The Hundred Years War Essay

The Hundred Years’ WarThe Hundred Years’ War was a war between England and France in which France
defended its’ crown against British rule. This war had many effects on the people of each

The origin of the war goes back to the conquest of William for England. In 1066
William, the Duke of Normandy, led an army into England. He won this battle and
became the king of England. This was possible under feudalism. Feudalism is a form of
social classification in which the members of an upper class are granted fifes, or pieces
of land, by higher ranking noblemen return for their military service. The vassal, the
person receiving the land, had to go through ceremony in which they would say that they
would be faithful to their overlord and fight for them if needed. In return the overlord
would protect the vassal (Lace 12).

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Many years later Isabella, the wife of King Edward II of England, plotted to kill
Edward II making her son Edward III king (Lace 12). Because Edward III was very
young she would be able to rule the country through him. Edward II sent his son and
Isabella to pay homage to Charles IV in 1325 for French land that Edward II owned.

Isabella took her lover, Roger de Mortimer, with them and while there they began to
make their plans. After homage is paid to Charles IV the three went to Hainault. While
there Isabella and Mortimer convinced the Count of Hainault, William, to help them
overthrow the king. In 1327, with the help of William’s troops, Isabella and Mortimer
successfully overthrew Edward II and made Edward III king. During their overthrow,
King Charles IV of France, Isabella’s brother, died. When he died he had no children to
leave the throne to, but his wife Jeanne was pregnant. When she gave birth though she
had a stillborn daughter. This enabled Charles’ cousin, Philip of Valois, king. Some of
the people objected. Some thought that since Isabella was his sister she was closer to the
throne than Philip and that she should be queen. Others thought that since Edward was
his nephew he should be king, but the majority of the French were against Edward
becoming their king (14). Philip was favored for many reasons: He was older: Philip was
35 and Edward was 15, Edward was under the control of his mother and Mortimer;
Edward was a well known warrior, and Edward was considered a foreigner (14). Edward
then decided that he was tired of being controlled. On October 19, 1330, Edward
gathered a small army together and burst into Isabella and Mortimer’s bedroom. He
seized Mortimer and hung him the next morning. He left Mortimer’s body hanging for 2
days and nights. Isabella was treated more carefully. She was imprisoned and confined to
several castles for life (16). In 1337 Edward III would return to France to claim what he
felt what was rightfully his. (Time Life 17).

On October 19, 1337, Edward III drafted a document to Philip of Valois that said
that Edward was the rightful king of France and that Edward would no longer pay
homage to Philip of the French lands that he owned. This letter was given to him by
Henry Burghersh, the bishop of England. Philip just sat back and smiled and prepared for
war (Time Life 17). Edward drafted this document because he disagreed with the way
that Philip was ruling the land that he owned. There were dukes and lords appointed by
Philip to rule over the lands of Edward III. Edward wanted to rule them himself. The two
tried to work out their differences, but failed. This situation was made more awkward
because of other economic problems between the 2 countries. England and France
depended on each other. France was England’s main supplier of salt and France
depended on England for wool. English also held the port at Bordeaux in France enabling
them to control transportation along the English Channel. Philip of Valois wanted to
control the sea traffic so he began to form links with Scotland, England’s hostile
neighbor. England and Scotland were not on good terms with one another and had been
fighting since the 1290’s (19).

In 1314 the English, under Edward II lost to the Scottish at Bannockburn. Edward
III made a treaty with the Scottish in 1328 but intervened in 1329 when their leader
Robert Bruce, died. The English then deposed David II, Bruce’s son and the new king.

To help form a bond with the Scottish the Philip gave David shelter in France (Lace 18).

Edward III got his revenge on the Scottish in 1332. He got a small group of
Scottish rebels together and after winning a series of major battles named Edward Baliol
their leader. Baliol acknowledged Edward III as his overlord. The Scottish chased Baliol
over the Scottish border in December. Edward marched north and surrounded them at
Berwick. The Scottish sent an army, but Edward defeated them at Halidon Hill in
July,1334 (Lace 18).

Philip of Valois then moved some of his ships from Mediterranean ports to a
harbor at Normandy. Edward III saw these ships and thought that this was an attempted
attack on him. He challenged Philip to a battle in 1337, but Philip declined (Time Life

As the war began both sides had distinct advantages and disadvantages. The
French were backed by plentiful material resources such as a broad fertile kingdom, 21
million people, and many mountains as well as plains (Lace 21). The English were
backed by the loyalty of Edward’s nobles and he was also able to get parliament to raise
taxes to fund the war. France was plagued by the lack of political and financial support
accompanied by the inability to raise taxes. Philip was afraid that the people of Ypres,
Ghent, and Bruges would declare Edward their king because they depended on English
wool to keep their economy running. The English’s problems were that they were much
poorer than France and that with a population 1/4 the size of France they would have a
much smaller army.Farmland was also a problem because it was only good in the east
(Time Life 21).

