- Although the HUNDRED YEARS WAR had made France the traditional enemy of England, the French monarchy became the chief potential source of foreign assistance for both sides during the WARS OF THE ROSES. French kings viewed perpetuation of civil war in England as a means for preventing further English military intervention in France and for weakening English support for the independent principalities of BURGUNDY and BRITTANY, the incorporation of which into France was a cornerstone of French royal policy throughout the fifteenth century. CHARLES VII, who was king of France when the English civil war erupted in 1459, tended to favor the house of LANCASTER, even though he had spent most of his reign reconquering the Lancastrian-controlled areas of France. Not only was Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU Charles’s niece, but the Yorkist tendency to emphasize the military inadequacies of the Lancastrian regime by recalling the lost glories of England’s French empire convinced Charles that the house of YORK, once in power,would launch new invasions of France. However, Charles cautiously avoided involvement in English affairs until EDWARD IV overthrew the house of Lancaster at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461. In the four months between the battle and his death in July, Charles provided the Lancastrian cause with substantial assistance, including financing a successful attack on the English Channel Islands. Although he had been estranged from his father, the new French king, LOUIS XI, seeking both to weaken England and enlarge France, continued Charles’s pro-Lancastrian policies. In the 1462 CHINON AGREEMENT, Louis agreed to provide Margaret of Anjou with French MERCENARIES commanded by Pierre de BRÉZÉ in return for her surrender of CALAIS, the last remaining English possession in France. When Burgundian intervention prevented a French attack on Calais, and military defeats seemed to doom the Lancastrian cause in England, Louis sought instead to negotiate a marriage alliance with Edward IV. However, Edward’s preference for a Burgundian alliance, which was sealed in 1468 by the marriage of Edward’s sister, MARGARET OF YORK, to Duke CHARLES of Burgundy, turned Louis against the Yorkist regime. An opportunity to strike at Edward IV arose in 1470 when Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, fled to France after the failure of his second coup attempt. Arranging for Warwick to meet Margaret of Anjou, Louis guided the two former enemies through the difficult negotiations that resulted in the ANGERS AGREEMENT, whereby Margaret agreed to marry her son Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER to Warwick’s daughter Anne NEVILLE in return for Warwick’s promise to restore HENRY VI to the throne. For his part, Louis pledged financial and military assistance to Warwick, whose proFrench stance had been partially responsible for his break with Edward, in return for Warwick’s agreement to bring England into war with Burgundy as France’s ally.Warwick toppled Edward in October 1470, but his declaration of war on Burgundy in January 1471 convinced Duke Charles to support Edward’s attempt to regain the Crown, and in April Warwick’s short-lived READEPTION government collapsed when the earl was slain at the Battle of BARNET.With Warwick dead and the house of Lancaster destroyed, the English civil wars and French opportunities to exploit them were over. In the early 1470s, Louis, like Duke Charles, paid English courtiers to use their influence on his behalf with their king, but in 1475 Edward launched the long-threatened Yorkist invasion of France. However, Edward’s willingness to withdraw his army in return for a large French pension convinced Louis that he had little to fear from England and led him to aggressively reabsorb large parts of the Burgundian state after 1477, when the death of Duke Charles gave the rule of the duchy to the duke’s daughter Mary.The deaths of both Louis XI and Edward IV in 1483 left both countries with unstable regimes. In England, RICHARD III sought support for his usurpation of EDWARD V’s Crown, while in France the regency government of thirteen-year-old CHARLES VIII faced a coalition of disaffected nobles. To prevent Richard from supporting its own rebels and in pursuit of the traditional policy of weakening England, the French government provided men and ships for an invasion of England launched in 1485 by Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, the remaining heir to the Lancastrian claim. Leading an army composed largely of French and Scottish veterans provided by the king of France, Richmond (thereafter HENRY VII) defeated and killed Richard III at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD in August.Henry VII fell at odds with his former benefactor in 1491, when Charles’s marriage to Duchess Anne of Brittany signaled the eventual incorporation of that duchy into France, an event that threatened English economic and security interests. Henry’s opposition to French designs on Brittany led Charles to invite the Yorkist pretender Perkin WARBECK to France. Because Warbeck claimed to be Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, the younger son of Edward IV who had disappeared in the TOWER OF LONDON in 1483, Charles publicly acknowledged him as “Richard IV,” granting him a large pension and comfortable lodgings at the French court. In 1492, Henry led an invasion force across the Channel, but neither side wanted war with the other—France was now too powerful for England to face alone, and Charles was more interested in Italy than in northwestern Europe. As a result, Henry and Charles agreed to the Treaty of Etaples in November. In return for payment of English campaign costs and the arrears of Edward IV’s 1475 pension, and for a promise to expel Warbeck and all other Yorkist conspirators from France, Henry agreed to withdraw his army and tacitly accept the French takeover of Brittany. By 1500, a stronger, larger, more unified France, having recognized the legitimacy of the house of TUDOR, was no longer fearful of English invasion and increasingly interested in achieving political and military dominance in Europe.Further Reading: Davies,C. S. L.,“The Wars of the Roses in European Context,” in A. J. Pollard, ed., The Wars of the Roses (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), pp. 162–185; Kendall, Paul Murray, Louis XI (New York:W.W. Norton, 1971); Potter, David, A History of France, 1460-1560: The Emergence of a Nation State (London: Macmillan, 1995);Tyrrell, Joseph M., Louis XI (Boston: Twayne, 1980);Vale,M.G.A., Charles VII (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974).
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. John A.Wagner. 2001.
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