.. he French army began to flee, while the English army stood strong. England had won the first great land battle of the long war. They had already won control of the English Channel and a few years later, the town of Calais surrendered to them on September 28, 1347. For the next ten years, fighting was slowed.
This was due mainly to the Black Death which killed more than a third of the population. 14 Initially, England feared they would never be able to defend themselves against a French invasion. France had enormous wealth, military prestige and a dominant position in European politics. However, the Battles of Vrecy and Poiters were major victories for England. In both battles, England was greatly outnumbered by France but, the English archers were more effective than the armor-clad French knights. Therefore, the victories were perceived to be granted by god because England was the rightful ruler of France.
As England continued to win the early battles and keep the in France, the military’s feelings of inferiority and insecurity were replaced with self-confidence and optimism. The first phase of The Hundred Years’ War went well for England. Eventually the false sense of prosperity created by the pillaging of the French towns and villages began to surface. Also, the commoners were becoming dissatisfied with the high war expense. The war was a strain on England’s resources and it was beginning to get difficult to pay the soldiers’ wages as well as maintain the garrisons. The English subjects were taxed out and tired of the misappropriation of the war funds by the corrupt royal officials and military commanders.
Moreover, the military began to decline. King Richard II was not a good general. Most of Edward III’s captains were dead or in captivity and the new generation of officers showed little aptitude for war. 15 But King Richard II had to fight France not only for glorious tradition but to save the wine trade with Gascony and the wool trade with Flanders. These resources were needed to help finance the war. However, his campaign ended in retreat. The Gascons were opportunists.
They did not adhere firmly to one lord. Even though they did better under English rule, they were not resistant to the French. Consequently, France gradually gained control of the Channel trade routes. Then King Henry V renewed The Hundred Years’ War with a victory at Agincourt. He was a strong, brilliant military leader and continued to win battles against the French, recapturing the Gascon territory.
16 Also, with the marriage to Charles VI’s daughter, King Henry V achieved the goal of French sovereignty. He became the French regent and upon Charles VI’s death, the King of England would succeed to a dual monarchy. However, when Charles VI died, the King of England was a child. 17 Henry VI was too young and inexperienced to supervise a kingdom and lead an army. As a result, authority did not rest in any one person, but in all of the lords together. This led to English disputes and disunity.
Also, the subjects believed this was the king’s war and the king should not finance the war through taxation but from his own income from Gascony. The maintenance of a dual kingdom was a financial strain and England was far in debt on military wages. In addition, Gascony was very difficult to defend and the unstable economic conditions made it difficult to meet military crises as they arose. Consequently, the English army in Gascony disbanded. 18 When it seemed as if there was no hope for France, a new light appeared for them.
She was Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. Joan of Arc and Charles VII were able to organize France. They invaded Gascony with an overwhelming force and began to capture the English towns along the Norman border without being drawn into a pitched battle. Even after Joan of Arc’s capture and execution by the English and Burgundians, her spirit seemed to inspire the French. As a result, the French offensive spirit was rekindled.
Again, the French outnumbered the English. But this time the French army did not rest, instead they sped aggressively to the next battle. Moreover, the French implemented the use of the cannon-ball. 19 Again, the allegiance of the noble families to England or France was determined by the economic and judicial privileges of their lordships. 20 But their land and goods were confiscated during Charles VII’s invasion. Consequently, the nobles defected to France.
As England continued to lose its control of the South-West, France’s ability to allure the nobility away from England increased. In the past many had mocked the sovereignty of France. But in the political conditions of 1442-53 they were seldom able to resist the bribes, threats, and sanctions employed by a stronger and wealthier monarchy. 21 He who controls the Channel controls, controls the gold. Subsequently, the high rate of the nobility defection to France severely weakened England and ultimately caused its collapse of territory control.
It took over a hundred years and five English kings to win the sovereignty of the French crown and thirty years and one king to loose it. Success in warfare depends on the combination of a king who is a competent military leader, an enthusiastic ruling class prepared to fight and command the armies, and people willing to bear the cost through taxation. For almost a hundred years England had this combination while France did not. The English hated the French and always feared an invasion. Also, the high demand for English would exports created a substantial treasury for King Edward to pay for the war. However, the pendulum swung the other way.
As a result, England may have won the battle, but France won the war. — Bibliography Works Cited Barnie, John. War in Medieval English Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974. Duby, Georges. France in the Middle Ages 987-1460. Paris: Blackwell, 1987.
Hundred Years’ War. Compton’s Online Encyclopedia. 1995. Hutchinson, Harold F. King Henry V. New York: John Day Company, 1967.
Palmer, J.J.N. England, France and Christendom. London: University of North Carolina Press, 1972. Vale, M.G.A. English Gascony 1399-1453.
London: Oxford University Press, 1970. — Notes 1. Palmer, J.J.N., England, France and Christendom. London: University of North Carolina Press, 23. 2. Hundred Years’ War.
Compton’s Online Encyclopedia. 1995. 3. Palmer, 47. 4.
Hundred Years’ War 5. Duby, Georges. France in the Middle Ages 987-1460. Paris: Blackwell, 1987, 274. 6. Hundred Years’ War 7.
Barnie, John. War in Medieval English Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974, 181. 8. Palmer, 120.
9. Hundred Years’ War 10. Barnie, 219. 11. Duby, 233. 12. Hundred Years’ War 13.
Palmer, 161. 14. Hundred Years’ War 15. Barnie, 25. 16. Hutchinson, Harold F.
King Henry V. New York: John Day Company, 1967, 214. 17. Hutchinson, 214. 18. Barnie, 245.
19. Hundred Years’ War 20. Vale, M.G.A. English Gascony 1399-1453. London: Oxford University Press, 1970, 165.
21. Vale, 215. History Essays.