Hundred Years' War

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: British History 1500 and before (including Roman Britain)

Hundred Years' War

Romantic painting of Joan of Arc at the Siege of Orléans.
Date 1337– 1453
Location Primarily France and the Low Countries
Result French victory
France secures control of all English continental possessions except Calais
Crown of Aragon
Holy Roman Empire
Hundred Years' War
Edwardian – Breton Succession – Castilian – Caroline – Lancastrian
Hundred Years' War (1337-1360)
Cadsand – English Channel – Sluys – Saint-Omer – Auberoche – Caen – Blanchetaque – Crécy – Calais – Neville's Cross – Les Espagnols sur Mer – Poitiers
Hundred Years' War (1369-1389)
Nájera (Navarette) – Montiel – La Rochelle
Hundred Years' War (1415-1453)
Agincourt – Rouen – Baugé – Meaux – Cravant – Verneuil – Orléans – Jargeau – Meung-sur-Loire – Beaugency – Patay – Compiègne – Gerbevoy – Formigny – Castillon

The Hundred Years' War was a conflict between France and England, lasting 116 years from 1337 to 1453. It was fought primarily over claims by the English kings to the French throne and was punctuated by several brief and two lengthy periods of peace before it finally ended in the expulsion of the English from France, with the exception of the Calais Pale. Thus, 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 English fortunes after the appearance of Joan of Arc, (1429-1453). The term "Hundred Years' War" was a later historical 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 nationality. Militarily, it saw the introduction of new weapons and tactics, which eroded the older system of feudal armies dominated by heavy cavalry. 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.


The background to the conflict can be found 400 years earlier, in 911, when Carolingian Charles the Simple allowed the Viking Rollo to settle in a part of his kingdom (a region known afterwards as " Normandy"). In 1066 the " Normans" were led by William the Conqueror (the Duke of Normandy) and conquered England, defeating the Anglo-Saxon leadership at the Battle of Hastings, and subsequently installed a new Anglo-Norman power structure. It is important to note for future events that starting with Rollo, Norman leaders were vassals to the King of France, even after they also became kings in England.

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. At the height of power the Angevins controlled Normandy and England, along with Maine, Anjou, Touraine, Gascony, Saintonge and Aquitaine. Such assemblage of lands is sometimes known as the Angevin Empire. The king of England, who was still a vassal of the King of France, directly ruled more French territory than the King of France himself. This situation - where the Angevin kings owed vassalage to a ruler who was de facto much weaker - was a cause of continual conflict. The French resolved the situation somewhat in three decisive wars: the conquest of Normandy (1214), the Saintonge War (1242) and finally the War of Saint-Sardos (1324), thus reducing England's hold on the continent to a few small provinces in Gascony and the complete loss of the crown jewel of Normandy. By the early 14th century many 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, and were motivated to regain possession of these territories.

Notably, the Hundred Years' War is seen by many scholars as a chapter in the seemingly perpetual conflict between the English and French nations, as disputes and open war were frequent, which continued as late as the Napoleonic era, and which extended well beyond Europe as the two battled for global empires. The significance of the Hundred Years' war in this context is the rise of nationalism it engendered, compared to earlier medieval conflicts.

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. It was the longest continuous dynasty in medieval Europe. In 1314, the Direct Capetian, King Philip IV, died, leaving three male heirs: Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV. The 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.

In order to ensure that he, rather than Joan, inherited the throne, Philip IV's second-eldest son, Philip V, used the rumours that Joan was a product of her mother's adultery to have her barred from the succession; a by-product of this being a precedent against women inheriting the French throne. When Philip died in 1322, his daughters too were put aside in favour of the third son of Philip IV, Charles IV.

In 1324, Charles IV of France and 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 cannons, and after promised reinforcements never arrived. The war was a complete failure for England, and only Bordeaux and a narrow coastal strip remained in English hands of the once great duchy of Aquitaine.

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 eventual assassination ( 1327), which in turn caused the succession of the young Edward III. Charles IV died in 1328, leaving only a daughter, and an unborn infant which would prove to be a girl. The senior line of the Capetian dynasty thus ended, creating a crisis over the French succession.

Meanwhile living in England, Charles IV's sister Isabella, widow of Edward II, was at the time effectively in control of the crown in the name of the young king. Edward III, being the nephew of Charles, was his closest living male relative, and was at that time the only surviving male descendant of the senior line of the Capetian dynasty descending through 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.
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 male of the Capetian dynasty after Charles IV, Philip of Valois, who had taken regency after Charles IV's death, was the legitimate heir in the eyes of the French, and was allowed to take the throne after Charles' widow gave birth to a daughter. He 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 it up. 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 Evreux, 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 heritary French domains of Champagne and Brie to the French crown in exchange for inferior estates. Joan and Philip of Evreux the 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.

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 king of France.

In 1333, Edward III went to war with 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 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 ravaging 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.

When the war began, France had a population of about 17 million, whereas England had about 4 million. Moreover, France was generally considered to have the most knights in Europe.

