Matilda, born of Norman blood, the daughter of King Henry I and Edith of Scotland, married Geoffrey Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou, and gave birth to a son; Henry.
King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, and jointly they owned the French territories of Anjou and Aquitaine. Henry ruled more land in France, than the French King himself, and he wanted it back.
A weak King, had been England’s downfall, when King John (1199-1216), lost most of England’s French territories. Future King’s desired to take back what was theirs, culminating in the declaration of war in 1337, “The Hundred Years War.”
1348 was a bad year for Europe, as Black Death struck, and millions of lives were lost.
By 1431, England had conquered most of France, in the Hundred Years War, using the “Long Bow.”
England was dealt a deadly blow, when Joan of Arc, led French troops into battle, putting into them, the belief that France could push these invader’s from their lands.
Henry Burghersh, the then Bishop of Lincoln and Councillor to the King of England, was commissioned by King Edward III of England to deliver a document into the hands of; Philip of Valois, the King of France.
Edward claimed that he was the rightful King of France, by way of his mother, Isabella a French Princess and grandson of a French Monarch.
Charles IV of France died leaving no male heirs, and France did not want an English King as their ruler, as such Philip of Valois, distant nephew to the French monarch was appointed.
Edward further announced, it was his intention not to pay homage to the King of France for England’s territories in France. Edward’s challenge – refusing to pay homage, was by far, more audacious, threatening the feudal system, a centuries old system.
14th century Plantagenet King of England, descendants of French princes, held territories in France, descended from William the Duke of Normandy, of Viking decent had won the English crown, by right of conquest at the “Battle of Hastings” in 1066.
Edward became King of England in 1327. And Philip became King of France in 1328. In accordance with France’s feudal customs, Edward III of England paid homage to King Philip of France, at Amiens Cathedral in 1329, for his fiefs, the French territories, under English control.
The English King faced a dilemma, for he held the title’s; Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu, and as such was a member of the French aristocracy. As such it was his duty, to defend the interests of France. However, the issue at hand, Edward as King of England, could not be seen to allow France, to dictate his foreign policies.
France wanted to control sea traffic along its coastline, which led Philip of France to create links with Scotland, England’s hostile neighbour.
England and Scotland had been at war since the 1290’s, and in 1314 Robert the Bruce King of the Scots, had won a humiliating defeat against Edward II at the “Battle of Bannockburn.”
In 1328, Edward III sealed a treaty with the Scots, but he couldn’t resist any chance he had to poke his nose into Scotland’s affairs, after the death of Robert the Bruce in 1329. He removed David II, son of Robert the Bruce, and placed his own puppet King on the Scottish throne, one who was loyal to Edward.
Philip stepped forward offering a safe haven to the exiled King of Scotland.
Edward would have felt uneasy by an alliance of France and Scotland, but that was nothing compared to the large fleet of French ships gathering in the harbours of Normandy. There was only one explanation, King Philip of France was preparing for an attack on England, with the support from the Scots in the north.
In 1337, King Philip VI declares to Edward, that he is confiscating English territories in South-West France, citing England’s failure in its feudal obligations.
An enraged Edward responded, claiming that Philip VI had no right to confiscate his legitimate inheritance in France… those lands belonged to England. The French throne should have been mine by right of inheritance, but I accepted the French Assembly to appoint you… but no longer. “I declare war on France!” I want what is mine.
In the year 1337, the first battle of the “Hundred Years War” took place at Cadsand, where English forces raided the island, leading to an English victory.
On the 26th January 1340, Edward III entered the Flemish City of Ghent, and called upon the townspeople, to recognize him, not only as King of England, but also as King of France.
Edward took the battle to the French: The Naval Battle of Sluys in 1340, saw some two-hundred French, Castilian and Genoese ships, sail across the English Channel… the start of an invasion of England.
On the 23rd June, Edward anchored at Blankenberghe, north of Bruges, where veteran soldiers; Robert Crawley and John Crabbe were put ashore to reconnoitre the French Fleet. The two knights rode to Sluys with a French escort. Upon their return they advised Edward, it be risky, as the French Fleet was located within the harbour.
Edward chose to ignore the advice from his knights…
On the 24th June 1340, King Edward attacked the French Fleet; made up of French, Castilian and Genoese ships inn Sluys harbour. Their ships had been bunched together, in three squadrons, and each squadron was chained together.
The English Fleet bore down on the French early in the day, with the advantages of having the wind, tide and sun behind them. English archers sent hails of arrows from their advantage points; end castles or raised platforms located at the rear of ships, or on the masts.
English ships rammed French vessels, attaching hooks and grappling irons, as men clambered across, to deliver death and destruction at close quarters.
The French were trapped, their ships chained together proved to be their undoing. Some 18,000 French and Genoese were killed, either by arrows, or cut down in hand to hand combat or drowned.
Both French commanders lost their lives. Hugues Quieret was killed as his ship was boarded and Nicolas Behuchet was hanged from the mast of his ship.
