Hundred Years' War

Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
Clockwise, from top left: John of Bohemia at the Battle of Crécy,
Plantagenet and Franco-Castilian fleets at the Battle of La Rochelle,
Henry V and the Plantagenet army at the Battle of Agincourt,
Joan of Arc rallies Valois forces at the Siege of Orléans
Date 1337–1453
Location Primarily France and the Low Countries
Result Valois victory
House of Valois secure throne of France
House of Plantagenet lose all continental territory except for the Pale of Calais
France moderne.svg House of Valois
Supported by:
France moderne.svg France
Escudo Corona de Castilla.png Castile
Royal coat of arms of Scotland.svg Scotland
CoA civ ITA milano.png Genoa
Armoiries Majorque.svg Majorca
Small coat of arms of the Czech Republic.svg Bohemia
Aragon Arms.svg Crown of Aragon
COA fr BRE.svg Brittany (Blois)
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg House of Plantagenet
Supported by:
Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg England
Blason fr Bourgogne.svg Burgundy
Blason de l'Aquitaine et de la Guyenne.svg Aquitaine
COA fr BRE.svg Brittany (Montfort)
Armoires portugal 1385.svg Portugal
Blason Royaume Navarre.svg Navarre
Blason Nord-Pas-De-Calais.svg Flanders
Hainaut Modern Arms.svg Hainaut
Luxembourg New Arms.svg Luxembourg
Holy Roman Empire Arms-single head.svg Holy Roman Empire

The Hundred Years' War was a series of wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings. The House of Valois claimed the title of King of France, while the Plantagenets claimed the thrones of both France and England. The Plantagenet kings were the 12th-century rulers of the kingdom of England, and had their roots in the French regions of Anjou and Normandy.

The conflict was punctuated by several periods of peace, before it finally ended in the expulsion of the Plantagenets from France (except from the Pale of Calais). The final outcome was a victory for the house of Valois, which succeeded in recovering early gains made by the Plantagenets and expelling them from the majority of France by the 1450s. However, the war nearly ruined the Valois, while the Plantagenets enriched themselves with plunder. France suffered greatly from the war, since most of the conflict occurred in that country.

The "war" was in fact a series of conflicts and is commonly divided into three or four phases: the Edwardian War (1337–1360), the Caroline War (1369–1389), the Lancastrian War (1415–1429), and the slow decline of Plantagenet fortunes after the appearance of Joan of Arc (1412–1431). Several other contemporary European conflicts were directly related to this conflict: the Breton War of Succession, the Castilian Civil War, the War of the Two Peters, and the 1383-1385 Crisis. The term "Hundred Years' War" was a later term invented by historians to describe the series of events.

The war owes its historical significance to a number of factors. Though primarily a dynastic conflict, the war gave impetus to ideas of both French and English nationalism. Militarily, it saw the introduction of new weapons and tactics, which eroded the older system of feudal armies dominated by heavy cavalry in Western Europe. The first standing armies in Western Europe since the time of the Western Roman Empire were introduced for the war, thus changing the role of the peasantry. For all this, as well as for its long duration, it is often viewed as one of the most significant conflicts in the history of medieval warfare. In France, civil wars, deadly epidemics, famines and marauding mercenary armies (turned to banditry) reduced the population by about one-half.[1]



The background to the conflict is to be found in 1066, when William, Duke of Normandy, led an invasion of England. He defeated the English King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, and had himself crowned King of England. As Duke of Normandy, he remained a vassal of the French King, and was required to swear fealty to the latter for his lands in France; for a king to swear fealty to another king was considered humiliating, and the Norman Kings of England generally attempted to avoid the service. On the French side, the Capetian monarchs resented a neighbouring king holding lands within their own realm, and sought to neutralise the threat England now posed to France.[2]

Following a period of civil wars and unrest in England known as The Anarchy (1135–1154), the Anglo-Norman dynasty was succeeded by the Angevin Kings from the House of Plantagenet. At the height of its power the House of Plantagenet controlled Normandy and England, along with Maine, Anjou, Touraine, Poitou, Gascony, Saintonge, and Aquitaine (this assemblage of lands is sometimes known as the Angevin Empire). The King of England directly ruled more territory on the continent than the King of France himself. This situation – in which the kings of England owed vassalage to a ruler who was de facto much weaker – was a cause of continual conflict. John of England inherited this great estate from King Richard I. However, Philip II of France acted decisively to exploit the weaknesses of King John, both legally and militarily, and by 1204 had succeeded in wresting control of most of the ancient territorial possessions. The subsequent Battle of Bouvines (1214), along with the Saintonge War (1242) and finally the War of Saint-Sardos (1324), reduced the House of Plantagenet hold on the continent to a few small provinces in Gascony, and the complete loss of the crown jewel of Normandy. [2]

