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Useful Notes / The Hundred Years War

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Battle of Castillon (1453) - John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury is seen falling from his wounded horse.

"(The) war was called the Hundred Years' War, because the troops signed on for a hundred years or the duration."

The Hundred Years War (in French, La Guerre de Cent Ans) was a 116-year period of conflict (of which 79 were active periods of war) between The House of Plantagenet who ruled England, Ireland, Wales and much of French territory, and France's House of Valois, who owned what was the remainder of the lands. Traditionally set between 1337 and 1453, although the peace was really acknowledged only with the Treaty of Picquigny (1475), in which Louis XI bought off the Yorkist king Edward IV to abstain from his plans to renew the war in France.

The conflict was a large-scale Succession Crisis, which came about after the death of the last French Capetian king, Charles IV the Fair. Originally Edward III grudgingly accepted the succession of Philippe VI of Valois, paying homage to him in 1329 and 1331 as feudal overlord for Aquitaine (Guyenne), England's main source of salt and Bordeaux wine. (The English have always loved their claret.) However, when Philippe confiscated Guyenne in 1337, Edward reacted by claiming the French throne for himself (by descent through the female line he was more closely related to Charles IV than Philippe VI was) and adding the arms of the Kingdom of France to those of England. (This claim and its heraldic manifestation were not renounced until the treaty of Amiens in 1802, a decade after France ceased being a kingdom). Because in the early phase of the war the duchy of Guyenne was the main bone of contention, some historians say that it actually began in 1294, when Philippe IV the Fair of France confiscated the duchy for the first time (he had to give it back to Edward I in 1297), leading to an uneasy peace, during which the English burned and razed a newly erected French fortress in 1323.


The war was split into multiple periods and offshoots, and saw knights from both sides make a name for themselves, including England's Prince Edward, aka The Black Prince, and later France's Joan of Arc, as well as many major battles, including Crécy, Sluys, Agincourt, Orléans, Patay and Castillon. The conflict also saw multiple awesome moments (some usually involving the aforementioned Black Prince or Jeanne d'Arc).

As feudal levies were being replaced by professional soldiers and advances in military technology (the increasing coverage of plate armor, more and bigger cannons, etc.) necessitated ever larger expenses for the monarchs, the Hundred Years' War was probably the first European war in which financiers, such as Jacques Coeur on the French side, played a crucial part. In 1340 the debts incurred by Edward III caused the bankruptcy of a number of important banks in Florence. While the French gradually developed a more efficient system of regular taxation, the English throughout the war tended to run short of cash despite windfalls such as the three million écus paid out as ransom for King Jean II of France, captured in the battle of Poitiers, mostly because the English had got it into their heads that taxation required the consent of Parliament, and any attempt by the King to do otherwise would be political suicide.


In turn, the increasing necessity for armies representing/encompassing the whole of the English kingdom—i.e. the foundations of the idea of a 'national' army—also increased pressures and tensions between kings (who would want armies loyal personally to them, and not to their barons) as well as the barons/nobility (who would prefer the status quo—and the soft power/leverage this gives them over their king). This tension would eventually give rise to what is called bastard feudalism. Furthermore, the English Kings' increasing desire to see tax revenues as good as their French counterpart became quite important about 200 years after the end of the war.

The war ended with the majority of the English being forced out of France. However, over 100 years of war, pillaging, epidemics and famine had reduced France to a third of its pre-war population. Meanwhile, England lost half of its pre-war population and all its holdings on the continent save for Calais, becoming an island nation again for the first time since before the Norman Invasion, which affected its outlook and development for the rest of the millennium. But first, it had to deal with the Wars of the Roses; the English defeats on the continent contributed in many ways to the outbreak of this civil war.

The war also had a cultural impact on the development of The Renaissance, because France went into decline after the war, giving way to the rise of Italy and Flanders. Technically, the peace treaty signed after the Agincourt campaign in 1415 was the kickstarter, because the English and Burgundian courts all brought their musicians with them - and many interesting new ideas were discussed. Some influential composers of the century were also present there at a young and formative age.

Tropes as portrayed in fiction:

  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The less than pleasant portrayal of Jeanne d'Arc in Shakespeare's Henry VI.
  • Written by the Winners: Inverted. Save for Jeanne d'Arc's story, one may forget France actually won the war, given the only things people seem to remember are crippling defeats at Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt and generally France's most demeaning and humiliating moments. Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare! On the other hand, one may also forget that English failures at the tail end helped bring about a disaster on their own soil: the Wars Of The Roses.

Works about the Hundred Years War include :

Anime and Manga

  • Hetalia: Axis Powers has a brief moment showing Joan of Arc fighting alongside France against England. France cared about her and seemed to be filled with regret after her death (until he meets and befriends a young girl named Lisa... who is implied to be Joan's reincarnation).
  • Maria the Virgin Witch shows the life of a witch who uses her powers and those of a succubus to "calm down" French and English soldiers because she doesn't want to see a battlefield near her home.
  • The Puella Magi Madoka Magica spinoff Puella Magi Tart Magica: The Legend of "Jeanne D'Arc" has Joan as one of the magical girls. The series proper includes a cameo of Joan when she's about to be burned at the stake, implying that she's one of the girls that Madoka herself spirited away to a sort-of Heaven to save them from becoming Witches.


