Monday, 30 October 2017

The Bastard of Orléans V

Fall of Rouen

By 18th October 1449 the French were ready to start the attack on Rouen[i], defended by the Duke of Somerset. Charles VII was attached to Dunois’ army that had invaded Normandy from the east. Charles directed the attack on Rouen from Pont-de-l’Arche. Dunois endeavoured to scale the walls but the stratagem was foiled by Talbot who personally led the counter-attack which drove the French off.

The citizens of Caen were divided in their allegiance; one group sent an embassy to London begging for more troops while back at home a mob demanded of Somerset to surrender the city. Somerset weakly agreed to allow the Archbishop of Rouen to negotiate with the French.

The English retreated to the castle, leaving the town to the French sympathisers. The castle did not resist the French artillery attacks for long and within ten days Somerset had agreed to meet Charles’ demands, which included handing over of eight hostages and among their number was Talbot[ii]. Somerset then scuttled off to Caen.

Charles VII enters Rouen
On 10th November;

‘The king of France rode…into his said city, at the side of the Carthusians….Afterwards came the said lord of Dunois, the lieutenant-general, mounted upon a great horse, entirely covered with red velvet, with a great White Cross, clothed with a jacket likewise furred with sable martens….a sword at his side garnished with gold and precious stones, valued at 20,000 crowns[iii].’[iv]

The French then turned their attention to the remaining fortresses and towns still held by the English.

Post Rouen

The keys of Harfleur were handed over to Dunois on a freezing morning on 1st January 1450 after a hard siege[v]. All English resources were being concentrated on Caen, and the armoury of the Tower of London had been emptied to arm the defence of English France.

1450 was to be a good year for the French; Honfleur fell on 18th February 1450 and on 15th April the French nerved themselves up to fight a major battle at Formigny, which about the destruction of the last major English army in France. Attention was now turned to Caen, which surrendered after a siege of only seventeen days[vi].

Four columns were sent against the town which was surrounded. The artillery then aimed at the fortress. The Duke of Somerset had his family with him and it was after a cannonball penetrated the ducal nursery where the duchess was with her children, that the English came to terms. Somerset was granted free passage to England; he preferred to travel to Calais.

The Castle of Falaise fell to the French on 25th July and the chateau de Domfront followed suit on 2nd August. Cherbourg fell to the French guns and surrendered on 11th August 1450. English rule in northern France was over, bar the enclave at Calais.

Battle of Castillon
Now the French turned their attention southwards. With John of Angoulême at his side, Jean led the main operation in the initial campaign for the re-conquest of Guyenne. On 30th June 1451 the French entered Bordeaux, but the citizens did not view themselves as French and in March 1452 sent a deputation to London asking for help to throw out the usurpers. Henry VI sent the aging Talbot back to France in October and Bordeaux ejected the French garrison.
On 17th July 1453 Dunois fought in the final battle of the war at Castillon. During the battle the hidden gun emplacements in the French camp resulted in numerous English deaths, including that of Talbot and his son. One French chronicler recorded;

‘Such was the end of this famous and renowned English leader who for so long had been one of the most formidable thorns in the side of the French, who regarded him with terror and dismay.’[vii]

Bayonne fell on August 18th 1453 and on 3rd October 1453 Charles signed the treaty for return of Aquitaine[viii] to the French town. With the loss of Talbot the English in Bordeaux lost heart and on 10th October the French took back their prize.

Civilian Pursuits

Dunois and Marie had two children;
  • François d'Orléans-Longueville, born in 1447[ix]
  • Catherine d'Orléans born in 1449 [x]
Dunois also had a bastard named Jean d'Orléans by his mistress Isabelle de Dreux. Jean was now a rich man, whose exploits as well as his birth, albeit on the wrong side of the blanket, had made him a man of standing and renown. At some time between 1440 and 1450 Dunois had a Book of Hours made for himself by the illustrator known as the Dunois Master[xi]. The book was made in Paris at some time after Dunois helped relieve the city.

