Bedford's Coat of Arms
Bedford's Coat of Arms

Character Info
Bedford is another of Henry V’s brothers who assist in running the country after his death. Bedford, after his valiant actions in the battle of Agincourt, was appointed the regent of France under Henry V. He continued as the Regent until his death, in the battle for Rouen. Bedford, like his brothers Gloucester and Henry V, is a man of honor and integrity.

Historical Information
The following information is quoted from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, writen by Jenny Stratford

John (John of Lancaster), duke of Bedford (1389–1435), regent of France and prince, was born on 20 June 1389. He was the third son of Henry Bolingbroke, afterwards Henry IV (1366–1413), and of Mary de Bohun (1369/70?–1394), coheir of the earls of Hereford, who died in childbirth in 1394.

Family and youth

Like his brothers Henry, afterwards Henry V (1386/7–1422), Thomas, afterwards duke of Clarence (1387–1421), and Humphrey, afterwards duke of Gloucester (1390–1447), John was ‘wel boked’ (English Works of John Gower, 2.422). He began to study Latin grammar when he was eight and read and wrote English and French. From 1394 he lived in the household of his grandmother Joan, countess of Hereford. By 1397 he was in the household of Margaret Brotherton, countess marshal; a French page was among his attendants. John grew up surrounded by rich possessions. Besides cloth, silks, shoes, furs, and goldsmiths' work ordered from London merchants, he was allocated valuables taken from Richard II and his companions, and others seized from the rebels of Henry IV's reign. By 1400 he had his own small household and household chapel. The chapel soon developed into a fully-fledged institution with a staff of priests and musicians under a dean; it followed John to war.

From Henry IV's accession John of Lancaster began to accumulate the lands and offices in England that laid the foundations of his later wealth. He was knighted on 12 October 1399, on the eve of his father's coronation, and was a knight of the Garter by 1402. Between 1403 and 1405 grants of the forfeited Percy lands and of the alien priory of Ogbourne, Wiltshire, considerably increased his income. Appointed master of the mews and falcons on 21 August 1402, he succeeded to two former Percy offices: constable of England (10 September 1403) and warden of the east march (1403–14). His first military experience was in border warfare, guided by his kinsman Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland (d. 1425). In 1405 John was present at the capture of Archbishop Richard Scrope at Shipton Moor, and wrote to York Minster to condemn demonstrations at the tomb following Scrope's execution for treason. John's letters to the king and council record his financial straits as warden. He pawned and melted down jewels and plate to pay his soldiers. By 1411/12 he claimed arrears of £13,000.

Duke of Bedford and lieutenant of Henry V

Henry V recognized his brother's abilities, giving him a greater role in warfare, politics, and diplomacy, and increased his status and income. On 16 May 1414, John was created duke of Bedford and earl of Kendal, and on 24 November, earl of Richmond, with the reversion of the valuable honour of Richmond. At the restoration of the Percy lands in 1415, Bedford was awarded a pension of £2000 p.a. By 1418, in negotiations over one of a series of marriage proposals, his annual income was estimated at 7000 or 8000 marks, which placed him among the wealthiest magnates in the kingdom. However, proposals in 1419 from Queen Joanna of Sicily to adopt Bedford as her heir had foundered by 1420.

When Henry invaded France in 1415 for the campaign that led to Agincourt, Bedford remained in England as lieutenant. In 1416 Bedford took part in the ceremonies surrounding the emperor's visit, sitting at Sigismund's left hand at the Garter feast in May. On 15 August (the feast of the Assumption) Bedford commanded the fleet that won an important victory, ending the Franco-Genoese blockade of Harfleur. During Henry's conquest of Normandy and the pays de conquête in 1417–19, Bedford again remained in England as lieutenant. He repulsed the Scots in 1417, presided over the parliament that sentenced the Lollard Sir John Oldcastle, and was present at Oldcastle's execution. Many other issues affecting church and state in England and abroad came to Bedford's attention as lieutenant, preparing him for his future role as regent of France. In May 1420 Bedford crossed to France to campaign with his brothers Henry and Clarence.

