Six centuries ago, these two nations almost became one. Indeed, the deal was actually struck...
It could have happened, and maybe should have happened, if things hadn’t gone belly up exactly six centuries ago, in 1422. England had been doing rather well in the Hundred Years War, following Henry V’s 1415 triumph at Agincourt. As with all English kings of the time, Henry reckoned he had a right to the French throne. That justified the war. The tangled nature of dynastic relations between royals on either side of the Channel meant he had a reasonable case.
The 1420 Treaty of Troyes recognised this. French king Charles VI disinherited his own son in favour of Henry. He would become French king on Charles’ death, the French throne then passing to Henry’s heirs. England and France would effectively be united forever under English monarchs.
Tragically, “forever” lasted just a couple of years. Illusions of eternal concord shattered when Henry and Charles VI died within weeks of one another in 1422. So, instead of Henry V succeeding to the French throne, it fell to his son, Henry VI, to do so. Henry VI was nine months old, young even by French standards of responsibility.
The resolve of Charles’ son – the Dauphin - to resist his disinheritance was stiffened, and then stiffened further when Joan of Arc rode in. Unusually for a 17-year-old girl, Joan took command of the Dauphin’s army, walloped the English at Orléans and Patay and led the Dauphin (another Charles) to Reims, as tradition required, be crowned Charles VII. Hopes for a dual monarchy, and imperishable cross-Channel harmony, frittered away. As, some years later, did England’s presence in France.
London's Eiffel Tower: Beneath the pitch of England's national stadium in Wembley, London, lie the foundations of what would have been the city's tallest building in the 1890s and would still, today, be taller than anything in the UK.
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