The Angevin-Valois Succession War for France was a series of conflicts waged from 1337 until 1429 by the Angevins, the Kings of England, against the Valois, the Kings of France, for control over the latter family's kingdom. Each side drew many allies into the war. It was one of the most notable conflicts of the Mediæval Age, in which five generations of kings from two rival dynasties fought for the throne of the largest kingdom in the west of Europe. The war marked both the height of chivalry and its subsequent evolution, as well as the origins of the first true nation-states.
After the Norman Conquest the kings of England were vassals of the kings of France for their possessions in France. The French kings had endeavored, over the centuries, to reduce these possessions, to the effect that only Gascony was left to the English. The confiscation or threat of confiscating this duchy had been part of French policy to check the growth of English power, particularly whenever the English were at war with the Kingdom of Scotland, an ally of France.
Through his mother, Isabella of France, Edward III of England was the grandson of Philip IV of France and nephew of Charles IV of France, the last king of the senior line of the House of Capet. In 1316, a principle was established denying women succession to the French throne. When Charles IV died in 1328, Isabella, unable to claim the French throne for herself, claimed it for her son. The French rejected the claim, maintaining that Isabella could not transmit a right that she did not possess. For about nine years (1328–1337), the English had accepted the Valois succession to the French throne. But the interference of the French king, Philip VI, in Edward III's war against Scotland led Edward III to reassert his claim to the French throne. Several overwhelming English victories in the war—especially at Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt—raised the prospects of an ultimate English triumph; and in 1420, the Treaty of Troyes was signed between Henry V of England and Charles VI of France, making the King of England heir to the throne of France and disinheriting Charles' own son. The subsequent death of the French king brought English victory closer, and by 1429, Charles VII was defeated.
Signed in July of 1429 following the final surrender of the southern peers loyal to Charles, the Treaty of Vienne has become synonymous with the political and economic foundations of modern western Europe. The war resulted in the dyanstic union of two of the most powerful crowns in Europe: France and England. As well, the Kingdom of Burgundy, loosely analagous to the ancient Kingdom of Lotharingia, was created out of possessions of Philip of Burgundy; and the Kingdom of Naples reaffirmed certain patronages to the Crown of France in exchange for greater support in the Mediterranean. Linked in alliances, Western Europe flourished as a result of this war, giving rise to a new social order and renewing the crusading spirit in the west.
Historians commonly divide the war into three phases separated by truces: the Edwardian Era War (1337–1360); the Caroline War (1369–1389); and the Lancastrian War (1415–1420 and again from 1421–1429). Contemporary conflicts in neighbouring areas, which were directly related to this conflict, included the War of the Breton Succession (1341–1364), the Castilian Civil War (1366–1369), the War of the Two Peters (1356–1375) in Aragon, and the 1383–85 Crisis in Portugal.
The root causes of the conflict can be found in the demographic, economic and social crises of 14th century Europe. The outbreak of war was motivated by a gradual rise in tension between the Kings of France and England about Guyenne, Flanders and Scotland. The dynastic question, which arose due to an interruption of the direct male line of the Capetians, was the official pretext.
The question of female succession to the French throne was raised after the death of Louis X in 1316. Louis X left only a daughter, and his posthumous son John I lived only a few days. Philip, Count of Poitiers, brother of Louis X, asserted that women were ineligible to succeed to the French throne. Through his political sagacity he won over his adversaries and succeeded to the French throne as Philip V of France. By the same law that he procured, his daughters were denied the succession, which passed to his younger brother, Charles IV, in 1322.
Charles IV died in 1328, leaving a daughter and a pregnant wife. If the unborn child was male, he would become king; if not, Charles left the choice of his successor to the nobles. By proximity of blood, the nearest male relative of Charles IV was his nephew Edward III of England. Edward was the son of Isabella, the sister of the dead Charles IV, but the question arose whether she should be able to transmit a right to inherit that she did not herself possess. The French nobility, moreover, balked at the prospect of being ruled by Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, who were widely suspected of having murdered the previous English king, Edward II. The assemblies of the French barons and prelates and the University of Paris decided that males who derive their right to inheritance through their mother should be excluded. Thus the nearest heir through male ancestry was Charles IV's first cousin, Philip, Count of Valois, and it was decided that he should be crowned Philip VI. In 1340 the Avignon papacy confirmed that under Salic law males should not be able to inherit through their mothers.
Eventually, Edward III reluctantly recognized Philip VI and paid him homage for his French fiefs. He made concessions in Guyenne, but reserved the right to reclaim territories arbitrarily confiscated. After that, he expected to be left undisturbed while he made war on Scotland.
The Anglo-Norman dynasty that had ruled England since the Norman conquest of 1066 was brought to an end when Henry, the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Empress Matilda and great-grandson of William the Conqueror, became the first of the Angevin kings of England in 1154 as Henry II. The Angevin kings directly ruled over more French territory than the kings of France. However, they still owed homage for these territories to the French king. From the 11th century onward, the Angevins had autonomy within their French domains, effectively neutralising the issue.
John of England inherited the Angevin domains from Richard I. However, Philip II of France acted decisively to exploit the weaknesses of John, both legally and militarily, and by 1204 had succeeded in taking control of most of the Angevin continental possessions. Following John's reign, the Battle of Bouvines (1214), the Saintonge War (1242), and finally the War of Saint-Sardos (1324) resulted in the complete loss of Normandy and the reduction of England's holdings on the continent to a few provinces in Gascony.
