Hundred Years War

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Chroniques by Jean Froissart - contemporary miniature of the Battle of Auray 1364

The Hundred Years 'War ( French La guerre de Cent Ans , English Hundred Years' War ) is the period from 1337 to 1453, based on the armed Anglo- French conflict that was prevailing at the time and the French civil war of the Armagnacs and Bourguignons ( 1410 to 1419).

The background to the ongoing fighting formed

  1. a feudal dispute over the possessions and the role of the English kings as dukes of Aquitaine in the Kingdom of France,
  2. the subsequent dispute over the succession to the throne in France between the English King Edward III. ( House Plantagenet ) and the French King Philippe VI. ( House Valois ) as well
  3. an intra-French conflict over power and influence between the parties of the Armagnacs and the Bourguignons .

In the end, it was the Valois who emerged victorious from the long struggle.

The Hundred Years' War contributed decisively to the final development of a national consciousness of their own among both the French and the English , as well as to a final splitting of France and England into two separate states . In addition, many technical innovations in warfare were introduced, for example heavy artillery at the Battle of Castillon (1453) , which was the first European field battle to be decided with gunpowder.

Concept history

Historian Henri Martin (1810-1883)
Historian John Richard Green (1837-1883)

The term "Hundred Years' War" was introduced by historians in retrospect and traditionally refers to the period from 1337 to 1453 when English kings tried to enforce their claims to the French throne by force of arms. Nevertheless, this conflict consisted of several phases and individual wars that were only later understood as a single complex.

Even contemporary French chroniclers dated the wars of that time back to the year 1328 and thus indicated the larger context. For example, Eustache Deschamps wrote about the year 1389 in a poem about battles at that time which had lasted since " cinquante-deux ans " (52 years). In the 16th century, too, a connection between the individual fighting was recognized. J. Meyer noted in his Commentaria sive Annales Rerum Flandicarum that the war between England and France lasted over a hundred years with its intervals. But only Jean de Montreuil , in his book Histoire de France , published in 1643, explicitly assumed a single war that lasted from 1337 to 1497. He was later followed by British historians such as David Hume in his History of England (1762) and Henry Hallam in his View of the State of Europe During the Middle Ages (1818), even if they differed from one another with regard to the duration of the conflict.

In France, Professor François Guizot made this approach known from 1828, although the specific term “guerre de cent ans” was a few years older. C. Desmichels used it for the first time in 1823 in his Tableau chronologique de l'Histoire du Moyen Age . The first book with this term as a title was published in 1852 by Théodore Bachelet . Shortly afterwards, in 1855, the historian Henri Martin introduced the term and a comprehensive concept to it in his popular Histoire de France . The term and concept quickly caught on in France. Henri Wallon used it as early as 1864 and later François Guizot himself in his Histoire de France (1873). In the English-speaking world, Edward Freeman has been campaigning for the French term to be adopted since 1869. John Richard Green followed this advice in his Short History of the English People (1874), and in the following years numerous monographs appeared in Great Britain under this title. The Encyclopædia Britannica first recorded it in its 1879 edition.

The term was criticized several times in the 20th century. It was pointed out that he only highlighted the dynastic aspects and a certain phase of Anglo-French relations, which did not differ significantly from the previous development since the Norman conquest of England (1066). Other historians have suggested that the various phases and wars of the conflict are too different to be summarized. It is also a point of criticism and is quite arbitrary if the end of the war is set at 1453. The fall of Bordeaux was in fact not followed by a peace treaty and even after that there were English invasions in 1474, 1488 and 1492, which were in the tradition of the previous conflict. The English crown continued to hold the city of Calais until 1558, while maintaining its claims to the French throne until 1802. As different as the criticism turned out, the different concepts that resulted from it still look different to this day. All they have in common is a general departure from the national approach of the 19th century. As historian Kenneth Fowler pointed out, the history of the war is now viewed as Anglo-French rather than English and French . This is necessary because there was no “England” or “France” as we understand it today before 1337 and the two pre-state structures were closely interwoven. Their separation from each other only arose in the course of the conflict itself.

Background and history

The Anglo-French relationship

The fiefs of the English kings (red) in France at the height of their territorial expansion (around 1173)

In 1066 the Norman Duke William I conquered England and proclaimed himself king there. As a result, the nobles who had come to the country with him formed the new aristocracy in England. For a long time they remained closely linked to their French origins, both culturally and in their self-image; the English language , for example, only gradually gained acceptance among the ruling class from around 1250. In addition, until the beginning of the 13th century, the English aristocracy often still owned some considerable property in France.

