Hundred Years' War
|Hundred Years' War|
|Part of the |
Clockwise, from top left: the Battle of La Rochelle, the Battle of Agincourt, the Battle of Patay, and Joan of Arc at the Siege of Orléans
|Commanders and leaders|
The Hundred Years' War (French: La guerre de Cent Ans; Picard: Dgère d'Un Chint An; 1337–1453) was a series of armed conflicts between the kingdoms of England and France during the Late Middle Ages. It originated from English claims to the French throne. The war grew into a broader power struggle involving factions from across Western Europe, fuelled by emerging nationalism on both sides.
The Hundred Years' War was a significant conflict in the Middle Ages. For 116 years, interrupted by several truces, five generations of kings from two rival dynasties fought for the throne of France, the dominant kingdom in Western Europe. The war's effect on European history was lasting. Both sides produced innovations in military technology and tactics, including professional standing armies and artillery, that permanently changed warfare in Europe; chivalry, which reached its height during the conflict, subsequently declined. Stronger national identities took root in both countries, which became more centralised and gradually rose as global powers.
The term "Hundred Years' War" was adopted by later historians as a
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The root causes of the conflict can be traced to the crisis of 14th-century Europe. The outbreak of war was motivated by a gradual rise in tension between the kings of France and England over territory; the official pretext was the question that arose because of the interruption of the direct male line of the Capetian dynasty.
Tensions between the French and English crowns had gone back centuries to the origins of the English royal family, which was French (Norman, and later, Angevin) in origin because of William the Conqueror, the Norman duke who became King of England in 1066. English monarchs had therefore historically held titles and lands within France, which made them vassals to the kings of France. The status of the English king's French fiefs was a major source of conflict between the two monarchies throughout the Middle Ages. French monarchs systematically sought to check the growth of English power, stripping away lands as the opportunity arose, particularly whenever England was at war with Scotland, an ally of France. English holdings in France had varied in size, at some points dwarfing even the French royal domain; by 1337, however, only Gascony was English.
So the throne passed instead to Charles's patrilineal cousin, Philip, Count of Valois. Edward protested but ultimately submitted and did homage for Gascony. Further French disagreements with Edward induced Philip, during May 1337, to meet with his Great Council in Paris. It was agreed that Gascony should be taken back into Philip's hands, which prompted Edward to renew his claim for the French throne, this time by force of arms.
In the early years of the war, the English, led by their king and his son
Caroline Phase and Black Death
By 1378, under King Charles V the Wise and the leadership of Bertrand du Guesclin, the French had reconquered most of the lands ceded to King Edward in the Treaty of Brétigny (signed in 1360), leaving the English with only a few cities on the continent.
In the following decades, the weakening of royal authority, combined with the devastation caused by the Black Death of 1347–1351 (which killed nearly half of France and 20-33% of England) and the major economic crisis that followed, led to a period of civil unrest in both countries. These crises were resolved in England earlier than in France.
Lancastrian Phase and after
The newly crowned Henry V of England seized the opportunity presented by the mental illness of Charles VI of France and the French civil war between Armagnacs and Burgundians to revive the conflict. Overwhelming victories at Agincourt in 1415 and Verneuil in 1424 as well as an alliance with the Burgundians raised the prospects of an ultimate English triumph and persuaded the English to continue the war over many decades. A variety of factors prevented this, however. Notable influences include the deaths of both Henry and Charles in 1422, the emergence of Joan of Arc (which boosted French morale), and the loss of Burgundy as an ally (concluding the French civil war).
The Siege of Orléans in 1429 made English aspirations for conquest all but infeasible. Despite England’s modest victory in Joan’s capture by the Burgundians and her subsequent execution in 1431, a series of crushing French victories concluded the war in favor of the Valois dynasty. Notably, Patay in 1429, Formigny in 1450 and Castillon in 1453 proved decisive for ending the war. England permanently lost most of its continental possessions, with only the Pale of Calais remaining under its control on the continent until 1558 in the Siege of Calais.
Related conflicts and aftereffects
Local conflicts in neighbouring areas, which were contemporarily related to the war, including the
By the War's end, feudal armies had mainly been replaced by professional troops, and aristocratic dominance had yielded to a democratisation of the manpower and weapons of armies. Although primarily a dynastic conflict, the war inspired French and English nationalism. The broader introduction of weapons and tactics supplanted the feudal armies where heavy cavalry had dominated, and artillery became important. The war precipitated the creation of the first standing armies in Western Europe since the Western Roman Empire and helped change their role in warfare.
