By Anne Curry
The city of Bordeaux, capital of English Gascony, surrendered to Charles VII of France on 30 June 1451. This marked the end of effective English rule in an area of France which had been held by the English crown since the mid twelfth century. Yet the Gascon rolls do not end until 3 March 1468. That is almost seventeen years later.
Why should a Gascon roll have been continued for so long? This is one of the topics we are working on in the Leverhulme phase of the project. Here we consider the continuation of the rolls between 1451 and 1454.
An initial explanation for the continuation of the rolls is that, in both England and Gascony, there were early hopes of recovery. Richard Woodville, lord Rivers, was appointed seneschal for five years on 18 October 1451: 45 protections for men to cross in his company were enrolled on the Gascon rolls between November 1451 and April 1452 (C61/138). No expedition was in fact launched but the entries include licences for victuals to be sent to the duchy. In September 1452 John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, a veteran of the French wars, was appointed lieutenant-general for six years. He reached the duchy with his troops in October and Bordeaux was recovered on 23 October. Talbot’s successes vindicated the hopes of recovery which had supported the continuation of the Gascon rolls after 1451. But he was defeated and killed at the battle of Castillon on 17 July 1453, ‘by the unfavourable fortune of war’ as the rolls put it.
Even with news of Castillon, the government in England proposed a response and hence had reason to continue enrolments. The first entry on the Gascon roll for the regnal year 1453-54 (C61/140) is the appointment on 12 September 1453 of Sir William Bonneville as lieutenant of the duchy, and we can also see efforts to raise an army. Bonneville had not been given a fixed term appointment, but was to be in office ‘during royal pleasure’ – an expression either of optimism or imagination, depending on how one looks at these things!
Bordeaux surrendered for a second time on 19 October 1453 after a three month siege. The duchy was in enemy hands ‘against God and against justice’. News of the fall of the city was received in England by 20 November when an entry notes that it was in enemy hands ‘ut dicitur’ (C61/140 m. 8).
Many, if not the majority, of entries on the rolls between the first and second losses of Bordeaux concern Gascons. Some had taken refuge in England: grants made to them, which we find on the rolls, were an effort to persuade them to return. This seems to be a conscious policy begun in April 1452. A proclamation was issued for all those Gascons in England to appear before the royal council on 6 May to hear matters ‘for the good and utility of us and this kingdom’ (C61/138 m. 12). Right up to the battle of Castillon there are a large number of grants of offices and lands in the duchy to Gascons and also to Englishmen who had served in the duchy. We have found 33 grants between early June and 31 August 1452 (C61/138), with a further 19 in the roll for 1452-3 (C61/139).
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