Tuesday, 16 April 2013

100 Years War - Charles Duke of Orléans II

Prisoner of War

Charles Duke of Orleans
Charles was able to manage his estates from prison, with the help of Bernard. Following Bernard’s death, in the fight against the English, on 12th June 1418, Charles’ affairs were taken over by his illegitimate half brother Jean, Count of Dunois.

It is possible that Charles’ mother was the person who instilled a love of poetry in her son; Valentina was the patroness of Eustache Deschamps, a poet from Vertus, one of the Orléans family properties. Charles wrote over 500 poems, mostly during his imprisonment in England. Charles is believed to have made translations of some of his own poetry into English[i].

This poem was written for his wife Bonne, while Charles was held captive in the Tower of London;

‘I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.

I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine,
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine,

Well might I have suspected
That such a destiny,
Thus would have happened this day,
How much that Love would have commanded

I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.’[ii]
Bonne died childless, sometime between 1430 and 1435, while Charles was still incarcerated in England.

In 1424 Charles’ daughter Joan married the Duke of Alençon at Blois. The couple had no children and Joan died on the 19th May 1432, eight years before her father returned home. When Alençon remarried in 1437 it was to Bonne’s niece.

France Under English Control

Assassination of the Duke of Burgundy
In 1418 The Duke of Burgundy occupied Paris
‘In 1419, after much stalling by the Duke of Burgundy, a meeting was arranged between him and the Dauphin to take place on a bridge at Montereau……The parties advanced toward each other filled with suspicion, harsh words were spoken…….hands flew to swords, and as the Dauphin backed away from the scene, his followers fell upon the Duke, plunged their weapons into his body, and “dashed him down stark dead to the ground.” Louis d’Orléans was avenged but at bitter cost.’[iii]
The new Duke of Burgundy, Philip, entered an alliance with Henry V and they drew up the Treaty of Troyes, dispossessing the perfidious Dauphin. A clause to the treaty forbade the voicing of disapproval or criticism of the treaty, such acts to be considered treasonous.

Following death of Henry, from dysentery, on 13th August 1422 the English were able to hold onto their gains. But Henry’s commanders did not have his flair, although they were able to continue their successes against a demoralised and faction torn France. By the Treaty of Troyes[iv] Henry and his progeny, by his wife Katherine de Valois, were the heirs to the throne of France; an agreement that the dispossessed Dauphin bitterly objected to.

Charles VII
On 21st October 1422 Charles VI died and his son Charles became the seventh of that name to rule France. Charles VII came to the throne in desperate times; the English ruled huge swathes of France under the leadership of Henry VI’s uncle and Regent, John, Duke of Bedford in association with the support of the Burgundian faction. And until he could have his coronation at Rheims Charles could not feel himself to properly be king even in name.
France Resurgent

Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc managed to cajole and inspire the French troops and their leaders beginning the turnaround in French fortunes. The English were fighting in what was now a foreign country and far from home; they lacked Henry’s charismatic leadership and faced with a power vacuum at home with the infant Henry VI unable to replace his father. One of Joan’smost fervent supporters was the Duke of Alençon.
‘The flight of her meteor lasted only three years. She appeared in 1428, inspired Dunois…..and others of the Dauphin’s circle to attack at Orléans, delivered the city in May 1429 and, on the wave of that victory, led Charles to the sacred ceremony of coronation at Rheims two months later. Captured by the Burgundians at Compèigne in May 1430, she was sold to the English, tried as a heretic by the church in the service of the English and burned at the stake at Rouen in May 1431.’[v]
The trial and execution of Joan was organised by Henry’s Regent, Bedford who also stage managed the coronation of Henry VI in Paris, not Rheims. No Frenchman lifted a voice to save the woman who had pulled the French opposition to English rule from the slough of despond.

Negotiating the Prisoner’s Release
In 1433 it was suggested that Charles of Orléans be involved in the peace negotiations as a broker; the following year Charles and his fellow captive the Comte d’Eu were taken to Calais in case they were required at the congress of Arras.

