During the civil conflict within England, or in one case as a direct result of such conflict, relations with foreign kingdoms deteriorated and England was involved in three external wars between 1471 and 1482 although none resulted in any major military engagements. A summary of each campaign is given below. The further reading lists are specific to each event but should be used in conjunction with the main histories of the period. See the Bibliography.
For a brief period of time, England, allied with France, was at war with Burgundy. This came about due to the domestic problems between King Edward IV and his cousin and erstwhile ally, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. On 3 October 1470 the king fled to Burgundy and Warwick assumed control of the government. In November 1470 French ambassadors arrived in England to close an agreement between Warwick and King Louis XI to make war on Burgundy. On 6 February 1471 the bishop of Bayeux wrote to his king to confirm that the alliance between Warwick and France against King Edward and Charles, Duke of Burgundy, was now agreed. The same day Warwick wrote to the Calais garrison ordering them to begin the war.
The house of Louis of Gruuthuse where King Edward and
Duke Richard spent time during their exile in BrugesHe had already begun preparations in England to assemble a force which he would personally take command of to support the king of France against Burgundy.
Following the outbreak of hostilities by the French and their success in taking St Quentin, Charles of Burgundy was terrified at the prospect of an Anglo-French alliance and he met with the exiled English king in early January 1471. Charles now had no doubt of the expediency of fully supporting his brother-in-law and provided the necessary resources for King Edward to return to England and regain his throne. In March the king landed at Ravenspur and by 14 April Warwick was dead on the battlefield of Barnet.
by Dr Livia Visser-Fuchs
To Edward IV himself his military expedition into France and its auspicious outcome in the shape of peace and marriage treaties, together with a large lifelong annual tribute from the king of France, may have been the most successful and satisfactory undertaking of his life. When he had to select a theme for the misericord on his own royal seat in the new choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor, where the sumptuous chapters of his beloved order of the Garter were to be held, he chose to have a carving of himself and Louis XI conversing on the bridge of Picquigny, surrounded by their soldiers.
The Picquigny Misericord, St George's Chapel Windsor
© Geoffrey WheelerThe misericord hidden underneath the king's seat was unlikely to be seen by many people and the scene could never have much 'propaganda value', but this was the episode in his life that Edward himself wished to be reminded of while praying in the chapel he founded – until the peace was broken by Louis XI at the end of 1482, a disaster that had a profound effect on Edward, perhaps even impairing his health.
Ever since he returned from exile and regained his crown in 1471 Edward had been planning a French campaign to be organised jointly with his brother-in-law Charles, Duke of Burgundy, and intended to carve up the kingdom of France and share it between them.
The French on the bridge at Picquigny
© Geoffrey WheelerIn the end the preparations took until the summer of 1475. All possible friends and enemies had to be alerted, neutralised or paid compensation for past injuries: Scotland, Brittany, the Hanse, Naples, Urbino, Hungary, Spain and Denmark. Parliament and individuals had to be asked for money, ships had to be commandeered at home and hired abroad. Soldiers, particularly archers, and craftsmen had to be found and impressed, and weapons of all kinds collected: in the end Edward's artillery train was said to be more impressive than even the duke of Burgundy's. The exact size of the army that crossed the sea in June 1475 is not known, but the high nobility and the royal household were well represented. The duke of Clarence, for example, brought 120 men-at-arms and a thousand archers, the duke of Gloucester promised 110 men-at-arms and a thousand archers, but in the end brought more, lesser lords were accompanied by a dozen or so men-at-arms and several dozen archers; the total of participants was at least 13,000.
This huge army crossed to Calais, where it waited for Duke Charles, the one ally on whose military support depended the success of the expedition, to arrive with his troops. The duke had other priorities, however: he was besieging the town of Neuss as part of his efforts to spread his influence eastward into the German empire. He turned up with only a small retinue, full of praise for the English army and various promises and suggestions.
The English on the bridge at Picquigny
© Geoffrey Wheeler In the end the king and his army marched slowly into France, the duke accompanying them for part of the way, but clearly not intending to give major support. As soon Charles had ridden back to Neuss Edward started negotiations with Louis XI, who was keeping his troops in readiness but much preferred to come to an amicable agreement. Edward and most English lords were of the same mind. The duke of Gloucester and a few others are said by continental chroniclers to have disagreed, but how much truth there is in this claim cannot be established. Louis offered Edward 75,000 crowns immediately and 25,000 annually for as long as they both lived, plus the marriage of his eldest son to one of Edward's daughters. A speedy conclusion was reached when the two kings met on 29 August on a specially constructed bridge at the town of Picquigny, just west of Amiens, each followed by his army in battle array as far as Amiens to satisfy the honour of both. Clarence was one of those who accompanied Edward on the bridge. Richard did what one would expect from a commander having a few hours of free time: he went to have a look at the opposing army: the admiral of France, Louis, Bastard of Bourbon, showed off the army of the king of France, which was drawn up in the field to 'the duke of Gloucester and other lords', and Bourbon in his turn visited the English army.
