The Hundred Years' War: England vs. France

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Instructor: Jessica Elam Miller

Jessica has taught college History and has a Master of Arts in History

The Hundred Years' War was fought between England and France between 1337 and 1453. This lesson explores what led to the conflict and some of the decisive battles of the war.

Why Did England and France Go to War?

The Hundred Years' War was a war between England and France. England and France fought over who would be the king of France. The war lasted from 1337 to 1453.

To understand the beginnings of this war, we can look all the way back to William the Conqueror, who became king of England in 1066. He united England with Normandy in France, and he ruled over both areas. Under a new king, Henry II, the lands that belonged to England and France expanded. By 1327, when England was under the rule of Edward III, England had lost control of most of their French lands. When the French king, Charles IV, died in 1328, he had no male heirs to the kingship. Charles' sister was Isabella, who was the mother of Edward III. Edward thought he should be king of France. However, Charles also had a cousin named Philip who thought he should be king.

The lands owned by Edward in France came under attacks by the French. Edward decided to declare he had a right to the French throne because of his relation to Isabella. In England, inheritance could be gained through the mother or the father's bloodline, but in France, it could only be gained by the father's bloodline.

Major Battles

France and England fought many battles. We will now learn a little about some of the most important battles.

Battle of Crecy

In 1346, the Battle of Crecy occurred near Normandy. Edward had come to France with thousands of soldiers, and the French pursued them. Edward stopped near Normandy, in Crecy, to fight against the French. The French attacked several times, but they were defeated by England - mostly because of English longbowmen.

The first attack from the French came from crossbowmen. They hoped the use of the crossbows would frighten the English soldiers. However, crossbows were slow to shoot. Crossbowmen could shoot only about one or two bolts each minute. Their crossbows were met with English longbowmen.

The use of the longbow was unpopular in most countries because it required so much training. In England, archery was a popular sport. In fact, England didn't allow any other sports to be practiced on Sundays. Often, tournaments were held to encourage people to build archery skills. At any time, the king would have a multitude of people skilled in archery to fight in his army. Longbowmen held an advantage over those using crossbows. Longbows had a longer range and could be loaded faster. The French were not expecting the devastating effect of this weapon.

The French group of crossbowmen was devastated by the longbow archers. As the French cavalry began to charge against the English, the archers continued their attack. Every wave of arrows caused a break in their line. Although the army was led by the French king's son, the king didn't send reinforcements. The prince was wounded but remained alive. He ordered a retreat, signaling an English victory.

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