The Actual Cause Of The Hundred Years War

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The actual cause of the war was between France and England over who was the heir to the throne. (Which Throne?) After the death of France’s Charles lV, both France and England claimed the crown because Charles had left no direct successor. Edward lll, King of England, asserted that he in fact had a superior claim to the throne because his mother was Philip the Fair’s daughter. This then, was one of the primary causes of the Hundred Years’ War. The economic conflict was clearly another cause of this great war. England had major financial interest in the wool industry in Flanders and France supported the Scots in their wars against England. England had much better troops, a more efficient government and thousands of English soldiers were more than willing to campaign in France, and get rich in the process.

The Hundred Years War is broken up into three stages or phases. The first lasted until the signature of the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360(1337-1360). The second phase lasted from 1360-1413 when Henry V became king, and the third phase lasted from 1413-1453. The first phase was marked by English victories in France and alliances with French feudal lords. The second phase was marked by English inactivity and French raids keeping The English on the defensive. The third phase began with major and dramatic English victories but ended in defeat and England’s nearly complete withdrawal from France. The entire war is just a series of on and off warfare against France and England, from(1337-1453). The war was nothing more than sieges, raids, sea and land battles, and long periods truce. The counts of Flanders were vassals to the king of France, but the English saw Flanders as their major center for their foreign trade due to its cloth manufacture. The English also controlled southern France after Eleanor of Aquitaine married King Henry ll in the mid 12th century. Therefore the French were allies with the Scots to control a northern stronghold, called the “Auld Alliance”. The two countries also fought over the English channel and the north sea. In 1337, King Phillip Vl of France moved his troops to the English control of Aquitaine. In 1340, the English won a major naval victory at Sluys. King Edward lll then declared himself King of France. In 1346, the English forces defeated the French at Crecy, and then in 1347, the English captured Calais. In 1350, John ll became King of France after Philip Vl died. In 1356 when the English defeated the French at Poitiers King John ll was captured. He died in 1346. IN 1360, the Treaty of Bretigny was signed, giving the English complete control of Aquitaine and ending the first phase of the long war. As the war dragged on the English lost land and money causing the English peasants to revolt in 1381. After the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, King Henry V was recognized as heir to the French throne. Then in 1427 after both Henry V and Charles V died Henry Vl was heir to the throne despite being an infant. After the war, the English lost focus on controlling continental territory and began to strengthen its maritime supremacy. The most significant result was that the nobility and secular leaders were busy fighting each other at a time when western Europe desperately needed leadership. Each side had their advantages. Henry V was a master of siege warfare, allowing for major English victories. Towns ere encircled by protective forts. Attack methods included blockades, digging tunnels, and catapults used to hurl rocks, flaming arrows, and filth into the air. The siege cannon, used after 1400, led to the end of the castle and fort. Sea battles involved 20-50 castle like ships. Generally, the English won on the sea. French had a population around 16,000,000 far richer and populous than England. At one point, the French fielded an army of over 50,000 compared to the Britain’s who maybe mustered up 32,000. In almost every engagement the English were outnumbered. Britain’s most successful strategies were avoiding pitched battles, engaging in quick, profitable raids, steal what you can and destroy everything else. The use of the English defensive positions was the use of the longbow. The arrows could penetrate an inch of wood or the armor of a Knight at 200 yards. A longbow could also be fired more rapidly, and was affective than a crossbow. Henry landed in Normandy intending on taking Calais, having 2,000 infantry and 6,000 archers and some primitive cannon. His drive was blocked by many heavily armored French knight who obviously forgot the lessons of Crecy and Poitiers. The war brought about dissimilar results for the French and the English. Both countries saw an increase in their monarchial rule, it was due to different reasons. England couldn’t hold on in France and effectively rule the burden was too great. Unlike France, over the course of the war England also experienced a strengthening of the parliament. The French on the other hand experienced a increase in monarchial authority due to the people’s recognition and complaints with the feudal system’s shortcomings, including its limitations in fighting and protection of the serfs. The eventual expulsion of the English and the consolidation of the kingdom made France one of the greatest counties during this time period.

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