Wars and recurring reason for conflict, the pursuit of

Wars have been fought throughout history, each with its battles and
various reasons for bloodshed. Each side fighting to prove that their battle
and cause is the most just, not caring at all about the lives lost and families
ruined. Many of these battles are fought over the simplest of reasons, the
acquisition of land, resources, a perceived slight or a long standing and
bitter rivalry. The Hundred Years War is one that has at its roots the most
human, senseless and recurring reason for conflict, the pursuit of power over
another. The Hundred Years’ War was a war fought for a period of 116 years.1
The war was between the powers of the Kingdom of England
and the Kingdom of France,
later on during the process of the war Burgundy joins in the fray.2

            The war began in 1337,
when the current king, Philip the VI of France formally reclaimed and seized
the property and possessions of his vassal, King Edward III of England. This
was further escalated in the year 1453, when English troops attempted to
recover land that had been taken from them previously in 1451, the English
troops were utterly defeated at the battle of Castillon.3 This
defeat at Castillon left the King and the people of England with virtually no
land in France. While the causes of the war are numerous, the principle
reasoning behind the causes of the war were over the powers and degree of rule
the English crown could exert and exercise in Scotland and Aquitaine4.
By the time the 1340’s had arrived, the conflict between the France and England
had reached a fever pitch. Edward believed that he had a right to lay claim to
the throne of France, more so than Philip. Both men held the idea that they
were the rightful inheritors of Charles IV land and authority.

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The reasoning behind the views of both men comes from the
inheritance laws of the medieval times, the complicated relationships of the
royal families and marriage ties. At the time the royal families of the world
followed strict legal guideline in order to ensure the rightful passage of
titles and lands, one of the documents used by them was Salic Law, in
particular Title LIX. Concerning Private Property.5 This
was especially important in making the Hundred Years War. As mentioned earlier
there were two major factors that were the origin of the conflict between the
French and the English. The first was concerning the status of the duchy of
Guyenne (or Aquitaine) which even though belonged to the kings of England, it
remained a fief of the French crown6.
The kings of England felt that that was unreasonable and wanted to have full
control over the land that they felt belonged to them, whether by right or by
conquest. The second source of the conflict stemmed from the death of the
previous king of France, Charles IV. As the closest blood relatives of what the
English called the last “Capetian king” who passed away in 1328, the kings of
England from 1337 claimed the crown of France7.

This was made possible due to the Salic Laws regarding the
passage of private property. The nobles of the time held legal proceeding with
the highest esteem and while they were not above flouting the rules
occasionally, they still respected the tenants that gave them the power they
held. In the case of the battle for inheritance over the throne, the royals
looked to past edicts to justify their claims. This excerpt come from the Salic
Laws Title LIX. Concerning Private Property, “If the father and mother do not
survive, and he leave brothers or sisters, they shall inherit8.”
Edward the III of England was also duke of Guyenne as well as a count of
Ponthieu, he traced his claim to the throne from the fact that his mother was
Charles IV’s sister and because Charles IV had no sons9.
Under the rules of Salic Law, Edward III was a legitimate candidate when it
came to claiming the French throne, a fact that he made known to all who would
stand against him during his campaign for his second crown. The only other
major candidate for the throne was the Count of Valois, a grandson of Philip
III of France through a younger branch of the family10. If
one were to take the time to look at the family tree of Philip the III it could
be said that Edward III had a stronger claim to the throne than Philip IV.

This now bring us to the war, as once the battles and
fighting truly begin it is no longer considered to be a conflict between
nations, it is an all-out war for succession. The
Hundred Years War can essentially be divided into four distinct phases, each
one of them with their own contribution to the course of the war. The first phase
would be the success of the English while under the governance of Edward III,
this period lasted from 1337 to 1360. During this time a series of battles took
place, there are two battles of significance that occurred during this phase of
the war. However, the first battle of the war is the most significant. It was
the Battle of Crecy, a battle which
would mark the changing of warfare in the Middle Ages.

