The Hundred Years War was arguably the last major war which the English lost. In July 1449 the French king, Charles VII, began his major onslaught on the duchy of Normandy which the English had held since Henry's V's campaigns of thirty years previous. Slightly over a year later, on 19 August 1450, John Gresham wrote to John Paston: 'Today is Cherbourg gone and we have now not a foot of land left in Normandy'. 1 Gascony, a possession of the English crown since the mid twelfth century, was soon to follow, and although there was a brief hope of its recovery in 1453, the English fate was sealed by the defeat of the Earl of Shrewsbury at Castillon on 17 July of that year. In the interim, Calais had been deemed vulnerable: Gresham's letter had added 'and men are afraid that Calais will soon be besieged'. There were several abortive attempts to send armies to France, with plans in January 1452 for the king even to lead an expedition in person. On the other side of the Channel in Normandy the French remained in readiness for a possible English revanche. But shortly after the battle of Castillon - in response, it has been suggested, to hearing news of the defeat - Henry VI succumbed to his first bout of debilitating madness. Minds were now concentrated on how the government might be conducted in his 'absence'. Richard, Duke of York, was appointed protector; the terms and conditions which he subsequently negotiated reveal continuing concern for the defence of Calais. 2 In the face of such pressures at home and abroad, no further attempt was made to recover the lost provinces of Normandy and Gascony. With their loss, any claim the English kings had to the crown of France by virtue of the treaty of Troyes 25of 1420, or consequent upon the hereditary right of the descendants of Edward III, was rendered a dead letter, if it was not already so well before Charles VII invaded the duchy of Normandy in July 1449.