By the early 14th century, many people in the English aristocracy could still remember a time when their grandparents and great-grandparents had control over wealthy continental regions, such as Normandy, which they also considered their ancestral homeland. They were motivated to regain possession of these territories. [2]

Dynastic turmoil: 1314–1328

The specific events leading up to the war took place in France, where the unbroken line of the Direct Capetian firstborn sons had succeeded each other for centuries. In 1314, the Direct Capetian, King Philip IV, died, leaving three male heirs: Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV. A fourth child of Phillip IV, Isabella, was married to Edward II of England, and in 1312 had produced a son, Edward of Windsor, who was a potential heir to the thrones of both England (through his father) and France (through his grandfather).

Philip IV's eldest son and heir, Louis X, died in 1316, leaving only his posthumous son John I, who was born and died that same year, and a daughter Joan, whose paternity was suspect.

Upon the deaths of Louis X and John I, Philip IV's second-eldest son, Philip V, sought the throne for himself, using rumours that his niece Joan was a result of her mother's adultery (and thus barred from the succession). A by-product of this was the invocation in the 1350s of Salic law to assert that women could not inherit the French throne.[3] When Philip V himself died in 1322, his daughters, too, were put aside in favour of an uncle: Charles IV, the third son of Philip IV.

In 1324, Charles IV of France and his brother-in-law, Edward II of England fought the short War of Saint-Sardos in Gascony. The major event of the war was the brief siege of the English fortress of La Réole, on the Garonne. The English forces, led by Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, were forced to surrender after a month of bombardment from the French cannon, after promised reinforcements never arrived. The war was a complete failure for England, and only Bordeaux and a narrow coastal strip of the once great Duchy of Aquitaine remained outside French control.

The recovery of these lost lands became a major focus of English diplomacy. The war also galvanised opposition to Edward II among the English nobility and led to his being deposed from the throne in 1327, in favour of his young son, Edward of Windsor, who thus became Edward III. Charles IV died in 1328, leaving only a daughter, and an unborn infant who would prove to be a girl. The senior line of the Capetian dynasty thus ended, creating a crisis over the French succession.

Meanwhile in England, the young Edward of Windsor had become King Edward III of England in 1327. Being also the nephew of Charles IV of France, Edward was Charles' closest living male relative, and the only surviving male descendent of Philip IV. By the English interpretation of feudal law, this made Edward III the legitimate heir to the throne of France.

Family tree relating the French and English royal houses at the beginning of the war

The French nobility, however, balked at the prospect of a foreign king, particularly one who was also king of England. They asserted, based on their interpretation of the ancient Salic Law, that the royal inheritance could not pass to a woman or through her to her offspring. Therefore, the most senior man of the Capetian dynasty after Charles IV, Philip of Valois, grandson of Philip III of France, was the legitimate heir in the eyes of the French. He had taken regency after Charles IV's death and was allowed to take the throne after Charles' widow gave birth to a daughter. Philip of Valois was crowned as Philip VI, the first of the House of Valois, a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty.

Joan II of Navarre, the daughter of Louis X, also had a good legal claim to the French throne, but lacked the power to back this. The Kingdom of Navarre had no precedent against female rulers (the House of Capet having inherited it through Joan's grandmother, Joan I of Navarre), and so by treaty she and her husband, Philip of Évreux, were permitted to inherit that Kingdom; however, the same treaty forced Joan and her husband to accept the accession of Philip VI in France, and to surrender her hereditary French domains of Champagne and Brie to the French crown in exchange for inferior estates. Joan and Philip of Évreux then produced a son, Charles II of Navarre. Born in 1332, Charles replaced Edward III as Philip IV's male heir in primogeniture, and in proximity to Louis X; although Edward remained the male heir in proximity to Saint Louis, Philip IV, and Charles IV (6th).

On the eve of war: 1328–1337

After Philip's accession, the English still controlled Gascony. Gascony produced vital shipments of salt and wine, and was very profitable. It was a separate fief, held of the French crown, rather than a territory of England. The Homage done for its possession was a bone of contention between the two kings. Philip VI demanded Edward's recognition as sovereign; Edward wanted the return of further lands lost by his father. A compromise "homage" in 1329 pleased neither side; but in 1331, facing serious problems at home, Edward accepted Philip as King of France and gave up his claims to the French throne. In effect, England kept Gascony, in return for Edward giving up his claims to be the rightful heir to the French throne.