Beginning during the season of war, mid-July 1346, Edward
III also known as the Black Prince by his people and the world, landed an
invasion force of about 14,000 men on the coast of Normandy11.
After touching down on the coast, under the order of Edward, the English army
proceeded to march North plundering the lands of the French people as they
passed. When Philip received word of the Edward and his army’s arrival, he
gathered his army of 12,000 men, made up of approximately 8,000 mounted knights
and 4,000 hired Genoese crossbowmen12.
When the English arrived at the city of Crecy, Edward ordered his army to halt
and wait for the French to arrive. Edward intended to use the same tactics the
English had previously employed against they had used against the Scots years
earlier. The French army were confident in their superiority over the smaller
English army, upon arriving to the battlefield Philip decided that he would try
to end this invasion before it escalated, sent out his force of Genoese
crossbowmen to clear out the English, hoping for a quick victory. The Genoese
however, were tired from the long march there attempted to scare the English
into leaving, and if that failed they hoped that their larger numbers would
work to their advantage. “When the Genoways were assembled together and began
to approach, they made a great shout and cry to abash the Englishmen, but
they stood still and stirred not for all that: then the Genoways again the
second time made another leap and a fell cry, and stept forward a little, and
the Englishmen removed not one foot: thirdly, again they lept and cried, and
went forth till they came within shot; then they shot fiercely with their
crossbows.13”
Unfortunately for the Genoese, this was exactly what Edward and his men had
hoped for. While the crossbows used by the Genoese were powerful they were also
cumbersome, slow to reload, and had a very limited range. The English on the
other hand were using longbows which were much faster to reload and less
cumbersome since they were essentially just a long-straightened piece of wood
with a cord wrapped around it. In addition, by allowing the French mercenaries
to get as close as they had, there was little way for them to retreat when the
Englishmen returned fire. Using their longbows, the archers sent round arrow
after arrow into the enemy, eventually causing their front line to break apart.
After losing so many of their comrades the mercenaries turned and ran, all the
while still being pierced by the arrows raining down on them from above. When
Philip saw this he was outraged, he said: “Slay these rascals, for they
shall let and trouble us without reason.14”
With that he sent the remainder of his army forward, and the result was just
the same as it had been before. The French were ultimately defeated by the
unconventional tactics used by the English at the Battle of Crecy.

            One unintended consequence
of the battle was a change in the way armies were formed and fought against
each other. Prior to the battle, war was considered to be more of a money-making
tactic. While blood was still shed, it was the mainly the blood of the common
folk and peasants. Before Edward enlisted the common people into his army,
commoners weren’t really considered to be soldiers. The majority of the
fighting was done by knights and nobles, and even then, it was minimal. At the
time the concept of chivalry was in full effect, it was an age of gentlemanly
combat. If your opponent was unarmed or called for the contest between the two
of them to be ended, then the fight was over. There were even times when
knights and nobles were given the chance to surrender and be taken captive by
the enemy. This was how war was a money-making market, only those of wealth
could afford to pay a ransom, the commoners didn’t have the money to even be
considered worth capturing and were killed on the spot or sent running.

            During this battle however,
the individuals doing most of the fighting weren’t noble raised and didn’t
follow the tenants of chivalry, if they even knew of it. The commoners fighting
this war were scared out of their minds, fearing the swing of an enemy’s sword
at any moment, and in the battle they did whatever it took to win and survive.
“Among the Englishmen were certain rascals that went afoot with great knives,
and they went in among the men of arms, and slew and murdered many as they lay
on the ground, both earls, barons, knights, and squires, whereof the king of
England was after displeased, for he had rather they had been taken prisoners.15”
When they went forward they didn’t follow the code of one on one combat, they
mobbed every strong and armored opponent that they saw, swarming, pinning them
down and killing them however they could to avoid being killed themselves. They
ignored calls for mercy and surrender, only thinking of surviving the fight and
making it back home to their families someday. This was the battle that started
the change in the face of medieval warfare, in the coming battles both sides
would realize that conscripting more and more men into their armies would be
the best course of action. In time the old system of combat would become a
thing of the past.

 The second of the
battle between the English and French was from 1400 to 1429. that was marked by
great English victories under Henry V of England. However, this period of the
war would eventually end with the defeat of the British forces after a long-standing
stalemate. The battles of most significance during this time would be the
Battle of Agincourt which took place during the year 1415 and the Battle or
Siege of Orleans, occurring on October 1428 all the way until May 142916.
This battle took place in and around the city of Orleans, France, while it was
being sieged by English forces. On May 8, 1429, a woman who would be forever
remembered by history, Joan of Arc, a teenage peasant working on behalf of the
French army, successfully led a small French force of her own to break the
siege17.
Having been spoken to by voices of the “divine” Joan made her way to the man
she was told would be King. Charles, a low-level noble at the time believed the
claims of Joan and decided to assist her on her divine mission. Since Joan’s
goals were in favor of Charles ascending to the throne he gave her command of a
small force. Possibly not expecting much in the way of success from her but
willing to take the chance that she would either be cannon fodder for the enemy
or manage to do some real damage to the English troops. She led her troops to
Orleans, and on April 29, as a French sortie distracted the English troops on
the west side of the city, Joan entered unopposed by its eastern gate18.
Her entry into the city had been the boost needed to keep the city afloat
during the siege, Joan and her troops brought supplies and troops into the
city.

