Conquest: The English Kingdom of France, 1417–1450 by Juliet Barker - review by Jonathan Sumption

Jonathan Sumption

After Agincourt

Conquest: The English Kingdom of France, 1417–1450


Little, Brown 485pp £20

The wars of the English in fifteenth-century France have never found their historian. In England, the stigma of failure hangs over the whole period: a tale of triumphant beginnings, followed by missed opportunities, unrealistic ambitions, discord, treachery and greed. Shakespeare has always seemed a better read. Even in France, Charles VII has proved to be an unlikely hero. Branded as a murderer at the outset of his public career, the French king was indolent, unmilitary and periodically vicious. The fact that he was intermittently well-advised and fortunate in his enemies has done little to redeem him.

This book is the sequel to Juliet Barker’s much admired history of the Battle of Agincourt, which was published in 2005. But it is a different kind of book about a different kind of war. The Agincourt campaign was an epic of adversity and triumph, extending over barely

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