England Political: Causes of the Hundred Years War

England Political: Causes of the Hundred Years War

History of England

The Hundred Years War(1337-1453) was waged between England and France. This conflict between the two great western powers at the height of the Middle Ages proved to have long lasting effects that have left their mark on the world today. To understand the factors that caused this war we have to direct our attention nearly three hundred years prior to the outbreak of the conflict. 1066, the Battle of Hastings.
Duke William of Normandy, or William the Conqueror of England as he would come to be known had an enormous influence on Europe. In addition to bringing feudalism to England, changing the language and culture of the native Anglo-Saxons, and starting an immense castle-building project William replaced Anglo-Saxon England with a new kingdom. This new nation, dominated by French masters, was the original cause of the Hundred Years War.

Confused? For several hundred years afterward the Kings of “England” were Normans.

They spoke french. They were technically vassals of the french king. England was basically a source of revenue and a title to give legitimacy to Norman political interests on the continent. Henry I (1100-1135) demonstrated this during his reign when he had his daughter Matilda married to Geoffrey of Anjou, a major political rival of Normandy. In the next generation Anjou would become part of England’s lands.

Henry II (1154-1189)

Henry II (1154-1189) continued the trend through both conquest and marriage. His union with Eleanor added Aquitaine and Gascony to the king’s possessions. Military conquest added Brittany, Ireland, Poitou, and other provinces to his control. By the end of his reign The King of England owned more of France than the French King. These major invasions were the first military conflicts that would develop into the Hundred Years War.

Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199)

Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199), King of England, didn’t speak English. During his reign he spent less than six months in England and that was only to raise money to go on the Third Crusade. In his long absence, King Phillip of France attacked and attempted to conquer a large portion of England’s holdings. Richard returned and was killed in battle a few years later.

French advances continued and England lost a great deal of its former holdings throughout the reign of King John (1199-1216). Henry III (1216-1272) spent a great deal of money and effort in failed attempts to regain England’s former land in France.

Edward I (1272-1307)

Edward I (1272-1307) realized the futility of fruitless conflict with France. He fortified what England had left on the continent and directed effort into conquering Wales and Scotland. Wales was defeated and added to the empire. Scotland however resisted furiously and never truly submitted. Edward is unique in that he is the first Norman King of England to place his focus on the British Isles and their resources rather than the agricultural wealth of french lands. Conquering Wales also introduced the longbow to the English military, a technological advance that would prove critical to their victory in the early years of the Hundred Years War.

King Edward II (1307-1327)

King Edward II (1307-1327) was the most disastrous of all. He tried to extend the proverbial olive branch by offering to marry Isabella, the daughter of the King of France. Tentative peace lasted for a few years while Edward was busy failing to suppress further Scottish rebellions and fighting his own barons. He then got into an argument with the French King over Gascony and sent his wife to negotiate a treaty. Unfortunately, Edward, who had neglected his wife, learned the fury of a woman scorned when she returned to Paris. Isabella allied herself with a man named Roger Mortimer and led an invasion of England. Edward II was eventually imprisoned and forced to abdicate his throne. He was deemed an incompetent ruler for a number of reasons, including having lost Ireland, Scotland, and Gascony. His fourteen year old son, Edward III took the throne of England (though Mortimer and Isabella planned to control him).

READ MORE AT “BRITANNICA”: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-II-king-of-England

Edward III (1327-1377)

Edward III (1327-1377) was the king who launched the Hundred Years War. At the age of seventeen he overthrew Mortimer and suppressed the Scottish rebellions. Edward wanted desperately to recover the lands that his father had lost and restore England’s glory, he also wanted revenge for France helping the Scots to resist his counter invasion.

The direct line of rule in France ended with the death of Phillip III in 1314. His three sons each reigned for a few short years before their own deaths. This led to a dynastic dispute and in a bold move Edward declared himself as the King of both France and England. (claiming that as the daughter of Isabella he was the nephew of the former French King had legitimate rights to the throne). By English interpretation of feudal laws of primogeniture this was completely legal. However, the French said that dynastic rule could not be passed through a woman and Edward’s claim was unfounded. The french championed the next closest relative to the former king.

Edward III had fashioned the perfect reason to go to war and recover all the wealth and power of his ancestors and restore the glory of his line. By winning the Hundred Years Way Edward III hoped to realize his ambition of becoming the monarch of the supreme power in Western Europe. Far greater than Spain or the disparate Holy Roman Empire. A power that would have redefined that nature of the world as we know it today.