Coucy is one of England’s best known alien residents in the middle ages, even though his residence in England was for little more than nine of his fifty-seven years. He arrived in England under duress, as one of the forty hostages for the ransom of John II of France, agreed in the treaty of Bretigny (1360). He and the other hostages were treated well by the English, and the scene was set for Coucy to have a comfortable life in England. He was restored to his lands in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumberland and Westmorland, claimed by right of his great-grandmother Catherine de Balliol, in 1363. Yet his residence in England was confirmed by his marriage to Edward III’s eldest daughter, Isabella (1332-1382), following which he was created earl of Bedford and a knight of the Garter. While the marriage may have been a love match, it was certainly of great mutual benefit Coucy and Edward III.
It appears that Coucy maintained good relations with both the English and French monarchs, for when war broke out again in 1369, he was careful to avoid the conflict, but his interests in both countries were left well alone by both sides. However, the renewal of war effectively ended his residence in England, despite his wife and one of his two daughters, Philippa, returning to their home country. While he did return to England briefly in 1376, attending the deathbed of the Black Prince and his funeral, he returned to France to resume his new role as a councillor of Charles V. Following the death of Edward III, Coucy wrote to Richard II to return his Garter, and renounce all that he held of him in faith and homage. After severing his ties with England, Coucy continued his renowned military career, revered as a great chivalric knight. He died a captive of the Turks in 1397, after defeat on crusade at Nicopolis.
His residence in England may have been short-lived, but he made his mark on the English aristocracy. He was greatly favoured by his father-in-law, so that Coucy and his wife were lavished with gifts of money, jewels and land. His daughter, Philippa, married one of the most notorious nobles of Richard II’s reign, Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford. However, his loyalties were firmly with Edward III as an individual monarch, rather than the English Crown as a whole, and his choice to cut his ties with England and his family suggest that he never truly viewed England as his home.
London, The National Archives:
E 403: Exchequer, Issue Rolls
Keen, M. H., ‘Coucy, Enguerrand (VII) de, earl of Bedford (c. 1340-1397)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/53074]
Lutkin, J., ‘Isabella de Coucy, daughter of Edward III: The Exception Who Proves the Rule’ in Fourteenth Century England VI, ed. by C. Given-Wilson (Woodbridge, 2010), 130-148
Savage, H. L., ‘Enguerrand de Coucy VII and the Campaign of Nicopolis’, Speculum, 14 (1939), 423-42
Tuchman, B., A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century (London, 1978)