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English claims to the French throne

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The English claims to the French throne have a long and rather complex history between the 1340s and the 1800s. From 1340 to 1801, with only brief intervals in 1360-1369 and 1420-1422, the Kings of England also bore the title of King of France.


Hundred Years' War

This title was first adopted by King Edward III, who claimed the throne of France after the death of his uncle Charles IV of France, thereby precipitating the Hundred Years' War. Edward's claim ignored the Salic law, under which the heir-male succeeds, and to which the French crown was subject. However, Edward was not even the heir-general of Charles IV, though he was his nearest male relative. Edward continued to use this title until the Treaty of Brétigny on May 8, 1360, when he abandoned his claims in return for substantial lands in France.

However, after the resumption of hostilities between the English and the French in 1369, Edward resumed his claim and the title of King of France. His successors also used the title until the Treaty of Troyes on May 21, 1420, in which the English recognised Charles VI as King of France, but with his new son-in-law King Henry V of England as his heir (disinheriting Charles VI's son, the Dauphin Charles). Henry V then adopted the title Heir of France instead.

Henry V and Charles VI both died within two months of each other in 1422, and Henry V's infant son (Charles VI's grandson) Henry VI became King of France. He was the only English king who was de facto King of France, rather than using the style as a mere title of pretence. However, by 1429 the Dauphin Charles, with the support of Joan of Arc, had proclaimed himself Charles VII, and the English were gradually driven out of France (with the exception of Calais, which was held until 1558).

The original claimants

"Kings of France" (1340)

"Kings of France" (title resumed 1369)

Heirs of France (de jure and de facto) (1420)

"Kings of France" (1422)

Rulers of Calais

Following an episode of insanity for Henry VI of England in 1453 and the subsequent outbreak of the Wars of the Roses (1455 - 1487), the English were no longer in any position to pursue their claim to the French throne and lost all their land on the continent, except for Calais.

Calais would know the rule of eight more English Kings and Queens of France until 1558:

Ill feeling between the two nations continued well into the 16th century. Calais was captured by French troops under Francis, Duke of Guise on January 7, 1558. Mary would continue, however, to be styled Queen of France for the rest of her reign (January 7 - November 17, 1558). As did her half-sister and successor Elizabeth I of England (November 17, 1558 - March 24, 1603).

The Stuart dynasty claimants

Elizabeth died childless. Her successor was her first cousin twice removed James VI of Scotland. The thrones of England and Scotland were joined in a personal union until 1707. The seven monarchs of this period would continue to use the style King/Queen of France. Their claim was however merely nominal. None of them was willing to engage in military campaigns against the actual Kings of France Henry IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV of France.:

The claimants of Great Britain

The Act of Union 1707 declared the joining of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland to a new Kingdom of Great Britain. The Kingdom would have four Monarchs until 1801. They would also style themselves Queen/King of France. However none of them actually questioned the rights of Louis XIV and his successors Louis XV, Louis XVI, Louis XVII and Louis XVIII.:

Ending the claim

The Kingdom of France itself had been abolished onSeptember 21, 1792, replaced by the French First Republic. There was no longer a kingdom of France at all, and George III was certainly not its king.

In July 1797, during the peace negotiations at the Conference of Lille , the French delegates demanded that the King of Great Britain abandon the title of King of France as a condition of peace. The negotiations were broken off in November, 1797, so the title was retained for the while.

The Act of Union 1800 declared the joining of the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland to a new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George III chose to drop his claim to the French Throne, whereupon the fleur de lis, part of the coat of arms of all claimant Kings of France since the time of Edward III, was also removed. Britain finally recognised the French Republic by the Treaty of Amiens of 1802.

However it should be noted that the change was not acknowledged by then current Jacobite claimant Henry Benedict Stuart. He continued to style himself King of France until his death on July 13, 1807. None of his own successors has made a public claim to the title.

The Jacobite pretenders

The Jacobite pretenders were James II of England/James VII of Scotland and his successors, continuing to be styled "Kings of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland" past their deposition in 1689. In all four pretenders continued to actively claim the title King of France as well as that of King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1689 till 1807:

The Jacobite successors

The Jacobite succession has continued since 1807 but none of eight recent pretenders has actively pursued his/her rights. They continue to be customarily known as "King or Queen of France" by Jacobites.

Failed claimants

In addition two failed claimants to the throne of England were also styled King of France. They are usualy omitted from regnal lists.

See also

External links

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