On this day, December 16th 1431 nine-year-old King Henry VI of England was crowned King of France in the Notre Dame de Paris succeeding his maternal grandfather, the English claimed, through right of his father’s (Henry V) victory at the Battle of Agincourt. The Treaty of Troyes- or ‘final peace’- that resulted from the victory saw Henry V married to Katherine of Valois, the daughter of King Charles VI, and nominated King of France once Charles VI died, a treaty that by-passed Charles’ son also called Charles and which left the french somewhat out of sorts with themselves.
However, Henry V died in August 1422 from dysentry leaving his infant son to ascend to the English throne and Henry’s brother the duke of Bedford nominated as regent in France with the job of keeping the french in line which proved rather difficult once Joan of Arc offered her own inspiration to the campaign.
The party that arrived in France to crown Henry V’s son in 1430 – a whole year before the coronation- included three bishops, one of whom was John Stafford, Bishop of Bath and Wells. For a more detailed description of the coronation and the politics surrounding it click on the image at the start of the post to open a new page.
Stafford is a famous name in late medieval history and the Bishop of Bath and Wells was related to the duke of Buckingham – possibly on the wrong side of the blanket, though the evidence is flimsy. His patron was Cardinal Beaufort the king’s great uncle. He became Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1424. By 1443 Stafford rose to the rank of Archbishop of Canterbury, in all probability a reward for his work as Lord Chancellor. He held the post until 1452 when he died. He seems to have held fast to Beaufort’s policies which made him a figure of continuity in English politics at the time and thus of stability.
Stafford was a moderate man who helped maintain the balance of Henry VI’s court. Although he supported the hugely unpopular William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk who managed to get himself banished and then murdered (1450), Stafford did not get tarred with the same brush. In the aftermath of Cade’s rebellion which stemmed partially from Kentish fears of being held responsible for de la Pole’s death the archbishop was found in Kent investigating the rebellion and trying the rebels. Stubbs in his Constitutional History said of the bishop Bishop Stubbs- ‘if he had done little good he had done no harm’ – hardly a ringing endorsement.