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The Hundred Years War and Its Impact on England and France

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Within the Middle Ages there were countless wars to be found. There was however, one war in particular which would remain in the World’s history books as one of the bloodiest wars of the Middle Ages. England and France have never had any sort of good relations. Wars have arisen from marriage, territory, kingship and political views. As you can expect this loss to the French left England in a state chaos. However, with the help of great leadership and patience it strengthened England to a greater sense of patriotism and identity for them. While the English suffered drastically the French benefited greatly, while at the same time taking the expected tolls of war on their country. The French gained power over the unexpected subservient nobles that had troubled France quite often throughout its bloody history. Then it brought the country together as a whole. It united the French under one flag. It also boosted the French morale to win such a pivotal war. In the beginning everyone was in fear of the bubonic plague which started in 1347. Ten years prior, the Hundred Years War began. When 12 ships returning from the black sea, sailed into the port at Messina, Sicily they brought a disease, that unbeknownst to them would kill millions. To even start the war there was a terrible tragedy that killed 50 million people out of the worlds 85 or so million. In regards to human heroes, whenever there has been conflict man has looked to each other for leadership. A prime example of this is a woman named Joan of Arcadia. Joan wasn’t born till the early 1400’s but had a pivotal part in the siege of a city by the name of Orléans. For this she earned the nickname “The Maid of Orléans”. In all of this she went against the English with her French army and won all at the young age of 18 years. The Hundred Years War had many tragedies for both sides but in the end, but it was good war for France.

England and France have not had good relationships in the past and had yet to form one. Due to this France’s economy was failing while England’s was on the rise. The French and English always fought over land they thought to be theirs. This happened because of the many wars that they partook in. Territory gained from one another’s individual conquests. The plots of land were known as fiefs (f-ee-f-s). They would even sometimes be half and half on the borders for France and England. Naturally this caused the French and English to have many altercations. In earlier years a man by the name of William the Conqueror1 who captured much of France’s fiefs and added them to his own. This was added to his reputation and was later added to by winning the battle of Hastings. Which in and of itself is an impressive feat. Williams reputation became so great that the people of England deemed him worthy of kingship. They made William king and he went right to work. Unfortunately, soon after William was made king two men named Earls and Morcar Edwin left the royal court and created a rebellion. William was forced to retreat with his family to Mael Coluim (Malcolm) III, King of Scots. With the leadership of William however the English army put down the rebellion quite thoroughly. Later on, well after the rebellion had happened, William received word that there could be a potential threat from the neighboring Denmark. William went to Denmark to discover the matter and settled it in that same trip. Leading up to the War the channel between France and England was a main cause for argument. The French believed it was theirs and the English believed it to be theirs. William fought France for the rights and won, dubbing it the English Channel. After that William brought on a bout of peace lasting for more than a century.

After William the Conqueror had deceased many years passed of straight confusion. Fights broke out again, England had all but lost the peace that had come in Williams reign. Henry II came to power and sought to bring unity once more to the English people. At that time, it was normal for royal families to marry each other to gain power or maintain good relations with different countries. Henry II married a French aristocrat and brought even more land under the rule of England. This would happen throughout the middle ages and even still go on for some time. Then unexpectedly, the king of France, Philip the Fair Died. A reoccurring problem that is quite often seen is when a king or queen dies with no heir. Such was the case with Philip the Fair. The only possible relative that could take the throne was Edward III who ruled over England. This put France in a difficult situation because not only did they hate the English, the only possible relative was English and the French didn’t want to give their nation over to England. But when Edward III was made king the French took precautions as to not come under English rule, the French simply did not honor the right of kingship. Edward III felt deceived and ordered that the army go and beat some sense into the French. He was however feeling particularly threatened by the alliance between the French and the Scottish. The alliance between the French and the Scottish was a strong alliance. In times of mass chaos and war they both had given much for the survival of each other’s country. This later lead to a long and bloody war between the English and Scottish fought. That is how the Hundred Years War Began.

One tremendous place in the time before the war was the fief of Aquitaine. This is an example of one of the captured fiefs in multiple English king conquests. England was adamant that it was theirs by right of conquest. They had captured Aquitaine many times and had resolved to its neutrality. The French however did not give up their power over Aquitaine and the English got infuriated. England wants complete control over all the fiefs they had captured but struggled to maintain them. In this England felt cheated because when William the Conqueror was king, they received many fiefs as a gift or vassal from the French king. The French did not honor this previous gift and told England if they wanted them, they would have to come and get them. England did exactly that and that is one of the reasons the Hundred Years War began.

The English Channel had massive strategic importance. Whoever controlled the Channel would have a considerable advantage against the other country. This was because in order for either nation to confront one another they had to cross the Channel. So, over the years England and France were subtly fighting for the Channel. Over the next few years the two countries would have many battles and skirmishes for control of the Channel. One such notable battle was the Battle of Damme. The French were just preparing an invasion and had made over 500 ships for their men to cross the Channel. The French ships were being loaded with weapons and calvary. No doubt the French plan was to charge the English line and overthrow the forts guarding the Channel. While that happened, more boat filled with troops would follow to unload the army. Now King John had heard of this and proceeded to order the fleet to defend the city of Ghent which was a city on the banks of the Channel. The ships carried 700 men-at-arms with a sizeable number of mercenaries. When the English fleet entered the port of Ghent on May 30, 1213 and saw that the French had left their ships mostly unprotected in favor of battle, they took no time in destroying them. The English killed whatever crew that remained and captured a total of 300 ships. They then they looted and burned 100 ships. With their only means of escape gone, the French army ceased their siege of Ghent and marched to Damme. The army got to Damme just in time to get into their remaining ships and leave for France. The rest of the army that was left were taken as prisoners of war. The losses that France received were devastating, while at the same time shattering France’s hopes of invasion for the next three years. King John who had lost many lands to Phillip II saw how weak the French had become and prepared for an immediate counterattack, in hopes of acquiring what was his. The Duchy of Normandy is one of the main lands he wanted to regain. John’s army landed in France and was immediately met by Phillip II son Louis. The English were caught with the sea to their back and had nowhere to run. That night John’s army retreated in their boats and John’s hopes of regaining his lands back were dashed.

Many countries made alliances for fear of being conquered by France or England. Scotland made an alliance with France, which proved to be very helpful to France. The conditions were that if either country was invaded, the other country would invade the country that had attacked the first country. When Scotland’s young queen died the English king Edward I grew greedy and saw a chance for more territory. 

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The Hundred Years War And Its Impact On England And France. (2021, October 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 5, 2022, from
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