Hundred Years War: (1337-1350)
Matilda, born of Norman blood, the daughter of King Henry I and Edith of Scotland, married Geoffrey Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou, and gave birth to a son; Henry.
King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, and jointly they owned the French territories of Anjou and Aquitaine. Henry ruled more land in France, than the French King himself, and he wanted it back.
A weak King, had been England’s downfall, when King John (1199-1216), lost most of England’s French territories. Future King’s desired to take back what was theirs, culminating in the declaration of war in 1337, “The Hundred Years War.”
1348 was a bad year for Europe, as Black Death struck, and millions of lives were lost.
By 1431, England had conquered most of France, in the Hundred Years War, using the “Long Bow.”
England was dealt a deadly blow, when Joan of Arc, led French troops into battle, putting into them, the belief that France could push these invader’s from their lands.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Henry Burghersh, the then Bishop of Lincoln and Councillor to the King of England, was commissioned by King Edward III of England to deliver a document into the hands of; Philip of Valois, the King of France.
Edward claimed that he was the rightful King of France, by way of his mother, Isabella a French Princess and grandson of a French Monarch.
Charles IV of France died leaving no male heirs, and France did not want an English King as their ruler, as such Philip of Valois, distant nephew to the French monarch was appointed.
Edward further announced, it was his intention not to pay homage to the King of France for England’s territories in France. Edward’s challenge – refusing to pay homage, was by far, more audacious, threatening the feudal system, a centuries old system.
14thcentury Plantagenet King of England, descendants of French princes, held territories in France, descended from William the Duke of Normandy, of Viking decent had won the English crown, by right of conquest at the “Battle of Hastings” in 1066.
Edward became King of England in 1327. And Philip became King of France in 1328. In accordance with France’s feudal customs, Edward III of England paid homage to King Philip of France, at Amiens Cathedral in 1329, for his fiefs, the French territories, under English control.
The English King faced a dilemma, for he held the title’s; Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu, and as such was a member of the French aristocracy. As such it was his duty, to defend the interests of France. However, the issue at hand, Edward as King of England, could not be seen to allow France, to dictate his foreign policies.
France wanted to control sea traffic along its coastline, which led Philip of France to create links with Scotland, England’s hostile neighbour.
England and Scotland had been at war since the 1290’s, and in 1314 Robert the Bruce King of the Scots, had won a humiliating defeat against Edward II at the “Battle of Bannockburn.”
In 1328, Edward III sealed a treaty with the Scots, but he couldn’t resist any chance he had to poke his nose into Scotland’s affairs, after the death of Robert the Bruce in 1329. He removed David II, son of Robert the Bruce, and placed his own puppet King on the Scottish throne, one who was loyal to Edward.
Philip stepped forward offering a safe haven to the exiled King of Scotland.
Edward would have felt uneasy by an alliance of France and Scotland, but that was nothing compared to the large fleet of French ships gathering in the harbours of Normandy. There was only one explanation, King Philip of France was preparing for an attack on England, with the support from the Scots in the north.
In 1337, King Philip VI declares to Edward, that he is confiscating English territories in South-West France, citing England’s failure in its feudal obligations.
An enraged Edward responded, claiming that Philip VI had no right to confiscate his legitimate inheritance in France… those lands belonged to England. The French throne should have been mine by right of inheritance, but I accepted the French Assembly to appoint you… but no longer. “I declare war on France!” I want what is mine.
In the year 1337, the first battle of the “Hundred Years War” took place at Cadsand, where English forces raided the island, leading to an English victory.
On the 26thJanuary 1340, Edward III entered the Flemish City of Ghent, and called upon the townspeople, to recognize him, not only as King of England, but also as King of France.
Edward took the battle to the French: The Naval Battle of Sluys in 1340, saw some two-hundred French, Castilian and Genoese ships, sail across the English Channel… the start of an invasion of England.
On the 23rdJune, Edward anchored at Blankenberghe, north of Bruges, where veteran soldiers; Robert Crawley and John Crabbe were put ashore to reconnoitre the French Fleet. The two knights rode to Sluys with a French escort. Upon their return they advised Edward, it be risky, as the French Fleet was located within the harbour.
