Hundred Years War

This was a series of conflicts fought between the rulers of the Kingdom of England ‘House of Plantagenet’ and the rulers of the Kingdom of France ‘House of Valois’.

King Charles IV of France died in 1328. As he did not have a son to follow him and women were not allowed to take the throne, an heir had to be found.

Edward III of England was believed to be the natural heir to the French throne as his mother Isabella of France was sister to Charles IV; this therefore made Edward III, Charles IV’s nephew.

The French rejected this claim to the throne and appointed Philip, Count of Valois (Charles IV’s nephew) to the throne. He was crowned Philip VI.

The English were furious with this decision, but reluctantly accepted it and all was well until 1337.

At this time, England ruled areas on French soil, notably Gascony in South-west France in the area of Aquitaine and this rule always caused disagreements between France and England.

In 1326 Charles IV had renewed a treaty first signed in 1295 in which the French had agreed to support Scotland if England invaded them. England had tried over many years to rule Scotland and Edward knew that he could not defeat Scotland with French support and this infuriated him. He then decided to reassert his claim for the French throne.

Philip VI of France raised a large naval fleet and moved them into the English Channel. The sea Battle of Sluys in 1340 was fought and England won a great victory. England were to rule over the sea for the rest of the war and prevent France from invading. The rest of the war would be fought on French soil.

Edward decided to invade France in July 1346 and this resulted in the Battle of Crecy. The French hastily attacked although they were not ready and they were beaten by the superior English Longbows. England then marched north and besieged and captured Calais on the coast. Philip IV was injured in this battle and barely escaped with his life. He and his army then retreated and France would no longer supply money for him to invade England.

Calais was to remain under English control for many years.

In 1348 the Black Death was to ravage its way across Europe and little was to happen in battle until it passed in 1356.

King Philip VI died on 22 August 1350 and at this time there was much unrest and division in France. He was succeeded by his eldest son from his first marriage, John II.

In 1356 Edward’s son Edward Prince of Wales (later to be known as the Black Prince) invaded France from the English ruled area of Gascony and won the Battle of Poitiers. During this battle, King John II was taken hostage and a ransom made. His son Dauphin (later to become Charles V of France) became Regent of France.

Edward invaded France with the intention of crowning himself King. He marched on Reims and besieged the city for 5 weeks. After failing to breach the city defences he moved on to Paris and then Chartres. After losing over 1,000 men in a storm and realising he was not going to be victorious in battle, he decided to negotiate.

The Treaty of Bretigny was agreed on 8 May 1360 and signed on 24 October 1360.

Following this treaty Edward abandoned his claim to the French throne.

Some years of peace were to follow although King John was to be held in London for a ransom of 3 million crowns. He was to die in captivity in 1364 and Charles V was to succeed him.

The Black Prince returned to England in 1371 with deteriating health and finally died on 8 June 1376. His father Edward III died the following year on 21 June 1377.

Richard II, although a child became King. As no Regent was appointed, a series of councils was to rule the country from 1377 – 1380.

At the time of Charles V’s death in 1380, he had reclaimed much of the French land with only Calais remaining under English control.

Richard II had become unpopular with the English people due to his attempts to raise taxes to fund a war against Scotland in 1384 and his councils were unable to re-ignite war against France as they also could not raise the funds, therefore they would have to negotiate with France.

A truce was signed at Leulinghen on 18 June 1389.

Richard II continued to rebuild his power, but was deposed by the exiled Henry of Bolingbroke, who then became King Henry IV.

Many years of peace were to follow as England concentrated on domestic matters with Wales and Scotland. In France King Charles VI was descending into madness and a fight would ensue for his crown.

Henry IV died in 1413 and was replaced by his eldest son Henry V, and he was prepared for war. He sailed to France with 10,500 men. He laid siege at Harfleur and then made his way to Calais. What followed was the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415. Henry was heavily outnumbered but still victorious. He then moved on to retake much French land and place it back into English rule.

Henry V met with Charles VI in 1420 and they signed the Treaty of Troyes.

Henry returned to England leaving his brother Thomas, Duke of Clarence in charge in France. The Duke of Clarence was to die in battle and Henry returned to France in 1421.

Henry died at his castle in France on 31 August 1422 and Charles VI of France having gone insane died later that same year on 21 October 1422.

Henry’s nine month old son would later become Henry VI, but until such time Henry V’s brother the Duke of Bedford would become the principal Regent. He continued to battle in France and was victorious at the Battle of Verneull in 1424.

England had experienced much success in their battles with France, but the tide was to turn in the French favour at the Siege of Orleans in 1428. The French troops were spurred on by the arrival of Joan of Arc in 1429 and many strongholds previously held by England were to return into French control.

The English retreated and pursued by the French army they lost 2,200 men at the Battle of Patay in 1429.

The Treaty of Arras was signed in 1435 between King Charles VII of France and King Henry VI of England returning Paris to the King of France.

Following this treaty, the French were victorious in many battles including the Battle of Formigny on 15 April 1450 and what is considered to be the final battle of the Hundred Years War, the Battle of Castillon on 17 July 1453.

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