Dunois (R) at table
Dunois was a key witness in the Retrial of Joan of Arc ordered by Charles VII to rehabilitate the Maid and for his own propaganda exercise. His detailed evidence was taken down and placed before the prelates considering the matter at the tribunal. On 7th July 1456 Joan was declared innocent of heresy;
‘We, in session of our court and having God only before our eyes….proclaim that Joan did not contract any taint of infamy and that she shall be and is washed clean of such.’[xii]

Between 1459 and 1468 Dunois added the west wing, the ‘aile Dunois’, to his chateau at Chàteaudun, given him by his brother Orléans.


Duc de Berri
With the death of Charles VII in July 1461 Dunois saw his former comrade in arms Louis become king. Four years later, in 1465, the Duc de Berri and the Duke of Brittany rose up against Louis XI; they led the League of the Public Weal; Dunois was another of the league’s leaders. He and his half-brother Charles were angered by Louis’ alliance with Francesco Sforza, who had taken the Duchy of Milan that the Orléans family believed was theirs’ through Valentina Visconti.

Louis’ tongue was responsible for much of the dissatisfaction among his nobles, that and his determination to control them more closely. His treatment of the Orléans family was a case in point; Louis had publicly mocked the family’s Italian ambitions[xiii] and referred slightingly to Dunois as ‘an elder of Susannah’ and had made fun of Charles’ wife’s pregnancy

The rebellion was joined by the Duke of Burgundy, who was  persuaded to support the league by his son the Count of Charolais, following an attempt on his life believed to have been orchestrated by Louis,
Count of Charolais
‘My lord of Berry….is indeed near Chartres with [my] fair cousins of Brittany and Dunois and a large army and that the king has left Bourbonnais to withdraw up here.’[xiv]

In March Dunois loaded his valuables onto a barge and floated them down the Loire to become the revolt’s leading light. Louis assembled an army as Bourbon’s men took over key positions in the Bourbonnais and the Auvergne. Along with Odet d’Aydie[xv] Dunois was entrusted with countering the king’s propaganda which he did with great enthusiasm, making claims on Bourbon’s behalf of ill-treatment by Louis.

By July the king was at Beaugency awaiting the arrival of the rebel army, led by Dunois who was suffering from gout but directing operations from a litter. The rebels took up position in Dunois’ fortress at Chateaudûn, in a position to fall on the king’s flank or to join with the Burgundian army.

After a series of stalemates the league presented its demands to a delegation from the king and Dunois was the one chosen to make the presentation. Louis made peace with the princes at the Treaty of St Maur on 25th October 1465. He made concessions to the various nobles ranged against him and, having pardoned him, Louis placed Dunois at the head of the Council of Thirty Six, a committee to review abuses of government. But like his father before him Louis was not one to be bound by treaties he made.

Dunois’ wife Marie died in 1464 and Dunois died on 23rd November 1468 at the château de L'Haÿ-les-Roses. At some time before his death Dunois was made Governor of St Germain-en-Laye. He was buried in the basilica of Notre Dame de Cléry where later Louis XI was also interred, leaving behind him a reputation as one of France’s greatest captains.


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 XII – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books Ltd 1974

John Talbot and the War in France – AJ Pollard, Pen and Sword Military 2005

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014


[i] The capital of English Normandy
[ii] Who was not released until July 1450 when men under his command surrendered Falaise
[iii] In 2015 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £14,360.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £117,200.00. economic status value of that income or wealth is £478,900.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £8,993,000.00
[iv] Henry VI - Griffiths
[v] Somerset had promised to hand the port over
[vi] Despite a reputation as the strongest castle in Normandy
[vii] Hundred Years War - Burne
[viii] Nearly 300 years after Eleanor of Aquitaine brought the county as her dowry when marrying Henry II in 1152
[ix] Later Count of Dunois, Tancarville, Longueville, and Montgomery, Baron of Varenguebec, Viscount of Melun, Chamberlain of France, Governor of Normandy and the Dauphiné, Constable and Chamberlain of Normandy, married 2 July 1466 to Agnès de Savoie (1445–1508). They had one son, François d'Orléans-Longueville (1447-1491), who eventually became the duc de Dunois-Longueville
[x] Married 14 May 1468 to Johann II of Nassau-Saarbrücken (1430–1472), Count of Roucy; died in 1501
[xi] An associate of the Bedford Master
[xiii] Which Charles son Louis was to pursue when he became king after the death of Louis’ son Charles VIII; see
[xiv] Philip the Good - Vaughan

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Bastard of Orléans IV

Henry VI (L), Talbot (C), Margaret of Anjou (R)
Talbot Returns

In the summer of 1442 when John Talbot[i], the newly created Earl of Shrewsbury, returned to France for the new campaigning season. He focussed on the French enclave south of the Seine and in mid-July marched on Conches.

