Causes and Start of the Hundred Years War

Jackson van Uden

The Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts between the English and the French

The Hundred Years’ War was a series of conflicts between the English and the French in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that still looms large in the English and French psyches, cementing a generations-long rivalry between the two nations. The Hundred Years’ War, surprisingly, lasted 116 years and was a war for the control of France and the possession of the French throne. This bloody series of conflicts finds its origins in the rivalry between Edward III of England and Phillip VI of France. After Charles IV of France died without a direct heir, France was thrown into the depths of a succession crisis. Both Edward and Phillip claimed the throne. However, Edward was denied the throne as ancient French Salic Law prevented him from inheriting the throne through his mother, Isabella of France, as a woman was unable to pass a right that she didn’t possess. In 1329, Edward III was required to pay homage to Phillip VI for his French lands. However, Edward did not respect or acknowledge Phillip’s position as king and wore his crown to the homage ceremony, which angered Phillip. Tensions between the two kings continued to rise over the next decade, as Edward granted protection to Robert of Artois from Phillip, breaking his oath of homage to protect and support the French King. Edward’s protection of Robert is cited as a major cause of the start of the war, as it has been called the ‘final straw’ for Phillip. In response to Edward’s harbouring Robert of Artois, Phillip confiscated Aquitaine in 1337, which represented the ‘final straw’ for Edward. However, despite having his land confiscated, Edward continued to act as Aquitaine’s ruler, issuing protection to his French subjects such as Thomas de Banvilla in 1338. Edward continuing to act as ruler further cemented the idea that Edward did not respect Phillip’s position as king, his decisions to confiscate his lands, or his authority over him as French Duke and King of England.
Causes and Start of the Hundred Years War
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In 1337, rising tension boiled over into violence.

For some, the Battle of Cadzand in 1337 represents the start of the Hundred Years’ War. Although classified as a minor battle or a raid, the Battle of Cadzand saw the English forces attack a French garrison, killing thousands in the process. Edward wanted to use the easy victory at Cadzand to help build support and possible finance for war with France. However, this failed as Edward was unable to raise enough capital to take advantage of this early momentum. Edward’s lack of financial power after this battle was affected by his coastal reinforcement spending, as he placed William Percy as Custodian of Hasting Castle, and his £900 goodwill reparations to Flanders to build better relations with nobles after Phillip had inflicted terror upon the people of Sluys after the loss at Cadzand. More commonly, the Battle of Sluys represents the start of the Hundred Years’ War. This battle started with the English requisitioning merchant ships and then sailing for the French Navy at the port of Sluys. The English used longbowmen, who could fire up to 270m, to ensure victory as they allowed for long-range attacks which the French archers—with a range of 180m—couldn’t respond to. Contemporaries described the English use of longbows as ‘hail in winter’. English battle tactics allowed for the destruction of the French fleet and solidified English control of the channel. However, once again after the battle Edward was not financially stable and failed to pay those who supported him. He was resultantly forced into signing a treaty at Esplechin with the French to prevent another battle as he could not afford to fight those who he had upset. Edward would not mount an invasion of France until 1346, and the war would go through several phases of intensely violent conflict and peace until its conclusion in 1453. Although the Hundred Years’ War saw little geographical changes, the eventual conflict saw England and France emerge entirely changed. From language to national identity, the Hundred Years’ War marks a dramatic turning point in world history.
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Causes and Start of the Hundred Years War

Jackson van Uden

Jackson wrote for Edition 13, Medieval.
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