This long period of history when France and England fought many battles started in the reign of William the Conqueror. He ruled both England and Normandy which he had united after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This continued right up until the reign of Henry VIII when even more of France came under English control.
The following years saw other Kings of England ruled over these lands abroad but they found it hard to keep control and by 1327 the English had relinquished most back to the French. However, Edward III of England who was the King of England at this time, did keep two areas, one in the south and one in the north, being Gascony and Ponthieu.
The ruler of France was Charles IV but he died in 1328 leaving no heir to take over his lands, with no brothers alive only his sister Isabella who was the mother of Edward III. Edward believed that for this reason he should be crowned king of France. But the French were against this and wanted to crown Philip king who he was a cousin to the deceased Charles IV.
Edward began to rally his forces in an attempt to take what he believed was his right, the throne of France. But it took him until 1337 to do this when he then declared war on Philip of France. Edward wanted the French throne but he also wanted to defend his two regions being Gascony and Ponthieu which he believed were threatened by Philip.
The autumn was a time of harvest which meant most men in England were more concerned with getting their crops in than waging war for their King. However, the feudal system that existed meant that knights were obliged to provide soldiers to their king when he asked for them. With the advent of the longbow, the way battles were fought had changed since the Battle of Hastings so the kings men went in search of skilled archers. In villages all over England, young boys were made to practice archery in preparation for being sent to fight for their king.
Because warfare abroad was expensive, the English used the areas of France which were under their control and others to pay ‘tribune’ to them. In return the English troops would not burn and plunder their lands. It was like this that the costs of fighting in France were kept down, these areas of France were indeed paying ‘protection’ money to the English.
The term the ‘hundred year war’ was given to this period by historians to describe all the battles that were fought between 1337 and 1453. It is now seen as time in history that had very significant results in many ways. These wars and the length of time that was involved gave impetus to both nations when it came to they perceived their nationalism. The art of medieval warfare changed forever and it changed how peasants played a part in it.
There was much to contend with over these troubled years and this included civil wars in France as well famines, plagues and marauding mercenary armies which resulted in the population of France being reduced to half its original numbers.
The last battle of the Hundred Year War was fought in 1453 in Castillon when Jean Bureau defeated the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, John Talbot who was slain in the battle. It was the very first battle where cannons were used and the use of them was the deciding factor of which way the battle was to swing in favour of the French.