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Congress of Arras

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Congress of Arras
Français 5054, fol. 86, Conférences d'Arras (1435).jpg
Small 15th century illustration from Vigiles de Charles VII depicting the congress
TypePeace congress
ContextHundred Years' War
Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War
Date5 August – 21 September 1435 (1435-08-05 – 1435-09-21)[1]
PlaceArras, County of Artois, France
France moderne.svg
Kingdom of France
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg
Kingdom of England
Arms of Philippe le Bon.svg
Duchy of Burgundy
OutcomeThe English walked out after no agreement was reached
Treaty of Arras between France and Burgundy

The Congress of Arras was a diplomatic congregation established at Arras in the summer of 1435 during the Hundred Years' War, between representatives of England, France, and Burgundy. Toward the close of the Hundred Years' War, both the Congress and the subsequent Treaty of Arras represented diplomatic failures for England and major successes for France.

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When the Western Front became a stalemate in 1914 the Allies began looking for new places further and further afield to try and breakthrough. From Gallipoli to Palestine to the Tigris River they’d had high hopes, but to no avail. And more high hopes come crashing down this week as Russian, French, British, Italian, and Serbian forces - the five nation army - fail in Macedonia. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, French army Chief of Staff Robert Nivelle was fired because of French disasters in the field, and replaced by Philippe Petain. The British ended the week with a huge disaster of their own in the field, but prepared for more attacks. The Russians, their army crippled by desertion and mutinous behavior, still vow to continue the war. Indeed, the war continued everywhere and one such place was the Macedonian Front. The Allied plan this week against the Bulgarians and Germans was for the Italians and French, with a Russian infantry brigade, to attack at Crna Bend, the Serbs would attack in their sector, and the British would attack east of the Vardar. In fact, General Maurice Sarrail planned a frontal assault on the whole length of the enemy lines by the French and Italians, which his commanders were pretty skeptical about. I mean, we’ve seen before how daunting the Bulgarian defensive system was, possibly the best on any front, and they had the heights, with dozens of searchlights blazing down on the Allies in battle. They were also backed by German heavy artillery and Austrian howitzers. Still, on the 5th, 91 French and Italian artillery batteries opened up on the enemy. The bombardment lasted for four days but did not significantly damage the enemy’s defenses. At 6:30 AM on May 9th, the French, Italian, and Russian infantry attacked. It was a failure. During the assault the Bulgarians took just under 700 casualties. Add the 1,000 or so they’d taken in the barrage and that’s 1,700ish. I don’t know the German figures, but they may be a bit higher since they were in the thick of the fighting, but the Allies took 5,450 casualties and gained absolutely nothing. Sarrail was not deterred by this and tried another attack the 11th. It too was a failure. The Second Serbian army went into action the 9th, and that attack stalled after taking its first few objectives, but then the Serbs were stuck under a withering counter artillery attack. French and British big guns helped out a bit, but they couldn’t get much further. As for the British attack, that was the renewal of the Battle of Doiran, which began a couple weeks ago. The British launched an artillery barrage and then an assault on the evening of the 8th, but by the following day they were forced to abandon the attacks because of heavy casualties. Fog and smoke caused confusion, telephone lines were cut by shellfire, their infantry were hit by their own artillery, it was a mess of confusion. Since the battle began in April, they had lost over 12,000 men killed, wounded, or captured while Vladimir Vazov’s Bulgarians had lost just a 6th of that, and half of those from disease, not battle. As for the First Serbian Army, Sarrail asked for action and got delay. They said that until the heights had fallen to the Second Army, the first was too vulnerable. Then the Serbs asked Sarrail to stop the whole campaign. All of these defeats and lack of progress, combined with the French failure to advance at Monastir, meant that for the course of the whole Spring Offensive the Allies had lost tens of thousands of men in total and had taken basically nothing. There would be another attack next week on the Struma River and the Irish division there would take its objectives after barely firing a shot, but Sarrail would call off the entire offensive, having achieved nothing except turning living men into dead ones. Of course, this was overshadowed by the recent colossal French failure at the Chemin des Dames, so he didn’t have to worry about his job at this point. The French were actually attacking there again this week. The attack that began the night of the 4th, continued on the 5th AND managed to take Craonne and the edge of the Californie Plateau, but could not cross the Alette River. Another attack a few days later took Vauclair and Laffaux Mill. Actually, on the 5th, the attacks were in cooperation with the British, and they took the crest of the Craonne Ridge and 6,000 prisoners. And further