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The Hundred Years’ War

After the Norman conquest, France and England shared culture, language and Royal bloodlines. Some 300 years later, a dispute over who should claim the crown of France sparked decades of conflict...

On Easter Monday 1360, the French were a broken, bloodied people. Edward III, King of England, had his boot firmly pressed to their throats. For two decades, Edward’s army had laid waste to huge swathes of northern France, crushing successive French kings’ forces seemingly whenever it encountered them.

Now, following the holiest weekend of the Christian calendar, Edward’s all-conquering army prepared to storm the cathedral city of Chartres and, in doing so, propel their king to within touching distance of his ultimate goal: the crown of France.

FIGHT YOU FOR IT Culture, language and national identity were all challenged and changed by a war that spanned the generations


But then, the weather intervened. Chartres was suddenly enveloped in a terrible storm. The temperature plummeted, a ferocious wind whipped around the city, and huge hailstones rained down from the heavens.

To the 10,000 English troops camped with little shelter on a plain outside Chartres, the results were catastrophic. Horses bolted, tents were blown away and soldiers cut down by huge balls of ice falling from the skies.

Little more than half an hour later, perhaps as many as a thousand Englishmen lay dead. “A foul day, full of myst and hayle, so that men dyed on horseback,” was one chronicler’s take on the disaster.

As for Edward, he was in no doubt that the storm was a sign from God. In fact, it’s said that he dismounted from his horse, kneeled in the direction of Chartres Cathedral and recited a vow of peace.

To Edward III, the storm at Chartres was a sign from God to end the battle.


The 100 Years' War dates from 1337 to 1453, but its roots lie in the Norman Conquest of 1066. Conflicts continued until the Entente Cordiale agreement of 1904.

The English king would not seize Chartres – and nor, ultimately, would he seize the throne of France.

Black Monday – as the debacle outside Chartres is now best known – was an enormous setback for the English. Yet it shouldn’t obscure the fact that King Edward had come within an ace of achieving something quite remarkable: vanquishing the mightiest nation in Europe. at he did so is down to a series of sensational military triumphs over the first 25 years of what would be the longest conflict ever fought on European soil: the Hundred Years’ War.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

Find out how close the King of England came to conquering medieval France, as we take a look at the Hundred Years' War. Was bad weather really to blame for the English defeat? Elsewhere, uncover the shocking true story of the Nazi spies who managed to infiltrate New York, and meet the man who inspired The Mummy villain, Imhotep. Plus, don't miss out on the FREE pull-out magazine inside, which investigates the 50 greatest mysteries in history - from the Stonehenge to the Princes in the Tower.