Philippe de Commynes
© Geoffrey WheelerA different slant must be given to the story that the king of France was able to bribe the war-mongering duke of Gloucester into compliance, with gifts of horses and costly tableware, as many commentators since Philippe de Commynes have asserted. The fact is that Richard and George of Clarence, who is not said to have objected to the peace, went to visit Louis XI together: a German eyewitness recorded that 'on the Thursday, 31 August, the two brothers of the king of England came to Amiens and dined with the king in the morning'. Their visit was in fact no more than a polite gesture and part of the general comings and goings at Amiens, shortly before the English left for home the same day.
At the time and ever since, commentators have objected to the way Edward allowed his invasion to be brought to a bloodless and inglorious end and it has been asked whether he ever meant to fight any battle. The unwarlike ending of the great campaign appeared not to be sufficiently 'honourable' and it is indeed possible that Richard of Gloucester thought so. But he was not the king and it has also been suggested that there is a difference between a king and his knights. Edward had had his share of battles to gain and regain his crown and once he was king the demands of government and diplomacy shaped his attitude to war, as they were to shape Richard's own, who, after a period of successful military activity in his brother's service, once he had become king naturally turned to peace himself. As said above, it is undeniable that Edward was excessively pleased with the outcome of his 'great enterprise' and we will never know whether he planned it like this. It must also be remembered that two of the surviving poems lamenting Edward's death regarded the French campaign as a great victory, emphasising that France had to pay 'tribute', and that it was such a clean victory, 'without a stroke, and afterward came home'.
by Dr David Grummitt
The meeting King Louis and King Edward
at Picquigny by J Doyle.
© Geoffrey WheelerThe significance of the 1475 expedition has been debated ever since its somewhat premature conclusion. Edward IV landed in Calais on 4 July. His army of 13,000 men was larger than any assembled during the Hundred Years War. It was not until 18 July, after waiting 10 days for a rendezvous with Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, that the English army set forth on the king's 'great enterprise'. After marching around north-west France, Edward and his 'great adversary', Louis XI, king of France, agreed a truce on 18 August.
John Alcok preaching.
© Geoffrey WheelerA week later, with his army lying drunk on French hospitality in Amiens, Edward met Louis in person and on 29 August the treaty of Picquigny brought to an end one of the least glorious episodes of English arms in France during the middle ages.
Both contemporaries and modern historians have argued over Edward's intentions in invading France in the summer of 1475. Moreover, the significance of the campaign to those involved in it is similarly obscure. What I want to do is look at five individuals and try to assess what the campaign meant to them. Our points of entry to try and reconstruct these individuals' motives are five documents. Or rather four documents and a document that never existed, although in its absence it is perhaps the most significant and gets to the heart of what 1475 meant. I should perhaps stop now and list the five individuals and five documents around which this article will revolve.
This whole exercise is, of course, one of imagination. By trying to read motives or feelings into these texts we are stretching the very limits of the historian's craft. Three of the five texts were composed before the campaign; the 1472 speech and Boke of Noblesse were exercises in rhetoric, but were composed to reflect and shape contemporary perceptions of the invasion and its purpose. Sir John Paston and his correspondents never (with the exception of Margaret Paston's maternal concerns) wrote down explicitly what the campaign meant to them, but occasionally their words hint at the depth of feeling the events of 1475 conjured up. Similarly, we are reliant on the French chronicler, Philippe de Commynes, for a description of the events surrounding the payment of Hastings's pension. Nevertheless, when taken together, I think these five individuals and the documents I'm going to discuss reveal a compelling account of the significance of the 1475 campaign. It is the story of an opportunity lost, a summer in which the promise of Edward IV's government was finally laid bare and the appeal of the Yorkist dynasty perhaps fatally compromised.
Parliament opened at Westminster on 6 October 1472. The first session was taken up with efforts to convince the Commons to grant taxation. The sense of urgency around this was unusual and attracted the attention of the Croyland chronicler who reported that outsiders were brought in to address Parliament 'with many speeches of remarkable eloquence'. The main speech, however, was probably that preserved among the papers of Christ Church Priory, Canterbury. It was delivered to the Commons by John Alcok, bishop of Rochester, deputizing for the chancellor, Bishop Stillington of Bath and Wells.