Edward chose to ignore the advice from his knights…
On the 24thJune 1340, King Edward attacked the French Fleet; made up of French, Castilian and Genoese ships inn Sluys harbour. Their ships had been bunched together, in three squadrons, and each squadron was chained together.
The English Fleet bore down on the French early in the day, with the advantages of having the wind, tide and sun behind them. English archers sent hails of arrows from their advantage points; end castles or raised platforms located at the rear of ships, or on the masts.
English ships rammed French vessels, attaching hooks and grappling irons, as men clambered across, to deliver death and destruction at close quarters.
The French were trapped, their ships chained together proved to be their undoing. Some 18,000 French and Genoese were killed, either by arrows, or cut down in hand to hand combat or drowned.
Both French commanders lost their lives. Hugues Quieret was killed as his ship was boarded and Nicolas Behuchet was hanged from the mast of his ship.
Most of the French Fleet had been destroyed or captured, removing danger to English merchant ships in the English Channel.
On the 11thJuly 1346, King Edward III of England landed at St.Vaast on the northern coast of France. His army consisted of 16,000 knights, men-at-arms, archers and infantry. Their target was Normandy.
On the beaches of France, he knighted his 16 year-old son, Edward the Prince of Wales, who became known as the Black Prince.
At the same time a second English force, landed at Bordeaux on the coast of south-west France. Their target was to invade Aquitaine.
Edward’s forces marched south to Caen, capital of Normandy, taking Raoul, Count of Eu, prisoner, he being the Constable of France and a prized prisoner at that.
They marched forth to the Seine, finding bridges destroyed, slowing up their advancement into France. They marched up the Seine, until they found a bridge which was crossable. The bridge at Poissy, was easily repaired, and English forces crossed.
At the same time, news reached Edward, that King Philip VI of France, was amassing an enormous army, to stop English invaders.
Edward’s forces crossed the Seine, and marched north to the sea, approaching perilously close to Paris and Philips forces. As they marched north King Philip followed closely in their tracks. At low tide, they crossed the mouth of the river, evading pursuing forces. Edward’s escaping forces encamped in the Foret de Crecy on the north bank of the Somme.
On the 26thAugust 1346, the English forces took position between the villages of Crecy and Wadicourt.
Edward III took the central position, with his son Edward, the Prince of Wales commanding the right flank of forces, along with the Earl of Oxford, Earl of Warwick and Sir John Chandos. The left flank of forces was commanded by the Earl of Northampton.
Each division of forces, had its spearmen to the rear, knights and men-at-arms in the centre and archers to the front.
Philip’s army came north from Abbeyville arriving mid-day on the 26that Crecy – Wadicourt. French knights advised their King to encamp for the night, and attack on the 27th… Philip agreed.
Many of his army leaders were not waiting, and Philip conceded and so the attack was made that very day, on the afternoon of the 26th.
The role of the Constable of France was to command the Kingdom’s feudal army in battle. They had been thwarted, for the English had taken him prisoner. Crecy lost its authority and experience in battle, the King’s army lacked direction.
The French army was divided into four divisions:
Division One was commanded by Antonio Doria and Carlo Grimaldi.
Division Two was commanded by Duke D’Alencon with blind King John of Bohemia.
Division Three was commanded by D’Alencon’s, King of the Romans and former King of Majorca.
Division Four was commanded by the Duke of Lorraine and the Count of Blois. With King Philip and his forces bringing up the rear guard.
The battle began, late in the afternoon. Suddenly without warning, the heavens opened, and it poured with rain. English archers removed their bow strings, putting them in their jackets to keep them dry. The French crossbowmen did not have that option.
With rain stopped, French crossbowmen fired their arrows, only to discover they fell short of their mark; the rain had loosened their strings, and they were no longer taut. English forces stepped forth, drawing their bowstrings to their ears, as they released their arrows they crossed the skyline and reached their desired target.
The barrage of arrows, inflicted many casualties, forcing retreat by crossbowmen who were trampled down by French knights. French knights and men-at-arms were subjected to a relentless storm of arrows, wave after wave.
The battle continued late into the night, and King Philip abandoned the carnage, riding to the Castle of La Boyes, to seek safety from the English onslaught.
The King of France had left his post, his forces fled the battlefield. Come the next day, Welsh and Irish spearmen walked among the dead and dying, murdering and pillaging the wounded…
The French army was 80,000 in size and lost some 30,000 men to an English army of 16,000 men, who reported minimal losses.