north the British were trying again at Bullecourt, as they had last week. First, they held off a German counter attack on the 6th, then mounted their own attack on the 7th, gaining a foothold in the ruins of the village. Over the next few days, they were shelled continuously and attacked with flamethrowers, and though the battle wouldn’t officially end until next week, it was for all intents and purposes over. The British had taken tens of thousands of casualties for a minute portion of the Hindenburg Line. By this time General Edmund Allenby commanding the 3rd Army was warning Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig that the reserves now being sent into battle were “semi-trained troops, unable to use their rifles properly”. Also at this point, twice as many British as Germans were being killed in the offensives - the British were up to 4,000 casualties per day - so on the 10th in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill, pointing out American troops wouldn’t be ready until next year, said, “Is it not obvious that we ought not to squander the remaining armies of France and Britain in precipitate offensives before the American power begins to be felt on the battlefield?” He received no answer; there would be more offensives. Prime Minister David Lloyd George, unlike the military, saw no reason to attempt offensives before the Americans arrived; and he pushed for a new Italian offensive. He was really putting a lot of faith in the importance of the American army. I mean, when the US declared war, for a while it wasn’t even certain if they would send any men, and would only send supplies and money. Congress did pass last week a bill to raise 500,000 men, but the US army didn’t even have divisions; its biggest unit was the regiment. So the US began putting together a First Division to dispatch to France, even though it hadn’t been trained for combat and was too small to make a difference. It and the rest of the American Expeditionary Force would, from May 10th, be under the command of General John J. Pershing. Seeing as how I’ve mentioned the Italian front, I’ll look there for a minute. It’s been quiet for pretty much the past six months, but that’s about to change. Now, both sides had really built up their forces over the winter. The Italian forces had nearly doubled and their artillery was up to 2,200 big guns including British and French heavy pieces. On the other side, Austro-Hungarian commander Svetozar Borojevic von Bojna was still way outnumbered, but he too beefed up his numbers and now had 1,400 big guns. As usual, his engineers had been busy rebuilding fortifications and protecting machine gun posts, fortifying trenches and shelters, and building additional defensive lines. The Italians would soon attack and the plan was straightforward; the 10th Battle of the Isonzo would be on two flanks. First, the army of Gorizia would attack on the northern flank, trying to break through to the Bainsizza Plateau. Italian army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna hoped that this would lead Borojevic to move men to the north, and then the Italian Third Army would attack to the south, across the Carso Plateau toward Trieste. Borojevic’s problem was that he didn’t know when the Italians would attack, since they were now much better at camouflage and hiding their movements. The attack was set for the beginning of May, but heavy rains delayed it again and again. It would happen soon. And something interesting happened in early May at sea. A convoy of merchant ships guarded by destroyers sailed from Gibraltar to Britain without a single loss to a German submarine. The convoy system had been dismissed earlier as useless, but after this the British admiralty began looking into it seriously. They had to do something, having lost nearly 900,000 tons in April alone - 50% more than what Germany believed was needed monthly to drive Britain out of the war. And that’s the end of the week. The Allies unable to break through in Macedonia, the Allies unable to break through in the west, and the Allies planning for a breakthrough in northern Italy. Well, at least they’re still planning for one somewhere. It’s hard to know just what they generals in the west were thinking about the Macedonian front, but I know that it was a side note or a footnote to many of them. Couldn’t be that hard, I mean - the Bulgarians? Can they fight the five nation army? How many times do we see this? The smaller or “lesser” nations that are supposed to be easy pickings, and NEVER are. Remember when the Germans were joking about just sending the police to arrest the British army back in 1914? Yeah, they don’t do that any more. See, it turns out that every nation can learn to be great at modern war. If you want to learn more about the excellent Bulgarian defenses, check out our weekly episode from February right here. Our Patreon supporter of the week is April Joy Greibrok. Help us out on Patreon to make this show better and better. And don’t forget to subscribe, see you next week.



English negotiators entered the congress believing it was a peace negotiation between England and France only. They proposed an extended truce and a marriage between adolescent King Henry VI of England and a daughter of French king Charles VII of France. The English were unwilling to renounce their claim to the crown of France. This position prevented meaningful negotiation. The English delegation broke off from the congress in mid-session to put down a raid by French captains Xaintrailles and La Hire.

