Battles and Sieges

1475 Invasion of France

On 4th July 1475 Edward IV and his army set sail for Calais at the start of the English invasion of France. The invasion had been proposed years earlier, prior to the readeption. Following the reclamation of the crown, Edward IV once again set his sights on the French. With agreements in place with the Dukes of Brittany and Burgundy, the campaign looked set to be a success. The royal army was large, with nearly all of the senior magnates participating with their retinues.

Edward had led an army into France from Calais. The support expected from Burgundy and Brittany was not forthcoming. However, the French were willing to negotiate rather than fight. It enabled a diplomatic solution that was in England’s favour. No battles took place as the two sides agreed to terms in the Treaty of Picquigny.

Source Material on the 1475 Invasion of France

Phillipe Commines

“Edward IV had never been very enthusiastic about this expedition. For even whilst he was still at Dover before boarding ship for the crossing, he had begun negotiations with us. Two reasons made him cross to this side; first, all his kingdom wanted an expedition such as they had been used to in time gone by and the Duke of Burgundy had put pressure on them to do it; secondly, he did it in order to reserve for himself a good fat portion of the money which he had raised in England for this crossing…” Philip Commines

Commines argued that the outcome of the expedition was always going to be a financial gain for Edward IV. France was not seeking a war at this time, something that Commines would know as a diplomat in the French Court. Edward IV was looking for money, and kudos. Interestingly, Commines suggests that the Burgundians had persuaded Edward to engage France in a war. This would divert France from intervening in the Burgundian Wars.

Great Chronicle of London

The Great Chronicle of London portrays the Invasion of France in a positive light.

“…The kings being accompanied by certain of their barons, and both with their hosts standing ready armed and apparelled for war a certain distance from the banks of the river… concluded a peace [on 29 August]… The fame of this peace and accord was that the French King yearly, during the peace, deliver to King Edward’s assignees within his town of Calais £10,000 in gold crowns.” Great Chronicle of London

The financial benefit of the agreement with France would be seen in London and Calais, as these were the places where the King’s expenditure was likely to be the highest. Additionally the swift compromise meant that there would be no need for ongoing taxation for war costs, and no requisitioning of ships for reinforcing campaigns.

Polydor Virgil

Virgil’s account suggests that the French felt compelled to agree terms. According to this account King Louis, ‘more danger he saw hung off his neck’ and so he decided that the best approach to a war with England was to avoid having one. That made payments to the English crown a justifiable expense at the time.

“…when King Louis understood that Kind Edward  was already arrived with an army, he hastily augmented his forces and more danger he saw hung off his neck, so with much more celerity determined to make headway against them…

…the two kings met [at Picquigny] on the bridge over the river Somme, had a long talk together, and finally concluded that King Louis should pay presently unto King Edward, for his expenses in the preparation of this war, 55000 crown and yearly afterwards 50000”. Polydor Virgil

The Burgundians failed to participate in Edward’s invasion of England as they had begun an expansionist war of their own. The Burgundian Wars lasted from 1474 to 1477. Charles the Bold most probably expected a rapid victory but in 1475 was engaged in the failed Siege of Neuss and suffered a defeat in the Battle of Héricourt in November 1474. The Burgundian Wars ended at the Battle of Nancy, in which Charles the Bold was killed. His death had major ramifications for Western European politics in the coming years, and left his wife, Margaret of York, a widow. Margaret continued to wield power in Burgundy until her own death in 1503.

Siege of Neuss, 1474-75. One of the reasons why the Burgundians could not join in Edward IV's Invasion of France in 1475.
Siege of Neuss, 1474-75

Croyland Chronicle

The Croyland Chronicle notes the support for the intended invasion of France. This includes the clergy and public, with the chronicle suggesting that there was broad support for the venture, with taxation resulting from this support.

During this Parliament, (which was presided over by a variety of chancellors, there being, first, Robert, bishop of Bath, who did nothing except through his pupil, John Alcock, bishop of Worcester; secondly, Lawrence, bishop of Durham who became quite fatigued and weary with his endless labours; and thirdly, Thomas, bishop of Lincoln, who fully carried out his purposes to the very end} the principal object was to encourage the nobles and people to engage in the war against France; in the promotion of which object, many speeches of remarkable eloquence were made in Parliament, both of a public and private nature, especially on behalf of the duke of Burgundy. The result was that all applauded the king’s intentions, and bestowed the highest praises on his proposed plans; and numerous tenths and fifteenths were granted, on several occasions, according to the exigencies of the case, in assemblies of the clergy and of such of the laity as took any part in making grants of that nature. Besides this, those who were possessed of realty and personal property, all
of them, readily granted the tenth part of their possessions. When it now seemed that not even all the grants before-mentioned would suffice for the maintenance of such great expenses, a new and unheard-of impost was introduced, every one was to give just what he pleased, or rather, just what he did not please, by way of benevolence. The money raised from grants so large and so numerous as these amounted to sums the like of which was never seen before, nor is it probable that they ever will be seen in times to come.

Besides this, in order that these intentions on the king’s part might not be frustrated by multiplied hostilities, provision was thoughtfully made that the Scots should not remain like so many enemies behind our backs, and that the men of the Teutonic Hanse Towns, who had now begun to infest the English seas, should not aid the enemy in person and with their ships, against us. Accordingly, peace was first established with these two countries in our vicinity, an embassy being first despatched to Utrecht, which reached that place in three days, and after that, to Scotland.

In the following year, being the year one thousand and the fourteenth year of the reign of the said king Edward, in the months of May and June the king transported across all his armed force, together with most noble and most ample equipment, to Calais; where the most illustrious prince, Charles, duke of Burgundy, having arrived with a few followers, held a prolonged debate with the king’s council respecting the course of the two armies, the king’s and his own and the place at which they might most conveniently meet. You might then have seen certain of our party highly elated; being those who would have gladly returned home leaving the object of the expedition unattained, on the ground that the duke was to blame, for failing to have his troops ready and close at hand. Others however, whose minds were better disposed, and who studied glory rather than their own ease, thought that in acting thus the duke had performed the part of a prudent prince and of one who hoped for the best. For, as he very well knew, the king’s army alone was sufficiently strong in case any attack should be suddenly made upon him. Indeed, so extremely well-prepared was that force, that if they had been his own men he would not have wished for a larger number, at the head of which to march triumphantly through the midst of France to the very gates of the city of Rome; these were the very words he uttered in public. Besides this, if the whole of the duke’s army had been in sight of ours, it is by no means improbable that the first battle would have been between them, for provisions, quarters, or other things of which they might have stood in need; than which nothing could have been possibly found more gratifying to the common enemy of both.


1475 Invasion of France: Recommended Links

The Hundred Years War – the invasion was a brief resurrection of England’s claim to the French crown.

Treaty of Picquigny

Weapons and Warfare have several pages on the 1475 Invasion of France.

Erenow includes a chapter of a book on the Wars of the Roses that focusses on the invasion.

Invasion of France, 1475. From one of my other websites.

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