Battles involving England - Hundred Years War

Famous speeches by William Shakespeare about the Hundred Years War

The Hundred Years War lasted from 1337 to 1453. The Norman kings of England had, since William the Conqueror, always had lands in France as well as England. The Plantagenet kings started from Henry II, who inherited the English throne from his mother. However, his father was Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, and he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, so he was a French lord as well as an English king. Much of this French land was lost in various wars with the French.

In 1328, Charles IV of France died, leaving no obvious successor. Edward III of England was the closest male relative (via a female link), and by English law should inherit his throne. But the French did not want a foreigner to become their king, and said that by ancient Salic law the inheritance must pass through the male line only, so they backed Philip VI, of the House of Valois. This led to war. It was not simply a war between the English and the French, as the English were also fighting the Scots in the second war of Scottish Independence. The French were also divided among themselves, with some parts of France fighting on the English side, or changing allegiance from time to time.

Battle of Crécy 1346 (location)

At first Edward III was unsucessful, but the Battle of Crécy was a victory for the English, perhaps because the English used long bows rather than crossbows (see right).

Battle of Poitiers 1356 (location)

In 1348, the Black Death swept across Europe. By 1356, England had recovered financial from this, and the Black Prince, son of Edward III, invaded France again, and defeated France at the Battle of Poitiers. In fact, the French king, John II, was captured and had to be ransomed. There was peace for a few years, but then war broke out again, and the French took back much territory. There were many problems in England. The Black Prince died, Edward III became too old to fight, and then also died. The next king, Richard II was first too young to reign. Then there was the Peasants' Revolt. He became unpopular, and was eventually replaced by Henry IV. Henry had to keep control of England, and his reign was too short to get involved in French wars. His son, however, was a different matter.

Battle of Agincourt 1415 (location)

In 1415, Henry V invaded France and defeated the army of Charles VI of France at the Battle of Agincourt, where again the English longbows were very effective against the French cavalry. Henry V married the daughter of Charles VI. However, he died in 1422, when his son became Henry VI at less than a year old.

Battle of Crécy, from a 15th-century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart's Chronicles
Battle of Crécy, from a 15th-century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart's Chronicles

Siege of Orléans 1428-1429 (location)

Joan of Arc was a peasant girl, who said that she heard visions from God telling her to remove the English from France. In 1428, she persuaded the Dauphin, or future French king, Charles VII, to send her to attack the English. who were besieging Orléans. She inspired the French to drive off the English, and went on to other victories. She was captured by the English, and was burnt as a heretic. The French continued to succeed against the English, until eventually the English only held Calais. This was finally lost in the reign of Mary, in 1558.

From Henry V Act 3 Scene 1

France. Before Harfleur

King Henry V: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

From Henry V Act 4 Scene 3

The English camp at Agincourt

Westmoreland: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
King Henry V: What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

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