’s why Henry has most of the prisoners who have been taken killed.

Bob: I thought this was the Age of Chivalry.

Jo: So did they. If you’re a wealthy knight, the medieval battlefield can actually be quite safe. You’re usually much too precious to kill. But not this time. Henry’s army takes some prisoners back to Calais but lots more are rounded up and executed as the battle comes to a close.

Bob: So now England celebrates and the French are plunged into gloom.

Jo: Yes, huge celebrations in London. Henry spends the next 18 months grabbing loads of tax money from the delighted population of England to pay for a new offensive. When he comes back to France in 1417 he takes town after town. Caen holds out for just two weeks, Cherbourg and Rouen for almost six months each.

Bob: It’s still a hard grind. None of these towns are opening the gates and saying come on in.

Jo: No. The English are not popular. At Rouen, surrounded by Henry’s troops, the starving population sends out 12,000 people who can’t fight: women, children, the old and the sick. Henry refuses to let them pass through his lines and most of them starve or freeze between the city walls and Henry’s camp.

Bob: That’s horrible.

Jo: The town surrenders a month later.

Bob: What’s the French government doing during all this? Are these towns just fending for themselves? What about the French king?

Jo: Well, these aren’t two monarchies alike in dignity. The French monarchy is short of cash and has a very poor relationship with the French nobility and where Henry V is a charismatic war leader, Charles VI, the King of France suffers from crippling mental illness.

Bob: What ‘s wrong with him?

Jo: A modern diagnosis would probably be some sort of schizophrenia. In 1392 he killed a number of his own men in a kind of fit and his behaviour for the next thirty years of his life was often extremely erratic. Sometimes he didn’t recognise his family and insisted he wasn’t the King and that his name wasn’t Charles it was actually George. He wouldn’t wash for weeks on end. He would run around the corridors of his palace howling like a wolf. At one stage he became convinced that he was made of glass and needed to be held together with bits of wood to stop him from shattering.

Bob: That’s pretty extreme.

Jo: He was not a well man. But he remains king and on his good days he continues to exercise power.

Bob: So who’s running the country the rest of the time?

Jo: The Queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, acts as Regent.

Bob: And is there an heir? What’s he called?

Jo: The Dauphin. The eldest son is always the Dauphin. But this is another problem the French are having. They get through Dauphin’s really quick in this period. Henry actually has to deal with three.

Bob: Three?

Jo: Charles VI sons just keep dying. Neither Louis nor John make it to the age of 20, so they can’t rally the kingdom either. The Dauphin Charles is only 12 at the time of Agincourt. Henry would have been hoping that he’d snuff it too because Charles doesn’t have any other sons and so that would make the succession much easier.

Bob: And is the Dauphin Charles somebody who can unite the French and save France?

Jo: In this period after 1415 you would have to say no. In fact the Dauphin seems to have this toxic effect on the kingdom. In 1418 Queen Isabeau and the Duke of Burgundy have been keeping the English at bay from Paris. Isabeau already detests her son, he’s a nightmare teenager who’s had her imprisoned and tried to stop her income.

Bob: The cheeky scamp.

Jo: To be fair Henry V has his stepmother Joanna of Navarre, imprisoned in Pevensey Castle in Sussex for witchcraft, so it’s not all happy families in England either.

Bob: What’s the significance of the Duke of Burgundy?

Jo: He’s the kind of noble kings hate. One who’s far too big for his boots. He isn’t remotely concerned about the royal family. Duke John of Burgundy, John “the Fearless” has had the king’s brother killed in 1407.

Bob: He assassinated the king’s brother?

Jo: Yep. Had both his arms chopped off in a Paris street. He’s also had the Dauphin abducted.

Bob: So the Duke’s dangerous and powerful. He needs careful handling. His support must be vital to holding the country together.

Jo: Absolutely. The Dauphin meets with him in September 1419 to decide the future direction of the country.

Bob: How does that go?

Jo: It could have gone better.

Des Ursins: Then, they say, the Dauphin raised his hat, thanked him and told him to rise: and as the Duke rose, the Dauphin made a sign to those who were with him: and then the Lord Tanneguy du Chastel came near the duke and pushed him by the shoulders, saying to him “Die!” and struck him with an axe on the head, and so he slew him in this way. There was another of the duke’s party called the Seigneur de Nouailles, who was mortally wounded, so that at the end of three days he died too. But others tell a quite different tale…

Bob: Well how different?

Jo: Some people say he was hit in the face with a sword, then hit with an axe and then stabbed in the stomach.