From 1433 to May 1436 Charles was in the care of the Duke of Suffolk; from May 1436 to July 1438 he was the responsibility of Sir Reginald Cobham[vi]. Thereafter he was in the care of Sir John Stourton in Somerset. It was Sir John who accompanied Charles to Calais in 1439.

Philip Duke of Burgundy
In 1435, Philip Duke of Burgundy and his wife Isabella of Portugal, having concluded the Peace of Arras with Charles VII, were eager to make allies among the French nobility. At the same time the English were eager to conclude a peace treaty. The English proposed to marry Henry VI to one of Charles VII’s daughters, accompanied by a truce to last twenty years. The question of a lasting peace was to be discussed when Henry VI came of age.
The French refused to discuss anything but a general peace. The English then proposed to also release the Duke of Orléans in return for a ransom. This was refused and negotiations continued. By the end of the negotiations the English had agreed to take Margaret of Anjou as Henry’s queen without a dowry, but refused to consider the release of Charles d’Orléans without a ransom payment.

By January 1438 the groundwork was being laid for negotiations with the French using Charles as a mediator. Charles and his brother Jean had been permitted to meet on 25th November the previous year; possibly as an inducement for Charles to agree to his role in the negotiations. A conference was held in Gravelines in the summer of 1439. One of the deal-breakers was the insistence by the French that any lands held by the English must be held from the King of France.

Isabella, Duchess of Burgundy
Isabella of Burgundy was the intermediary between the French and the English and she found the problems of reconciling the two sides almost insurmountable; commenting to Charles on 14th July
‘My lord, wilt thou never have peace?’ to which he replied ‘Yea, even though I die for peace.’[vii]
Following the breakdown of the conference Isabel met with Charles and Cardinal Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, the English king’s great-half uncle[viii].She and Philip hoped that following his proposed release that Charles would be a positive influence on his cousin. During 1439 Philip of Burgundy and his wife began helping Dunois raise his half-brothers’ ransoms.

She convinced the French princes to provide sums ranging from 1,000 to 30,000 saluts, while she herself provided 15,000 nobles. She wrote letters from June to September 1440 to the nobles, clergy and merchants of Hainault – who would profit most from more peaceful relations with France – pleading for contributions.’[ix]
The Duke of Gloucester was opposed to Charles’ release, but his opposition was overruled. Charles’ liberation was to be

‘The means of the pacification of the kingdom of France and England.’[x]
as stated in the terms of the agreement signed by Henry VI. Charles was bound by the agreement to successfully prosecute peace negotiations; failure meant a return to imprisonment.

‘That same autumn the Duke of Orléans, who had been a prisoner in England ever since the battle of Agincourt, was released; the motive of Henry VI was purely humanitarian; those of his government more calculating; it was hoped that his presence and influence in France would further the English cause, and the duke undertook to do his best in the interests of peace.’[xi]


Louis XII – Frederic J Baumgartner – MacMillan Press Ltd 1996
The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005

The Reign of Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1998
The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997

Louis XI – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books 1974
Joan of Arc – Edward Lucie-Smith, Penguin Books 2000

Isabel of Burgundy – Aline S Taylor, Madison Books 2001
A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, Pan MacMillan Publishers Ltd 1979


[i] http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/En_la_for%C3%AAt_de_longue_attente a poem in the original French – this poem is the title of a novel about Charles by Helle Haas; In a Dark Wood Wandering
[ii] Wikimedia Commons; possibly the first Valentine
[iii] A Distant Mirror - Tuchman
[iv] Signed on 21st May 1420
[v] A Distant Mirror - Tuchman
[vi] Father of the Duchess of Gloucester
[vii] Isabel of Burgundy - Taylor
[viii] Beaufort was also Isabel’s uncle
[ix] Isabel of Burgundy – Taylor
[x] The Fifteenth Century - Jacob
[xi] The Hundred Years War - Burne

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