In 1333, Edward III went to war against David II of Scotland, a French ally under the Auld Alliance, and began the Second War of Scottish Independence. Philip saw the opportunity to reclaim Gascony while England's attention was concentrated northwards. However, the war was, initially at least, a quick success for England, and David was forced to flee to France after being defeated by King Edward and Edward Balliol at the Battle of Halidon Hill in July. In 1336, Philip made plans for an expedition to restore David to the Scottish throne, and to also seize Gascony.

Beginning of the war: 1337–1360

Open hostilities broke out as French ships began scouting coastal settlements on the English Channel and in 1337 Philip reclaimed the Gascon fief, citing feudal law and saying that Edward had broken his oath (a felony) by not attending to the needs and demands of his lord. Edward III responded by saying he was in fact the rightful heir to the French throne, and on All Saints' Day, Henry Burghersh, Bishop of Lincoln, arrived in Paris with the defiance of the king of England. War had been declared.

Battle of Sluys from a manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles, Bruge, c.1470

In the early years of the war, Edward III allied with the nobles of the Low Countries and the burghers of Flanders, but after two campaigns where nothing was achieved, the alliance fell apart in 1340. The payments of subsidies to the German princes and the costs of maintaining an army abroad dragged the English government into bankruptcy, heavily damaging Edward’s prestige. At sea, France enjoyed supremacy for some time, through the use of Genoese ships and crews. Several towns on the English coast were sacked, some repeatedly. This caused fear and disruption along the English coast. There was a constant fear during this part of the war that the French would invade. France's sea power led to economic disruptions in England as it cut down on the wool trade to Flanders and the wine trade from Gascony. However, in 1340, while attempting to hinder the English army from landing, the French fleet was almost completely destroyed in the Battle of Sluys. After this, England was able to dominate the English Channel for the rest of the war, preventing French invasions.

In 1341, conflict over the succession to the Duchy of Brittany began the Breton War of 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, with the city of Vannes changing hands several times, as well as further campaigns in Gascony with mixed success for both sides.

In July 1346, Edward mounted a major invasion across the Channel, landing in the Cotentin. The English army captured Caen in just one day, surprising the French who had expected the city to hold out much longer. Philip gathered a large army to oppose Edward, who chose to march northward toward the Low Countries, pillaging as he went, rather than attempting to take and hold territory. Finding himself unable to outmanoeuvre Philip, Edward positioned his forces for battle, and Philip's army attacked. The famous Battle of Crécy was a complete disaster for the French, largely credited to the English longbowmen and the French king, who allowed his army to attack before they were ready.[4] 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. It allowed them to keep troops in France safely. In the same year, an English victory against Scotland in the Battle of Neville's Cross led to the capture of David II and greatly reduced the threat from Scotland.

In 1348, the Black Death began to ravage Europe. In 1356, after it had passed and England was able to recover financially, Edward's son and namesake, the Prince of Wales, known as the Black Prince, invaded France from Gascony, winning a great victory in the Battle of Poitiers, where the English archers repeated the tactics used at Crécy. The new French king, John II, was captured (See: Ransom of King John II of France). John signed a truce with Edward, and in his absence, much of the government began to collapse. Later that year, the Second Treaty of London was signed, by which England gained possession of Aquitaine and John was freed.

The French countryside at this point began to fall into complete chaos. Brigandage, the actions of the professional soldiery when fighting was at low ebb, was rampant. In 1358, the peasants rose in rebellion in what was called the Jacquerie. Edward invaded France, for the third and last time, hoping to capitalise on the discontent and seize the throne, but although no French army stood against him in the field, he was unable to take Paris or Rheims from the Dauphin, later King Charles V. He negotiated the Treaty of Brétigny which was signed in 1360. The English came out of this phase of the war with half of Brittany, Aquitaine (about a quarter of France), Calais, Ponthieu, and about half of France's vassal states as their allies, representing the clear advantage of a united England against a generally disunified France.

First peace: 1360–1369

When John's son Louis I, Duc d'Anjou, sent to the English as a hostage on John's behalf, escaped in 1362, John II chivalrously gave himself up and returned to captivity in England. He died in honourable captivity in 1364 and Charles V succeeded him as king of France.

The Treaty of Brétigny had made Edward renounce his claim to the French crown. At the same time it greatly expanded his territory in Aquitaine and confirmed his conquest of Calais. In reality, Edward never renounced his claim to the French crown, and Charles made a point of retaking Edward's new territory as soon as he ascended to the throne. In 1369, on the pretext that Edward III had failed to observe the terms of the treaty of Brétigny, Charles declared war once again.