Alcok's speech had two main themes and these ostensibly reflected the king's reasons for wanting to invade France. First, he recalled the link between peace and unity at home and war against foreign enemies. War against France would heal the divisions caused by civil war. Although Henry VI, 'the grete occasion of trouble and long dis-ease of this londe' was now dead, yet 'many a grete sore, many a perilous wounde' still remained and large numbers of 'riotous people' remained causing robberies, extortions and oppressions. These people, by their 'myschevous and adventurous dedys' and 'idell lyvyng' encouraged foreign enemies, especially the Scots allied with the French, and more recently the Danes, to attack England. Thus 'there can be founde noon so honourable, so necessarie, nor so expedient a werk, as to sette in occupacion of the were outward the forseid idell and riotous people'. Finally, by means of a quick lesson in English history, Alcok concluded 'that it is nat wele possible, nor hath ben since the Conquest, that justice, peax, and prosperite hath contenued any while in this lande in any Kings dayes but in suche as have made were outward'. The successful reigns of Henry I and II, Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, Edward I and III, Henry V and even Henry VI (until he lost Normandy and brought an end to the Hundred Years War) were given as examples for the members of the Commons to reflect upon.
This link between internal unity and foreign war was, of course, a medieval commonplace. But to what extent did the speech reflect Edward's own concerns or tap into a wider contemporary belief that war with France would heal the divisions caused by civil war? The king's thoughts on the matter are ultimately unknowable, but in the first session of that Parliament several petitions were presented that underlined contemporaries' concerns over local disorder. The murder and dismemberment of John Glyn in Cornwall, of Richard Williamson in Yorkshire and the Talbot/Berkeley dispute were all rehearsed during the first session and would, no doubt, have served as illustrations of the very problems the king had outlined. All this, I suspect, succeeded in reinforcing the connexion between foreign war and internal peace. In the instructions sent to sheriffs to collect a benevolence for the forthcoming campaign, it was made again, echoing Alcok's words and confirming that these commonplaces were not mere rhetoric but tangible benefits that both the king and his subjects expected to follow from the invasion of France. Both Alcok's speech and the instructions to the sheriffs also highlighted the benefits that might come to younger sons through war. Not only peace but wealth would follow: 'And bi the same meane grete partie of thidell people of this owr lande shalbe sette in occupasion. And thenne the tiltheman tentende better to his tylthe, the laberer to his labour, thartificer to his crafte, and the merchant tuse merchandise, whereby shall growe abundance of the richesse with reste and peax in this our realme'.
Alcok's second theme, the king's recovery of his rightful inheritance in France, was also a commonplace but still reflected what the campaign meant to contemporaries. The speech portrayed Edward as a virile, chivalric figure in the mould of Edward III and Henry V. The realm had been delivered from civil war by the 'moost victorious prouesse' of the King and his virtues were contrasted with vices and perfidy of the French king. By his 'subtyll and crafty enterpruises' Louis sought to undermine England's stability, encouraging both the Scots and the Danes; Edward's diplomatic overtures had been spurned by Louis's 'unstablenesse'. Edward, by contrast, was the type of king that both his English and rightful French subjects could be proud of: Alcok asked the Commons 'to considre the knyghtly courage, grete proesse and dispocion of our Soverain Lord the Kyng, whoos good Grace will eschewe payne, perell, ne jeopardie, for thaccomplishment of the premisses'. This chivalric potrait of Edward IV – in its two guises, that of warrior and law-giver – reveals the contemporary (perhaps even the king's own) belief that 1475 offered the opportunity to draw a line under the Wars of the Roses and refashion the Yorkist monarchy in the image of Edward III. As David Morgan has argued, it was the king's 'dual capacity of fighting and judging' that dominated Alcok's speech, and another text composed at the same time setting out a programme of law reform, suggests that the model for this renewal of Yorkist kingship was Edward III 'who diffyed kowertyse, avansed manhode, and magnyfied trouthe.'
The sentiments expressed in Alcok's parliamentary speech and the other official documents written from the autumn of 1472 onwards were echoed by the second individual I want to discuss: William Worcester. Worcester, of course, is best known as the long-suffering servant of that veteran of the Hundred Years War, Sir John Fastolf. In 1451 he appears to have written a first draft of The Boke of Noblesse, probably reflecting Fastolf's wishes for a reassertion of English martial prowess and a reconquest of Normandy. Some 25 years later, in the summer of 1475, Worcester dusted off his work and presented it to Edward IV on the eve of his invasion of France. Most modern scholars have seen The Boke of Noblesse as an anachronism; the fact that it survives in only one copy shows that Worcester was a lone voice in an otherwise apathetic nation. To J.R. Lander it was 'no more than an echo from a vanished past'. However, I think we can read The Boke of Noblesse and Worcester as indicative of a wider enthusiasim for the 1475 campaign and the opportunities it offered.
The Boke of Noblesse reflected Alcok's speech in linking foreign war with internal stability. Men never stood in so high esteem as in times of foreign war. Worcester argued that if there was war with France 'worshipfulle men which oughte to be stedfast and holde togider' would be 'of one intencion, wille, and common assent'. Both used the same rhetorical devices, indulging in Humanist name-dropping and making reference to the Punic Wars, in extolling the benefits that foreign war might bring to younger sons. Both presented Edward III as an exemplar bringing honour and unity to the realm by marshalling his subjects in a chivalric war-enterprise. Alcok did this more implicitly, but The Boke of Noblesse argued that 'for notwithestanding gret conquestis and batailes had in the same rouiame be the famous knight king Edwarde the thrid, he never atteyned to that souvraine honoure but by valiauntes of Englishe men'.
