The Hundred Years' War began in the reign of Edward III, who was the King of England from 1327 to 1377. Edward, who loved knightly pursuits such as war, jousting, tournaments and hunting, surrounded himself with warriors, magnates, and chivalrous knights. The Hundred Years' War broke out as a result of a dispute between Edward and Philip, the French King, over French royal succession.
Edward was the nearest surviving male relative to the French king after the three French Capetian kings, Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV, all failed to produce male heirs. In order to prevent Edward from claiming the throne, the French parliament and supreme court declared that claims to the French throne could not be passed through women. The French Estates chose Philip of Valois, a first cousin of the preceding kings, to become king and Edward did not initially dispute this decision.
However, there were other points of contention between the British and French. There was a clash of interests in the county of Flanders, whose cloth-making industry relied on England for wool. Early in the 14th century, Flemish artisans rose up in a series of bloody revolts against the aristocratic cloth dealers who had long monopolized power. The Count of Flanders and the French king supported the merchants, while the English sided with the artisans.
This tension culminated in 1337, over the status of the feudal territories of Pontheau and Aquitaine. When Philip became the king of France, Edward paid homage for these territories, but Philip then insisted on liege homage, which would have obligated Edward to support Philip against all enemies. Edward refused and Philip attempted to confiscate the region of Gascony from his English "vassal" by declaring Edward's feudal territories forfeit. Edward declared war on France and his goal was to claim the crown of his maternal grandfather as well as to reclaim Gascony.
The Hundred Years' War accelerated changes in technology and government institutions in both France and Britain. It stimulated the growth of parliamentary privileges, but it also drained the English economy and population. Since all the battles of the war were fought on French soil, English mercenaries continually pillaged the French lands. France suffered far more from the Hundred Years' War than England did. During the war, France was ravaged by civil strife as its population, economy and resources depleted.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials