The Hundred Year's War

France in 1337

Philip VI                                                                                         Edward III

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Philip (of Valois) VI was on the throne in France and Edward III in England. Both were claimants to the French throne. Philip had descent through his father, the second son of Philip III. Edward claimed the throne via descent from his grandfather, Philip IV and the first son of Philip III. The daughter of Philip IV, Isabella, married Edward II and their son was Edward III. The French did not recognize a claim based on descent through the female line. This conflict over legitimacy set off the 100 Year's War (which actually lasted longer - until 1453).

In 1337 English holdings in France were minimal. The large one was the Duchy of Guyenne in the SW. There was also an enclave around Ponthieu. Crecy is in this latter region. While Philip VI reigned as king of France, he did not rule over entire territory called the kingdom of France in this map.

At the time of initial succession, Edward pledged fealty as a vassal to Philip, an awkward situation where one king, over a limited range of territory, owed vassal fealty to another king. Froissart describes the script for this meeting between Philip and Edward. " 'The King of England, as Duke of Aquitaine, will put his hands between those of the King of France; and the person who speaks on behalf of the King of France ... shall say .. "You become leigeman to my lord the King of France, as Duke of Acquitaine and peer of France and you promise to bear him faith and loyalty. Say Yes.' "

Fighting didn't start until 1337, when Edward invaded. This was preceded by diplomat jockeying where Philip allied himself with Scotland, bracketing England, and Edward with Flanders, threatening the north. Finally, Philip declared Edward's claim on Guyenne invalid and claimed the territory as part of France.

The following years were characterized by a series of English invasions (extensive raids) that took a heavy toll on non-combatants. A notable English victory during this time was at Sluys, where the English fleet defeated a French fleet that was to be used for an invasion of England. Brittany was brought into the conflict when England and France took different sides in the succession in Brittany following the death of John III.


Seward, The Hundred Year's War.