Treaty of Tours

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Treaty of Tours
The Château de Plessis-lez-Tours, where the treaty was signed
TypeTruce and marriage agreement
ContextHundred Years' War (last phase)
Signed28 May 1444[a]
Château de Plessis-lez-Tours
Expiry31 July 1449 (1449-07-31)
PartiesRoyal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg Kingdom of England
France moderne.svg Kingdom of France
Negotiators For England:
William de la Pole
For France:
Jean de Dunois
Louis de Beaumont

The Treaty of Tours was an attempted peace agreement between Henry VI of England and Charles VII of France, concluded by their envoys on 28 May 1444 in the closing years of the Hundred Years' War. The terms stipulated the marriage of Charles VII's young niece, Margaret of Anjou, to Henry VI, and the establishment of a several years' truce (later extended) between the kingdoms of England and France. In exchange for the marriage, Charles wanted the English-held area of Maine in northern France, just south of Normandy.

Henry VI married Margaret a year later, on 23 April 1445, when he was 23 years old and she was 15. He did not, however, give up Maine[1] immediately. This clause was initially kept secret, the cession of this strategically important province being likely to cause a public backlash in England. Charles threatened Henry VI and sent envoys to pressure him; even Margaret tried to persuade Henry to give it up. Henry eventually yielded in 1448 when Charles VII threatened English garrisons with a large army.

The treaty was seen as a major failure for England as the bride secured for Henry VI was a poor match, being Charles VII's niece only through marriage, and was otherwise related to him by blood only distantly. Her marriage also came without a dowry, as Margaret was the daughter of the impoverished René of Anjou; Henry was also expected to pay for the wedding. All English sacrifices to obtain a truce in any event collapsed by a disastrous renewal of hostilities in France in 1449. due to conflicts between England and its former ally Brittany, which Charles VII used as a pretext to resume hostilities.

The agreement became a controversial topic in England. The Treaty of Tours exacerbated rifts between the court's Beaufort faction and the dukes of Gloucester and York, and has been considered a potentially contributory factor to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses.


The Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) now raged for more than a century 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 of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, and also stated that Henry and his heirs would inherit the throne of France upon Charles VI’s death. With the death of both kings in 1422, the thrones of France and England passed to the infant Henry VI of England, son of Henry V and maternal grandson of Charles VI. Charles of Valois, son of Charles VI, disputed his dispossession of the French kingdom, and claimed the French throne as Charles VII. The military efforts conducted by Charles against the territories held by the English in France rendered the treaty of Troyes moot and the Hundred Years' War continued.

Charles VII gained ground after the intervention of Joan of Arc in 1429 and the dissolution of the alliance between England and the Duchy of Burgundy (a French vassal) in 1435. Henry VI took control of government functions upon coming of age in 1437 but proved a weak-willed and inept ruler. By 1444, English rule in France was limited to Normandy in the north and a strip of land in Gascony in the southwest, while Charles VII ruled over Paris and the rest of France with the support of most of the French regional nobility.

English political forces were divided in how to deal with the increasingly bleak situation. The king's uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, favoured an aggressive continuation of the war, whereas Henry VI's main advisors, William de la Pole (Earl of Suffolk) and Cardinal Henry Beaufort, urged the king to work towards an agreement with his enemies. Henry VI had shown himself to have a weak personality and unsuited to handle affairs of war, and favoured the conciliatory faction of Suffolk and Beaufort over the aggressive party of Gloucester.

The English at this point were unable to prosecute the war any further: the English territories in France could not withstand more taxation, whereas the English state was nearing bankruptcy, especially after the costly but failed expedition of the Duke of Somerset in 1443. A truce would provide the English a much needed break from hostilities. For the French, it would give them time to strengthen their armies in preparation for a possible resumption of the war, and prevent any hypothetical renewal of the Anglo-Burgundian alliance.[2]


It is unclear which side had the initiative to propose discussions, but by January 1444 the English council decided to open talks with the French.[3] 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.[4] The English embassy was headed by William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk, who on 1 February was dispatched to France.[3] The French delegation was led by Jean de Dunois and Louis de Beaumont. In March 1444, Suffolk landed in France and in April, he met with the French embassy.[5] He was less than enthusiastic about the meeting, realizing that a peace with the French would not be popular with England.[5]