Significantly, however, the range of texts that shared similar arguments to The Boke of Noblesse go beyond those produced in the parliamentary context of 1472-5. Cath Nall of the University of York, in her study of English military texts produced in the aftermath of the Hundred Years War, has shown how the same arguments appeared in the hands of a wide variety of translators, writers and readers of military texts in the third quarter of the fifteenth century. Owners of manuscript copies of the verse translation of De Re Militari, usually better known as Knyghthode and Bataile, frequently annotated the passages which linked outward war and internal peace. The early 1470s saw a marked interest in both the verse and prose translations of Vegetius, of Chartier's Quadrilogue Invectif and Christine de Pisan's Livre du corps de policie. Similarly, in his epilogue to the first edition of the Game of Chess, Caxton wrote: 'I pray Almighty God to save the Kyng our soverain lord and to gyve him grace to issue as a kynge and t'abounde in all vertues and to be assisted with all other his lordes in such wyse that his noble royame of Englond may prospere and habounde in vertues, and that synne may be eschewid, justice kepte, the royame defended, good men rewarded, malefactours punysshid and the ydle peple to be put to laboure, that he wyth the nobles of the royame may regne gloriously in conquerynge his rightfull enheritaunce that verray peas and charite may endure in bothe his royames and that marchandise may have his cours in suche wise that every man eschewe synne and encrece in vertuous occupacions …'
Thus, it seems that both Alcok and Worcester reflected a wider expectation of what the 1475 campaign meant. Worcester almost certainly believed what he wrote; presumably the readers who annotated the relevant parts of their manuscripts of Vegetius, Chartier and Pisan did too. I suspect also that Alcok speech tells us more about what the political community expected their king to believe than what Edward himself thought of the campaign. Louis XI allegedly told John Smert, Garter King of Arms, that Edward had agreed reluctantly to invade France due to pressure from the duke of Burgundy and 'the Commons of England'. If the king was really as reluctant as Louis maintained, then Alcok's speech, Worcester's Boke of Noblesse and the related body of texts in circulation in the early 1470s can tell us much about what the expedition of 1475 may have meant to those involved.
The third individual I want to look at is William Rosse, merchant of the Calais staple, diplomat and victualler of the English garrison at Calais. What the 1475 expedition meant to Rosse can be summed up in two words: hard work. The document that allows us to reconstruct something of what it meant to him is his rough account book, now preserved at the National Archives among the various accounts of the exchequer, E 101/198/13. In the spring of 1473 the king made two grants to Rosse, who had served as victualler of the Calais garrison since the late 1460s. On 5 March Edward ordered all smiths, carpenters and other labourers in receipt of royal wages to be attendant upon Rosse and provide all manner of things necessary to make 'bombards, cannons, culverins, fowlers, serpentines and other ordnance whatsoever they be'. A second grant, on 13 April, ordered the merchants of the staple to pay £273 per annum for the manufacture of artillery to Rosse from the wool customs that they collected to pay the Calais garrison's wages. Rosse was not to render account for these sums to the treasurer of Calais or the exchequer at Westminster but to two of Edward's closest companions, William, Lord Hastings and Sir John Scott. The account book now at the National Archives is Rosse's record of his purchase and manufacture of artillery between 1473 and 1486, the majority of it in the two years leading up to the 1475 campaign. What these grants and Rosse's account book suggest is the concerted efforts made by the English military establishment at Calais to provide a force that would not only perform effectively on the European mainland, but also, by its impressive display of modern weaponry, reflect the prestige and power of the Yorkist monarchy.
Rosse, as a merchant of the staple, was a familiar visitor to the marts of Flanders and Brabandt from where the English procured most of their arms and armour in the late fifteenth century. His mercantile contacts were widespread and also saw him employed on trade embassies throughout the 1460s and 70s. In 1473 to 1475, however, the purpose of his visits to Brussels, Antwerp and Mechelen was to buy artillery and the raw materials (powder, iron etc.) necessary to provide Edward IV with an artillery train to rival that of Charles the Bold and Louis XI. Rosse's chief assistant in this task was the master smith of Calais, a Fleming called Giles van Rasingham. In 1474 van Rasingham was responsible for making a great bombard, named appropriately enough The Great Edward of Calais. We don't know the exact size of this piece and no pictures of it survive, but it cost £414 Flem. Some idea of its size, however, can be gauged when we consider that the 54 iron serpentines cast in Calais at around the same time cost £322 15s Flem. and weighed, in all, 32,275 lbs. In the opening months of 1475 Rosse received a further £2,700 from the staplers and Edward's treasurer of war, John Elrington, with which to procure more artillery for the forthcoming 'royal voyage into France.' With this sum he purchased a further 45 iron serpentines and 4,000 pellets for handguns.