Political rivalry between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians had fed civil war in France during the reign of the insane king, Charles VI (1380–1422). In 1419 the murder of John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, on the bridge at Montereau, in the presence of the dauphin, drove Philip the Good, the new duke, to support Henry V's claims to the French crown. Bedford was with Henry when the treaty of Troyes or ‘final peace’ was signed, on 21 May 1420. This important treaty was the basis of the ‘dual monarchy’, the Lancastrian claim to rule France as well as England. Henry married Catherine, daughter of Charles VI, became regent of France, and was named heir to Charles in place of the dauphin (afterwards Charles VII). Circumstances dictated that Bedford would spend the rest of his life defending the claims of his brother and his nephew, Henry VI, to the French crown.

From June 1420 Bedford campaigned in France. He joined Henry V and his Burgundian allies at the siege of Sens in June, and brought reinforcements from Normandy to the siege of Melun (July–November). On 1 December he rode with Clarence behind the kings of England and France on their formal entry into Paris, remaining with Henry at the Louvre for Christmas. On 10 December Bedford was present when the three estates ratified the treaty of Troyes, and again on 23 December when a lit de justice was held to condemn the murderers of John the Fearless. In the new year he returned to England with Henry by way of Rouen, where the Norman estates ratified the treaty of Troyes, and he was present at Catherine's coronation at Westminster on 23 February 1421.

The death of Clarence in an ill-considered raid at Baugé (Maine-et-Loire) on 22 March 1421 altered Bedford's position in an important respect. He became heir to the crown of England, and after 1422 to the English claims to France. From June 1421 to May 1422 he again served as lieutenant of England, while Henry campaigned in France. In December 1421 he stood godfather with his uncle, Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, to the future Henry VI. In the same month he gave the spiritualities of Ogbourne to the Garter chapel, St George's Chapel, Windsor, one of many gifts of rents or goods that Bedford made to religious institutions in England and France. The following May Bedford escorted Queen Catherine to France, leaving Gloucester as lieutenant of England. He then assumed command in place of Henry in northern Burgundy, at Vézelay and Avallon (Yonne), and at Cosne (Nièvre), but did not see action. Bedford was at his brother's deathbed at the Bois de Vincennes, on 31 August 1422, and followed the funeral cortège to St Denis, Rouen, and Calais, but then returned to Rouen as governor of Normandy.

Regent of France

Henry V seems to have intended Bedford to become regent of France only if Philip the Good refused the office, while Henry's last will assigned his youngest brother, Gloucester, the tutela or guardianship of the infant Henry VI's inheritance, and not, as Gloucester claimed, the government of England. In the event, Bedford became regent of France and Gloucester protector and leader of the council in England during Bedford's absence. This reversal of their previous roles, since Bedford had been mainly employed in England, whereas Gloucester had campaigned regularly in France, was essentially the result of the death of Clarence, who at the time of his death had been Henry V's principal lieutenant in Normandy. As it was, this new arrangement promoted rivalry between the brothers, and led to conflicting policies in the government of England and France.

Charles VI died on 21 October 1422. Bedford, not yet regent, wrote to the London citizens on 26 October to assert his right by birth to be protector in England. He returned to Paris from Rouen on 5 November, no doubt after Philip of Burgundy had refused the regency of France. Bedford was the only prince present at the funeral of Charles VI (9–11 November). As the procession returned to Paris from St Denis, Bedford caused the sword of state to be carried before him. Although this symbol of English claims provoked a hostile reaction, Bedford set about winning acceptance for English rule through political measures and through sustained propaganda in picture and poem. On 19 November he presided over an assembly of the Paris parlement. The chancellor expounded Bedford's pledge to pursue Henry V's policies; those present swore fidelity to Henry VI, the regent, and the treaty of Troyes. Except for Henry's coronation expedition to France (1430–32), when the council withdrew the style of regent, Bedford remained regent of France to his death in 1435.