Politically, the English kings played a double role. While on the one hand England as sovereign ruled Kingdom and the French king were equal, they also remained dukes and counts in France and were in this role the French king loans legally subordinate. At the height of its territorial expansion (1173), the so-called Angevin Empire ruled the French duchies of Normandy , Aquitaine , Gascony and Brittany as well as the counties of Anjou , Maine and Touraine alongside the Kingdom of England . The sovereign English king was thus at the same time the largest landowner in France and, with the territories there, the most powerful vassal of the French king.

The French royal family of the Capetians always tried to weaken the role of the Anglo-French vassals. In a multitude of partly diplomatic, partly armed conflicts, he gradually succeeded in pushing back the unloved vassal. At the turn of the 13th century a war broke out between the French king Philip II and his English vassal Johann Ohneland . As a result, the counties Touraine and Anjou were lost in 1202, the Duchy of Normandy in 1204 and the county of Maine in 1205. After a dispute about the succession, Brittany also moved noticeably away from England in 1213. All attempts by the English royal family to recapture the lost territories failed in the following years (battles of Roche-aux-Moines and Bouvines ). In 1224 King Louis VIII occupied most of Aquitaine. The English King Henry III. finally recognized the losses in the Treaty of Paris in 1259 . The few remaining areas of Aquitaine were combined with Gascony to form the new Duchy of Guyenne .

Even if the good personal relationships between Edward I and Philip IV initially saw a certain calming down in the following decades , the fundamental contradiction persisted. Under Edward II on the English side and Louis X. , Philip V and finally Charles IV on the French side, the disputes intensified again from 1307. A central question here was the homage that the English king, as Duke of the Guyenne, had to pay to his liege lord, the French king, and which he regarded as an unworthy humiliation. The circulation of English coins with the likeness of the English king in France and the dispute over jurisdiction also weighed heavily on the relationship.

Dispute over the French succession and Scotland

Family relationships

When the last male Capetian and French King Charles IV died in 1328 and left no direct descendants, the question of succession was initially unresolved. According to the asserted Salian inheritance law , which excluded claims to the throne over female descendants, his cousin Philip of Valois raised as Philip VI. from the next branch of the Capetians, the House of Valois , claim to the throne. Because of his ancestry - his mother Isabella was the daughter of Philip IV - King Edward III. of England claims to the crown. This claim was initially rejected because the 15-year-old English king was under the tutelage of his mother and her lover Roger Mortimer , both of whom had a bad reputation in France. Eduard could not gain any significant support among the French pairs for his succession to the throne and remained hopeless as a candidate.

After Eduard had shaken off the reign of his mother and Mortimers in 1330 and ruled independently, he first tried to reach a diplomatic settlement with France regarding the disputes in Gascony. Among other things, there were also considerations of an English participation in a French crusade planned in the coming years to Outremer to recapture Jerusalem . This course of relaxation was suddenly interrupted in 1332 when Edward Balliol landed in Scotland with a private army and crushed the followers of the underage King David II at the Battle of Dupplin Moor . Balliol crowned himself King of Scotland, Eduard recognized him and in the following four years led several armed expeditions with varying degrees of success to stubborn Scotland in order to secure Balliol's rule and his own territorial gains there. The young David II could with the help of Philip VI. flee and found refuge in Château Gaillard in France.

English coat of arms with the three lions (until 1340)
English coat of arms, the lions are now combined with the French lilies (from 1340)

Because of the so-called Auld Alliance , a military assistance agreement between France and Scotland, Philip VI saw himself. duty to intervene. After some diplomatic offers had not found any echo with Edward, Philip equipped a fleet and landing troops in 1336 in order to be able to intervene armed directly in Scotland. Due to a lack of money, the grandiose plans could not be realized, and so from 1337 the ships that had already been signed on were used instead for sporadic raids on English merchant ships and coastal cities. At this point in time, the firm conviction in England prevailed that France was soon planning an invasion of southern England. Eduard left Scotland, began building an English navy, and made plans to invade France.

In addition to these realpolitical disputes, a diplomatic affair became increasingly important. Robert von Artois , formerly a close advisor to the French king, had got into an argument with Philip and the House of Burgundy over the fact that he had been passed over in the succession of the County of Artois . He was forced to emigrate and finally came to the English court in 1334, where he was accepted. From 1336 on, against the background of increasing tensions between France and England, Philip demanded the extradition of Roberts. In December, finally, an order was issued to the Seneschal of Gascony to surrender Robert to the French king. When Edward, who was addressed by the French king as his vassal in this matter, did not comply with the request, orders were issued to confiscate his French goods by force of arms, for which on April 30, 1337 the arrière-ban , i.e. the mobilization of France to war, was declared . About a year later, probably in May 1338, Bishop Henry Burghersh, on behalf of Edward, brought the French king a letter in which he declared his claim to the French throne to Philip. The public proclamation of Edward as "King of France" took place on January 26, 1340.