Battle of Sluys from a manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles, Bruge, c.1470
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 him, and Edward 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. 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. 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 victories under Charles V: 1369–1389

Statue of Du Guesclin in Dinan.
Statue of Du Guesclin in Dinan.

The reign of Charles V saw the English steadily pushed back. Although the Breton war ended in their favour 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.

Simultaneously, the Black Prince was occupied with war in Spain 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, the war inevitably wound down to a truce in 1389. The peace was extended many times before open war flared up again.

Second peace: 1389–1415

Although Henry IV of England planned campaigns in France, he was unable to put them into effect due to 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 of Burgundy, 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.

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. This was followed by the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in Wales which was not finally put down until 1415 and actually resulted in North 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 destruction 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 the trade and navy. These problems accordingly delayed any resurgence of the dispute with France until 1415.

English victories 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 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, with the loss of many of the Armagnac leaders.

Fifteenth-century miniature depicting the Battle of Agincourt.
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 continued his progress through France, but died at Meaux in 1422. Soon, 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 enjoyed continued military success until 1429. In that year, a Franco-Scottish army isolated a supply convoy led by John Fastolf. By circling his supply wagons (largely filled with herring) around his archers, he repelled the much larger army in what was to be one of the last English successes won on the backs of their outstanding longbowmen: the Battle of the Herrings. Later that year, however, a French saviour appeared in the form of a peasant woman from Lorraine named Joan of Arc.

French resurgence: 1429–1453

Hundred Years' War evolution. French territory: yellow; English: grey; Burgundian: dark grey.
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 heavy cavalry, defeating a 3000 strong army commanded by John Fastolf and John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. The first major French land victory of the wars, this 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 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.

Generally, though, the tactical superiority of English forces remained a potent factor; John Talbot, for instance, who specialised in fast attacks, routed French forces at Ry and Avranches in Normandy in 1436 and 1439 respectively. Talbot, one of the most daring warriors of the age, was the victor in 40 battles and skirmishes. This was one of the main reasons the war was so prolonged. The biographer of the Constable Richemont put it plainly when he wrote that "The English and their captains, above all Talbot, had a well established reputation for superiority, Richemont knew them better than anyone".

But 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 Cherbourg 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. This "modern army", to some extent a necessity—many barons refused to go on a foreign campaign, as feudal service was supposed to be for protection of the realm—also gave England a military advantage early on.

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 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, 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.

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

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, the result of many years of defeat, 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 of Joan of Arc.

Furthermore, the ending of the Burgundian alliance spelt the end of English efforts in France, despite the campaigns of the aggressive John, Lord Talbot, and his forces to stay the inevitable.

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 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 woolen production at the time) throughout the conflict, to develop their own woolen industry and foreign markets.


Self-yew English longbow, 6 ft 6 in long, 105 lbf draw force.
Self-yew English longbow, 6  ft 6  in long, 105  lbf draw force.

The most famous weapon was the English (or Welsh) longbow of the yeoman archer; while not a new weapon at the time, it played a significant role throughout the war, giving the English tactical advantage in the many battles and skirmishes in which they were used. The French mainly relied on crossbows, often employed by Genoese mercenaries. The crossbow was used because it took little training or skill to operate effectively. However, it was slow to reload, heavy, prone to rain damage, and lacked the accuracy of the longbow which was much quicker to reload. 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 weight typically around 140-150 pound-force(lbf) and possibly as high as 180 lbf. 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 Scots had learned through defeat what dismounted bowmen in fixed positions could do to heavy cavalry. Since the arrows shot from a longbow could kill or incapacitate plate-armoured knights, a charge could be dissipated before it ever reached an army's lines. The longbow enabled an often-outnumbered English army to pick battle locations, fortify them, and destroy opposing armies. As the Hundred Years' War came to a close, the number of capable longbowmen began to drop off and therefore the longbow as a weapon became less viable as there were not the men to wield them.

A number of new weapons were introduced during the Hundred Years' War as well. Gunpowder, firearms and cannons 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. 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.

At the first major battle of the war, the Battle of Crécy, it is said that the age of chivalry came to an end. Ironically, there had been a revival of chivalry during this time, and it was deemed to be of the highest importance to fight, and to die, in the most chivalrous way possible. The English even apologised for fighting non-chivalrously, saying they had no choice since they were so unfairly outnumbered, leaving the dirty business to the Welsh (non-English or French speakers). It was a lesson the French would take a long time to learn at great cost, before they also began to fight in less chivalrous ways. The notion of chivalry was strongly influenced by the Romantic epics of the 12th century and knights literally imagined themselves re-enacting the stories on the field of battle. Someone like Bertrand Du Guesclin was said to have gone in to 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 colors of their ladies in to battle.

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.

The effects of the Hundred Years’ War in England also raised some questions about the extent of royal authority. Like the French, the English experienced a serious rebellion against the king during a gap in the succession caused by the death of Edward III when his grandson had not yet reached maturity. Called the Peasants' Revolt and also Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, the 1381 uprising threatened saw some 100,000 peasants march on London to protest the payment of high war taxes and efforts by the nobility to reduce English peasants to serfdom. The mob murdered and burned the houses of government officials and tax collectors. The young king-to-be, Richard II, met the peasants outside his castle, defusing their violence by promising to meet their demands. At the same time, agents of the throne murdered Wat Tyler, a key leader of the revolt, and Richard II sent the peasants back to their homes in the countryside. After they left, however, he reneged on his promises and kept taxes high.