The French demanded that the Henry VI should drop his claim to the French throne, and in return he would be ceded a few territories in southwestern France, and be allowed to hold Normandy and Aquitaine under French suzerainty. The English were willing to abandon the English claim to the French throne but insisted on retaining their held territories in full sovereignty without paying homage to the French king. The French refused to allow France to be partitioned, and negotiations bogged down.[3]

Suffolk formally requested the hand of Margaret of Anjou, daughter of René of Anjou (brother in law to Charles VII) as a wife for Henry.[5] Rene agreed, but insisted that he had no money and could not provide the customary dowry,[5] when the amount that should have been given was 20,000 livres. 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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[6] Henry believed it was a first step towards a lasting peace; Charles intended to use it purely for military advantage.[7]

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.[8] Suffolk brought the new queen back to England later that year[9] 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.[10]

Another factor cited as a diplomatic blunder was Suffolk's failure to include Brittany and Aragon in the list of Henry VI's allies on the truce, and allowing Charles VII to place Brittany in his own ally list.[11] Brittany's allegiance was intermittent, but at this point was effectively neutral. In the military expedition of 1443, however, the English under the Duke of Somerset raided Breton territory, which enraged the Duke of Brittany. The failure to include Brittany on the truce must have driven the Bretons and the English further apart. The King of Aragon himself wasn't associated with the English in any notable way, but they had, until 1444, a common enemy in René of Anjou, with whom Aragon disputed the Kingdom of Naples.

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.[12] 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.

Intentions and outcomes[edit]

The policy involving the marriage to Margaret of Anjou and the cession of Maine was part of an attempt by Suffolk to approximate the English to the House of Anjou, a branch of the House of Valois who enjoyed some influence in French politics due to their prince of blood status. René of Anjou's brother Charles was recognized by the Valois crown as the rightful owner of the English-ruled province of Maine, and for this reason the Angevins were foremost advocates for war against England. Suffolk wagered that since Maine would now be returned to them, and that an Angevin princess would become queen of England, the House of Anjou would now use its influence on Charles VII to promote peace instead of war.

For Charles VII of France, the truce and the marriage would bring several benefits. A truce would give him the time to properly reorganize his forces against possible future conflicts with England and the still-hostile Burgundy.[3] Henry VI's union to the daughter of René of Anjou would prevent the English from concluding a marriage alliance with one of Charles VII's more rebellious nobles (the Count of Armagnac had already made proposals previously).[b] Finally, since Maine was to be handed to Margaret's immediate relatives, she was more likely to persuade her weak-willed husband to give it up, thus benefitting the Houses of Anjou and Valois at the expense of English interests in France.

In comparison to the Armagnac alliance, which might have pressured Charles VII to concede to peace terms more favourable to Henry VI, the Angevin alliance was unlikely to bring much benefit to the English. René of Anjou was bankrupt and so was unable to finance the dowry and marriage, and his potential to influence Charles VII to maintain a long-lasting peace was doubtful.[13] Furthermore, though René was titular King of Naples, he had just lost Naples to a rival claimant, the King of Aragon. English approximation to René alienated Aragon from any potential alliance prospects,[15] which until then might've been a possibility due to the then-common enmity of England and Aragon against the House of Anjou.

Collapse of the truce[edit]

A diplomatic problem for the English was created when Francis I, Duke of Brittany, paid homage to Charles VII of France on 16 March 1446. Brittany had been at least nominally attached to the English cause since 1427, when Francis I's father John V, recognized Henry VI of England as king of France. Francis I did not share his father's commitment to the dual monarchy of England and France, and was enraged when Breton town of La Guerche was plundered in 1443 by an army led by the English Duke of Somerset. His homage to Charles VII formally ended any Breton support for the English, and left them diplomatically isolated, also leaving Normandy vulnerable to an attack from all sides.

Francis I's brother Gilles was a close friend of Henry VI and was very pro-English. Francis had him arrested for fear that he was plotting a coup, to which the English responded by secretly encouraging the Aragonese mercenary François de Surienne to sack the town of Fougères. Surienne was under English pay, and Charles VII responded by formally declaring war on the English on 31 July 1449, thereby resuming hostilities.

