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Uniting the Kingdoms? 1066-1603

 
   

France

England in the Ascendant, 1337-1422

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In August 1337 Philip VI once again confiscated AquitaineGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window, an event that marks the beginning of the Hundred Years' War. Soon afterwards Edward declared himself king of France, a claim inherited from his mother. The war was a sporadic affair and actually lasted for 116 years. The opening phase (1337-60) saw some of England's most successful military campaigns. At sea, a French fleet was defeated at Sluys in 1340. On land, Edward won a stunning victory at Crécy in 1346.

In 1356 King John of France was captured by the Black Prince, Edward III's eldest son, at Poitiers. This triggered peace negotiations. Under the resulting Treaty of Bretigny (1360), Edward renounced his claims to the French throne in return for outright sovereignty over Gascony and Poitou. The war helped to foster a growing sense of national identity among the English, as shown by both the rising importance of the English language and the creation of the Order of the Garter.

 

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The Battle of Crécy, 26 August 1346

 

Henry VI presenting the Earl of Shrewsbury with the sword of the Constable of France, 1442

In June 1369, the war resumed with the French invasion of GasconyGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window. Over the subsequent years most of the earlier English gains were lost. In 1413-14, however, Henry V demanded the restoration of various territories including Normandy and Anjou. The French refused and Henry invaded Normandy. On 25 October 1415, his army inflicted a crushing defeat at Agincourt.

The fighting continued until 1420, when the Treaty of Troyes provided for the marriage of Henry to Katherine, daughter of Charles VI. Their offspring would succeed jointly to both the English and French thrones. When Henry V died in 1422, therefore, the territorial inheritance he left his infant son saw the English 'empire' at its greatest extent.

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Detail from Henry VI presenting the Earl of Shrewsbury with the sword of the Constable of France, 1442. By permission of the British Library.
 
Detail from Henry VI presenting the Earl of Shrewsbury with the sword of the Constable of France, 1442. By permission of the British Library.