guerra dei cento anni inghilterra francia

Hundred Years’ War, Brief History and Causes of the Conflict between France and England

There Hundred Years’ War it didn’t last exactly 100 years, but 116, from 1337 to 1453interspersed with periods of truce. The war broke out over dynastic issues relating to the relations between the English and French monarchiesthe king of England being also a vassal of the king of France and, more generally, for reasons of hegemony over Western EuropeThe conflict went through various phases and, also thanks to the entry on the scene of Giovanna D’Arcoended with a French victory. The Hundred Years’ War brought about great changes not only in military tactics, but also in political systems, contributing significantly to the birth of the modern stateLet’s briefly review the history of the conflict.

What was the Hundred Years’ War and its causes

The Hundred Years’ War was the conflict fought between the Kingdom of France, dominated by the dynasty of Valoisand the Kingdom of England, whose ruling house was that of the Plantagenetbetween 1337 and 1453. The war, however, was not continuous and periods of fighting alternated with periods of truce.

The main cause of the conflict was the dynastic question. France was one Feudal statein which the king, while theoretically having power over the entire national territory, actually administered only Paris and the surrounding area. The rest of the territory was controlled by the great feudal lords, who were formally vassals of the king, but in fact were independent. One of these vassals was the king of England himself, who had the title of Duke of Aquitaine (or Guyenne). The English sovereign, therefore, was on the one hand an equal to his French counterpart, on the other his vassal. This situation inevitably created tensions.

France around 1330
France around 1330

Furthermore, the two countries were in conflict over reasons of hegemony over Western Europe and, in particular, over the control of Flandersa rich region located in present-day Belgium. The war broke out in 1337 when the king of England, Edward III claimed the throne of France, on the grounds that he was a grandson, on his mother’s side, of the former sovereign Philip IV the Fair. Edward therefore decided to attack France, of which he was King Philip VI of Valoisconfident that his army was more structured and stronger.

How long did the Hundred Years’ War last and its phases

The Hundred Years’ War can be divided into four phases main ones.

Edwardian phase (1337-1360)

In the first phase, which owes its name to the King of England, the English clearly prevailed and defeated the French in several battles, including that of Crecy of 1346. After an interruption due to the onset of the plague epidemic, the war resumed and was once again favourable to England. In 1360 Edward III and the king of France John the Good (ascended to the throne 1350) reached an agreement and signed the Peace of Brétigny: Edward renounced his claims to France, but in exchange extended his dominions on French soil and obtained that they were completely independent.

France after the Treaty of Bretigny. Dark orange English Aquitaine, light orange territories annexed by the English, light blue Brittany an English ally
France after the Treaty of Bretigny. Dark orange: English Aquitaine; Light orange: territories annexed by the English; Light blue: Brittany allied with England

Carolingian phase (1369-1389)

The second phase owes its name to the king of France, Charles V. Hostilities resumed over rivalries between French nobles and the question of Aquitaine, the status of which was unclear. The war lasted for twenty years, ending with a partial French redemption in 1389.

Lancastrian Phase (1415-1429)

The third phase is so called for the Lancaster family, the branch of the Plantagenets who had taken power in England. The English, allied with a powerful French family, the Dukes of Burgundy (or Burgundians) defeated France in the Battle of Agincourt of 1415 and conquered the whole north of the country, including Paris.

The Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt

In 1420 Henry IV of England and Charles VI of France signed the Treaty of Troyeswith which they established that a daughter of Charles would marry Henry; the children of the couple would reign over France, thus creating a Anglo-French monarchy. The Valois, in essence, agreed to give up power, to the point that Charles VI disowned his son and heir to the thronethe future Charles VII, excluding him from the succession. England seemed to have triumphed. However in 1423, after Henry IV and Charles VI had died, the treaty was effectively disowned in both countries and the war resumed. The English achieved new victories.

France in 1429 - English orange, celestial allies of the English
France in 1429. Orange: English, Light Blue: Allies of the English

Final phase and French victory (1429-1453)

For France, all seemed lost, but Charles VIIalthough delegitimized by his father, enjoyed the consensus of a part of the nobility and controlled a part of the territory. In 1429, moreover, a young woman entered the scene, Giovanna D’Arcowho was able to galvanize the French soldiers, declaring that the liberation of France was desired by God. Joan, in essence, managed to transform, at least within certain limits, a war between feudal armies into a “national” war of liberation (although the idea of ​​nation was not yet fully developed). In 1429 the French troops liberated Orleansbesieged by the English, and began the recovery. Joan was captured by the Burgundians and burned at the stake shortly after, but the French advance did not stop. In the space of a few years, Charles VII’s troops reconquered all the national territory, with the exception of Calaiswhich remained in English hands. In 1453 the war ended.

Joan of Arc in a painting by JE Lenepveu
Joan of Arc in a painting by JE Lenepveu

The consequences of the Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War had very significant consequences on the political level and, in fact, created France in the form we know today. monarchy strengthened its power over the great feudal lords, making great progress towards the birth of the modern and centralized state, in which the central power could not be questioned by the aristocrats.

In terms of military art, war was part of the military revolution occurred in Europe between the Middle Ages and the modern age thanks to the spread of firearms and other innovations. Cannons, bombards and primitive rifles were added to traditional weapons and gradually changed the way war was waged. However, the military revolution, which also had consequences on the structure of society, was not completed during the Hundred Years’ War.

From the point of view of the international relationsthe rivalry between England and France did not diminish and in the following centuries would give rise to numerous other conflicts.