- Direct Cause
- The Edwardian War (1337-1360)
- The First Peace (1360-1369)
- The Caroline War (1369-1389)
- The Second Peace (1389-1415)
- The Lancastrian War (1415-1429)
- The French Victory (1429-1453)
The Hundred Years’ War is a series of smaller wars between the royal houses of England and France lasting from 1337 through 1453. The house of Valois in France and the house of Plantagenet in England fought the war over the succession to the French Throne. The war is usually divided into three main phases, the Edwardian War (1337-1360), the Caroline War (1369-1389), the Lancastrian War (1415-1429) and the slow decline of the English to the end of the war.
The origins of the war begin in 1066 when William Duke of Normandy, and a vassal of the King of France, conquered England to become her king. For the new English monarchy it became an embarrassment to be required to swear fealty to another monarch. The French monarchy resented the fact that a foreign monarch held a large chunk of French land. After The Anarchy the Angevin Kings ruled England, and Normandy, as well as Maine, Anjou, Touraine, Poitou, Gascony, Saintonge, and Aquitaine. At the time the English monarch controlled more lands in France than the French monarch. The French moved to reduce the amount of lands controlled by the Angevin empire in three decisive wars: the Battle of Bouvines (1214) where the French conquered Normandy, The Saintonge War (1242), and The War of Saint-Sardos (1324) which lead to the overthrow of Edward II by Isabella, his wife and the daughter of the French King Philip IV.
France had been ruled by the direct Capetian line, where the firstborn son of each king succeeded his father. This line remained unbroken for almost 400 years. When Philip IV died he left three heirs, Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV. Louis X died shortly after his father leaving the throne to his posthumous son John I. John lived only five days. Philip v used rumors that Louis X’s oldest child, Joan, was illegitimate to bar her from succession. When Philip died in 1322 his daughters were also barred from succession in favor of his younger brother Charles IV.
In the War of Saint-Sardon Charles IV defeated England and Edward II sent his wife and son to France to negotiate a treaty. When Isabella and her son returned, with the help of an English baron named Roger Mortimer and other nobles, they overthrew Edward II.
Edward was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, who was crowned Edward III in 1327. Isabella and Mortimer ruled as regents, as Edward III was 14. When Edward III was 17 (before his majority) in 1330 he staged a coup, and took his mother and Mortimer prisoner. Mortimer was executed for treason, and Isabella was allowed to retire to Castle Rising.
To back up 2 years, in 1328 Charles IV died, leaving only daughters. Isabella asserted her son, Edward III, as the heir to the French Throne. Her son in fact was the most direct living relative of Philip IV; however, the French nobles were not pleased with the notion of a foreign king sitting on their thrown. They asserted that according to Salic Law the royal inheritance could not pass to a woman, or through a woman making Philip of Valois, grandson of Philip III the closest male heir. Philip was crowned Philip VI and became the first Valois king of France.
Joan II of Navarre also held a claim to the French throne as the daughter of Louis X. She did not, however, have enough power to assert her claim. Is should be noted that Navarre, a separate kingdom from France at the time, had no precedent against female rulers. Joan was allowed to inherit Navarre; however, in the treaty with Navarre France forced Joan to accept Philip VI as king, and to surrender the lands of Champagne and Brie. Joan’s son, Charles II of Navarre became Philip VI’s male heir, replacing Edward III.
While Philip was secure in his throne, Edward still controlled Gascony, a rich fief of France. Philip demanded Edward pay homage for Gascony, Edward demanded Philip return the lands lost by his father. Eventually a settlement was reached where Edward kept Gascony; in return he gave up his claim to the French throne. In 1333 Edward went to war against David II of Scotland in the Second War of Scottish Independence. Philip used the war as a distraction and attempted to take Gascony; however, Edward III’s forces, under Edward Balliol defeated the French at the Battle of Halidon Hill. Philip retuned to France and began plotting to restore David II to the throne of Scotland, and to retake Gascony.
French ships began scouting coastal settlements on the English Channel and in 1337 Philip reclaimed Gascony, declaring that Edward III had broken his oath to the King of France by not attending to Philip’s needs and demands. Edward III responded that he was in fact the rightful king of France. On All Saint’s Say the Bishop of Lincoln arrived with the defiance of Edward, and war was declared.
At the beginning of the war France was the favored combatant with a population of over 17 million to England’s 4 million, and at the time France was considered to have the most knights in Europe. Edward III allied himself, early in the war, with the Low Countries and Flanders. Due to high payments to the nobles of the Low Countries and Flanders, and financial troubles at home Edward did not have the money to invade France. Instead he built alliances with minor French princes, and fought the war by proxy through them. In 1338 the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV named Edward the vicar-general of the empire and promised support. Even with the support of Louis IV, England saw no results.
The French maintained superiority at sea through the use of their hired Genoese fleet. They attacked several English coastal towns. They raided Portsmouth, sacked Southampton, and captured the island of Guernsey in the Channel. In 1338 the French invalided Gascony again. The Seneschal, Oliver Ingham was able to keep the French from completely dominating the duchy, but with no reinforcements could not expel the French. Eventually in 1339 the castle of Penne in Agenais, and the cities of Blaye and Bourg on the Garonne fell to the French, opening up the Duchy to attack from the north.