This outlined the political guidelines of both parties in the approaching war: the French king, as he understood it, took action against an insubordinate vassal, while the English king proclaimed only to enforce his legitimate claim to the French throne against an illegitimate usurper . In the Hundred Years' War that followed, both views were apparently irreconcilable.

First phase 1337-1386

In January 1340 Edward III appointed himself. himself to the French king and invaded France with his troops. Although his army was outnumbered by the French, he defeated the French in the Battle of Crécy (1346), because he led around 8,000 long archers with him, which he used tactically by dismounting his knights from their horses and between the archers posed. The following year, Calais was captured after an eleven month siege .

In 1355 the war flared up again when Edward III's eldest son, Edward of Woodstock , known long after his death as the Black Prince, landed near Bordeaux . Under his leadership, the English won their second great victory in September 1356 in the battle of Maupertuis near Poitiers and King John II , who in 1350 Philip VI. had succeeded to the throne.

In 1360, the Peace of Brétigny ended the first phase of the war. Edward III. declared his renunciation of the French claims to the throne in exchange for a high ransom for Johann and the cession of Guyenne , Gascogne , Poitou and Limousin , which he wanted to take possession of in full sovereignty, without being dependent on the French crown.

But France wanted to regain the lost territories. After it had brought an ally to the throne in Castile, acts of war began again from 1369 under the French King Charles V. In a few years his mercenaries recaptured a large part of the lost territories. With the help of the Castilians they defeated the English fleet at La Rochelle in 1372 , recaptured large parts of Gascon under Bertrand du Guesclin and drove the English garrisons from Normandy and Brittany.

The early death of the heir apparent Edward of Woodstock in 1376 and that of his father Edward III. the following year brought the English actions to a standstill for the time being, since the son of the heir to the throne, who ascended the English throne as Richard II in 1377 , was only ten years old and was subject to a Regency Council. After France had recaptured most of the occupied territories and England's last attempts to turn this situation around with the help of Portugal failed .

In the summer and autumn of 1386 , Philip II of Burgundy , the uncle of the French king, brought together a Burgundian-French army and a fleet of 1,200 ships at the Zeeland town of Schleuse to attempt an invasion of England, but this venture failed. For this purpose a wooden city with numbered wooden parts and the corresponding hinges was prepared. The city should reach a city wall 14 kilometers in length. However, Philip's brother Johann von Berry appeared deliberately late, so that the autumn weather prevented the fleet from leaving and the invasion army then dispersed again.

In the end, the fighting ended in 1386, giving both sides a 28-year break; however, an official peace treaty was not signed until 1396.

Second phase 1415-1435

France 1429 to 1453

After King Richard II's abdication in 1399, Henry IV (1399–1413) and Henry V (1413–1422) were two capable rulers from the House of Lancaster - a younger line of the House of Plantagenet . After the consolidation of power and the reconciliation between the Crown and Parliament, the desire for expansion returned to the central interest of England. Their destination was the rich cities of Flanders and the vast estates of Aquitaine.

France's strength, which was briefly regained by Charles V, melted away under his weak-minded successor, Charles VI. , the sudden death of the Dauphin Ludwig and the bitter fighting between the court parties of the Duke of Orléans ( Armagnacs ) and the Duke of Burgundy ( Bourguignons ). The assassination of both party leaders in 1414 drove the Burgundians into an alliance with England (→ Civil War of the Armagnacs and Bourguignons ).

Heinrich V , great-grandson of Edward III, followed in 1413 . from the House of Lancaster, his father as King of England, and renewed his claim to the French throne. He took advantage of the political situation in France, besieged Harfleur with his troops in 1415 and wanted to conquer Normandy . When Charles d'Albret and French troops approached, Heinrich withdrew in the direction of Calais, but was stopped after clever evasion and forced to fight.

