When did the English Court cease speaking French?

Jan 2010
4,418
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#1
My spouse and I were watching a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V. There is a lot of funny dialog between Katherine and her maid re the English words for various body parts and, at the end, Henry woos Katherine in broken French.

But the Normans spoke French and Henry II and his sons must have too, as they spent most of their lives in the French part of the Angevin Empire.

So when did French become a foreign language to English kings?
 
Jun 2015
5,713
UK
#3
I'm sure Henry I "Fine-swot" must have spoken a little ENglish, since he called his son (essentially) Atheling and his wife was English. I doubt Henry II nor Richard Lionheart did, but John, Henry III, Edward Longshanks, and Edward II may have known some broken English or held a basic conversation with their servants. If anything, English speaking amongst the higher classes grew under Edward III, in opposition to the French in the Hundred Years War. Richard II may have spoken French, but there must have been others in his court that were habitual English speakers.
 
Jan 2010
4,418
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#4
But the question is not when did they begin speaking English but when they stopped speaking French—to the point that a king could not carry on a fluent conversation in French.

I realize Henry V is theatre, and very nationalistic theatre at that. It would seem to me that the Hundred Years War would have prolonged the speaking of French as English were often on the continent.

EDIT: I see Bart answered. Thanks
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#5
But the question is not when did they begin speaking English but when they stopped speaking French—to the point that a king could not carry on a fluent conversation in French.

I realize Henry V is theatre, and very nationalistic theatre at that. It would seem to me that the Hundred Years War would have prolonged the speaking of French as English were often on the continent.

EDIT: I see Bart answered. Thanks

I would say the opposite, the Hundred Years War would have hastened the switch to English. To separate themselves from the French, and because they lost their French possession, English would be preferred.

If the Normsn English didn't feel the necessity of adopting English for the first 100 years or so of their rule in England, I doubt they would have felt the need to retain French for the Hundred Years War when France was just a foreign country they invaded. National pride would tend to make them favor English over French. By the middle of the Hundreds Years War English had become the mother tongue of English kings (Henry IV)
 
Sep 2018
22
Salonica
#6
French was the language of the court and by the 14th century lots of English lords including Edward the III spoke french better than english but since the black plauge caused a shortage of tutors to teach french in England, the english language grew more popular
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#7
French was the language of the court and by the 14th century lots of English lords including Edward the III spoke french better than english but since the black plauge caused a shortage of tutors to teach french in England, the english language grew more popular
The fact that they needed tutors to teach them French shows that it was ceasing to be a mother tongue for many of the English nobolity by then. The Black Death coincided with the Hundred Years War as well. Patriotism would have discovered the use of French, just the Bititish family changed its name during WW1.
 
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#9
Even at Waterloo,Wellingtn and Blucher have spoken in french
That's because it was the default language to speak as a go-between for people that spoke different languages. Wellington didn't speak German, and I'm not sure if Blucher spoke English, but both men certainly knew French. It's like today how English is the default go-between language for people that don't speak each other's language.
 

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