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The Hundred Years War in France and Great Britain: an Overview and Study

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War in France and Great Britain was considered to be the last medieval war that played a significant role in English history.(Schwarz) The Hundred Years War was a series of wars fought between Great Britain and France with Burgundy playing a small role for the French. Although the conflict lasted over a century the war was broken intermittently by treaties and truces. (Goubert) There were more stalemates than actual battles. (Froissart) Actual fighting didn’t brake out until the mid 1300’s but the conflict stemmed way back to 1066. (Encarta) England held areas of France that the English used in exchange for service and loyalty to the king of France. These areas soon dwindled until very few were left under English control in 1307 when Edward I of England died. (Encarta) One of the remaining fiefs was Gascony. There were often small disputes over this region due to its valuable wine production. This conflict grew larger when Charles the IV of France died leaving no direct heirs to the French throne exc ept Edward III of England who was the grandson of Philip IV. An assembly of French notables was brought together to form the first royal election since 987.

Philip of Valois was chosen as King Philip VI. The French overlooked Edward the III for three reasons. One he was still a minor, two, his mother was said to have disgusting character and a scandalous life, and three the French declared, It should never be seen or known that the kingdom of France should be subject to the government of the king of England. At first Edward agreed to take an oath of homage to Philip VI, but after conflicts in Guyenne Edward III contested the validity of his declaration of homage towards the King of France since the declaration of Edward’s homage was made when he was still a minor. In 1337 Edward III sent Philip VI a declaration of war.

There were three major conflicts in the Hundred Years War. First was the Edwardian war, which was dominated by Edward III of England. The next war was the Caroline war, which was controlled mainly by Charles V of France. The third and final war was the Lancastrian war, which belonged to Henry V of England and his brother John, the duke of Bedford.

The Edwardian war started out disastrously for France and successfully for England. Although England was smaller and poorer than France, it was able to dominate the early stages of the war due to better- developed taxation processes. With a complicated, drawn-out process of gathering taxes the French frequently found themselves out of money. Although the English dominated the early stages of the war they still had to overcome many disadvantages. Since the English declared war and the disputes were over French territories, the battles were fought on French soil giving the English many expensive transportation charges. Since the English could only afford to send infantrymen and foot soldiers to France the development of the longbow was key to English victories. The longbow could fire an arrow quickly, accurately, and powerfully enabling English archers to destroy French cavalry charges. (Froissart) Philip VI invaded the English territory of Gascony on May 24, 1337. (Schwarz)

In retaliation, Edward III reclaimed his right to the French throne and invaded France from the north. The English was a world superpower when it came to the sea, so the destruction of a French fleet at Sluis was not a surprise. This was a major reason for the fighting being on French soil. Since the French couldn’t cross the English Channel invasion of the English islands was impossible. (Encarta) The Battle of Crecy in 1346 was another victory for the English. Following the Battle of Crecy the English captured the French port of Calais in 1347. Edward III’s son initiated the next advancement of English soldiers on French soil. Edward the Black Prince of Wales started his raid in 1355 and marched his men northward until he was cornered by the new French king, John II, near Poitiers, in western France. John II was no competition for the Black Prince who annihilated the French cavalry and took John II and one of his sons hostage. England held John II for ransom. The first two propositions were seen as too costly by the French, but the third was agreed upon. This agreement was known as the Treaty of Bretigny. It was signed in 1360 and gave the English one-third of the French kingdom.

In 1364 Charles V started his kingdom in France. Charles V brought restoration back to France. Charles V appointed two new influential people to lead his armies to victory. One of the men appointed was Bertrand du Guesclin who was highly skilled in hit and run raids and had good fortune at controlling the unruly French soldiers of that time. The other man, Olivier de Clisson, fought on the side of the English during the Edwardian war, but returned to the French side for the Caroline war and brought with him many tactics the English used and how to defense them. Both of these men would retain the position of Constable of France, or head of the army. (Encarta) At the start of the Caroline war the English were already at a disadvantage because their leaders were facing death.

Edward III was getting old and the Black Prince was in the early stages of terminal illness. Du Guesclin and Clisson were able to lead armies back into western France and regain control of that area. Castilian navies helped the French regain control of the English Channel by defeating the English navy in 1372. The French and Castilian navies started attacking the southern English coast uprising fear of invasion. (Encarta) Charles V died suddenly leaving Charles VI the rightful heir to the throne. Charles VI was only 11 when his father died in 1380. Philip the Bold was Charles VI’s uncle and Duke of Bourgogne when he took over as the leader of France. (Froissart) With such turmoil in the French kingdom, invasions of England that were planned in 1385, 1386, and 1387 were canceled and the Caroline war ended with a truce. The Lancastrian war started out in favor of the English. The region of Bourgogne played a large role in this war. John the Fearless started his reign of the French throne terribly. The first battle of the Lancastrian war was the Battle of Agincourt. Amidst the turmoil of John the Fearless the French were easily susceptible to invasions when Henry V invaded France. The French were easily defeated without any leaders like the ones in the Caroline war. When Henry V started his invasion of northwestern France, Philip the Good of Bourgogne helped the cause. Forces loyal to the French king murdered John the Fearless. John the Fearless was the father of Philip the Good which was why Philip sided with the English. With the English ripping apart the French north, the Treaty of Troyes was forced upon them. However, the war continued due to the fact the treaty was not accepted by many Frenchmen in the south. England continued to ravage France until the Battle of Orleans. This is where the expertise of Joan of Arc aided the French cause.

In 1429 during Charles VII reign in France a young peasant girl came to him regarding foreign affairs with the English. She told Charles that she had visions of saints come to her and tell her she was supposed to lead an expedition of French soldiers through the English held town of Orleans. Charles was not eager to except this proposal but was forced to given with little options left. The seventeen year-old Joan of Arc lead a vagrant army through the town and successfully claimed it back in the name of France. She also led a victory brigade through the French town of Patay, and led Charles to Reims where he would claim back the French throne. Although Joan of Arc’s successes were heroic they were minimal. Soon after her successes she was captured and executed by the English in 1431. (Schlesinger) In 1435 the support of Philip the Good abandoned the side of the English due to a treaty he signed with Charles VII. This enabled the French to take back lands lost to England in the previous battles. Without the support of the Bourguignons England was no match for the larger higher- powered France army. France had developed the use of cannons, which were as devastating to England as the longbow was to France the previous century. In 1444 these French successes forced the English to sign a truce.

The end of the Hundred Years War also meant an incline in population and economic advancement. The strain a war can put on a country was proven at the end of the war with both countries in economic troubles and population declines. After the war France was able to install a centralized government, which hurt the French at the beginning of the war. The end of the war for England meant they could work on domesticated issues since they now owned control of any French territories. The end of the war for both countries saw the decline of a feudal empire as well.

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