The battle of Agincourt ( French: Azincourt) in a contemporary representation

After heavy rain, the battle of Azincourt took place on the morning of October 25, 1415 . The English were outnumbered (according to the developing patriotic British myth in a ratio of 1: 4, according to more recent findings only in a ratio of 2: 3), since Henry V had already lost a large part of his army during the siege by epidemics. But a poor battle line-up of the French crossbowmen and the rain-soaked ground left the cocky heavy French knights and the artillery stuck in the mud. So the French counterattack was repulsed. The French got into disarray and panic and were eventually struck down by the English longbow archers. In order to have enough men ready for the last half-hearted attack by the scattered French, Heinrich had the majority of the French captured in the meantime unceremoniously killed. The battle ended in catastrophe for France: 5,000 men of the French nobility and knighthood had died, and a further 1,000 were taken prisoner. The English only suffered losses of about 100 men.

Henry V continued his campaign of conquest in 1417, during which he brought large parts of northern France under English rule. In Paris, the Bourguignons invaded and took control of the city. When King Charles VI. and his wife Isabeau fell into the power of the Burgundians in 1418, the last 16-year-old heir to the throne, later Charles VII , fled the city to southern France and allied with the Armagnacs.

In the Treaty of Troyes 1420 Isabeau declared for Charles VI. finally her son, Karl the Dauphin, for illegitimate and thus excluded him from the line of succession. Heinrich V was appointed as heir. He died surprisingly in August 1422, Charles VI. almost two months later. The French then no longer recognized the treaty and proclaimed the Dauphin as Charles VII as King of France. The English regent John of Lancaster endeavored to get the recognition of the Treaty of Troyes in the whole kingdom for the one year old Henry VI. enforce.

The English conquered northern France as far as the Loire Line and began in 1428 with the siege of Orléans , the key to southern France and the Dauphin in Bourges. In this desperate situation, the French regained courage with the appearance of a young girl - Joan of Arc . Guided by her divine visions, she convinced the Dauphin that she would lead the French to victory. Their use led to the end of the siege of Orléans by the English and the conquest of Reims , where the kings of France were crowned.

Johanna von Orleans at the coronation of Charles VII ( historical painting by Dominique Ingres , 1854)

In 1429 Charles VII was crowned King of France in Reims. Soon afterwards, under the influence of the Peace Party at court, peace treaties were concluded with Philip the Good of Burgundy. However, Philipp used this to create reinforcements in Paris . When the attack on Paris finally took place, the French were repulsed with heavy losses. It became clear to Karl and his advisors that the Anglo-Burgundian alliance was too strong and had to be broken.

Charles VII prohibited Johanna von Orléans from any further military action in order not to jeopardize the ongoing negotiations with the Burgundians. Johanna then went on her own against the occupiers. Karl got rid of them by betraying Compiègne ; she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English for an impressive 10,000 francs. In the ensuing inquisition trial, Johanna was accused of making a pact with the devil, wearing men's clothes and a short haircut. In the end she was found guilty of heresy and burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431 .

Their martyrdom strengthened Charles VII and intimidated the Burgundians. Finally, through the mediation of Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Basel in the Treaty of Arras (1435), Charles VII finally reached an understanding and the solution of Burgundy from England.

Third phase 1436-1453

France after the end of the Hundred Years War

But even with Johanna's death, the English could no longer avert defeat in the Hundred Years' War. Henry VI. was crowned King of France in Paris that same year, but this did not have nearly the same political effect as Charles' coronation in Reims .

After the Duke of Burgundy abandoned the alliance with England in 1435, the French were on the advance. Heinrich VI, who came of age since 1436, but was easily influenced. of England could do nothing to counter this. From 1436 to 1441 the Île-de-France was conquered , despite the French aristocratic revolt of the Praguerie under one of the most important French generals and diplomats, Jean de Dunois . In 1437 Charles VII - the victorious - moved into the capital Paris. This was followed by French forays into south-west France (1442) and Normandy (1443), which after the armistice of 1444 was finally lost to France in 1449/50.

The inability of the English to act resulted from the exile and murder of the king's most important advisor by parliament, the uprising in 1451 and the 1452 attempted coup of the Duke of York. In 1453 the king's health collapsed. The British, concerned about their bridgehead in Calais, launched a counter-offensive, which ended with the defeat and death of the English military leader John Talbot at Castillon . Bordeaux was conquered by the French in 1453.

With this victory almost all of the English-ruled territories on the mainland fell back to France, only Calais remained in English possession until 1558. The end of the Hundred Years' War had brought back large numbers of unemployed mercenaries to England, which for the next 31 years sank in the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York. Nevertheless, the English kings gave up their claim to the French crown, which they always had in their title, only during the coalition wars against revolutionary France at the beginning of the 19th century.


