French Revolution

French Revolution 2

During the 18th century, French Monarchs had unlimited power, and as such declared themselves as the “Representative of God,” to the people.  They were engaged in a life of luxury and extravagance at the royal court of Versailles.

Louis XIV (1643-1715) of the Bourbon Dynasty, a most powerful and efficient monarch, who participated in many wars.  His successor Louis XV (1715-1774) took France to war against England, which brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

Louis XVI (1774-1793), lived a life of luxury and extravagance, when the country’s finance was reaching near bottom.  He may have been King, but his Queen; Marie Antoinette, played a major part in the affairs of the state.

The social condition of 18th century France, the French Society, consisted of three classes:  Clergy – Nobles – Common People.

The Clergy was of the First Estate, subdivided into two groups; higher and lower clergy.  The higher clergy, were held responsible for churches, monasteries and educational institutions, and paid no taxes to the monarchy.

The common people disliked the higher clergy, who lived a scandalous luxurious lifestyle, similar to the monarchy.  Whilst the lower clergy, were appointed to serve the people.

Nobility was the Second Estate of French Society, exempt from paying taxes to the monarchy.  Nobility consisted of two groups; count nobles and provincial nobles.

Court nobles, lived a life of luxury, and paid no interest, in the problems of its people, leaving provincial nobles, to listen to the problems of its citizen’s and resolve them.

France’s Third Estate, consisted of the country’s common people, its manual workers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen, and they paid taxes, keeping France afloat.

The lower clergies, provincial nobles and the ranks of the common people, joined together with the Bourgeoisie… so the French Revolution was born.

France’s economic condition was another cause for the outbreak of the “French Revolution.”  Louis XVI attempted to resolve the situation…

  • In 1774, Turgot was appointed, as France’s Finance Minister.
  • In 1776, Necker was appointed, as France’s Finance Minister.
  • In 1783, Callone was appointed, as France’s Finance Minister.

The finance ministers had their own ideas of sorting the country’s debt problem, from imposing taxes on all citizens of France, no matter what status they held to borrowing money to offset the debt.

For hundred’s of years, the members of France’s higher classes, had never paid taxes, and any suggestion was dismissed.

It was inevitable by 1789, the Monarchy had to go, and a Revolution would take place…  The French Revolution.

Bastille

Bastille Prison

In the 17th century the Bastille prison housed political agitators, high ranking officials and spies.  Most never saw the inside of a court; they would be imprisoned by order of the King.

With food shortages in 1789, and resentment by the people towards King Louis XVI, France was on track, heading towards a revolution.

In June, Louis approved the foundation of the National Assembly, and the call of the commoners, for a constitution.  Louis gave false hopes to his people, letting them believe he was prepared to compromise.  Then he dismissed Jacques Necker, the minister who called for reforms, and surrounded Paris with his troops.  In response, mobs rioted in Paris.

On the 7th July thirty-two Swiss mercenary soldiers arrived at the Bastille at the request of Bernard-Jordan de Launay, the military governor of the prison.  Then on the 12th July 250 barrels of gunpowder were delivered to the prison.

On the 13th July, revolutionaries armed with muskets stormed the Bastille’s towers.  On the 14th July, upwards of a thousand revolutionaries gathered around the Bastille.

Launay received two delegations that day, requesting he surrender the fortress and hand over the munitions.  Both requests were denied, yet he promised he would not fire upon the crowd.

Some three-hundred revolutionaries attempted to lower the drawbridge, and one hundred of these rioters were cut down in a hail of fire.  By mid-afternoon, deserters from the French army joined the rioters by removing five cannons and aiming them in the Bastille’s direction.

Launay and his men laid down their arms and were duly arrested.  They were taken to the “Hotel de Ville” the town hall.  Launay was dragged away and murdered by these revolutionaries, for they wanted justice.

The citizens of Paris, half expected a counterattack from the military as they built barricades and armed themselves.

The King could see a revolution was coming, and any military action against the Parisian people would only enhance the situation.  So on the 15th July 1789, military troops concentrated around Paris were withdrawn.

The capture of the Bastille spread across France like wild-fire, which led to minor uprisings in many towns and cities.

The new Revolutionary Government had the Bastille torn down, stone by stone, and the last stone was presented to the National Assembly on the 6th February 1790.

In 1792, the monarchy was abolished, and King Louis XVI of France, along with his wife; Queen Marie-Antoinette were sent to the guillotine on the charge of treason.  King Louis died on the 21st January 1793 and Queen Marie-Antoinette on the 16th October.

The 18th century drew to a close, and France’s involvement in the “American War of Independence (1775-1783)” added to the extravagant spending by King Louis XVI (1754-1793) and his Queen; Marie Antoinette.  Yet he wasn’t totally to blame for the financial situation the country found itself in, for he inherited a debt left by King Louis XV.  The combination was pushing the country ever closer to bankruptcy.

French Revolution

The French Revolution started in 1789 and ended in 1799 with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, as France’s saviour and he proclaimed himself as Emperor of France in 1804.

French citizens redesigned the political landscape of their country, and some 17,000 people were known to have been executed, as this reign of terror swept across France.

France faced huge debts, and taxation of its people could not plug the hole in its economy.  New reforms put forward, were instantly blocked by the clergy and nobility, eager to hang on to their tax exemptions.

Poverty existed within the peasantry groups, who themselves, depended on good harvests for basic subsistence.  In 1787 and 1788 harvests had been poor, prices rose and fear of large scale famine was on the cards.

Even so, the peasants of the land were expected to pay feudal dues (The legal and social system in which people were given land and protection by a lord, in return for which they worked and fought for him) and obligations to the aristocracy.

