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Need to Know

BOWS AT THE READY French Chronicler Froissart depicts the English victory at Crécy, 1346


Agincourt was just one battle in a multi-generational conflict

The so-called ‘Hundred Years War’ was, in fact, a series of wars. Waged intermittently from 1337-1453, they saw various kings of England fight the French house of Valois for control of France.

The epic conflict was largely born from the fact that England’s king held territory in France and, as such, he owed homage and services to his French overlord. With two supposedly equal kings (and their egos) involved, trouble was, perhaps, inevitable. To compound the matter, the French allied up with the Scots against the English, while the English supported France’s enemies, the Flemish.

In 1337, Edward III of England refused to pay homage to Philip VI of France, leading the French King to confiscate Edward’s lands in south-west France. Edward hit back. He declared that, as his mother Isabella was the sister of the previous French King, he was the rightful ruler of France, not Philip. e two countries went to war.

In 1346, the English won a major victory at Crécy and then, ten years later, captured King John of France at Poitiers. But Edward was unable to secure total victory and, in 1360, he agreed the Treaty of Bretigny, giving up his claim to the French throne in exchange for land in south-west

VALUABLE ASSET King John ‘the Good’ of France is taken prisoner at Poitiers, 1356

116 The actual length, in years, of the Hundred Years War France. War restarted in 1369 and, over the next 20 years, the French steadily recaptured much of the land lost by the 1360 treaty.

Over 30 years of peace followed, until, in 1413, Henry V became King of England. He took advantage of divisions in the French court to pursue English interests in France, and he revived the old claim to its throne. In 1415, he laid siege to Harfleur, a port on the River Seine from which the French often launched raids on the English south coast. After a costly and lengthy siege, Harfleur surrendered. At this stage, Henry could have garrisoned the newly-captured town and sailed home but, wanting to make a point, he instead opted to march north with his army through enemy territory to the English-held enclave at Calais. Tired, hungry and depleted, his army found the route barred by the French at Agincourt. Here, his outnumbered men won a legendary victory and, eventually, Henry returned home in triumph. is victory provided a major boost to the credibility of Henry’s Lancastrian regime, and made England’s powers more willing to finance future wars of conquest.

GAME CHANGER Joan of Arc arrives at the court of Charles ‘the Dauphin’ in 1428
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