Lear's dilemma - future of Britain & Cordelia

Tripartition of Britain - Lear's grand plan

Kent & Gloster - Lear's attitude to Cornwall

Act 1 Scene 1 - Enter KING LEAR

The flattery game - Goneril & Regan

Sharing the kingdom - a third more opulent

Lear and flattery - did he love it or hate it?

Duke of Burgundy - the dowerless suitor

King of France - in choler parted

Edmund - sectary astronomical

Duke of Albany - worthy prince

Queen Goneril - King Lear's successor?

Oswald - this detested groom

Goneril - under the influence

Regan - is she worse than Goneril?

Goneril/Edmund/Regan - unequilateral triangle

Division 'twixt Albany and Cornwall - rumour

Lear's sanity - recovery

The final tableau - Lear endures his going hence

The last word - Albany or Edgar?

King of France — in choler parted

An alliance nipped in the bud

France's betrothal to Cordelia is met with a cold acceptance.

Thou hast her, France: let her be thine; for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison.
Come, noble Burgundy.

France observes Lear befriending Burgundy, rather pointedly excluding him from their talks. If this results in an alliance between Britain and Burgundy, France will be the loser. In this case, his marriage will have resulted in the very opposite of what he would have expected. Before France returns home there is further compliment of leave-taking between France and him [Lear]. Earlier France had spoken as though he regarded Cordelia's aggravation of Lear as not of great significance.

Is it but this, - a tardiness in nature
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do?

With this attitude one would think France would try to persuade Lear to reverse his disinheriting of Cordelia. Lear might well remind France that he had tried to forestall the marriage.

..........therefore beseech you
To avert your liking a more worthier way

Surely, France would suggest to Lear that he is making a mountain out of a molehill and would expect him to reassign Cordelia's dowry for the mutual security of their two countries as well as for France's sake as his son-in-law. France had hoped to marry Cordelia and have an alliance with Britain. This would have made him the greatest power in the region. As things now stand he cannot even make an alliance with one third of Britain. Goneril and Regan would expect Cordelia's lost inheritance to rankle with France and possibly result in a French invasion to take it by force. A preemptive strike may be their best option. Unless France can persuade Lear to reverse his decision he will be in terrible danger if there is ever a Goneril/Regan/Burgundy alliance where he can be invaded from three sides simultaneously. Lear apparently turned down France cold.

GLOSTER: .... and France in choler parted!

France is no longer Lear's friend. Later, Lear describes him as hot-blooded France. Despite France's professed love for Cordelia he would realise she is a political liability. She brings nothing to France and has precluded him from marrying into a more beneficial alliance, say, with a relative of the Duke of Burgundy. France, according to Lear, had been long in our court. He was not alone in Britain but would have had couriers and spies to carry messages to and from France. Units of the French army which accompanied him in France remained camped on the coast opposite Dover awaiting his return. This force would be an elite division but not so strong or large to be seen as a threat to Britain. It was not only to protect the King but to provide the pomp and ceremony to befit his triumphant return with his bride.

When Cordelia wants to try to save Lear would France want to help? Perhaps, but after his angry leave-taking when he last met Lear, would it be to co-operate only so long as it fits his agenda? Only France's army units on the spot could do anything immediately effective to take advantage of any British unpreparedness. A rumour of division between Cornwall and Albany and a likely conflict is circulating.

........... You have heard of the news abroad; I mean the whispered ones, for they are yet but ear-kissing arguments?
Not I: pray you, what are they?
Have you heard of no likely wars toward, 'twixt the two dukes of Cornwall and Albany?
Not a word.
You may do, then, in time. Fare you well, sir.
........... There is division,
Although as yet the face of it be cover'd
With mutual cunning, 'twixt Albany and Cornwall;

........... from France there comes a power
Into this scatter'd kingdom; who already,
Wise in our negligence
........... There is division betwixt the dukes

This rumour of British disunity, however, proves to be without foundation. In fact, the dukes are in active communication to unify their defensive measures against France.

Advise the duke [ALBANY] where you are going, to a most festinate preparation: we are bound to the like. Our posts shall be swift and intelligent betwixt us.

As soon as France establishes Cordelia and the army at Dover he withdraws, supposedly to attend urgent affairs needed to secure the safety of France, which, presumably, meant the country's defences.

The French camp near Dover. Enter KENT and a Gentleman
Why the King of France is so suddenly gone back know you the reason?
Something he left imperfect in the state, which since his coming forth is thought of; which imports to the kingdom so much fear and danger, his personal return was most required and necessary.
Who hath he left behind him general?
The Marshal of France, Monsieur La Far.

France would seem to have a minor reason and a major reason for invading Britain. His minor reason stems from Cordelia's desire to save Lear but this occurs prior to the battle when Lear is delivered to Cordelia at Kent's instigation. Just before this happens, though, Cordelia expresses other motives.

............. O dear father,
It is thy business that I go about;
Therefore great France
My mourning and important tears hath pitied.
No blown ambition doth our arms incite,
But love, dear love, and our aged father's right:

But perhaps it really is blown ambition that incites France to arms. Despite Albany's sympathy for Lear he is highly suspicious of France's real motives:

It toucheth us, as France invades our land,
Not bolds the king, with others, whom, I fear,
Most just and heavy causes make oppose.

Does France want to acquire Cordelia's lost dowry? By using her countenance for the battle as a figurehead will he be able to enlist the aid of British sympathisers? If France fully assists Cordelia his army plus Cordelia's supporters in Britain might win but he cannot be certain of how much British support, if any, she can muster to assist an obvious French invasion. Strategically, it is far better to provide Cordelia with only token support and let the British factions fight it out. If Cordelia wins, then France will become the de facto ruler of Britain. If Cordelia is defeated, the Goneril/Regan alliance, although winning the battle, will be weakened by its military losses. Britain would then be ripe for a fully-fledged French invasion. An immediate full-scale invasion is not a possible option. The logistics of marching the complete French army forward preparatory to invading Britain is precluded by the urgency of the situation on the ground. An immediate attack may catch Britain before its forces can be combined into a strong army. At the same time, all French forces need to be brought to a war footing in case of a counter-attack or preemptive strike by Britain and/or Burgundy. The King of France needs to be at the centre of power in case this happens and this might be the fear and danger requiring his personal return.

preemptive strike

Cordelia's lost inheritance will be a source of future strife.
A preemptive strike against France seems inevitable