Most people today are aware that the Hundred Year’s War between England and France in the fourteenth and fifteenth century actually lasted 116 years. This was it not the only example of a war that lasted this long in Europe, so my first question when receiving the challenge for this month: the Hundred Year’s War, was which one. Because the Norwegian Civil Was or War of succession in the Twelfth and thirteenth century did also last more than 100 years, but enough about my madness, let’s have a look at this 116 year-long war between England and France. This post will therefore look at the reasons for the war, and attempt to see if it was all worth it.
The Hundred Year’s War has its roots in the complex family and power relationships that existed between the European Ruling classes In the middle ages. The English king at the start of the war, help lands both in England(as king) but also I France where he was a magnate, but being the king in one kingdom and a duke in another is a tricky task to negotiate. Especially when it is your cousin that is the king of France. When Edward III in 1337 refused to pay homage to his cousin the French King Phillip VI, the conflict broke out, Phillip responded with confiscating the English lands in Aquitaine, after all one cannot be an efficient ruler if you have a magnate that have large territories in your kingdom refuses to recognise you as king. Edward’s response was reasonable, especially as both him and Phillip were both descendent from the previous king of France, and both had an ‘equal’ claim to the crown. Edward proclaimed himself king of France and launched an attempt to retake the lost territories in France. [Imagine seeing this argument on Facebook, and the following war as well, it would not look pretty, but so fun and enlightening to read.]
The vital importance of the French lands for the English economy was one of the key reasons why this conflict grew so big to start with. The Duchy of Aquitaine produced more revenue for Edward each year than the English taxes, it is therefore understandable that the Edward would go to such lengths to protect his income.
During the years of the war, it developed from a personal and economical conflict to a war about the French crown. The English and French would continue to fight over the lands, and produce many fabled battles such as Crecy, Agincourt and the siege of Orleans. At the end of the war, England was only left with Calais, and all other territories were lost to the French.
So was it all worth it? If we compare the original intentions and motivations with the amount of men, land and money lost during this war then the answer is no. However, the Hundred Year’s War have become a symbol of European history, and had a huge impact on the national identity of both countries through Agincourt and Joan of Arc. So in the sense that the war was meant to develop the nations of France and England, then I would have to say that the results of the war provided the following generations with material that could be fashioned into moments of National pride. But we still need to remember, that just like any other war: the conflict is never worth the loss of human lives, nor the waste of money.