Turning point in history – nearly?

Charles VI at the signing of the Treaty of Troyes 1420 ( [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
The 21st May marks a day that could have seen the history of Europe turn out in a very different way. In 1420, the war between England and France had waged for 7 years and King Henry V of England was very much in the ascendancy. Harfleur had fallen to the English in 1415, Normandy in 1417 and Rouen surrendered 2 years later. The French position seemed hopeless and Charles VI seemingly had no choice but to seek peace with the English. The treaty of Troyes was signed on this day 498 years ago. It’s terms saw Henry married to Charles’ eldest daughter, Catherine of Valois; the Dauphin, Charles’ son and heir, disherited and declared illegitimate and Henry named as the heir to the French throne. It seemed as though it was destined for France and England to become one nation. In 1421, the birth of Henry’s son and heir seemed to strengthen the position.

The marriage of Henry V and Catherine of Valois. Troyes 1420 (By William Hamilton – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

In August 1422, Henry suddenly died leaving a 1-year-old as heir to the thrones of France and England and then a couple of months later Charles VI also died. Into this vacuum stepped the deposed Dauphin, later Charles VII, who laid claim to his father’s crown. It would not be easy but eventually, in 1429 Charles was crowned King of France and any thoughts of union between the countries were abandoned.

Intriguing to think how the history of Europe could have been different if the terms of the treaty had come to pass and England and France had been united under one crown.


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