In 1339 the French gained little ground in their campaign at sea. The English towns levied troops, and were able to drive off the raiders before any damage was done. The French argued with the Genovese over their pay, and the result was a mutiny and most of the galleys returning to Italy. The English resources were drained, and the situation in Scotland had taken a bad turn, the Scots recaptured Perth. Edward was forced to mortgage the crown to the merchant William Pole in order to gain the funds for war. In September of 1339 Edward finally launched an invasion of France. The invasion was a failure for Edward, he was unable to capture any important cities, and eventually forced to retreat. In early 1340 Edward proclaimed himself King of France in the main square of Ghent in order to solidify the English Flanders alliance.
In 1340 the English paid the Genovese to stay in port, and burned the French galley in the harbor of Boulogne. While attempting to thwart the landing of an English army the remaining French fleet was almost completely destroyed in the Battle of Sluys. For the rest of the war the English dominated the English Channel, thereby preventing French invasions.
The English defense of Gascony also received some reprieve. A feud between the Count of Armagnac and the Count of Foix broke into open warfare, thereby diverting some of the French forces. Another French noble, Bernard-Aiz Albret defected to the English.
Philip VI invaded Hainaut, one of the Low Countries, in an attempt to break the anti-French alliance. Once Philip was informed about the defeat at Sluys he turned his attention to the new threat. Edward split his army into two forces. Robert of Artois led the first army in an invasion of Artois, but was forced to retreat after a defeat in a battle with the garrison of Saint-Omer. Edward III led the second force to the walls of Tournai. The siege dragged on until Philip VI arrived with the French army. Philip refused to meet the English in battle, but with Tournai now resupplied, and his own allies on the brink of desertion Edward was forced to negotiate the Truce of Esplechin, to last nine months.
The truce marked the end of the anti-French alliance, the Low Countries, and Germanic princes backed out leaving only Flanders. Edward III was in dire straits, he had gained nothing in his war in France, and Scotland was now lost to the English, again. Bankrupt, Edward repaid only those whose support he could not afford to lose. Edward did make payments on most of his loans in cash, or royal grants of wool.
On April 30th, 1341 John III, Duke of Brittany died childless, and heirless. The Breton War of Succession marked the contest for the Duchy between John of Montfort, and Charles of Blois. Charles had most of the support for the mobility, so John moved quickly and took the ducal capitol of Nantes, and the treasury at Limoges. John Quickly gained control of most of Brittany’s most powerful cities. Rumors made it to Philip VI that John was receiving aid from the English. Charles became the royal candidate, forcing John to support Edward III, weather or no he intended to. England and France extended the truce until the middle of 1342, baring Edward from taking any offensive action in France. However, Philip could still deal with his rebellious vassals. With the support of Philip, Charles succeeded in capturing John. John’s wife, Joanna of Flanders took up the Montfortist cause. She held out in Western Brittany. The major French army was moves to Calais in expectation of an English invasion once the truce ran out. Even without the assistance of Philip’s troops Charles was able to defeat the remaining Montfortist holdings, and many of the captains defected to Charles.
During the truce fighting in Gascony never ceased. Many of the Ganscon nobles used the war as an excuse to raid each other’s lands. The English were able to retake Bourg during this time, as well as several other holdings. While the French army was waiting in Calais Edward landed his forces in Brest. Edward again marched against Vannes. The siege dragged on as the French army rushed to meet him. Only 19 days into January the Kings agreed to a new truce, to last until September of 1346. Edward established a garrison at Brest.
Officially, Edward III and Philip VI negotiated the truce to allow time for a peace conference and the negotiation of a lasting peace. Both countries were suffering exhaustion of the war, and financial strain. Edward used the time to slowly pay off his dept. Philip, with no central institution to grant taxes for the whole country had to negotiate with several provincial assemblies to raise funds. Many of them refused to pay taxes during a truce, citing ancient feudal customs. The French nobility was not impressed with Philip’s tactics in the war. They believed Edward acted as a true king, marching forward into battle, while Philip had cowardly refused to fight. Many had bankrupted themselves to raise armies, and in a defensive war there is no plunder, of ransoms, the primary means of making back funds raised for war.
In 1343 Oliver Ingham was recalled to England and Nicholas Beche was appointed Seneschal of Gascony. He upheld the truce as best he could. Beche failed to restore civil peace; the Gascon nobles considered private war an old privilege, with the financial situation the nobles resorted to banditry. The first Routiers began operating at this time. Routiers were large organized bands of soldiers, nominally under English control. They would sieve a large town or strategic castle then raid the surrounding lands until everything of value had been taken. They would then move on. The local populace concentrated on local defense, and thus drained more revenue from Paris.
On July 5th, 1346, two months before the end of the truce, Edward III sailed from Portsmouth with about 750 ships and 7,000-10,000 men to invade France. With him was the newly crowned Edward, Prince of Wales, Edward III’s 16 year old son and heir. Edward marched through Normandy towards the Low Countries, but chose simply to plunder instead of attempting to hold any territory. Philip began assembling a large army and moved to stop Edward. Edward III new tactis proved to be to much for the French to handle. Edward won the Storming of Caen, and the Battle of Blanchetaque. After crossing the Somme river at Blanchetaque, an action that foiled Philip’s attempt to trap the English army between the Somme and the Seine, the two armies met at Crécy.
