Conquest: The English Kingdom of France 1417 - 1450

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Overview

For thirty dramatic years, England ruled a great swath of France at the point of the sword—an all-but-forgotten episode in the Hundred Years’ War that Juliet Barker brings to vivid life in Conquest.

Following Agincourt, Henry V’s second invasion of France in 1417 launched a campaign that would place the crown of France on an English head. Buoyed by conquest, the English army seemed invincible. By the time of Henry’s premature death in 1422, nearly all of northern France lay in his hands and the Valois heir to the throne had been disinherited. Only the appearance of a visionary peasant girl who claimed divine guidance, Joan of Arc, was able to halt the English advance, but not for long. Just six months after her death, Henry’s young son was crowned in Paris as the first—and last—English king of France.

Henry VI’s kingdom endured for twenty years, but when he came of age he was not the leader his father had been. The dauphin whom Joan had crowned Charles VII would finally drive the English out of France. Barker recounts these stirring events—the epic battles and sieges, plots and betrayals—through a kaleidoscope of characters from John Talbot, the “English Achilles,” and John, duke of Bedford, regent of France, to brutal mercenaries, opportunistic freebooters, resourceful spies, and lovers torn apart by the conflict.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
England’s little-studied conquest of France during the Hundred Years War is absorbingly recounted by Barker. In 1417, Henry V invaded France to annex Normandy, which he believed to be his rightful inheritance. The fallout of this invasion played out over the next 30 years, as Henry conquered Normandy, and France’s weak, fitfully mad Charles VI conceded in giving his daughter Katherine to wed Henry, who became regent of France. The next few years saw the deaths of both Henry and Charles, England’s attempt to extend its rule beyond Normandy, and, in 1424, the rise of a peasant girl named Jehanne d’Arc, who led a group of disaffected French against the English at Orléans and crowned Charles VII king of France. Although Henry V’s son, Henry VI, again tried marriage—to Margaret of Anjou—to protect his French kingdom, he actually gave up lands, strengthening the hand of Charles VII, who in just 12 months swept the English away. With her crisp storytelling and meticulous historical research, Barker (Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England) vividly narrates a tale of political intrigue and military strategy that reveals power-hungry English kings and the fierce defense of France by one of its most famous heroines. 3 maps. Agent: Andrew Lownie, Andrew Lownie Literary Agency (U.K.). (Feb.)
Wall Street Journal

Barker weaves strands of contemporary evidence into a fluent account of a complex but fascinating era. There is a steady succession of treaties, marriages, murders, massacres, famines, sieges, battles and skirmishes, but Barker has an eye for the kind of detail that can illuminate the mindset of the long-dead.
— Stephen Brumwell

Choice

Barker weaves together the threads of an extremely complicated story, involving infighting among English notables for positions in France, the major roles of Burgundians (creating essentially a French civil war) and Scots in the fighting, and the double-dealing of many French leaders. The continuous fighting caused enormous destruction and population loss, especially in Normandy, and very few participants gained honor in the struggle, although Charles VII comes across here as a more effective leader than how he is usually portrayed. Highly detailed with valuable information on the huge human and financial resources England invested during the war's final decades, the book is nonetheless engaging and well written.
— F. J. Baumgartner

Washington Times

[A] lucid guide to this very complicated period...Barker's narrative combines high drama and low humor. It could be argued that both the origin and end of the English Kingdom of France was a dynastic comedy of errors...Barker is both learned and lucid in bringing alive the characters, the struggle and the ultimate futility of it all.
— Aram Bakshian, Jr.