The ‘dual monarchy’ depended above all on the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Bedford's first marriage, to Anne of Burgundy, sister of Philip the Good, in 1423 was crucial. Philip's support for the English was bolstered by Burgundian dynastic ambitions. Bedford's childless marriage, and the death of Anne of Burgundy in November 1432, were major factors in the collapse in 1435 of an already weakened alliance. Negotiations for the marriage had begun by October 1422; the treaty was sealed at Vernon on 12 December. On 17 April 1423 at Amiens, Bedford and the dukes of Burgundy and Brittany signed a treaty of mutual support. The peace of Amiens, or ‘triple alliance’, was intended to safeguard Normandy. Bedford's policies were later undermined by both dukes, but in the short term they endorsed Henry VI's claims to the crown and accepted Bedford's regency. The marriage was celebrated at Troyes on 13 May. Anne of Burgundy brought a dowry of 50,000 écus, 10,000 in cash at Bedford's entire disposal. She also brought plate, jewels, and vestments, although few details of what these were are known.

During the first six years of the regency, to the siege of Orléans in 1428–9, Bedford won tolerance of his rule. He understood the need to govern through Frenchmen (many of whom were Burgundian supporters), and through French institutions, notably the grand conseil. He introduced important administrative and military reforms, and popular measures to control brigandage. The influential ecclesiastics of the University of Paris lent Bedford their support, in spite of differences over collation to benefices and clerical taxes, and over the foundation of the University of Caen, mooted in 1424, enacted in 1432, but only active from about 1439. The presence of the English court in Paris meant welcome patronage of the luxury trades. English victories improved the economic climate, especially in Rouen and Normandy. In these years the English under Bedford defended Henry V's conquests and extended them to much of France north of the Loire. From 1423 victories in Champagne, at Cravant on the Yonne, and the capture (1 March 1424) of Le Crotoy in Picardy, prepared the ground for conquest. Bedford's greatest victory against the dauphin and his Scottish allies, won at Verneuil on the southern border of Normandy on 17 August 1424, was a rare instance when the regent took the field in person. The chronicler, Waurin, gives an eyewitness account of the battle; the victory was second only to Agincourt in the eyes of English contemporaries. Jean (II), duke of Alençon, the nephew of Jean (V) of Brittany (d. 1442), was the most important of many prisoners captured. The first instalments of Jean (II)'s huge ransom, fixed at 200,000 écus d'or, were paid to Bedford in jewels, plate, and vestments. The bed of Alençon, a set of state hangings, which Bedford valued at ‘gret pris’ (Stratford, Bedford Inventories, C 90), was still prized by Henry VIII. When Bedford and Anne of Burgundy entered Paris in triumph on 8 September, the citizens made them a lavish present of plate.

The victory at Verneuil secured Normandy and Paris and opened the way for the conquest of Maine. The county of Maine and the duchy of Anjou, then under dauphinist control, were the first lands granted to Bedford in France (20 June 1424). If conquered, they would create a great apanage. Bedford's captains initiated a successful expedition into Maine in the autumn of 1424. Le Mans had been taken by August 1425; later a few places in Anjou came under English control. Besides operations on the Loire commanded by the earls of Suffolk and Salisbury, other captains attached to Bedford's household laid siege to Mont-St Michel and defeated the Bretons, who had transferred their loyalty to the dauphin.

