Wars have been fought throughout history, each with its battles andvarious reasons for bloodshed. Each side fighting to prove that their battleand cause is the most just, not caring at all about the lives lost and familiesruined. Many of these battles are fought over the simplest of reasons, theacquisition of land, resources, a perceived slight or a long standing andbitter rivalry. The Hundred Years War is one that has at its roots the mosthuman, senseless and recurring reason for conflict, the pursuit of power overanother.
The Hundred Years’ War was a war fought for a period of 116 years.1The war was between the powers of the Kingdom of Englandand the Kingdom of France,later on during the process of the war Burgundy joins in the fray.2 The war began in 1337,when the current king, Philip the VI of France formally reclaimed and seizedthe property and possessions of his vassal, King Edward III of England. Thiswas further escalated in the year 1453, when English troops attempted torecover land that had been taken from them previously in 1451, the Englishtroops were utterly defeated at the battle of Castillon.3 Thisdefeat at Castillon left the King and the people of England with virtually noland in France. While the causes of the war are numerous, the principlereasoning behind the causes of the war were over the powers and degree of rulethe English crown could exert and exercise in Scotland and Aquitaine4.By the time the 1340’s had arrived, the conflict between the France and Englandhad reached a fever pitch. Edward believed that he had a right to lay claim tothe throne of France, more so than Philip.
Both men held the idea that theywere the rightful inheritors of Charles IV land and authority.The reasoning behind the views of both men comes from theinheritance laws of the medieval times, the complicated relationships of theroyal families and marriage ties. At the time the royal families of the worldfollowed strict legal guideline in order to ensure the rightful passage oftitles and lands, one of the documents used by them was Salic Law, inparticular Title LIX. Concerning Private Property.5 Thiswas especially important in making the Hundred Years War. As mentioned earlierthere were two major factors that were the origin of the conflict between theFrench and the English.
The first was concerning the status of the duchy ofGuyenne (or Aquitaine) which even though belonged to the kings of England, itremained a fief of the French crown6.The kings of England felt that that was unreasonable and wanted to have fullcontrol over the land that they felt belonged to them, whether by right or byconquest. The second source of the conflict stemmed from the death of theprevious king of France, Charles IV. As the closest blood relatives of what theEnglish called the last “Capetian king” who passed away in 1328, the kings ofEngland from 1337 claimed the crown of France7.
This was made possible due to the Salic Laws regarding thepassage of private property. The nobles of the time held legal proceeding withthe highest esteem and while they were not above flouting the rulesoccasionally, they still respected the tenants that gave them the power theyheld. In the case of the battle for inheritance over the throne, the royalslooked to past edicts to justify their claims. This excerpt come from the SalicLaws Title LIX. Concerning Private Property, “If the father and mother do notsurvive, and he leave brothers or sisters, they shall inherit8.
“Edward the III of England was also duke of Guyenne as well as a count ofPonthieu, he traced his claim to the throne from the fact that his mother wasCharles IV’s sister and because Charles IV had no sons9.Under the rules of Salic Law, Edward III was a legitimate candidate when itcame to claiming the French throne, a fact that he made known to all who wouldstand against him during his campaign for his second crown. The only othermajor candidate for the throne was the Count of Valois, a grandson of PhilipIII of France through a younger branch of the family10. Ifone were to take the time to look at the family tree of Philip the III it couldbe said that Edward III had a stronger claim to the throne than Philip IV.This now bring us to the war, as once the battles andfighting truly begin it is no longer considered to be a conflict betweennations, it is an all-out war for succession.
TheHundred Years War can essentially be divided into four distinct phases, eachone of them with their own contribution to the course of the war. The first phasewould be the success of the English while under the governance of Edward III,this period lasted from 1337 to 1360. During this time a series of battles tookplace, there are two battles of significance that occurred during this phase ofthe war.
However, the first battle of the war is the most significant. It wasthe Battle of Crecy, a battle whichwould mark the changing of warfare in the Middle Ages. Beginning during the season of war, mid-July 1346, EdwardIII also known as the Black Prince by his people and the world, landed aninvasion force of about 14,000 men on the coast of Normandy11.After touching down on the coast, under the order of Edward, the English armyproceeded to march North plundering the lands of the French people as theypassed. When Philip received word of the Edward and his army’s arrival, hegathered his army of 12,000 men, made up of approximately 8,000 mounted knightsand 4,000 hired Genoese crossbowmen12.When the English arrived at the city of Crecy, Edward ordered his army to haltand wait for the French to arrive.
