From 1337 to 1453, the rulers of England, the House of Plantagenet, and the French house of Valois fought over the right to rule France. 5 generations of the king from the two families fought each other and drew their allies into the war two. This great war is one of the most notable conflicts of the middle ages and has been called “The Hundred Years War”. It shaped the background for a lot of the conflicts, borders, and issues that affect us even today.
The war started due to territorial issues involving Gascony and Flanders and also France’s ally but England’s enemy at that time, Scotland. Tensions between the two families actually go back centuries, the English royal family was essentially French, English monarchs held territory and titles within France making them vassals under the French King. The status of the English’s heir was a major conflict between them with the French taking away English territory every time England fought Scotland. The amount of territory the English held in France varied from time to time but by 1327, only Gascony was under their rule.
Now Gascony was economically very important to the English, its wine and wool were in demand all over the world. Now in 1328, Charles VI, the king of France died without an heir, his closest was relative, Edward III of England who mother Isabella of France advocated his right to the throne but was rejected as the French would not tolerate an English King. Instead, they made his cousin, Philip, Count of Valois the king. Philip was ambitious, he wanted to unite all of France and continued to seize the territories under English control including Gascony, the English would not have this and this marked the start of the hundred years war.
Edward III and his son Edward, the black prince then went on a series of conquest and actually won, something that was thought to be impossible with the small force and weapons his army was using. Actually, at that time, the monarchs believed in heavily armoring their troops who rode horses while slaughtering armies, Edward’s force, on the other hand, was lightly armored and fought on foot but actually used longbows (something thought to be inefficient at the time), they shot thousands of arrows at the French soldiers who actually died or got injured before they even confronted the English. Some of the English’s notable victories include the battle of Crécy in 1346 and at Poitiers in 1356 where King John II of France was taken, prisoner. John was then forced to sign the treaty of Brétigny according to which the English acquired Guyenne and Gascony, Poitou, Saintonge and Aunis, Agenais, Périgord, Limousopn, Quercy, Bigorre, Gauré, Angoumois, Rouergue, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Ponthieu, Calais, Sangatte, Ham and the countship of Guînes. All the land under which the king of England owns would now be under his sole ownership.
Unluckily, most of this land would be later reclaimed by the French under the rule of Charles the wise. Now at the start of the 15th century, Charles VI became mentally ill, he is popularly called “The Mad King”. The then king of England, Henry V took advantage of this and the civil war in France between the Armagnacs and Burgundians to invade France. They had a series of overwhelming victories and in 1419, the French Royal Family married their daughter to Henry V giving him the right to the throne after Charles VI’s death. This occurred due to a lot of coincidences and plots which ended with Charles VII, the rightful heir to the sin and son of Charles VI being disinherited due to him being accused of being a murderer during a peace negotiation and him joining the side of the Armagnacs. Battles happened back and forth with the emergence of Joan of arc in 1928 to led Charles VI to massive victories. Actually, the throne would have been in hands of Henry V but unluckily, in 1422 he died just two months before Charles VI did give the throne to his 9-month-old son.
From there, the French kept winning and winning with the war finally being concluded in 1453 in favor of the House of Valois. The only remaining territory under the English was the Pale of Calais. But what followed wasn’t peace, France was then devasted by civil wars, plagues, bandits which considerably reduced their population, English nobles, on the other hand, were dissatisfied at the loss of their land in France and the war in which they had invested quite a sum. This led to the War of the Roses.