Bedford in England, 1425–1427

From late December 1425 to March 1427, a period of minor action in the French war, Bedford was in England. He was summoned to intervene between his brother, Gloucester, and his uncle, Beaufort, in the quarrel that had originated in Gloucester's claim to the protectorship. Bedford's sympathies lay with Beaufort, whose political skills and financial resources were essential for the successful prosecution of the French war, whereas Gloucester had endangered the Anglo-Burgundian alliance by invading Hainault in 1424 and 1425. Bedford prevented a duel between Gloucester and Philip, and warned Duke Philip of Gloucester's disastrous second invasion. Peace in London was threatened by Gloucester's warmongering and encouragement of an anti-Flemish reaction. An armed confrontation between Beaufort and Gloucester took place at London Bridge on 30 October 1425, the climax of a struggle to wrest from Beaufort the power he had obtained as chancellor during Gloucester's absence.

Bedford left Paris on 2 December. He escaped an ambush near Amiens and arrived in England on 20 December, entering London on 10 January 1426. Gregory's chronicle records his displeasure with the citizens for their part in the disorders; he received their gift of a pair of silver-gilt basins and 1000 marks coldly. As laid down in 1422, Gloucester had to relinquish the protectorate and its salary to his elder brother, who was not only still heir apparent to the throne, with interests of his own to safeguard, but also enjoyed the confidence of the council. Bedford presided at the Leicester parliament, where in March the antagonists were reconciled. Beaufort resigned as chancellor and prepared to leave England. Before parliament dispersed in June, Bedford knighted the five-year-old Henry VI. In January 1427, less than two months before Bedford left for France, he swore on the gospels before the council to support conciliar government, forcing Gloucester to follow his lead. In early February 1427 he laid the first foundation stone of the new site for the Bridgettine abbey at Syon, originally Henry V's foundation, endowing the house with £20, two service books, and a legendary, and giving a ring to each nun of the first profession.

Bedford's offices, lands, and income, 1425–1435

The years 1425–9 saw a substantial increase in Bedford's income. Besides the Alençon ransom, he obtained offices, lands, and perquisites on both sides of the channel. Following the earl of Westmorland's death (25 October 1425), the honour of Richmond, nominally worth £2000 p.a., came to him. Bedford secured the profitable office of admiral of England (26 July 1426). In January 1427 he obtained the wardship and lands of Lord Grey of Codnor. Grants of the gold and silver mines of Devon and Cornwall, and the wardship of the de Vere lands (in exchange for an unreliable exchequer pension), were enrolled on 24 February, shortly before Bedford left for France. To the annoyance of the earl of Warwick, Bedford replaced him as captain of Calais (March 1427). This key appointment carried power and prestige, but also heavy costs.

Bedford held great estates in France. From Verneuil to about 1427 he styled himself duke of Anjou and of Alençon, count of Maine, of Mortain, and of Beaumont, and lord of Mantes and other seigneuries in the pays de conquête. Anjou remained unconquered, but from January 1425 Bedford administered the lands he held from his personal chambre des comptes in Mantes. The receipts of the former Orléans lands in Normandy also went to Mantes. Bedford's motives seem to have been disinterested (at least in the short term): to secure revenues for the war outside Paris, not to grasp personal profits. The receipts of Maine went to the defence of Maine, those of Alençon and the pays de conquête to the expenses of the regent's household—in effect the royal household—with its heavy burden of costs for the war and for administration; the revenue from the Orléans lands went to Normandy.

Bedford could not sustain his claims to all these lands. Mortain was granted to Edmund Beaufort on his arrival to campaign in France (22 April 1427). In 1430 the English council in France removed the duchy of Alençon, the lordships of the pays de conquête, and the Orléans lands, from Bedford's control and reunited them with the royal demesne. In early September 1430 Bedford obtained confirmation only of Anjou and Maine and of the vicomté of Beaumont-le-Roger. He had also to agree to the possible future resumption of Anjou and Maine. Council minutes suggest that at their greatest extent this group of French lands was deemed to be worth some 40,000 livres tournois annually.

