The Hundred Years War

Decisive for the centenary conflict between France and England was the political double role that English kings held because of their position and possessions and could not be resolved diplomatically.



In the 11th century, the Norman Duke William I had conquered England and proclaimed himself king there. In addition to him, many aristocrats from France came to the island, who not only built a new layer of aristocrats in England but were also bound by their possessions in France to this country. The English king, in addition to his own kingdom, still had extensive landed property in France, but was there subdued as Duke or Earl, depending on his property, to the French king. By the end of the twelfth century, such possessions held by the British were more than half of the French state.


Die Lehen der englischen Könige (rot) in Frankreich auf dem Höhepunkt ihrer territorialen Ausbreitung (um 1173).

The fiefs of the English kings (red) in France at the height of their territorial expansion (about 1173).


So it happened that the French royal family of the Capetians began to weaken the English vassals on French territory, either through diplomacy or military intervention. At the beginning of the 13th century, there was an open war between the French king Philip II and his English vassal John Ohneland in their course 1202 the counties Touraine and Anjou, 1204 the Duchy of Normandy and 1205 the County of Maine were lost to the French crown , In 1213, the county of Brittany followed more or less voluntarily and distanced itself from the English crown.

It followed English attempts to recapture the lost areas, but these campaigns all failed, so that the English king Henry III. 1259 officially recognized the losses in the Treaty of Paris. The remaining English regions of Aquitaine were combined with the Gascony to the new Duchy of Guyenne.

In the following decades omitted further military campaigns and annexations until the old enmity between the English King Edward II and the French Kings Louis X., Philip V and finally Charles IV. Revived again in 1307, since Eduard II the homage as Count and Duke of the French territories felt humiliation to the French king and rejected it.


Edward II.

Edward II.


While the next few years remained peaceful despite the diplomatic hostilities, the alliance between France and Scotland, which was opposed to the English occupation, led to another step in the direction of the open war between the two countries. So it came that France in 1337 ordered the mobilization and followed the declaration of war from England.


The first phase of the war:

In 1340 Eduard III. himself king of France, sat with his army across the English Channel and landed in Calais. He first left the port town to the left and let his army march south, where they then met the French army at Crécy. Although this was vastly superior to the English, the tactically clever use of his longbow and the catastrophic leadership of the French soldiers ended the battle with a heavy defeat for France. After the victory, Eduard still decided to take Calais, which led to an almost 1-year siege due to the heavy fortifications.


Edward III.

Edward III.


Englische Langbogen Schützen

English longbow shooters


From 1347, the plague raged in most areas of Europe, so that military campaigns almost completely succumbed. It was not until 1355 came back to war when Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of King Edward III, landed at Bordeaux with his army and in September 1356 at the Battle of Maupertuis near Poitiers not only could win a victory but also the French King John II, the 1350 Philipp VI. followed as king, could capture. This pressure could be negotiated in 1360 the peace of Brétigny. France had to pay a high ransom for her king as well as the areas Guyenne, Gascogne, Poitou and Limousin cede.

From 1369 began under the French King Charles V, the wise man again to recapture campaigns against the English to the lost areas again. So he defeated the English fleet at La Rochelle in 1372 with the help of the Castilians, conquered large areas of Gascony and could displace the English from Normandy and Brittany. 1376 died the English king Eduard III. and his heir apparent Edward of Woodstock, so that the English campaigns were suspended for the time being. France took advantage of the time and circumstance that the following English King Richard II was not yet able to govern at the age of 10 in order to recapture more territories until 1386 when the campaigns were stopped and in 1396 a peace treaty was signed.


The second phase of the war:

In 1413, the great-grandson of Eduard III. Henry V the throne of England. By prevailing at that time disagreement over the succession to the throne in France after the death of Dauphins Ludwig, Henry took the opportunity and landed in 1415 with his army in Normandy. Unfortunately, after only a few weeks he lost half of his soldiers to the plague and was forced to withdraw his army to Calais. On the way to Azincourt, however, the French army blocked his way. However, due to the bad weather conditions, the tendons of the French crossbowmen could no longer be exploited and the battlefield was mainly muddy, so that the French cavalry could not turn off the English longbowmen as planned. Again, the French had to suffer heavy losses and had to take a defeat.


Der Agincourt Feldzug

The Agincourt campaign


In 1417, Henry continued his campaign and brought large areas in the north of France under his control. The wars took advantage of the Burgundians, whose territory was located southeast of Paris, and took the city. They also fell to the French King Charles VI. and his wife Isabeau in 1418 in the hands of their son and later heir to the throne Charles VII, however, escaped. From 1420 followed political power games for the heir to the throne, after Isabeau her son Charles VII as titled illegitimate and thus excluded from the inheritance.



English infantry in the Hundred Years' War


French soldiers in the Hundred Years' War


French soldiers in the Hundred Years' War




Despite the political power struggle of the French crown, the English led in 1428 their campaign further south to the city of Orleans, whose capture would have meant the leap to the south of it lying town Bourges, where the illegitimately titled heir to the throne Charles VII was. During the siege of the city of Orléans, a young woman appeared on the French side with Joan of Orléans, who, according to her, had the divine mission to defeat the English. With the blessing of Charles VII, she managed to break the siege and bring about some victories for the French. Finally, in 1429, Charles VII of Reims was crowned king of France and, at the insistence of the Peace Party, negotiated with Philip the Good of Burgundy to settle the conflict between France and the Burgundians. However, he took advantage of the negotiations to strengthen his troops in Paris and thus repulse an attack by the French.