In the ensuing battle a smaller English force, 12,000-16,000, defeated a much larger French force, 35,000-80,000 (depending on sources). Edward made excellent use of his surroundings. He positioned his army between two natural obstacles to keep the French from flanking him. He also positioned his army on the top of a hill. He ordered his army to fight all on foot, no cavalry, and while they waited for the French army the soldiers dug a system of ditches, pits, and caltrops to thwart the oncoming army. Edward positioned his Welch Longbow me in a ‘V’ formation at the crest of the hill. He divided his army into three sections, one was commanded by his son, the Prince of Wales.
Philip’s army was not as organized, as Philip believed his large amount of mounted knight would run over the English Army. He also ordered his Genoese mercenary crossbowmen to leave their pavises behind. Without the protection of their shields the crossbowmen were easily scattered by the Welch longbow men. The longbows could pierce the armor at the time, so the charging French cavalry fell under a hail of English arrows as well. Edward the prince of Wales came under direct attack, but his father refused to send help, stating he wanted his son to “win his spurs.” The prince proves himself to be a fine soldier. While the title, the Black Prince, was not used during Edward’s life, the title may have come from his victory at Crécy. One story states the title came from a black cuirass presented to the prince after his victory at Crécy. Another comes from Edward’s coat of arms, which he supposedly created after the battle. The last theory about the name states that the French coined the term in reference to the many victories Edward won over the French.
The Battle of Crécy is considered to be, by historians, the beginning of the death of chivalry. The English won the battle through tactics and strategy that went against the codes of chivalry. Cannons may have been used for the first time in a European battle, and the English did not capture the French nobles to ransom, they slaughtered them instead.
After the victory at Crécy, the English marched to Calais capturing it in 1347. The English also defeated the Scots in the Battle of Neville’s Cross, capturing King David II and greatly reducing the threat from Scotland. The Black Deth in 1348 began taking its toll in Europe, and prevented the English from launching another major offense for some time. Philip VI died in 1350 and was replaced by his son, John II.
Some sporadic fighting continued, but neither side gained ground until after the Black Death passed, and England was able to recover financially. In 1356 the Black Prince invaded France from Gascony. Like his father in 1346 The Black Prince used chevauchée tactics as he drove north. His army met little resistance as the burned villages and farms living off of what they could steal. The Black Prince was stopped when they reached the Loire River at Tours. He was unable to take the castle there, or to burn the town. This delay gave John II time to catch up to the Black Prince and attempt to eliminate his army. John, who had been fighting against Henry of Grosmont in Normandy, arranged the bulk of his army at Chartes, to the north of Tours. He dismissed some 15,000-20,000 of his low-grade infantry in order to speed up his force.
When the Black Prince was informed of John’s movements he opted for a retreat, and headed south pursued by John. The French caught up to the English a few miles southwest of Poitiers.
Remembering the battle of Crécy ten years earlier, the Black Prince opted for the same type of tactics his father employed ten years earlier. In a plain The Black Prince set up his troops between two natural obstacles to prevent flanking, he also left the luggage wagons on his right flank, the weaker side. He ordered most of his cavalry to dismount, though he kept a small unit hidden in the forest to the left flank. Like his father he deployed Welch Longbow men in a ‘V’ formation along his troops.
The French were divided into four parts. At the front were 300 elite knights accompanied by German mercenary pikemen. Their purpose was to eliminate the longbow men. Behind them were three waves of infantry.
As the battle began, the English fainted a retreat on the left wing. As the French knights charged in to exploit the situation the English longbow men opened fire on the knights, taking down many of the horses. There is some debate as to whether the longbows could penetrate the French armor. The archers moved to flank the cavalry and take down the horses as they rode past; leading some historians to claim the archers could not stop the knights, but could stop the horses.
With his knights out of commission, John’s infantry waved began attacking. The first, commanded by the dauphin, engaged in heavy fighting, and pulled back to regroup. Orléans, in command of the second wave, panics when he saw the dauphin retreat, and fled with his forces. The King himself commanded the final wave, comprised of some of the best foot soldiers. The fighting was intense and heavy, and the battle would have been a disaster for the English, if The Black Prince had no held his cavalry in reserve. The hidden force circles the French and came up behind their army trapping them in-between the English forces. King John and his immediate entourage, including the dauphin, were captured by the Black Prince.
The French defeat was an economic blow as well as a military one. The ransom for John was twice France’s yearly income, though that was John’s own fault. Edward set the ransom at two million écus, but John believing he was worth more doubled it to four million. John II signed a truce with Edward III. Later that year they negotiated the Second Treaty of London, where England gained possession of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Mane and the coastline from Flanders to Spain. The Black Prince treated his prisoner with a great deal of respect and courtesy. In fact John was allowed to return to France to try and raise the funds for his ransom. When several other French hostages who accompanied him broke free, John returned to England to turn himself in, horrified that his word and honor had been broken. John eventually died in England in 1364, still a prisoner. He was given a grand ceremony, and honored by Edward III and the royal family.
While John II was away, the French government began to collapse. A peasant revolt in 1358 called the Jacquerie destroyed many noble homes around the Beauvais area, north of Paris. Edward invaded France again, hoping to finally seize the crown in the chaos, however he was unable to take Paris or Rheims from the dauphin. Edward then negotiated the Treaty of Brétigny, where he renounced the French Crown, but expanded his territory in Aquitaine and confirming his conquest of Calais.