Bob: I see. The subtle approach.

Jo: This is really a key turning point as important as any one of Henry’s victories. A hundred years later they were still saying that the hole in Duke John’s head was England’s route into France.

Bob: In what way?

Jo: Before John is murdered, the English don’t have many allies in France.

Bob: On the grounds that they’re invading it.

Jo: Absolutely. But now they’ve got a very powerful one. John’s son Phillip moves to support the English. In fact in case there’s any doubt Henry entertains him lavishly at Christmas in 1419 and the festivities include a jolly pantomime re-enactment of John’s murder, right in front of the new Duke.

Bob: So the Dauphin has forced his two greatest enemies together. Well done him.

Jo: His three greatest. This is the document, [E 30/409] [slightly smaller than the Treaty as you see], preserved in the Exchequer records here signed by Phillip of Burgundy [here] and Isabeau [here]  in which they agree to meet Henry at Troyes and it’s there on behalf of Charles VI, the French king, they’re going to hand over the keys to the kingdom.

Bob: What does the treaty actually say? It makes Henry the King of France, right?

Jo: No, it makes him heir to the throne of France and Regent. Actually the first thing the treaty says, well the first article, is that there’s going to be a wedding.

[E 30/411]

Charles VI: Firstly, that by the alliance of marriage, made for the good of the said peace, between our said son the King Henry and our very dear and much loved daughter Katherine, he is to become our son and that of our most dear and beloved companion the Queen…

Jo: And articles three, four and five are about the financial arrangements for that marriage. The “pre-nup”, if you will.

Bob: That’s so romantic.

Jo: Absolutely. But it’s article six that starts to talk about the huge shift in the balance of power the treaty represents.

[E 30/411]

Charles VI: It is agreed that after our death and from that time forward, the crown and kingdom of France, with all their rights and [privileges], shall be vested permanently in our son[-in-law], King Henry [of England], and his heirs.

Jo: And this is no ordinary medieval treaty, the text stresses again and again how it’s designed to be completely permanent and provide a final end to the conflict through the joining of the two crowns.

[E 30/411]

Charles VI: Now and for all time, perpetually to quieten, calm and in all respects end all dissensions, hatreds, grudges, enmities and war between…the Kingdoms of France and England.

Bob: Does this mean that England and France are about to become some giant cross-channel super-kingdom?

Jo: No. The treaty makes very clear it’s a bringing together of crowns only and not the kingdoms. This is actually important on both sides. English tax payers don’t want to be paying for stuff in France any more than the French want to be paying for castles on the Welsh border or whatever.

Bob: What about the Dauphin, what does the Treaty say about him?

[E 30/411]

Charles VI: (29) In consideration of the great and shocking crimes and misdeeds committed against the Kingdom of France by Charles, who is called Dauphin…it is agreed that ourselves, our…son King Henry and also our very dear son Phillip, Duke of Burgundy, will never negotiate in any way for peace or any sort of agreement, with the said Charles.

Bob: That’s clear.

Jo: It’s even clearer in Article 12.

[E 30/411]

Charles VI: That our said son can…achieve the things abovesaid more profitably by placing in our command each and every city, town, castle, region, land and person within our kingdom, disobedient and rebellious to us, holding or belonging to the party commonly called [that of] the Dauphin, or Armagnac.

Bob: So actually, this isn’t a peace treaty at all. This is a treaty where everyone, Henry, King Charles, the Queen, the Duke, everyone is agreeing to gang up on the Dauphin and his supporters and wipe them out.

Jo: Yes. It’s very much a “no peace without victory” plan. It has three steps for Henry. Step 1: start making the important decisions. The Treaty isn’t just about the future. Some of it is about a transfer of power right now.

[E 30/411]

Charles VI: (7) Because we are constrained and prevented much of the time in such a manner that we cannot in our own person hear or [attend] to the management of the work of our Kingdom, the power and authority to govern and to control….public affairs…shall, during our lifetime, be vested in our son, King Henry.

Jo: Of course this isn’t Charles declaring himself unfit to rule, it’s really Burgundy, the Queen and other powerful French figures but the effect is the same.

Bob:  Step 2 – eliminate the opposition from the Dauphin downwards, step three become undisputed ruler of both kingdoms. He must be feeling pretty good as they’re putting the treaty together.

Jo: Absolutely. In the document signed by Isabeau and Burgundy that we were looking at before [E 30/409] the idea is to meet outside Troyes on carefully marked ground with each side allowed no more than 2500 men.

