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Beyond Agincourt

The overwhelming success of the English at Agincourt had so demoralised the French that the invaders were considered invulnerable. Many Scots travelled to France to help fight the common enemy and did achieve a Franco Scottish victory at Bauge in 1421, raising hopes of a reversal. The English invaders would however continue to dominate militarily for a further eight years before another French victory at Beaugency and a further twenty five until the English defeat at Castillon marked the end of the 100 Years War.

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Crécy

The Battle of Crécy.  From a 15th Century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart's <em>Chronicles</em> Phillip had seriously underestimated the English king. He was to pay a bloody price on the 26th of August 1346, largely due to French pride and bad discipline.

In July 1346, King Edward of England mounted a major invasion of France, landing at Saint Vaast on the Cotentin Peninsula with a force between 10,000 and 15,000 men; first destroying the French ships in the harbour and then burning the town. Edward landed around midday and Froissart records that he tripped with his first step on the beach. This was regarded by some as a bad omen, but Edward was reported to have remarked “I look upon it as a sign that the land desires to have me”. His force marched through Normandy towards Flanders, pillaging as he went in a manner that became known as “chevauchée”, merely destroying rather than attempting to occupy captured land.

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The Start of the Hundred Years War

Edward III wanted the French throne and was willing to fight to get it. Starting with the naval battle of Sluys,the war was to drag on for a century and unite England’s enemies in what was to be known as “The Auld Alliance”

During the early 14th century France was the richest country in Christendom but with many latent problems beginning to stir. The French king Philip IV had died in 1314 leaving the Capet line seemingly secure with three sons and a grandson. All of these offspring however, died in quick succession, with the last, Charles IV leaving a pregnant queen. Philip of Valois, a nephew of Philip IV, was appointed regent and it was agreed that, if the queen produced a daughter, Philip would become king. The queen duly produced a daughter and Philip became King Philip VI. The succession was legalized by the adoption of the new Salic law which stated that no woman could rule France and that no claim could be made to the crown through a female relative. This law also excluded several other princes who could have claimed the crown, one of them being King Edward III of England, whose mother was a daughter of Philip IV.

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