There is little doubt that Henry Vth always intended to fight in France – unless they completely rolled over. Which was unlikely; the French were perfectly ready to fight and on the surface at least united in the face of the English threat, and looking forward to giving them a beating. This week, Henry prepares.
Dramatis Personnae: The French
John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, 1371-1419
John the Fearless was aggressive, cunning, mercurial, deeply untrustworthy, hugely ambitious – and always surprising. Following John's murder of the Loius, Duke of Orleans, and in the context of the madness of King Charles VIth, The Burgundian faction fought with the Orleanists for control of the crown.
Charles, Duke of Orleans, 1394 – 1465
Charles was the son of the murdered Louis, and was honour-bound to avenge his father's murder – contributing to the constant instability of the French kingdom. He therefore allied himself with the powerful Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac, and together were engaged in an intermittent struggle for control until the Treat of Arras at last brought unity. In fact, Charles was destined to spent 25 years in English captivity. It meant he was to have a greater reputation for writing poetry and as a patron of the arts than as a warrior.
The Duke of Alencon, 1385-1415
Jean of Bourbon was 34 at the time of Agincourt, and reputedly keen to get it on with the English, and follow at aggressive strategy to fight and throw them out of France. In fact he was to end his life in English captivity. Jean, The Duke of Alencon was similarly keen to prove superiority of French arms, and was to come closer than any of the French leaders to fulfilling these aims.
Jean le Maingre II (Boucicaut) 1366-1421, Marshal of France
Bouicaut was one of the most celebrated figures in France, the epitome chivalry with it's contradictions and contrasts- writer of poetry and military adventurer. He fought all comers at the famous tournament at Inglevert at the age of 24, and won fame fighting the Ottomans in the East – often with a disasterous lack of success, such as at Nicopolis. But there's not doubt he was a glittering figure with vast military experience, and as Marshal advised the French leaders. Charles d'Albret was part of the influential Gascon family that caused the English so much trouble, and had fought under the famous Bertrand de Guescelin to recover the lands lost at Bretigny.
And finally to the young man who became the official face of the French opposition to Henry, the young heir to the throne, Louis, Dauphin, son of Charles VIth. The man who reputedly mocked Henry by sending a gift of tennis balls. The man to whom Henry wrote as he sat in Southampton, ready to board his ship for France
Friend, give us what we are owed and by the will of the almighty avoid a deluge of human blood
The Treaty of Bretigny, 1360 and English demands
The treaty of Bretigny represented Edward III at the height of his powers. It restored to the English crown the lands of Poitou in particular that had been part of Eleanor's great lands of Aquitaine. Yet it was never ratified, and by Edward's death was essentially a dead letter. It was this treaty that formed the basis of Henry's demands. But he went further; he went back to the Conqueror to claim Normandy; and to Henry II to claim Maine, Tourraine and Anjou. The throne of France was probably always negotiable.
And of course Henry enthusiastically pushed his desire to marry Charles VIth's daughter, Catherine de Valois.