While John II was alive the peace held fast. Upon his death in 1364 Charles V became king. Charles bean reclaiming the territory given to Edward III under the Treaty of Brétigny. In 1366 a civil war broke out in Castile. The two claiments for the Crown looked to England and France for support. The Black Prince led an Englihs force in support of the reigning king, Peter in exchange for lands in Castile. After the victory at Nájera Peter refused to honor his agreement with the Black Prince, so the English abandoned the Castilians. Henry looked to Charles V for help, and received it. Henry invaded Castile in 1368 and murdered Peter for the Crown.
The war in Brittany between John Montfort and Charles of Blois finally came to an end when John killed the French claimant Charles in the Battle of Auray in 1364. John and his heirs eventually reconciled with the French kings. In May of 1369 Edward the Black Prince refused an illegal summons from Charles V that demanded he come to Paris. Charles responded by declaring war on the English and set out to finish reclaiming the lands lost in the treaty of Brétigny.
For twenty years Charles worked to rid France of the English. He won several major battles during that time, including the Battle of Nájera. The French were able to capture Pointiers in 1372, and Bergerac in 1377. They were also able to stop the English dominance at sea in the Battle of La Rochelle. This defeat hindered English trade, and threatened their positions in Gascony. In 1376 The Black Prince died, followed a year later by his father Edward III. This left the underage Richard II on the throne. In France, Charles V died in 1380 leaving his underage son Charles VI as king. Several attempts were made at peace under Richard. He in fact married a French Princess in order to bring peace. His efforts were unsuccessful. Finally, after two decades, another truce was signed in 1389.
Henry IV planned campaigns in France, however his own usurpation of the English throne forced him to defend his English crown from rebels, including Owain Glyndŵr and Henry Percy. The English did not attempt to seize the French throne again until 1415.
The Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War ends in 1430, the same time the Lancastrain War ends. The events in this war are directly tied to the Lancastrain phase of the Hundred Years war. This section maps out the enter Civil War. In the next section I begin at the start of the Lancastrian War in 1415.
During the Second Peace the situation in France began to deteriorate into a civil war. Charles VI was prone to bouts of madness. Based on historical accounts of the symptoms, modern historians believe he suffered from Schizophrenia. The Queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, presided over a regency council that ruled when Charles fell into a fit of madness. Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and uncle to the king was a member of the council, as was Louis I de Valois, the Duke of Orléans, brother of the King. Both Philip and Louis vied for influence over the queen. At the heart of their conflict were two different economic, social and religious systems. The French model was one of strong agriculture, fuedual and religious traditions. The English model, favored by Philip in Burgundy, was one of merchants, the middle class, and urban centers. The conflict degraded from 1393 through 1407.
Philip the Bold died in 1404, and his son John the Fearless lost even more influence at court. Louis received 90% of his income from the royal coffers, and used his money and influence to by lands in the eastern marches, an area the Burgundians considered their private hunting ground. John received very little income from the royal treasury, and in fact the Duke of Burgundy’s larges was reduced from 200,000 livres per year to 37,000 livres a year.
Louis had a reputation as a womanizer, and it was greatly rumored that he was the queen’s lover, and that the dauphin, Charles, was his son. Louis was also accused of seducing Margaret of Bavaria, the Duchess of Burgundy. Being ousted out of power by Louis, as well as the seduction of the Duchess of Burgundy rumor became too much for John the Fearless to bare. John, who was popular with the taxpayers of the land, as well as the merchants and the university, arranged for the assassination of Louis. On November 23rd, 1407 while going to the Queen’s residence at Hôtel Barbette a messenger informed Louis that the king urgently needed him in Hôtel Saint-Paul. On leaving Hôtel Barbette Louis was set upon by fifteen masked criminals who stabbed him to death. With the support of the Paris population, and the University John the Fearless was able to gain considerable power with Louis’ death, and openly acknowledge the assassination.
The following text is adapted by Raven Claflin from the Wikipedia page on the Civil War.
Intending to avenge his father, Charles of Orléans backed the enemies of the dukes of Burgundy wherever he could but even so, in 1409, a peace concluded at Chartres seemed to bring an end to hostilities. On April 15 1410 at the marriage of Charles and Bonne d'Armagnac at Gien; however, the Duke of Orléans, his new father-in-law and the grandees of France formed a league against John and his supporters. The marriage gave the Orleans faction a new head to replace Louis (Charles's new father-in-law, Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac, who became the natural protector of the Duke and the Duke's mother, Valentina Visconti) and a new name (the Armagnac party). Other members of the leagues included the dukes of Berry, Bourbon and Brittany, as well as the counts of Alençon and Clermont.
Bernard VII recruited warbands in the Midi that fought with unheard-of ferocity: the Écorcheurs. At their head, he ravaged the vicinity of Paris and advanced into the Saint-Marcel suburb. A new treaty, signed at Bicêtre on November 2 1410, suspended hostilities, but both sides had taken up arms again as early as spring 1411. In October 1411, with an army 60,000 strong, the duke of Burgundy entered Paris and attacks the Bretons allied to the Armagnacs, who had retrenched at La Chapelle. He had to withdraw in the end but, in the night of 8 to 9 November, he left via the porte Saint-Jacques, marched across Saint-Cloud and decisively defeated the Écorcheurs. Then John the Fearless pursued the princes of Orléans and their allies to Bourges, which Orléans was besieging, but the royal army appeared in front of the city on June 11 1412. Another peace was signed at Bourges on July 15 1412 and confirmed at Auxerre on August 22.