After the battle, Edward the Prince of Wales the Black Prince, adopted the emblem of the King of Bohemia, three white feathers and his motto “Ich Dien” (I serve). Still the emblem of the Prince of Wales.
In 1347 Calais surrendered to Edward’s forces. It was the first battle of the Hundred Years War, which saw the use of artillery.
In the early part of the 14thcentury, Earth underwent a period of extreme cold weather, as temperature plummeted. What was to come, led to millions of death’s across Europe; “The Black Death Plague.”
There was no control against this disease as it spread from village to village, town to town, and country to country, as thousands died, day by day. The disease was known to travel by sea and land, with no available solution to stop it, in its tracks.
- By the winter of 1347 it had reached Italy, and reports were coming in, it was running rampant through the streets of Rome and Florence.
- January 1348 the plague had reached Marseilles, for the dead were lying where they died; in houses and on the streets.
- It travelled along the Rhine, and reached Germany in 1348 and the Low Countries.
- By the middle of 1348, this disease had struck Paris, Bordeax, Lyon and London.
The Hundred Years War was suspended in 1348, due to high mortality rates amongst the military, caused by the plague, yet it was reconvened once the plague had passed.
The Black Death plague became one of the worst pandemics in human history, killing an estimated two hundred million people between 1347-1350.
Hundred Years War: (1350-1399)
In 1355, after a pause in hostilities due to Black Death sweeping across Europe, the war was on again. Edward the Black Prince, son of Edward III, landed at Bordeaux in Western France, and marched his forces through Southern France to Carcassonne. His failure in capturing the walled city, led to the withdrawal of his forces, and back track to Bordeaux.
King John II of France, successor of Philip VI led an army against English forces, commanded by the Duke of Lancaster, who was forced to withdraw to coastal areas. From their King John attacked the Black Prince, whose army advanced north-east towards Loire, pillaging the countryside as they went.
In September of 1356, King John reached Loire, just as the Black Prince, was turning towards Bordeaux. On the 18thSeptember, both forces met at the “Battle of Poitiers.”
Cardinal Talleyrand de Perigord, tried to broker a settlement between these two armies, but it proved impossible. The Black Prince offered return of his booty, and a seven year truce, an offer rejected by King John who wanted nothing less, than out right surrender.
The English army, an experienced force of archer’s and men-at-arms, were commanded by Sir John Chandos, Sir James Audley and Captal de Buche. The Black Prince positioned his force among hedges and orchards. Front line archer’s took up positions behind hedges.
The Scottish Commander; Sir William Douglas, advised King John, his forces should attack on foot. For horses became vulnerable to the English archer’s. King John took the advice.
The French forces, mounted their charge on Monday 19thSeptember 1356, with 300 German forces, under the command of Baron Clermont and Baron Audrehem. The attack proved to be a disaster, some knights were shot by English archer’s whilst others were dragged from their horses, killed or became prisoners.
Three divisions of French infantry advanced upon English forces, led by Dauphin Charles, Duc D’Orleans and King John.
The first French division under the command of Dauphin Charles was pushed back by the English. Black Prince’s soldiers, Gascon men-at-arms, English and Welsh archers engaged the enemy.
As the second division advanced, confusion reigned as the Duc D’Orleans force, mingled with division one, the result, both retreated.
The third division, commanded by King John, along with divisions one and two, advanced against the English, a formidable force of knights and men-at-arms.
The French army came within sight of the English, beyond a hedgerow. English and Welsh archers dropped their bows, joining English knights and men-at-arms, brandishing daggers and hammers. The result; French army scattered, many slaughtered as they ran.
King John II of France, was captured by the English, along with his 14 year old son; Philip on the 19thSeptember 1356 at the “Battle of Poitiers,” and remained a prisoner until November 1361.
The “Treaty of Bretigny” in 1360 saw the French recognize Edward as ruler of Aquitaine. England also received Calais and a ransom of three million crowns for the captured King John. The treaty also called for a nine year peace treaty.
In 1364 King John II of France died, and was succeeded by Charles V.
In 1369, Edward’s wife Philippa died, and the ageing King, fell under the influence of his mistress; Dame Alice Perrers.
