MA Thesis Oral Presentation, Brendan Egan - "‘Bore by discent and by title of right, justly to reigne in England and in Fraunce’: Literature Directed at English Kings During the Hundred Years War"
Date and Time
Mackinnon Extension Room 2020
The Hundred Years War (1337-1453) was one of the longest military engagements of the middle ages, and one of its most significant. Yet while the conflict’s political, military, and socio-cultural aspects have been well-studied, the literature composed during the period has not. Thus, this thesis attempts to fill a gap in the scholarship of the Hundred Years War by analyzing the literature directed at four of the five successive English kings who took part in the conflict – Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI (c. 1377-1453) – by way of manuscript dedications, addresses, and gifts. While the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV coincided with a period of relative Anglo-French peace, Henry V was responsible for a resumption of hostilities and the pinnacle of English power on the continent as embodied by the Treaty of Troyes, and Henry VI’s reign witnessed attempts to formally institute the dual monarchy as explicated by Troyes but was also responsible for England’s decline and eventual defeat in 1453.
As a result, the works of writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Hoccleve, and William Worcester, among others, not only mirrored the various phases of the war but also attempted to guide its progression by contributing to the wider discourse on war and peace, educating their recipients on their kingly responsibilities, and celebrating and cementing their rights to the French crown. These efforts by English writers are contrasted with the works of their French counterparts – including Philippe de Mézières, Christine de Pizan, and Alain Chartier – who dedicated and addressed a number of works to Charles VI, the dauphin Louis, and Charles VII which equally contributed to the discussion on war and peace, attempted to educate French kings on their responsibilities, and importantly urged them to challenge the English claim. Such a comparison further emphasizes the purpose of these works. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates that a number of English writers active during the conflict used their texts as tools of indirect diplomacy, advice, and education to compliment and achieve English aims in the Hundred Years War.
Advisor: Dr Susannah Ferreira
Committee Member: Dr. Elizabeth Ewan
Chair: Dr. Norman Smith
External Examiner: Dr. Peter Goddard