Most of the French Fleet had been destroyed or captured, removing danger to English merchant ships in the English Channel.
On the 11th July 1346, King Edward III of England landed at St.Vaast on the northern coast of France. His army consisted of 16,000 knights, men-at-arms, archers and infantry. Their target was Normandy.
On the beaches of France, he knighted his 16 year-old son, Edward the Prince of Wales, who became known as the Black Prince.
At the same time a second English force, landed at Bordeaux on the coast of south-west France. Their target was to invade Aquitaine.
Edward’s forces marched south to Caen, capital of Normandy, taking Raoul, Count of Eu, prisoner, he being the Constable of France and a prized prisoner at that.
They marched forth to the Seine, finding bridges destroyed, slowing up their advancement into France. They marched up the Seine, until they found a bridge which was crossable. The bridge at Poissy, was easily repaired, and English forces crossed.
At the same time, news reached Edward, that King Philip VI of France, was amassing an enormous army, to stop English invaders.
Edward’s forces crossed the Seine, and marched north to the sea, approaching perilously close to Paris and Philips forces. As they marched north King Philip followed closely in their tracks. At low tide, they crossed the mouth of the river, evading pursuing forces. Edward’s escaping forces encamped in the Foret de Crecy on the north bank of the Somme.
On the 26th August 1346, the English forces took position between the villages of Crecy and Wadicourt.
Edward III took the central position, with his son Edward, the Prince of Wales commanding the right flank of forces, along with the Earl of Oxford, Earl of Warwick and Sir John Chandos. The left flank of forces was commanded by the Earl of Northampton.
Each division of forces, had its spearmen to the rear, knights and men-at-arms in the centre and archers to the front.
Philip’s army came north from Abbeyville arriving mid-day on the 26th at Crecy – Wadicourt. French knights advised their King to encamp for the night, and attack on the 27th… Philip agreed.
Many of his army leaders were not waiting, and Philip conceded and so the attack was made that very day, on the afternoon of the 26th.
The role of the Constable of France was to command the Kingdom’s feudal army in battle. They had been thwarted, for the English had taken him prisoner. Crecy lost its authority and experience in battle, the King’s army lacked direction.
The French army was divided into four divisions:
Division One was commanded by Antonio Doria and Carlo Grimaldi.
Division Two was commanded by Duke D’Alencon with blind King John of Bohemia.
Division Three was commanded by D’Alencon’s, King of the Romans and former King of Majorca.
Division Four was commanded by the Duke of Lorraine and the Count of Blois. With King Philip and his forces bringing up the rear guard.
The battle began, late in the afternoon. Suddenly without warning, the heavens opened, and it poured with rain. English archers removed their bow strings, putting them in their jackets to keep them dry. The French crossbowmen did not have that option.
With rain stopped, French crossbowmen fired their arrows, only to discover they fell short of their mark; the rain had loosened their strings, and they were no longer taut. English forces stepped forth, drawing their bowstrings to their ears, as they released their arrows they crossed the skyline and reached their desired target.
The barrage of arrows, inflicted many casualties, forcing retreat by crossbowmen who were trampled down by French knights. French knights and men-at-arms were subjected to a relentless storm of arrows, wave after wave.
The battle continued late into the night, and King Philip abandoned the carnage, riding to the Castle of La Boyes, to seek safety from the English onslaught.
The King of France had left his post, his forces fled the battlefield. Come the next day, Welsh and Irish spearmen walked among the dead and dying, murdering and pillaging the wounded…
The French army was 80,000 in size and lost some 30,000 men to an English army of 16,000 men, who reported minimal losses.
After the battle, Edward the Prince of Wales the Black Prince, adopted the emblem of the King of Bohemia, three white feathers and his motto “Ich Dien” (I serve). Still the emblem of the Prince of Wales.
In 1347 Calais surrendered to Edward’s forces. It was the first battle of the Hundred Years War, which saw the use of artillery.
In the early part of the 14th century, Earth underwent a period of extreme cold weather, as temperature plummeted. What was to come, led to millions of death’s across Europe; “The Black Death Plague.”
There was no control against this disease as it spread from village to village, town to town, and country to country, as thousands died, day by day. The disease was known to travel by sea and land, with no available solution to stop it, in its tracks.
- By the winter of 1347 it had reached Italy, and reports were coming in, it was running rampant through the streets of Rome and Florence.
- January 1348 the plague had reached Marseilles, for the dead were lying where they died; in houses and on the streets.
- It travelled along the Rhine, and reached Germany in 1348 and the Low Countries.
- By the middle of 1348, this disease had struck Paris, Bordeax, Lyon and London.
The Hundred Years War was suspended in 1348, due to high mortality rates amongst the military, caused by the plague, yet it was reconvened once the plague had passed.
The Black Death plague became one of the worst pandemics in human history, killing an estimated two hundred million people between 1347-1350.