The remnants of the treaty fell apart and fighting began again in spring 1450 (Battle of Formigny, 15 April 1450). It resumed until 1453 when the Hundred Years War officially ended.

Aftermath in England[edit]

Though the terms of Henry VI's marriage to Margaret of Anjou were received with skepticism in England, the country was weary of war[2] and peace was very much welcomed. The treaty of Tours was also well received in France, and the newly-established peace was welcomed with celebrations in Paris. Suffolk was greeted by the populace at Rouen, and when he returned to England in April 1445[16] a grateful Henry VI elevated his main title to Marquess of Suffolk[17] on 14 September 1444 (Duke of Suffolk on 2 June 1448).[16] On 4 June, he was greeted and congratulated at parliament by the commons and the lords, even by the king's uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester,[13][16] England's foremost war hawk.[c]

Gloucester's opposition to the peace process ignited tensions between him and Suffolk,[18] however. At the reception of an embassy from France on 15 July 1445, Suffolk and Henry VI publicly humiliated Gloucester before the French ambassadors.[19] Henry VI signaled his disdain for his uncle's political inclinations to the members of the embassy and of his own government, while Suffolk repeatedly asserted (in the king's presence) to them later on that Gloucester counted for nothing on government policy.[18][20] Only 3 days previously (12 July), the duke had sent a gift to Alfonso V of Aragon, the enemy of the father of Henry VI's bride, showing an implict affront by Gloucester to the Angevin alliance policy.[21]

In September 1445, the English commander and governor of France, Richard, Duke of York, saw his term in this office expire. The decision of Henry VI's government not to renew his term seems to have been met with disapproval by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.[22] The governorship was assigned (1446) to Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, the nephew of Gloucester's enemy Cardinal Beaufort. This was not the first time York had been shunned in favour of the Beaufort family (itself part of the royal House of Lancaster) in government affairs.[d] With regards to Gloucester's disputes with the court establishment, the York-Beaufort affair would develop into a parallel but increasingly related feud.[23]

The cession of Maine, made public in late 1446,[18] was the last straw. The lingering idea regarding the whole peace arrangement was that England had made huge sacrifices only to get a meager truce and a penniless French princess. Public outrage thus ensued, aimed particularly at Suffolk and some of Henry VI's other advisors. The treaty of Tours was seen as a pathetic match by the dukes of Gloucester and York. The handover of Maine was deemed an insult to those who fought and gave their lives for the French cause. Furthermore, the province's strategic importance to the defense of Normandy meant that its loss would greatly jeopardize what was left of the English continental territories.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, had made it clear that he was prepared to demonstrate and lead popular opposition to what he deemed ill-advised government policies.[22] Despite having no influence on the king for a long time now (especially since the conviction of his wife by witchcraft in 1441), he still remained popular among the people. Popular perception of Gloucester was one of an opponent to evil courtiers who used their influence on the king for selfish reasons.[23] Suffolk grew increasingly fearful of Gloucester and his ability to use public opinion to his favor, especially as a parliament was to be assembled in 1447, where Humphrey could voice his complaints to the commons. Suffolk had Gloucester charged with treason in 1447; the duke died under mysterious circumstances shortly after.

Cardinal Beaufort died shortly after Gloucester, in 1447. Suffolk seemed to have won the power struggle at court. The Duke of York, perhaps viewed as another potential threat,[24] was sent to govern Ireland in 1449, far away from the center of politics. However, Suffolk's position at court was once again threatened by the breaking of the truce in the same year, and by the collapse of Normandy in 1449–50 under the Duke of Somerset. Suffolk became the target of a campaign by the commons to charge him with treason for the mishandling of the peace process[e] and of the war. On his way to exile, Suffolk was caught by a disgruntled mob and was murdered.