King Louis XVI stepped in and called upon the Estates General (A medieval representative that had the power to deal with a financial crisis, consisting of; clergy – nobility – commoners) allowing the people to list their grievances.  The Estates General met in 1789, and claimed frustration and obstruction by the clergy and aristocrats.  This led to the formation of the National Assembly (The National Assembly claimed to legitimately represent the French population) and the drawing up of a constitution which limited Monarchy intervention.

In 1789, the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, whilst peasants and farmers attacked manors and estates belonging to their landlords, until they be freed from oppressive contracts.

In 1790 the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” (The document granted due process in judicial matters and established sovereignty amongst the French citizens.  It made it clear, every person was seen as equal) was written with the collaboration of Maximilien de Robespierre, this was the foundation to the French Constitution.

The National Assembly may have taken the first steps towards creating a New France through the Constitution, yet rifts existed between radical and more moderate members.

This was to come to a head in 1791-92 as Louis XVI attempted an escape from Paris.

Louis, anxiously felt for the safety of his family, as they were nothing more than prisoners in Tuileries Palace, and believed fleeing was their only option.

On the nights of 20th and 21st June 1791, the royal party was arrested at Varennes on route to the border.  This attempt of escape compromised his position and that of the monarchy.

They returned to Paris, as prisoners, they were seen as enemies of the Revolution… Which left the question, how long would they keep Louis and Marie Antoinette alive?

This would cause the assembly to become divided.

The moderate Girondins, (Girondins were moderates in the National Convention who controlled the legislative assembly) stood up to be counted, and voted that France should retain a constitutional monarchy.  Whilst on the other hand were the Jacobins (Jacobins were a radical wing of representatives in the National Convention, led by Robespierre calling for democratic solutions to France’s issues) with Robespierre as their president, who wanted King Louis XVI, gone forever, he even called for his execution.

Neighbouring countries, dreaded the thought of France’s revolutionary tactics would spread to other lands.  They stepped in by issuing the “Declaration of Pillnitz,” calling that the French return Louis XVI, to his rightful place, on the throne.

It was seen as a declaration of hostile intent and the Girondin’s declared war on Austria and Prussia.

Execution of Louis XVI

Execution of King Louis XVI

King Louis XVI was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy with foreign powers in the January of 1793.  He was found guilty by the National Assembly and sentenced to death.  On the 21st January 1793, King Louis XVI walked to the guillotine, and was executed in the Palace de la Revolution in Paris.  In January 1793, the National Convention abolished the monarchy and declared France a Republic.

Exécution of Marie Antoinette

Execution of Queen Marie Antoinette

On the 14th October 1793, Marie Antoinette faced a Revolutionary Tribunal, and was found guilty and executed by guillotine on the 16th October.

France’s was with Austria and Prussia suffered as foreign armies entered deeper and deeper into France.

The Jaconin’s overthrew the Girondin’s and took control, conscripting people to the French Army.  It seemed France’s fortunes were ever changing.

Robespierre paranoia led to a reign of terror between 1793-1794, where some 17,000 counter revolutionaries were executed at the guillotine.

Maximilien de Rebespierre

Maximilien de Robespierre

With foreign armies being pushed back across French borders.  It wasn’t long before the Revolutionary Government questioned Robespierre true motives… On the 27th July 1794, he was arrested and executed on the 28th at the guillotine.

Following the removal of Robespierre a period of governmental restructuring took place, leading up to a new Constitution of 1795.

The Committee of Public Safety’s conscription drive had enlarged their armies, as they defended France against invasion by Prussia and Austria.

A young Napoleon Bonaparte trail blazed his armies through Italy and Egypt, winning considerable fame for himself and wealth as he tore through Europe.

With political upheaval in France, Napoleon returned to Paris in 1799, putting down a coup against the Directory, and naming himself “First Consul” leader of France.  The Revolution was over, and France entered a fifteen-year period of military rule.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

In May of 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte received the title: Emperor of France

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Marquise de Brinvilliers Crime Wave

Marquise-de-Brinvilliers

Marquise de Brinvilliers

The Marquise de Brinvilliers, a high society lady from the upper crust stomping grounds of Marais, Paris, was to make headline news, as it had been revealed, she had murdered her father, brothers, and attempted murder of her husband, by using poison.

It is believed she acquired her knowledge of poisons, whilst working as a volunteer at the Hotel Dieu (Hospital).  She used her position to administer her own poisons, taking note of their effects upon the patients.  Hospitals were overflowing with patients, and no one would question the high death rate…

Her crime wave can be traced back to her father, the Marquis de Brinvilliers, who had married her off to a man she had no love for.  She loathed her husband, and had an affair… that seems to be a common choice among the aristocratic elements in France.

Godon de St.Croix, her lover was released from prison, and using his new found knowledge, the pair set about poisoning off her family members, one by one.

Her father the Marquis de Brinvilliers, was first on her list, and at her trial she is quoted as saying; he deserved it.

She next turned her attentions to her brother’s hoping to inherit their money.

Next on the list, her husband, a pre-arranged marriage was next to go, or so she thought.  For Godon de St.Croix her accomplice must have had a conscious for he warned her husband, giving him an antidote.  It is said he survived, with a badly damaged digestive tract.

Godon de St.Croix her accomplice died, believed to have been by natural causes, but no one can be sure.

She was to make a grave mistake, pushing for the return of a casket, which had been taken into police custody.  The contents of the casket were letters, recipes poisons and their effects, enough information to prove her guilt in these deaths.