Edward intended to use the same tactics theEnglish had previously employed against they had used against the Scots yearsearlier. The French army were confident in their superiority over the smallerEnglish army, upon arriving to the battlefield Philip decided that he would tryto end this invasion before it escalated, sent out his force of Genoesecrossbowmen to clear out the English, hoping for a quick victory. The Genoesehowever, were tired from the long march there attempted to scare the Englishinto leaving, and if that failed they hoped that their larger numbers wouldwork to their advantage.
“When the Genoways were assembled together and beganto approach, they made a great shout and cry to abash the Englishmen, butthey stood still and stirred not for all that: then the Genoways again thesecond time made another leap and a fell cry, and stept forward a little, andthe Englishmen removed not one foot: thirdly, again they lept and cried, andwent forth till they came within shot; then they shot fiercely with theircrossbows.13″Unfortunately for the Genoese, this was exactly what Edward and his men hadhoped for. While the crossbows used by the Genoese were powerful they were alsocumbersome, slow to reload, and had a very limited range. The English on theother hand were using longbows which were much faster to reload and lesscumbersome since they were essentially just a long-straightened piece of woodwith a cord wrapped around it. In addition, by allowing the French mercenariesto get as close as they had, there was little way for them to retreat when theEnglishmen returned fire.
Using their longbows, the archers sent round arrowafter arrow into the enemy, eventually causing their front line to break apart.After losing so many of their comrades the mercenaries turned and ran, all thewhile still being pierced by the arrows raining down on them from above. WhenPhilip saw this he was outraged, he said: “Slay these rascals, for theyshall let and trouble us without reason.
14″With that he sent the remainder of his army forward, and the result was justthe same as it had been before. The French were ultimately defeated by theunconventional tactics used by the English at the Battle of Crecy. One unintended consequenceof the battle was a change in the way armies were formed and fought againsteach other. Prior to the battle, war was considered to be more of a money-makingtactic. While blood was still shed, it was the mainly the blood of the commonfolk and peasants. Before Edward enlisted the common people into his army,commoners weren’t really considered to be soldiers. The majority of thefighting was done by knights and nobles, and even then, it was minimal. At thetime the concept of chivalry was in full effect, it was an age of gentlemanlycombat.
If your opponent was unarmed or called for the contest between the twoof them to be ended, then the fight was over. There were even times whenknights and nobles were given the chance to surrender and be taken captive bythe enemy. This was how war was a money-making market, only those of wealthcould afford to pay a ransom, the commoners didn’t have the money to even beconsidered worth capturing and were killed on the spot or sent running. During this battle however,the individuals doing most of the fighting weren’t noble raised and didn’tfollow the tenants of chivalry, if they even knew of it. The commoners fightingthis war were scared out of their minds, fearing the swing of an enemy’s swordat any moment, and in the battle they did whatever it took to win and survive.”Among the Englishmen were certain rascals that went afoot with great knives,and they went in among the men of arms, and slew and murdered many as they layon the ground, both earls, barons, knights, and squires, whereof the king ofEngland was after displeased, for he had rather they had been taken prisoners.
15″When they went forward they didn’t follow the code of one on one combat, theymobbed every strong and armored opponent that they saw, swarming, pinning themdown and killing them however they could to avoid being killed themselves. Theyignored calls for mercy and surrender, only thinking of surviving the fight andmaking it back home to their families someday. This was the battle that startedthe change in the face of medieval warfare, in the coming battles both sideswould realize that conscripting more and more men into their armies would bethe best course of action. In time the old system of combat would become athing of the past. The second of thebattle between the English and French was from 1400 to 1429. that was marked bygreat English victories under Henry V of England.
However, this period of thewar would eventually end with the defeat of the British forces after a long-standingstalemate. The battles of most significance during this time would be theBattle of Agincourt which took place during the year 1415 and the Battle orSiege of Orleans, occurring on October 1428 all the way until May 142916.This battle took place in and around the city of Orleans, France, while it wasbeing sieged by English forces. On May 8, 1429, a woman who would be foreverremembered by history, Joan of Arc, a teenage peasant working on behalf of theFrench army, successfully led a small French force of her own to break thesiege17.Having been spoken to by voices of the “divine” Joan made her way to the manshe was told would be King. Charles, a low-level noble at the time believed theclaims of Joan and decided to assist her on her divine mission. Since Joan’sgoals were in favor of Charles ascending to the throne he gave her command of asmall force. Possibly not expecting much in the way of success from her butwilling to take the chance that she would either be cannon fodder for the enemyor manage to do some real damage to the English troops.