In terms of its ordnance and equipment, therefore, the English army that invaded France in the summer of 1475 appeared to be in deadly earnest. It's not clear how Rosse spent July and August 1475, but it seems likely he accompanied his guns and Calais gunners with the royal army. To Rosse and his team of smiths and gunners at Calais it must have seemed able to live up to the rhetoric of parliamentary speeches and military texts. For the invasion itself the Calais guns were joined by thirteen large pieces from the Tower of London. These included a great bombard, with its 215 gunstones, as well as another small bombard also named after the king. Edward was also proud of his new guns. On 23 July he met Duke Charles and the Duchess Margaret at Faquemberges in Artois. He was accompanied by The Great Edward of Calais and the 'long serpentyne' made two years earlier by Johan van Meighlyn, the Brussels gunfounder. The impression they made upon Duke Charles, who in the next couple of years was to see most of his own, modern artillery train lost to the Swiss at the battles of Murten, Grandson and Nancy, is not recorded, but the Milanese ambassador pronounced the English guns to be 'even finer than those of the Duke'.
In the end, of course, Rosse's new guns returned to Calais without firing a shot in anger. I wonder if, like the US marines in the recent film Jarhead, the Calais gunners felt a acute sense of disappointment in not putting their ordnance to the ultimate test. Rosse's account book, however, does reveal that two years later some of the Calais guns may have had the opportunity to show their potential and win the renown for which they had been acquired. In 1477, as Louis XI attacked the Burgundian lands in the wake of Duke Charles's death at Nancy, William, Lord Hastings ordered Rosse to deliver two serpentines and two hook guns to 'the castell in the wode of Nepe in Flanders'. I suspect for Rosse, and as we shall see for Hastings and men of the Calais garrison like Sir John Paston, the defence of the Dowager Duchess Margaret's lands in 1477 offered the opportunity to assuage the disappointment of the 1475 campaign. But, like then, their expectations were to be dashed and it is this sense of disappointment in the outcome of the 1475 campaign, and its consequences for the Yorkist polity, that I want to discuss in the remainder of this talk.
One of the soldiers in the English army of 1475 who was familiar with the Calais guns was, of course, Sir John Paston. Paston, who in his own words, had been 'well acquainted with my Lord Hastings' since the early 1460s, and had served in Calais since 1472. He was one of the men-at-arms in Hastings's own retinue and, in turn, had his own small retinue of soldiers who served alongside him in the garrison. Some of these men were in 'petty wages', that is Paston's personal servants whom he paid ten marks a year, and not salaried members of the garrison. By November 1473 he was among those most trusted personal servants of Hastings who comprised the Calais council, governing the Pale in the lieutenant's absence. The garrison offered a potential for patronage to Sir John – in 1475 he wrote to his brother, Edmund, 'I heer telle that ye be in hope to come hyddre, and to be in such wages as ye schall come lyve lyke a jentlyman' – but more importantly, it provided a potential arena for winning honour and fame. The Calais garrison was a repository of military experience in Yorkist England; its members considered themselves a knightly, chivalric community and sought opportunities to express their martial character, as in 1464 when some 50 or so English soldiers from Calais had joined the abortive crusade of Anthony, Bastard of Burgundy.
What did 1475 mean for Sir John? Most simply, I think, it meant the opportunity to realise the chivalric potential that service in the Calais garrison offered. Two years earlier he had warned against 'idylnesse' while in the garrison; in February 1474 when he heard that the French king's host was but 80 miles from Calais at Amiens, he told Margaret that 'iff he (Louis), or hys, roode byffor Caleys, and I nott theer, I wolde be sorye.' As 1474 turned into 1475 Sir John's news reports from Calais quickened in pace and his sense of mounting excitement was evident.
Signature of John Paston.
© Geoffrey WheelerTwo letters in the Paston collection reveal directly what the 1475 expedition meant to members of the family; a third letter, written by Sir John in February 1477, reveals something of the afterlife of the campaign and its legacy. In May 1475 Margaret Paston wrote from Mautby to her son in Calais. Her letter captures the spirit of a country at war. The taxes granted by Parliament to fund the war were biting deep: Margaret wrote, 'the Kyng goth so nere us in this cuntre, both to pooer and ryche, that I wote not how we shall lyff, but yff the world amend'. Her letter is full of anxiety: 'I mervaile that I have herd no tydynges from you'. She finished her letter, mainly regarding Sir John's unfinished business in England, with 'God bryng yow well agayn to this contre, to His pleasans, and to your wurshyp and profyzt'. But then she added a postscript, full of maternal anxiety: 'For Goddes love, and your brother go over the see, avyse them as ye thynk best for her save garde. For some of them be but yonge sawgers, and wote full lytyll what yt meneth to be as a sauger, nor for to endure as a sawger shuld do'. In contrast to the emotion of Margaret's letter (or even his own of February 1474), Sir John's letter of 11 September telling his mother that 'thys wyage of the Kynges is fynysshyd', is matter of fact, but revealing nevertheless. Sir John finished his letter by explaining that 'I was in good heele whan I came hyddre (to Calais), and all hool, and to my wetyng I hadde never a better stomake in my lyffe, and now I am crasyd ageyn.' The promise of July and August had faded into a dull September, with Sir John racked with illness and his concerns centring once again on Caister.