Other lands acquired by Bedford in Normandy from about 1425 included the confiscated Estouteville lands, granted to Anne of Burgundy by September 1425. In May 1427 Bedford obtained the county of Harcourt. He enlarged it with neighbouring lordships after the earl of Salisbury's death in November 1428. In 1431 Bedford bought the county of Dreux, the lordship of Hambye, and the Hôtel d'Aligré in Paris from the earl of Suffolk.

Many of Bedford's French lands were held in right of Anne of Burgundy, but the regent enjoyed the revenues. It is impossible to assess their total value. A valor for 1433/4 recorded by William Worcester is incomplete, and Bedford acquired new lands in France up to the year he died. As well as six houses in Paris and others in Rouen and Harfleur, Bedford held at his death in tail male the duchy of Anjou, the counties of Maine, Harcourt, and Dreux, the vicomté of Beaumont, the former Salisbury lordships and those of Torcy, Charlemesnil, La Haye-du-Puits, Hambye, and other lesser lordships. While private ambition was not the mainspring of Bedford's French policy, he had a huge financial stake in the English conquest in France. The scale of his French as well as his English income is directly relevant to the building works he commissioned, and to his purchasing power as a patron of luxury goods.

Bedford in France, 1427–1433

Bedford crossed to France in March 1427, accompanied by Bishop Beaufort. On 25 March in Calais, Bedford invested Beaufort as cardinal. Soon afterwards the war entered a disastrous phase, marked by the siege of Orléans. The death on 3 November 1428 of the English commander, the earl of Salisbury, as the result of a gunshot wound, was followed in the following May by the relief of Orléans by Jeanne d'Arc, and then by a series of French victories, culminating in the coronation of Charles VII at Rheims on 17 July. But the French were repulsed from outside Paris on 8 September by an Anglo-Burgundian army, reinforced by troops raised by Cardinal Beaufort for the Hussite crusade, and once more lost the initiative in the war. In 1434 Bedford openly criticized the decision to besiege Orléans, ‘takyn in hand God knoweth by what avys’ (Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 4.223). His plan, endorsed in May 1428 by the grand conseil and in September by the Norman estates, had been to attack Angers and Mont-St Michel. Yet Bedford contributed large sums to the siege of Orléans, and raised further money on Anne of Burgundy's jewels. In the continuing crisis of 1429 he pledged jewels and plate worth nearly 10,000 livres tournois to pay Beaufort's soldiers and 20,000 to pay Burgundy's.

Bedford understood the vital need to repair the Anglo-Burgundian alliance in 1429. His first will, sealed on 14 June 1429 (between the French victories at Jargeau and Patay), named Anne of Burgundy as his heir in France. Since Anne was childless, Philip stood to inherit after his sister's death. Bedford sent Anne to join Philip between July and September; she also attended his marriage to Isabella of Portugal in Bruges in January 1430. Bedford resigned the captaincy of Paris in Philip's favour in October 1429 and supported the crown's grant to him of Champagne and Brie in March 1430. These and other concessions repurchased Philip's co-operation. The Burgundians captured Jeanne d'Arc in Compiègne in May. She was transferred to the English for 10,000 crowns, tried, and executed as a relapsed heretic at Rouen on 30 May 1431. Bedford took no part in her trial, conducted by the church, although political motives determined the outcome, nor was he present when she was burnt at the stake in the market place at Rouen. In speaking of Jeanne in 1434 as ‘a disciple and leme of the fend’ (Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 4.223), that is, a witch, Bedford, whose orthodoxy was a marked part of his personality, was in agreement with the religious establishment of his day.

From October 1429 the English administration was centred on Rouen and Normandy, although it was not yet excluded from the rest of France. Bedford moved many of the valuables he had acquired from the French royal collections to Rouen. He enlarged Joyeux Repos, his principal house in Rouen, and improved the domestic apartments of the castle to accommodate his chapel, library, and wardrobe. Bedford lived mainly in Rouen from October 1429 to December 1430, and participated in its secular and spiritual life, most conspicuously on 23 October 1430, when he was admitted a canon of the cathedral.