Bob: That’s still more than enough for a big fight.

Jo: Don’t be so pessimistic.

[C 54/270]

Henry V: To our right trusty and well-beloved brother [the Duke of Gloucester, Warden in our realm of England and to all the [others] of our Council there.] For as much as we knew well that your desire was to hear joyful tidings of our good speed touching the conclusion of peace between the two realms…we signify unto you that, worshipped be our Lord…our labour has sent us a good conclusion. Upon Monday, the 20th day of this present month, we arrived in this town of Troyes and on the morrow we had a convention between our mother, the Queen of France, and our brother, the Duke of Burgundy…

Jo: Henry meets the Royal Family, including his bride to be, at an inn outside Troyes on the 20th May and the next day the treaty and the marriage are finalised in an extraordinary ceremony in Troyes Cathedral.

[Sound of Plainsong]

Charles is too ill to attend so it’s Isabeau who enters the cathedral packed with 400 English and 400 French knights and walks to the high altar alongside Henry.

[Sound of the text of the treaty being read in Latin]

The articles of the treaty are read aloud and the king and queen attach seals to two copies. Isabeau using her husband’s seal and Henry using the same seal that Edward III used for an earlier treaty back in 1360. The two of them and Burgundy then swear to maintain peace without discord and then the Archbishop of Sens steps forward and Henry and Katherine are formally betrothed.

Bob: And they’ve known each other, what 24 hours? Surely a recipe for wedded bliss.

Jo: Oh it’s ages till the actual wedding.

Bob: That’s all right then.

Jo: It’s nearly two weeks. Anyway, the betrothal top French and English nobles like Philip of Burgundy and Henry’s brother the Duke of Clarence swear to uphold the terms of the treaty and then peace is formally declared, first in French and then in English. Finally letters from Charles VI ordering his subjects to take the same oath that the nobles have just sworn are read. 1500 inhabitants of Troyes take the oath that day.

Bob: What’s in the oath?

Jo: It’s quite similar to the treaty in a lot of ways.

[C 47/30/910]

Oath of Allegiance: That…after the death of my said sovereign lord Charles, King of France, you will continue to serve as loyal men…and true subjects of…Henry King of England and of his heirs forever and to have and accept and obey the same as your sovereign lord and true King of France, without question, contradiction or difficulty.

Bob: But with the emphasis on loyalty and trustworthiness.

Jo: Very much so.

[C 47/30/910]

Oath of Allegiance: That you do not serve or aid, counsel or assist anybody…but the very high and puissant Prince, Henry King of England – even if he loses life or limb, or is affected by bad health or suffers harm or a lessening of his honourable person and estate….And generally you swear that, without deceit or evil scheming, you will look after and observe all the matters, points and articles contained in…the final peace made…between our sovereign lord, Charles, King of France and the very high and puissant Prince, Henry King of England.

Jo: That will become very relevant later.

Bob: But in the meantime that’s the peace done and dusted. Henry can relax.

Jo: You might think that but the country is still very much opposed to Henry. The Treaty absolutely doesn’t transform the situation. So after the wedding on June the second he gets straight back to work. Katherine gets the honeymoon of a lifetime watching her husband lay siege to Sens.

Bob: She’s a lucky girl.

Jo: After that Henry goes off to lay siege to Melun, leaving her behind at Bray-sur-Seine.

Bob: So it’s just business as usual?

Jo: Yep. Henry’s on the war slog, moving through France a town at a time. And of course there’s one member of the royal family – like a bad fairy not invited to the christening, who wishes neither Henry, nor the treaty well.

Bob: The Dauphin.

Dauphin: The damnable treaty that Henry of England has asked for under pretext of marriage with the daughter of the King of France and of total peace between the…kingdoms of France and England is full of malignity and fraud and deception for under pretext of peace and marriage, it tends to promote and nourish all treasons, perjuries, disloyalties and rebellions and tends to the shameful servitude of the…kingdom of France…The treaty must be resisted and prevented…and…especially…by the pope, churchmen…the [nobility]…and citizens of France and all those who hate tyranny and uphold virtue and freedom.

Bob: He’s not very happy.

Jo: He’s really not. And it gets worse for the French. On the 1st of December the English occupy Paris. Really at this point, the difference between the English and French Kings is made very clear. Henry sweeps into town past glum crowds – he’s staying at the luxurious Louvre Palace. Charles is virtually bankrupt. He’s practically boarding at the Hôtel de St Pol. It’s humiliating.