In addition, she was also able to inspire the French forces
into mounting a successful counter assault against the attacking English
forces. Her bravery and determination was so great that on one occasion, Joan
was struck by an arrow, however, she did not falter.19
After bandaging her wounds she returned to the battle and went on to fight more
English soldiers. On May 8, the siege of Orleans was broken, and the English
retreated.20
During the next five weeks, after the retreat of the English, Joan successfully
led her French forces into a number victories over the English. One of her most
accomplished battles after the Siege of Orleans is the recapturing of Reims in
July. At that time, Reims was the traditional city of coronation of nobility
ascending the throne, during that month Charles VII was crowned king of France,
with Joan of Arc kneeling at his feet.21

The third and final phase of the Hundred Years War was from
1429 to 1453, in which France was united under the Valois kings.22
As previously mentioned, by 1429 the English and their allies had managed to
conquer a large portion of France. However, during that time, a young peasant
girl succeeded in halting their advance at the siege of Orleans. It was during
the aftermath of this battle that Charles VII crowned
king of France. Yet there would soon be a reversal of fortunes, Joan was
captured by the Burgundians, allies of the English, and tried and burned at the
stake as a witch, while the loss of this important figure hurt the moral of the
French, it did not stop the French from capitalizing on their previous success
and continue on the removal of the English from French territories. From the
1430’s all the way until the end of the war French forces continued to add to
their victories. In 1435, Charles VII formed an alliance with the people of
Burgundy, which essentially cut the forces the English had at their disposal.
By 1450 the French had succeeded in reconquering Normandy, and by 1451 all
Guienne but Bordeaux was taken.23
Due to the mounting losses and the internal pressures facing England, the Wars
of the Roses, England was in no position to make any further attempts to
conquer France. 

The bitter hatred for each of these countries felt towards
the other would remain and continually rear its head in conflicts, battles and
every a few wars with either side taking victory over the other. Examples of
this would be evident during the Napoleonic Era when Napoleon Bonaparte’s
empire crossed swords with the English and lost at the battle of waterloo, ending
the empire that France had grown to be. An additional example of the animosity
between the two countries would be the American Revolutionary War, where France
assisted the colonists and led to the loss of America’s. The back and forth
skirmishes between these two countries never allowed them to fully become
allies until the first world war when they were forced to fight against an
enemy than themselves.

This war is instrumental in the evolution of warfare. While
compared to modern warfare and weaponry, the tools of war at the time seem to
be quite primitive. The revolutionary use of bows and arrows however were just
the beginning of the militaristic advances made during this war. This war was
also the first time in the Western world that artillery fire was used, however
this isn’t the first time siege weaponry was used. Catapults, ballista’s and battering
rams were all used prior to this war but the most important distinction to make
in this war is the use of gun powder in weapons. As mentioned prior this was
the first time that artillery weapons were used in the West, this also includes
the use of ballistic weapons as well. Rifles and cannons were developed during
this time period, though they were woefully unreliable and primitive. A more
accurate if not colloquial term for the weapons of that age would be “boom
sticks”, the original weapons were essentially a stick with a rough barrel
attached to the tip in which gunpowder and a bullet were loaded. Due to the unpredictable
nature of the weapons at the time the “rifle” was more likely to explode in the
user’s hands or simply create a burst of smoke coupled with a loud noise, hence
the name boom stick. It is important to note however that while this is one of
the first real uses of gunpowder in Europe other parts of the world had already
experimented with the use of gunpowder and implemented it into their systems of
war. The inventers of black powder, Asians, were some of the most proficient in
its use, creating the “first arrows” which they translated into the word
rockets. The most interesting of these advances would be the Hornets Nest. While
this digression has nothing to do with the Hundred Years War directly it is
important to understand that while the advances in Europe seemed new and
revolutionary they were simply building off of a foundation that was over a hundred
years old.