The English took advantage of the situation by punctually supporting the two parties or buying their neutrality. The Armagnacs concluded a treaty with Henry V of England in 1412, to prevent an Anglo-Burgundian alliance, so they yielded Guyenne to him and recognized his suzeraineté over Poitou, Angoulême and Périgord. All the same, John the Fearless managed the English well, since an English wool embargo could ruin the cloth merchants of Flanders.
In 1413, John the Fearless supported the Cabochien Revolt that brought about a slaughter in Paris. The Parisian population, terrified, called on the Armagnacs for aid. Their troops retook the city in 1414. When Henry V renewed hostilities in 1415, the duke of Burgundy remained neutral towards him, leaving Henry able to comprehensively defeat the French army (essentially provided by the Armagnacs), at the battle of Agincourt in October 1415.
On May 29 1418, thanks to the treason of a certain Perrinet Leclerc and the support of the craftsmen and university, Paris was delivered to Jean de Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, captain of a troop favoring the duke of Burgundy. On the following June 12, Bernard VII and other Armagnacs were slaughtered by a mob. John thus became master of Paris once again, and so he entered into negotiations with the English in which he seemed willing to welcome the king of England's claim on the French throne. It thus became imperative for the Dauphin to negotiate a rapprochement with the Burgundians, again to avoid an Anglo-Burgundian alliance. John the Fearless, on his part, had become master of a large part of the kingdom after his capture of Paris, but his finances were at rock bottom. John was thus in favor of meeting the Dauphin, Charles VII of France, in order to sign up to an advantageous peace, so several meetings were thus organized.
Having set the precedent for assassinations, on September 10 1419, John himself was murdered on the bridge at Montereau-Fault-Yonne, whilst in the town for an interview with Charles. The perpetrators were servants from the Armagnac faction, who feared that Charles might go over to the Burgundian political forms and views. This act prevented all appeasement and brought about the collapse of what remained of the kingdom of France.
Philip the Good, the new Duke of Burgundy, then entered into an alliance with the English (who had always avoided his father), which resulted in the treaty of Troyes. This treaty declaimed Charles VII as a bastard son of Louis of Orléans rather than Charles VI's heir, thus leaving Charles VI with no legitimate male heir and married Charles VI's daughter, Catherine of Valois, to Henry V. The king of England thus received the crown of France and Charles VI was returned to the power he had had in 1392, just before the onset of his madness. Henry would be regent over on what remained of Charles VI's lands in southeast France until his death, in 1422. His future legitimate grandson would become sovereign of France and England. As would be expected, this treaty was denounced by the Armagnacs, who reasoned "that the king belongs to the crown and not vice versa". Henry V also died in 1422 and Joan of Arc's intervention was thus needed for Charles VII to be legitimized by a divine act and crowned at Reims on July 17 1429, over a year before the coronation of Henry V's successor (the six-month-old Henry VI of England) on 16 December 1430 at Notre Dame de Paris.
Engaged in a patient re-conquest of French territory, Charles VII wished to isolate the English from the Burgundians. In 1435, he concluded the treaty of Arras with Philip the Good, recognizing Burgundy's independence. This agreement officially put an end to the war and allowed Charles VII to recapture practically all the English's continental possessions, leaving them in 1453 with Calais alone.
Following the long peace after the Caroline War, the Lancastrian War was the third phase in the Hundred Years War. Henry V began this phase when he invaded Normandy. It lasted until 1429 when Joan of Arc reversed the English fortune in France. The Lancastrian War saw England rise to its greatest heights in the war, and eventual fall to a complete defeat.
After assuming the throne from his cousin, Richard II, Henry IV began planning an extensive campaign in France to reassert his Grandfather, Edward III’s, claim on the French throne. Henry IV was never able to put his plans into action, instead he spent most of his reign fighting rebels at home, as well as Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. When Henry V became king he began to implement his father’s plans. Henry first began by negotiating with the French. He claimed the title of King of France through his great-grandfather Edward III. Hnery initially called a great council in the spring of 1414 to discuss going to war with France, but the lords insisted that he should negotiate further and moderate his claims. In the following negotiations Henry said that he would give up his claim to the French throne if the French would pay the 1.6 million crowns outstanding from the ransom of John II (who had been captured at the Battle of Poitiers), and the lands of Normandy, Touraine, Anjou, Brittany and Flanders, as well as Aquitaine. Henry would marry Princess Catherine, the young daughter of Charles VI, and receive a dowry of 2 million crowns. The French responded with what they considered the generous terms of marriage with Princess Catherine, a dowry of 600,000 crowns, and an enlarged Aquitaine. By 1415 negotiations had ground to a halt, with the English claiming that the French had mocked their claims and ridiculed Henry himself. In December 1414, the English parliament was persuaded to grant Henry a "double subsidy", a tax at twice the traditional rate, to recover his inheritance from the French. On 19 April 1415, Henry again asked the great council to sanction war with France, and this time they did.
Henry V landed at Harfleur in Normandy in August of 1415. The siege of Harfleur took longer than expected, nearly a month. The town surrendered in late September. With winter coming on, and heavy losses at Harfleur Henry elected to make a raiding expedition across France to English controlled Calais where the army could recoup, and resupply during winter.