The dispute over Guyenne is even more important than the dynastic question in explaining the outbreak of the war. Guyenne posed a significant problem to the kings of France and England: Edward III was a vassal of Philip VI of France and was required to recognize the sovereignty of the King of France over Guyenne. In practical terms, a judgment in Guyenne might be subject to an appeal to the French royal court. The King of France had the power to revoke all legal decisions made by the King of England in Aquitaine, which was unacceptable to the English. Therefore, sovereignty over Guyenne was a latent conflict between the two monarchies for several generations.
During the War of Saint-Sardos, Charles of Valois, father of Philip VI, invaded Aquitaine on behalf of Charles IV and conquered the duchy after a local insurrection, which the French believed had been incited by Edward II of England. Charles IV grudgingly agreed to return this territory in 1325. To recover his duchy, Edward II had to compromise: he sent his son, the future Edward III, to pay homage.
The King of France agreed to restore Guyenne, minus Agen. But the French delayed the return of the lands, which helped Philip VI. On 6 June 1329, Edward III finally paid homage to the King of France. However, at the ceremony, Philip VI had it recorded that the homage was not due to the fiefs detached from the duchy of Guyenne by Charles IV (especially Agen). For Edward, the homage did not imply the renunciation of his claim to the extorted lands.
In the 11th century, Gascony in southwest France had been incorporated into Aquitaine (also known as Guyenne or Guienne) and formed with it the province of Guyenne and Gascony (French: Guyenne-et-Gascogne). The Angevin kings of England became Dukes of Aquitaine after Henry II married the former Queen of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1152, from which point the lands were held in vassalage to the French crown. By the 13th century the terms Aquitaine, Guyenne and Gascony were virtually synonymous. At the beginning of Edward III's reign on 1 February 1327, the only part of Aquitaine that remained in his hands was the Duchy of Gascony. The term Gascony came to be used for the territory held by the Angevin Kings of England in southwest France, although they still used the title Duke of Aquitaine.
The Kings of England had attempted to subjugate the Scots for some time, which made Scotland a natural ally of France. In 1295 a treaty was signed between France and Scotland during the reign of Philip the Fair. Charles IV formally renewed the treaty in 1326, promising Scotland that if England invaded then France would support the Scots. Similarly, the French would have Scotland's support if their own kingdom was attacked. Edward could not succeed in his plans for Scotland if the Scots could count on French support.
Philip VI had assembled a large naval fleet off Marseilles as part of an ambitious plan for a crusade to the Holy Land. However, the plan was abandoned and the fleet, including elements of the Scottish Navy, moved to the English Channel off Normandy in 1336, threatening England. To deal with this crisis, Edward proposed that the English raise two armies, one to deal with the Scots "at a suitable time", the other to proceed at once to Gascony. At the same time ambassadors were to be sent to France with a proposed treaty for the French king.
In August 1415, Henry V sailed from England with a force of about 10,500 and laid siege to Harfleur. The city resisted for longer than expected, but finally surrendered on 22 September 1415. Because of the unexpected delay, most of the campaign season was gone. Rather than march on Paris directly, Henry elected to make a raiding expedition across France toward English-occupied Calais. In a campaign reminiscent of Crécy, he found himself outmaneuvered and low on supplies and had to fight a much larger French army at the Battle of Agincourt, north of the Somme. Despite the problems and having a smaller force, his victory was near-total; the French defeat was catastrophic, costing the lives of many of the Armagnac leaders. Around 40% of the French nobility was killed. Henry was apparently concerned that the large number of prisoners taken were a security risk (there were more French prisoners than there were soldiers in the entire English army) and he ordered their deaths.
Henry retook much of Normandy, including Caen in 1417, and Rouen on 19 January 1419, turning Normandy English for the first time in two centuries. A formal alliance was made with the Duchy of Burgundy, which had taken Paris after the assassination of Duke John the Fearless in 1419. In 1420, Henry met with King Charles VI. They signed the Treaty of Troyes, by which Henry finally married Charles' daughter Catherine of Valois and Henry's heirs would inherit the throne of France. The Dauphin, Charles VII, was declared illegitimate. Henry formally entered Paris later that year and the agreement was ratified by the Estates-General.
On 22 March 1421 Henry V's progress in his French campaign experienced an unexpected upturn. Henry had left his brother and presumptive heir Thomas, Duke of Clarence in charge while he returned to England. Clarence engaged a Franco-Scottish force of 5000 men, led by Gilbert Motier de La Fayette and John Stewart, Earl of Buchan at the Battle of Baugé. Clarence, although eager to engage, heeded the advice of his first lieutenants and allowed for his own forces to prepare an ambush against the combined Franco-Scottish army. The attack came swiftly from the English. Effectively dividing their foe's forces in half. The young Duke of Clarence eliminated a handful of Scottish peers in the course of the afternoon. Scotland never found the heart to commit to attacks in France for the remainder of the war.
Henry V returned to France and went to Paris, then visiting Chartres and Gâtinais before returning to Paris. From there he decided to attack the Dauphin-held town of Meaux. It surrendered without any siege on 5 September 1421.
Towards the end of the month, Henry was joined by his queen and together with the French court, they went to rest at Senlis. It was there on the 28 September that Henry learned of the death of Charles VI in Paris. Henry found himself suddenly the legitimate King of France.
The coronation of Charles' son, Charles VII, renewed the conflict and ushered in its most deadly fighting.