But by February 1477 Sir John had recovered some of his enthusiasm. A Great Council had been called following the death of Duke Charles. Sir John was sure that the dukes of Gloucester and Clarence, with the Calais garrison, would be sent to Flanders to defend the honour of Edward's sister, Duchess Margaret, and her stepdaughter, the eighteen-year-old Mary, against Louis XI. The last part of his letter to John Paston, then in Norwich, captures once again the sense of expectation that had been felt in the summer of 1475: 'It semythe that worlde is alle qwaveryng; it wil reboyle somwher, so that I deme yonge men shall be cherysshyd; take yowr hert to yow'. Paston expected to be sent to France with Lord Hastings and, indeed, in March the lieutenant of Calais set sail with sixteen men at arms, including Sir John, and over 500 archers. But, as we know, in 1477, as two years earlier, the hope of a chivalric expedition and the opportunity to win honour were dashed by the decision of Edward IV.
My final individual is William, Lord Hastings. Lieutenant of Calais, chamberlain of the king's household, and royal councillor, Hastings was, as Commynes, observed a man 'of great authority' in the England of the mid 1470s. Of all our participants in the 1475 expedition, its meaning to him is perhaps clearest of all. First and foremost, I think Hastings must be seen as a chivalric figure; a man whose interest in martial and knightly virtue dictated his political actions. In 1462 he had been elected to the Garter; in 1471 he had been instrumental in Edward's recapture of the throne, and been appointed to the difficult job of re-establishing royal control over the Calais garrison over the claims of the king's step-brother, Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. Hastings's chivalry was one of action; it was as such he commanded the Calais garrison, asking Sir John Paston to remember him to 'my felawes', the soldiers. He was also affected by his contacts with the Burgundian court, something which doubtless reinforced and shaped his chivalric outlook. From the mid 1460s he had regular contacts with Duke Charles and his courtiers, becoming, for instance, good friends with Philippe de Commynes. It also appears that he embraced the cultural side of chivalry, commissioning illuminated manuscripts and probably owning a copy of the verse translation of Vegetius.
The stall plate of William Hastings
in St George's Chapel, Windsor,
© Geoffrey WheelerWhat the 1475 expedition meant to Hastings is revealed by his actions in the immediate aftermath of the Treaty of Picquigny. As the Croyland chronicler reported, the king's camp was divided over coming to terms with the French; we can assume that Hastings was among those 'who studied glory rather than their own ease' and felt unhappy at the way the campaign had ended. After peace had been concluded Louis XI offered pensions to the leading English councillors, including Hastings's deputy at Calais, John, Lord Howard. Alone among them Hastings refused to give a receipt. It is this receipt, a simple three-line acknowledgement of the sum of 1,000 marks-worth of plate delivered to him by Pierre Clairet, a servant of Louis's household, or rather its absence from the record, which encapsulates the sense of disappointment surrounding the end of the campaign. Commynes related the saga of the receipt in marvellous detail: Louis had charged Clairet to obtain a receipt so that 'in future in might be seen and known that the Grand Chamberlain … had been a pensioner of the King of France'. The put-upon servant approached Hastings and begged him to give a simple receipt. Hastings's reply captures his sense of dishonour, both in not winning glory on the field, but also in reneging on his agreements with Duke Charles from whom he already received an annual pension of 1,000 écus. 'Master', he told Clairet, 'what you say is perfectly reasonable, but this gift comes from the King your master's good pleasure and not from any request of mine. If you want me to take it, you may put it here in my sleeve, and you will get no other letter or acknowledgement of it. For I do not want to have it said of me that the grand chamberlain of England has been a pensioner of the king of France, and I do not want my receipts to be found in his countinghouse'. And so no receipt was given. Despite his anger, Louis 'praised and esteemed the chamberlain more than all other servants of the king of England because of this'.
As was the case with Sir John Paston, Hastings soon found an opportunity to redeem himself. Charles the Bold's death at the siege of Nancy on 5 January 1477 offered the chance to defend Mary of Burgundy against the predations of the French king. To return to Commynes, 'if he (Hastings) had his way, at one time England would have helped her against' Louis. But, like Sir John, 1477 saw Hastings's hope dashed as in 1475. Michael Jones has explored in The Ricardian in 2001 the consequences of Edward's failure to assist Mary in 1477. Edward's sister Margaret's letter chastising the king for his failure to act on Mary's behalf was, as Mike [Jones] has pointed out, a 'chivlaric reproach' which must have deeply affected Hastings. Hastings, as we have seen, covertly offered help to the Burgundians in 1477, earning the fury of Louis XI but, in 1478, receiving a special gift of five magnificent Bruges tapestries from Mary and her new husband, Maximilian, King of the Romans, as a token of their appreciation of his support. Up until the end of the reign, Edward resisted calls to intervene on behalf of Mary and Maximilian. Edward was, according to Commynes, 'addicted to pleasure' and ignored the pressure from Hastings and his allies, such as the duke of Gloucester. As Commynes astutely observed, the king's 'longing for the 50,000 écus which was paid to him every year at his castle of London (the French pension agreed to at Picquigny) softened his heart'.