She led her troops toOrleans, and on April 29, as a French sortie distracted the English troops onthe west side of the city, Joan entered unopposed by its eastern gate18.Her entry into the city had been the boost needed to keep the city afloatduring the siege, Joan and her troops brought supplies and troops into thecity. In addition, she was also able to inspire the French forcesinto mounting a successful counter assault against the attacking Englishforces. Her bravery and determination was so great that on one occasion, Joanwas struck by an arrow, however, she did not falter.
19After bandaging her wounds she returned to the battle and went on to fight moreEnglish soldiers. On May 8, the siege of Orleans was broken, and the Englishretreated.20During the next five weeks, after the retreat of the English, Joan successfullyled her French forces into a number victories over the English. One of her mostaccomplished battles after the Siege of Orleans is the recapturing of Reims inJuly. At that time, Reims was the traditional city of coronation of nobilityascending the throne, during that month Charles VII was crowned king of France,with Joan of Arc kneeling at his feet.21The third and final phase of the Hundred Years War was from1429 to 1453, in which France was united under the Valois kings.
22As previously mentioned, by 1429 the English and their allies had managed toconquer a large portion of France. However, during that time, a young peasantgirl succeeded in halting their advance at the siege of Orleans. It was duringthe aftermath of this battle that Charles VII crownedking of France. Yet there would soon be a reversal of fortunes, Joan wascaptured by the Burgundians, allies of the English, and tried and burned at thestake as a witch, while the loss of this important figure hurt the moral of theFrench, it did not stop the French from capitalizing on their previous successand continue on the removal of the English from French territories. From the1430’s all the way until the end of the war French forces continued to add totheir victories. In 1435, Charles VII formed an alliance with the people ofBurgundy, which essentially cut the forces the English had at their disposal.By 1450 the French had succeeded in reconquering Normandy, and by 1451 allGuienne but Bordeaux was taken.
23Due to the mounting losses and the internal pressures facing England, the Warsof the Roses, England was in no position to make any further attempts toconquer France. The bitter hatred for each of these countries felt towardsthe other would remain and continually rear its head in conflicts, battles andevery a few wars with either side taking victory over the other. Examples ofthis would be evident during the Napoleonic Era when Napoleon Bonaparte’sempire crossed swords with the English and lost at the battle of waterloo, endingthe empire that France had grown to be.
An additional example of the animositybetween the two countries would be the American Revolutionary War, where Franceassisted the colonists and led to the loss of America’s. The back and forthskirmishes between these two countries never allowed them to fully becomeallies until the first world war when they were forced to fight against anenemy than themselves.This war is instrumental in the evolution of warfare. Whilecompared to modern warfare and weaponry, the tools of war at the time seem tobe quite primitive. The revolutionary use of bows and arrows however were justthe beginning of the militaristic advances made during this war. This war wasalso the first time in the Western world that artillery fire was used, howeverthis isn’t the first time siege weaponry was used. Catapults, ballista’s and batteringrams were all used prior to this war but the most important distinction to makein this war is the use of gun powder in weapons. As mentioned prior this wasthe first time that artillery weapons were used in the West, this also includesthe use of ballistic weapons as well.
Rifles and cannons were developed duringthis time period, though they were woefully unreliable and primitive. A moreaccurate if not colloquial term for the weapons of that age would be “boomsticks”, the original weapons were essentially a stick with a rough barrelattached to the tip in which gunpowder and a bullet were loaded. Due to the unpredictablenature of the weapons at the time the “rifle” was more likely to explode in theuser’s hands or simply create a burst of smoke coupled with a loud noise, hencethe name boom stick. It is important to note however that while this is one ofthe first real uses of gunpowder in Europe other parts of the world had alreadyexperimented with the use of gunpowder and implemented it into their systems ofwar. The inventers of black powder, Asians, were some of the most proficient inits use, creating the “first arrows” which they translated into the wordrockets. The most interesting of these advances would be the Hornets Nest.
