Peace of Picquigny

The Peace of Picquigny between Edward IV of England and Louis XI of France halted Edward’s proposed invasion of France, weakened Charles the Bold’s coalition against France, and initiated a seven-year truce between the two countries.

Summary of Event

England and France had been embroiled in territorial disputes since at least 1066, when William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy, became the king of England. The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), however, resulted in a temporary halt to those disputes and was also a time when England lost its French territory, except for the northern seaport of Calais. The war ended, but that did not end the traditional enmity between the two countries. A challenge from England to the ownership of various French territories arose once more. Picquigny, Peace of (1475)
Edward IV
Louis XI
Charles the Bold
Margaret of Anjou
Warwick, earl of
Henry VI (king of England)
Edward IV (king of England)
Louis XI (king of France)
Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy
Margaret of Anjou
Elizabeth of York

French king Louis XI, seen here at a reception for a military order he created, signed a treaty with England’s king Edward IV in 1475 that initiated a seven-year truce between the two countries.

(Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.)

In 1461, new kings began to reign in both England and France. In the midst of the Wars of the Roses Roses, Wars of the (1455-1485) in England, Edward, duke of York, with the help of his chief ally and cousin, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, defeated the Lancastrian king Henry VI and took the throne as Edward IV. Edward continued to face Lancastrian uprisings, and a growing rift with Warwick over Edward’s anti-French foreign policy created new internal hostilities against his rule.

In 1461, Louis XI, the new French king, was dealing with internal unrest as well. Having inherited a country that was divided into rival duchies such as Normandy, Burgundy, and Brittany, Louis’s goal was to unite all of France under his rule. The independent nobles of the realm, who as vassals owed loyalty to their suzerain under the feudal system, jointly resisted his efforts at centralized government, but Louis (also known as the spider king) continued to weave elaborate webs of alliances to achieve his goals, shifting his position as needed.

Louis XI’s continuing struggle with the French nobles intensified in 1467, when Charles the Bold became the duke of Burgundy Burgundy . The Burgundian kingdom, which included the Low Countries, Luxembourg, and Franche-Compté, was clearly a rival principality within France. Charles, wishing to expand his kingdom and receive the imperial crown, began to conquer land that separated his various possessions. He had strengthened his alliance with England by his marriage to Margaret of York, Edward IV’s sister, in July, 1468. Increasing tensions further, Louis supported Warwick’s invasion of England with Margaret of Anjou in 1470 to restore her husband, Henry VI, to the throne. With Charles’s support, Edward regained the throne after a few months. Louis’s problems with the growing anti-French alliance escalated when Edward and Charles, in the Treaty of London (1474) London, Treaty of (1474) , agreed to divide the kingdom of France between them and to have Edward crowned king of France at Reims.

Edward IV landed in Calais on July 4, 1475, to join the massive English army that had been transported to Calais in June. However, Charles, arriving ten days later, was unprepared to launch a full campaign or to help Edward with supplies because his own troops were engaged in Lorraine. Disappointed but undaunted, Edward marched south. Although there was a minor skirmish at St. Quentin, Louis XI’s army made no move to engage in battle.

Always preferring diplomacy to war, Louis XI offered terms of peace to Edward IV. The terms were negotiated by August 23, 1475, at Amiens, where Edward’s army was camped. On August 29, the two kings met 8 miles downstream from Amiens, at Picquigny, to solemnize the truce. A special bridge over the Somme River had been constructed for the meeting, with a trellis whose interstices had space only for a person’s arm (to avoid physical danger to either king). The two kings, each with twelve of their nobles, met midway on the bridge and ratified the treaty. Louis was willing to pay a high price to end the potential invasion: 75,000 gold crowns for Edward’s withdrawal from France, with the promise of an annual pension of 50,000 crowns to be paid on Easter and Michaelmas (September 29) during a seven-year truce. He also ransomed Margaret of Anjou, the wife of the late Henry VI, who had been living in confinement in England since 1471, for 50,000 crowns, with Edward’s stipulation that she renounce her title and all claims to England. The truce included a promise of mutual assistance if either country were attacked, a proposed marriage alliance between Edward’s eldest daughter and the dauphin of France, and a commercial treaty between the two countries.

