Follow in the footsteps of King Edward III and Edward Prince of Wales, the Black Prince, at Crécy and Henry V at Agincourt on our tour to the battlefields of the Hundred Years' War. Visit the battlefields at Crécy, Harfleur and Agincourt in the company of one of our Expert guides, follow the battles and see how they developed. See the city of Rouen which is associated with Joan of Arc's death.
The Hundred Years' War was a series of battles waged from 1337 to 1453 that pitted the House of Plantagenet against the House of Valois for control of the Kingdom of France. It began following the death of Charles IV of France die without a direct male heir when the two main rival claimants of the French throne: Edward Plantagenet, King of England, and Philip of Valois clashed. Visit The Hundred Years' War for a more detailed historical account.
The first clash was at the Battle of Sluys on 24th June 1340, in which the French fleet was almost completely destroyed and Edward gained control of the English Channel. Six years later Edward III invaded France in July 1346 landing near St Vaast. His army captured Caen within a day and then turned eastwards to march across France towards the Low Countries. The French tried to bar their route by destroying the crossings over the River Seine, but when the English reached Poissy they found the crossing only partially destroyed. Edward had this repaired and was soon heading towards Flanders again. The English crossed the River Somme at Blanchetaque and headed north towards Calais.
The larger French army finally caught up with the King Edward's English near the town of Crécy-en-Ponthieu. Faced with certainty of battle Edward III deployed his forces in three battles in a defensive position centred on the Windmill. The French army arriving at Crécy attacked piecemeal rather than as a consolidated force. The Battle of Crécy was disastrous for the French who lost heavily, the English casualties were very light only one tenth of those of the French army. Following the Battle of Crécy, King Edward proceeded north unopposed to besiege the city-port of Calais which he finally captured after an eleven month siege in 1347.
In 1348, the Black Death spread across Europe and it was not until 1356 that King Edward's son, Edward Prince of Wales, the Black Prince, invaded France from Gascony. The Black Prince won a great victory over the French in the Battle of Poitiers on 19th September 1356 during which King John II of France was captured. This left his son Charles, the Dauphin, as regent of France.
In 1364, King John II died in London and his son Charles succeeded him as King of France. In January 1371 the Black Prince returned to England following his campaigning Aquitaine and Castile due to health deteriorating and on 8th June 1376 Edward Prince of Wales died. Edward III who by now was elderly and also in poor health died the following year on 21st June 1377 to be succeeded by his grandson, the Black Prince's son, Richard II who was still a child. Richard's reign was fraught with problems at home and he showed little sign of pressing his claim for the French throne. The treaty at Brétigny had ceded large holdings in France to Edward III, but the French under the leadership of Bertrand du Guesclin retook these and by the time of Charles V's death in 1380 the only continental possession held by the English crown was Calais.
King Richard II was ultimately deposed by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke who on 13th October 1399 was crowned Henry IV, King of England. Henry planned to resume hostilities with France, however, as he was constantly plagued by financial problems and rebellion throughout his reign this did not materialise.
On 20th March 1413 Henry IV died and was succeeded by his son Henry of Monmouth. King Henry V was crowned on 9th April 1413 at Westminster Abbey and he resurrected the claim of the English Kings to the throne of France. He sailed for France on 11th August 1815 and two days later landed in Normandy and laid siege to Harfleur. The Siege of Harfleur lasted longer than King Henry had expected and the town did not capitulate until 22nd September 1815.
Henry V's army remained at Harfleur until 8th October and, with the campaign season coming to an end, Henry decided to march most of his army through Normandy to the city-port of Calais. The French army blockaded the crossings over the River Somme. The English army finally crossed the River Somme south of Péronne and resumed their journey northwards. The French initially shadowed the English intent on building up their numbers before engaging in battle. By the 24th October 1815 the two armies had reached the small community near the castle at Agincourt and had come face to face.
On the 25th October 1815, King Henry deployed his army in the narrow strip of open ground formed between the woods of Tramecourt and Agincourt. Facing them at the northern end of the battlefield, the French barred his route to Calais. The French, who were still waiting for additional men to arrive under the Dukes of Brabant, Anjou and Brittany, were content to sit and wait. For three hours the two sides stood looking across the battlefield at each other. Henry in the knowledge that to stand and wait was to the enemy's advantage finally moved his men forward.
When King Henry's men were about 300 yards (270 m), just within extreme bowshot from the French line, he halted his force and the longbowmen dug in their stakes. When all was ready he gave the order to lose and the first flight of arrows soared skywards. Stung by the bit of the arrows the French cavalry charged. Charles d'Albret, the Constable of France, seeing his cavalry surge forward led the dismounted knights and men-at-arms towards the waiting English. St Crispin's Day 1415 was to be disastrous for the French who were thoroughly defeated in the Battle of Agincourt.
Following the Battle of Agincourt King Henry V retook much of Normandy, including Caen, in 1417, and Rouen on 19 January 1419. This returned Normandy to English rule for the first time in two centuries. On 21st May 1420, Henry met with King Charles VI and they signed the Treaty of Troyes. King Henry married Charles' daughter Catherine of Valois and their heirs were to inherit the throne of France. The Dauphin was declared illegitimate and Henry later entered Paris where the agreement was ratified by the Estates-General, the French Parliament. Henry died on 31st August 1422 to be succeeded by his nine-month old son.
The disinherited Charles, Dauphin of France, continued his fight for the French throne. By 1428 it looked as though all the English had to do was seize Orléans and Henry V's dream of a united English and French throne would become a reality. Orléans was invested on 12 October 1428 and after six-months it looked as if the English were going to win, but the siege collapsed nine days after the arrival of Joan of Arc. She raised the morale of the French troops defending the city and they attacked the English redoubts, forcing the English to lift the siege.
Inspired by Joan, the French took several English strongholds in the Loire Valley forcing the English to retreat. Near the village of Patay the French cavalry broke through the English defences and swept through the English army. The French were victorious and the Dauphin's army to march to Reims where he was crowned Charles VII King of France on 16th July 1429. After his coronation Charles VII attempted to lay siege to Paris, but his army was defeated on 8th September 1429.
Following Joan's execution the fortunes of war turned against the English. The English camp became increasingly divided as each of its leaders began to follow separate strategies. At the Congress of Arras in 1435 they were outmanoeuvred with their Burgundian allies switching sides to support the French. On 14th September 1435 John, Duke of Bedford died. One week later the congress concluded with the Treaty of Arras, which left England isolated. Thereafter the English situation in France began a steady decline and by 1453 when the English were defeated at the Battle of Castillon all that was left was the city-port of Calais. England and France remained formally at war for another 20 years, but the Battle of Castillon is considered to be the last battle of the Hundred Years' War.