French ascendancy under Charles V: 1369–1389

The reign of Charles V saw the English steadily pushed back. Although the Breton war ended in favour of the English at the Battle of Auray, the dukes of Brittany eventually reconciled with the French throne. The Breton soldier Bertrand du Guesclin became one of the most successful French generals of the Hundred Years' War.

Statue of Du Guesclin in Dinan

Simultaneously, the Black Prince was occupied with war in the Iberian peninsula from 1366 and due to illness was relieved of command in 1371, whilst Edward III was too elderly to fight; providing France with even more advantages. Pedro of Castile, whose daughters Constance and Isabella were married to the Black Prince's brothers John of Gaunt and Edmund of Langley, was deposed by Henry of Trastámara in 1370 with the support of Du Guesclin and the French. War erupted between Castile and France on one side and Portugal and England on the other.

With the death of John Chandos, seneschal of Poitou, in the field and the capture of the Captal de Buch, the English were deprived of some of their best generals in France. Du Guesclin, in a series of careful Fabian campaigns, avoiding major English field armies, captured many towns, including Poitiers in 1372 and Bergerac in 1377. The English response to Du Guesclin was to launch a series of destructive chevauchées. But Du Guesclin refused to be drawn in by them.

With the death of the Black Prince in 1376 and Edward III in 1377, the prince's underaged son Richard of Bordeaux succeeded to the English throne. Then, with Du Guesclin's death in 1380, and the continued threat to England's northern borders from Scotland represented by the Battle of Otterburn, the war inevitably wound down with the Truce of Leulingham in 1389. The peace was extended many times before open war flared up again.

Second peace: 1389–1415

England too was plagued with internal strife during this period, as uprisings in Ireland and Wales were accompanied by renewed border war with Scotland and two separate civil wars. The Irish troubles embroiled much of the reign of Richard II, who had not resolved them by the time he lost his throne and life to his cousin Henry, who took power for himself in 1399.

Although Henry IV of England planned campaigns in France, he was unable to put them into effect during his short reign. In the meantime, though, the French King Charles VI was descending into madness, and an open conflict for power began between his cousin, John the Fearless, and his brother, Louis of Orléans. After Louis's assassination, the Armagnac family took political power in opposition to John. By 1410, both sides were bidding for the help of English forces in a civil war.

This was followed by the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in Wales which was not finally put down until 1415 and actually resulted in Welsh semi-independence for a number of years. In Scotland, the change in regime in England prompted a fresh series of border raids which were countered by an invasion in 1402 and the defeat of a Scottish army at the Battle of Homildon Hill. A dispute over the spoils of this action between Henry and the Earl of Northumberland resulted in a long and bloody struggle between the two for control of northern England, which was only resolved with the almost complete destruction of the Percy family by 1408. Throughout this period, England was also faced with repeated raids by French and Scandinavian pirates, which heavily damaged trade and the navy. These problems accordingly delayed any resurgence of the dispute with France until 1415.

Resumption of the war under Henry V: 1415–1429

The final phase of warmaking that engulfed France between 1415 and 1435 is the most famous phase of the Hundred Years' War. Plans had been laid for the declaration of war since the rise to the throne of Henry IV, in 1399. However, it was his son, Henry V, who was finally given the opportunity. In 1414, Henry turned down an Armagnac offer to restore the Brétigny frontiers in return for his support. Instead, he demanded a return to the territorial status during the reign of Henry II. In August 1415, he landed with an army at Harfleur and took it, although the city resisted for longer than expected. This meant that by the time he came to marching further, most of the campaign season was gone. Although tempted to march on Paris directly, he elected to make a raiding expedition across France toward English-occupied Calais. In a campaign reminiscent of Crécy, he found himself outmanoeuvred and low on supplies, and had to make a stand against a much larger French army at the Battle of Agincourt, north of the Somme. In spite of his disadvantages, his victory was near-total; the French defeat was catastrophic, with the loss of many of the Armagnac leaders. About 40% of the French nobility was lost at Agincourt.[1]

Fifteenth-century miniature depicting the Battle of Agincourt

Henry took much of Normandy, including Caen in 1417 and Rouen on January 19, 1419, making Normandy English for the first time in two centuries. He made formal alliance with the Duchy of Burgundy, who had taken Paris, after the assassination of Duke John the Fearless in 1419. In 1420, Henry met with the mad king Charles VI, who signed the Treaty of Troyes, by which Henry would marry Charles' daughter Catherine 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.

