Chapter 1 - The Oncoming of War
January 1st 1337 - York
Edward III. King of England
Edward stood alone in the great hall of York Castle, waiting for his Privy Council to assemble. It would be a much different year than the last, he reflected. War with France was looming ever closer, and it would a far different affair than the recent wars with Scotland. Though when war would come, Edward was not sure, nor if he would be fully ready.
He paused too look out the window at the fresh snowfall, which was covering the land in a serene blanket of fine white powder. He momentarily thought of his younger brother, John of Eltham, who had died in the September of what was now the last year. Edward sighed. He would have to choose a new Earl of Cornwall, for John had left no heir. There were no shortage of candidates, for the were several fine men who had served Edward well in Scotland that were due substantial rewards, but what did he give to whom?
The sudden cough behind Edward brought him back from his thoughts. He looked round and saw his Marshal, and bodyguard, John Darcy waiting impassively at the entrance to the hall.
‘They’re ready, sire’ John stated formally.
‘Thank you John, show them in’ Edward smiled, graciously.
The handful of men that made up Edward’s Privy Council entered the hall. His chancellor, John de Ufford, was an ecclesiastical trained man, with a skill and flair for diplomacy that almost matched Edward’s. His spy master, Alan Mortimer, a cruel young man, but one who knew his business well, and garnered much vital information for Edward, and would no doubt be busy over the upcoming months. The steward of the realm, Anselm of Cumberland had a sharp military brain, but was hampered by a clubbed foot, Edward knew of no one better with his money than Anselm. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas of Chester had also travelled with his King. Thomas was fine man, whom Edward respected for being just and honest. There was also Edward’s old marshal, John Darcy. At 47, John was past his physical peek, yet Edward still knew him to be a match for any man in his kingdom.
The final man in the great hall was not a member of Edward’s Privy Council, and received a withering look from Alan Mortimer.
‘Should he be in here with us, sire?’ Alan asked, betraying his agitation.
‘Yes, Alan. I don’t think we have the right to deny a man the freedom of his own home!’ everyone laughed at the small joke, causing a deeper scowl to appear on Alan’s face ‘Asides, Robert’s ideas are always appreciated’ Edward smiled warmly at Robert d’Artois. Appreciated, but not always particularly practical, Edward thought to himself.
‘Anyway gentlemen, down to business’ Edward’s sharp remark broke the jovial mood ‘As we all know, Philippe of Valois has demanded I release Robert to him, to face punishment for crimes he has not committed. This is simply intolerable. I will not betray one of my vassals in such a manner’ Edward suppressed a smile as he caught sight of Robert frantically nodding his head in agreement.
‘I have told Philippe as much, and no doubt he will react by trying to confiscate our lands in Aquitaine. Be in no doubt gentlemen, there will be war with France this year.’ Edward paused to let his words sink in ‘I have called the magnates and prelates to assemble in London on the 28th of this month. There, this matter will be discussed fully. But I wish to speak to each of you now about other concerns I have’ Edward looked round at each man in the room, their faces staring intently at him.
‘John de Ufford’ Edward started with his chancellor ‘Were you able to dispatch an envoy before we left London?’
‘Yes, your highness, the Bishop of Lincoln has been dispatched to speak with the Holy Roman Emperor and offer him the wool subsidies and incentives for alliance. We should have a message from him any day now’ The chancellor gazed at the King, and fidgeted.
‘What is it John de Ufford?’
‘I just wonder, your highness, are we offering too much?’
‘Too much?’ Edward smiled ‘Let me worry about the finances, John. Just get me an alliance, I do not think we can take the full might of France alone’ he turned to look at his marshal ‘what say you John Darcy?’
The marshal snorted with derision ‘We can beat them well enough, sire. But of course, the problem is, they can bring more men to us. So we’d have to beat them all over again. An alliance makes sense, but I’m not sure I trust those damn Germans!’
‘My wife’s one of those damn Germans, John’ Edward said quietly. The Marshal looked aghast.
‘I meant no offence, sire! I was not speaking of her majesty the queen, I have full and utt…’ Edward cut off John’s recriminations with a hearty chuckle.
‘John, I was merely teasing.’ The smile vanished from Edward’s face ‘Can you give me an estimate of how many men we could call upon?’ his mind, once more working the machinery of government.
‘Yes sire, I reckon we’ve got around 100 000 men who could be called upon to fight. But getting them all there is another matter’
Edward stroked his beard and contemplated that number for a few seconds. He looked at his spymaster.
