Hundred Years War

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Published on 05-12-1999
Tags: , ,

This is just for the amusement of those who are interested in
historical context. It’s kind of hard to pick exactly how long
the 100 Years War lasted, but one common measure is from 1337 to
1453. Note that there was not continuous fighting throughout the
war, which was interrupted by truces, the Black Death, and other
events. Several times everyone thought the war was over, then it
broke out again.

Reasons Behind the War

REASON ONE: The kings of England were also dukes of Aquitaine
and other French lands. This, technically, made them vassals of
the French king. On the other hand, since they were also kings of
England, they were, technically, independent.

This led to a volatile situation. The French feared the
English kings would decide to annex their French holdings to
England. The English kings hated being subordinate to the French,
even if it was only a technicality.

REASON TWO: the French had a lot of influence in and sent a
lot of support to Scotland, then an independent nation, and since
the Scots were pretty much eternally at war with England this
meant the French were good buddies with a detested foe. “The
friend of my enemy is my enemy.”

What Caused the War’s Outbreak?

The King of France announced that he was going to annex all
English fiefs south of the Loire, then invaded them. At almost
the same time, there was a Flemish revolt against the French
count of Flanders. The English landed in Flanders to support the
Flemish rebels. In 1338, Edward, King of England, declared
himself King of France, too.

The major events, battles, sieges, and campaigns of the war

Sluys (1340) – crushing English naval victory which didn’t
have any immediately useful results (after the victory, the
English sieged Tournai, but they failed to capture it). After
this, the two sides declared a truce. Most people thought the war
would end now, just another feudal squabble. The truce only
lasted 2 years.

King Edward sailed to France and the result was …

Crecy (1346) – crushing English victory.

Calais (1347) – English victory, made possible by Crecy.
Nonetheless, it took the English 11 months to capture Calais.

Then came the Black Death. Both sides were KOed by the plague
from 1347-1354. It looked like the war might end. Then the Black
Prince landed in France, resulting in:

Poitiers (1356) – crushing English victory. As usual, the
English did not exploit their win, and the Black Prince seems to
have been satisfied by returning to Bordeaux with his plunder.
The French were pretty depressed after Poitiers, and mostly
stayed in their castles.

Auray (1364) – English victory. The French tried to relieve
the town of Auray, got beaten, and lost the town for their

Now the war started to get wider. A civil war in Spain was
partly fought by French vs. English, and mercenaries wandered
randomly across the land, looting everyone impartially.

du Guesclin’s conquests (1368-1396) – significant French
victory. Bertrand du Guesclin was one of the great warriors of
the Middle Ages. He led the French against the English for 30
years, and recaptured almost all of France from the English, who
by the time du Guesclin died in 1396 only owned five port cities
and hardly any land at all.

Limoges (1370) – English victory. Not one they can be proud
of, though — the Black Prince sacked the city and butchered the
civilian population.

La Rochelle (1372) – French naval victory. With help from
Spain, the French drove off the English fleet. In stark contrast
to Sluys, the French victory meant something — they were able to
regain control of most of France’s coast.

In 1396, the English & French declared a 30-year truce.
England was to own only Calais and a little bit of Gascony.
Everyone expected the truce to last forever, and that the war
would now end.

However, the French kept poking at the English — sending help
to Scotland, raiding Plymouth, and even assisting Welsh rebels.
Then, in 1407, a civil war broke out in France between Burgundy
and the Valois. In 1411, BOTH sides asked the English to help
them. By adroit negotiations, Henry V managed to get himself a
pretty good claim to the French throne. Then, in 1413, he allied
with the Burgundians, who declared themselves neutral in any
fight between England & the Valois faction. In 1415, Henry V
declared war and invaded France.

Siege of Harfleur (1415) – English victory. Took a month, and
Henry’s army was seriously weakened by his losses. So he decided
to march to Calais. The French ambushed him en route. The result?
Glad you asked …

Agincourt (1415) – crushing English victory. This was one of
the most lopsided wins of all history, and the English are
rightly proud of their performance here. In time-honored English
fashion, Henry V did not take advantage of his win, and simply
returned to England.

