Congress of Arras
The Congress of Arras was a diplomatic congregation established in Arras in 1435 between representatives of England, France, and Burgundy. Toward the close of the Hundred Years' War, both the Congress and Treaty of Arras represented diplomatic failures for England and major successes for France.
English negotiators entered the congress believing it was a peace negotiation between England and France only. They proposed an extended truce and a marriage between adolescent King Henry VI of England and a daughter of French king Charles VII of France. The English were unwilling to renounce their claim to the crown of France. This position prevented meaningful negotiation. The English delegation broke off from the congress in mid-session to put down a raid by French captains Xaintrailles and La Hire.
Meanwhile the French delegation and leading clergy urged Philip the Good of Burgundy to reconcile with Charles VII. Burgundy was an appanage at the time, virtually an independent state, and had been allied with England since the murder of Philip's father in 1419. Charles VII had been at least complicit in that crime. The English delegation returned to find that their ally had switched sides. English regent John, Duke of Bedford died on 14 September 1435, one week before the congress concluded.
Treaty of Arras
The congress gave rise to the Treaty of Arras, which was signed in 1435 and became an important diplomatic achievement for the French in the closing years of the Hundred Years' War. Overall, it reconciled a longstanding feud between King Charles VII of France and Duke Philip of Burgundy. Philip recognized Charles VII as king of France and, in return, Philip was exempted from homage to the crown and Charles agreed to punish the murderers of Philip's father John of Burgundy. By breaking the alliance between Burgundy and England, Charles VII consolidated his position as King of France against a rival claim by Henry VI of England. The political distinction between Armagnacs and Burgundians ceased to be significant from this time onward. France already had Scotland as an ally and England was left isolated. From 1435 onward, English occupation in France underwent steady decline.
The congress' limited success was facilitated by representatives of Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Basel. Members of each of these delegations wrote legal opinions absolving Duke Philip from his obligations to England.
Details of the agreement between France and Burgundy
Charles VII disavowed participation in the assassination of John the Fearless, father of Philip the Bold, condemned the act and promised to punish the perpetrators.
Furthermore the following domains became vassal states of the Duke of Burgundy :
- The County of Auxerre and the County of Boulogne,
- The cities on the Somme and Péronne.
- The Vermandois with its capital Saint-Quentin.
In return, Burgundy recognized Charles VII as King of France and returned the County of Tonnerre. Philip the Good was exempted from rendering homage, fealty or service to Charles VII (for he still believed that the king may have been complicit in his father's murder); but at the death of either the king or the duke the homage would have to be resumed.
- Charles, John Foster Kirk, History of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, (J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1863), 36.
- Burgundian (party)
- English history
- French history
- France in the Middle Ages
- Hundred Years' War
- List of treaties
- Joycelyne Gledhill Dickinson, The Congress of Arras, 1435: A Study in Medieval Diplomacy New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1972.
- A book excerpt covering the era
- A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times by François Pierre Guillaume Guizot, Volume 3