During the siege at Harfleur the French raised an army to meet Henry’s force. The French army was not raised in time to relieve Harfleur. As Henry marched north the French army moved to block his path to Calais. They were successful for a time, forcing the English army to move south to find a ford across the Somme river. After crossing the Somme the English again headed north. The French shadowed the English army, and by the 24th of October the armies faced each other for battle, but the French declined to fight. They initiated negotiations. Henry ordered his army to advance and begin the battle. He knew the French were delaying in an attempt to gather more troops, and that his own army could not hold out long. The English army had marched 260 miles in two and a half weeks with little food and suffering from sickness, such as dysentery. Henry knew he had to get his army to Calais.
The night before the battle both armies slept on open ground. Early on the 25th Henry positioned his troops (Estimates vary, but they had approximately 900 men-at-arms, and 5000 longbow men) across a 750 yard defile between the woods of Tramecourt and Agincourt. The archers pounded in palings, large wooden stakes to drive off cavalry, while the men-at-arms in full plate male were positioned shoulder to shoulder four deep. The French positioned their troops n there lines, called battles. Numbers vary from sources, but the French had around 50,000 men, which included some 8,000 men-at-arms, 4,000 archers, 1,500 crossbowmen, and perhaps about 1,000 mounted men-at-arms. Henry, like his great grand-father Edward III, made excellent use of the terrain around the battle. With the narrow field of battle, and the longbow men positioned on either side of the field the French could not flank the English. The palings protected the longbow men from a cavalry charge.
About three hours after sunrise on the 25th fighting had not yet commenced. The French were still waiting for additional troops, and the English were set up for a defensive battle, not an offensive one. The French may also have remembered Crécy and Pointiers, where attacking prepared English positions lead to defeat for the French. Henry was eventually forced to take a calculated risk and advance his army closer to the French position. The repositioning took time, as the archers had to pull out their palings and pound them back in one they moved. If the French cavalry had attacked during the move they would have been able to seriously cripple the English army.
The English longbow men were able to get set up, and within the extreme bow range of the French, the longbow men opened fire and began the battle.
The French cavalry seems to have been caught off guard. They moved quickly and attacked the archer positions, with disastrous results. The cavalry could not outflank the archers due to the woodlands at their archer’s sides, and they were unable to charge through the palings. The archers made quick work of the cavalry, their arrows not only killing the men, but killing and wounding the horses thereby sending them into a panic.
The state of the field itself may have aided the English. The ground had been newly lowed, and it had rained heavily over the days preceding the battle. Some reports claim that the French men-at-arms were sinking up to their waist in the mud. There are some reports of French soldiers drowning after they fell in the mud. The French armor was extremely heavy, allowing those that survived the mud to close within 300 yards of the English lines under the hail of arrows.
The French men-at-arms eventually reached the English line, and succeeded in pushing it back. The longbow men continued to fire on the French until they ran out of arrows. The slog through the mud in the heavy armor, as well as the pounding from the arrows, even those that did not penetrate, and the heat and lack of oxygen from the plate mail with visor down along with the crush of the French numbers made the French easy targets for the fresh and lighter armored English. The longbow men, once they ran out of arrows, descended on the French with hatchets, swords and other weapons. The French simply could not move fast enough to deal with the English, who with little or no armor were not hindered by the mud. The melee lasted for three hours. The French were killed, or taken prisoner, in the thousands.
One story of the battle involves Humphry Duke of Gloucester, Henry V’s youngest brother. According to the story, when Henry heard that his brother had been wounded in the abdomen, he took his household guard and cut a path through the French to his brother. There he stood over his brother beating back wave after wave of French until Gloucester could be dragged to safety.
The only French success in the battle was a small sortie from Agincourt castle behind the English lines. Ysembart d’Azincourt leading a small number of men-at-arms and peasants attacked the lightly protected English Baggage Train, and seized on some of Henry V’s treasures, including a crown. In some accounts this event takes place toward the end of the battle, in others toward the start of battle.
Regardless, there was certainly a point after the initial English victory that Henry became worried that he French were regrouping. Henry ordered the slaughter of perhaps several thousand French prisoners, with only the most illustrious being spared. Henry feared they would rearm themselves with the weapons strewn upon the field. While this act was certainly ruthless, it was arguably justifiable given the situation of the battle. Even the known French chroniclers do not criticize Henry for this. The killing of the French prisoners marked the end of the battle. The French rearguard, seeing so many French nobles captured and killed fled the battlefield.
Due to the number of the sources, and their reliability, it is impossible to give an accurate number of the English and French casualties. English numbers range from “at least” 112 to 1,600. French casualties range from 4000 up to 11,000. The average ratio is about 10 French per English dead. The French also lost many of their nobles, the Constable who lead the battle, three dukes, five counts, and 90 barons fell. Prisoner estimates range from 700 to 2,000 even after the slaughter of the prisoners. Among the prisoners the famous poet Charles Duke of Orléans and Jean Le Maingre the Marshal of France.
Henry V worked to take Normandy from the French. In March of 1416 a small English force routed a much larger French force at Valmont, and Bedford, Henry’s brother, won a decisive naval battle on the Seine in August of 1416. Henry captured Caen in 1417 and Rouen in early 1419 placing Normandy under English control for the first time in over 200 years. Henry V formed a formal alliance with the Burgundians after they took Paris following the assassination of John of Burgundy in 1419. In 1420 Charles VI met with Henry and signed the Treaty of Troyes by which Charles’s daughter, Catherine of Valois married Henry, and Henry’s heirs were to inherit the throne of France. The dauphin, the future Charles VII was disinherited and labeled illegitimate.