Bedford had emphasized the need for Henry VI to be crowned in France as well as England. Henry arrived in Calais in April 1430. He landed on St George's day, reaching Rouen in July, and remaining there until November 1431. On 30 January 1431, in a populist but necessary gesture, Bedford, accompanied by Anne of Burgundy, arrived by water in Paris with boatloads of victuals. Prayers and processions in Rouen and Paris had been held for this dangerous journey. The recapture of Louviers in late October secured the route to Paris. Henry's entry into Paris took place on 2 December. Among the tableaux were figures of the dukes of Bedford and Burgundy, flanking the boy king. The procession ended at Bedford's principal Paris residence, the Hôtel des Tournelles. The coronation in Notre-Dame (16 December), conducted by Beaufort, rather than the bishop of Paris, antagonized the Parisians, whom it was intended to conciliate.

A quarrel seems to have erupted at the time of the coronation between Bedford and Beaufort, who appears to have been determined to assert his own primacy in the council, in France as well as in England. Central to the dispute was the commission Bedford was forced to accept as regent. Formerly he had claimed to rule by right of birth, as heir to the English claim to France, as well as to the English throne itself. From the time Henry landed in France until he left again for England in January 1432, Bedford ceased to be styled regent. The council, dominated by Beaufort, curbed Bedford's military powers and his powers of patronage. Indentures were issued in the king's name rather than (as before) in Bedford's; garrison captains from the royal household replaced some of Bedford's men. In September 1430 Bedford was appointed to the captaincy of garrisons he had already held, emphasizing that his powers derived from the king and council. There is other evidence of the council's intention to limit Bedford's powers in 1430: the removal of lands from his control, and the new grants he was compelled to obtain for the lands he kept. On 12 October 1431 Bedford's authority to rule France in the king's absence was redefined in a formal commission, and his powers of patronage restored. This forced him to acknowledge, probably at Beaufort's instigation, that he held office in France by appointment, not by right of birth. There can be no doubt that he resented what he saw as a threat to his position as regent.

By 1432 the war was turning against the regent. In February the donjon of Rouen Castle was seized; in April Chartres fell to a trick; there were losses in Maine. In August Bedford took the field in person for the first time since Verneuil, but failed to retake Lagny, east of Paris, under English siege since the beginning of May. Paris was now vulnerable to attack from three directions. Bedford's prestige as regent was in jeopardy.

The death of Anne of Burgundy on 14 November 1432 had serious consequences for the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Her illness and death caused Bedford intense grief. The relics of St Germain were carried in procession to intercede for Anne's recovery; Bedford endowed the Celestine church in Paris, where Anne was buried, with rich vestments. He probably made gifts in kind to Rouen Cathedral, and to the other churches where he had founded masses for himself and the duchess.

Five months later, on 20 April 1433, Bedford remarried. His bride, Jacquetta of Luxembourg (1415/16–1472), was the seventeen-year-old niece of Louis de Luxembourg, bishop of Thérouanne and chancellor of France for the English, who had come to dominate the English administration. Bedford travelled to Thérouanne by way of Calais, where he suppressed a mutiny of the soldiers and executed the ringleaders. They had seized the staplers' wool to enforce their claim to arrears of pay. Bedford's captaincy was no exception to the rule that the expenses of Calais far exceeded the treasurer's receipts. Some of his valuables were handed over in 1433 and 1434 to the treasurer of Calais and the lieutenant of Calais Castle, no doubt to guarantee arrears.

Bedford's second marriage, intended to form a useful alliance, brought about a rupture between Philip of Burgundy and Bedford, although the political consequences may have been exaggerated. Philip was offended by the remarriage and by the pretensions of a vassal house. In May Beaufort tried to reconcile Bedford and Philip at St Omer. Out of pride neither prince would make the first move and they never met again. An estrangement from Bedford may have suited Philip. By 1433 he had fulfilled his ambitions in the Low Countries, and could dispense with English support in the north. He was beginning to respond favourably to overtures of peace from France and from the church.

