The Hundred Years War Was A Long, Complicated War With Essay

it’s roots in political struggles, the want of Kings and the people of
their nations to expand territory, and to take territory that they believe
is theirs. This war lasted more than a century, from 1337-1453, and
was a actually a series of wars broken only temporarily by treaties
doomed to fail.

The English king controlled much of France, particularly in
the fertile South. These lands had come under control of the English
when Eleanor of Aquitaine, heiress to the region, married King Henry
II of England in the mid-12th century. There was constant bickering
along the French-English frontier, and the French kings always had to
fear an English invasion from the South. Between Flanders in the North
and the English in the South, they were caught in between the two
English colonies.

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The French responded by doing the same to the English.

They allied with the Scots in an arrangement that persisted well into the
18th century. Thus the English faced the French from the south and the
Scots from the north.

The French trap would only work if the French could invade
England across the English Channel. Besides, England could support
their Flemish allies only if they could send aid across the North Sea,
and, moreover, English trade was dependent upon the free flow of
naval traffic through the Channel. Consequently, the French continually
tried to gain the upper hand at sea, and the English constantly resisted
them. Both sides commissioned what would have been pirates if they
had not been operating with royal permission to prey upon each other’s
shipping, and there were frequent naval clashes in those constricted

The last son of King Philip IV, the fair, died in 1328, and the
direct male line of the Capetians finally ended after almost 350 years.

Philip had had a daughter, however. This daughter, Isabelle, had
married King Edward II of England, but her and a group of barons had
murdered him, because they thought he was incompetent. So, Edward
III their son was declared king of England. He was therefore Philip’s
grandson and successor in a direct line through Philip’s daughter. The
French could not tolerate the idea that Edward might become King of
France, and French lawyers brought up some old Salic Laws, which
stated that property, including the throne, could not descend through a
female. The French then gave the crown to Philip of Valois, a nephew
of Philip IV. Nevertheless, Edward III had a valid claim to the throne
of France if he wished to pursue it.

Although France was the most populous country in Western
Europe and also the wealthiest, England had a strong central
government, many veterans of hard fighting on England’s Welsh and
Scottish borders, as well as in Ireland, a thriving economy, and a
popular king. Edward was disposed to fight France, and his subjects
were more than ready to support their young king who was only 18
years old at the time . Also many went to “loot and pillage the fair and
plenteous land of France.”1
The war truly started in 1340. The French had assembled a
great fleet to support an army with which they intended to crush all
resistance in Flanders. When the ships had anchored in a dense pack at
Sluys in modern Netherlands, the English attacked and destroyed it
with fire ships and victory in a battle fought across the anchored ships,
almost like a land battle on a wooden battlefield. The English now had
control of the Channel and North Sea. They were safe from French
invasion, could attack France at will, and could expect that the war
would be fought on French soil and thus at French expense. “A three
year truce was signed by England and France in 1343, but in 1345
Edward again invaded northern France1.” The Black Death had
arrived, and his army was weakened by sickness. As the English force
tried to make its way safely to fortified Channel port, the French
attempted to force them into a battle. The English were finally pinned
against the coast by a much superior French army at a place called
Crecy. Edward’s army was a combined force: archers, pikemen, light
infantry, and cavalry; the French, by contrast, clung to their
old-fashioned feudal cavalry and used the powerful, but slow firing
crossbow. The English had archers using the longbow, a weapon with
great penetrating power that could sometimes kill armored knights, and
often the horses on which they rode. Also, the longbow could fire three
of its arrows to the crossbow’s one in the same amount of time. As a
result the French knights were unhorsed by a blinding shower of
arrows. The battle was a disaster for the French. The English took up
position on the crest of a hill, and the French cavalry tried to ride up
the slope to get at their opponents. The long climb up soggy ground
tired and slowed the French horses, giving the English archers and foot
soldiers ample opportunity to wreak havoc in the French ranks. Those
few French who reached the crest of the hill found themselves faced
with rude, but effective, barriers, and, as they tried to withdraw, they
were attacked by the small but fresh English force of mounted knights.

Another interesting thing about this battle, was that for the first time the
cannon was used. Thus introducing artillery to war in the west.9+
As the war dragged on, the English were slowly forced back.

They had less French land to support their war effort as they did so,
and the war became more expensive for them. This caused conflicts at
home, such as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and the beginning of civil
wars. Nevertheless, in the reign of Henry V, the English took the
offensive once again. At Agincourt, not far from Crecy, the French
relapsed into their old tactics of feudal warfare once again, and were
again disastrously defeated in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt. Durring
this battle “French casualties totaled about 5000 men. English loses
numbered fewer than 200 men.1″ The English recovered much of the
ground they had lost, and a new peace was based upon Henry’s
marriage to the French princess Katherine.

In the following years, the French developed a sense of
national identity, as illustrated by Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who is
said to have played a major part in the English withdrawing from their
siege on Orleans, and ten days later, Charles VII being crowned king at
Reims. These two things were the true tuning points in the war. The
French now had a greater unity, and the French king was able to field
massive armies on much the same model as the British. In addition,
however, the French government began to appreciate the modern
style of warfare, and new military commanders, such as Bertran du
Guesclin, began to use guerilla and small war tactics of fighting.

This war marked the end of English attempts to control
continental territory and the beginning of its emphasis upon maritime
supremacy. By Henry V’s marriage into the House of Valois, an
hereditary strain of mental disorder was introduced into the English
royal family. There were great advances in military technology and
science during the period, and the military value of the feudal knight
was thoroughly discredited. The order of knighthood went down
fighting, however, in a wave of civil wars that racked the countries of
Western Europe. The European countries began to establish
professional standing armies and to develop the modern state necessary
to maintain such forces.

In both of these countries the idea of Nationalism, which is a
feeling of unity and identity that binds together a people who speak the
same language, have common ancestry and customs, and live in the
same area, spread durring the war. “By the late middle ages , a vague
loyaltyto a particular dynasty might have been created, and in a sense,
derived from the Hundred Years’ War of being differeent from other
There was no true winner of this war. Both sides suffered
severe losses. Even for England when none of the war was fought in
England. The cost for them was an amazing amount of more than five
million pounds. The price, although not as much in dollars, may have
been even greater. The English had laid waste to hundreds of
thousands of acres of rich farm land, leaving the rural economy, and
many parts of Franch in shambles.

Price, Roger, A Concise History of France, Cambridge
Concise Histories, New York, New York, 1993.

Schama, Simon, Citizens, Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York,
New York, 1989
Schom, Alan, One Hundred Days, Maxwell Macmillan
International, New York, New York, 1992
Barnie, J., War in Medieval English Society: Socail Values and
the Hundred Years’ War, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New
York, 1974


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