One Hundred Years War: The Why?

In 1152, Henry Plantagenet d’Anjou, heir to the English throne, married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the heiress, and took the title; Duke of Aquitaine.  In 1154, Henry ascended to the English throne as King Henry II of England, and started the Plantagenet dynasty.  Henry now held more French land, than the King of France himself.

England’s King John, lost the lands of Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Poitou to France.  Henry III son of King John, acknowledged the surrender of Plantagenet claims to French land in France conquered by Philippe Augustus by way of the 1259 “Treaty of Paris.”

The scene had been set, Isabella of France and Edward the son and heir of King Edward I of England, would marry, according to the “Treaty of Montreuil,” dated June 1299.  These two pawns, it was hoped would bring an end, to battles over England’s territories in France.

Isabella of France married Edward II in 1308, what she hadn’t expected, was three partners in the marriage; Isabella – Edward – Pier Gaveston.  For Edward II and Pier Gaveston were lovers.

In 1314, Edward invaded Scotland, and was defeated at the “Battle of Bannockburn,” and it was not until 1329 that Scotland was recognised as an independent nation.

On the 1st August 1323, condemned prisoner Roger Mortimer of Wigmore was being held at the Tower of London, awaiting his execution.

Gerard d’Alspaye, the Tower’s deputy constable slipped a sleeping draught, into the drinks of the constables and guards.  Hastily Gerard released Mortimer from his cell, leading him to the tower’s southern wall, by way of the castle kitchens.

A rope ladder was dropped over the wall, and each climbed down to a waiting boat, and fellow conspirators rowed them across to the river’s south bank.  They escaped by horseback to the town of Porchester, and within days had crossed by ship to France.

In the March of 1325, Isabella went to France to see her brother; King Charles IV.  Her intended mission was to put an end to land disputes between England and France.  An agreement was made, that England could have Gascony and Ponthieu provided Edward attended the King’s court in Paris and paid homage to him.

It was at this time; Isabella met Roger Mortimer, an escapee from the Tower of London, who whisked her off her feet … she fell in love with him.

In the September of 1325, Edward II listened to advice from his advisors; the Despenser’s, that he should not go to France, but send his son; Prince Edward.  Prior to leaving for France on the 12th September, Prince Edward received the title; “Count of Ponthieu.”

On the 21st September 1325, Prince Edward paid homage to King Charles IV of France, and in return Charles bestowed upon him, the title of “Duke of Aquitaine.”

With her son, Prince Edward safe by her side, Isabella began setting the scene of removing her husband from his position as King Edward II of England.

In November 1325, the English Parliament requested Isabella to return to England… she refused, which incurred the annoyance of her brother: Charles.

Part of a letter written by Isabella to Edward:

“I feel that marriage is a joining of a man and woman holding fast to the practice of a life together.  But someone has come between my husband and myself and is trying to break the bond; I declare that I will not return until this intruder is removed, but discarding my marriage garment, shall put on the robes of widowhood and mourning until I am avenged.”

The Queen stayed in France, taunting the King of England who had so abused her and drawing around her a coalition of disaffected English nobles and bishops.  True to her word, she symbolized her disgust with and alienation from her husband by wearing black robes of mourning and a veil over her face.

In England, Edward was furious, and instructed leading bishops of England to tell Isabella that her absence roused fears of a French invasion of England.  Isabella was unmoved.  She held the heir to the Plantagenet realm, and she was protected by the King of France.  As 1325 drew to a close, Isabella allied herself with the fugitive Roger Mortimer of Wigmore.

Isabella left France and attended the court of her brother; William II, the Count of Hainault, who assisted here with her plans to invade England.  In return Prince Edward, now the Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu, would marry his daughter; Philippa.

In 1326, England prepared for an invasion of their lands, which had been financed partly by money advanced from Philippa’s dowry.

On the 24th September 1326 Isabella and her loyal supporters landed at Orwell in Suffolk.  Isabella’s army advanced on London seeking out Edward, but he had left the Tower of London, with the Despenser’s and the Earl of Winchester.

Isabella was welcomed upon entering Bristol in October.  The Earl of Winchester, who resided in the castle surrendered and was executed on the 27th October 1326 as a traitor.

King Edward II was captured at the “Abbey of Neath” in Wales and imprisoned in Berkeley Castle.  The Despenser’s were captured and put on trial, and Hugh Despenser was executed as a traitor.