The demise of Suffolk as a consequence of the failure of his foreign policy paved the way for the Duke of Somerset to replace him as the court favourite. He was also unpopular due to the loss of Normandy under his tenure. The Beaufort enmity with the House of York once again came into light as the Duke of York attempted to wrest government control and influence from Somerset by accusing him of treason for his poor handling of military affairs in France.[f] Queen Margaret of Anjou saw York as a threat to her authority, and tried to undermine him; meanwhile, York had arguably a superior claim to the throne than King Henry VI himself due to dynastic troubles in the previous century. This led to a widening of the rift between the houses of Lancaster and York. The entire affair is cited as a factor in the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The truce was agreed on 20 May, the marriage on 22, the betrothal was formalised on 24, and the final treaty was signed on 28 May.
  2. ^ In about 1441 the English began negotiations for a marriage between Henry VI and a daughter of John IV, Count of Armagnac, a powerful noble in southwestern France with lands close to English Gascony. An adversary of Charles VII, Armagnac "was said to have offered a huge dowry in money, lands and men to help defend the borders of Gascony" for the English.[13] The marriage would also perhaps sway some nobles to the English side,[14] and place England within a network of former members of the defunct Armagnac party who were discontented with the regime of Charles VII. The benefits the English would have extracted from this arrangement might have pressured Charles VII to concede to peace terms more favourable to Henry VI. No such advantages would likely be gained with the Angevin alliance.[13] Armagnac was imprisoned by Charles in 1443, so nothing came of this.
  3. ^ Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, until then had favoured an aggressive approach to protecting and expanding English territories in France. Suffolk, supported by Gloucester's rival Cardinal Beaufort, promoted a policy of peace and concessions as means of maintaining what was left of England's continental possessions. For his more conciliatory stance, Suffolk and his party were favoured by Henry VI.
  4. ^ In 1443, the English government redirected resources from York's campaigns in France to a separate expedition, to be conducted by the cardinal's nephew John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, brother to Edmund Beaufort. The expedition achieved nothing, and York, who was already owed large sums by the English crown, was left without resources to conduct his military operations in France.
  5. ^ Suffolk's personal involvement in the peace process with Charles VII and his envoys (Suffolk had in fact been a captive of Jean de Dunois in the previous decade, so they already knew each other), his neglect to mention Brittany and Aragon as England's allies in the truce, the secret cession of Maine, and the relative overall quickness of the arrangement were regarded by the commons as evidence of attempts by Suffolk to benefit himself at the expense of English interests.[11]

    Rumors emerged that he had been bribed by the French envoys,[11] and that by marrying his son to the Beaufort heiress he was in fact hoping that his family would succeed the childless Henry VI on the throne.[15] The most serious accusation was that he secretly promised to cede Maine to Henry's "great enemies", René of Anjou and his brother Charles, without the "assent, advice, or knowledge" of other English ambassadors[11] (though Henry would eventually himself promise to hand over the province).

    These allegations were doubtful at best, and at worst were aimed to damage Suffolk's reputation and secure his condemnation. Nevertheless, they were based on the clear failure of the peace policy, and gained traction among the commons[15] to the point which Henry was forced to exile Suffolk.
  6. ^ Yorkist propaganda attempted to use the memory of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester to promote Duke Richard of York as someone who wished to save the king from evil councillors.


  1. ^ Langer 1948, p. 270.
  2. ^ a b Wagner 2006, p. 300.
  3. ^ a b c d Wagner 2006, p. 301.
  4. ^ Weir 1995, pp. 108–109.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Weir 1995, p. 109.
  6. ^ Wolffe 1981, p. 176.
  7. ^ Wolffe 1981, p. 183.
  8. ^ Wolffe 1981, p. 172.
  9. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 486.
  10. ^ Wolffe 1981, p. 188.
  11. ^ a b c d Barker 2012, p. 324.
  12. ^ Griffiths 1981, p. 490.
  13. ^ a b c d Saygin 2001, p. 117.
  14. ^ Griffiths 2015.
  15. ^ a b c Griffiths 1981, p. 679.
  16. ^ a b c Watts 2004.
  17. ^ Barker 2012, p. 323.
  18. ^ a b c Harriss 2011.
  19. ^ Saygin 2001, p. 121.
  20. ^ Saygin 2001, p. 125.
  21. ^ Saygin 2001, p. 122.
  22. ^ a b Saygin 2001, p. 120.
  23. ^ a b Lewis 2016.
  24. ^ Saygin 2001, p. 124.