Brinvilliers fled France to safety in England, but was apprehended by Police Lieutenant la Reynie of Paris, who was hot on her tail, and brought her back to face trial in Paris.

Marquise-de-Brinvilliers Torture 1

Torture of Marquise de Brinvilliers

She was tortured at the Conciergerie where she admitted her crimes in great detail, and then taken to the Hotel de Ville for execution.

She being a noble lady by birth was first beheaded, and her body burned, as a heretic by law.

The execution attracted many.  According to the words of Marquise de Sevigne sent to her daughter.  “Brinvilliers is in the air.  Her poor little body was thrown after the execution into a very big fire, and the ashes to the winds, so that we shall breathe her, and through the communication of the subtle spirits, we shall develop some poisoning urge which will astonish all.”

What a prophetic statement it was.  In 1680, four years after the Brinvilliers crime wave, it came to light other noble women were dispatching their unwanted husband’s to a higher realm.  The poisons they purchased were known as “poudres de succession.”

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French Martyr: Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) was born on the 6th January 1412, during the “100 Years War” between England and France, in Doremy in north-eastern France, to parents Jacques and Isabelle.

Joan had no formal education; she could not read or write, yet her upbringing instilled a love of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

Aged just thirteen, she claimed she heard voices from God; her mission in life was to save France by expelling their enemies … the English.

The events taking place in France; an internal was had broken out between two factions of the French Royal Family.  The Armagnac’s led by Count Bernard VII of Armagnac and Duke Charles of Orleans against Duke John-the-Fearless of Burgundy.  With them at war, the door was open for England to invade.

King Henry V of England claimed his right to the French throne and following their rejection, invaded France in August 1415 and went on to defeat Armagnac’s army at the “Battle of Agincourt” on the 25th October 1415.

Henry V conquered much of northern France in 1417, gaining support from Duke Philip III of Burgundy, for he agreed Henry V had a legal claim to the French throne.

In 1428 Joan of Arc met with Duke Charles after many rejections at his palace in Chinon.  She promised him, if he gave her an army she would turn round the war in his favour, and she would see him take his rightful place and crowned King of France at Reims.  There was much opposition to such an idea from loyal supporters of Charles, but he gave her a chance … one wonders what he saw in her.

In March of 1429, Joan of Arc led her army against the English as they were attacking Orlean’s.  She was dressed in white armour upon a white horse carrying a banner with the picture of “Our Saviour” holding the world with two angels at the sides on a white background covered with gold fleurs-de-lis.

Joan was to lead several assaults against the Anglo-Burgundian forces expelling them from their fortress, and forcing their retreat across the Loire River.  As her victories mounted, so did her fame, spread across France.

Joan kept her promise as Duke Charles was crowned King Charles VII of France in July 1429 at Reims.

In the spring of 1430, Joan led her forces against the Burgundian’s at Compiegne, where she was thrown from her horse, and captured.  She was brought before the English commander at the Castle of Bouvreuil at Rouen.  She was put on trial for witchcraft, heresy and dressing as a man.

joan-of-arc

Joan of Arc – Burnt at Stake

On the 30th May aged 19, she was taken to Rouen’s market place, and burned at the stake.  At her execution according to witness statements, it is said she listened calmly to the words being read to her.  She wept as she forgave her accusers, asking that they pray for her.

With the English driven from Rouen in November of 1449 so the process of initiating an appeal case against Joan started as ordered by Charles VII to clear her name.  It was so ruled by Jean Brehal she had been illegally convicted by a corrupt court and finally described as a Martyr … She was a saint in her own right.

In 1920, Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc)  having attained mythical stature was canonised by Pope Benedict XV.

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Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise ( Queen Regent of Scotland)

Mary of Lorraine, better known as Mary of Guise, Queen to James V, and regent of Scotland was born at Bar on the 22nd November 1515, to parents Claude of Guise and Antoinette of Bourbon.

Mary of Guise married Louis II of Orleans, Duke of Longueville in 1534, and bore him a son Francis in 1535.  In the June of 1537, her husband, the Duke of Longueville died.

Mary was in her early twenties, and sought in marriage by James V, whose wife had died in the July and Henry VIII after the death of his beloved wife; Jane Seymour.

Mary accepted the offer of marriage from James V.  Mary an adopted daughter of France received papal dispensation for her upcoming marriage.  Her marriage to James V was celebrated first by Proxy in the May of 1538 in Paris, then at St.Andrews upon her arrival in Scotland.

She bore James two sons; James in the May of 1540 and Robert in the April of 1541, both sons died in the April of 1541.  In December of 1542; Mary, Queen of Scots was born and within a week James had died.

Cardinal David Breton, head of the French and Catholic party, and friend and ally to Mary, produced a will of the late king, which stated primacy in regency was assigned to Breton, himself.  John Knox made accusations of unfounded intimacy between Mary and Breton.  A similar report was revived in 1543, by Sir Ralph Sadler, English envoy.

Cardinal David Breton was arrested, and the regency fell to heir presumptive James, Earl of Arran, who hoped to secure the hand of the infant princess for his own son.

Mary of Guise was asked by the English commissioner, Sir Ralph Sadler to push her daughter, to further her contract of marriage with Edward VI.

A marriage treaty was signed on the 1st July at Greenwich, and Mary, Queen of Scots was barely a year old, was betrothed to Edward VI.  The terms stated that Mary would be placed in Henry’s custody when she was ten years old.  The Queen dowager and her daughter were under constant scrutiny at Linlithgow, and on the 23rd July 1543, escaped to the safety of Stirling Castle, aided by Cardinal Breton.

Following the Queen’s coronation in the September, Mary of Guise, played a prominent part in the affairs of the kingdom… Queen Regent of Scotland.

