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Essay Paper on The Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War is the common name given to a series of conflicts between the two great European nations of the time, France and England. The conflicts, which were broken up periodically by numerous truces and treaties, lasted from 1337 till 1453. The conflict stemmed from the fact that successive English kings controlled large areas in France called fiefs. To make matters worse, in 1308, England’s Prince Edward II married the daughter of King Phillip IV of France. The war consisted of three major conflicts; The Edwardian War (1340-1360), The Caroline War (1369-1389), and the Lancastrian War (1415-1435).

In the fourteenth century, the upper-middle class English had taken up the idea of drinking wine instead of beer. Both wine and beer were considered sources of nutrition. They both contained vitamins and yeast complexes that many people of the medieval era lacked in their diets. The problem was that grapes didn’t grow in the English climate. They grew quite well however in the fields of Southern France. During the 1200’s, the English set up a triangular trade route between England, Southern France, and a city called Flanders. Flanders was an important industrial center due to it’s production of cloth. It couldn’t produce enough wool to meet its demand, so it imported fleece from England. In trade, the English would take fine clothes from Flanders to Southern France to exchange for the wine in which English nobility demanded. The English monarchy controlled most of the areas in Southern France and had much influence in Flanders to the North due to this triangular trade. Because of this, kings of France always had to fear an invasion by English forces.

A second contributing factor to the impending conflicts was the marriage of Edward II and Isabella, French King Phillip IV’s daughter. Their son, Edward III had claim to the French throne through his mother when Phillip IV’s last son, Charles IV died in 1328 without a male heir. The French, fearing to lose control of their country to England, renounced his claim. They declared that only an heir through male ancestors could sit on the throne. Edward III didn’t dispute the French nobles decision at the time, but would do so later after hostilities broke out. The Edwardian War, which occurred between 1340-1360, consisted of three major battles. Even though England had a much smaller population and lower economic resources, they had a much better organized central government. In addition to highly developed governing institutions, they also had a system of regular taxation. At the same time in France, the King had trouble levying taxes and could only do so through complicated negotiations. The French population also resisted paying any kind of tax in a time peace. Even with all this true, the English still faced an uphill battle. The English were fighting the French on their soil. This fact made it very difficult and expensive for the English to send heavily armed troops abroad and relied heavily on infantrymen and foot soldiers. These soldiers had to face an army fortified with horse-mounted cavalry from the French. The English compensated by arming their soldiers with the longbow that could fire an arrow accurately and quickly. It was able to penetrate strong chain-mail armor even at long distance. The longbow proved to be one of England’s greatest assets.

The Edwardian War was a great success for the English. It ended with the Peace of Bretigny in 1360 and gave absolute control of the southwestern region of France to England. The Caroline War (1369-1389) began after only nine years of “peace”. This war showed a dramatic French come back. King Charles V achieved a great deal of this success by reorganizing the French army. He also established a regular system of taxation to pay for his new professional army. The King also found a new ally in Henry II. Henry II held the throne in the Spanish Kingdom and pledged support to the French King. The English, on the other hand, came into the war at somewhat of a disadvantage. King Edward III who had proved to be a great leader in the Edwardian war, was getting old and his son, Edward the Black Prince of Wales was terminally ill. French troops were able to reconquer the western part of France, which was taken under English control some years earlier. Things looked even better for France with the defeat of the English navy in 1372 off the western coast of France. In 1377, the French led another offensive against the English that left most of the coastal cities in French once again in French control. The French went so far as to attack the southern tip of the English coast after taking control of the English Channel.

The death of Charles V in 1380 brought political unrest to the French. CharlesV’s son, Charles VI was only 11 years old and was not yet ready to take power. The country was divided into two factions. Philip the Bold, who was Charles VI’s uncle, led one. The military leaders of Charles V led the other faction. Though major attacks were planned against the English in 1385-1387, bad weather and the internal instability of the government prevented these campaigns to ever occur. The first of several long truces was recognized in 1389, bringing the Caroline War to a close. In the years preceding 1415, both the French and the English suffered a period of crisis and unrest. In 1392, Philip the Bold seized power from Charles VI following an attack of mental illness. In England, King Richard II married Charles VI’s daughter and a stronger truce was drawn up in 1396. But three years later, his cousin, Henry IV, overthrew Richard II. He and his son, Henry V, were not the peaceful type and were later allied with rebel forces in France. France had plunged into civil war after Philip the Bold died and his son, John the Fearless came to power. The Lancastrian War (1415-1435) was a success for the English, in the beginning…

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