  • A detailed list of the sources (narrative and documents, files, etc.) can be found in the bibliography in Jonathan Sumption ( The Hundred Years War , Volume 1ff., London 1990ff.).
  • Jean Froissart : Chroniques de France, d'Angleterre, d'Ecosse, de Bretagne, de Gascogne, de Flandre et lieux circonvoisinsan (created around 1370–1405 and not always reliable)


  • Christopher T. Allmand: The Hundred Years War. England and France at War c.1300 - c.1450. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1988, ISBN 978-0-521-31923-2
  • C.A. J. Armstrong: England, France and Burgundy in the Fifteenth Century. Hambledon Continuum, London 1983, ISBN 978-0-907628-13-2 .
  • Philippe Contamine : Hundred Years War . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 5, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-7608-8905-0 , Sp. 215-218.
  • Philippe Contamine: La guerre de cent ans. 9th edition. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris 2010, ISBN 978-2-13-058322-6 .
  • Philippe Contamine: La vie quotidienne pendant la guerre de cent ans. France e Angleterre (XIVe siècle). Hachette, Paris 1976.
  • Philippe Contamine et al. a. (Ed.): Guerre et société en France, en Angleterre et en Bourgogne, XIVe et XVe siècle. Université Lille 3 Charles-de-Gaulle, Lille 1991, ISBN 2-905637-11-0
  • Anne Curry: The Hundred Years War. 1337-1453. Osprey Publishing, Elms Court 2002, ISBN 1-84176-269-5 .
  • Anne Curry and Michael Hughes (Eds.): Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War. 2nd Edition. Boydell & Brewer Inc, Woodbridge 1999, ISBN 0-85115-755-6 .
  • Anne Curry: The Hundred Years War (1337-1453). WBG, Darmstadt 2012, ISBN 978-3-534-25469-9 .
  • Joachim Ehlers : The Hundred Years War. Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-56275-4 .
  • Jean Favier : La guerre de cent ans. Fayard, Paris 1980, ISBN 978-2-213-00898-1 .
  • Kenneth Fowler: The age of Plantagenet and Valois - The struggle for supremacy 1328-1498. Elek Ltd, Bergamo 1967, ISBN 978-0-236-30832-3 .
  • Gerald Harriss: Shaping the Nation. England 1360-1461. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, ISBN 0-19-822816-3 .
  • Desmond Seward: The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453. Penguin, London / New York 1999, ISBN 978-0-14-028361-7 .
  • Jonathan Sumption : The Hundred Years War. Volume 1: Trial by Battle. Faber and Faber Limited, London 1990, ISBN 0-571-20095-8 . [comprehensive and current presentation; a total of 5 volumes are planned]
  • Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 2: Trial by Fire. Faber and Faber Limited, London 1999, ISBN 0-571-20737-5 .
  • Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 3: Divided Houses. Faber and Faber Limited, London 2009, ISBN 978-0-571-13897-5 .
  • Jonathan Sumption: The Hundred Years War. Volume 4: Cursed Kings. Faber and Faber Limited, London 2015, ISBN 978-0-8122-4799-2 .
  • Jean Verdon: Les Françaises pendant la guerre de cent ans (début du XIVe siècle-milieu du XVe siècle). Perrin, Paris 1990, ISBN 2-262-00841-8 .

Web links

Commons : Hundred Years War  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. For examples see Philippe Contamine: La guerre de Cent ans. Paris 1968, p. 5f
  2. Kenneth Fowler: The Age of Plantagenet and Valois - The Struggle for Supremacy 1328–1498 , Bergamo 1967, p. 13
  3. ^ Philippe Contamine: La guerre de Cent ans , Pais 1968, p. 5, fn. 1.
  4. Kenneth Fowler: The age of Plantagenet and Valois - The struggle for supremacy 1328-1498 , Bergamo 1967, pp. 13f
  5. Kenneth Fowler: The age of Plantagenet and Valois - The struggle for supremacy 1328–1498 , Bergamo 1967, p. 14
  6. Due to a decree, French subjects could address themselves directly to the Paris Parliament in a legal dispute with the princely authorities , whereby the French king became supreme court lord and was able to judge directly in the territory of a vassal. It was not uncommon for Paris to delay proceedings by the French subjects of the English king or to make “political” decisions, which deliberately undermined his authority and ability to act as Duke of Guyenne.
  7. See Sumption, Volume 1 , Chapters 1–3
  8. See Sumption, Volume 1 , Chapters 4–8
  9. Bart Van Loo , Burgundy, the vanished empire . CH Beck 2020