Mary of Guise kept in contact with her French kinsmen, for she sought a French alliance for her daughter.  This meant going out on a limb, against her advisers, who opposed such an idea.

The English invasion of 1547 was to enforce the English marriage, which gave Mary the reason for a French alliance.  In the June of 1548 a French fleet and 5,000 soldiers landed at Leith under the command of Andre de Montalembert, seigneur d’Esse, to booster Scottish forces, laying siege to English held Haddington.

NPG 1766,Mary, Queen of Scots,by Unknown artist

Mary Queen of Scots

The Scottish Parliament approved the marriage of Mary, the young Queen of Scotland with the Dauphin of France.  In the August of 1548, she set sail from Dumbarton to complete her education in the French court.

In the September of 1550, Mary of Guise visited France, seeking assurances from Henry II, over the confirmation of the dukedom and revenues of Chatelherault for the Earl of Arran, inducing him to resign the regency.

On route from France to Scotland, landed at Portsmouth due to heavy storms, and she visited Edward VI.  Arran refused to relinquish regency until the April of 1554, with assurances to his right of succession.

The new Regent faced an empty exchequer and opposition to Mary’s marriage to the dauphin.

The granting of high positions of state to Frenchmen caused outcry, fearing foreign domination.

Hostility from Arran and Archbishop Hamilton, forced her to undertake talks with the Lords of the Congregation, who favoured a protestant party.

Miners arrived from Lorraine, to dig for gold at Crawford Moor, to meet the high expenses of her government.

Mary of Guise appointed William Maitland of Lethington in 1554 as Secretary of State, and made a dangerous enemy of John Knox in the process.

On matters of religion, she tried to hold a balance between Catholic and Protestant factions, by allowing Presbyterian preachers to practice their religion, but no preaching in Edinburgh and Leith.

With the marriage of Francis II and her daughter Mary in 1558, she strengthened her position.  In 1559, she submitted to the religious policy of her relatives; the Guises.

She was forced to take up arms against the Protestants of Perth, who had been incited by John Knox to destroy the Charterhouse, the place where Scottish kings were buried.  The reformers were forced into submission on condition no foreign garrison was positioned in Perth.

Mary broke the agreement, by garrisoning Scottish troops, paid for by the French.

On the 21st October 1559, reformers who had been welcomed into Edinburgh, forcing Mary to flee to Dunbar, called for her to be deposed.

Mary, assisted by French forces, fortified Leith.  She had been betrayed, Chatelherault and his son defected, and William Maitland, her secretary of state, betrayed her plans to the Lords of the Congregation.

In October of 1559, Mary’s forces took on Leith, and attempted to seize an English convoy, was a failure leading to increased difficulties.  Mary entered Edinburgh, and conducted a bloody campaign in Fife.

In January of 1560, William Winter commanded an English fleet, which was sent to force Elbeuf’s French fleet, back to France.  Elbeuf had been commissioned by Francis II and Mary to seize Mary’s regency, on account of her failing health.

An English army led by Lord Grey, crossed the border into Scotland on the 29th March 1560, and granted Mary of Guise, the Regent asylum in Edinburgh Castle.

As Mary lay there, she felt her life slowly draining from her, she knew her end was close at hand.  She sent for the Lords of the Congregation, and pleaded they maintain a French Alliance.

On the 11th June 1560 Mary of Guise, also known as Mary of Lorraine, the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots died.  She was buried in St.Peter’s Church within the nunnery at Reims, France, where her sister was the Abbess.

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One Hundred Years War: Battles

Battle of Calais

The Hundred Years War:  England and France fought each other for the French throne, and English territories from 1337-1453.  The war was not fought continuously but in phases.  It started out well for the English, but by 1453, the tide had turned in favour of France, all English lands except Calais were lost.

The “Battle of Cadsand – (1337),” the first battle of the Hundred Years War, where Edward III raided the island of Cadsand… leading to an English victory.

The “Naval Battle of Sluys – (1340)” saw some two hundred French, Castilian and Genoese sail across the English Channel… for a prolonged invasion of England.

The English had a small fleet, but they had long bowmen situated on platforms at the rear of their ships, and were able to fire off arrows, much quicker than Frances crossbowmen.

The French were driven from their decks by a barrage of arrows, as ships closed in.  Grappling irons secured boats for boarding, as English forces scrambled onto French ships followed by hand-to-hand fighting.

The achieved victory, gave England control of the English Channel.

The “Battle of Auberoche – (1345),” was a battle fought between English and French troops over disputed boundaries… English forces won through.

The “Siege of Calais – (1346)“, tells of English forces capture of Calais, turning the area into their operations base.

The “Battle of Crecy – (1346)” was fought in northern France; an overwhelming defeat for the French, with a far larger army than the English forces.  Genoese mercenary crossbow men and French knights, proved no match for the English longbow men.

The “Battle of Saint – Pol – de – Leon (1346),” an English commander named Dagworth, withdrew his men, taking cover at a nearby hill, where they dug trenches and waited for the French.  He was not disappointed as General Blois and his infantry assaulted their position, and they were cut down by English forces, leading to an English victory.

The “Battle of La Roche – Derrien (1347),” England’s forces fell into a trap set by Duke Charles, luring Dagworth into a night battle.  The French overwhelmed them, Dagworth was forced to surrender.  Charles let his guard down, and English backup forces led to his defeat.

The “Battle of Saintes (1351),” where French forces attempted to capture the town, but English forces arrived, and were victorious.

The “Battle of Ardres (1351).”  French forces led by Lord Beaujieu, surrounded English forces under the command of John of Beauchamp as they withdrew from Saint-Omer, leading to a French victory.

