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Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

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Hundred Years' War

The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France and their various allies for control of the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings. The House of Valois controlled France in the wake of the House of Capet; a Capetian cadet branch, the Valois claimed the throne under Salic Law. This was contested by the House of Plantagenet, the Angevin family that had ruled England since 1154, who claimed the throne of France through the marriage of Edward II of England and Isabella of France.

The war is commonly divided into three or four phases, separated by various unsuccessful truces: the Edwardian War (1337–1360); the Caroline War (1369–1389); the Lancastrian War (1415–1453); which saw the slow decline of Plantagenet fortunes after the appearance of Joan of Arc (1412–1431). Several other contemporary European conflicts were directly related to this conflict: the Breton War of Succession, the Castilian Civil War; the War of the Two Peters; and the 1383-1385 Crisis. The term "Hundred Years' War" was a later term invented by historians to describe the series of events.

The conflict was punctuated by several periods of peace before the French recovery from early gains made by the English, expelling them from the majority of France by the 1450s. The Plantagenets lost most of their continental territory, including Gascony, which they had held since the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II in 1152, though they retained the Pale of Calais until its capture in 1558. However the ruling houses of England would continue to claim the French throne until 1800.

The war owes its historical significance to a number of factors. Although primarily a dynastic conflict, the war gave impetus to ideas of both French and English nationalism. Militarily, it saw the introduction of new weapons and tactics which eroded the older system of feudal armies dominated by heavy cavalry in Western Europe. The first standing armies in Western Europe since the time of the Western Roman Empire were introduced for the war, thus changing the role of the peasantry. For all this, as well as for its long duration, it is often viewed as one of the most significant conflicts in the history of medieval warfare. In France, civil wars, deadly epidemics, famines and marauding mercenary armies turned to banditry reduced the population by about one-half.


1 Background

2 Timeline

3 Dynastic turmoil: 1314–1328
4 On the eve of war: 1328–1337
5 Beginning of the war: 1337–1360
6 First peace: 1360–1369
7 French ascendancy under Charles V: 1369–1389
8 Second peace: 1389–1415
9 Resumption of the war under Henry V: 1415–1429
10 French victory: 1429–1453
11 Significance
11.1 Weapons
11.2 War and society
11.3 England and the Hundred Years' War
12 Major battles

13 Important figures

14 The French reconquest
15 Memory and impact
= In Shakespeare =

English playwright William Shakespeare put a defense of the English claim to the French throne in the mouth of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V, Act 1, Scene 2:

Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers,
That owe yourselves, your lives and services
To this imperial throne. There is no bar
To make against your highness' claim to France
But this, which they produce from Pharamond,
'In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant:'
'No woman shall succeed in Salique land:'
Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze
To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
The founder of this law and female bar.
Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
That the land Salique is in Germany,
Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe;
Where Charles the Great, having subdued the Saxons,
There left behind and settled certain French;
Who, holding in disdain the German women
For some dishonest manners of their life,
Establish'd then this law; to wit, no female
Should be inheritrix in Salique land:
Which Salique, as I said, 'twixt Elbe and Sala,
Is at this day in Germany call'd Meisen.
Then doth it well appear that Salique law
Was not devised for the realm of France:
Nor did the French possess the Salique land
Until four hundred one and twenty years
After defunction of King Pharamond,
Idly supposed the founder of this law;
Who died within the year of our redemption
Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the Great
Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French
Beyond the river Sala, in the year
Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,
King Pepin, which deposed Childeric,
Did, as heir general, being descended
Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair,
Make claim and title to the crown of France.
Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crown
Of Charles the duke of Lorraine, sole heir male
Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,
To find his title with some shows of truth,
'Through, in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,
Convey'd himself as heir to the Lady Lingare,
Daughter to Charlemain, who was the son
To Lewis the emperor, and Lewis the son
Of Charles the Great. Also King Lewis the Tenth,
Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,
Could not keep quiet in his conscience,
Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied
That fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,
Was lineal of the Lady Ermengare,
Daughter to Charles the foresaid duke of Lorraine:
By the which marriage the line of Charles the Great
Was re-united to the crown of France.
So that, as clear as is the summer's sun.
King Pepin's title and Hugh Capet's claim,
King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear
To hold in right and title of the female:
So do the kings of France unto this day;
Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law
To bar your highness claiming from the female,
And rather choose to hide them in a net
Than amply to imbar their crooked titles
Usurp'd from you and your progenitors.

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