Meanwhile, the French delegation and leading clergy urged Philip the Good of Burgundy to reconcile with Charles VII. Burgundy was an appanage at the time, virtually an independent state, and had been allied with England since the murder of Philip's father in 1419. Charles VII had been at least complicit in that crime. The English delegation returned to find that their ally had switched sides. English regent John, Duke of Bedford, at this point the only man keeping the Anglo-Burgundian alliance standing, died on 14 September 1435, one week before the congress concluded.


For the English

and their prisoners, Duke of Orleans, Count of Eu

For the French

Representing Charles VII:

For Burgundy:

Among the possibly as many as 58 who attended for the French,[17] Guidon VII, seigneur de la Roche Guyon, and Gilles de Duremont, Abbot of Fécamp, may also have been present.


Niccolò Albergati, Cardinal of Cyprus[18]

Treaty of Arras

Treaty of Arras
TypePeace treaty
ContextHundred Years' War
Signed21 September 1435 (1435-09-21)
LocationArras, County of Artois
MediatorsNiccolò Albergati
Philip the Good Arms.svg
Burgundian party
Blason France moderne.svg
Armagnac party

The congress gave rise to the second Treaty of Arras,[19] which was signed on 20/21 September 1435 and became an important diplomatic achievement for the French in the closing years of the Hundred Years' War. Overall, it reconciled a longstanding feud between King Charles VII of France and Duke Philip III of Burgundy (Philip the Good). Philip recognized Charles VII as king of France and, in return, Philip was exempted from homage to the crown, and Charles agreed to punish the murderers of Philip's father Duke John I of Burgundy (John the Fearless).[20]

By breaking the alliance between Burgundy and England, Charles VII consolidated his position as King of France against a rival claim by Henry VI of England. The political distinction between Armagnacs and Burgundians ceased to be significant from this time onward. France already had Scotland as an ally and England was left isolated. From 1435 onward, English rule in France underwent steady decline.

The congress' limited success was facilitated by representatives of Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Basel Members of each of these delegations wrote legal opinions absolving Duke Philip of Burgundy from his former obligations to England.


Charles VII disavowed participation in the assassination of Duke John of Burgundy (John the Fearless) of the Duchy of Burgundy, father of Duke Philip of Burgundy (Philip the Good), and condemned the act and promised to punish the perpetrators.

Furthermore, the following domains became vassal states of the Duke of Burgundy:

In return, the Duchy of Burgundy recognized Charles VII as King of France and returned the County of Tonnerre. Also, Philip the Good was exempted from rendering homage, fealty, or service to Charles VII, as he still believed that the king may have been complicit in his father's murder. Upon the death of either the king or the duke the homage would be resumed.

See also


  1. ^ Vaughan 2004, p. 98.
  2. ^ Russell 1972, p. 40.
  3. ^ Russell 1972, p. 34.
  4. ^ Russell 1972, pp. 41–42.
  5. ^ Russell 1972, p. 42.
  6. ^ Russell 1972, pp. 43–44.
  7. ^ a b Russell 1972, p. 41.
  8. ^ a b c d Russell 1972, p. 44.
  9. ^ Russell 1972, pp. 44–45.
  10. ^ Russell 1972, p. 46.
  11. ^ Russell 1972, pp. 45, 47.
  12. ^ a b c Russell 1972, p. 47.
  13. ^ Russell 1972, p. 3.
  14. ^ Russell 1972, p. 6.
  15. ^ Russell 1972, p. 28.
  16. ^ a b Russell 1972, pp. 46–47.
  17. ^ Russell 1972, p. 10.
  18. ^ Russell 1972, pp. 37–56.
  19. ^ Russell 1972, p. 5.
  20. ^ Kirk 1863, p. 36.

  • Kirk, John Foster (1863). History of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy. J.B. Lippincott & Co.
  • Russell, J. (1972) [1955]. The Congress of Arras, 1435: A Study in Medieval Diplomacy. New York: Biblo & Tannen. ISBN 978-0-8196-0281-7.
  • Vaughan, Richard (2004). Philip the Good (reprinted new ed.). Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-917-1.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 18 September 2019, at 16:44
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