The “Battle of Mauron (1352),” tells of an English captain, Breton captain and Franco Breton forces, meeting at Brambily, where the French were defeated… leading to an Anglo-Breton victory.

The “Battle of Poitiers (1356)” saw Edward the Black Prince, son of Edward III of England, defeat the French army near Poitiers.  Yet again, the English longbowmen played a decisive part in the battle.  King John II (Jean II) of France was captured and taken to England, where he remained until 1360, promising to pay a ransom for his release.

During the French King’s captivity in England, Charles attempted to be crowned King of France, but the attempt failed.

A peace treaty was drafted in 1360, which coincided with John’s release, by 1369 the treaty broke down wand was resumed.

At the “Battle of Auray (1364),” English troops commanded by John Chandos lay siege to the town of Auray.  French forces lose and the town surrenders.  The French military leader; Bertrand du Guesclin is captured and held for ransom.

At the “Battle of Navarrette (1367),” fought between Anglo-Gascon and Franco-Castilian forces.  English forces were led by Edward, against Henry of Trastamara.  Henry’s half-brother assisted Edward in his defeat.

At the “Battle of Montiel (1369)” Peter had the support of Edward and England, Henry and France.  Peter lost the battle, as Edward withdrew his support, and Henry was victorious for France.

At the “Battle of Chiset (1373),” French forces attacked the town of Chiset.  The English called for help, but the battle was over before they arrived, and the French were the victors.

At the “Siege of Harfleur (1415)” King Henry V of England landed on French soil with 10,000 men.  The siege lasted about a month, and Henry’s forces were victorious, but at a price, his number had been severely reduced.  Next stop for Henry was Calais, but French forces intercepted him at Agincourt.

The “Battle of Agincourt (1415)”.  English forces under the command of King Henry V, defeated a superior French army, and his skilled longbowmen, won the battle for their King and England.

The “Siege of Rouen (1418-1419)” English forces reached Rouen in the July of 1418, and came face to face with the French commanded by Blanchard and LeBouteillen.  English forces found it impossible to breach city walls, and opted to starve out their enemy.  On the 20th January 1419, the French surrendered.

The “Battle of Bauge (1421)” French and Scottish forces joined up, attacking the English in Normandy.  Thomas, the Duke of Clarence’s force of cavalry and infantry, were not working with each other, as they attacked allied forces, which brought down their army and victory went to the Franco-Scots force.

On the 31st August 1422, King Henry V of England died at Vincennes in France, and two months later King Charles VI of France also died.

The “Battle of Cravant (1423).”  Following a standoff, Scottish archers began firing at the enemy.  Then under the protection of the longbows chose to cross the river.  The French withdrew their forces, as the Scottish forces fought on, only to be cut down.  This would lead to a victory for the English and Burgundian army.

The “Battle of Verneuil (1423).”  Some 15,000 French and Scottish troops attacked a 9,000 strong English force in Normandy.  As the French and Scottish forces charged, English longbowmen cut them down in their tracks.

The “Battle of St.James (1426).”  The battle took place at Avranches, between French and English troops on the border of Normandy and Brittany.  English forces overwhelmed the French, leading to an English victory.

The “Battle of Jargeau (1429).”  Joan of Arc and Duke John controlled French forces against the English.  The French assault started on the 11th June and on the 12th June, Joan called upon the English to surrender.  Even though the English suffered heavy losses, they battled on, refusing to give in, and were victorious over the French.

The “Battle of Beaugency (1429).”  French forces were losing control of the river crossings, one by one.  French determination won through, as English commanders were captured and longbowmen killed.

The “Siege of Orleans (1429),” will be most remembered when Joan of Arc, a 17 year old peasant girl, stepped forward claiming divine guidance.  Her actions marked a turning point for French forces, she would lead the troops to victory over the English.

In the year 1429, French became more victorious in battle against the English.  Joan of Arc put fire in the bellies of French troops, and she would lead them into battle.

The “Battle of Patay (1429).”  This victory is credited to Joan of Arc, even though the battle was won, before France’s main force arrived on the scene.

The “Siege of Compiegne (1430).”  Captain Louis led an artillery bombardment at Choisy.  As the French forces were victorious, Joan of Arc was captured, put on trial by the English and burnt at the stake as a witch in 1431, in Rouen.

At the “Battle of Gerbevoy (1435).”  French forces were commanded by La Hire and Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, who were victorious over English forces.  La Hire was promoted to Captain General of Normandy in 1438, and died in 1443 at Montauban.

The “Battle of Formingny (1450).”  King Charles VII of France, goes on the attack, pushing back a force of 5,000 English troops, into the town of Formingny.  French artillery open fire on the town, and only 1,000 English survived the bombardment.  Formingny marked an end to fighting in the northern territories of France.

The “Battle of Castillon (1453),” saw a victorious French army defeat English forces and marked an end to the Hundred Years War.  This battle was more about the use of cannons to achieve victory.

King Edward III of England had plunged the country into war against the French: “The Hundred Years War.”  Edward died in 1377 and so the reign of King Richard II began.  In 1396 Richard married Isabella of France, daughter of King Charles VI.

Richard and Isabella’s marriage, led to a twenty-eight truce in hostilities between the two countries.  It didn’t take long for the truce to be broken, and war to break out again.

The English failed to achieve victory in the Hundred Years War, even though they had achieved many victories.  After the Battle of Agincourt, the war changed direction, away from the English to the French.

England lost the war, all their territories except Calais, which was later captured in 1558.