Frankreich 1429 bis 1453

France 1429-1453


In order not to jeopardize the further negotiations with the Burgundians, Karl ordered to refrain from further military attacks. This request was directed especially to Johanna of Orleans, as this urged further attacks on their part. Finally, Karl decided to betray Johanna to the Burgundians, who captured the young woman and sold her to the English. With the indictment of heresy and the consequent condemnation Johanna von Orléans was burned on 30 May 1431 in Rouen on a stake.


Johanna von Orleans bei der Krönung Karls VII. (Historiengemälde von Dominique Ingres, 1854)

Johanna of Orleans at the coronation of Charles VII (historical painting by Dominique Ingres, 1854)


Through the subsequent mediation of Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Basle, the Treaty of Arras between the French and the Burgundians could be negotiated, which confirms the formal affiliation of Burgundy to France, but releases the area of the feudal obligation and homage.


The last phase of the war:

From the year 1435 France continued its campaigns against the English. The English King Henry VI, who was born in 1436 could scarcely oppose the French with his army. So he lost Paris in 1437 and until 1441 the rest of the Île-de-France area. 1442 fell the areas in southwest France, 1443, the French came to Normandy, the 1444 a truce and 1449/1450 could force the surrender to France. From 1451 to 1453 caused political unrest within England for further destabilization, then in 1453 at Castillon, the British commander John Talbot died in a final counter-offensive and annexed Bordeaux France, the other English areas fell back into French hands. The port city of Calais was handed over to France in 1559 and was the last English post on the mainland.


Frankreich nach dem Ende des Hundertjährigen Krieges

France after the end of the Hundred Years War






You can find the right literature here:


The Hundred Years War: Trial by Battle

The Hundred Years War: Trial by Battle (The Middle Ages Series, Volume 1)

A History Book Club selection

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The Hundred Years’ War: A Captivating Guide to the Conflicts Between the English House of Plantagenet and the French House of Valois That Took Place During the Middle Ages

The Hundred Years’ War: A Captivating Guide to the Conflicts Between the English House of Plantagenet and the French House of Valois That Took Place During the Middle Ages Paperback – February 5, 2019

Knights and battles, princesses and castles, sieges and warrior prophets who lead the way to victory upon shining white horses: all of these feel like the stuff of myths and legends. Yet the story of the Hundred Years' War contains all of these things, and it is a story that is entirely true.

The story of this war is made fascinating by its setting, but it is made inspiring by its characters. Here is a blind king who rides to war for the opportunity to strike one last blow with his sword; here is a young prince, dressed all in black, who leads his father's men to victory; here are boy kings and fierce queens, prisoners who believe in honor, hailstorms that stop entire campaigns, and the wonderful story of a young peasant girl who changed the course of history forever.

The Hundred Years' War changed language, national identity, weaponry, and even the way that people think about war. It is part of the greater narrative of human history and gives a snapshot of how human nature can behave when pressed by the extremity of such a conflict—sometimes with unspeakable honor and courage and other times with cowardice, selfishness, and arrogance. There are many lessons to be learned from this war. Its tale is a cautionary one, but it is also a tale of adventure, battle, hope, and divine intervention. It's the tale of a war unlike any other.

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The Hundred Years War: A People's History

The Hundred Years War: A People's History Paperback – November 24, 2015

The Hundred Years War (1337–1453) dominated life in England and France for well over a century. It became the defining feature of existence for generations. This sweeping book is the first to tell the human story of the longest military conflict in history. Historian David Green focuses on the ways the war affected different groups, among them knights, clerics, women, peasants, soldiers, peacemakers, and kings. He also explores how the long war altered governance in England and France and reshaped peoples’ perceptions of themselves and of their national character.

Using the events of the war as a narrative thread, Green illuminates the realities of battle and the conditions of those compelled to live in occupied territory; the roles played by clergy and their shifting loyalties to king and pope; and the influence of the war on developing notions of government, literacy, and education. Peopled with vivid and well-known characters—Henry V, Joan of Arc, Philippe the Good of Burgundy, Edward the Black Prince, John the Blind of Bohemia, and many others—as well as a host of ordinary individuals who were drawn into the struggle, this absorbing book reveals for the first time not only the Hundred Years War’s impact on warfare, institutions, and nations, but also its true human cost.

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The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453

The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453 Paperback – August 1, 1999

From 1337 to 1453 England repeatedly invaded France on the pretext that her kings had a right to the French throne. Though it was a small, poor country, England for most of those "hundred years" won the battles, sacked the towns and castles, and dominated the war. The protagonists of the Hundred Years War are among the most colorful in European history: Edward III, the Black PrinceHenry V, who was later immortalized by Shakespeare; the splendid but inept John II, who died a prisoner in London; Charles V, who very nearly overcame England; and the enigmatic Charles VII, who at last drove the English out. Desmond Seward's critically-acclaimed account of the Hundred Years War brings to life all of the intrigue, beauty, and royal to-the-death-fighting of that legendary century-long conflict.

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