The two social classes of the two countries were very similar with just one
distinct difference which Edward opposed. Both had a large rural peasantry with free
tenants and serfs. The tenants and serfs lived on the farmland that they farmed which was
owned by nobels. In the towns there were many artisans merchants and clerks on the
streets. These were considered the middle class people. The nobles were separated into
two classes. The first class was made up of lesser lords who owned small estates and had
local powers. The higher aristocracy was made up of the small elite. These were dukes,
earls, counts, and princes of lands. The difference began here. In England there was a
single government that was involved in governing the whole land. In France the
government was divided and counts or dukes were assigned to rule over certain areas of
the land (Lace 24).

In 1339 Edward began battle. He sent a small army to Flanders to try to provoke
Philip’s troops. He then went south and began a siege slaughtering livestock, burning
crops and villages, and killing people. He also began the use of a chevauchee which
literally means, ?run through on horesback.? These were intended to make people sick of
war and weaken the local government. The French marched north and met the English
near St. Quentin. Edward challenged Philip there and Philip agreed, but only if Edward
could find a battleground without trees in the way. Philip later changed his mind though
and backed down. This made Edward mad because it was a waste of time and money
(Lace 30). On June 24, 1340, the English sailed toward France. They turned around, but
the French chased them. Because the harbor was so narrow the two fleets ran into each
other. The English strategy was to crash into the French boats and attach themselves
using grappling hooks and then swarm aboard. The English used arrows against the
French and were the first to kill off a large number of people. This battle, at Sluys, was
the English’s first major victory. After this the English were out of money and signed a
truce (Lace 33).

During this truce civil war was taking place in Brittany over its countship. King
Philip’s niece Jeanne of Blois, and John of Montfort both claimed the countship. John
fled to England and acknowledged Edward as the king of France in exchange for his
support. In 1342 Edward began a chevauchee with 12,000 men, but Pope Benedict
intervened in 1343 and persuaded Philip and Edward to sign a truce. The countship still
stood unresolved though and in 1345 Edward resumed the war catching the French by
surprise. Edward had Philip’s son, John, lead an army against Jeanne and won (Lace 34).

The next major battle was fought at Crecy on August 26, 1346. The French
outnumbered the English and fought on horseback. They also wore armor and used
lances and hired Genoese crossbowmen to fight for them. The English army was made up
mostly of Yeomen on foot that fought with longbows. Crecy also became the first battle
to use gunpowder (Miller 305). Edward strategically placed his army on a hill between a
forrest and a river forcing Philip to approach him from only one direction. Philip chased
after him but was tired and decided to rest. Late in the afternoon Philip realized this was
his chance and ordered an attack. He ordered the hired Genoese crossbowmen to proceed
in front of the army. They did, but the English began to fire back. The crossbowman
attempted to retreat and ran back toward the Frenchmen. Philip ordered his army to shoot
them and the French then charged the English army. Many were killed by the English
men at arms who were on foot and armed with axes and swords. The French ended up
charging the English 16 times before Philip realized that only 60 of his troops remained.

He then retreated to his castle (Lace 37). The English did not realize the extent of their
victory until the next morning. When the count was taken the English had lost fewer than
100 men, but the French had lost more than 10,000 common soldiers and more than
1,500 knights and nobles including King John of Bohemia, the Duke of Lorraine, the
Duke of Alencon, and the Count of Flanders (38).

The next major battle was at Calais on August 3,1347 (Miller 1). Edward tried to
siege calais, but Jeanne de Vienne, the city’s commander, held out in hopes that Edward
would retreat to England in the winter. Edward did not. Instead Edward built log huts to
live in outside the city walls. To support his troops financially he set up a market and
sold supplies to local farmers. While in France Edward heard about an attempted
invasion by King David of Scotland. It was unsuccesful and David was captured at
Neville’s Cross. Calais was begining to run out of food because the city was surrounded
(Lace 39). In early 1347 Vienne sent out 500 people because he was no longer able to
feed them. The English would not let them through though. Philip eventually showed up
to defend Calais in July. Philip sent Edward a challenge, but edward refused because he
felt he had the city secured. Philip then left the town to its own fate. The next day Jeanne
de Vienne rode out of town giving up his sword and the keys to the city (Lace 40).

Between the years of 1348 and 1350 the Balck death invaded Europe. This
horrible disease was spread by infected rats and fleas and killed 1/4 to 1/3 of the
population of Europe. Although the disease was most commonly found among the poor
in over populated cities Edward III’s daughterJoan died from it in Bordeaux. This caused
a huge deficit in soldiers and caused the war to come to a stand still for five years (Lace

In 1349 a plot to retake Calais was discovered. The force was quickly put down
by a small English army. In 1350 Edward led an English fleet against the spanish from
Castille and won. This would be edward’s last victory and major battle. He turned over
his powers to his son Edward the Black Prince just two weeks before Philip of Valois
died (Lace 42).

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