War of Saint-Sardos
|War of Saint-Sardos|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Edward II of England;
Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent;
Hugh le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester
| Charles IV of France;
Charles of Valois;
Gaston II of Foix-Béarn
The War of Saint-Sardos was a short war fought between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France in 1324. The war was a clear defeat for the English, and led indirectly to the overthrowing of Edward II of England. The war can also be seen as one of the precursors of the Hundred Years' War.
During the reign of King Philip IV of France and his sons, France's monarchy gradually expanded its authority, as the power of the king grew at the expense of the nobles. One of the chief tools in this process was the Parlement of Paris, which allowed people to appeal the decisions of lower courts. During these appeals their possessions were under the direct protection of the Crown, weakening one of the most important privileges of the nobility: that of jurisdiction over their own lands.
One of those who felt this encroachment the most was Edward II, King of England and Duke of Aquitaine. As Duke of Aquitaine, he ruled Gascony as a French vassal, the last remnant of the Angevin Empire. The French kings wanted this last English foothold gone too, and were very eager to settle disputes between the Duke and his subjects. Thus, unless he wanted a direct confrontation, Edward II could do little but watch the duchy dwindle away as numerous small cases were decided against him.
Litigations and negotiations
One of these was the small village of Saint-Sardos. The village was within the jurisdiction of the Duke of Aquitaine, but it also contained a Benedictine priory and the priory's motherhouse, the Abbey of Sarlat, lay outside. In 1318, the abbot petitioned Parlement to declare Saint-Sardos exempt from the King-Duke's jurisdiction. He also offered to build a bastide there. The case proceeded slowly, but in December 1322, the Parlement ruled in the abbot's favour. On 15 October 1323, a royal sergeant arrived at Saint-Sardos and erected a stake bearing the Arms of the King of France.
Local landowners were not too pleased. They feared that the new bastide would attract settlers from their own estates and thus diminish their own incomes. The night after the sergeant's arrival, Raymond-Bernard, lord of Monpezat, raided Saint-Sardos. He burned the village to the ground and hanged the sergeant at his own stake.
Edward II had more than enough problems at home, and did not need a diplomatic crisis with France. As soon as the news reached him, he sent letters offering his apologies and proclaiming his innocence. He was not believed. Ralph Basset, the Seneschal of Gascony and highest English official in France, had met with Raymond-Bernard only two days before the raid. The French government accused him for authorising the crime. He was probably guilty.
The English employed what means they could to prolong the proceedings without making any great concessions. Basset was recalled in March 1324 and in April, an embassy was sent to France with instructions to negotiate a peaceful settlement, if possible. This embassy was led by Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent and the Archbishop of Dublin Alexander de Bicknor. But time was quickly running out. King Charles IV of France had ordered his army to muster on the borders of Aquitaine in June.
The ambassadors received a chilly welcome when they arrived at Paris and first promised that Montpezat would be surrendered. They then travelled to Bordeaux to see to the fulfillment of the agreement. There they learned that Charles IV's conduct of the affair had caused much indignation among the local nobility. The Earl of Kent therefore changed his mind and decided to resist. The French officials were forced to return empty-handed. New ambassadors were sent, but too late; before they could arrive Charles IV declared the duchy forfeit.
In August 1324 Charles of Valois, the king's uncle, invaded Aquitaine. The English were poorly prepared: many garrisons were little more than skeleton forces, and some locations had no troops at all. Aided by local nobles, such as the Count of Foix, and approximately 7,000 troops, Charles of Valois swept through the region and ended the war less than six weeks after it had begun. Most towns surrendered immediately. The stiffest resistance came from the Earl of Kent at La Réole, who managed to hold out for a few weeks before he too surrendered. A truce was worked out which, as it turned out, would be the permanent end to this short conflict.
The French were, for the time being, satisfied by the detachment of the Agenais from Aquitaine, rather than the confiscation of the entire duchy. However, the war reverberated loudly in English politics. Hugh le Despenser, the elder, whose military ineptitude and failure to relieve La Réole had led to the quick collapse of English resistance, was forced to send Queen Isabella to France to negotiate terms. She took her son Edward of Windsor, to whom Edward II had resigned Aquitaine and Ponthieu, that he might do homage for them. When they returned, it would be for the ruin of the Despensers and Edward II himself.