The sense of disillusionment surrounding the last years of Edward IV's reign, so well captured by Dominic Mancini, can, I believe, be traced back to the events of 1475. This sense of unease affected Hastings, his allies on the council, like Gloucester, and the wider political community, perhaps exemplified by Sir John Paston and his colleagues at Calais. As I have argued in The Ricardian, the events of 1475 and 1477 came back to haunt the Edwardian regime in 1483. It was Hastings's estrangement from the Wydeville-dominated regime's policies towards France, Scotland and the Low Countries that explains his willingness to sit back and allow Richard, duke of Gloucester's coup against the Wydevilles in May, that allowed the latter to become king. Equally, it was Gloucester's own treatment of his erstwhile ally that led to the Calais garrison's withdrawal of support during the crisis of Richard's own reign as king.
In this short essay I have attempted to reconstruct what the 1475 expedition meant for five individuals. For Edward IV, the task, it seems, is almost impossible; his intentions and hopes for the campaign, as related to the House of Commons by Bishop Alcok in 1472, draw on familiar rhetoric. Nevertheless, even if they do not reveal much about the king's real motives, they reveal what contemporaries expected their king to believe and his subjects' imagining of him as a chivalric exemplar reasserting ancient rights through martial endeavour and restoring internal peace and unity through foreign war. It was this sense of expectation that William Worcester captured in The Boke of Noblesse. Rather than being a lone voice in the wilderness, Worcester both inspired and was inspired by a wider belief in chivalric virtues and the importance of foreign war for the commonwealth of England that found its manifestation in the popularity of military texts like Vegetius, Chartier and Christine de Pisan. For my three remaining men, William, Lord Hastings, Sir John Paston and William Rosse, 1475 promised the opportunity to live out their chivalric fantasies. All three were immersed in the military culture of the English garrison town of Calais. All three were aware of the military and cultural influences of the Burgundian Netherlands and the court of Charles the Bold. Whether it be tapestries from Bruges or guns from Antwerp, Burgundy provided much of the inspiration for a chivalric view of life and 1475 provided the opportunity to take the field with the Burgundians and make these aspirations concrete. The decision to make peace, as the chroniclers hinted, dashed these hopes. Hastings's refusal to give a receipt for Louis XI's pension and Sir John Paston's melancholic letter hint at this. In 1477 the death of Duke Charles and the Dowager Duchess's appeal for help raised chivalric expectation once more; Paston's exuberant letter to his brother and William Rosse's enthusiastic recording of the guns he sent to help defend her dower lands reveal their excitement at the prospect of a second opportunity to win honour. For Edward IV to refuse to indulge these aspirations a second time in less than two years must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The invasion of 1475, then, was a pivotal event in late medieval England and the beginnings of the decline of commitment to the Yorkist dynasty which would, ten years later, see the triumph of Henry Tudor.
I am very grateful to Michael K. Jones and Cath Nall for the conversations which shaped many of the arguments presented here. Dr Nall's University of York DPhil. thesis 'The Production and Reception of Military Texts in the Aftermath of the Hundred Years War' (2004) anticipates many of the arguments about Alcok's speech, William Worcestre and the function and nature of military texts generally in the second half of the fifteenth century.
David Grummitt is a researcher at the History of Parliament Trust, working on MPs for Kent during Henry VI's reign. The subject of his PhD thesis was early Tudor Calais and he is currently completing his study of the garrison in the 15th and early 16th centuries.
Dr David Grummitt, Professor Anthony Goodman
and Dr Michel Jones, three of the speakers.As well as editing the English Experience in France c. 1450-1558, David has co-authored a study of war and society in England and the Netherlands with Steven Gunn, published articles on Henry VII and, most recently, on Cade's Rebellion of 1450. He is also a regular contributor to The Ricardian.
This paper was presented to the Richard III Society on Saturday 25 March 2006 at a seminar entitled held at the Tower of London and was part of the Society's celebrations of its re-founding.
King Edward had signed a treaty with Scotland in 1474 and relations between the two countries had been amicable, with the king paying instalments on his daughter Cecily's dowry in preparation for her marriage to the Scottish heir. By the late 1470s, however, the Scots began breaking the truce and once again the border country was the subject of raids and pillaging. European politics may have been at the root of the problem. France and Burgundy were at odds and Louis XI of France may have encouraged James III of Scotland to renew the auld alliance with his country. If Scotland breached their treaty with England and Edward had to concern himself with his northern border, Louis could hope that the English king would not become too interested in what was happening on the continent.
