Charles VII, King of France

(1403–1461)
   Although his reign was spent reconquering the Lancastrian-controlled areas of FRANCE, Charles VII gave cautious support to the house of LANCASTER during the first phase of the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   In 1411, the violent and intermittent insanity of Charles VI led to civil war between the houses of Orleans and BURGUNDY for control of the French government. After both sides appealed to him for assistance, Henry V of England invaded France in 1415 and within five years controlled Normandy and large areas of northern France. A leader of the anti-Burgundian party, Prince Charles assumed the regency in 1418, but was soon driven from Paris by John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy. In 1419, an attempted reconciliation with Burgundy ended with the duke’s assassination by some of Charles’s companions, an act that drove PHILIP, the new duke of Burgundy, into alliance with Henry V. The Treaty of Troyes of 1420 disinherited Charles in favor of the English king, who was declared heir to the French throne. However, on his father’s death in 1422, the prince assumed the title of king, even though his capital and much of his kingdom were beyond his control. In England, the infant HENRY VI, who had come to the English throne two months earlier on the unexpected death of his father, was proclaimed king of France under the terms of the Treaty of Troyes.With the help of Joan of Arc, Charles was crowned at Reims in 1429. In 1435, he made peace with Burgundy and reentered Paris in the next year. After a period of truce in the 1440s, Charles’s campaign of reconquest drove the English from Normandy in 1450 and from Gascony in the southwest in 1453. By the end of the reign, only CALAIS remained in English hands.
   On the outbreak of civil war in England in 1459, Charles gave surreptitious diplomatic and military aid to the Lancastrians. Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU was Charles’s niece, and her marriage to Henry VI had been Charles’s instrument for improving AngloFrench relations and for persuading the English to surrender the county of Maine. Also, the leaders of the house of YORK, seeking to highlight Lancastrian military failures, spoke frequently of England’s past triumphs in France, a tendency that alarmed Charles with the prospect of renewed English invasions should the Yorkists come to power. Believing that Margaret could win without French aid, and that too much foreign assistance could 52 CHARLES VII, KING OF FRANCE cost the Lancastrians support in England, Charles remained largely aloof from English affairs until after EDWARD IV’s victory at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461. In the remaining months before his death in July, Charles funded a successful attack on the Channel Islands, which Margaret had ceded to France, and provided more open and substantial diplomatic, financial, and military support to the Lancastrian cause.
   Further Reading: Vale,M.G.A., Charles VII (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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