The start of the Hundred Years' War

The start of the Hundred Years’ War

The Causes of the Hundred Years’ War

  • England held lands in France since William the Conqueror’s invasion in 1066, which led to tensions between the two kingdoms.
  • Edward III of England claimed the French throne in 1337, sparking the start of the Hundred Years’ War.
  • Edward was the nephew of Charles IV of France and believed his claim was legitimate, as Charles had died without a male heir.
  • The French nobles, however, preferred Philip of Valois, and he took the throne as Philip VI.
  • Edward initially accepted this, but was angered by Philip’s attempts to confiscate his lands in France.
  • Philip VI’s decision to seize Gascony, a region in southwest France where the English had significant territorial and economic interests, was the major trigger for the warfare.

The Course of the Hundred Years’ War: Early Stages

  • The war was not a constant fight but made up of intermittent periods of conflict separated by long truces.
  • The English used a strategy of chevauchée - destructive raids aimed at weakening the enemy’s economy and morale.
  • Two early English victories, Creçy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), were attributed to their superior longbowmen and their use of defensive tactics, creating devastating losses for the French cavalry.
  • Edward’s son, the Black Prince, played a key role in the English success.
  • The Battle of Poitiers ended with the capture of the French King, John II, which crippled the French leadership.

Impact of the Early Stage of War

  • In the Treaty of Brétigny (1360), King John was released in exchange for a hefty ransom and territorial concessions to England.
  • England gained control over much of western France, making Edward III one of the most successful Plantagenet kings in securing French lands.
  • However, the peaceful period following the treaty was short-lived.
  • In 1369, the French restarted the war under Charles V and his respected military leader, Bertrand du Guesclin.
  • The death of the Black Prince in 1376 and Edward III in 1377 signaled a downturn in England’s fortunes in the war.