Coppini Mission

(1459–1461)
   Although charged by the pope with reconciling the warring English factions, Francesco Coppini, bishop of Terni, sided openly with the Yorkists during their invasion of England in 1460. By appearing to give papal sanction to the Yorkists’ demands, Coppini generated much support for the Yorkist cause. In 1459, Pope Pius II sent Coppini to England to persuade HENRY VI to join a crusade against the Turks. To achieve this goal, Coppini was instructed to help the English peacefully resolve their internal quarrels. The bishop was also acting as an informal agent for Francesco Sforza, duke of Milan, whose patronage had helped Coppini obtain his bishopric in 1458. The duke wanted Coppini to promote an English invasion of FRANCE, which would prevent CHARLES VII from intervening in Italy. Although respectfully received at court, Coppini was largely ignored by Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU and her advisors, who were busy preparing for the coming struggle with Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York. When Coppini suggested that the queen consider an accommodation with York, Margaret offended the bishop by curtly dismissing his proposal. Ambitious for promotion to the cardinalate and filled with self-importance, Coppini angrily withdrew to BURGUNDY in early 1460. Hoping to make use of a friendly papal legate, York’s ally, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, who had been headquartered at CALAIS since being driven from England in the previous autumn, began to play on the bishop’s vanity. He assured Coppini that the Yorkists shared his desire for an invasion of France and declared to him their loyalty to Henry VI. After coming to Calais at Warwick’s invitation, Coppini was treated with great deference and urged to accompany the Yorkists to England, where he could bring peace by pleading their cause to the king. Swept away by Warwick’s charm and flattery, Coppini embarked for England with the Yorkists on 25 June. Once in LONDON, the legate addressed the convocation of English bishops on Warwick’s behalf and wrote to Henry urging him to give the Yorkists a hearing.
   On 5 July, the legate accompanied Warwick’s army northward. Prior to the Battle of NORTHAMPTON on 10 July, Coppini announced to the Yorkist camp that all who fought for Warwick would have remission of sins, while the earl’s opponents risked excommunication. After Warwick defeated the Lancastrian army and captured the king, Coppini returned with them to London, where the earl persuaded him that an invasion of France was possible, encouraged his ambition for a cardinal’s hat, and licensed him to hold an English bishopric. However, after York was killed at the Battle of WAKEFIELD in December, the Lancastrians began spreading rumors that the pope had repudiated his legate, and Coppini’s growing pretensions—he had even begun offering military advice to Warwick—damaged his credibility among the Yorkists. In February 1461, after the failure of a clumsy attempt to negotiate with Margaret, and with a Lancastrian army advancing on London, the legate announced his intention to retire to the conti62 COPPINI MISSION nent (see March on London). Coppini spent the next year angling for promotion and touting himself as an expert on English affairs, but the pope, now fully informed of his legate’s pro-Yorkist activities, stripped him of his bishopric and confined him to an abbey for life. Although of great service to the Yorkist cause, Coppini’s English mission destroyed his own career.
   Further Reading:
   - Harvey, Margaret, England, Rome and the Papacy, 1417-1464 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993);
   - Hicks, Michael,Warwick the Kingmaker (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998); Kendall, Paul Murray, Warwick the Kingmaker (New York:W.W. Norton, 1987).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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