In 1369, the peace treaty of Bretigny, which had been drawn up in 1360, calling for a nine year truce, collapsed. For English and French, backed opposite sides in an internal dispute for the throne of Castile.
In 1370, Edward the Black Prince, massacred the people of Limoges, and in turn lost his credibility as a noble warrior.
The tide was turning away from the English to the French. For it was in 1370, du Guesclin defeated an English army at Pontvallain, and in 1372 a Castilian and French fleet destroyed an English fleet off La Rochelle.
Charles pushed home the French moments of glory, by re-capturing much of the land granted to Edward, in the treaty of Bretigny in 1360.
By 1375, John of Gaunt had lost half of his army to disease and famine, along with large parts of Aquitaine in the process.
In 1376, Edward the Black Prince, son of Edward III died.
The Good Parliament of 1376 resisted the supply of money, for the continued Hundred Years War in France. That same year Parliament called for the removal of Edward’s mistress; Alice Perrers, who was draining the royal coffers, to the tune of £2,000 a year.
King Edward became incapacitated by a stroke, and lost his life on the 21stJune 1377. Edward’s life had been spent striving against his foe, in an attempt to regain the lands of France, once English territories. His grand illusions shattered. English territories lost, with the exception of Calais, and a coastal strip between Bordeaux and Bayonne.
Richard II, son of the Black Prince and grandson of Edward III, aged eleven became the next King of England. John of Gaunt, brother of the late Black Prince was appointed his Regent till he came of age to rule his kingdom.
In 1380, King Charles V of France died. With French forces running out of steam, as the war dragged on, year after year, it was no wonder French warriors lost interest…
King Richard II of England and King Charles VI of France both suffered at the hands of scheming relatives, who ruled on their behalf. Neither kingdom wanted to see the battle flag raised again.
In 1396 King Richard II of England married Isabella of France, daughter of King Charles VI. This, one would have to say, was one of those political marriages. The terms of the marriage led to a twenty-eight year truce. The two monarchs; Richard II and Charles VI were unable to broker a peace treaty.
Hundred Years War: (1399-1453)
Rivalry was escalating between the dukes of Burgundy and Orleans for governmental control, and it was heading for an internal battle within France, by two of its powerful houses.
In 1407, Louis duc d’Orleans, brother to King Charles VI of France was assassinated by the Duke of Burgundy, which led to civil war between Burgundian partisans of the Duke of Burgundy and Armagnac partisans of the Duke of Orleans.
In 1413, the Armagnacs gained control of Paris, and expelled from the city, those loyal to the Burgundians.
Feuding factions were tearing apart the French realm, to the backdrop of the Hundred Years War. Sooner or later, England would seize the opportunity and attack France.
King Henry IV died in 1413, to be succeeded by his son Henry of Monmouth, King Henry V of England. From the start of his reign, he was determined to attack France.
He demanded of France, that Aquitaine should be returned to English control, and the long forgotten arrears of King John’s ransom be paid. He kept up his demands, until negotiations reached a stale mate, as France was unwilling to comply with his demands. As the negotiations had been taking place, he had been equipping an army to do battle.
On the 11thAugust 1415, Henry’s fleet slipped slowly into the English Channel, heading southwards from the Hampshire coast. On the 14thAugust, the fleet dropped anchor at Chef de Caux, on the north shore of the Seine estuary, a few miles from Honfleur. He laid siege to the Norman port of Harfleur, who surrendered on the 22ndSeptember.
Henry’s forces left Harfleur on the 8thOctober and marched to Calais. Henry sent word, ordering the Governor of the town; Sir William Bardolph to take his forces to the crossing across the Somme and hold it. At the crossing, Bardolph and his army was nowhere to be seen, instead French troops were waiting.
Henry marched south-east along the river’s left bank, and the French blocked any attempt to cross.
On the 24thOctober, as the English army passed through Frevent, some 30 miles from Calais and safety, his scouts reported, the French had amassed a large army and blocked the road ahead.
Henry knew there was only one action that could be taken, in reply to this information.
On the 25thOctober 1415, the “Battle of Agincourt” took place, as English forces took up position in three divisions; commanded by Lord Camoys on the right, the Duke of York in the centre and Sir Thomas Erpingham on the left.
