One Hundred Years War: (1399-1453)

Rivalry was escalating between the dukes of Burgundy and Orleans for governmental control, and it was heading for an internal battle within France, by two of its powerful houses.

In 1407, Louis duc d’Orleans, brother to King Charles VI of France was assassinated by the Duke of Burgundy, which led to civil war between Burgundian partisans of the Duke of Burgundy and Armagnac partisans of the Duke of Orleans.

In 1413, the Armagnacs gained control of Paris, and expelled from the city, those loyal to the Burgundians.

Feuding factions were tearing apart the French realm, to the backdrop of the Hundred Years War.  Sooner or later, England would seize the opportunity and attack France.

King Henry IV died in 1413, to be succeeded by his son Henry of Monmouth, King Henry V of England.  From the start of his reign, he was determined to attack France.

He demanded of France, that Aquitaine should be returned to English control, and the long forgotten arrears of King John’s ransom be paid.  He kept up his demands, until negotiations reached a stale mate, as France was unwilling to comply with his demands.  As the negotiations had been taking place, he had been equipping an army to do battle.

On the 11th August 1415, Henry’s fleet slipped slowly into the English Channel, heading southwards from the Hampshire coast.  On the 14th August, the fleet dropped anchor at Chef de Caux, on the north shore of the Seine estuary, a few miles from Honfleur.  He laid siege to the Norman port of Harfleur, who surrendered on the 22nd September.

Henry’s forces left Harfleur on the 8th October and marched to Calais.  Henry sent word, ordering the Governor of the town; Sir William Bardolph to take his forces to the crossing across the Somme and hold it.  At the crossing, Bardolph and his army was nowhere to be seen, instead French troops were waiting.

Henry marched south-east along the river’s left bank, and the French blocked any attempt to cross.

On the 24th October, as the English army passed through Frevent, some 30 miles from Calais and safety, his scouts reported, the French had amassed a large army and blocked the road ahead.

Henry knew there was only one action that could be taken, in reply to this information.

On the 25th October 1415, the “Battle of Agincourt” took place, as English forces took up position in three divisions; commanded by Lord Camoys on the right, the Duke of York in the centre and Sir Thomas Erpingham on the left.

The Constable of France, led the French line, with the second line led by the Dukes of Bar and d’Alencon with the Counts of Merle and Falconberg bringing up the rear.

Henry’s forces made the first move as banners advanced to the sound of trumpets.  As arrow range was reached, archers prepared, and on the King’s order a barrage of arrows, flew across the skyline, killing hundreds of French troops.

The battle raged, along the English line, archers abandoned their bows and joined knights and men-at-arms in hand to hand combat against the French.  In less than two hours, the battle was an English victory… and remnants of the French army vacated the battlefield.

The English army consisted of 5,000 knights, men-at-arms and archers.  The French army consisted of some 30,000 knights, men-at-arms and crossbowmen, of which 8,000 are believed to have died.

The Battle of Agincourt wiped out three French dukes, the Constable of France, nine Counts, and ninety Lords and close to 5,000 knights.  In response England’s losses were few; Edward, the Duke of York and 500 knights, men-at-arms and archers.

In 1417, Henry started a new campaign against France, the conquest of previously controlled English lands in France.  In January 1419, Rouen the Norman capital fell, which opened the way to Paris.

On the 10th September 1419, Duke John of Burgundy was assassinated in revenge for the murder of Louis duc d’Orleans, as the Burgundian faction joined forces with the English.

King Henry V of England, contracted fever at Meaux and died on the 31st August 1422, and was succeeded by his son; Henry VI.  Henry V’s brother, Duke John of Bedford, became Regent to the ten month old King.

King Charles VI of France died on the 21st October 1422, and the dauphin Charles, claimed the throne of France as King Charles VII.  Yet he didn’t have the backing of the people of France, and was only acknowledged as King by the people of Southern France.

The Duke of Bedford acting as King’s Regent, expanded English lands in France, as Maine came under English control.

The final phase of the Hundred Years War began with the birth of a French peasant girl, back in 1412: Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc).  In 1425 she claimed she heard voices from God; her mission in life was to save France by expelling their enemies… the English!

King Henry V of England claimed his right to the French throne and following their rejection, invaded France in August 1415 and went on to defeat Armagnac’s army at the “Battle of Agincourt” on the 25th October 1415.

Henry V conquered much of northern France in 1417, gaining support from Duke Philip III of Burgundy, for he agreed Henry V had a legal claim to the French throne.

In 1428 Joan of Arc met with Duke Charles after many rejections at his palace in Chinon.  She promised him, if he gave her an army she would turn round the war in his favour, and she would see him take his rightful place and crowned King of France at Reims.  There was much opposition to such an idea from loyal supporters of Charles, but he gave her a chance … one wonders what he saw in her.

In March of 1429, Joan of Arc led her army against the English as they were attacking Orlean’s.  She was dressed in white armour upon a white horse carrying a banner with the picture of “Our Saviour” holding the world with two angels at the sides on a white background covered with gold fleurs-de-lis.

Joan was to lead several assaults against the Anglo-Burgundian forces expelling them from their fortress, and forcing their retreat across the Loire River.  As her victories mounted, so did her fame, spread across France.

Joan kept her promise as Duke Charles was crowned King Charles VII of France in July 1429 at Reims.

After Joan’s capture in 1430 at the Battle of Compiegne, and burnt at the stake on charges of heresy.  Philip, the Duke of Burgundy renounced his English alliance at the Congress at Arras.  He accepted Charles VII as the true King of France, dealing a mortal blow to the English.

In 1444, King Henry VI of England married the French princess Margaret of Anjou, in an arranged marriage, part of an agreement towards peace.

In 1449, English warriors laid siege and looted Fougeres in Brittany.  In reply Charles VII, felt he was no longer bound by the terms of the peace treaty.

French forces captured Normandy and Gascony from the English during 1449-1451.  In 1452, a pro-English faction in Bordeaux called upon the English for assistance.  John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury re-took Bordeaux.  On the 17th July 1453, John Talbot’s English force, proved no match against the French troops at Castillon, where they were defeated and Talbot died on the battlefield.

The final straw came on the 19th October 1453, when Bordeaux fell to the French.  England still had control of Calais, and it remained so up until 1558.  Up until the 1st January 1801, the title King of France was claimed by the English.

Effectively the “Hundred Years War” came to an end in 1453, and England was shocked by the loss of its overseas empire…

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