Hundred years war
The Hundred Years War (HYW) is a well-known conflict between France and Great Britain, two rivals that have fought each other many times. Although this war is connected with the word “hundred”, it in fact lasted for 116 years (1337-1453). The conflict had few reasons and an impact on both countries, during the war and also after its end.
Historians have pointed out three consequences the HYW. The first cause was the quarrels between the kings of both countries. Everything started when Charles IV, the king of France died. He didn’t leave any heirs, so it was up to the French nobles to choose somebody. They decided for Philip VI who was a cousin to Charles IV, there was another of Charles’s relative. Edward III of England claimed the French throne, too because his mother Isabella was Charles’s sister.
The second reason why to fight was the duchy of Aquitaine in France. Since William the Conqueror, the kings of England had held it as a fief and therefore had to pay the king of France for it. The English hated that. “By the thirteenth century, the Capetian monarchs had greatly increased their power over their more important vassals, the great lords of France. Royal officials interfered regularly in the affairs of the vassals’ fiefs, especially in matters of justice. Although this policy irritated all the vassals, it especially annoyed the king of England, who considered himself the peer of the French king.”
The third cause of the HYW was the rivalry between these two countries for the trade of Flanders. It was an important market for English wool and a source of cloth.
Most people state the beginning of the HYW is May 1337. It was the time when Edward III proclaimed himself to be a new king of France, but this title had been already held by Philip VI. The war joined all parts of society: kings, nobles, and also peasants.
The HYW is divided into three phases: 1337-1360, 1369-1396 and 1414-1453. There were several years of peace in between them. During the first phase Edward III’s army defeated the French at the Battle of Crecy in 1346 and again in 1356 at the Battle at Poitiers. A new king of France, John II, was captured with many other knights and taken to London. France and England signed the Treaty of Bretigny promising to England the city of Calais and whole Aquitaine. The English asked for money, but when the French failed to pay it, John voluntarily returned to the jail.
During the second phase, Charles V was on the French throne. He wanted to get back everything that France had lost and his attempts were successful. He defeated the English several times, because of some crisis in England. Edward III had died and his sons – the Black Prince and John of Gaunt - had conflicts with each other. These quarrels, the Black Prince’s misrule in Aquitaine and Black Death in England just helped the French to succeed. Under the leadership of Du Guesclin, the French army had won back most of the lost territory.
In the third phase, it seemed the English would win. A new king of England, Henry V, defeated the French army at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. He also restrained Normandy. When Charles’ daughter became engaged to Henry, Charles VI of France had to recognize Henry as a heir of the French throne. Unfortunately both kings died and Henry’s son was just nine years old. The quarrels started again. The English allied with Burgundians, so the French were weaker than their enemies. A very important role in this phase was taken by a young peasant girl Joan of Arc who believed that God was talking to her. She persuaded the Dauphin, Charles’s eldest son, to give her an army with which she succeeded and gained the siege of Orleans. Although she was captured and executed by the Burgundians, the French victory was closer and closer every day. The Dauphin was crowned as king of France, the French conquered Normandy in 1450 and the English had only Calais.
During the HYW new weapons were used, such as longswords, firearms, cannons or gunpowder. Nobility was no more the most important part in fighting. Heavy armor was unsuitable for the war conditions. The most important power was the low class – yeomen – peasants using longbows.
It’s interesting how at the beginning a feudal and dynastic conflict became a great war that lasted for more than hundred years and should never be forgotten. It’s not surprising that the war had an impact on both countries, France and England. Nationalism was encouraged. Although England was defeated, it helped when we look at its future. The English had to turn their attention somewhere else, they focused on other parts of the world and by time created a great empire. The very next years after the war, the English faced the Black Death, famine and several peasants’ revolts responding to raised taxes. Just after the HYW, they had to solve another conflict known as the War of the Roses.
In conclusion, the Hundred Years War was a great and famous conflict between France and England. It mostly took place on the area of today’s France. At the end, the English were defeated and lost all their territories in France except from the city of Calais. The conflict had a great impact on both countries and should never be forgotten.