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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Hundred Years’ War

BattleLore ‘meshes history and fantasy together’, and it seems possible that players may forego the fantasy element altogether and recreate historical battles. Since the press release mentions the Hundred Years’ War, let’s have a quick look at that period in our history:

The Hundred Years’ War in fact lasted 116 years, from 1337 to 1453, and included several periods of peace. The war was a series of raids, sieges and naval battles between England and France as English kings tried to claim the French throne, but it spilled over into Scotland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and the Low Countries. It included such famous battles as Agincourt and characters such as Joan of Arc that have inspired literature for centuries. Eventually, starting with a defeat at Orleans against a force led by Joan, the English were expelled from France.

The Kings of England were descendants of the Norman conquerors and spoke French; and since France was weak and divided, and the English already controlled a good portion in Aquitaine (around Bordeaux in SW France), they wanted to rule France as well. The hostilities broke out when the French king Charles IV died without an heir, and a faction of French nobles, faced with the fact that the English king Edward III was the best claimant for their throne (his mother was French and the dead king’s aunt), crowned a French cousin instead and attacked Edward’s lands in Aquitaine. In 1337 Edward declared war.

The Edwardian War (1337-1360)
Battle of SluysIn 1340 an attacking French fleet was destroyed off Sluys (in modern Netherlands), giving crucial control of the Channel to Edward. In 1346 at Crecy, armoured French knights charging up a hill were massacred, largely by English longbowmen. After a successful siege, Calais became a fortified English stronghold for two centuries. A year later the Black Death began ravaging Europe.

In 1356 Edward’s son, known as the Black Prince, won a great victory at Poitiers and captured the French king John II. He was ransomed and peace declared in 1360, leaving the English in control of large areas of France.

The Caroline War (1369-1389)
By 1369 Charles V of France broke the alliance and began pushing England back with the help of a Breton general named Bertrand du Guesclin, and in 1381 the young Richard II of England was facing a revolt of peasants in his own land. The French, helped by Spanish warships, attacked England in a series of successful raids. However Charles V’s son, Charles VI, went insane, and France plunged into civil war between two factions—the Armagnacs and the Burgundians (who allied with England).

The Lancastrian War (1415-1429)
AgincourtThe English took this opportunity to invade Normandy. In 1415 Henry V found himself outnumbered by the French army at Agincourt, but again the English longbowmen were devastatingly victorious. In 1420 the treaty of Troyes was signed, giving control of northern France to England and the crown to Henry on the French king’s death.

Joan of Arc
In 1429, a peasant woman from Lorraine called Joan of Arc, inspired by visions from God, relieved the English siege of Orleans and led the future Charles VII to his coronation at Rheims in 1429.

Joan of ArcJoan was captured by Burgundian troops, sold to the English and burnt at the stake in 1431. Inspired by her martyrdom, Charles VII managed to drive back the English over the next 25 years, capturing English strongholds until only Calais was left. A formal treaty to end the war was eventually signed in 1475.

The Hundred Years’ War is considered the most significant of all medieval conflicts and an important period in military evolution. The longbow and fixed defensive positions of men-at-arms began to supersede heavy cavalry and force changes in armament, and the Scots inspired the use of lightly armoured cavalry that dismounted to fight. Gunpowder, firearms and cannons were also introduced into warfare. It is said that at the Battle of Crécy, the age of chivalry came to an end.

Main Sources: Wikipedia entry, www.theotherside.co.uk

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