‘Alan, do you know how many Philippe can call upon?’
Mortimer gave a thin, smug, smile. He had been expecting such a question from Edward for quite some time.
‘My reports place the limit on the number that Philippe can draw on as around 140 000. Anything else you wish to know, sire?’
Edward stared coldly at his spymaster. His disliked the man, but there was no doubting he was good at his job, and he never sought glory for himself, which was something going for him, Edward decided.
The relative manpower of England to France
‘Anselm’ Edward turned to face his Steward ‘What are our finances like?’
‘Good, highness’ was Anselm’s stunted reply. He resented by made a mere banker when he knew he was capable of so much more. Edward looked at him poignantly, expecting more. ‘We bring in more than 100 gold coins a month, highness’
Edward sighed. The man was almost impossible. ‘Thank you Steward. I have orders for you. I want to commence construction on new Training Ground facilities in Essex, Bedfordshire, Bristol, Dorset and Somerset. Please arrange it all’
‘Yes, highness’ was the sullen reply.
‘Well gentlemen, now that I’ve dealt with that, I would like to discuss tactics with you’ Edward unrolled the map that was on the table in middle of the great hall. It was a detailed map of England and France.
‘What I propose’ Edward began ‘is once we secure our alliance with the Holy Roman Empire, we shall attack Northern France. We can count on support from my father, and brothers-in-law. Our objective will be to bring Philippe of Valois to battle, and defeat him, decisively. This will bring him to negotiations, where we shall settle the issue of Aquitaine, and force him to withdraw his support for the Bruce!’ Edward looked pleased with himself. It was a good plan. He looked expectantly at his Privy Council.
England and France on January 1st, 1337
It was Robert d’Artois who first spoke. ‘An Excellent plan, sire! And by going to Northern France, I shall be able to assist you once more with my knowledge and information of the region!’
Edward hid a lopsided grin, he liked Robert, and considered him a good friend. But he did rather sometimes get ideas above himself, for Robert had not been in France for 3 years now. He looked at his Marshal
‘Marshal, your thoughts?’
‘What of the Scots, sire? They’re allied to the French, and will surely want to cause trouble.’
‘True. That is why we shall leave the men of the Northern Counties to guard border. I’m sure the Bishop of Durham is up to the task, would you not agree Archbishop?’
The Archbishop of Canterbury blinked for a few seconds. He had drifted off to sleep having not been involved in the conversation, and was frantically trying to decide what it was the King wanted of him.
‘Uh… yes, most certainly, sire’
Edward grinned, despite himself. It was not often that he got to torment the senior member of the Holy Church, and he chalked it down as a minor victory. And he knew he could count on his old tutor to look after the North when he was in France.
‘I thought so as well, Archbishop’ he looked round at his council one final time ‘are there any questions?’ There was a collective shaking of heads ‘then I thank you for your time, gentlemen’
They started to leave the great hall when Edward called out suddenly
‘Archbishop, I would have a word with you, in private.’ The Archbishop stopped, and turned back towards the King.
‘How can I help you, your highness?’
‘Will you be staying in London upon our return?’
‘I had planned too, for awhile, yes’
‘Good. I ask two things of you, Thomas. I ask you be the one to bury my brother in Westminster.’ Thomas nodded solemnly ‘And the other, your highness?’
‘I have no doubt I will need your fine oratory skills when the time comes to announce to the people of war, and the justness of our cause, do you support this, Thomas?’
Thomas looked reflective for a few seconds.
‘I have no doubt that God is with us in this endeavour, your highness.’
Edward sagged a little. ‘That is good to hear. Thank you Thomas’
The Archbishop turned and left the room. Edward stood alone for a moment, then walked back to the table, and stared at the map. He was embarking on a path that would lead two of the greatest kingdoms in Christendom to war once more. And how many more men would die in their name, he wondered? What would he be able to take off Philippe?
‘What kind of enemy are you, cousin?’ Edward muttered to himself, before turning, and leaving the room.
Philippe VI. King of France, and Edward's enemy.
Edward's Privy Council was nothing like the one I put into the post, it's just one of the things where I have to bend history to match the CK model. For example, Thomas of Chester was not Archbishop of Canterbury, that honour belonged to John de Stretford. However, lacking a de Stretford in my court, Thomas gets to be Diocese Bishop, and a promotion to Archbishop!