NOTE: large sections of this text are
adapted from http://www.ehistory.com.
See it for more details.
What was it?
The Hundred Years' War was
a long struggle between England and France over succession
to the French throne. It
lasted from 1337 to 1453, so it might more accurately be
called the "116 Years' War." The war starts off
with several stunning successes on Britain's part, and
the English forces
dominate France for decades. Then, the struggle see-saws
back and forth. In the 1360s, the French are winning. From
the English are winning. After 1415, King Henry V of England
revives the campaign and he conquers large portions of
winning extraordinary political concessions. From 1422 onward,
however, the French crown strikes back. The teenage girl
d'Arc (Joan of Arc), a remarkable young mystic, leads the
French troops to reclaim their lands. Here's the brief
of events, with major battles
put in bold red color:
(1337-1360) King Edward the III of England,
provoked by French attacks on lands he owns in France, decides
upon a desparate gamble. He declares himself King of France,
arguing that he can legally claim the French throne through
line of descent via his mother, Isabella of France. In the
French Salic law, possession and property can only be inherited
through the paternal line. This means that only males
descended from the sons on the king's side of the family can
inherit the throne, land, or titles. However, under English
law, possession and property can also descend to male children
through the maternal bloodline. This means that males
descended from the king's sons OR male children descended
from the king's daughters have a claim to the throne. All
that matters in English law is that the "the blood of
kings" runs in the firstborn male child's veins, even
if that blood does not come directly through the father's
sons. (This tricky legal situation is what King Henry V and
his counselors are talking about in Shakespeare's Henry
The Battle of Sluys. The young King Edward personally "jousts" with
Spanish ships allied to France. (He rams the enemy ships
with his own). He successfully sinks
several boats (including the one he is riding in), but he
does win control of the waterways between France and England,
opening up the opportunity for landing ships on the French
The Battle of Crécy (the first major engagement of the
Hundred Years' War): After the battle of Sluys, Edward III
landed in Normandy in July 1346 with about 10,000 men. The
French pursued. Edward III decided to halt near Crecy in Normandy
and to prepare for battle the next day. However, the French
vanguard made contact and started to attack without the benefit
of a plan. The French made as many as 15 attacks and the English
checked each one in turn mainly because of the English longbowmen.
At the end, the French were decimated and the English had
a decisive victory.
(1347) The Battle of Calais. After the
victory at Crecy, the English forces marched to Calais and
began a successful siege that was to last a year. The French
army tried to relieve Calais but retreated after finding the
English position too strong. The English turned Calais into
a operations base for further forays into France. It remained
in English hands until 1558.
(1348) The arrival of the Black Plague
in Europe and England effectively puts a damper on hostile
activities. England loses approximately one-third of its population;
France loses approximately one-fourth of its population.
(1356) The Battle of
Poitiers (the second major engagement of the Hundred
Years' War): After a break of six years, warfare erupts again
when Edward the Black Prince, son of King Edward III, raids
France in 1356. King John II of France pursued Edward. Outside
of Poiters the forces met and the French dismounted and attacked.
The attack almost succeeded but Edward was able to counterattack
and break the French line. It was a disastrous battle for
France--the King of France (Jean II) is captured along with
about 2,000 members of the French aristocracy during the initial
stages of the battle, and taken back to England. The English
demand an enormous ransom for his return--equivalent to about
one third of France's GNP. France is paralyzed without a king,
and cannot mount an adequate counter-offensive until the 1370s.
By 1360, Edward has won the
naval victory of Sluys (1340) and both the early land battles
at Crecy and
Poitiers. France, overwhelmed, cedes a large part of its
northern territories and shoreline to England in the Treaty
(1360). In exchange, Edward gives up his claim to the French
(1360-1396) The French gradually regain
most of France after England loses its two best generals,
King Edward III and his son Edward the Black Prince. The two
sides sign a truce in 1389, and extend the treaty in 1396
for 28 years.
(1364) The Battle of Auray: The battle
of Auray centered around control of the duchy of Brittany.
English forces under John Chandos besieged the town or Auray.
French troops were sent to break the siege. On September 29,
1364 the French counter-attacked. The attack was repulsed
and the town surrendered. The leader of the French army, Bertrand
du Guesclin, was captured and later ransomed.
After the French King Jean II dies in British
captivity, his son Charles V, the Wise, becomes King of France.
He rules to 1380. Under his command, France regains much of
its lost territory.
(1372) French troops regain Poitou and
(1372) Battle of La
Rochelle. Fierce naval battle. The French regain
control of the English Channel, making it impossible for England
to ferry reinforcements to Calais.
(1382) The Scots, reinforced and equipped
by the French, attack England.
(1389) The Scots sign a truce with England,
preventing further French agitation in the north for several
(1392) Charles VI of France goes insane.