Dunois was in charge of an army in the south which attacked Gallardon to draw off Talbot’s men. Talbot’s men took Conches before marching to save Gallardon where Dunois’ presence and the sallies made by the French garrison from Évreux put paid to Talbot’s plans.

Talbot then turned his eye on Dieppe and took his army thence in November.

‘The erll of Shrewsbury layd sege by water and lond to Depe; and kept it a whyle till he ferd so foule with his men, that thei wolde no longer abyde with him; and so he whas fayne to high away thense to Rooen.’[ii]

Dunois followed and, with 1,000 men, took control of the defence of the town. The dauphin Louis brought 1,500 men to relieve the siege. Faced with a relieving force and a mutiny in his army Talbot retired to Rouen leaving a garrison overlooking the town where he remained ensconced. After relieving Dieppe Dunois travelled to Brittany negotiate an alliance with the Duke and returned with Breton soldiers for his army.

Brothers Reunited

Following his release from his twenty five year long imprisonment in 1440, Charles d’Orléans, as thanks for his services to the family, gave his half-brother the castle at Châteaudun.

January 1443 saw the death of La Hire from a chill picked up at the siege of La Réole during the exceptionally cold winter of 1442-3. The town surrendered in the autumn but the garrison in the chateau de Quat’Sos stubbornly stuck it out and the cold was particularly trying for the French soldiers in the trenches around the fortifications. In 1443 Dunois led the French forces to the relief of Angers, being besieged by the English. And in that same year he was made Count of Longueville[iii].

Chateau de La Guerche
In August 1443 Somerset returned to France with an army of 7,000 men. He landed in Cherbourg and marched along the border between Maine and Brittany. Somerset committed the cardinal error of attacking and taking the Breton town of La Guerche, part of the domain of England’s ally the Duke of Brittany[iv]. Somerset then wandered aimlessly through Maine and when asked by his commanders what his strategy was, replied;

‘I do not divulge my secret to anyone. If even my own shirt knew my secret I would burn it.’[v]

According to the Bishop of Lisieux, Thomas Basin, who recorded Somerset’s utterance, it was doubtful if even Somerset knew his own secret.

1444 saw the release of John d’Angoulême and after his thirty-two year-long captivity John chose to fight under his half-brother’s command.

The Come Back

Count of Vendome
On 22nd January 1445 Dunois, the Count of Vendôme, the archbishop of Vienne and the Duke of Bourbon were given safe-conducts by the English to attend a peace conference with the Burgundians, French and English, to be held near Compiègne. The conference happened in April in Vendôme[vi].

At the conference a truce was agreed as well as a marriage between Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, daughter of René of Anjou[vii]. The couple were betrothed on 22nd May with an audience of much of the French nobility with the Earl of Suffolk[viii] acting as Henry’s proxy[ix]. Suffolk was accused of making a secret treaty with the French, giving back Maine. He repudiated this claim in parliament he;

‘Nethir uttered ne communed of the specialite of the matiers concernyng in any wyse the said Tretie of peas, nor of what maner of thing the said Tretie shuld be, but only referred it to oure said Soveraigne Lorde.’[x]

Le Mans
By mid to late 1447 the Duke of Somerset was negotiating with the French for the very result that Suffolk had claimed he was not doing two years previous, the handover of the county of Maine to the French. By 15th 1448 January Charles troops were massing on the borders of Maine.

Despite English promises that the handover would soon take place nothing happened and the siege of Le Mans began in early March with the guns of the French army battering the city walls. Dunois led the assault force of 6-7,000 men which prompted the English to return to the peace talks. Le Mans was handed over along with the rest of Maine on 15th March in a ceremony at the gates of the city.