Bob: Could Henry have possibly imagine that things would go this well when he began planning his invasion back in 1514, say?

Jo: We know that he thought his success was down to God and really he has been as lucky as he has successful to get to where he is.

Bob: And does his luck hold?

Jo: No, it really doesn’t. In 1421 Henry goes back to England and Katherine is officially crowned in London but by June he’s already back in France.

Bob: Battering away at a few more towns.

Jo: Yes. Only this time – well we’ve already said that travelling with a medieval army is dangerous even when you’re not in combat. At Harfleur a number of nobles of the highest rank got sick. Now the King himself contracts dysentery and he steadily gets worse and worse. Katherine has given birth to a son, another Henry in December. In May she comes out to France to be with her husband. Henry keeps command, even when he’s too ill to sit on a horse. He dies on August 31st 1422. He’s 34, his son is less than nine months old.

Bob: Henry never sees him.

Jo: Nope. And in some ways, even more galling than that is that six weeks later Charles VI dies, so Henry is that close to being able to declare himself King of France.

Bob: So now the King of France and England is an eight month old baby.

Jo: It’s a lot of responsibility for a small child.

Bob: So I suppose that’s it for the war effort. Henry’s dead, his son is only a few months old. The English must have been in really serious trouble.

Jo: That’s what Shakespeare tells us but it’s not true. Actually things stay as they are for quite a long time.  The Duke of Bedford, Henry V’s brother commands the English forces in France and he does a pretty impressive job.

Bob: Do they actually win any battles?

Jo: They actually do. Verneuil in 1424 is a big English victory against a joint French and Scottish force. In 1425 Bedford takes the town of Le Mans and he begins to put serious pressure on Brittany. In 1427 Duke John of Brittany renounces his allegiance to the Dauphin and crosses to the English side because they’re so close to overrunning him. So for most of the 1420s, the English are in actually a really strong position.

Bob: I sense a “but” coming up here.

Jo: Well suddenly, right at the end of the decade everything unravels very fast. The English are held at Orleans and then suffer a series of defeats.

Bob: Why? What’s changed?

Jo: Here’s the French writer Christine de Pizan giving us a hint.

Christine de Pizan: I Christine, who have wept for 11 years in a closed abbey where I have lived ever since Charles…the King’s son fled, if I dare say it, in haste from Paris. Enclosed here because of this treachery, I begin, for the first time, to laugh…A young girl of 16 years (is this not something beyond nature?) to whom weapons seem weightless…and the enemies flee before her…And so, you English…you are checkmated…You thought you had already conquered France and that she would be yours forever. Things have turned out differently.

Bob: She’s talking about Joan of Arc.

Jo: Precisely. Now the French have the charismatic leader they need. It’s enough for the Dauphin to get himself crowned and start to pull France back together. England’s allies quickly begin to backslide against the Treaty and over the 1430s really everything comes apart. Even though Joan is captured an executed swiftly, England is now fighting to hold on to the 25% of France it’s got, it’s no longer advancing and although it’s a long drawn out process that goes on into the 1550s, it seems inevitable almost that England will now lose all its French lands.

Bob: So the Treaty never really works at all?

Jo: Well the English get one moment. Henry VI is crowned in Paris in 1431: the only English ruler ever to be crowned King of France. But even this is a sign of weakness. French Kings are traditionally crowned at Rheims but the English can’t get there because they’ve lost control over the area. In a way the more interesting question is, could the treaty ever have worked?

Bob: I assume that’s something a lot of historians have tried to answer.

Jo: Well there is no definite answer, obviously. I personally think that the French would never have accepted an English ruler, that even if Henry had lived another 20 years, which he probably wouldn’t have because he was clearly going to spend every moment he could fighting the French, then things still would never have worked because Henry VI had to succeed at some point and he was a completely feeble ruler. But that’s just my opinion.

Bob: And no one wants to hear that.

Jo: Oh, thanks very much.

Bob: Any time. Documents from this episode on the website www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/podcasts and thank you, as usual to our readers: Jill Gillespie, Gary Thorpe and Andrew Ormerod. Next time we’re jumping ahead over 500 years to the 1940s.

Jo: Yes, sixty years on we’re looking at the Berlin Airlift, the massive operation to keep the German capital alive during the Soviet blockade of 1948. We’ll be listening to 1940s government archive footage and asking a veteran of the Airlift about his Cold War experience. And no I didn’t ask him if it was chilly.

Bob: Well done for holding back on that one.

Jo: Thank you.

[Credits]

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