Whilethis digression has nothing to do with the Hundred Years War directly it isimportant to understand that while the advances in Europe seemed new andrevolutionary they were simply building off of a foundation that was over a hundredyears old.With the invention of rifles and the advances made in therefinement of gunpowder and the subsequently more dangerous weapons that followedit also came the need to arm soldiers better so that they might survive beingshot, if the enemies bullets ever managed to make it that far. Armor alsounderwent a change during the time of the war, in the beginning only the wealthychevalier were able to afford full body armor. Other regular military troopseither had to make do with partial metal armor, which consisted of a breastplateand maybe bracers or greaves, or use leather armor. Peasants were the worst offin the beginning of the war, they were almost solely responsible for procuringtheir own armor and weapons, and since most of them could barely afford to feedthemselves on a daily basis before the war many were left without any means ofprotection against oncoming enemy troops.
As the war progressed however, greatleaps were made in the way of iron and steel refinement and armaments. Soonevery soldier was equipped with what could be considered to be basic armor towear in battle.When the war began, France hadan approximated population of 14 million, while the small island nation ofEngland had a meager population of around two million24. Inaddition, France was considered to have the best-trained and largest number ofknights in Europe at that time25.However, taking into account the devastating effects the war had on France,considering that their enemy was both smaller and less trained paints a pictureof an underdog story.
Both societies were strongly affected by the HundredYears War, it influenced almost every aspect of human life in France andEngland during its time. One of the consequences of the war was a decline inthe use of knights as a superior fighting force in Europe. The fact that theEnglish, who were considerably less suited for a war with France, managed todominate France militaristically was amazing. Even them losing isn’t as great athing as it would have been had the French lost, they were the underdogs, theirdefeat would’ve been expected. It’s the fight and the changes they implementedin war that are the most impressive.Since the Hundred Years War armiesbegan to increase in size regularly, until you fast forward into the presentwhere countries have standing armies in the hundred thousand, when they oncehad them in the hundreds. Some of the changes brought on or molded by the warwere of the greatest significance for the general development of Europeanhistory and, ultimately, of world history. Another major thing to arise fromthe war was a nationalistic identity for both France and England.
Bothcountries gained a greater feeling of what it meant to be a citizen of theirrespective countries, this eventually grows into something that becomes aproblem leading to the first world war but at the time it is a huge culturaladvancement. The rise of a Parliament in England and a strong centralizedmonarchy (absolute monarchy) in France also arise, two forms of government thatwill be instrumental in the coming years.1 New World Encyclopedia contributors,”Hundred Years’ War,” New WorldEncyclopedia, , http://www.newworldencyclopedia.
org/p/index.php?title=Hundred_Years%27_War&oldid=979532 (accessed November 21, 2017).2 Ibid3 Ibid4 Ibid5Henderson, Earnest F.
Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated byEarnest F. Henderson. London: George Bell & Sons, 1896.
Accessed November22, 2017.http://online.infobase.com/HRC/LearningCenter/PrimarySourceDetails/7?primarySourceId=2078.6 History.com Staff. “Hundred Years’War.
” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.http://www.history.com/topics/hundred-years-war. 7 Ibid8 Henderson, Earnest F.
Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated byEarnest F. Henderson. London: George Bell & Sons, 1896. Accessed November22, 2017. http://online.
infobase.com/HRC/LearningCenter/PrimarySourceDetails/7?primarySourceId=20789 History.com Staff. “Hundred Years’War.
” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017. http://www.history.
com/topics/hundred-years-war.10 Ibid11 History.com Staff.
“Battle ofCrécy.” History.com. 2009.
Accessed November 22, 2017.http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/battle-of-crecy.
12 Ibid13 Froissart, Jean, John Bourchier Berners, andG. C. Macaulay. The Chronicles ofFroissart. Vol.
1. London: Macmillan and, 1899. Accessed November 22, 2017.https://weblib.ucc.edu/login?url=http://online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=17310&itemid=WE49&primarySourceId=8322.
14 Ibid15 Ibid16 History.com Staff. “Siege ofOrléans.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.
http://www.history.com/topics/siege-of-orleans.17 Ibid18 “Joan of Arc Relieves Orleans.
“History.com. Accessed November 23, 2017.http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/joan-of-arc-relieves-orleans. 19 Ibid20 Ibid21 Ibid22 History.
com Staff. “Hundred Years’War.” History.com.
2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.http://www.history.com/topics/hundred-years-war.23 Ibid24 New World Encyclopedia contributors,”Hundred Years’ War,” New WorldEncyclopedia, , http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Hundred_Years%27_War&oldid=979532 (accessed November 21, 2017).25 Ibid