Bernard Cornwell
Juliet Barker's new book is a magnificently readable account of the last four decades of [the Hundred Years' War] … I thought Agincourt was a superb book, but Conquest is even better. Once upon a time there was an English kingdom in France and Juliet Barker has brought it to extraordinary life.
Jonathan Sumption
The story is worth telling and Barker tells it superbly well. Her judgements are shrewd. Her understanding of the complex politics of the period is impressive. She writes in a spare, elegant style … There was a need for a good history of the failed enterprises of the English. Juliet Barker's book supplies it handsomely.
Suzi Feay
This is a tale of warlords and ruthless killers ... the ideals of chivalry were left in the mud at Agincourt and this book is inevitably darker in tone than its predecessor. Still, a baffling, tragic and wasteful episode has now been turned into military history of a high order. For England and Saint George!
Andrew Holgate
The story of how Henry V swept all before him, how his relatives under the infant Henry VI bickered over his conquests, how Joan of Arc rallied the French and how Charles VII won his country back, makes for engrossing reading.
Dominic Sandbrook
Juliet Barker takes the story to 1450 in her compelling Conquest: The English Kingdom of France … which tells how England threw away Henry's legacy in a sorry tale of lost battles, political bickering and financial mismanagement. Plus ça change, indeed.
Wall Street Journal - Stephen Brumwell
Barker weaves strands of contemporary evidence into a fluent account of a complex but fascinating era. There is a steady succession of treaties, marriages, murders, massacres, famines, sieges, battles and skirmishes, but Barker has an eye for the kind of detail that can illuminate the mindset of the long-dead.
Washington Times - Aram Bakshian
[A] lucid guide to this very complicated period...Barker's narrative combines high drama and low humor. It could be argued that both the origin and end of the English Kingdom of France was a dynastic comedy of errors...Barker is both learned and lucid in bringing alive the characters, the struggle and the ultimate futility of it all.
Choice - F. J. Baumgartner
Barker weaves together the threads of an extremely complicated story, involving infighting among English notables for positions in France, the major roles of Burgundians (creating essentially a French civil war) and Scots in the fighting, and the double-dealing of many French leaders. The continuous fighting caused enormous destruction and population loss, especially in Normandy, and very few participants gained honor in the struggle, although Charles VII comes across here as a more effective leader than how he is usually portrayed. Highly detailed with valuable information on the huge human and financial resources England invested during the war's final decades, the book is nonetheless engaging and well written.
Wall Street Journal
Barker weaves strands of contemporary evidence into a fluent account of a complex but fascinating era. There is a steady succession of treaties, marriages, murders, massacres, famines, sieges, battles and skirmishes, but Barker has an eye for the kind of detail that can illuminate the mindset of the long-dead.
— Stephen Brumwell
Washington Times
[A] lucid guide to this very complicated period...Barker's narrative combines high drama and low humor. It could be argued that both the origin and end of the English Kingdom of France was a dynastic comedy of errors...Barker is both learned and lucid in bringing alive the characters, the struggle and the ultimate futility of it all.
— Aram Bakshian, Jr.
Choice
Barker weaves together the threads of an extremely complicated story, involving infighting among English notables for positions in France, the major roles of Burgundians (creating essentially a French civil war) and Scots in the fighting, and the double-dealing of many French leaders. The continuous fighting caused enormous destruction and population loss, especially in Normandy, and very few participants gained honor in the struggle, although Charles VII comes across here as a more effective leader than how he is usually portrayed. Highly detailed with valuable information on the huge human and financial resources England invested during the war's final decades, the book is nonetheless engaging and well written.
— F. J. Baumgartner
Library Journal
While most readers are familiar with the great battles and principal characters of the notoriously lengthy Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), which raged between England and France, the turbulent 30-year period of English rule on the continent has until now received little attention. In the aftermath of the peace established by the 1420 Treaty of Troyes, England set a course on maintaining its newly acquired territory in the face of continued resistance and internal divisions. Picking up where she left off in her last work, Agincourt, British literary biographer and medievalist Baker delves deeply into the world of the mentally disturbed Henry VI of England, the indecisive French dauphin who would become Charles VII, and the saintly Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc. She has produced a first-rate, fluid account of this little-understood period in European history. VERDICT Baker's narrative treatment is packed with details of an administrative, military, and political nature, leaving no aspect of the turbulent period untouched but making for a less than stimulating adventure for readers unless they come to the topic hungry for these details. Yet Conquest fills a gap in the historiography and may be invaluable for serious students and scholars of the era.—Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674065604
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 2/27/2012
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Juliet Barker is one of Britain's most distinguished literary biographers and medievalists and author of Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England.
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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter Eight: The Siege of Orléans


