Hundred Years' War (1415–1429)

Hundred Years' War (1415–1429)

The Lancastrian War was the third phase of the Anglo-French Hundred Years' War. It lasted from 1415, when Henry V of England invaded Normandy, to 1429 when English successes were reversed by the arrival of Joan of Arc. It followed a long period of peace from 1389 at end of the Caroline War. It was called the Lancastrian War because it had its beginnings in the plans of Henry IV, the first of the House of Lancaster to sit on the English throne. Though his plans never came to fruition in his reign, his warlike son reinvigorated them and brought the English to the height of their power in France with an English king crowned in Paris.

Henry V turned down an Armagnac offer in 1414 to restore the 1369 frontiers in return for support, demanding a return to the full territories of Henry II. In August 1415 he landed with an army at Harfleur in Normandy, taking the city. 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 outmaneuvered 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, and the French defeat was catastrophic, losing many of the Armagnac leaders.A French army, estimated at 6,000 men, was routed by the much smaller English force at Valmont, near Harfleur, in March 1416. In subsequent campaigns after a considerable naval victory (won under the command of his brother, Bedford, on the Seine) in August 1416, Henry took much of Normandy, including Caen in 1417 and Rouen on January 19, 1419, placing Normandy under English rule after over 200 years of French control. He made formal alliance with the Burgundians, who had taken Paris, after the Armagnac execution of John of Burgundy 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 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 French Estates-General. Earlier that year an English army under the command of the Earl of Salisbury, a highly capable soldier, ambushed and destroyed a Franco-Scottish force at Fresnay 20 miles north of Le Mans (March 1420) - according to a chronicler the allies lost 3000 men, their entire camp and its contents including the Scottish treasury. In 1421, an English army of 10 000 was defeated by a Franco-Scottish army of 6000 at the Battle of Baugé.

After Henry's early death in 1422, almost simultaneously with that of his father-in-law, his baby son was crowned King Henry VI of England and also King of France, but the Armagnacs remained loyal to Charles VI's son, the dauphin Charles, and the war continued in central France.

Following Henry's death English armies continued to remain masters of the battlefield, setting very high standards of military effectiveness.

In 1423 the Earl of Salisbury, perhaps the most outstanding English commander, completely defeated another Franco-Scottish force at Cravant on the banks of the River Yonne. He personally led the crossing of the river, successfully assaulting a very strong enemy position, and in the resulting battle the Scots took very heavy losses; the Franco-Scottish army ceased to exist.

The same year saw a French victory at the Battle of La Brossinière.

In the following year Bedford won what has been described as a "second Agincourt" at Verneuil when his English army of 9000, his Burgundian allies being elsewhere, destroyed a Franco-Scottish army estimated at 16,000 men. Nor was this a victory of the longbow, for advances in plate armour had given armoured cavalry a much greater measure of protection, this plus the heat of August, which meant the archers could not implant their stakes, led to the archers of one flank being swept away. However the English men-at-arms stood firm and waded into their enemy even though outnumbered 2-to-1, assisted by a flank attack from archers of the other wing they destroyed the allied army. The Scots were surrounded on the field and annilihated, virtually to the last man - some 6500 dying there, their losses were catastrophic including all their commanders. And as a result no large scale Scottish force landed in France again. The French too took heavy punishment, all their leaders being killed on the field, the rank and file killed or mostly dispersed.

Furthermore, in February 1429 Sir John Fastolf, who was taking a supply convoy to Orléans, was attacked by a French army with a small Scottish contingent. Fastolf, who had about 1000 mounted archers and a small force of men-at-arms, formed a circle of his supply wagons. Greatly outnumbered, the English force beat off attacks in what became known as the "Battle of the Herrings" before counterattacking, the French and Scots being defeated and put to flight. Sir John, through the medium of Shakespeare, was unfairly cast as coward and villain. It was this battle which convinced Robert de Baudricourt to agree to the demand of Joan of Arc for an escort to the French court at Chinon.

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