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’ArcheDunois 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.
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 Domfront2nd 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.
Dunois and Marie had two children;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
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 www.measuringworth.com
[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
[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
[xiii] Which Charles son Louis was to pursue when he became king after the death of Louis’ son Charles VIII; see http://wolfgang20.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/renaissance-france-anne-of-brittany-v.html
[xiv] Philip the Good - Vaughan