Peace of Troyes Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Peace of Troyes effectively put an end to the five-hundred-year presence of the English in France. It also freed England to pursue prosperous trade routes and to recover financially from the costly wars it had been fighting in France.

Summary of Event

Hostilities between England and France over English possession of French lands began in 1152, when Henry Plantagenet, count of Anjou, married Eleanor of Aquitaine. Two years later, when Henry assumed the English throne as Henry II, he possessed both Anjou and Aquitaine. That situation pleased neither the French nor the English since France could interfere with England’s lucrative wool trade with the Low Countries and Henry was a vassal to the French king, while the French naturally resented an English presence on their shores. Troyes, Peace of (1564) Elizabeth I Cecil, William Catherine de Médicis Throckmorton, Sir Nicholas Smith, Sir Thomas Elizabeth I (queen of England) Mary Tudor (queen of Scots) Philip II (king of Spain) Smith, Sir Thomas (1513-1577) Throckmorton, Sir Nicholas Cecil, William Catherine de Médicis Charles IX (king of France) Condé, Louis I of Bourbon, prince of

For the next four hundred years, there were several small wars between the French and the English, and a number of treaties were made and broken, including the Treaty of Calais (1360), the Treaty of Arras (1435), and the earlier Peace of Troyes (1420), which followed King Henry V’s victory at Agincourt.

Elizabeth, who became queen in 1558, was not entirely secure on her throne since the problem of succession loomed over her head, and Mary, Queen of Scots, and her Catholic followers were still quite powerful. As queen of Scotland, Mary was also important because there were attempts to link Scotland and France against the British. Spain and France, Catholic countries, were always possible threats, especially since Elizabeth was willing to aid the Protestants, the Huguenots, in France. That aid, in the form of finances and personnel, was expensive and stretched England’s resources.

According to the terms of the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) Cateau-Cambrésis, Treaty of (1559)[Cateau Cambrésis, Treaty of (1559)] , England was to assume control of Calais Calais within eight years of the treaty, but one of the treaty’s caveats called for the English to refrain from hostile actions against the French. Elizabeth, however, was unwilling to abandon her claims to Calais, so she not only created a secret network of spies in France but also undertook military action. She also helped the French Huguenots, whose cause was nearly failing. In her efforts, she also had the sympathetic support of King Philip II of Spain, who wanted to see his sometime-ally England regain Calais. His help was contingent on his marriage to Elizabeth, who turned down his offer.

Elizabeth’s forces attacked Le Havre and occupied the city, but her troops were unable to hold it against the French. Her forces, without adequate supplies and suffering from a debilitating plague, were forced to surrender. Aware of the situation at Le Havre, she dispatched reinforcements across the Channel, but by the time they arrived, the city had already surrendered to French troops. Elizabeth’s quest to regain a foothold in France, which her predecessors had maintained for hundreds of years, was futile. A new treaty, which would actually benefit both countries and enable each to save face, was the only feasible course of action. Although Elizabeth continued to refer to the original Troyes treaty, which called for England to regain control of Calais in 1567, she was not in a position to enforce her claims. The protracted hostilities between the two countries had proved to be prohibitively expensive, and it was in their best interests to cease the hostilities that were making them both susceptible to military attacks from other enemies. (It is worth remembering that at the Council of Trent in 1563, Spain and France were called on to recover England by the sword and that Mary, Queen of Scots, was supported by the French.) In response to Elizabeth’s claims, France pointed out that England had in fact broken the original treaty that prohibited English aggression.

Elizabeth appointed Sir Thomas Smith and Sir Nicholas Throckmorton as her English emissaries, acting under William Cecil’s guidance, and they conducted the negotiations. There is some question about Throckmorton’s effectiveness because he and Cecil were enemies, but the treaty was finally drafted. Because of English pride, the treaty was couched in language (“verbal subterfuge,” according to J. B. Black) that softened England’s humiliation at the hands of its traditional enemies. England renounced the claim to Calais in the Peace of Troyes treaty on January 20, 1564, in exchange for 220,000 crowns, much less than Elizabeth had first demanded. Given their history of involvement in France, the English suffered a blow to their prestige; but they also gained from the treaty. The money was welcome in England, which was strapped for cash, and it also meant a cessation of the costly wars against the French.

After the treaty was signed in London, Catherine de Médicis (the French king’s mother), King Charles IX of France, Smith, and Throckmorton traveled to the Cathedral of Troyes to celebrate the peace treaty. The politically ambitious and astute Catherine de Médicis then accompanied her son on a triumphal tour to several other French cities to celebrate the victory that did much to solidify Charles’s position as king.

Significance

The immediate result of the treaty was an end to the costly hostilities between the two countries. It also meant that England’s flourishing wool trade with the Low Countries could continue with a minimum of French intervention, important because the wars with France had left England with limited resources in staffing, ships, finances, and munitions. Although England had defensive capability, it lacked offensive power, and because Elizabeth’s foreign policy was devoted to preventing hostile countries from establishing power bases on the English Channel, the treaty effectively removed France as a possible hostile force, at least for the next few years.

Elizabeth also continued to help the Huguenot cause in France, where she had earlier offered the Protestant prince of Condé, Louis I of Bourbon, six thousand troops and 30,000 pounds.

The Peace of Troyes Treaty was consistent with Elizabeth’s foreign policy of cautious isolationism. It may have been a blow to English nationalism, but in the long run, it was beneficial because it helped Elizabeth form a more stable and central government. By the end of the 1560’, Elizabeth had passed some important tests: She had freed herself from foreign wars and defeated Catholic rebels at home, thereby shaping her regime and establishing herself as the queen. During her reign, England flourished not only in terms of exploration but also in cultural terms, including literature and the arts.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Black, J. B. The Reign of Elizabeth 1558-1603. 2d ed. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1959. Chapter 2 contains the most thorough treatment of the peace treaty. Black explores the events leading to the treaty and traces its effects on the development of England as an international power.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Loades, David. Elizabeth I. New York: Hambledon and London, 2003. Loades claims that the events leading to the treaty and its aftermath left Elizabeth with “a lasting distaste for continental adventures” and increased Cecil’s influence at court.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">MacCaffrey, Wallace. The Shaping of the Elizabethan Regime. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968. Sees the treaty as marking the return of diplomatic civility between the two countries and as freeing Elizabeth to turn her attention to domestic affairs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mahoney, Irene. Madame Catherine. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1975. Important for its coverage of the events that necessitated the treaty between France and England. Mahoney also discusses how the treaty enhanced the prestige and credibility of the French king, Catherine de Médicis’ son.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Read, Conyers. Mr. Secretary: Cecil and Queen Elizabeth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961. Stresses Cecil’s role in the negotiations leading to the Peace of Troyes treaty. Read also provides information about Elizabeth’s envoys, Sir Thomas Smith and Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who negotiated with the French.

1544-1628: Anglo-French Wars

1558-1603: Reign of Elizabeth I

Jan. 1-8, 1558: France Regains Calais from England

Apr. 3, 1559: Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis

Mar., 1562-May 2, 1598: French Wars of Religion

Feb. 25, 1570: Pius V Excommunicates Elizabeth I

Apr., 1587-c. 1600: Anglo-Spanish War

May 2, 1598: Treaty of Vervins

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