The Hundred Years’ War, was a conflict between England and France, was not actually a single war that lasted a hundred years; instead it was a series of wars interspersed with periods of peace that began in May 1337 and ended in October 1453. The three main conflicts were the Edwardian War won by English king Edward III; the Caroline War won by French king Charles V; and the Lancastrian War won by French king Charles VII. The Hundred Years’ War was the outcome of disputes between the ruling families of the two countries, the Plantagenets in England and the Capetians in France.
Since 1066 the English had controlled rich agricultural areas of France, and the two countries had often fought over these territories. In the 1300s marriages between English and French nobles meant that both English and French kings had a claim to the French throne. During the Edwardian War the English took control of large areas of southwestern France and the northern coastal city of Calais. Although England was smaller than France, it was able to muster a large army.
Equipped with longbows and arrows that could pierce French armor, the English defeated the French cavalry. During the Caroline War, the French regained much of the territory lost during the Edwardian War. This success was due to able military leaders and the development of a full-time, professional army and a taxation system to support it. During the Lancastrian War, the English allied with Philip the Good, duke of Bourgogne to conquer most of northern and western France. The tide changed, however, when Philip changed his alliance to the French.
It was during the Lancastrian War that the heroic efforts of Joan of Arc, who fought the English, allowed uncrowned French king Charles VII to be officially crowned. The use of newly invented cannons also significantly aided the French war effort. Although the English maintained control of Calais until 1558, they were never again a serious threat to French sovereignty rule. One of the central causes of the Hundred Years War centered on the relationship between the Kings of France and England regarding the duchy of Aquitaine located in Southwestern France.
In 1259, the Treaty of Paris designated that Henry III held the duchy as a fief of the French king. As a vassal to the King of France Henry was required to pay liege homage to the king. This meant that the King of England was required to do homage whenever the kingship of either England or France changed hands. However, Henry was the King of England. Control over the French throne further complicated matters. In 1328, Charles IV, King of France, died without a male heir.
Edward III, the King of England, held claim to the throne via his mother who was Charles’ sister. The other important claimant was head of the Valois house (Philip VI) grandson of Philip III. Philip VI gained the throne and moved to confiscate Aquitaine in order to consolidate his power. Edward led a raid into French territory in 1338 to defend his claim and two years later declared himself the true king of France. Another cause of the Hundred Years’ War was economic conflict.
The French monarchy tried to squeeze new taxes from towns in northern Europe which had grown wealthy as trade and cloth-making centers. Dependent as they were on English wool, these towns through their support behind English and Edward III. The hundreds year war was one by the French. The Hundred Years War was the last great medieval war. The Hundred Years’ War was a series of separate wars, battles, and political feuds lasting from 1337 to 1453 between two royal houses for the French throne.
The reason that the French ultimately won is because the English war effort in France was dependent upon their alliance with the Burgundians, but when the Burgundians tepidly switched allegiance to the King of France, it truly crippled the English war effort. As a result of the Hundred Years’ War, the French and English people, who had been ruled as one nation after the Norman Conquest, began to assume separate national identities. They also developed new military tactics. The wars, however, had been a serious drain on the populations of both countries, bringing about a decline in feudalism.
France had been severely damaged during the fighting. This was partly caused by official armies conducting bloody raids designed to undermine the opposition ruler by killing civilians, burning buildings and crops and stealing whatever riches they could find. It was also frequently caused by routiers, brigands frequently soldiers serving no lord and just pillaging to survive and get richer. Areas became depleted, populations fled or were massacred, the economy was damaged and disrupted, and ever greater expenditure was sucked into the army, raising taxes.
Historian Guy Blois called the effects of the 1430s and 1440s a ‘‘Hiroshima in Normandy’’. Of course, some people benefitted from the extra military expenditure. England, in contrast, had begun the war with more organised tax structures than France, and much greater accountability to a parliament, but royal revenues fell greatly over war, including the substantial losses incurred by losing wealthy French regions like Normandy and Aquitaine. However, for a while some Englishmen got very rich from the plunder taken from France, building houses and churches back in England.
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