Civil wars, deadly epidemics, famines, and bandit free-companies of mercenaries reduced the population drastically in France. But at the end of the war, the French had the upper hand due to the better supply they had such as small hand-held cannons, weapons, etc. In England, political forces over time came to oppose the costly venture. After the war, England was left insolvent and it left the conquering French in complete control of all of France except Calais. The dissatisfaction of English nobles, resulting from the loss of their continental landholdings, as well as the general shock at losing a war in which investment had been so significant, helped lead to the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487). The economic consequences of the Hundred Years' War not only produced a decline in trade, but it also led to a high collection of taxes from both countries and it played a major role in civil disorder.
Causes and prelude
Dynastic turmoil in France: 1316–1328
The question of female succession to the French throne was raised after the death of Louis X in 1316. Louis left behind a young daughter, Joan II of Navarre, and a son, John I of France, although he only lived for five days. However, Joan's paternity was in question, as her mother, Margaret of Burgundy, was accused of being an adulterer in the Tour de Nesle affair. Given the situation, Philip, Count of Poitiers and brother of Louis X, positioned himself to take the crown, advancing the stance that women should be ineligible to succeed to the French throne. Through his political sagacity he won over his adversaries and succeeded to the French throne as Philip V. When he died in 1322, leaving only daughters behind, the crown then passed to his younger brother, Charles IV. 
|Hundred Years' War (1337–1453)Royal families involved in the|
Charles IV died in 1328, leaving behind his young daughter and pregnant wife, Joan of Évreux. He decreed that, if the unborn child was male, he would become king. If not, Charles left the choice of his successor to the nobles. Joan gave birth to a girl, Blanche of France (later Duchess of Orleans). With the death of Charles IV and birth of Blanche, the main male line of the House of Capet was rendered extinct.
Eventually, Edward III reluctantly recognised Philip VI and paid him homage for the duchy of Aquitaine and Gascony in 1329. He made concessions in Guyenne, but reserved the right to reclaim territories arbitrarily confiscated. After that, he expected to be left undisturbed while he made war on Scotland.
The dispute over Guyenne: a problem of sovereignty
Tensions between the French and English monarchies can be traced back to the 1066 Norman Conquest of England, in which the English throne was seized by the Duke of Normandy, a vassal of the King of France. As a result, the crown of England was held by a succession of nobles who already owned lands in France, which put them among the most powerful subjects of the French King, as they could now draw upon the economic power of England to enforce their interests in the mainland. To the kings of France, this dangerously threatened their royal authority, and so they would constantly try to undermine English rule in France, while the English monarchs would struggle to protect and expand their lands. This clash of interests was the root cause of much of the conflict between the French and English monarchies throughout the medieval era.
The Anglo-Norman dynasty that had ruled England since the Norman conquest of 1066 was brought to an end when Henry, the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Empress Matilda, and great-grandson of William the Conqueror, became the first of the Angevin kings of England in 1154 as Henry II. The Angevin kings ruled over what was later known as the Angevin Empire, which included more French territory than that under the kings of France. The Angevins still owed homage for these territories to the French king. From the 11th century, the Angevins had autonomy within their French domains, neutralising the issue.
King John of England inherited the Angevin domains from his brother Richard I. However, Philip II of France acted decisively to exploit the weaknesses of John, both legally and militarily, and by 1204 had succeeded in taking control of much of the Angevin continental possessions. Following John's reign, the Battle of Bouvines (1214), the Saintonge War (1242), and finally the War of Saint-Sardos (1324), the English king's holdings on the continent, as Duke of Aquitaine, were limited roughly to provinces in Gascony.
The dispute over Guyenne is even more important than the dynastic question in explaining the outbreak of the war. Guyenne posed a significant problem to the kings of France and England: Edward III was a vassal of Philip VI of France because of his French possessions and was required to recognise the suzerainty of the King of France over them. In practical terms, a judgment in Guyenne might be subject to an appeal to the French royal court. The King of France had the power to revoke all legal decisions made by the King of England in Aquitaine, which was unacceptable to the English. Therefore, sovereignty over Guyenne was a latent conflict between the two monarchies for several generations.