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Hundred Years War (3/3)

Hundred Years War

Hundred Years War

Rivalry was escalating between the dukes of Burgundy and Orleans for governmental control, and it was heading for an internal battle within France, by two of its powerful houses.

In 1407, Louis duc d’Orleans, brother to King Charles VI of France was assassinated by the Duke of Burgundy, which led to civil war between Burgundian partisans of the Duke of Burgundy and Armagnac partisans of the Duke of Orleans.

In 1413, the Armagnacs gained control of Paris, and expelled from the city, those loyal to the Burgundians.

Feuding factions were tearing apart the French realm, to the backdrop of the Hundred Years War.  Sooner or later, England would seize the opportunity and attack France.

King Henry IV died in 1413, to be succeeded by his son Henry of Monmouth, King Henry V of England.  From the start of his reign, he was determined to attack France.

He demanded of France, that Aquitaine should be returned to English control, and the long forgotten arrears of King John’s ransom be paid.  He kept up his demands, until negotiations reached a stale mate, as France was unwilling to comply with his demands.  As the negotiations had been taking place, he had been equipping an army to do battle.

On the 11th August 1415, Henry’s fleet slipped slowly into the English Channel, heading southwards from the Hampshire coast.  On the 14th August, the fleet dropped anchor at Chef de Caux, on the north shore of the Seine estuary, a few miles from Honfleur.  He laid siege to the Norman port of Harfleur, who surrendered on the 22nd September.

Henry’s forces left Harfleur on the 8th October and marched to Calais.  Henry sent word, ordering the Governor of the town; Sir William Bardolph to take his forces to the crossing across the Somme and hold it.  At the crossing, Bardolph and his army was nowhere to be seen, instead French troops were waiting.

Henry marched south-east along the river’s left bank, and the French blocked any attempt to cross.

On the 24th October, as the English army passed through Frevent, some 30 miles from Calais and safety, his scouts reported, the French had amassed a large army and blocked the road ahead.

Henry knew there was only one action that could be taken, in reply to this information.

Battle of Agincourt

Battle of Agincourt

On the 25th October 1415, the “Battle of Agincourt” took place, as English forces took up position in three divisions; commanded by Lord Camoys on the right, the Duke of York in the centre and Sir Thomas Erpingham on the left.

The Constable of France, led the French line, with the second line led by the Dukes of Bar and d’Alencon with the Counts of Merle and Falconberg bringing up the rear.

Henry’s forces made the first move as banners advanced to the sound of trumpets.  As arrow range was reached, archers prepared, and on the King’s order a barrage of arrows, flew across the skyline, killing hundreds of French troops.

The battle raged, along the English line, archers abandoned their bows and joined knights and men-at-arms in hand to hand combat against the French.  In less than two hours, the battle was an English victory… and remnants of the French army vacated the battlefield.

The English army consisted of 5,000 knights, men-at-arms and archers.  The French army consisted of some 30,000 knights, men-at-arms and crossbowmen, of which 8,000 are believed to have died.

The Battle of Agincourt wiped out three French dukes, the Constable of France, nine Counts, and ninety Lords and close to 5,000 knights.  In response England’s losses were few; Edward, the Duke of York and 500 knights, men-at-arms and archers.

In 1417, Henry started a new campaign against France, the conquest of previously controlled English lands in France.  In January 1419, Rouen the Norman capital fell, which opened the way to Paris.

On the 10th September 1419, Duke John of Burgundy was assassinated in revenge for the murder of Louis duc d’Orleans, as the Burgundian faction joined forces with the English.

King Henry V of England, contracted fever at Meaux and died on the 31st August 1422, and was succeeded by his son; Henry VI.  Henry V’s brother, Duke John of Bedford, became Regent to the ten month old King.

King Charles VI of France died on the 21st October 1422, and the dauphin Charles, claimed the throne of France as King Charles VII.  Yet he didn’t have the backing of the people of France, and was only acknowledged as King by the people of Southern France.

The Duke of Bedford acting as King’s Regent, expanded English lands in France, as Maine came under English control.

The final phase of the Hundred Years War began with the birth of a French peasant girl, back in 1412: Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc).  In 1425 she claimed she heard voices from God; her mission in life was to save France by expelling their enemies… the English!

King Henry V of England claimed his right to the French throne and following their rejection, invaded France in August 1415 and went on to defeat Armagnac’s army at the “Battle of Agincourt” on the 25th October 1415.

Henry V conquered much of northern France in 1417, gaining support from Duke Philip III of Burgundy, for he agreed Henry V had a legal claim to the French throne.

In 1428 Joan of Arc met with Duke Charles after many rejections at his palace in Chinon.  She promised him, if he gave her an army she would turn round the war in his favour, and she would see him take his rightful place and crowned King of France at Reims.  There was much opposition to such an idea from loyal supporters of Charles, but he gave her a chance … one wonders what he saw in her.

In March of 1429, Joan of Arc led her army against the English as they were attacking Orlean’s.  She was dressed in white armour upon a white horse carrying a banner with the picture of “Our Saviour” holding the world with two angels at the sides on a white background covered with gold fleurs-de-lis.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan was to lead several assaults against the Anglo-Burgundian forces expelling them from their fortress, and forcing their retreat across the Loire River.  As her victories mounted, so did her fame, spread across France.

Joan kept her promise as Duke Charles was crowned King Charles VII of France in July 1429 at Reims.

After Joan’s capture in 1430 at the Battle of Compiegne, and burnt at the stake on charges of heresy.  Philip, the Duke of Burgundy renounced his English alliance at the Congress at Arras.  He accepted Charles VII as the true King of France, dealing a mortal blow to the English.

