chapter  11
War, peace and national identity in the Hundred Years’ War
Pages 14

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in western Europe were dominated by major conflict which has been known since the 1860s as the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453). The term is convenient, for it implies at a glance that this was a protracted and essentially insoluble struggle. It is also a helpful term in that it does not name its protagonists directly, for we shall see that it was always much more than a simple fight between two monarchies or two peoples, English and French. At its heart was a dispute between kings. A duke of Normandy conquered England in 1066, and all successive rulers of medieval England were also holders of lands within France. In the late twelfth century, the Angevin kings held not only Normandy but also Anjou, Maine and Touraine, as well as Aquitaine and Poitou. King John (1199-1216) lost most of these territories save for the coastal lands of Aquitaine, commonly known as Gascony. In 1259, the Treaty of Paris confirmed that the remaining lands in France were held by the English king as a vassal of his French counterpart, to whom he was thereby obliged to pay liege homage. Thus, the English king, in his capacity as Duke of Aquitaine, did not have full legal sovereignty over Gascony; his subjects could appeal to the French king. This situation conflicted increasingly with developing notions of the authority of rulers within their own territories, and led to two wars, 1294-97, and 1324-27. There was already a state of Cold War between the English and French kings when an additional cause of dispute arose. This was Edward III’s claim that he was the rightful King of France through his mother, Isabella, daughter of Philip IV.