Hundred Years War

(1337–1453)
   The “Hundred Years War” is a nineteenthcentury term conventionally applied to an intermittent series of Anglo-French wars fought between 1337 and 1453. Spanning the reigns of five monarchs in each country, the Hundred Years War evolved from a conflict over the status of the English Crown’s possessions in FRANCE to a struggle for possession of the French Crown itself. By undermining the popularity and credibility of HENRY VI’s government, and by initiating the rivalry of the dukes of York and Somerset, the last phase of the Hundred Years War, which culminated in 1453 with the final ejection of the English from all their French territories except CALAIS, was an important contributing cause of the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   The first phase of the Hundred Years War, stretching from 1337 to 1360, witnessed major English victories at Sluys (1340), Crécy (1346), and Poitiers (1356). In 1340, Edward III, whose mother was a French princess, claimed the French throne as the rightful possession of the English royal house of PLANTAGENET. However, when the Treaty of Brétigny promised him full sovereignty over his French lands, Edward agreed to renounce his claim to the French Crown. Because this promise of sovereignty was never fulfilled, Edward never made his renunciation, and war resumed in 1369.
   The second phase of the war, extending from 1369 to the 1420s, saw a French resurgence under Charles V, which culminated in 1396 in the conclusion of a twenty-eight-year truce between England’s Richard II and France’s Charles VI. In the opening decade of the fifteenth century, Charles VI’s insanity plunged France into political turmoil, as the Burgundian and Armagnac factions fought for control of the government. In 1415, Henry V, second king of the house of LANCASTER, exploited this internal disorder by invading France and renewing the Plantagenet claim to the French Crown. After his victory at Agincourt in 1415, Henry conquered Normandy, and by 1420 was in a position to dictate the Treaty of Troyes, which made Henry heir to the French Crown and arranged his marriage to Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine of Valois. Thus, on the deaths of both Henry and Charles in 1422, the Crowns of both England and France passed to the infant Henry VI.
   During the final phase of the war, CHARLES VII, who had been disinherited by the Treaty of Troyes, secured the French Crown and gradually expelled the English from France. Lacking resources and effective leadership, the government of Henry VI negotiated a truce and the king’s marriage to the French princess, MARGARET OF ANJOU, in 1444, and in the next year surrendered the province of Maine. In 1450, the French overran Normandy, and in 1453, at the Battle of CASTILLON, they captured the longtime English province of Gascony.
   While not a direct cause of the Wars of the Roses, the English collapse at the end of the Hundred Years War weakened public support for Henry VI and his government and initiated the feud between Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, and Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, a rivalry that became an important factor in the eventual rise of civil war. As king’s lieutenant in France when Normandy was lost, Somerset was much blamed for English military failure, especially by York, whom Somerset had replaced in the French command and who lost extensive French estates through what he believed was Somerset’s incompetence. In the 1450s, the bad blood created between the two dukes by the outcome of the Hundred Years War was intensified by the royal favor shown to Somerset and denied to York and by the rival claims of each duke to be Henry’s heir and the chief minister in his government. Out of this feud arose eventually the contending parties in the civil wars.
   Further Reading: Allmand, Christopher, The Hundred Years War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Curry, Anne, The Hundred Years War (New York: Macmillan, 1993); Perroy, Edouard, The Hundred Years War (New York: Capricorn Books, 1965); Seward, Desmond, The Hundred Years War (New York: Atheneum, 1978).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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