During the War of Saint-Sardos, Charles of Valois, father of Philip VI, invaded Aquitaine on behalf of Charles IV and conquered the duchy after a local insurrection, which the French believed had been incited by Edward II of England. Charles IV grudgingly agreed to return this territory in 1325. To recover his duchy, Edward II had to compromise: he sent his son, the future Edward III, to pay homage.
The King of France agreed to restore Guyenne, minus Agen but the French delayed the return of the lands, which helped Philip VI. On 6 June 1329, Edward III finally paid homage to the King of France. However, at the ceremony, Philip VI had it recorded that the homage was not due to the fiefs detached from the duchy of Guyenne by Charles IV (especially Agen). For Edward, the homage did not imply the renunciation of his claim to the extorted lands.
Gascony under the King of England
In the 11th century,
At the beginning of Edward III's reign on 1 February 1327, the only part of Aquitaine that remained in his hands was the Duchy of Gascony. The term Gascony came to be used for the territory held by the Angevin (
For the first 10 years of Edward III's reign, Gascony had been a major point of friction. The English argued that, as Charles IV had not acted in a proper way towards his tenant, Edward should be able to hold the duchy free of any French suzerainty. This argument was rejected by the French, so in 1329, the 17-year-old Edward III paid homage to Philip VI. Tradition demanded that vassals approach their liege unarmed, with heads bare. Edward protested by attending the ceremony wearing his crown and sword. Even after this pledge of homage, the French continued to pressure the English administration.
Gascony was not the only sore point. One of Edward's influential advisers was Robert III of Artois. Robert was an exile from the French court, having fallen out with Philip VI over an inheritance claim. He urged Edward to start a war to reclaim France, and was able to provide extensive intelligence on the French court.
France was an ally of the Kingdom of Scotland as English kings had for some time tried to subjugate the country. In 1295, a treaty was signed between France and Scotland during the reign of Philip the Fair known as the Auld Alliance. Charles IV formally renewed the treaty in 1326, promising Scotland that France would support the Scots if England invaded their country. Similarly, France would have Scotland's support if its own kingdom were attacked. Edward could not succeed in his plans for Scotland if the Scots could count on French support.
Philip VI had assembled a large naval fleet off Marseilles as part of an ambitious plan for a
Beginning of the war: 1337–1360
End of homage
At the end of April 1337, Philip of France was invited to meet the delegation from England but refused. The arrière-ban, literally a call to arms, was proclaimed throughout France starting on 30 April 1337. Then, in May 1337, Philip met with his Great Council in Paris. It was agreed that the Duchy of Aquitaine, effectively Gascony, should be taken back into the king's hands on the grounds that Edward III was in breach of his obligations as vassal and had sheltered the king's 'mortal enemy' Robert d'Artois. Edward responded to the confiscation of Aquitaine by challenging Philip's right to the French throne.
When Charles IV died, Edward had made a claim for the succession of the French throne, through the right of his mother Isabella (Charles IV's sister), daughter of Philip IV. Any claim was considered invalidated by Edward's homage to Philip VI in 1329. Edward revived his claim and in 1340 formally assumed the title 'King of France and the French Royal Arms'.
On 26 January 1340, Edward III formally received homage from Guy, half-brother of the Count of Flanders. The civic authorities of Ghent, Ypres and Bruges proclaimed Edward King of France. Edward's purpose was to strengthen his alliances with the Low Countries. His supporters would be able to claim that they were loyal to the "true" King of France and were not rebels against Philip. In February 1340, Edward returned to England to try to raise more funds and also deal with political difficulties.
Relations with Flanders were also tied to the English wool trade, since Flanders' principal cities relied heavily on textile production and England supplied much of the raw material they needed. Edward III had commanded that his chancellor sit on the woolsack in council as a symbol of the pre-eminence of the wool trade. At the time there were about 110,000 sheep in Sussex alone. The great medieval English monasteries produced large surpluses of wool that were sold to mainland Europe. Successive governments were able to make large amounts of money by taxing it. France's sea power led to economic disruptions for England, shrinking the wool trade to Flanders and the wine trade from Gascony.
Outbreak, the English Channel and Brittany
On 22 June 1340, Edward and his fleet sailed from England and the next day arrived off the Zwin estuary. The French fleet assumed a defensive formation off the port of Sluis. The English fleet deceived the French into believing they were withdrawing. When the wind turned in the late afternoon, the English attacked with the wind and sun behind them. The French fleet was almost completely destroyed in what became known as the Battle of Sluys.