Henry's progress was now stopped by the arrival in France of a Scottish army of around 6,000 men. In 1421, a combined Franco-Scottish force led by John Stewart, Earl of Buchan crushed a larger English army at the Battle of Bauge, killing the English commander, Thomas, 1st Duke of Clarence, and killing or capturing most of the English leaders. The French were so grateful that Buchan was immediately promoted to the office of High Constable of France. Soon after the Battle of Bauge Henry V died at Meaux in 1422. Soon after that, Charles too had died. Henry's infant son, Henry VI, was immediately crowned king of England and France, but the Armagnacs remained loyal to Charles' son and the war continued in central France.

The English continued to attack France and in 1429 were besieging the important French city of Orleans. An attack on an English supply convoy led to the skirmish that is now known as Battle of the Herrings when John Fastolf circled his supply wagons (largely filled with herring) around his archers and repelled a few hundred attackers. Later that year, a French saviour appeared in the form of a peasant girl from Domremy named Joan of Arc.

French victory: 1429–1453

Hundred Years' War evolution. French territory: yellow; English: grey; Burgundian: dark grey.

By 1424, the uncles of Henry VI had begun to quarrel over the infant's regency, and one, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, married Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, and invaded Holland to regain her former dominions, bringing him into direct conflict with Philip III, Duke of Burgundy.

By 1428, the English were ready to pursue the war again, laying siege to Orléans. Their force was insufficient to fully invest the city, but larger French forces remained passive. In 1429, Joan of Arc convinced the Dauphin to send her to the siege, saying she had received visions from God telling her to drive out the English. She raised the morale of the local troops and they attacked the English Redoubts, forcing the English to lift the siege. Inspired by Joan, the French took several English strong points on the Loire. Shortly afterwards, a French army, some 8000 strong, broke through English archers at Patay with 1500 heavy cavalry, defeating a 3000 strong army commanded by John Fastolf and John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. This victory opened the way for the Dauphin to march to Reims for his coronation as Charles VII.

After Joan was captured by the Burgundians in 1430 and later sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastic court, and executed, the French advance stalled in negotiations. But, in 1435, the Burgundians under Philip III switched sides, signing the Treaty of Arras and returning Paris to the King of France. Burgundy's allegiance remained fickle, but their focus on expanding their domains into the Low Countries left them little energy to intervene in France. The long truces that marked the war also gave Charles time to reorganise his army and government, replacing his feudal levies with a more modern professional army that could put its superior numbers to good use, and centralising the French state.

The Battle of Formigny (1450)

A repetition of Du Guesclin's battle avoidance strategy paid dividends and the French were able to recover town after town.

By 1449, the French had retaken Rouen, and in 1450 the Count of Clermont and Arthur de Richemont, Earl of Richmond, of the Montfort family (the future Arthur III, Duke of Brittany) caught an English army attempting to relieve Caen at the Battle of Formigny and defeated it, the English army having been attacked from the flank and rear by Richemont's force just as they were on the verge of beating Clermont's army. The French proceeded to capture Caen on July 6 and Bordeaux and Bayonne in 1451. The attempt by Talbot to retake Gascony, though initially welcomed by the locals, was crushed by Jean Bureau and his cannon at the Battle of Castillon in 1453 where Talbot had led a small Anglo-Gascon force in a frontal attack on an entrenched camp. This is considered the last battle of the Hundred Years' War.


The Hundred Years' War was a time of military evolution. Weapons, tactics, army structure, and the societal meaning of war all changed, partly in response to the demands of the war, partly through advancement in technology, and partly through lessons that warfare taught.

England was what might be considered a more modern state than France. It had a centralised authority—Parliament—with the authority to tax. As the military writer Colonel Alfred Burne notes, England had revolutionised its recruitment system, substituting a paid army for one drawn from feudal obligation. Professional captains were appointed who recruited troops for a specified (theoretically short) period. To some extent, this was a necessity; many barons refused to go on a foreign campaign, as feudal service was supposed to be for protection of the realm.[citation needed]

Before the Hundred Years' War, heavy cavalry was considered the most powerful unit in an army. But by the war's end, this belief had shifted. The heavy horse was increasingly negated by the use of the longbow (and, later, another long-distance weapon: firearms) and fixed defensive positions of men-at-arms—tactics which helped lead to English victories at Crécy and Agincourt. Learning from the Scots, the English began using lightly armoured mounted troops—later called dragoons—who would dismount in order to fight battles. By the end of the Hundred Years' War, this meant a fading of the expensively outfitted, highly trained heavy cavalry, and the eventual end of the amoured knight as a military force and the nobility as a political one.[5]

Although they had a tactical advantage, "nevertheless the size of France prohibited lengthy, let alone permanent, occupation," as the military writer General Fuller noted.[citation needed] Covering a much larger area than England, and containing four times its population, France proved difficult for the English to occupy.[citation needed]

