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Burgundians, Orleanists and Armagnacs:
French politics in the age of Agincourt

Whenever I have read about Henry V, Agincourt and the Treaty of Troyes I have stumbled over the French context. It was clear that the French were deeply divided but who were all these people – the Burgundians, Orleanists and Armagnacs? Who was supporting who and were any of them on the same side? Happily, I’ve finally solved my problems by outlining the activity below which has been developed by Louisa Dunn, one of the teachers on the HA’s Agincourt Teacher Fellowship programme in 2016.

We hope this activity helps A level students studying the reigns of Henry IV and Henry V – and any of their teachers who have the same problem I’ve had!

The real key to remembering who’s supporting who is to remember ‘vowels against the rest’ i.e. the vowels A and O (Armagnacs and Orleanists) are names for the same group and they were against the consonant-led Burgundians.

Easy really!

Support

A WORD version of this activity (including the Role Cards) can be downloaded [ here … ]

Objectives

By the end of the activity students will be able to identify and explain:

• the key individuals involved in French politics c.1400-1420 and who supported whom

• the reasons for divisions amongst French leaders

• the major events – the assassinations of Louis of Orleans (1407) and John of Burgundy (1419)

Resources

• A Crown

• Tabards for the nine individuals in the personnel list below

• Role cards for the individuals listed below

Personnel

King Charles VI – reigned 1380-1422. Charles was intermittently insane from 1392, sometimes believing he was made of glass and would break if touched. His condition deteriorated after 1400

Queen  Isabel – wife of Charles VI and mother of the Dauphin. Died 1435

The Dauphin, heir to the French throne. In fact there were two Dauphins in this period – Louis (1397-1415) and then Charles (born 1403), who became Charles VII (1422-1461)

Louis, Duke of Orleans (1372-1407) – brother of Charles VI and uncle of the Dauphin

Charles Duke of Orleans (1394-1465) – son of Louis of Orleans, cousin of the Dauphin, prisoner in England 1415-1440. Married Bonne of Armagnac

Bernard, Count of Armagnac and his daughter Bonne – Armagnac was an ally of the Orleanists and married his daughter, Bonne to Charles of Orleans in 1410. She died in the early 1430s

John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy (1371-1419) – cousin of Charles VI and ruler of the independent state of Burgundy

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396-1467) – became Duke of Burgundy after his father was murdered in 1419. Allied with England after the murder until 1435

The Activity Script

As teacher you take the part of narrator and director – if you ask students to make a choice in role then your task is to make them think again or explain why a different choice was made by that character at the time so you don’t move away from the course of historical events.

1. Issue the tabards and role-cards to students – the remaining students should note down what happens, maybe on a whiteboard.  Depending on the size of your group you could ask each note-taker to focus on the role of a particular person.

[Given Charles’s madness think carefully about which student has the role – choose someone popular and confident?]

2. Announce that it is 1406 – in practice it doesn’t matter which year it is before 1407 but everyone is helped by having a specific date as it identifies the exact age of the Dauphin (see stage 4).

3. Seat Charles VI on a chair in the centre with his crown on.

Tell everyone Charles is intermittently mad – ask him whether there’s anything he’s afraid of (he thinks he is made of glass so fears breaking if touched).

Ask Charles – what role will you play in government? (not a big or consistent  one)

Ask everyone – Who might lead the country instead? Aim to get students asking who the heir is.

4. Introduce 4 people - Queen Isabel, the Dauphin, Louis, Duke of Orleans, and John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy.

Place Orleans and Burgundy on either side of the royal family to show their opposition to each other.

Ask the Dauphin why he can’t rule immediately (answer – too young as he’s aged 9)

Ask each of the other three characters why they think they should control the Dauphin and lead the government as Regent in Charles’ place? Characters need to use information on role-cards.

Ask Isabel – what is your aim for the future? (answer – son inherits crown)

Explain that Louis of Orleans acted as Regent but that this caused conflict with Isabel and especially with John, duke of Burgundy.

Ask Burgundy how he feels about Orleans (answer deeply resents Orleans’ role and power).

5. Moving on in time - the year is 1407

The royal government is being reformed – almost all of Burgundy’s supporters have been removed.

Ask Burgundy how he feels about this and what he could do.

6. Announce breaking news! John Duke of Burgundy has employed assassins to murder Louis, Duke of Orleans (you could use spare students as assassins) – Louis should remove tabard and return to his seat.

Ask John why he did this and what he hopes to gain.

Introduce Charles of Orleans, Louis’s son, as the new Duke of Orleans – ask him how he feels?

7. King Charles (during one of his increasingly rare periods of lucidity) forges a reconciliation – get Burgundy and Orleans to shake hands.

Announce that Burgundy is now sole guardian of the Dauphin and is leading figure in government.