Henry v died in 1422, 2 months later so did Charles VI. This left the infant Henry VI as the official king on England and France. However in France many chose to support the claim of the dauphin Charles. The war continued in central France. The English armies continued to remain the masters of the battle field, setting very high standards for military effectiveness.
In early 1423 Salisbury completely defeated a Franco-Scottish force at Cravant on the banks of the river Yonne. He personally lead the crossing of the river where the English force successfully assaulted a very strong enemy position. The same year also saw the French victory at the Battle of La Brossinière.
The following year Bedford won a battle described as a second Agincourt at Verneuil when his English army of 9000 destroyed a Franco-Scottish army of an estimated 16,000. The battle was not a victory of the longbow, in fact due to the advance in armor technology, and the heat of August restricting the use of the archer’s palings, one battalion of archers was flanked and destroyed. The English men-at-arms simply stood firm and with assistance of the second battalion of archers destroyed the attacking army. The Scots were killed almost to the last man and as a result no large scale Scottish force landed in France again.
In February of 1429 Sir John Fastolfe was attacked by a French army while taking a supply convoy to Orléans. Greatly outnumbers, Fastolfe literally circled the wagons and beat off the attacks in what is known as the Battle of the Herrings. Fastolfe then counterattacked and defeated the French, who then fled the area. It was in fact the Battle of Hearings that convinced Robert de Baudricourt to agree to the demands of Joan of Arc for an escort to the French court at Chinon.
From 1429 through 1453 the English fought a losing battle for France. While there were many significant victories, the English simply could not hold on to France. Following the inspiration of Joan of Arc the French determination to remove the English presence from their soil lead to a near total defeat for the English.
Joan of Arc was a peasant girl from Domrémy France who, believing that the voices of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret told her to remove the English from France, convinced the Dauphin to send her to the siege of Orléans. There she helped the French to break the siege. Inspired by Joan, the French took several English strongholds in the area. Shortly after, at the battle of Patay the French won an important battle at Patay
The Battle of Patay was to the French what Agincourt was to the English. The battle came the day after the English surrender at Beaugency. The Battle of Patay was the first significant battle where the French were able to overcome the English longbow men. In the Middle Ages only the English kept a large Longbow contingent. The weapons were not expensive, but the training and upkeep of the bowmen was. Unlike most other soldiers, the longbow men had to be year round soldiers.
An English reinforcement army under Sir Fastolfe departed from Paris following the defeat at Orléans. The French moved quickly, capturing three bridges, and accepting the English surrender at Beaugency. The French, believing they could not defeat a fully prepared English army, scoured the area in hopes of catching Fastolfe’s army off guard.
The English met up with the defenders of Meung-sur-Loire, where the French had only taken the bridge, not the castle of the town. The retreating defenders from Beaugency also joined the English. The English position is not exactly known, but it is traditionally believed to be near the village of Patay. The English excelled at open battles and were preparing for another won. Sir John Fastolfe, Lord John Talbot, and Sir Thomas Scales commanded the English.
While preparing the paling defenses the English archers inadvertently gave their position away to the French when a stag wandered past and the archers raised a hunting cry. The French, upon hearing this news, lead about 1,500 heavily armored knights and cavalry into battle. The bowmen were slaughtered, without their defenses raised. The few English on horseback fled the battle. For once the French tactic of a full frontal cavalry charge worked.
Talbot and Scales were captured in the battle. Fastolfe managed to escape in disgrace. The French victory at Patay, following so close to the victory at Orléans, proved that the supposed invincible English army was in fact not. Joan herself arrived late to the battle. One account has her shocked at the brutality of the French who were butchering the fleeing English. She apparently consoled several English soldiers as they died. The battle also helped to clear the way for the dauphin to claim his crown.
In the Treaty of Troyes Charles was declared illegitimate and the rule of France was handed over to Henry V and his heirs. The supporters of the Armagnac faction in the civil war refused to recognize the treaty. Charles himself had little motivation to fight the English, until Joan appeared. With the victories at Orléans and Patay, Charles marched into Reims and was officially crowned Charles VII of France on July 17th, 1429. All the kings of France were crowned in the cathedral of Reims, now Notre Dame de Reims. While Henry VI was, in 1431, crowned King of France in Paris, he was never crowned in Reims.
Joan was captured in a minor action in may of 1430 by the Burgundians. When Joan ordered a retreat she took up the place of honor as the last to leave the field, and the Burgundians closed in around the rear guard and took Joan. It was customary for a captive’s family to ransom a prisoner, but Joan’s family had no money. Charles VII did not intervene and Joan was sold to the English.
The English put Joan on trail for witchcraft and heresy. The trial itself was unconventional, the English did not allow French clergy to interrogate Joan, they also held her in a secular prison, and not an ecclesiastical prison, as was expected. Later investigations into the trial show that the English doctored the court records, and the abjuration that the illiterate Joan signed. Joan was convicted of heresy simply because she wore men’s clothing. For a time, in prison, she did wear women’s clothing, but either owing to a sexual assault or simply that she was left with no other clothing she returned to wearing men’s clothing, and was executed for it. Joan was burned on may 30th, 1431 in Rouen. In the 1450’s, after the war ended a retrial was opened by Pope Callixtus III. The court eventually declared Joan innocent in July of 1456. Joan was beatified in 1909, and canonized.
