France and England at Peace, 1475–1513
Though Anglo-French relations during Henry VII’s reign have recently received fresh interest1, it is primarily the king’s involvement in the Brittany affair (1488-92) that has been studied.2 This has contributed to obscure the fact that, excluding the 33 days when the two countries were effectively at war in October-November 1492,3 the English and the French enjoyed an unprecedented span of 38 years of peace from the Truce of Picquigny (29 August 1475) to the launch of Henry VIII’s first military campaign in France (June 1513). Undoubtedly the peace was fragile: acts of piracy were a constant worry for merchants on both sides of the Channel, suspicion of misdoing remained present during all diplomatic negotiations throughout the period and hatred, contempt and disdain for the ‘aunsiaunt enemye’ never disappeared.4 Robert Gaguin, general of the Order of the Holy Trinity, once remarked that many Englishmen would teach archery to their sons by giving them a target of the face of a Frenchman and saying: ‘Go, my boy, learn to shoot and to kill a Frenchman.’5 But, for all its shortcomings, this peace was a lasting one and it opened a new era in Anglo-French relations in which war was no longer the only political option. In that respect Picquigny marked a turning point: the end of the conquest of France
by arms.6 The duke of Suffolk’s campaign of 1523, which brought English and Flemish troops to Pont Sainte-Maxence on the river Oise, less than 80 kilometres from Paris – but no further – was to prove the point; the English could no longer durably ‘[pass] in to the bowelles of France’.7 It also allowed both monarchies to deal with other concerns (internal affairs for the English: the Wars of the Roses and the continual threat of usurpers – Perkin Warbeck in particular –; external ones for the French: first Burgundy, then Italy after 1494). Peace also allowed trade to flourish and French cultural influences to expand in England – the reverse did not occur.