Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

The Hundred Years' War was a prolonged struggle between the rival kingdoms of England and France.

Rather than being one long war, the Hundred Years' War was actually a series of battles on land and sea, sieges, and raids. It grew out of centuries of English-French bickering over the lands which English kings held in France, to which was added in the 1330s an English claim to the French crown itself.

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In 1337, Philip VI of France invaded the French lands of Edward III, king of England, triggering a territorial war between the two kingdoms. Edward responded by claiming the throne of France itself in 1340. The struggle was now for a crown. Both men were related to the previous French king: Edward was his sister's son and Philip was his cousin through the male line. Philip had already challenged Edward by giving support to the Scots in their struggle against English domination.

The conflict saw many significant changes in the ways that countries waged war, and the weapons they used. Improvements in infantry training and equipment proved vital. Archers in particular, who had been trained to use their longbows since youth, used their weapons to devastating effect throughout the campaigns.

Technological innovations such as plate armour, early artillery, and the first firearms frequently made the difference between victory and defeat, or life and death.

Army recruitment was similarly transformed. To wage long campaigns in France, the English developed professional armies raised by contracts between captains and the crown. Both sides sought the support of allies. Soldiers from all over Europe joined the armies. During the intermittent periods of peace, English and French soldiers joined the Great Companies of mercenaries willing to fight for anyone for money.

Leading personalities emerged, including Joan of Arc, Henry V, and Edward 'the Black Prince', names that still resonate in the public mind today.

The 'Lyle' Bacinet
Bacinet (known as the Lyle Bacinet). North Italian, late 14th century (IV.470)

Family tree of the Hundred years' war