Prince Edward, son of Edward II and Isabella Capet, was crowned King Edward III of England on the 29th January 1327, after his father abdicated his position as King of England.

Edward Plantagenet, King Edward III of England, was fourteen at his ascension, and under the tutelage of an adulterous mother; French born Isabella and her ambitious lover Roger Mortimer.  They acted as the young King’s Regents, until he became of age, to rule his kingdom.

Isabella and Roger Mortimer were now rulers of England.  Mortimer, the Earl of March, seized castles, estates and treasures.  His co-conspirator was no better, for Isabella made huge grants for herself and her lover.  Even to the point of using Parliament to pass laws in her favour.

In October 1330, when Edward could take control of his kingdom, Isabella and Mortimer secured themselves in Nottingham Castle, with guards patrolling the castle walls.

They believed they be safe, what they hadn’t bargained on, Edward and a few good men, accessed the castle through a secret passage into Mortimer’s bedroom.

Mortimer’s days of robbing Edward’s kingdom, came to an end, taken to London, charged and found guilty of treason, and hung, drawn and quartered on the 29th November.  His mother Isabella imprisoned in Castle Rising for the remainder of her days.

The Hundred Years War was started by King Edward III of England, who believed he should have ascended as King of France, following the death of Charles IV in 1328.

The Hundred Years War was the final war, going back to the Norman history, when William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy became King of England in 1066, after defeating Harold II at the “Battle of Hastings.”

In 1328, King Charles IV of France died, leaving no male heir to succeed him and continue the Capetian dynasty.

Since the death of Hugh Capet in 996, there has always been a son to carry on the family name.  France didn’t want an English King as ruler, even though Edward was related to Charles.  So it was, the French Assembly awarded the crown of France to a distant cousin; Philip of Valois, who was crowned King Philip VI of France at Reims in 1328.

King Edward III of England, reluctantly accepts the French Assembly decision; making Philip King of France.

The 17 year old Edward III attends Amiens Cathedral in 1329, in response to a summons by Philip VI, in homage for his fiefs (Fiefs – land granted by a lord in return for military service) in France.  The English King Edward III showed contempt by wearing a deep red robe, with embroidered gold leopards upon it, wearing his crown and brandishing a sword at his belt.

Over the next eight years, a gradual change was taking place, England’s symbolic act of defiance to war.

French nobles unhappy with Philip VI as King of France, urged Edward to press his claim, for the throne of France.

In 1337, King Philip VI of France declares that he is confiscating English territories in South-West France, citing England’s failure in feudal obligations.

An enraged Edward responded, claiming that France is his by right of inheritance… So it was, Edward III declared war on France.

On the 26th January 1340, Edward III entered the Flemish city of Ghent, and called upon the towns people to recognize him not only King of England, but also King of France.

This marked the most profound imaging of the Plantagenet Crown… it would spark an exhausting, seemingly endless period of hostility between England and France, that would become known as the “Hundred Years War.”

Plantagenet Kings had depicted their English sovereignty through three lions, commonly known in heraldry as leopards, against a bright red field.  The coat of arms had changed. 

The leopards had been quartered within the ancient arms of the French Crown: golden fleurs-de-lis against a blue field.  French fleurs-de-lis taking pride of place, displayed in the upper left and right corners of the coat of arms.

English and French interests clashed across Europe…  French Kings looked to expand their rights, their borders.  This brought England and France in direct conflict in trading battles and control of shipping routes.

7 thoughts on “One Hundred Years War: The Why?”

  1. My main interest in the Plantagenets has been the Edwards, and their role in revitalizing English culture apart from Norman influence. Have you any book recommendations regarding the Edwards in this block?


    1. I like yourself am interested in the Edwards of the Plantagenets. Especially Edward I and his connection with William Wallace and his bid for Scottish Independence.

      I have three books which answer a lot of questions on the Plantagenets:

      The Plantagenet Chronicles by Elizabeth Hallam, published by Tiger Books:
      ISBN 1-85501-685-0

      The Plantagenets by Ben Hubbard, published by Amber Books
      ISBN 978-178274-649-2

      Another book I find useful is
      The Plantagenet Encyclopedia, by Elizabeth Hallam, published by Tiger Books:
      ISBN 1-85501-732-6

      So hope this helps…

      Liked by 1 person

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