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England and France in Medieval Times

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Map of Medieval England and France

In December 1154, Henry of Anjou, grandson of Henry I was crowned King Henry II of England.  This young prince had been born and raised in France, and one would have to say he was more a part of French aristocracy than English.

Henry of Anjou, held the lands of Anjou and Maine, granted to him by way of his father, and Normandy by his grandfather.

Eleanor the Duchess of Aquitaine, wife of Louis VII of France was infatuated with Henry.  Eleanor had her marriage to Louis annulled, and she married Henry at Poiters.  Eleanor’s lands consisted of Aquitaine, Touraine, Gascony, Poitou and Brittany, which were joined up with Henry’s lands of Anjou, Maine and Normandy.  The pair created an empire covering the lands from Scotland to Spain and the Arctic to the Pyrenees.

Henry of Anjou became King Henry II of England in December 1154, upon the death of Stephen, England’s last Norman ruler.

Upon the death of Henry II, Richard the Lionheart was crowned King Richard I of England at Westminster Abbey in September 1189.

Richard had little interest in England, other than its fund-raising potential, as he taxed his subjects to finance his obsession with the crusade in the Holy Land.  In 1190, Richard left for Palestine, leaving England in the care of his mother; Eleanor of Aquitaine and his brother Prince John.

News reached Richard of trouble at home in England, involving his brother, and sent Hubert Walter to replace William Longchamp as the King’s new deputy in his absence.

Prince John fled to France, and formed an alliance with King Philip of France.  Before Richard could respond to such a threat, he was captured and handed over to the Holy Roman Emperor for ransom.

Hubert Walter had to ask the people to dig deep and raise the money which would set their King free.  Brother John was less willing to pay the ransom, which left England in the hands of Prince John, until he was finally ransomed in 1194.

This King, this warrior, spent his latter years fighting the French who had appropriated his father’s, now his lands in his absence.

King Richard I of England (The Lionheart) was struck by a crossbow arrow at the “Siege of Chalus” in France on the 6th April 1199, which turned septic killing the King.

Prince John was named as his successor to the English throne, and like his brother, King John was determined to regain his inheritance, from the French.

In March of 1204, the French had taken “Chateau Gaillard” built by Richard to offer protection to Normandy.  By the year’s end, Normandy, Anjou and other territories which were once in his family’s name, were back in French hands.  Most of the remaining territories were lost in the “Battle of Bouvines” in 1214.

The war in France, and King John’s failures led to a rebellion by English Nobles in 1215.  He had to accept limits to his power… in a sense they were reigning in their King.

John had made himself an unpopular King, always demanding more and more money, which led to the charter; “The Magna Carta” applying his seal to the document at Runnymede under duress.

Two important parts, are still accepted to-day as they were then:

  • No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions … except by lawful judgement of his peers.
  • To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right of justice.

The Angevin Empire; the lands of Eleanor the Duchess of Aquitaine and Henry of Anjou (King Henry II of England) had been reduced to that of Gascony and parts of Aquitaine, following the “Treaty of Paris” in 1259.

The One Hundred Years War:

The root cause which had led to the “Hundred Years War” dates back to tensions between English and French Kings in 1066.

As history moves forward, English King’s believed they should sit upon the French throne, believing the French had stolen their birthright… their lands.

  • William the Conqueror was Duke of Normandy, when he became King of England.
  • Henry II was already Count of Anjou and Maine, an inheritance from his father and Normandy from his grandfather. His wife; Eleanor the Duchess of Aquitaine, her lands consisted of Aquitaine, Touraine, Gascony, Poitou and Brittany.

King Edward III had no hesitation in declaring war on France in 1337, in response to the confiscation of his duchy of Aquitaine.  He challenged King Philip VI of France, his right to sit upon the French throne.

King John lost the lands of Normandy and Anjou to France in 1204, his son Henry III, renounced his claim upon these lands in the “Treaty of Paris” in 1259 leaving him with Gascony as a duchy, held by the French crown.

Edward I clashed with the Scots in 1294, which led to French and Scots becoming allies against the English in battle.  The French supported David Bruce of Scotland, when Edward III moved upon the Scots, which led to France’s confiscation of Aquitaine, the events that precipitated the Hundred Years War.

Charles IV of France died in 1328, without leaving a male heir.  Edward made a claim for the throne by right of succession; his mother Isabella, daughter of Philip IV and Charles IV’s sister.  He was passed over in favour of Philip, son of Charles Valois.

Edward revived his claim for the French throne in 1340, by assuming the title; “King of France.”

The French invasion fleet was destroyed off Sluis in Northern Flanders in 1340.  French cavalry suffered at the hands of Welsh bowmen at Crecy in 1346 and Poiters some ten years later.

Edward’s forces undertook military raids; plundering and burning crops and buildings, leaving thousands destitute.

By 1360, Edward had recovered much of the jewels which made up the Angevin Crown.

Edward promised to renounce his claim upon the French throne, and would be confirmed, by having a Lordship upon Aquitaine and Calais.

Before the signing, war flared up again, it was France who was on the winning side.  Edward was driven back to the three ports of Bordeaux, Calais and Bayonne.  He was put in the position of agreeing terms of peace between England and France.  From then on Edward ceased to use the title: “King of France.”

Agincourt:

The events that led to Agincourt, started back in 1369, when French and English forces fought on opposite sides in a Spanish dispute for Castile’s throne.

The French under the leadership of King Charles V and his constable, Bertrand du Guesclin who succeeded in taking from the English much of the principality of Aquitaine.  Which reduced England’s lands in France to a coastal strip between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

Charles V launched naval raids upon England’s south coast ports with the assistance of his Castilian allies, up until his death in 1380. Truces were attempted but they never lasted, until Richard II stepped in and negotiated peace in 1399 with France.

Rivalry was evident between the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans, as to who would step in and take control of the government on behalf of Charles VI.

Louis of Orleans was assassinated in 1407, which led to Civil war between Burgundy and the Orlean’s known as the Armagnacs.

King Henry V crossed to Normandy in 1415 with his forces, and defeated the French army at Agincourt on the 25th October.  French casualties were high, and the royal dukes of Orlean’s and Bourbon were captured.

Henry crossed to France in 1417, and a campaign of sieges ensued.  The Rouen Norman capital fell in January 1419, putting the duchy under their direct control.

French parties met at Montereau, to co-ordinate resistance to the English on the 19th September 1419.  John, the Duke of Burgundy was struck down by Armagnac followers of the dauphin Charles, avenging Louis of Orleans.

Philip allied himself with the English and brokered an agreement with Charles VI whereby Henry would marry Charles’s daughter Catherine and be recognised as his heir to the French throne.  Henry would act as Regent for the ailing Charles whilst he lived, as agreed in the “Treaty of Troyes” in 1420.

Henry V died in August 1422 from dysentery and Charles VI in October 1422.

Henry VI son of Henry and Catherine, just nine months old was recognised as King of France.  The lands, the wealth attained by his father King Henry V had been frittered away by his long period as an infant son.  By the year 1453 most of France had been lost with the exception of Calais and the Channel Isles.

England was shocked to the core, over the loss of its lands in Europe; their empire was no more…

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