Conquest: The English Kingdom of France 1417-1450


UK:    Little, Brown, 15 October 2009: ISBN 978-1-4087-0083-9
Abacus, 3 June 2010: ISBN: 978-0-3491-2202-4
Audiobook: Hachette Audio: 3 June 2010: ISBN: 978-1-4055-0851-3 US:
Harvard University Press, Feb 2012: ISBN: 978-0-674-06560-4  

Juliet says: "The most difficult thing about writing a book is usually finding the subject, especially after a major success like Agincourt. I had toyed with the idea of writing about Joan of Arc but my publishers said they wanted to know what happened after the battle of Agincourt and I realised I didn’t know myself. My knowledge of the period ended with Henry V so I was aware that he had invaded France a second time, conquered much of northern France and forced Charles VI to recognise him as his heir. After that, I realised I had only the vaguest notion of what had occurred. In fact I’m ashamed to admit that I thought the English were expelled from France as a result of Joan of Arc’s appearance on the scene. It was therefore a major revelation to me to discover that she was just a blip in the story of the English occupation which continued for another twenty years – twice as long as before her arrival.

It was only after I began my research that I discovered that I was treading new ground: amazingly, there has never been a narrative history dedicated to the last thirty years of the Hundred Years War. This gave me a major headache in that I had to create a chronological structure out of a huge number of conflicting sources and I often found that I had to rewrite passages in the light of newly discovered information. On the other hand, I had a wealth of new material describing not just the epic battles and sieges but also the personal stories of those who defended the English kingdom of France and those who lived under occupation.

What fascinated me – as with Agincourt – were these human stories which remind us that that these were real people no different to ourselves. The poor French girl Jehanette Roland, for instance, who fell in love with an English herald and was all set to marry him just at the point when Charles VII reconquered Paris: the new government forcibly intervened to separate them, insisting that marriage with the enemy could not be allowed. Or Robert Stafford who complained that it was impossible for him to defend his fortress since his sole gunner was absent, the only cannon was in need of repair and there was just one crossbow left in the armoury – and that had no string. In our own time there is a horrible familiarity in the plight of those on the ground, fighting and often giving their lives to defend the English kingdom of France whilst denied the men, money and equipment they needed by the politicians who had sent them there in the first place.

  Conquest tells an extraordinary story – and one that ought to be remembered."  

  What the cover says:  In her best-selling Agincourt, Juliet Barker gave us the definitive narrative of Henry V’s extraordinary victory over the French. Now, in Conquest, she tells the equally remarkable, but largely forgotten, story of the dramatic years when England ruled France at the point of a sword.

            Henry V’s second invasion of France in 1417 launched a campaign that would put the crown of France on an English head. Buoyed by victory, his conquest looked unstoppable. By the time of his premature death in 1422, almost all of northern France was in his hands. The Valois heir to the throne had been disinherited and it was Henry’s infant son who became the first English king of France.

            Only the miraculous appearance of a visionary peasant girl – Joan of Arc – would halt the English advance. Yet despite her victories, her influence was short-lived: Henry VI had his coronation in Paris six months after her death and his kingdom endured for another twenty years. When he came of age he was not the leader his father had been. It was the dauphin, whom Joan had crowned Charles VII, who would finally drive the English out of France.

            Conquest brings to life these stirring times – the epic battles and sieges, plots and betrayals – through a kaleidoscope of characters from John Talbot, the ‘English Achilles’, and John, duke of Bedford, regent of France, to brutal mercenaries, opportunistic freebooters, resourceful spies and tragic lovers torn apart by the conflict.

            Supremely evocative and readable, Conquest is narrative history at its most colourful and compelling – the true story of those who fought for an English kingdom of France.

Reviews of Conquest:

‘Juliet Barker’s new book is a magnificently readable account of the last four decades of [The Hundred Years War] … I thought Agincourt was a superb book, but Conquest is even better. Once upon a time there was an English kingdom in France and Juliet Barker has brought it to extraordinary life.’
Five Star Review
Bernard Cornwell, Mail on Sunday.

‘The story is worth telling and Barker tells it superbly well. Her judgements are shrewd. Her understanding of the complex politics of the period is impressive. She writes in a spare, elegant style … There was a need for a good history of the failed enterprises of the English. Juliet Barker’s book supplies it handsomely.’ Jonathan Sumption, Literary Review.

‘Any historical novelist looking to set a swords n’ arrows actioner in a time and place not already hackneyed to death should read Juliet Barker’s brilliant account of [this] 30-year period in the early fifteenth century … For reasons of national pride on both sides the period has been neglected, but this vivid reclamation for a wide readership will perhaps restore it to its proper place in our national narrative.’
Iain Finlayson, The Times.

‘Barker is not writing women’s history: this is a tale of warlords and ruthless killers … the ideals of chivalry were left in the mud at Agincourt and this book is inevitably darker in tone than its predecessor. Still, a baffling, tragic and wasteful episode has now been turned into military history of a high order. For England and Saint George!’
Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday.

‘Juliet Barker’s excellent new book, “Conquest” … complements her previous works on medieval history’ The Economist.

‘Academics may have applauded the arrival this year of … the third volume of Jonathan Sumption’s thorough history of the 100 years’ war, but the general reader may find greater joy in this more modest but strikingly engaging study of a relatively unknown era … the story of how Henry V swept all before him, how his relatives under the infant Henry VI bickered over his conquests, how Joan of Arc rallied the French and how Charles VII won his country back, makes for engrossing reading.’
Andrew Holgate, The Year’s Best History Books 2009, Sunday Times.

‘Juliet Barker takes the story to 1450 in her compelling Conquest: The English Kingdom of France … which tells how England threw away Henry’s legacy in a sorry tale of lost battles, political bickering and financial mismanagement. Plus ça change, indeed.’
Dominic Sandbrook, History Books of the Year 2009, Daily Telegraph.