Major battles

  • 1337 Battle of Cadsand initiates hostilities. The Flemish defenders of the island were thrown into disorder by the first use of the English longbow on Continental soil
  • 1340 Battle of Sluys June 24 Edward III destroys the Franco-Genoese fleet of Philip VI of France off the coast of Flanders ensuring England will not be invaded and that the majority of the war will be fought in France.
  • 1345 Longbow victory by Henry, Earl of Derby against a French army at Auberoche in Gascony
  • 1346 Battle of Crécy August 26 English longbowmen soundly defeat French cavalry at Abbeville
  • 1346- 1347 Siege of Calais
  • 1350 Les Espagnols sur Mer English fleet defeats Castilian fleet in a close fight.
  • 1351 Combat of the Thirty Thirty French Knights from Chateau Josselin under Beaumanoir call out and defeat thirty English Knights under Pembroke and Brambaugh
  • French army under De Nesle defeated by English under Bentley at Mauron in Brittany, De Nesle killed
  • 1356 Battle of Poitiers Edward the Black Prince captures King John II of France, France plunges into chaos
  • 1364 September 29 - Battle of Auray, end of Breton War of Succession French defeat, Du Gueschlin captured
  • 1367 Battle of Nájera (Navarette) Black Prince defeats a Castilian/French army at Nájera in Spain
  • 1372 Battle of La Rochelle Castilian-French fleet defeats the English fleet, leading to loss of dominance at sea and French piracy and coastal raids
  • 1415 Battle of Agincourt October 25 English longbowmen under Henry V defeat French under Charles d'Albert
  • 1416 English defeat numerically greater French army at Valmont near Harfleur
  • 1417 Naval victory in the River Seine under Bedford
  • 1418 Siege of Rouen July 31 ? January 19, 1419 Henry V of England gains a foothold in Normandy.
  • 1419 Battle of La Rochelle (1419) Castilian fleet defeats Anglo-Hanseatic fleet
  • 1421, 22 March Battle of Bauge The French and Scottish forces of Charles VII commanded by the Earl of Buchan defeat an outmanoeuvered English force commanded by the Duke of Clarence, the first English loss in a land battle of the Wars.
  • 1423, 31 July Battle of Cravant. The French army is defeated at Cravant on the banks of the river Yonne.
  • 1424, 17 August Battle of Vernuil. The Scots forces are decisively defeated
  • 1426 March 6 French besieging army under Richemont dispersed by a small force under Sir Thomas Rempstone in "The Rout of St James" in Brittany
  • 1429, 12 February Battle of the Herrings. English force under Sir John Fastolf defeats French army.
  • 1428, 12 October - 8 May 1429 Siege of Orléans English forces commanded by the Earl of Salisbury, the Earl of Suffolk, and Talbot (Earl of Shrewsbury) lay siege to Orleans, and are forced to withdraw after a relief army accompanied by Joan of Arc arrives at the city.
  • 1429, 17 July Battle of Patay A French army under La Hire, Richemont, Joan of Arc, and other commanders break through English archers under Lord Talbot and then pursue and mop up the other sections of the English army, killing or capturing about half (2,200) of their troops. The Earl of Shrewsbury (Talbot) and Hungerford are captured.
  • 1435 Battle of Gerbevoy La Hire defeats an English force under Arundel
  • 1436 John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury routs a larger French force under La Hire and Xantrailles at Ry near Rouen
  • 1437 John Talbot defeats the Burgundians at Crotoy
  • 1439 John Talbot disperses a French army of 6000 under the Constable Richemont at Avranches in Normandy.
  • 1440 John Talbot takes Harfleur
  • 1450 Battle of Formigny Two French armies under the Count of Clermont and the Earl of Richmond defeat the English under Kyriell
  • 1453 Battle of Castillon The Valois use cannon to defeat the Lancastrians and end the Hundred Years' War. The 70-year old Talbot is killed while trying to rally his fleeing troops

Important people

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 Son of Edward III
Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster 1306- 1361 Knight
John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury 1384- 1453 Knight
Sir John Fastolf 1378?- 1459 Knight
King Philip VI the Fortunate 1328- 1350
King John II the Good 1350- 1364
King Charles V the Wise 1364- 1380
King Charles VI the Well-Beloved or the Mad 1380- 1422
Louis I of Anjou 1380- 1382 Regent for Charles VI
King Charles VII the Victorious 1422- 1461
Joan of Arc 1412-1431
Jean de Dunois 1403-1468 Jean d'Orléans
Gilles de Rais 1404-1440
Bertrand du Guesclin 1320-1380
Jean Bureau
La Hire 1390-1443

Continuing English claim to the French throne

After the end of the Hundred Years' War, England continued to make claims on the French throne for years afterwards until the Act of Union in 1801. In that act, the title of King of France was omitted from the new royal style.

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