Treaty of Tours - Origins and Aftermath

Origins and Aftermath

The Hundred Years War (1337–1453) was between the Houses of Valois and Plantagenet who were both contesting the throne of France. In 1420, the Treaty of Troyes was signed which stipulated the marriage of Henry V of England to Catherine, daughter of Charles VI of France, and also stated that Henry and his heirs would inherit the throne of France on Charles VI’s death. However, with the death of both Kings in 1422, the throne of France went to Charles VII and the throne of England went to the infant Henry VI. In 1423, the Treaty of Amiens confirmed the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, but with the military battles of Charles VII against the territories held by England in France, the treaty was rendered moot and the Hundred Years War continued. In 1444, Henry VI, Charles VII, and Philip of Burgundy reached an agreement that their commissioners should meet at Tours to discuss peace terms and a possible marriage alliance between England and France. The English embassy was headed by William de la Pole, 1st Earl of Suffolk, who was less than enthusiastic about the meeting, realizing that a peace with the French would not be popular with England. In March 1444, Suffolk landed in France and in April, he met with the French embassy. He formally requested the hand of Margaret of Anjou, daughter of Rene of Anjou (brother in law to Charles VII) as a wife for Henry. Rene agreed, but insisted that he had no money and could not provide the customary dowry. He demanded that in exchange for the marriage and a proposed 21 month truce in the War, England return to France the lands of Maine and Anjou. Suffolk knew that this would not be popular in England, but Henry insisted on the truce, having heard that the Count of Nevers was preparing to offer marriage to Margaret himself. The marriage was not considered advantageous to England since Margaret was not a close relation to Charles VII, and was related only through the marriage of her father to the King’s sister. All of the concessions in the treaty were made by England and France got the better end of the truce. Henry believed it was a first step towards a lasting peace; Charles intended to use it purely for military advantage. Additionally, the blame of the unfavorable request to return Maine and Anjou to the French was laid at Suffolk’s feet, though he insisted that he had made no promises at the Treaty to that demand. Suffolk brought the new queen back to England later that year to meet the king. When she landed in England, the King dressed himself as a squire and brought a letter supposed to be from the King so that he could watch Margaret in secret. When Suffolk asked later what she thought of the squire, the queen stated that she did not notice him at all. Suffolk told her that she had just been with the King, and she was upset, realizing she’d kept him on his knees the entire time he read the letter. The Treaty of Tours was to expire in April 1446, and England sought to extend it in order to find a longer lasting peace with France. This was perhaps undermined by the fact that Henry VI refused to cede the lands of Maine and Anjou until 1448, and only then on threat of military force from Charles VII. Shortly thereafter, the remnants of the treaty fell apart and fighting resumed until 1453 when the Hundred Years War officially ended. The marriage of Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou and subsequent offspring Edward, provided an alternate line of succession to the thrown; previously Henry VI had no living heirs. Meanwhile, Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York had arguably a superior claim to the throne over the House of Lancaster (of which Henry VI was a member) prior to the marriage and firstborn. This led to a widening of the rift between the Houses of Lancaster and York, aided by the fact that Henry VI and John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, both supported the Percy family, who was feuding with the Nevilles, longtime allies of the House of York. The entire affair is cited as a factor in the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses, two years after the end of the Hundred Years War.

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