English Channel naval strife (1416) – English victory. The
enemy fleet (actually Italian, but allied with the French) was
driven from the English Channel.

Henry’s campaigns (1419) – Henry then returned and took

Paris (1418) – English victory. The Burgundians decided to
take open sides in the war and attacked Paris. They captured it,
and massacred all the Valois they could catch (the dauphin got
away). Later, they handed Paris over to the English.

Siege of Meaux (1422) – English victory. Henry’s goal was to
unite all northern France under his rule. This victory was one
step in the plan, but then Henry got sick and died soon after.
The Burgundians then started to lose interest in fighting for the
English. They didn’t turn against them, exactly, they just
realized that capturing land and giving it away to the English
wasn’t necessarily the best way to advance their own goals.

Cravant (1423) – English victory. An Anglo-Burgundian army
beat a Franco-Scottish army. A cool idea for a fight — think
about it.

Verneuil (1424) – English victory. Another English victory
like unto Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt etc. The hapless French
seemed to have learned nothing.

St. James (1426) – English victory. Brittany submitted to
English rule because of this battle.

Now England starts moving to take on the rest of France. They
send an army to siege Orleans.

Rouvray (1429) – English victory. Sir John Fastolf (the
original for Shakespeare’s John Falstaff) defended a supply
convoy from the French. This battle is better-known as the Battle
of the Herrings, because the rations in the carts were mostly
salt herring. It was Lent, you see, and so eating meat wasn’t

So far, there have been 18 major events. The English won 16 of
them. France’s only victories were during du Guesclin’s time.
Then Joan of Arc arrives on the scene. Watch the timeline

Orleans (1429) – crushing French victory. Joan relieves
Orleans. The English have to pull back.

Patay (1429) – French victory. Sir John Fastolf is beaten and
the French recover the Loire.

Joan’s other campaigns (1429) – crushing French victory. In
her other moves, she captured a series of important cities,
including Rheims, where the dauphin finally got coronated.
Intrigue at the French court now lead to a loss of support for
her, though the common folk & knights still love her. In 1430
she is captured by Burgundy who offer to ransom her to the
highest bidder. The ungrateful dauphin doesn’t even make a bid
and she goes to the English, who hold a kangaroo court & burn
her. But it is too late for them by now. The French resurgence is
no longer just the invention of Joan, and cannot be held back
even by the dauphin’s perfidy and inaction.

In 1435, the Burgundians, sensing what’s in the wind, declare
peace with the Valois, and this ends the Burgundy/English

Paris (1436) – French victory. Paris has been held by the
English or their stooges for 18 years. Even the English are
starting to figure out that things are no longer going their way.
They negotiate a 5-year truce with the French. The English (but
not the French) are now hoping the war ends while they still own
much of northern France.

Rouen (1449) – French victory. The French march into Normandy
and capture most of it.

Formigny (1450) – crushing French victory. The English line up
in exactly the same way they did at Poitiers, Crecy, etc., and
clearly expected the French to act the same way. Instead, the
French brought up cannons and bombarded the English longbows from
afar. The archers freaked and charged the cannons, actually
capturing them. French infantry then counter-charged, slaughtered
the archers and then French knights hit the main English flank.
Almost all the English were killed — it was a defeat as big as
Crecy had been, but the other way round.

Caen (1450) – French victory.

Cherbourg (1450) – French victory. This finalized the
reconquest of Normandy.

Guyenne campaign (1451) – French victory. Two English-held
towns were taken, largely due to the efficient French siege

The English were now burning for vengeance. They landed a big
army and marched to raise the siege of Castillon. They clearly
expected another Crecy. Instead, they got …

Castillon (1453) – crushing French victory. The English
launched a bold attack, right into the fire of the massed French
handgunners. The attack was stopped cold. When the French
counterattacked, the English broke and routed from the field.

Bordeaux (1453) – French victory. This was kind of an
anticlimax. While a little bit of random raiding kept going on
for four more years, the Hundred Years War was now pretty much at
an end. England now owned only Calais, which she kept until

Note the total absence of English victories after Rouvray…