- Two rare letters from the 100 Years War, carried by Royal Messenger
The two letters relate to an English military success at Harfleur in 1440, towards the end of the 100 Years War (1337-1453).
Fascinating early philatelic artefacts from a key period of English history
- Includes a letter sent by Edmund Beaufort - a leading figure in the Wars of the Roses
The 100 Years War is the name given by historians to the long and intermittent struggle between England and France, which lasted for 116 years from 1337 to 1453.
The English Plantagenet kings sought to assert their claim to the throne in France.
The war effectively ended with the English defeat at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, with English rule thereafter confined to Calais and its environs.
Both letters relate to the Battle of Harfleur, which began in April 1440.
Harfleur was the principal seaport of north western France and was of great strategic importance.
Edmund Beaufort began the siege in April 1440, hoping to emulate the success of Henry V who had captured the town 25 years earlier on the way to Agincourt.
By December the French garrison had surrendered, and Harfleur was back in English hands, where it remained for nine years.
The letters comprise:
1. A September 25, 1440 receipt for money paid to Robert Sutton.
Sutton was the captain of a company of knights, footsoldiers and archers at the siege of Harfleur in the spring of 1440. Carried by royal messenger.
2. A December 31, 1440 letter in French from Edmund Beaufort (1406-1455).
Edmund Beaufort commanded the English force at Harfleur. His rivalry with Richard, Duke of York, was a leading cause of the Wars of the Roses.
5¼ x 13 inches.
The letter acknowledges Edmund's receipt of 150 livres from Pierre Baille, the receiver general of Normandy. Edmund had spent the sum on expeditions and spying missions into the marches of Picardy during the siege of Harfleur, to gain intelligence about the enemy.
Translation from French:
'We, Edmund [Beaufort] Earl of Dorset, Mortaing and Harcourt, acknowledge having received from Pierre Baille, Receiver-General of Normandy, the sum of 150 livres tournois which we have expended and sent on several expeditions and spies sent by us into the marches of Picardy and elsewhere to gain intelligence of the action and escort of the adversaries of my Lord the King during the siege latterly laid to Harfleur by us and otherwise. We have made this payment in accordance with the letter of my Lord the King of 10 November last, with which sum of 150 livres tournois we are content and well paid. And we acknowledge receipt by these presents to my said Lord the King, the Receiver-General and all others. In witness of which we have sealed these presents with our seal, the last day of December, 1440.'
Carried by Royal messenger.
Documents referring to spies of this period are rare.
Both letters are likely in the hand of secretaries.
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