An insoluble problem for English commanders was that, in an age of siege warfare, the more territory that was occupied, the greater the requirements for garrisons. This lessened the striking power of English armies as time went on. Salisbury's army at Orleans consisted of only 5,000 men, insufficient not only to invest the city but also numerically inferior to French forces within and without the city. The French only needed to recover some part of their shattered confidence for the outcome to become inevitable. At Orleans they were assisted by the death of Salisbury through a fluke cannon shot and by the inspiration provided by Joan of Arc.[citation needed]

Furthermore, the ending of the Burgundian alliance spelled the end of English efforts in France, despite the campaigns of the aggressive John, Lord Talbot, and his forces to delay the inevitable.[citation needed]

The war also stimulated nationalistic sentiment. It devastated France as a land, but it also awakened French nationalism. The Hundred Years' War accelerated the process of transforming France from a feudal monarchy to a centralised state. The conflict became one of not just English and French kings but one between the English and French peoples. There were constant rumours in England that the French meant to invade and destroy the English language. National feeling emerged out of such rumours that unified both France and England further. The Hundred Years War basically confirmed the fall of the French language in England, which had served as the language of the ruling classes and commerce there from the time of the Norman conquest until 1362.[6]

The latter stages of the war saw the emergence of the dukes of Burgundy as important players on the political field, and it encouraged the English, in response to the seesawing alliance of the southern Netherlands (now Belgium, a rich centre of woollen production at the time) throughout the conflict, to develop their own woollen industry and foreign markets.[citation needed]


Self-yew English longbow, 2 m (6 ft 6 in) long, 470 N (105 lbf) draw force.

There existed two types of armed men during the war: Knights of noble birth and commoners (foot soldiers including archers).

While the two-handed longsword grew in popularity during the late middle ages, the arming sword (also sometimes called a knight's or knightly sword), a single handed double-edged cruciform sword, was the standard military sword of the knight. A knight would have, from an early age, engaged in time-consuming training in the use of the sword, first as a page and then as squire. Whether wearing armour or not a knight always carried his sword in public. Besides swords, knights also used underarm-couched lances. In closed-rank wedge-shaped formations, cavalry charges of knights at full-gallop would shatter most enemy lines. Knightly horses, armour and weapons were very expensive and reserved for nobles.

When going into battle a knight was also expected to bring along foot soldiers typically conscripted from the peasantry. It was not rare for the peasants brought onto battlefields to only be armed with farm implements. Their armour consisted of reinforcing their regular clothes with leather patches or strips of metal. But the most common weapon for the foot soldier was the bow and arrow. Since ancient times, the use of the bow and arrow, though known to be effective, was viewed with contempt, as one would kill a man from afar, without facing him. Euripides called the bow and arrow the coward's weapon.[7] Knights shared this view. Nevertheless, archers became an integral part of medieval warfare.

The English longbow gave the English tactical advantage in several key battles.Since the passage of the 'Assize of Arms' in 1252, all lower class Englishmen between the age of 15 to 60 years old were ordered by Law to make or acquire bow and arrows. In 1363 a second archery Law made it obligatory for Englishmen to be trained with the use of longbows every Sunday in areas, usually on the edges of villages, called the "butts". This led to so many people getting accidentally hit by arrows that a special dispensation from murder charges was enacted if the deceased was killed during archery practice.

Though they were finally defeated by the French, lighter English armies and a heavy use of longbows would prove to be a delaying factor in the end-result of the war. The French relied less on ranged weapons and then mostly on crossbows, often employed by Genoese mercenaries, highly skilled and well-trained men who made up for the weaknesses of the weapon with specialised equipment. The crossbow was used because it required little training, and so made it possible to quickly levy novice crossbowmen, and it had a tremendous shooting power—at short range—against both plate armour and chain mail. However, it was slow to reload, heavy, and vulnerable to rain-damage. The longbow was a very difficult weapon to employ, and English archers had to have practiced from an early age to become proficient. It also required tremendous strength to use, with a draw force typically around 620–670 newtons (140–150 lbf) and possibly as high as 800 N (180 lbf). The longbow was shot in relatively inaccurate volleys, though this was typical of any bow. It was its widespread use in the British Isles that gave the English the ability to use it as a weapon. It was the strategic developments that brought it to prominence. The English, in their battles with the Welsh and Scots, had learned through defeat what dismounted bowmen in fixed positions could do to heavy cavalry from a distance. Since the arrows shot from a longbow could kill or incapacitate the un-armoured horses, a charge could be dissipated before it ever reached an army's lines (an effect comparable to that of latter-day artillery). The longbow enabled the lighter and more mobile English army to pick battle locations, fortify them, and force the opposing side into a siege-style battle. As the Hundred Years' War came to a close, the number of capable longbowmen began to drop off. Given the training required to use such powerful bows, the casualties taken by the longbowmen at Verneuil (1424) and Patay (1429) were significant. The longbow became increasingly difficult to use without the men specialised in wielding them. In addition, improvements in armour-plating from the 15th century meant that while armour was practically arrow-proof, the longbow had remained a static and ineffective weapon. Only the most powerful longbows at close-range could stand a chance of penetrating.[8]

