The Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War lasted from 1337 until 1453. Many different kings fought and ruled over the course of this war. Probably the most famous person who fought in the war was Joan of Arc. Even though that brave girl fought for France only two years, she won herself more fame and glory than all the kings and princes that fought in it.

The King of France, Philip VII and Edward III of England were quarreling over a province in France named Aquitaine. The King of England ruled over this province, but because it is in France, he must pay allegiance to the King of France. This he refused to do. The Council of Paris was called and Edward III was officially deposed from the throne of Aquitaine. Edward III, understandably furious, rushed on to attack France.

The Hundred Years’ War has three parts.

  • The Edwardian Era (1337-1368)
  • The Caroline War (1369-1389)
  • The Lancastrian Era (1415-1453)

The first battle, Sluys, took place in 1340, and was an unforgettable naval combat. The English won the first battle. The second, the Battle of Crecy, was another victory for the English. During the Battle of Crecy the English took the cities of Caen and Calais.

Then the fighting stopped for awhile while the Black Plague devastated both countries in 1348. When it finally sought its destruction elsewhere, both countries had new kings. England was ruled over by Edward the Black Prince of Wales, so called because he always wore black armor to battle. France inherited John II.

In the next battle, Poitiers, the French king, John II, was captured and was never freed again. His son, the Dauphin or Prince, ruled in his stead.

As a result of the catastrophies mentioned above, France was thrown into complete disarray. The French nobles were rebelling against the Dauphin, and the peasants had formed the famous, devastating Jaqcuerie riot.

Thinking France to be helpless, Edward marched on the French coronation city of Reims, and was surprisingly beaten back. He retired back to England.

There he made a treaty with the French called the Treaty of Bretigny. He died a few years later. Edward’s son, Richard II didn’t want to continue the war, so when the Treaty of Bretigny expired he made another one.

The war resumed in earnest when the English king Henry V came to the throne. He recaptured the city of Caen which had been lost during the reign of Richard II. He was returning to England when the French stopped him and proclaimed a battle on the small, muddy, swampy field of Agincourt.

The English had lighter armor and cavalry, while the French wore heavier armor on both men and horses. The French were bogged down in their charge and the English slaughtered them. The four hundred English killed were nothing compared to the 6,000 French. The English now had another smashing victory under their belt.

Everything seemed to be going in favor of the English until their victory plans were ruined by a young girl.

Joan of Arc was born in the small village of Domrémy, France in 1412. At the young age of twelve she heard the voices of saints telling her to go out and fight for the young, uncrowned King Charles VII. She obeyed the call and went to seek an audience with the crown prince.

He granted her permission to use his army and lead them to victory in battle. Having thus secured the to-be king’s blessings, she went to the town of Orléans and won it back from the English. She went on to win many other victories until a path to Reims, the traditional coronation city, was cleared.

There Charles VII was crowned, taking on the responsibilities of the kingdom. Slightly timid, eager but uncertain, and inexperienced as he was, he asked the experienced Joan to continue fighting for him. She agreed, but not without great reluctance, saying, “I hear the heavenly voices no longer, and I am afraid.”

While fighting to try and regain the city of Paris, she was deserted by her army except for a few loyal soldiers, and was unmercifully captured by the Burgundians. These handed her over to the English, who held her prisoner for many months. Her trial was finally held, but with biases and headed by the dreadful Inquisition. She was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. In the 1900’s she was canonized as a saint and given the honorable title ‘Maiden of Orléans.’

The war raged on for another twenty years after Joan’s heroic death, until finally the pope got tired of the constant fighting and he established a permanent treaty between the two countries, which put an end to the war. Nothing was gained on either side, except the loss of half the male population. Thus, one of the most famous wars in history finally came to a close.

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