An Unexplained Lacuna of the Politics of War



When Henry VI was crowned king of England in 1429, the Hundred Years’ War with France (1337–1453) was already in its ninth decade. Over the next 15 years, English fortunes in the protracted conflict steadily declined. Losing ground to the French while facing a burdensome drain on state resources and growing domestic unrest back in England, the young king brokered a truce in 1444 as the basis for what he hoped would be a permanent peace settlement recognizing English claims to Normandy. In subsequent negotiations, Henry agreed to give up the English-held province of Maine in northern France, but his military commanders had other ideas. Resentful “they had been sold out by politicians and even by their king,” the commanders balked at returning the province to the French; or, as Corson notes, they refused to “give up territory they and their forces had captured at great human cost for a political objective they did not share.”1 This set in motion a series of events leading to the resumption of hostilities and culminating in England’s defeat and wholesale loss of Normandy. With even a marginal settlement out of reach and the war approaching its ignominious end, the English army and its domestic allies criticized the king and demanded a scapegoat for the debacle. In response, Henry turned on his closest friend and most trusted adviser, the Earl of Suffolk, who was arrested, imprisoned in the Tower of London, impeached by Parliament, and subsequently banished to the continent.


Political Leadership Domestic Politics Military Leadership Military Defeat Blame Attribution 
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© Shawn T. Cochran 2016

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