Before returning to England at midsummer 1433, Bedford spent about a month in Calais with Gloucester, Beaufort, and some of the English council, discussing proposals for peace made by Cardinal Albergati, the papal mediator, and by the Council of Basel.

Bedford's final years, 1433–1435

Bedford crossed to England on 18 June 1433. He had returned to seek money and soldiers for France, and to defend himself successfully, even brilliantly, from accusations of mismanagement of the war, no doubt originating from Gloucester. Bedford's speeches to parliament and the council, written in the first person, carry conviction in their words of devotion to the service of Henry VI in France and in England. On 13 July Bedford challenged his detractors under the law of arms. The chancellor, Bishop John Stafford, expressed confidence in Bedford and disarmed opposition to his war policy. In November the Commons petitioned Bedford to remain in England. Bedford seemed to stand above faction, whereas animosity between Gloucester and Beaufort had erupted in 1428 and 1432 and there had been other violent confrontations between magnates. By December parliament had agreed to Bedford's conditions for remaining in England. He was to be chief councillor with control over the council, parliament, and patronage. These concessions reversed policy since 1422, whereby the council had limited the powers of both Bedford and Gloucester. In consideration of the burden of debt at the exchequer, Bedford proposed a cut in his annual salary as chief councillor from 5000 marks to £1000; Gloucester was obliged to follow suit. Bedford reserved the right to payments of £500 for expenses each time he crossed the channel, demonstrating that he envisaged the necessity of returning to France.

The parliament of 1433 confirmed grants beneficial to Bedford. His creations for life as duke of Bedford and earl of Kendal were altered to hereditary peerages (8 July 1433), perhaps in hopes of an heir. Five west-country manors and reversions granted on the same day remedied a shortfall in Bedford's income from the honour of Richmond. But he failed to secure adequate taxation from parliament or from convocation in 1433 to support the war, though the military situation was deteriorating and money had to be found. On 10 May 1434 Beaufort lent 10,000 marks towards the expeditions of the earl of Arundel and other captains serving under Bedford. On 20 June he advanced another £2000 for Bedford's own return to France. While Arundel's expedition was being prepared, Gloucester mounted an attack on war policy in the great council (April–May 1434). Bedford construed Gloucester's words as an insult to his honour; Bedford's reply was similarly construed by Gloucester. The quarrel was settled before the king, but Gloucester's ambitions to lead an expedition on the scale of Agincourt were shown to be impossible.

The regent crossed the channel for the last time in mid-July 1434, travelling to Rouen in early August via Calais and Thérouanne, and visiting Paris, again for the last time, over Christmas and new year 1435. By 1435 Bedford's failing health, English reverses in the war, and the preparations for the congress of Arras, marked the gradual decline in English fortunes.
Death and reputation
Bedford died in Rouen Castle on 14 September 1435 at a critical moment in the war, a week after the English left the congress of Arras unsatisfied in their demands, and a week before the conclusion of peace between France and Burgundy. On 13 April 1436 Paris was reconquered and English possessions, including Bedford's, were confiscated for the crime of lèse-majesté. Normandy was lost by 1450 and by 1453 all France except Calais.

In accordance with the provisions of Bedford's nuncupative will, he was buried ‘magnificently’ on 30 September in Rouen Cathedral, on the north side of the choir near the high altar, near the other royal tombs. His effigy was destroyed by Calvinists in 1562, but a funerary plaque bearing his arms, heraldic insignia, and Garter collar survived to the eighteenth century, and is recorded in drawings by Dugdale (reproduced by Francis Sandford) and in the Gaignières collection (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Français 20077, fol. 7). The burial was excavated in 1860. A large-framed skeleton was reportedly uncovered, fitting with Waurin's description of Bedford at Verneuil as a man of great physical strength with powerful limbs. Bedford's beaked nose is depicted in his portrait in the Bedford Hours, the source of several engravings (BL, Add. MS 18850, fol. 256v), and in the smaller portraits in the Salisbury breviary (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Lat. 17294). He left no legitimate children, but two bastards, Richard and Mary, apparently conceived before the regency. Their mother is unknown. His widow, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, married secretly in 1436 Richard Woodville, son of Bedford's chamberlain. Their daughter, Elizabeth, became the wife of Edward IV.