England dominated the English Channel for the rest of the war, preventing French
In 1341, conflict over the succession to the Duchy of Brittany began the War of the Breton Succession, in which Edward backed John of Montfort and Philip backed Charles of Blois. Action for the next few years focused around a back-and-forth struggle in Brittany. The city of Vannes in Brittany changed hands several times, while further campaigns in Gascony met with mixed success for both sides. The English-backed Montfort finally succeeded in taking the duchy but not until 1364.
Battle of Crécy and the taking of Calais
In July 1346, Edward mounted a major invasion across the channel, landing in Normandy's
The Battle of Crécy of 1346 was a complete disaster for the French, largely credited to the longbowmen and the French king, who allowed his army to attack before it was ready. Philip appealed to his Scottish allies to help with a diversionary attack on England. King David II of Scotland responded by invading northern England, but his army was defeated and he was captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross, on 17 October 1346. This greatly reduced the threat from Scotland.
In France, Edward proceeded north unopposed and besieged the city of Calais on the English Channel, capturing it in 1347. This became an important strategic asset for the English, allowing them to keep troops safely in northern France. Calais would remain under English control, even after the end of the Hundred Years' War, until the successful French siege in 1558.
Battle of Poitiers
This led to the
After the Battle of Poitiers, many French nobles and mercenaries rampaged, and chaos ruled. A contemporary report recounted:
... all went ill with the kingdom and the State was undone. Thieves and robbers rose up everywhere in the land. The Nobles despised and hated all others and took no thought for usefulness and profit of lord and men. They subjected and despoiled the peasants and the men of the villages. In no wise did they defend their country from its enemies; rather did they trample it underfoot, robbing and pillaging the peasants' goods ...— From the Chronicles of Jean de Venette
Reims Campaign and Black Monday
Edward invaded France, for the third and last time, hoping to capitalise on the discontent and seize the throne. The Dauphin's strategy was that of non-engagement with the English army in the field. However, Edward wanted the crown and chose the cathedral city of Reims for his coronation (Reims was the traditional coronation city). However, the citizens of Reims built and reinforced the city's defences before Edward and his army arrived. Edward besieged the city for five weeks, but the defences held and there was no coronation. Edward moved on to Paris, but retreated after a few skirmishes in the suburbs. Next was the town of Chartres.
Disaster struck in a freak
First peace: 1360–1369
The French king, John II, had been held captive in England. The Treaty of Brétigny set his ransom at 3 million crowns and allowed for hostages to be held in lieu of John. The hostages included two of his sons, several princes and nobles, four inhabitants of Paris, and two citizens from each of the nineteen principal towns of France. While these hostages were held, John returned to France to try and raise funds to pay the ransom. In 1362 John's son Louis of Anjou, a hostage in English-held Calais, escaped captivity. So, with his stand-in hostage gone, John felt honour-bound to return to captivity in England.
The French crown had been at odds with Navarre (near southern Gascony) since 1354, and in 1363 the Navarrese used the captivity of John II in London and the political weakness of the Dauphin to try to seize power. Although there was no formal treaty, Edward III supported the Navarrese moves, particularly as there was a prospect that he might gain control over the northern and western provinces as a consequence. With this in mind, Edward deliberately slowed the peace negotiations. In 1364, John II died in London, while still in honourable captivity. Charles V succeeded him as king of France. On 16 May, one month after the dauphin's accession and three days before his coronation as Charles V, the Navarrese suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Cocherel.
French ascendancy under Charles V: 1369–1389
Aquitaine and Castile
In 1366 there was a civil war of succession in Castile (part of modern Spain). The forces of the ruler Peter of Castile were pitched against those of his half-brother Henry of Trastámara. The English crown supported Peter; the French supported Henry. French forces were led by Bertrand du Guesclin, a Breton, who rose from relatively humble beginnings to prominence as one of France's war leaders. Charles V provided a force of 12,000, with du Guesclin at their head, to support Trastámara in his invasion of Castile.
Peter appealed to England and Aquitaine's
Although the Castilians had agreed to fund the Black Prince, they failed to do so. The Prince was suffering from ill health and returned with his army to Aquitaine. To pay off debts incurred during the Castile campaign, the prince instituted a
With the Black Prince gone from Castile, Henry of Trastámara led a second invasion that ended with Peter's death at the Battle of Montiel in March 1369. The new Castilian regime provided naval support to French campaigns against Aquitaine and England. In 1372 the Castilian fleet defeated the English fleet in the Battle of La Rochelle.