Edward's response to the Scottish aggression was to send Alexander Legh to demand reparation, and, if this was not agreed, to threaten James III with war. However, Edward would be satisfied if the Scottish heir was handed over to the English to guarantee the marriage with Cecily and that Berwick was restored to England. James III refused on both counts and the English began preparations for war. On 12 May 1480 Richard of Gloucester was appointed lieutenant-general, and in June commissions of array were issued in three of the northern counties. James became nervous at this point and made overtures to the English but these were rejected and in November Edward announced he intended to prosecute the war personally the following year.
Model of Richard III by Peter Dale
© Geoffrey WheelerIn the late spring of 1481 John Lord Howard sailed into the Firth of Forth destroying and capturing Scottish ships and burning Blackness. Richard of Gloucester had in the meantime recruited men to the border garrisons and worked closely with the earl of Northumberland to establish how many men could be called upon for the invasion. Richard, along with the Scottish renegade earl of Douglas, was also given the task of suborning key Scottish lords to weaken King James's support, but this covert activity met with little success. In March Richard had visited London to discuss the invasion plans but was no doubt dismayed later in the year to learn that the king had decided not to undertake the campaign himself because of 'adverse turmoil' and left Richard and Northumberland 'to wage a vigorous war against the Scots' (Scofield II, p. 321). King Edward did travel as far as Nottingham where he arrived on 1 October and stayed until the 20th. Richard met him there, and it was no doubt agreed that it was too late in the season for the full invasion to take place that year. In Richard's absence from the immediate vicinity of the war Northumberland may have appealed to the citizens of York for men in a letter dated 13 October when he reported the Scots were already in his eponymous county. The year of the letter is uncertain (Kendall attributed it to 1480) but the incident may well be the one recorded by the Scottish historian John Leslie that the 'borderers invaded the marches of England and took away many preys of goods and destroyed many towns and led many persons in Scotland'. Following the fresh news of Scottish incursions into England Richard returned to the front, laid siege to the town and citadel of Berwick, which he failed to take, and was no doubt involved in the 'intermittent warfare [that] continued all along the border during the winter' (Ross, p. 282).
The new year brought a new campaigning season and on 21 February Richard received a commission to obtain the necessary victuals for his army, with leave to find them anywhere in England, Wales and Ireland. The harvest had been poor, hence the permission to find grain and crops wherever they were available. On 22 May Richard led an attack into southwest Scotland and reached Dumfries which he burned amongst other towns. Events now took an unexpected turn when the brother of James III, the duke of Albany, arrived in England from France where he had been living since fleeing Scotland in 1479. King Edward welcomed the Scottish traitor and during a stay at Fotheringhay, where they were joined by Richard, a treaty was agreed on 11 June, in which the English king recognised Albany's claim to the throne of Scotland. The following day Richard was confirmed as Lieutenant-General of the North and with Albany set out on the invasion of Scotland. He had authority to raise an army of around 20,000 men and sufficient funds to pay them for four weeks. The muster was complete by mid-July and the army crossed the border.
Engraving of Berwick Castle
© Geoffrey WheelerThe English host was large enough to terrify Berwick and the town fell to Richard without further delay, although the citadel held out. Lord Stanley was left to continue the siege whilst Richard moved north, devastating Roxburghshire and Berwickshire, all the while expecting to meet the Scottish army. He was to be disappointed. On 22 July, King James's dissatisfied subjects had taken their king prisoner at Lauder, executed his favourites and returned with their royal prisoner to Edinburgh. As Richard moved towards the capital the rebels moved to Haddington, situated fifteen miles to the east, and awaited developments.
Richard approaches Edinburgh by Gerry HitchRichard found himself entering an undefended Scottish capital. He controlled his army and the city was not molested. The king's captors were prepared to negotiate with Richard. Albany immediately abandoned his hope of becoming king and settled for the restoration of his lands and position. The Scots asked for a peace treaty and that the proposed marriage between the Scottish heir and Cecily take place. Richard demanded the return of Berwick Castle and the dowry paid for the princess. The settlement was that the marriage would go ahead if it were Edward's wish, otherwise the dowry would be repaid. Richard left Edinburgh, disbanded most of his army at Berwick on 11 August, and continued with the siege. The castle fell on 24 August and has been part of England ever since.
The Crowland Chronicler was dismissive of the campaign – that it cost too much for too little gain and that King Edward was grieved at the 'frivolous expenditure'. It is, however, difficult to see what other outcome there could have been. Richard, on the ground, would have appreciated the mood of the Scots and that it would not be possible to establish Albany on the throne, although the situation might have been different if the Scottish army had been vanquished. In any event, this was not one of the original aims of the war. Richard himself was also keenly aware of the cost of the army and that he could not afford to prolong the negotiations or his stay in Scotland.