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Uniting the Kingdoms? 1066-1603

 
   

France

Withdrawal and Conquest, 1422-1558

In 1422 Henry VI acceded to both the English and French thrones. This event marked the high point of English fortunes in France. Under the leadership of Joan of Arc between 1429 and 1431, the forces of Charles VII began recovering the territories that had been lost to Henry V and his Burgundian allies. Maine was overrun in 1448, while the last English garrison in Normandy capitulated in August 1450. On 17 July 1453, the French won a decisive victory over the English at Castillon. GasconyGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window quickly surrendered, leaving only Calais under English control.

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The loss of these continental possessions had far-reaching political consequences within England. It increased the unpopularity of Henry VI, and this was an important factor in the outbreak of the Wars of the RosesGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window. Four years after his recovery of the throne in 1471, Edward IV led an army to France. Little fighting occurred, however, and a peace treaty was quickly signed. When Henry Tudor defeated Richard III in 1485, his bid was supported by the French.

Hostilities between England and France continued intermittently into the sixteenth century. Henry VIII fought three wars against the French, the last in 1543-6. During this conflict the famous Tudor warship, the Mary Rose, capsized on its way to fight the French invasion fleet off the Isle of Wight. Fear of invasion also caused Henry to undertake the construction of a chain of forts, including Camber Castle, along England's south coast.

 

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The ratification of the Treaty of Amiens, 18 August 1527

 

View of the city of Calais

For more on the Mary Rose, visit Mary RoseExternal website - link opens in a new window.

In January 1558, the French attacked Calais and, within a month, the port had fallen. This marked the end of English rule in France. Elizabeth I's reign saw a change in English foreign policy. England became embroiled in the French Wars of Religion, with Elizabeth supporting the Protestant Henry IV. By the 1580s Spain had emerged as England's main enemy. Having allied with Henry IV, Elizabeth sent an army to Normandy in 1589 to support him in his fight against his Spanish and Catholic adversaries. English troops now fought on French soil as allies rather than foes.

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Detail from Henry VI presenting the Earl of Shrewsbury with the sword of the Constable of France, 1442. By permission of the British Library.
 
Detail from Henry VI presenting the Earl of Shrewsbury with the sword of the Constable of France, 1442. By permission of the British Library.