On July 17th, in 1453, the English army was beaten by the French at the Battle of Castillon. This battle marked the beginning of the end of a period of warfare between England and France, known as the Hundred Years War. This war was in fact a series of battles, which were punctuated by periods of uneasy peace. Beginning in 1337, it actually went on for 116 years; lasting through the reigns of the English kings Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI, the French kings Philip VI, Charles V, Charles VI and Charles VII.
Fought over the sovereignty of France, the war first began when Philip VI of France revoked Edward III’s ownership of Gascony, and organised a series of raids against the English coast. Acting fast, Edward responded by reasserting the English claim to the French throne.
In 1340, Edward III won a decisive naval victory at Sluys, which gave England control of the Channel for the duration of the war. Six years later, Edward’s army captured Caen, and then marched north, defeating the French and capturing Calais at the. Then, in an offensive that had been paused while Europe coped with The Black Death, in 1356 Edward’s force defeated the French at Poitiers. In 1360, the Treaty of Brétigny was signed, giving England substantial territorial gains.
These initial English victories were slowly undone when Charles V came to the French throne in 1364, and renewed the conflict in 1369.
With Edward II and his son, the Black Prince, both suffering debilitating illnesses, and the rise of the brilliant French military commander, Bertrand du Guesclin, the French took back much of what Edward had seized.
In 1377, Edward opened peace negotiations, but both he and Charles V died before they were concluded. In both cases, their replacements, Richard II and Charles VI, were underage, and in 1389 they agreed to peace in the Treaty of Leulinghem.
Domestic issues consumed both England and France in the following years, with Richard II deposed by Henry IV in 1399 and Charles VI plagued by mental illness. In 1415 the war began again, when Henry V captured Harfleur and Calais, before winning the Battle of Agincourt. In 1420, Henry and Charles VI agreed to the Treaty of Troyes by which he agreed to marry the French king’s daughter and have his heirs inherit the French throne.
In 1428, Henry VI restarted the war. The English were quickly defeated in 1429 after the arrival of Joan of Arc. Claiming to be chosen by God to lead the French, she led forces to a series of victories in the Loire Valley, including at Patay.
In 1449 the French captured Rouen, and in 1451, Charles VII captured Bordeaux and Bayonne. With defeat looking likely, Henry VI sent an army to Castillon in 1453.
This was to be the last major battle of the Hundred Year’s War. The English forces were lead by the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had 6000 men, and the French forces were led by Jean Bureau, who had 7000-10000 men.
Fought on 17th July, the Battle of Castillon was a decisive defeat for the English; costing them 4,000 killed, wounded, and captured men. By comparison, the French only lost around 100 men.
With Henry VI’s failing mental health and the start of the War of the Roses at home, England was no longer in a position to effectively pursue its claim to the French throne, and so the long- running dispute over the French throne came to an end.