Bedford was a notable collector and patron of the arts. There was an important political context for his activities in this respect, even though as a great prince he no doubt also wished to be surrounded by magnificent possessions in his household and chapel. The dukes of Burgundy and Brittany had been appointed with Bedford to be executors of Charles VI in 1422. As allies they acquiesced when he obtained jewels and plate, tapestries, vestments, and books from the French royal collections, thereby adding to his prestige as regent. Bedford took one of the finest chapel sets from the royal collection to Caen at Christmas 1423, when he presided over a meeting of the Norman estates. The costs of some of these valuables were offset against Bedford's personal expenditure on the war. Bedford paid in cash for others, but his total expenditure is unknown. His outlay of 2323 livres tournois for the great Louvre Library of Charles V and Charles VI, which at this date contained 843 books, is often cited as especially meagre, but this was part payment only. The royal gold cup (now in the British Museum) and about 100 books from the Louvre library are known to survive from this treasure. Much more about Bedford's commissions and acquisitions is known from written records, notably the Bedford inventories drawn up for Bedford's executors in England. In addition twelve manuscripts written and illuminated or adapted for Bedford and Anne of Burgundy or with dedications to them are known. Besides the Bedford psalter (BL, Add. MS 42131), commissioned in England before the regency, the most important are the liturgical books written and decorated in Paris by the illuminators known as the Bedford workshop—the Bedford Hours, the Salisbury breviary, and the very large benedictional, known as the pontifical of Poitiers, which was burnt in the Hôtel de Ville during the Paris commune in 1871. These manuscripts display Bedford's arms and heraldic insignia with which many of his lost possessions were also decorated. His badge was the racine or root. It was also the badge of the heraldic order that Bedford founded. His motto was Pour souffrir, although another motto, A vous entier, was associated specifically with his first marriage. The benedictional was ordered for Bedford's household chapel, an important institution, with which the names of the musicians John Farley, John Dunstaple, and Thomas Hoppinel have been plausibly, but not conclusively, associated.

Bedford's reputation survived the reconquest of France and Normandy. His familia and former captains, such as Sir John Fastolf, are recorded in William Worcester's Boke of Noblesse as lamenting the passing of the regent and what he stood for. In his own century many English and French (especially pro-Burgundian) chroniclers eulogized Bedford; Thomas Basin described him as ‘wise, humane and just’ (Basin, bk 2, cap. 2). Lively pen portraits of Bedford and Anne of Burgundy are sketched by the Norman chronicler Pierre Cochon and by the anonymous Parisian, the Bourgeois de Paris, who wrote approvingly of Bedford's propensity to build (maçonner) wherever he was. His hot temper emerges in a few episodes, as does his religious orthodoxy. Shakespeare underlines his valour and loyalty in his two Henry IV plays; chronology and events are confused in Henry V and Henry VI. Criticism of Bedford and the regency has been strongest from nationalistic historians of Normandy and partisans of Jeanne d'Arc, in line with the historiography of the Hundred Years' War as it developed in the nineteenth century. Most historians have emphasized his devotion to duty, to his dead brother's intentions, and to the service of his nephew Henry VI. Bedford was a mighty prince, a brave soldier, and a considerable patron and collector. His court and its ceremonies fulfilled a crucial political role in giving an illusion of permanence and stability to the Lancastrian presence in France.

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