Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

JANUARY 26th  

On this day in history in 1340, began the Hundred Years War.

Since the time of William I of England, himself a French duke, French kings had alleged that the king of England was a vassal king to the king of France. Plantagenet kings had, at various times, pledged fealty to the French king. Edward III of England disliked this arrangement and wanted to break free of French domination. When the title to the French crown was disputed, Edward seized his opportunity. His pretext was to declare himself to be king of France and declared war on the French king, Phillip VI. He adopted a new coat of arms with the English lions quartered with the French Fleuer-de-lis and invaded France.  

The war actually lasted for 117 years, but there were periodic intervals of peace. At first, the course of the war ran in England’s favour. Edward III took Calais and even captured the French king, John II, in battle. But when John II died in captivity before conceding the throne, his son, Charles V, fought back and even set fire to towns on the English coast.   

When Edward’s grandson, Richard II, came to the throne, the fighting subdued but when the Lancastrian kings were in power, England made a concerted attempt to take France. Henry V won decisive victories and, after the battle of Agincourt, was named by the French king, Charles VI, as his successor. Henry’s son, Henry VI was crowned king of France before his first birthday.  

Henry VI’s reign was characterised by internal fighting in England and the beginning of the Wars of The Roses. While England was racked by internal fighting, France, under the leadership of Joan of Arc, regained possession of their kingdom.  

The war came to an end in 1453, when the French took back all their possessions except for Calais. The result of the war was that England was discouraged from Continental invasions and, from then on, foreign policy was directed at maintaining a discrete distance from Europe. The Royals kept the title ’King (or queen) of France’ which remained on English and British coins until it was relinquished by the Peace of Amiens in the reign of George III.

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