Ask Isabel – will you support Burgundy? (answer – yes as don’t want to endanger son’s inheritance)

Ask Orleans – why accept this reconciliation – are they really friends? (no! – but Burgundy is too powerful to challenge)

8. 1410 – ask Orleans what he needs to reduce Burgundy’s power (answer - support of other nobles)

Introduce Bernard, count of Armagnac – one of several nobles who dislike Burgundy.

Ask Bernard if he’ll support Orleans against Burgundy (answer – yes to reduce Burgundy’s power).

Ask Bernard how he can cement alliance with Orleans – maybe a marriage alliance? Bring in 11 year old Bonne of Armagnac and place her next to Charles of Orleans as sign of marriage.

Orleans, Armagnac and others pledged to ‘fight against those who are damaging the welfare and honour of the king and the kingdom’ – i.e. the Duke of Burgundy.

From this point this group are known as either Orleanists or Armagnacs – tell students it’s easy to be confused by this but that both names begin with vowels and remember vowels on the same side.

[You may not want to include this detail if it adds unnecessary complexity but - both sides now tried to win support from the English in their fight against each other. This alerted England to the depth of French divisions and encouraged Henry V’s hopes of success once he became king]

9. Fast forward in time to 1415 – English invasion. Are the French lords going to try to work together to fight England? (answer –yes)

Battle of Agincourt – Charles of Orleans is captured and taken to England as a prisoner (he should sit in a corner – designated as Tower of London).

Ask Burgundy how he feels? (answer – chance to take control)

Ask Armagnac if he will accept Burgundy taking control (answer – No)

Ask Isabel – what will you do? (answer – whatever helps son’s inheritance)

[At this point the Dauphin Louis died and was succeeded by his younger brother Charles who later became Charles VII – he’s NOT Charles of Orleans! This detail need not be included as it’s distracting from the main thread of events.]

10. Explain that between 1417-19 England conquered much of northern France. Charles VI is incapacitated again. (Cue student as English soldier walking across waving an England flag?)

11. Fast forward to 1419 and the bridge in the town of Montereau. A meeting has been arranged to discuss ways of dealing with the English. Burgundy, the Dauphin and Armagnac attend (you may like to employ some spare students as supporters).

12. Announce news from the bridge at Montereau – John of Burgundy is assassinated by supporters of Orleans/Armagnac in revenge for 1407. (John should remove tabard and return to his seat).

Ask Armagnac – who is being revenged? (answer - Louis of Orleans murdered by Burgundy in 1407)

Introduce Burgundy’s son, Phillip. Ask – will you ally with Orleans/Armagnac for the good of France to fight the English invaders? (answer – no)

Burgundy allied with England, an alliance which lasted to 1435 and greatly strengthened England’s position against France.

13. 1420 – announce the Treaty of Troyes 1420, that disinherited the Dauphin, married Henry V to Catherine of Valois (sister of the Dauphin) and made Henry V heir to the throne of France.

Ask students: It was said that that the English got into France through the hole in John the Fearless’ skull. What does that mean?

Debriefing

1. Ask students to retell the story of events, identifying at least two key moments, both verbally and in writing.

2. Ask students to take up their positions in the role-play but without tabards as reminders.

3. Ask students what they have learned which may help to explain Henry V’s successes in France.

Role Cards

Note: The role cards are provided in the form of a table in the WORD document

King Charles VI – reigned 1380-1422. Charles was intermittently insane from 1392, sometimes believing he was made of glass and would break if touched. His condition deteriorated after 1400

Queen Isabel – wife of Charles VI and mother of the Dauphin. Her aim throughout was to ensure that her sons, Louis, then Charles, would inherit the crown

The Dauphin, heir to the French throne. There were two Dauphins in this period – Louis (1397-1415) and then Charles (born 1403), who became Charles VII (1422-1461)

Louis, Duke of Orleans (1372-1407) – brother of Charles VI and uncle of the Dauphin

Charles Duke of Orleans (1394-1465) – son of Louis of Orleans, cousin of the Dauphin, prisoner in England 1415-1440. Married Bonne of Armagnac

Bernard, Count of Armagnac – he was an ally of the Orleanists and married his daughter, Bonne to Charles Duke of Orleans in 1410

Bonne of Armagnac, young daughter of Bernard Count of Armagnac. Born in 1399

John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy (1371-1419) – cousin of Charles VI and ruler of the independent state of Burgundy. One of the most powerful men in western Europe. Burgundy was the centre of trade with England so wanted to maintain good relations with England to help trade

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1396-1467) – became Duke of Burgundy after his father was murdered in 1419

Feedback

Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

This Page

Introduction

Support

Objectives

Resources

Personnel

The Activity Script

Debriefing

Role Cards

Feedback