In 1444, King Henry VI of England married the French princess Margaret of Anjou, in an arranged marriage, part of an agreement towards peace.

In 1449, English warriors laid siege and looted Fougeres in Brittany.  In reply Charles VII, felt he was no longer bound by the terms of the peace treaty.

French forces captured Normandy and Gascony from the English during 1449-1451.  In 1452, a pro-English faction in Bordeaux called upon the English for assistance.  John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury re-took Bordeaux.  On the 17th July 1453, John Talbot’s English force, proved no match against the French troops at Castillon, where they were defeated and Talbot died on the battlefield.

The final straw came on the 19th October 1453, when Bordeaux fell to the French.  England still had control of Calais, and it remained so up until 1558.  Up until the 1st January 1801, the title King of France was claimed by the English.

Effectively the “Hundred Years War” came to an end in 1453, and England was shocked by the loss of its overseas empire…

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Hundred Years War (1/3)

Henry II - Eleanor of Aquitaine

INTRO:

Matilda, born of Norman blood, the daughter of King Henry I and Edith of Scotland, married Geoffrey Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou, and gave birth to a son; Henry.

King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, and jointly they owned the French territories of Anjou and Aquitaine.  Henry ruled more land in France, than the French King himself, and he wanted it back.

A weak King, had been England’s downfall, when King John (1199-1216), lost most of England’s French territories.  Future King’s desired to take back what was theirs, culminating in the declaration of war in 1337, “The Hundred Years War.”

1348 was a bad year for Europe, as Black Death struck, and millions of lives were lost.

By 1431, England had conquered most of France, in the Hundred Years War, using the “Long Bow.”

England was dealt a deadly blow, when Joan of Arc, led French troops into battle, putting into them, the belief that France could push these invader’s from their lands…

Henry Burghersh, the then Bishop of Lincoln and Councillor to the King of England, was commissioned by King Edward III of England to deliver a document into the hands of; Philip of Valois, the King of France.

Edward claimed that he was the rightful King of France, by way of his mother, Isabella a French Princess and grandson of a French Monarch.

King Charles IV of France

King Charles IV of France

Charles IV of France died leaving no male heirs, and France did not want an English King as their ruler, as such Philip of Valois, distant nephew to the French monarch was appointed.

Edward further announced, it was his intention not to pay homage to the King of France for England’s territories in France.  Edward’s challenge – refusing to pay homage, was by far, more audacious, threatening the feudal system, a centuries old system.

14th century Plantagenet King of England, descendants of French princes, held territories in France, descended from William the Duke of Normandy, of Viking decent had won the English crown, by right of conquest at the “Battle of Hastings” in 1066.

King Edward III

Edward became King of England in 1327. And Philip became King of France in 1328.  In accordance with France’s feudal customs, Edward III of England paid homage to King Philip of France, at Amiens Cathedral in 1329, for his fiefs, the French territories, under English control.

The English King faced a dilemma, for he held the title’s; Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu, and as such was a member of the French aristocracy.  As such it was his duty, to defend the interests of France.  However, the issue at hand, Edward as King of England, could not be seen to allow France, to dictate his foreign policies.

France wanted to control sea traffic along its coastline, which led Philip of France to create links with Scotland, England’s hostile neighbour.

England and Scotland had been at war since the 1290’s, and in 1314 Robert the Bruce King of the Scots, had won a humiliating defeat against Edward II at the “Battle of Bannockburn.”

In 1328, Edward III sealed a treaty with the Scots, but he couldn’t resist any chance he had to poke his nose into Scotland’s affairs, after the death of Robert the Bruce in 1329.  He removed David II, son of Robert the Bruce, and placed his own puppet King on the Scottish throne, one who was loyal to Edward.

Philip stepped forward offering a safe haven to the exiled King of Scotland.

Edward would have felt uneasy by an alliance of France and Scotland, but that was nothing compared to the large fleet of French ships gathering in the harbours of Normandy.  There was only one explanation, King Philip of France was preparing for an attack on England, with the support from the Scots in the north.

King Philip VI of France

King Philip VI of France

In 1337, King Philip VI declares to Edward, that he is confiscating English territories in South-West France, citing England’s failure in its feudal obligations.

An enraged Edward reponded, claiming that Philip VI had no right to confiscate his legitimate inheritance in France… those lands belonged to England.  The French throne should have been mine by right of inheritance, but I accepted the French Assembly ruling to appoint you… but no longer.  “I hereby declare war on France!”  I want what is mine…

In the year 1337, the first battle of the “Hundred Years War” took place at Cadsand, where English forces raided the island, leading to an English victory.

On the 26th January 1340, Edward III entered the Flemish City of Ghent, and called upon the townspeople, to recognize him, not only as King of England, but also as King of France.

Illustration of Napoleon's Planned Invasion of England

Battle of Sluys

Edward took the battle to the French: The Naval Battle of Sluys in 1340, saw some two-hundred French, Castilian and Genoese ships, sail across the English Channel… the start of an invasion of England.

On the 23rd June, Edward anchored at Blankenberghe, north of Bruges, where veteran soldiers; Robert Crawley and John Crabbe were put ashore to reconnoitre the French Fleet.  The two knights rode to Sluys with a French escort.  Upon their return they advised Edward, it be risky, as the French Fleet was located within the harbour.

Edward chose to ignore the advice from his knights…

On the 24th June 1340, King Edward attacked the French Fleet; made up of French, Castilian and Genoese ships inn Sluys harbour.  Their ships had been bunched together, in three squadrons, and each squadron was chained together.