1373 campaign of John of Gaunt
In August 1373, John of Gaunt, accompanied by John de Montfort, Duke of Brittany led a force of 9,000 men from Calais on a chevauchée. While initially successful as French forces were insufficiently concentrated to oppose them, the English met more resistance as they moved south. French forces began to concentrate around the English force but under orders from Charles V, the French avoided a set battle. Instead, they fell on forces detached from the main body to raid or forage. The French shadowed the English and in October, the English found themselves trapped against the River Allier by four French forces. With some difficulty, the English crossed at the bridge at Moulins but lost all their baggage and loot. The English carried on south across the Limousin plateau but the weather was turning severe. Men and horses died in great numbers and many soldiers, forced to march on foot, discarded their armour. At the beginning of December, the English army entered friendly territory in Gascony. By the end of December they were in Bordeaux, starving, ill-equipped and having lost over half of the 30,000 horses with which they had left Calais. Although the march across France had been a remarkable feat, it was a military failure.
With his health deteriorating, the Black Prince returned to England in January 1371, where his father Edward III was elderly and also in poor health. The prince's illness was debilitating, and he died on 8 June 1376. Edward III died the following year on 21 June 1377 and was succeeded by the Black Prince's second son Richard II who was still a child of 10 (Edward of Angoulême, the Black Prince's first son, had died sometime earlier). The treaty of Brétigny had left Edward III and England with enlarged holdings in France, but a small professional French army under the leadership of du Guesclin pushed the English back; by the time Charles V died in 1380, the English held only Calais and a few other ports.
It was usual to appoint a
1380 campaign of the Earl of Buckingham
In July 1380, the
After the deaths of Charles V and du Guesclin in 1380, France lost its main leadership and overall momentum in the war. Charles VI succeeded his father as king of France at the age of 11, and he was thus put under a regency led by his uncles, who managed to maintain an effective grip on government affairs until about 1388, well after Charles had achieved royal majority.
With France facing widespread destruction, plague, and economic recession, high taxation put a heavy burden on the French peasantry and urban communities. The war effort against England largely depended on royal taxation, but the population was increasingly unwilling to pay for it, as would be demonstrated at the Harelle and Maillotin revolts in 1382. Charles V had abolished many of these taxes on his deathbed, but subsequent attempts to reinstate them stirred up hostility between the French government and populace.
Philip II of Burgundy, the uncle of the French king, brought together a Burgundian-French army and a fleet of 1,200 ships near the Zeeland town of Sluis in the summer and autumn of 1386 to attempt an invasion of England, but this venture failed. However, Philip's brother John of Berry appeared deliberately late, so that the autumn weather prevented the fleet from leaving and the invading army then dispersed again.
Difficulties in raising taxes and revenue hampered the ability of the French to fight the English. At this point, the war's pace had largely slowed down, and both nations found themselves fighting mainly through proxy wars, such as during the 1383–1385 Portuguese interregnum. The independence party in the Kingdom of Portugal, which was supported by the English, won against the supporters of the King of Castile's claim to the Portuguese throne, who in turn was backed by the French.
Second peace: 1389–1415
The war became increasingly unpopular with the English public due to the high taxes needed for the war effort. These taxes were seen as one of the reasons for the Peasants' Revolt.
In 1389, Richard's uncle and supporter,
Throughout this period, England confronted repeated raids by
Resumption of the war under Henry V: 1415–1429
Burgundian alliance and the seizure of Paris
Battle of Agincourt (1415)
In August 1415,
Treaty of Troyes (1420)
Henry retook much of Normandy, including Caen in 1417, and Rouen on 19 January 1419, turning Normandy English for the first time in two centuries. A formal alliance was made with Burgundy, which had taken Paris in 1418 before the assassination of Duke John the Fearless in 1419. In 1420, Henry met with King Charles VI. They signed the Treaty of Troyes, by which Henry finally married Charles' daughter Catherine of Valois and Henry's heirs would inherit the throne of France. The Dauphin, Charles VII, was declared illegitimate. Henry formally entered Paris later that year and the agreement was ratified by the Estates-General (French: Les États-Généraux).