Letter Sent by Duke of Bedford
to Charles VII
The text below comprises a letter sent by the Duke of Bedford (John of Lancaster) to Charles VII in early August of 1429 shortly after Charles was crowned King in Reims.
The letter openly insults both Charles and Joan of Arc and challenges Charles to meet the English in open battle. This letter provides some interesting insight into the Duke of Bedford and how he operated.
"We John of Lancaster, regent of France and duke of Bedford, make known to you Charles de Valois, who were wont to style yourself Dauphin of Vienne, but at present without cause call yourself king, for wrongfully do you make attempts against the crown and dominion of the very high, most excellent and renowned prince Henry, by the grace of God true and natural lord of the kingdoms of France and England,---deceiving the simple people by your telling them you come to give peace and security, which is not the fact, nor can it be done by the means you have pursued and are now following to seduce and abuse ignorant people, with the aid of superstitious and damnable persons, such as a woman of a disorderly and infamous life, and dissolute manners, dressed in the clothes of a man, together with an apostate and seditious mendicant friar, as we have been informed, both of whom are, according to holy Scripture, abominable in the sight of God. You have also gained possession, by force of arms, of the country of Champagne,[of which Rheims is the provincial seat.] and of several towns and castles appertaining to my said lord the king, the inhabitants of which you have induced to perjure themselves by breaking the peace which had been most solemnly sworn to by the then kings of France and England, the great barons, peers, prelates, and three estates of the realm.
We, to defend and guard the right of our said lord the king, and to repulse you from his territories, by the aid of the All-Powerful, have taken the field in person, and with the means God has given us, as you may have heard, shall pursue you from place to place in the hope of meeting you, which we have never yet done. As we most earnestly and heartily desire a final end to the war, we summon and require of you, if you be a prince desirous of gaining honor, to take compassion on the poor people, who have, on your account, been so long and so grievously harassed, that an end may be put to their afflictions, by terminating this war. Choose, therefore, in this country of Brie, where we both are, and not very distant from each other, any competent place for us to meet, and having fixed on a day, appear there with the abandoned woman, the apostate monk, and all your perjured allies, and such force as you may please to bring, when we will, with God's pleasure, personally meet you in the name and as the representative of my lord the king.
Should it then please you to make any proposals respecting peace, we will do every thing that may be expected from a catholic prince, for we are always inclined to conclude a solid peace, not such a false and treacherous one as that of Montereau-faut-Yonne, when, through your connivance, that most horrid and disgraceful murder was committed contrary to every law of chivalry and honour, on the person of our late very dear and well-beloved father duke John of Burgundy, whose soul may God receive!16 By means of this peace so wickedly violated by you, upwards of one hundred nobles have deserted your realm, as may be clearly shown by the letters patent under your hand and seal, by which you have absolutely and unreservedly acquitted them of every oath of loyalty, fealty and subjection. However, if from the iniquity and malice of mankind peace cannot be obtained, we may each of us then with our swords defend the cause of our quarrel before God, as our judge, and to whom and none other will my said lord refer it. We therefore most humbly supplicate the Almighty, as knowing the right of my lord in this matter, that he would dispose the hearts of this people so that they may remain in peace without further oppressions; and such ought to be the object of all Christian kings and princes in regard to their subjects.
We, therefore, without using more arguments or longer delay, make known our proposals to you, which should you refuse, and should further murders and mischiefs be, through your fault, committed by a continuation of the war, we call God to witness, and protest before him and the world, that we are no way the cause, and that we have done and do our duty. We therefore profess our willingness to consent to a solid and reasonable peace, and, should that be rejected, then to resort to open combat becoming princes, when no other means can accommodate their differences. In testimony whereof, we have had these presents sealed with our seal.
Given at Montereau-faut-Yonne the 7th day of August, in the year of Grace 1429. Signed by my lord the regent of France and duke of Bedford."