Middle English possessed a determiner spelled variously hie, yhe, yeo etc. before Modern English she/her became standard. The origin is not completely certain, see Wiktionary on she:
Probably from Old English hēo (whence dialectal English hoo), with an irregular change in stress from hēo to heō /hjoː/, then a development from /hj-/ to /ç/ to /ʃ-/
Probably, as I understand it, means: it’s complicated. There is a non-negligable chance that ye could legitimately be read as an article because pronominals were in flux.
The exclusive assumption that ye was always read the (supra, three prior answers) is not necessary nor sufficient. For a positive answer it is sufficient if ye could be read the. Then we should expect that ye could be read ambiguously ye and therefore the. This is tenable on semantic grounds and possibly on phonetic grounds. Both points are uncertain and have been grossly overlooked.
The Middle English pronoun heo meaning she:
From Old English hēo, hīe. Probably a doublet of sche; see that entry for more.
- he, hie, hi, hye, hy, hoe, ho, hue, hu, hw, ȝeo, ȝe, ȝhe, ȝoe, ȝo, ȝho, yhe, yo, yio, ge, ghe, ha, a*
Homonym senses in Middle English include: “It; used also of inanimate objects" and alternative forms of he (“he”) and he (“they”). At first sight, this does not include the the that the trivial solution would require. It has to be more complicated. Notice they:
Anecdotally, they schools is permissible in some southern AAVE dialect today (e.g. in the title of a Dead Prez song), apparently older. The origin is uncertain (OED apud Wiktionary for the determiner they):
(now Southern England dialect or nonstandard) The, those. [from 14th c.]
(US dialects, including African-American Vernacular) Their. [from 19th c.]
The ambiguity of the third-person pronoun they, on the other hand, is in line with the reasonably great variation of determiners in Germanic languages. Its origin story has received renewed interest in previous years and should be reviewed along with the.
Traditionally, Old Norse þeir is identified in English around the 13th century, as the plural of the Norse demonstrative sá. Taking the form of they it “displaced native Middle English he from Old English hīe” and it was arguably integrated with the singular paradigm without completely replacing it, too, as “usage of they as a singular pronoun began in the 1300s and has been common ever since […]” (Wiktionary)
Marcelle Cole argues against the Norse hypothesis with “A native origin for Present-Day English they, their, them” (Diachronica 35:2 (2018), 165–209), quite convincingly (boldface mine):
I present evidence to suggest that a cross-paradigmatic merger in function in ONbr [Old Northumbrian] led to the replacement of the inherited OE h-pronouns by þ-pronouns. The merger is unsurprising in that comparable developments are found cross-linguistically in both Germanic and non-Germanic languages, and þ-forms were already used as anaphoric pronouns in OE.
Note that “Orthographically the Lindisfarne glossator favours <ð> over <þ>.” (p. 174), which we transcribe th, usually voiced or unvoiced respectively.
This transformative process did arguably include the s-forms, since th-forms have replaced Old English sēo as articles, pronouns and determiners to some extent. See Wiktionary on the Old English determiner sēo:
nominative feminine singular of se: the
[usage example] sēo cwēn ― the queen
nominative feminine singular of sē: that (a greeing with feminine nouns)
nominative feminine singular of sē: she, that one
Corollary: Our the descends from “a late variant of sē” (Wiktionary on þe).
This is formally equivalent to Norse sá, þeir, etc. The details remain open, for the sake of the argument, because this corner of etymology is dense.
This shows two things. The problem space is not completely understood. A chance of h-forms competing with th-forms is realistic and yet difficult to understand. This predates printing.
Note that articles are a relatively recent innovation which is difficult to explain, because many related languages like Old Norse and Latin do not have a definite article. Note in particular Dutch het, which may behave like an article, and Latin ille etc., which is distantly related to you.
Note also that English you had replaced former thou in the second person singular between the 12th and 16th century by the latest, credited to the influence of honorific forms in similar usage elsewhere (Etymonline).