Both kings were pleased with the results. Edward IV saw the diplomatic benefits to England: a bloodless victory, increased trade revenue, the right to hold the title of king of France, and his daughter as the future queen of France. He also saw the personal financial benefits. Edward IV no longer had to rely on Parliament for funding and he could leave his heirs an inheritance. Louis XI also found the truce to his advantage: He avoided a costly war, neutralized any threat from England, inherited Margaret of Anjou’s territories (Anjou, Provence, and Lorraine), and could refocus on his primary goal of subduing the French nobles.

Because of the treaty, Edward IV’s alliance with France weakened the coalition of nobles against Louis XI. Charles the Bold, in his continuing attempt to expand his Burgundian empire, was killed in 1477 fighting the duke of Lorraine and the Swiss confederation at the Battle of Nancy Nancy, Battle of (1477) . His holdings eventually were divided between Louis, who took Burgundy and Picardy, and Charles’s daughter, Mary of Burgundy, who kept the Low Countries and Flanders. The demise of the powerful kingdom of Burgundy paved the way for Louis to continue increasing his land holdings and his power.

In 1478, the terms of the Peace of Picquigny were reconfirmed, with a revision prolonging Edward’s pension until one year after the demise of whichever king died first; the terms were again reconfirmed in the fall of 1481. In 1482, however, Louis XI repudiated the treaty’s provisions by ceasing payment of Edward’s pension and by establishing a new marriage alliance for the dauphin with the daughter of the Habsburg rulers. Edward contemplated a new invasion of France but became ill and died. Edward IV and Louis XI, who began their reigns in the same year also died in the same year, 1483. New kings for England and France meant the negotiation of new relations between the two countries, and the force and relevance of the Peace of Picquigny ended.


The seven-year truce between England and France allowed both kings to focus on internal affairs and bring stability to their countries. In his last years, Edward IV improved law enforcement, collected manuscripts, and supported William Caxton in his efforts to establish the printing press at Westminster. Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, no longer betrothed to the French dauphin, would enter into marriage with Henry VII, which initiated the long-standing Tudor Dynasty for England.

England’s withdrawal from France left Louis XI free to intensify his efforts on his program of unifying France. The death of his chief local rival, Charles the Bold, accelerated progress toward his goal, once the Burgundian kingdom ceased to exist as an independent state. Louis’s rule gradually became accepted, from the Pyrenees to the Low Countries, as he continued to lay a foundation for the absolute monarchy of future French kings.

The Peace of Picquigny did not end English-French hostilities, which had existed for centuries, but it did avert war between them long enough to afford each country the chance to set the stage for the royal dynasties that would rule in the following century.

Further Reading

  • Calmette, Joseph. The Golden Age of Burgundy. Translated by Doreen Weightman. New York: W. W. Norton, 1963. Provides several chapters on Charles the Bold and details of the treaty.
  • Clive, Mary. The Sun of York: A Biography of Edward IV. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1974. Includes extensive details of the treaty along with illustrations, maps, genealogies, and an index.
  • Hallam, Elizabeth, ed. The Wars of the Roses: From Richard II to the Fall of Richard III at Bosworth Field—Seen Through the Eyes of Their Contemporaries. Preface by Hugh Trevor-Roper. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988. Useful overview of English-French relations, details of the treaty, and extensive illustrations, maps, index, and a bibliography.
  • Huizinga, Johan. The Autumn of the Middle Ages. Translated by Rodney J. Payton and Ulrich Mammitzsch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. A new translation with augmented notes of the 1921 Dutch masterpiece. An interpretive account of the relationship between Edward, Louis, and Charles.
  • Kendall, Paul Murray. Louis XI: The Universal Spider. New York: W. W. Norton, 1971. Emphasis on Louis’s cunning diplomacy, details of the treaty, and illustrations, an index, and extensive notes.
  • Maurer, Helen E. Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell & Brewer, 2004. Analysis of Margaret’s exercise of power and her influence.

1455-1485: Wars of the Roses