John II, imprisonment and death

Forward to Final chevauchées – Back to Battle of Poitiers
Back to 1789 and all that!
© Bob Denton 2014

John II imprisonment and death, 1356 – 1364

John II and his youngest son were captured after a strong defence by their personal guard. Many of the French nobles were killed or captured.

John realised that he was faced with peace negotiations that would inevitably require the payment of a large ransom and would be required to make concessions in terms of territories. His son, the Dauphin Prince Charles, had returned to Paris and assembled the Estates-General to raise cash for him to defend the country, but they, bolstered by the general despair at this second major defeat, wanted to wring political concessions from him first.

Prince Charles dismissed the Estates-General and sought to raise money elsewhere. The Provost of the Merchants called for strikes and Charles had to recall the Estates-General. They presented him with a Grand Ordinance containing a set of sixty concessions, which he eventually signed.

Charles the Bad – Charles II of Navarre was a cousin to Philip VI, his mother the single child of King Louis X, his father Philip III of Navarre. He therefore had the basis for claims to the French throne.

In 1343 he inherited his father’s territory as the Count of Évreux with large holdings in Normandy that had been granted to his mother for compensation when she allowed Champagne and Brie to remain within the French royal lands. He earned the sobriquet ‘the Bad’ because his various bids for power severely weakened the French monarchy.

He inherited Navarre in 1349 and travelled there to be anointed in 1350. But he then deigned to return, staying in France for the next twelve years. He treasured hopes of at some stage becoming king of France and looked upon Navarre mostly as a resource financially and in terms of men to pursue his goals.

There had been an attempt at reconciling his family when Philip VI married Charles’s sister in 1350 and Charles married John II’s daughter in 1352. When John failed to pay his daughter’s dowry and granted Angouleme, a territory that Charles had claim upon, to the favoured Constable of France. He had been moved to kill him, which upset a negotiated truce between England and France.

He regularly played Edward III of England off against John II of France, changing sides several times. He had many supporters and constantly stirred things up. In 1355 he became a close advisor to the Dauphin and was implicated in a failed coup later that year. Rumours were constant of his attempts to plot against the king and he was eventually arrested.

When John II was captured by the English, Charles the Bad was involved in plotting with the Estates-General against the Dauphin. He was freed from gaol by a group of thirty supporters from Amiens and was instrumental in the Etienne Marcel Paris revolution of 1358. But he moved off to Normandy to let it run its course. He would continue to be a thorn in the side of France for many years.

His ultimate death by some accounts was horrific. In 1387 his condition was such that a physician ordered that each night he be wrapped in linen impregnated with brandy. The tale goes that a maid was charged with sewing him in to the linen. She was left with some excess thread and instead of biting it off or using scissors she decided to burn it with a candle. The material ignited and she ran off. Other accounts say it was merely a warming pan accident that burned him in his bed.

King John was in captivity in Bordeaux and immediately renounced the agreement. But then he was transported off to England and shuffled around various locations ending up in the Tower of London.

John was given the respect his royal status required and records of his captivity show spending on horses and pets and payments for an astrologer and to maintain a court band.

In 1359 King John signed a peace treaty that conceded much of western France to the English and agreeing to pay a huge ransom of four million écus. Back in Paris Prince Charles had little choice but to refuse the treaty.

Edward III used this as his reason for a further chevauchée and reinvaded France. He took Reims, perhaps fostering hopes of his own coronation there, then approached Paris. Prince Charles refused to be drawn out to a set-piece battle. Edward renegotiated and reduced his terms.

In 1360 the resultant Treaty of Brétigny, Edward waived his claim to the French throne in return for confirmation that a third of the west of France centred on Aquitaine was his as its sovereign rather than a mere Duke. As Duke he would be a vassal to the French king, as sovereign he was his equal. The ransom was reduced but still high at three million écus. He left fighting thereafter to his sons.

King John was released achieved by the handing over of forty noble hostages as a guarantee to meet the terms, these hostages included Prince Louis. After four years of captivity King John was back in Paris in 1360.

He returned to a chaotic situation. All his close confidants had been lost in Poitiers, the exchequer was facing his huge ransom. Prince Charles had been unwell and his daughters had both died, the symptoms sound as if they had may have been poisoned with arsenic.

In 1362 Edward III appointed his son as the Prince of Aquitaine. Prince Louis escaped the English in 1363 and returned to France.

John promptly offered to return to England to maintain the treaty in good faith. His advisors tried to convince him otherwise, but he travelled back to England in January 1364,

Once again Charles of Navarre (the Bad) attempted from 1363 sought to be opportunistic. With John imprisoned and the Dauphin’s lack of political nous, Charles made a bid for the throne backed by Edward III. His excuse this time was the Ducal succession of Burgundy. John II had given the duchy to his son, Philip the Bold. The Black Prince allowed his forces to cross his territory of Aquitaine so that they could engage with the French in Normandy.

King John II, while in captivity in England, died in April 1364; there are various accounts as to how he died, none emerging as the accepted version. His body was returned to France and interred at the Basilica of Saint-Denis. His son Charles succeeded him as Charles V le Sage (the Wise).

Between Charles V’s ascension and his coronation he showed he had no naivety in battle, defeating the Navarrese at the Battle of Cocherel in Normandy in May 1364.

Charles V already had a force of 1,000 men situated in Normandy and so was able to respond to the Navarrese threat. The Navarrese were joined by the residual garrisons in Normandy from the Charles the Bad’s strongholds that had been overrun and capitulated. Together they amassed over 800 knights and some 5,000 men drawn from Gascony, England and Normandy; these included 300 English archers.

The Navarrese set the battleground well using the successful tactics of the day but fell for an old trick. The two armies stood and watched each other for two days, then the French began to withdraw, successfully drawing out the Navarrese from their prepared positions. A surprise flank attack and the Navarrese had been dealt a crushing blow. Their military control in Normandy was over and the political strengths of Charles the Bad were severely dented.

Forward to Final chevauchées – Back to Battle of Poitiers
Back to 1789 and all that!
© Bob Denton 2014