An Alternative History of Europe, III

The Salic Wars

Henri II was succeeded by his son by Margaret of Anjou, Édouard I the Peaceful; Édouard I was succeeded by his son by Mary of Burgundy, Charles VII. Their reigns were largely peaceful, as France-England expanded her power piecemeal and diplomatically. The great exception to this was the War of Savoyard Succession, in which Édouard pressed the claims of his son, Charles, to rule Savoy through his wife, Charlotte of Savoy, against the claims of her younger brother, Louis of Savoy, and cousin, Louis of Valois. Savoy (and to a lesser extend Valois) had backing from the Empire and the Italian states, but against the might of France they could not prevail. Nonetheless, though Charles became King of Grenoble as well as of France and England, he nonetheless retained the autonomy of Grenoble-Savoy and its local customs, granting it greater privileges than before. Importantly, the war was the beginning of a break between the House of Lancaster and the House of Vaudémont (Kings of Aragon, Sicily and Naples, Dukes of Anjou, Lorraine and Bar, Counts of Vaudémont and Provence).

By far the greater threat, however, was to come from within the double-kingdom. When Charles died in 1536, he left no heir but his daughter, Eleanor – a fact that legally ought to have brought the entire Lancastrian project to an end. By English law, Eleanor was the new Queen of England; yet by French law, the crown of France could not pass to a woman, and would instead pass to her uncle, Jean, Duke of Brittany (an independent country ruled through the claim of his wife, Anne of Brittany).

Fortunately for Eleanor, Jean de Bretagne was close ally of the York-Neville faction, and generally considered pro-English: in addition to the Yorkists, he was associated with the “Outremanche” faction (nobles whose power bases remained north of the Channel) and the “Cotentin” faction (nobles with interests close to those of England). His four years of quarrel with Eleanor, therefore, was largely a low-key affair of local rebellions and diplomacy – which cost him his son, Édouard.

Events became more dramatic with the assassination of Jean, as this moved the Salic claim to a noble closer to the interests of the French nativists. The French, however, could not agree on who that person might be. The leader of the rebellion was Charles, Duke of Orléans, descendent of Henri II’s younger brother; but a substantial faction favoured Louis of Valois, descendent of the disinherited son of Charles VI.

The war dragged on for seven more years, with Eleanor at one point forced to flee to Scotland, but its conclusion was inevitable. The death of Jean had moved the Yorkists and their allies into the camp of Eleanor, who therefore claimed the loyalty of all of England and Burgundy, and substantial numbers among the French nobles. Too many Frenchmen had cousins in England now, or English grandfathers, to want the union to dissolve at this point.

The lasting effect of the Salic Wars was a further commingling of lands, as loyalists on both sides of the channel was granted the lands of the defeated rebels. With French overwhelmingly the language of trade and poetry even in England, there were increasingly few real distinction between the two countries.

Above all, the wars favoured York – members of the intertwined York-Neville dynasty now held control of huge swathes of France and England, and in particular the head of the dynasty, Richard I, King of Navarre through his maternal line and Duke of Mercœur through his paternal line, now gained through his wife the sovereign Duchy of Brittany and the considerable Duchy of Guyenne, adjacent to his royal holdings (created as an appanage for Jean de Bretagne by his father, King Édouard).

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One thought on “An Alternative History of Europe, III

  1. […] One, Two, Three, Four and Five were put up – I meant to bring it up to the present day, but never got around […]

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