The English Fleet bore down on the French early in the day, with the advantages of having the wind, tide and sun behind them.  English archers sent hails of arrows from their advantage points; end castles or raised platforms located at the rear of ships, or on the masts.

English ships rammed French vessels, attaching hooks and grappling irons, as men clambered across, to deliver death and destruction at close quarters.

The French were trapped, their ships chained together proved to be their undoing.  Some 18,000 French and Genoese were killed, either by arrows, or cut down in hand to hand combat or drowned.

Both French commanders lost their lives.  Hugues Quieret was killed as his ship was boarded and Nicolas Behuchet was hanged from the mast of his ship.

Most of the French Fleet had been destroyed or captured, removing danger to English merchant ships in the English Channel.

On the 11th July 1346, King Edward III of England landed at St.Vaast on the northern coast of France.  His army consisted of 16,000 knights, men-at-arms, archers and infantry.  Their target was Normandy.

Edward the Black Prince

Edward the Black Prince

On the beaches of France, he knighted his 16 year-old son, Edward the Prince of Wales, who became known as the Black Prince.

At the same time a second English force landed at Bordeaux, on the coast of south-west France.  Their target was to invade Aquitaine.

Edward’s forces marched south to Caen, capital of Normandy, taking Raoul, Count of Eu, prisoner, he being the Constable of France and a prized prisoner at that.

They marched forth to the Seine, finding bridges destroyed, slowing up their advancement into France.  They marched up the Seine, until they found a bridge which was crossable.  The bridge at Poissy, was easily repaired, and English forces crossed.

At the same time, news reached Edward, that King Philip VI of France, was amassing an enormous army, to stop English invaders.

Edward’s forces crossed the Seine, and marched north to the sea, approaching perilously close to Paris and Philips forces.  As they marched north King Philip followed closely in their tracks.  At low tide, they crossed the mouth of the river, evading pursuing forces.  Edward’s escaping forces encamped in the Foret de Crecy on the north bank of the Somme.

On the 26th August 1346, the English forces took position between the villages of Crecy and Wadicourt.

Edward III took the central position, with his son Edward, the Prince of Wales commanding the right flank of forces, along with the Earl of Oxford, Earl of Warwick and Sir John Chandos.  The left flank of forces was commanded by the Earl of Northampton.

Each division of forces, had its spearmen to the rear, knights and men-at-arms in the centre and archers to the front.

Philip’s army came north from Abbeyville arriving mid-day on the 26th at Crecy – Wadicourt.  French knights advised their King to encamp for the night, and attack on the 27th… Philip agreed.

Many of his army leaders were not waiting, and Philip conceded and so the attack was made that very day, on the afternoon of the 26th.

The role of the Constable of France was to command the Kingdom’s feudal army in battle.  They had been thwarted, for the English had taken him prisoner.  Crecy lost its authority and experience in battle, the King’s army lacked direction.

The French army was divided into four divisions:

Division One was commanded by Antonio Doria and Carlo Grimaldi.

Division Two was commanded by Duke D’Alencon with blind King John of Bohemia.

Division Three was commanded by D’Alencon’s, King of the Romans and former King of Majorca.

Division Four was commanded by the Duke of Lorraine and the Count of Blois.  With King Philip and his forces bringing up the rear guard.

The battle began, late in the afternoon.  Suddenly without warning, the heavens opened, and it poured with rain.  English archers removed their bow strings, putting them in their jackets to keep them dry.  The French crossbowmen did not have that option.

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Battle of Crecy

With rain stopped, French crossbowmen fired their arrows, only to discover they fell short of their mark; the rain had loosened their strings, and they were no longer taut.  English forces stepped forth, drawing their bowstrings to their ears, as they released their arrows they crossed the skyline and reached their desired target.

The barrage of arrows, inflicted many casualties, forcing retreat by crossbowmen who were trampled down by French knights.  French knights and men-at-arms were subjected to a relentless storm of arrows, wave after wave.

The battle continued late into the night, and King Philip abandoned the carnage, riding to the Castle of La Boyes, to seek safety from the English onslaught.

The King of France had left his post, his forces fled the battlefield.  Come the next day, Welsh and Irish spearmen walked among the dead and dying, murdering and pillaging the wounded…

The French army was 80,000 in size and lost some 30,000 men to an English army of 16,000 men, who reported minimal losses.

After the battle, Edward the Prince of Wales the Black Prince, adopted the emblem of the King of Bohemia, three white feathers and his motto “Ich Dien” (I serve). Still the emblem of the Prince of Wales.

Battle of Calais

Siege of Calais

In 1347 Calais surrendered to Edward’s forces.  It was the first battle of the Hundred Years War, which saw the use of artillery.

In the early part of the 14th century, Earth underwent a period of extreme cold weather, as temperature plummeted.  What was to come, led to millions of death’s across Europe; “The Black Death Plague.”

black-death

Black Death

There was no control against this disease as it spread from village to village, town to town, and country to country, as thousands died, day by day.  The disease was known to travel by sea and land, with no available solution to stop it, in its tracks.

  • By the winter of 1347 it had reached Italy, and reports were coming in, it was running rampant through the streets of Rome and Florence.
  • January 1348 the plague had reached Marseilles, for the dead were lying where they died; in houses and on the streets.
  • It travelled along the Rhine, and reached Germany in 1348 and the Low Countries.
  • By the middle of 1348, this disease had struck Paris, Bordeax, Lyon and London.

The Hundred Years War was suspended in 1348, due to high mortality rates amongst the military, caused by the plague, yet it was reconvened once the plague had passed.

The Black Death plague became one of the worst pandemics in human history, killing an estimated two hundred million people between 1347-1350.

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