Even with Charles VII now the crowned king of France, and the victories won by Joan, the English still posed a serious threat. The English proved time and again to be move versatile and inventive in their battle tactics. John Talbot specialized in fast attacks, and routed the French at Ry and Avranches in Normandy. Talbot was one of the most daring warriors of the age, and the victor of over 40 battles and skirmishes. His success is one of the reasons the war was so prolonged. The French, however, practiced a strategy of battle avoidance, were able to retake many of the occupied towns. In 1453 Talbot lead an attempt to retake Gascony, though initially welcomed by the locals, the attempt was crushed by Jean Bureau at the battle of Castillion.
The Battle of Castillion on July 17th 1453 is considered the last battle in the Hundred Years war. The battle was the last in an attempt to take Gascony, after Boudreaux fell to the French in 1451. John Talbot lead the English in the battle. The War itself was coming to an end, and the Gascony campaign was a last ditch attempt by the English to retake some of their lost territory in France.
Charles VII gathered his forces over the long winter months, and in spring began marching toward Gascony along three different routes. Talbot received an extra 3,000 men to face Charles’ army, but this was too small a number to hold back Charles’ massive army. The French laid siege to Castillion, and Talbot abandoned his original plans in an attempt to relieve the siege acceding to the pleas of the town commanders. The French commander, Jean Bureau, in fear of the notorious Talbot, ordered his men to encircle their camp with a ditch and palisade, and deployed his 300 cannons on the parapet. The French made no attempt to invest Castillion. Talbot arrived ahead of his main force and routed a small French militia in the woods before the French camp, giving him men a boost of moral before the main battle.
A few hours after the rout, a messenger from town reported to the resting English troops that the French army was leaving; a huge dust cloud could be seen heading off to the distance. Unfortunately that dust cloud was created by the French camp followers who were ordered to leave the camp before the upcoming battle. Talbot quickly organized his men and charged the French camp, only to find the parapets well defended by thousands of archers, and hundreds of cannons. Surprised, but undaunted, Talbot gave the signal to attack. Talbot himself could not fight in the battle, he had been captured and paroled, and was not allowed to take arms up against the French.
The English charged across the ditch to the camp to only be met with a hail of arrows and quarrels from the bows and crossbows, as well as a barrage of cannon and small arms fire. The English fought bravely for over an hour, but to no avail. The Breton cavalry arrived, and charged Talbot’s right flank, dispersing the rest of the English troops.
During this rout Talbot’s horse was killed by a cannon ball, and he fell trapped beneath it. One of the French footmen recognized Talbot and killed him with a hand axe.
The battle of Castillion was the last battle of the Hundred Years war. Following Henry VI’s bout of insanity in 1453, and the outbreak of the War of the Roses the English could not pursue their claim to the French crown, and lost all their land on the continent, save Calais.
The battle was also the first battle in Europe where guns made a significant impact on the battle. Cannons and hand cannons had been used in Europe for nearly 200years. Cannons were used in the battle of Crécy and others in the Hundred Years war, but they had no major impact on the battles. Castillion changed that.
Castillion is also considered to the death of chivalry. Talbot is considered by most historians to be the last great chivalric knight in Europe, and his inglorious death, killed while helpless under his horse, is considered the death of chivalry, a European ideal that began its slow death with the beginning of the Hundred Years War.
The hundred Years war changed Europe. The war was a great time of military evolution, new tactics, weapons, and army structure were created by both sides to meet the demands of the war. England was a more modern state than France. It had a centralized authority, Parliament, that had the authority to tax. The English revolutionized its recruitment system, creating a paid army instead of one drawn from feudal obligation.
Before the war cavalry was considered the most powerful unit in an army. England’s use of the longbow and the rise of guns increasingly negated the heavy horse. The English began to increasingly use light armored horsemen, who dismounted to attack. These troops alter became known as dragoons.
The new weapons meant that nobility was no longer the deciding factor in battle. The composition of armies changed, and for the first time since the fall of the Western Roman Empire there were standing armies in Europe. Standing armies represented a new form of power for kings. They could defend their kingdoms from invaders, and protect the king form internal threats. This was a major step in the early development of centralized nation-states that eroded the medieval order.
The war also created nationalistic sentiment. While the war devastated France as a land, is awakened the French people into believing they were a unified country, instead of a collection of smaller duchies that all spoke the same language. Rumors of a French invasion of England to destroy the English language lead to the fall of French in England. From the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 until 1362 French was the language of the ruling class, and commerce in England. The English that emerged is now called Middle English; it is the language of Chaucer and Gower. Middle English quickly evolved into the language of Shakespeare, Early Modern English.
The effects of the War raised many question in England over the extent of royal authority. A peasant’s revolt in 1381 say 100,000 English peasants march on London to protest the high war taxes; they murdered and burned the houses of many government officials and tax collectors. Richard II met the mob outside of London and made many promises to them, but after they dispersed, he reneged on them. The usurpation of Richard II by Henry VI was partially due to Richard’s views on the war. The end of the war and the loss of all continental lands was a major contributing factor to the War of the Roses.
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