The Constable of France, led the French line, with the second line led by the Dukes of Bar and d’Alencon with the Counts of Merle and Falconberg bringing up the rear.
Henry’s forces made the first move as banners advanced to the sound of trumpets. As arrow range was reached, archers prepared, and on the King’s order a barrage of arrows, flew across the skyline, killing hundreds of French troops.
The battle raged, along the English line, archers abandoned their bows and joined knights and men-at-arms in hand to hand combat against the French. In less than two hours, the battle was an English victory… and remnants of the French army vacated the battlefield.
The English army consisted of 5,000 knights, men-at-arms and archers. The French army consisted of some 30,000 knights, men-at-arms and crossbowmen, of which 8,000 are believed to have died.
The Battle of Agincourt wiped out three French dukes, the Constable of France, nine Counts, and ninety Lords and close to 5,000 knights. In response England’s losses were few; Edward, the Duke of York and 500 knights, men-at-arms and archers.
In 1417, Henry started a new campaign against France, the conquest of previously controlled English lands in France. In January 1419, Rouen the Norman capital fell, which opened the way to Paris.
On the 10thSeptember 1419, Duke John of Burgundy was assassinated in revenge for the murder of Louis duc d’Orleans, as the Burgundian faction joined forces with the English.
King Henry V of England, contracted fever at Meaux and died on the 31stAugust 1422, and was succeeded by his son; Henry VI. Henry V’s brother, Duke John of Bedford, became Regent to the ten month old King.
King Charles VI of France died on the 21stOctober 1422, and the dauphin Charles, claimed the throne of France as King Charles VII. Yet he didn’t have the backing of the people of France, and was only acknowledged as King by the people of Southern France.
The Duke of Bedford acting as King’s Regent, expanded English lands in France, as Maine came under English control.
The final phase of the Hundred Years War began with the birth of a French peasant girl, back in 1412: Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc). In 1425 she claimed she heard voices from God; her mission in life was to save France by expelling their enemies… the English!
King Henry V of England claimed his right to the French throne and following their rejection, invaded France in August 1415 and went on to defeat Armagnac’s army at the “Battle of Agincourt” on the 25thOctober 1415.
Henry V conquered much of northern France in 1417, gaining support from Duke Philip III of Burgundy, for he agreed Henry V had a legal claim to the French throne.
In 1428 Joan of Arc met with Duke Charles after many rejections at his palace in Chinon. She promised him, if he gave her an army she would turn round the war in his favour, and she would see him take his rightful place and crowned King of France at Reims. There was much opposition to such an idea from loyal supporters of Charles, but he gave her a chance … one wonders what he saw in her.
In March of 1429, Joan of Arc led her army against the English as they were attacking Orlean’s. She was dressed in white armour upon a white horse carrying a banner with the picture of “Our Saviour” holding the world with two angels at the sides on a white background covered with gold fleurs-de-lis.
Joan was to lead several assaults against the Anglo-Burgundian forces expelling them from their fortress, and forcing their retreat across the Loire River. As her victories mounted, so did her fame, spread across France.
Joan kept her promise as Duke Charles was crowned King Charles VII of France in July 1429 at Reims.
After Joan’s capture in 1430 at the Battle of Compiegne, and burnt at the stake on charges of heresy. Philip, the Duke of Burgundy renounced his English alliance at the Congress at Arras. He accepted Charles VII as the true King of France, dealing a mortal blow to the English.
In 1444, King Henry VI of England married the French princess Margaret of Anjou, in an arranged marriage, part of an agreement towards peace.
In 1449, English warriors laid siege and looted Fougeres in Brittany. In reply Charles VII, felt he was no longer bound by the terms of the peace treaty.
French forces captured Normandy and Gascony from the English during 1449-1451. In 1452, a pro-English faction in Bordeaux called upon the English for assistance. John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury re-took Bordeaux. On the 17thJuly 1453, John Talbot’s English force, proved no match against the French troops at Castillon, where they were defeated and Talbot died on the battlefield.
The final straw came on the 19thOctober 1453, when Bordeaux fell to the French. England still had control of Calais, and it remained so up until 1558. Up until the 1stJanuary 1801, the title King of France was claimed by the English.
Effectively the “Hundred Years War” came to an end in 1453, and England was shocked by the loss of its overseas empire…