Duke of Alencon
Between 1445-8 Charles issued a series of ordinances reorganising his armies; the remnants of the écorcheurs formed the paid permanent basis of the army, formalising the use of the lance[xi] of which Charles had 1500, with another 1500 from Languedoc and other lances known as petites ordanances[xii].

The reorganised army was known as the Compagnies d’Ordonnance. The companies captains were Dunois, Richemont, the Duke of Alençon and Poton de Xaintrailles. The artillery train was revamped by Jean Bureau and Jacques Couer rebuilt royal finances at a time when the English were repeatedly facing bankruptcy.

The dauphin Louis was at loggerheads with his father who preferred to appoint men recommended by René of Anjou. Charles d’Orléans and Dunois were joined with Louis in resenting this dominance of the house of Anjou. The Milanese ambassador reported;

‘There are in the bosom of the House of France bitter jealousies and red-hot factional strife. There could not be more violent hostility than that which reigns between the illustrious Lord Dauphin and the King of Sicily….[who] is the one who runs everything in the realm.’[xiii]

Siege of Fougeres
On 17th July 1449 Dunois was made lieutenant general of Normandy; as lieutenant general. Jean led many of the operations in the re-conquest of Normandy taking Rouen, Verneuil, Mantes, Vernon, and other towns. Following the siege of Fougères, in July 1449 Charles VII declared war on the rump state of England in France and four armies descended on Normandy. The town of Verneuil[xiv] was recaptured by Dunois on 19th July; he was now positioned to threaten England’s last holdings in France, Normandy, from the south.

Talbot marched to defend the town and Dunois counter-marched to meet him. Dunois refused to attack the English who withdrew to Rouen, allowing an army under joint command of Dunois and the Count of Eu to take Pont-Audemer. Dunois and Eu cut the town off from Rouen up river and Harfleur down river. On 16th August Dunois took the town’s surrender which included the subsidiary fortresses and protective strongholds around the city.

Freeing Normandy

Chateau d'Harcourt
In August 1449 the king himself joined Dunois and Eu outside Mantes from where he was able to negotiate a series of bloodless surrenders as the commanders of the individual garrisons lost faith in the promises of succour from England. Few places were defended for more than a few days; the castle at Harcourt was defended for eight days and the fortress of Touques for three. Most surrendered within the day while some strongholds were deserted when the French arrived.

In the autumn of 1449 the château de la Roche Guyon surrendered after the Governor John Howell promised to surrender if he was not relieved within fifteen days[xv]. 

Chateau de Gisors
The Duke of Somerset was so enraged by these terms that he sent a team of 24 men to murder Howell who was married to a French lady; Howell promptly switched sides and surrendered the castle to Dunois.

In mid-September Coutances surrendered to the Duke of Brittany and his brother Arthur de Richemont as they marched with an army of 7,000 men to meet up with their allies. On 20th October the chateau of Gisors was surrendered by the governor Richard Merbury whose son had been taken prisoner by the French at Pont-Audemer. As a reward Charles made Merbury captain of St-Germain-en-Laye for life.


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 XII – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books Ltd 1974

Margaret of Anjou – Helen E Maurer, the Boydell Press 2003

John Talbot and the War in France – AJ Pollard, Pen and Sword Military 2005

Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014


[i] Made Constable of France in 1445
[ii] John Talbot - Pollard
[iii] A Countship previously held by Bertrand de Guesclin
[iv] The town was returned to the duke
[v] The Hundred Years War - Burne
[vi] One of the delays was caused by Charles VII succumbing to an ailment
[vii] Nominal King of Sicily
[viii] He was created Duke three years later
[ix] The wedding took place early the following year
[x] The Reign of Henry VI - Griffiths
[xi] Consisting of six mounted men, men-at-arms, one swordsman, two archers, one valet aux armes and a page
[xii] Overall Charles had a standing army of about 15,000 men
[xiii] Louis XI - Kendall
[xv] Fairly standard terms for a siege to save unnecessary deaths