(1396) Richard II marries the seven-year
old Princess Isabella of France as part of peace treaty.
(1405) French soldiers land in Wales
to support the Welsh warlord Owain Glendwr's claim to the
Princedom of Wales. They are initially successful.
(1412) Jeanne d'Arc born.
(1415-1422) Henry V again takes up Edward
III's claim, and asserts that he is rightful king of France.
The French are under the rule of the partly mad ruler King
Charles VI and seem ripe for the picking under his disorganized
regime. In a swift campaign, he takes Harfleur and various
coastal regions, and defeats a French army several times his
army's size. He forces King Charles VI to make him his heir.
Henry marries Charles' daughter Catherine. Henry V dies in
1422, leaving a baby as heir to the English throne.
(1415) Battle of Harfleur: Henry V landed
in France with about 10,000 men in the summer of 1415. His
first objective was Harfleur, a port town on northwestern
France. The siege lasted for about a month and Henry marched
into the town victorious but with his army severly depleted--mainly
from illness. His next stop was to be Calais, but the French
army intercepted him at Agincourt.
of Agincourt. After the successful siege at Harfleur,
Henry marched his force of about 6000 knights, archers and
men-at-arms towards Calais. During his march the French army
of 20,000 was able to position itself between Henry and Calais.
Henry used a narrow front channeled by woodland to give his
heavily outnumbered force a chance. The French deployed in
three lines. The first line of French knights attacked only
to be repulsed by the English longbowmen. The second line
attacked and was beaten back, their charge bogged down by
the mud on the field. The third line moved to engage but lost
heart when they crossed the field covered with French dead;
they soon retreated. Henry was left with control of the battlefield
and a decisive victory. He soon resumed his march to Calais.
(1421) Battle of Beauge: Beauge was one
of the first defeats for the English during the Hundred Years
War. French and Scottish forces combine to raid the English
possessions in Normandy. Thomas, the duke of Clarence, (Henry
V's brother) attempted to intercept the allied forces. During
the interception Thomas' cavalry outdistanced his infantry.
The French and Scottish forces decimated the English and Thomas
(1424) Battle of Verneuil: In one last
attempt to dislodge the English from Normandy, about 15,000
French and Scottish forces attacked the English army of 9,000
commanded by John, duke of Bedford. The attack took place
at Verneuil, about 50 miles west of Paris. The French and
Scottish forces charged, but the English longbowmen cut them
down quickly. About half the of the French/Scottish army were
lost; the rest retreated. The result of the battle was that
the Scots were removed as a major aid to the French cause.
(1422-1453) War flares again. The English
initially win numerous victories, but the peasant girl Jeanne
d'Arc (Joan of Arc) appears, claiming to have had a vision
from God. She puts new faith in the French armies and leads
them to repeated victories against the English. By 1453, the
coast of Calais is the only English possession left in France.
of Orleans The siege of Orleans was the turning
point of the Hundred Years' War. After over 80 years of warfare
the French finally gained the upper hand with the decisive
victory at Orleans. Thomas de Montacute and 5,000 English
troops begin the siege of Orleans, the largest fortified position
held by Charles of France, on October 23, 1428. William de
la Pole, duke of Suffolk, succeeded Montecute in November
after he was slain by a cannon ball. The siege lasted months.
At around this same time, Joan of Arc appears at the court
of Charles. Charles allows Joan to lead a relief force in
April. In May, Joan attacks the English in unison with a force
from Orleans and she drives the English from their positions.
The next day they abandon the siege; military advantage now
lies with the French.
(early 1430) Jeanne d'Arc(Joan of Arc)
attempts to lift the siege of Paris.
(late 1430) Burgundians (English sympathizers
in Northern France) capture Jeanne d'Arc and deliver her to
(1431) Jeanne d'Arc burns as a witch
at Rouen. She is sixteen years old.
(late 1431) Henry VI of England crowned
as king of France in Paris. Under his incompetent rule, France
whittles away at English holdings in France.
(1450) Battle of Formigny: After French
victory at Rouen in October 1449, Charles VII continues the
French offensive and presses the English back into the town
of Formigny. French artillary blasts away at most of the English
army and the English are badly defeated losing more than 4,000
men out of a force of 5,000. Formigny marks the end of the
fighting in northern France.
(1453) Battle of Castillon: Castillon
is the final engagement of the Hundred Years War. After being
driven out of Northern France the previous few years, Henry
VI sends a new army to Bordeaux in Southwestern France He
seeks to maintain at least some territory in France. In July
1453 the English forces attack a French force that was besieging
the town of Castillon. The attacked is repulsed, the English
are routed, and Shrewsbury is killed. Bordeaux becomes French
territory and the final English survivors sail for home.
(late 1453) Henry VI goes insane. By
1453, the coast of Calais is the only English possession left
in France. It will remain in English possession until the