In the last week of April 1429 Jehanne d’Arc set out from Blois at the head of an armed convoy of several thousand men escorting wagons laden with supplies for the relief of Orléans. It must have been an extraordinary sight, calculated to inspire her own troops and strike terror into the English. In front of the column walked a group of priests under a standard painted with the image of Christ crucified, which had been made for them on Jehanne’s instructions: as they walked they sang the great ninth century invocation to the Holy Spirit, ‘Veni creator spiritus’, a hymn more usually associated with the coronation of popes and kings. In recent memory only Henry V, who also believed God was on his side, had given the clergy such a prominent role in his military campaigns.

Behind them came the Pucelle herself, riding on a charger. Slight but unmistakably feminine in figure, with her hair cropped in the unflattering above-the-ears pudding-bowl style favored by gentlemen of the time, she wore a suit of plate armor made for her at Tours, on the dauphin’s orders, at a cost of 100l.t. (£5833). She carried in her hand her white standard which, as her voices had commanded, depicted Christ in judgment, one hand holding the world and the other blessing the lily of France, proffered to him by angels on either side, and emblazoned with the sacred names ‘Jhesus Maria’. At her waist she bore the sword of Charlemagne’s grandfather which her voices had told her would be found behind the altar of the chapel at Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois. The chapel had been founded by Charles Martel as an act of thanksgiving for his crushing defeat of Muslim invaders at the battle of Tours in 732 and had become a popular place of pilgrimage, especially for wounded soldiers. Jehanne, prompted by her devotion to Saint Catherine, had visited the chapel on her way to Chinon in February 1429, attending masses and staying in the hospital and almshouses for pilgrims built in 1400 by Marshal Boucicaut, who had been captured at Agincourt and died a prisoner in England in 1421. She had not then asked for the sword but, after receiving the dauphin’s seal of approval for her mission, she sent word to the clergy of the chapel telling them where they could find it and asking them to give it to her.

It is unclear whether the monks already knew of the legend that Charles Martel had also donated his sword or indeed that it was missing, but the sequence of events, together with Jehanne’s curious choice of an armorer as messenger and the fact that she had to describe the sword, with its five engraved crosses, so that it could be identified, all suggest that its miraculous discovery owed more to human intervention than divine. The magical uniting of a sword with its destined owner was, after all, a commonplace of medieval chivalric literature. Charles Martel’s sword was not Excalibur, but it had been sanctified in a Christian victory over Muslims and was therefore the ideal weapon for another savior of France to wield against impious invaders. The discovery was especially opportune as the more evocative alleged sword of Charlemagne, which had been used in the French coronation rites at Reims since 1270, was in English hands at the abbey of Saint-Denis, near Paris.

Whatever the truth of the story, it was rapidly circulated, adding considerably to the Pucelle’s reputation as a prophetess. Rumors that her own coming had been foretold were also assiduously cultivated by Armagnac propagandists, even to the extent of rewriting one of the typically obscure prophecies attributed to Merlin to make it explicitly fit Jehanne’s mission. That the dauphin ordered and paid for her armor to be made by his master-armorer also suggests a deliberate attempt to identify her with the armor-wearing Pucelle foretold by Marie Robine, especially as the initiative to adopt armor, rather than simply male clothing, does not appear to have come from Jehanne herself.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 21, 2013

    A Very Readable History.

    This book has a very good narrative flow and describes the times in an unusual (for a history book) and engaging way. The focus on Joan of Arc is pronounced, but this is a part of the charm of this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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