A number of new weapons were introduced during the Hundred Years' War as well. Gunpowder for gonnes (an early firearm) and cannon played significant roles as early as 1375. The last battle of the war, the Battle of Castillon, was the first battle in European history in which artillery was the deciding factor.

War and society

The consequences of these new weapons meant that the nobility was no longer the deciding factor in battle; peasants armed with longbows or firearms could gain access to the power, rewards, and prestige once reserved only for knights who bore arms. The composition of armies changed, from feudal lords who might or might not show up when called by their lord, to paid mercenaries. By the end of the war, both France and England were able to raise enough money through taxation to create standing armies, the first time since the fall of the Western Roman Empire that there were standing armies in Western or Central Europe (excluding the Eastern Roman Empire). Standing armies represented an entirely new form of power for kings. Not only could they defend their kingdoms from invaders, but standing armies could also protect the king from internal threats and also keep the population in check. It was a major step in the early developments towards centralised nation-states that eroded the medieval order.[citation needed]

It is a commonly believed myth that at the first major battle of the war, the Battle of Crécy, the "Age of Chivalry" came to an end in that heavy-cavalry charges no longer decided battles. At the same time, there was a revival of the mores of chivalry, and it was deemed to be of the highest importance to fight, and to die, in the most chivalrous way possible. The notion of chivalry was strongly influenced by the Romantic epics of the 12th century, and knights imagined themselves re-enacting those stories on the field of battle. Someone like Bertrand Du Guesclin was said[by whom?] to have gone into battle with one eye closed, declaring "I will not open my eye for the honour of my lady until I have killed three Englishmen." Knights often carried the colours of their ladies into battle.[citation needed]

In France, during the captivity of King John II, the Estates General attempted to arrogate power from the king. The Estates General was a body of representatives from the three groups who traditionally had consultative rights in France: the clergy, the nobles, and the townspeople. First called together under Philip IV “the Fair”, the Estates had the right to confirm or disagree with the “levée”, the principal tax by which the kings of France raised money. Under the leadership of a merchant named Etienne Marcel, the Estates General attempted to force the monarchy to accept a sort of agreement called the Great Ordinance. Like the English Magna Carta, the Great Ordinance held that the Estates should supervise the collection and spending of the levy, meet at regular intervals independent of the king’s call, exercise certain judicial powers, and generally play a greater role in government. The nobles took this power to excess, however, causing in 1358 a peasant rebellion known as the Jacquerie. Swarms of peasants furious over the nobles’ high taxes and forced-labour policies killed and burned in the north of France. One of their victims proved to be Etienne Marcel, and without his leadership the Estates General divided.[citation needed]

England and the Hundred Years' War

The effects of the Hundred Years’ War in England also raised some questions about the extent of royal authority. The Peasants' Revolt, led by Wat Tyler in 1381, saw some 100,000 peasants march on London to protest the payment of a poll tax, which was the first tax not to take into account household income. It had been levied in 1379 and 1380 and the result was mass-avoidance, and attacks on tax collectors. Whether this revolt was a direct challenge to royal authority, however, is questionable as Tyler and others often phrased their demands as petitions to the king to free himself from his "wicked councillors" rather than attacking the royal person or institution.

Initially the success of the campaigns brought much wealth to English monarchy and its nobility, and also to the ordinary soldiers who were paid 6d a day in Edward III's first campaign, which was at least a third more than a labourer's wages. As the war continued, the upkeep and maintenance of the region proved too burdensome and the English crown was essentially bankrupted, despite the wealth of France continuously being brought back by the nobles and their armies. As the English monarchy started a more reconciliatory approach toward France, many English subjects with claims and holdings in the continental territories that were being abandoned in the process were greatly disillusioned with the crowns. The conflict became one of the major contributing factors to the Wars of the Roses.

At the end of the war, England was left an island nation, except for Calais. However, the European discovery of the New World beyond the western boundary of the Atlantic Ocean in 1492 meant that seafaring nations like England were well-suited to take advantage of the new opportunities for trade, commerce and conquest it soon afforded.

