it’s roots in political struggles, the want of Kings and the people oftheir nations to expand territory, and to take territory that they believeis theirs. This war lasted more than a century, from 1337-1453, andwas a actually a series of wars broken only temporarily by treatiesdoomed to fail.
The English king controlled much of France, particularly inthe fertile South. These lands had come under control of the Englishwhen Eleanor of Aquitaine, heiress to the region, married King HenryII of England in the mid-12th century. There was constant bickeringalong the French-English frontier, and the French kings always had tofear an English invasion from the South. Between Flanders in the Northand the English in the South, they were caught in between the twoEnglish colonies. The French responded by doing the same to the English.
They allied with the Scots in an arrangement that persisted well into the18th century. Thus the English faced the French from the south and theScots from the north. The French trap would only work if the French could invadeEngland across the English Channel. Besides, England could supporttheir Flemish allies only if they could send aid across the North Sea,and, moreover, English trade was dependent upon the free flow ofnaval traffic through the Channel. Consequently, the French continuallytried to gain the upper hand at sea, and the English constantly resistedthem. Both sides commissioned what would have been pirates if theyhad not been operating with royal permission to prey upon each other’sshipping, and there were frequent naval clashes in those constrictedwaters.
The last son of King Philip IV, the fair, died in 1328, and thedirect male line of the Capetians finally ended after almost 350 years. Philip had had a daughter, however. This daughter, Isabelle, hadmarried King Edward II of England, but her and a group of barons hadmurdered him, because they thought he was incompetent. So, EdwardIII their son was declared king of England. He was therefore Philip’sgrandson and successor in a direct line through Philip’s daughter.
TheFrench could not tolerate the idea that Edward might become King ofFrance, and French lawyers brought up some old Salic Laws, whichstated that property, including the throne, could not descend through afemale. The French then gave the crown to Philip of Valois, a nephewof Philip IV. Nevertheless, Edward III had a valid claim to the throneof France if he wished to pursue it. Although France was the most populous country in WesternEurope and also the wealthiest, England had a strong centralgovernment, many veterans of hard fighting on England’s Welsh andScottish borders, as well as in Ireland, a thriving economy, and apopular king.
Edward was disposed to fight France, and his subjectswere more than ready to support their young king who was only 18years old at the time . Also many went to “loot and pillage the fair andplenteous land of France. “1The war truly started in 1340. The French had assembled agreat fleet to support an army with which they intended to crush allresistance in Flanders. When the ships had anchored in a dense pack atSluys in modern Netherlands, the English attacked and destroyed itwith fire ships and victory in a battle fought across the anchored ships,almost like a land battle on a wooden battlefield.
The English now hadcontrol of the Channel and North Sea. They were safe from Frenchinvasion, could attack France at will, and could expect that the warwould be fought on French soil and thus at French expense. “A threeyear truce was signed by England and France in 1343, but in 1345Edward again invaded northern France1. ” The Black Death hadarrived, and his army was weakened by sickness. As the English forcetried to make its way safely to fortified Channel port, the Frenchattempted to force them into a battle.
The English were finally pinnedagainst the coast by a much superior French army at a place calledCrecy. Edward’s army was a combined force: archers, pikemen, lightinfantry, and cavalry; the French, by contrast, clung to theirold-fashioned feudal cavalry and used the powerful, but slow firingcrossbow. The English had archers using the longbow, a weapon withgreat penetrating power that could sometimes kill armored knights, andoften the horses on which they rode. Also, the longbow could fire threeof its arrows to the crossbow’s one in the same amount of time. As aresult the French knights were unhorsed by a blinding shower ofarrows. The battle was a disaster for the French.
The English took upposition on the crest of a hill, and the French cavalry tried to ride upthe slope to get at their opponents. The long climb up soggy groundtired and slowed the French horses, giving the English archers and footsoldiers ample opportunity to wreak havoc in the French ranks. Thosefew French who reached the crest of the hill found themselves facedwith rude, but effective, barriers, and, as they tried to withdraw, theywere attacked by the small but fresh English force of mounted knights. Another interesting thing about this battle, was that for the first time thecannon was used. Thus introducing artillery to war in the west. 9+As the war dragged on, the English were slowly forced back.
They had less French land to support their war effort as they did so,and the war became more expensive for them. This caused conflicts athome, such as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and the beginning of civilwars. Nevertheless, in the reign of Henry V, the English took theoffensive once again. At Agincourt, not far from Crecy, the Frenchrelapsed into their old tactics of feudal warfare once again, and wereagain disastrously defeated in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt. Durringthis battle “French casualties totaled about 5000 men.
English losesnumbered fewer than 200 men. 1″ The English recovered much of theground they had lost, and a new peace was based upon Henry’smarriage to the French princess Katherine. In the following years, the French developed a sense ofnational identity, as illustrated by Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who issaid to have played a major part in the English withdrawing from theirsiege on Orleans, and ten days later, Charles VII being crowned king atReims. These two things were the true tuning points in the war. TheFrench now had a greater unity, and the French king was able to fieldmassive armies on much the same model as the British. In addition,however, the French government began to appreciate the modernstyle of warfare, and new military commanders, such as Bertran duGuesclin, began to use guerilla and small war tactics of fighting.
This war marked the end of English attempts to controlcontinental territory and the beginning of its emphasis upon maritimesupremacy. By Henry V’s marriage into the House of Valois, anhereditary strain of mental disorder was introduced into the Englishroyal family. There were great advances in military technology andscience during the period, and the military value of the feudal knightwas thoroughly discredited. The order of knighthood went downfighting, however, in a wave of civil wars that racked the countries ofWestern Europe. The European countries began to establishprofessional standing armies and to develop the modern state necessaryto maintain such forces.
In both of these countries the idea of Nationalism, which is afeeling of unity and identity that binds together a people who speak thesame language, have common ancestry and customs, and live in thesame area, spread durring the war. “By the late middle ages , a vagueloyaltyto a particular dynasty might have been created, and in a sense,derived from the Hundred Years’ War of being differeent from otherpeople. 1″There was no true winner of this war. Both sides sufferedsevere losses. Even for England when none of the war was fought inEngland.
The cost for them was an amazing amount of more than fivemillion pounds. The price, although not as much in dollars, may havebeen even greater. The English had laid waste to hundreds ofthousands of acres of rich farm land, leaving the rural economy, andmany parts of Franch in shambles. BibliographyBibliographyPrice, Roger, A Concise History of France, CambridgeConcise Histories, New York, New York, 1993. Schama, Simon, Citizens, Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York,New York, 1989Schom, Alan, One Hundred Days, Maxwell MacmillanInternational, New York, New York, 1992Barnie, J., War in Medieval English Society: Socail Values andthe Hundred Years’ War, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NewYork, 1974