Hundred Years War

views updated

Hundred Years War. This term for the Anglo-French hostilities of 1337–1453 was coined in the 1860s but has enjoyed universal acceptance ever since. When the last descendant of the main Capetian line died in 1328, Edward III had a claim to the French throne through his mother. The war which broke out in 1337 arose largely out of Edward's tenure of Aquitaine as a fief of the French crown, but was fuelled by dynastic ambition and by English annoyance at French involvement in Scottish affairs. Only in January 1340, however, did Edward adopt the title king of France, initially, it seems, to win Flemish rebels to his cause. He proved militarily successful in France but the seriousness of his claim to the throne is thrown into doubt by his agreement to a territorial settlement in 1360. When war resumed in 1369, the French had the upper hand until Henry V's victories (1415–19) coincided with civil war and the insanity of the French king, Charles VI. Although Henry's main aim seems to have been to secure territory rather than the French crown, the murder of the duke of Burgundy by the Armagnac faction in September 1419 enabled him to negotiate the treaty of Troyes whereby he became both heir and regent to Charles VI. From 1420 to 1435 the English controlled much of northern France, and Henry VI was crowned king in Paris in 1431. The successes of Joan of Arc and the defection of the duke of Burgundy after the Congress of Arras weakened the English position, leading to their expulsion from Normandy in 1450 and Gascony in 1453. Calais remained English until 1558, but English kings continued to call themselves kings of France until 1802. The ‘Hundred Years War’ is a misleading term in that it disguises the different phases and variety of causes of the conflict, but it does remind us of the longevity and intensity of Anglo-French hostilities in the 14th and 15th cents.: neither warfare nor diplomacy could produce a permanent solution.

Anne Curry

Hundred Years War

views updated

Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) Sporadic conflict between France and England. In 1328, Philip VI of France was crowned. In 1337, he captured Aquitaine, prompting King Edward III of England to invade France. English victories at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) led to the Peace of Brétigny (1360), which ceded large territories to Edward. The accession of Henry VI to the English throne revived French fortunes. In 1429, the siege of Orléans was broken by Joan of Arc. In 1453, the French captured Bordeaux, leaving only Calais in English hands (until 1558). See also Agincourt, Battle of