Major battles

Important figures

King Edward III 1327–1377 Edward II's son
King Richard II 1377–1399 Edward III's grandson
King Henry IV 1399–1413 Edward III's grandson
King Henry V 1413–1422 Henry IV's son
King Henry VI 1422–1461 Henry V's son
Edward, the Black Prince 1330–1376 Edward III's son
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster 1340–1399 Edward III's son
John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford 1389–1435 Henry IV's son
Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster 1306–1361 Knight
John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury 1384–1453 Knight
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York 1411–1460 Knight
Sir John Fastolf 1378?–1459 Knight
King Philip VI 1328–1350
King John II 1350–1364 Philip VI's son
King Charles V 1364–1380 John II's son
Louis I of Anjou 1380–1382 John II's son
King Charles VI 1380–1422 Charles V's son
King Charles VII 1422–1461 Charles VI's son
Joan of Arc 1412–1431 Commander
Jean de Dunois 1403–1468 Knight
Gilles de Rais 1404–1440 Knight
Bertrand du Guesclin 1320–1380 Knight
Jean Bureau 13??–1463 Knight
La Hire 1390–1443 Knight
Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy 1363–1404 Son of John II of France
John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy 1404–1419 Son of Philip the Bold
Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy 1419–1467 Son of John the Fearless

The French reconquest

In 1557 France conquered Calais and its surroundings, which had been under English rule for two centuries. In the aftermath, the region around Calais, then-known as the Calaisis or Calaysis, was renamed the Pays Reconquis ("Reconquered Country") in commemoration of its recovery by the French.

Since the French were well aware[citation needed] of the importance of the Liberation in the history of their neighbours to the south, and since the French reconquest of Calais occurred in the context of a war with Spain (Philip II of Spain was at the time the consort of Mary I of England), French use of the term might have been intended as a deliberate snub to the Spanish.[citation needed] However, and just as likely, the term might have simply had a higher frequency of use at that time in Western Europe, in light of the Reconquista. And therefore, the French would have[citation needed] merely thought it to be a politically appropriate and authoritative word for their own reconquest of land.

Memory and impact

Lowe (1997) argues opposition to the war helped to shape England's early modern political culture. Although anti-war and pro-peace spokesmen generally failed to influence outcomes at the time, they had a long-term impact. England showed decreasing enthusiasm for a conflict deemed not in the national interest, yielding only losses in return for the economic burdens it imposed. In comparing this English cost-benefit analysis with French attitudes, given that both countries suffered from weak leaders and undisciplined soldiers, Lowe notes that the French understood that warfare was necessary to expel the foreigners occupying their homeland. Furthermore French kings found alternative ways to finance the war - sales taxes, debasing the coinage - and were less dependent than the English on tax levies passed by national legislatures. English anti-war critics thus had more to work with than the French.[10]

Bubonic Plague and warfare depleted the overall population of Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. France, for example, had a population of about 17 million, which by the end of the Hundred Years War had declined by about one-half.[1] Some regions were affected much more than others. Normandy lost three-quarters of its population during the war. In the Paris region, the population between 1328 and 1470 was reduced by at least two-thirds.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Peter Turchin (2003). "Historical dynamics: why states rise and fall". Princeton University Press. pp.179–180. ISBN 0691116695
  2. ^ a b c Gormley, Larry; eHistory staff (2007). "The Hundred Years War: Overview". 
  3. ^ The Salic Law was not invoked until the 1350s when a Benedictine from the Abbey of St. Denis, who kept the official chronicle of the kingdom, invoked that law to strengthen the position of the king of France in his propaganda fight against Edward III of England- Jean FAVIER 1980 page 37.
  4. ^ Rogers (2000) Chapter Eleven
  5. ^ Preston, Richard (1991). Men in arms: a history of warfare and its interrelationships with Western society. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0-03-033428-4. 
  6. ^ French as a mother-tongue in Medieval England
  7. ^ Laudatorstemporisacti Blogspot - Contempt for archers.
  8. ^ P.N. Jones, "The metallography and relative effectiveness of arrowheads and armour during the middle ages", Materials Characterization, Volume 29, Issue 2, September 1992, Pages 111-117
  9. ^ Perrett, Bryan (1992). The Battle Book. London, England: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 1-85409-328-2.  p. 237.
  10. ^ Ben Lowe, Imagining Peace: A History of Early English Pacifist Ideas, 1340-1560 (1997)
  11. ^ Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (1987). "The French peasantry, 1450-1660". University of California Press. p.32. ISBN 0520055233


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External links

Hundred Years' War
French and English kings • Peace treaties • People
Armagnacs and BurgundiansJacquerie
Breton War of SuccessionCastilian Civil War

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