  • Too many statues and paintings of Joan of Arc to mention.
  • Rodin's "Six Burghers of Calais".


  • Crécy, the 2007 graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Raulo Cáceres, in which the victors of "England's greatest battle" are the good guys, with a little social romanticism (plucky British working-class heroes laying low the snooty Frenchy aristocrats) thrown in.


  • The 1944 and 1989 film adaptations of Shakespeare's Henry V (and by extension, the 2012 adaptation of Henry V in The Hollow Crown), all climaxing in the Battle of Agincourt
  • Jeanne d'Arc (1900) by Georges Méliès - silent and coloured by hand. Not the first film on the subject of Joan of Arc, there was at least one earlier one.
  • Jeanne la pucelle (1994), a two-part movie directed by Jacques Rivette and starring Sandrine Bonnaire.
  • Joan the Woman (1917), directed by C. B. De Mille.
  • Joan of Arc (1948), directed by Victor Fleming, starring Ingrid Bergman.
  • Giovanna d'Arco al Rogo (Joan of Arc at the Stake, 1954), directed by Roberto Rossellini, also starring Ingrid Bergman.
  • Das Mädchen Johanna (That Girl Joan, 1935), directed by Gustav Ucicky, starring the Austrian actress Angela Sallocker. Notable for being produced by Nazi Germany and including "heavily underlined" political parallels between the June 30 purge and that of Trémoille, and between the Reichstag fire and the execution of Joan in Rouen.
  • The 1999 movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, directed by Luc Besson with Milla Jovovich in the role. Notable for being Darker and Edgier and leaning on Deconstruction at times. A fairly polarizing movie.
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) by Carl Dreyer: a film centered on Joan's trial and death, with Maria Falconetti as Joan. It's one of the better known works of the silent era of cinema, despite almost being lost after the original negative's destruction in a fire.
  • A Knight's Tale is set with the Hundred Years' War as a background, and Prince Edward Plantagenet, the Black Prince, is a supporting character.
  • The Last Duel is set between 1370 and 1386 and features a couple of skirmishes from the war. The plot is about a French knight accusing another of raping his wife, and the Trial by Combat which ensued.


  • The Accursed Kings tells how, on the course of several decades, France and England eventually went to war. The Hundred Years War itself begins in the end of the sixth book and is the setting of the seventh.
  • In A Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse concerns the life of Charles d'Orléans. The Armagnac-Burgundian civil war and Lancastrian phase of the war are written as Grey-and-Gray Morality.
  • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte by Mark Twain: In which the French are the good guys, but just barely. Twain's favorite of his own works.
  • La Pucelle ("The Maid") by Voltaire: An anti-clerical burlesque on Joan of Arc.
  • World Without End is set in the middle of the 14th century and its plot include the war witnessed by English characters.
  • In Die Pilgerin, set in the 1370s, several major characters fight in the war on the side of France and Castile.
  • In the Gothic Horror novel Dove Keeper, one of the main characters is Joan of Arc, and she has been resurrected by her war companion, Gilles de Rais. There are flashbacks of the war.
  • Bernard Cornwell wrote The Grail Quest series and Azincourt both following English archers at different points during the wars.

Live-Action TV


  • Henry V and Henry VI by William Shakespeare: In which the English are the good guys and most of the French characters are portrayed as cowards, effete braggarts, or comic relief. Joan of Arc? In Henry VI Part 1, she is portrayed as an evil actual witch.
  • Die Jungfrau von Orleans ("The Maid of Orléans") by Friedrich Schiller: In which the French are the good guys. This play was written as a rebuttal of Voltaire's La Pucelle and romanticises Joan to a large extent, even having her die in battle instead of being burned at the stake.
  • Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw: In which the French are the good guys, or at least the protagonists. Many of the French are not portrayed that sympathetically (after all, the cast includes Gilles de Rais, the historical Bluebeard); perhaps it is true to say that Shaw adopted Joan's own position of not seeing the English as evil, but wanting English and French to stay in their own countries.
  • Die Bürger von Calais (1913) and Gilles und Jeanne (1923) by German expressionist author Georg Kaiser. The latter play is about Joan of Arc's association with Gilles de Rais.
  • L'Alouette by Jean Anouilh, a play heavily indebted to Shaw's Saint Joan.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • An episode of The Simpsons had Lisa as Joan of Arc. The Hundred Years' War was originally called "Operation Speedy Resolution."
  • Il était une fois... dedicates its thirteenth episode to the Hundred Years War, and finishes with the regular characters mourning for the recently executed Joan of Arc.

Alternative Title(s): Hundred Years War