With the invention of rifles and the advances made in the
refinement of gunpowder and the subsequently more dangerous weapons that followed
it also came the need to arm soldiers better so that they might survive being
shot, if the enemies bullets ever managed to make it that far. Armor also
underwent a change during the time of the war, in the beginning only the wealthy
chevalier were able to afford full body armor. Other regular military troops
either had to make do with partial metal armor, which consisted of a breastplate
and maybe bracers or greaves, or use leather armor. Peasants were the worst off
in the beginning of the war, they were almost solely responsible for procuring
their own armor and weapons, and since most of them could barely afford to feed
themselves on a daily basis before the war many were left without any means of
protection against oncoming enemy troops. As the war progressed however, great
leaps were made in the way of iron and steel refinement and armaments. Soon
every soldier was equipped with what could be considered to be basic armor to
wear in battle.

When the war began, France had
an approximated population of 14 million, while the small island nation of
England had a meager population of around two million24. In
addition, France was considered to have the best-trained and largest number of
knights in Europe at that time25.
However, taking into account the devastating effects the war had on France,
considering that their enemy was both smaller and less trained paints a picture
of an underdog story. Both societies were strongly affected by the Hundred
Years War, it influenced almost every aspect of human life in France and
England during its time. One of the consequences of the war was a decline in
the use of knights as a superior fighting force in Europe. The fact that the
English, who were considerably less suited for a war with France, managed to
dominate France militaristically was amazing. Even them losing isn’t as great a
thing as it would have been had the French lost, they were the underdogs, their
defeat would’ve been expected. It’s the fight and the changes they implemented
in war that are the most impressive.

Since the Hundred Years War armies
began to increase in size regularly, until you fast forward into the present
where countries have standing armies in the hundred thousand, when they once
had them in the hundreds. Some of the changes brought on or molded by the war
were of the greatest significance for the general development of European
history and, ultimately, of world history. Another major thing to arise from
the war was a nationalistic identity for both France and England. Both
countries gained a greater feeling of what it meant to be a citizen of their
respective countries, this eventually grows into something that becomes a
problem leading to the first world war but at the time it is a huge cultural
advancement. The rise of a Parliament in England and a strong centralized
monarchy (absolute monarchy) in France also arise, two forms of government that
will be instrumental in the coming years.

1 New World Encyclopedia contributors,
“Hundred Years’ War,” New World
Encyclopedia, , http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Hundred_Years%27_War&oldid=979532 (accessed November 21, 2017).

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Ibid

5Henderson, Earnest F. Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by
Earnest F. Henderson. London: George Bell & Sons, 1896. Accessed November
22, 2017.
http://online.infobase.com/HRC/LearningCenter/PrimarySourceDetails/7?primarySourceId=2078.

6 History.com Staff. “Hundred Years’
War.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.
http://www.history.com/topics/hundred-years-war.

7 Ibid

8 Henderson, Earnest F. Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages. Translated by
Earnest F. Henderson. London: George Bell & Sons, 1896. Accessed November
22, 2017. http://online.infobase.com/HRC/LearningCenter/PrimarySourceDetails/7?primarySourceId=2078

9 History.com Staff. “Hundred Years’
War.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.  http://www.history.com/topics/hundred-years-war.

10 Ibid

11 History.com Staff. “Battle of
Crécy.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.
http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/battle-of-crecy.

12 Ibid

13 Froissart, Jean, John Bourchier Berners, and
G. C. Macaulay. The Chronicles of
Froissart. Vol. 1. London: Macmillan and, 1899. Accessed November 22, 2017.
https://weblib.ucc.edu/login?url=http://online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=17310&itemid=WE49&primarySourceId=8322.

14 Ibid

15 Ibid

16 History.com Staff. “Siege of
Orléans.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.  http://www.history.com/topics/siege-of-orleans.

17 Ibid

18 “Joan of Arc Relieves Orleans.”
History.com. Accessed November 23, 2017.
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/joan-of-arc-relieves-orleans.

19 Ibid

20 Ibid

21 Ibid

22 History.com Staff. “Hundred Years’
War.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 22, 2017.
http://www.history.com/topics/hundred-years-war.

23 Ibid

24 New World Encyclopedia contributors,
“Hundred Years’ War,” New World
Encyclopedia, , http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Hundred_Years%27_War&oldid=979532 (accessed November 21, 2017).

25 Ibid

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