THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR 1337-1453 C.E. / A.D.
Towards the end of the Middle Ages came a time of unprecedented darkness that swept across the lands. The kingdoms of England and France became locked in a never-ending struggle for power… which Spain would eventually benefit from. This was a conflict of iron and blood lines, where both sides were convinced it was a battle of good and evil. The two primary factors that led to this especially long, bloody, war? Feudal technicalities, and wool. Also, it was in fact 116 years to be exact… FAIL
William the Conqueror, whom was the Duke of Normandy, became the King of England (way back in 1066), problem was he was the Duke of Normandy, and well the Dukes of Normandy paid homage to the Kings of France. Down the line a bit, one of the English Kings decided to renounce submission to the French. The French didn’t so much like this. There was already a lot of drama between these two royal families, but one day something just sent it all over the edge. Edward the 3rd (of England) decided he wasn’t going to take any shit from Phillip the 6th (of France), and France was very interested in controlling the market of English wool, and so… yeah. There was about to be blood, some royal, but mostly the serf, and peasant variety. It’s worth noting that this war’s outset didn’t begin with scholars of the day writing “And soeth thee Sixth Year of thee Ole One-Hundred Years War…” The war was obviously named after the fact, but seriously?! One-HUNDRED YEARS?!!?!!? What kind of conflict deserves that much screen time? Granted, some (on again off again) “Holy” wars have been waging for over a millennia, but REALLY GUYS?!
That’s a ton of bloodshed we’re talking over grudge match. Whatever it was, it’s time to get over it, I don’t care who started it, I don’t care whose right, or wrong, but whatever the case, killing each other senselessly is not the answer for either party. You’d think that kinda logic was common sense. I thought a 30 years dispute was bad enough, but 70 years on top of that is just ludicrous! Think about that for a second, really consider what that implies. We’re talking GENERATIONS. Especially back then, not only do people forget what they were fighting for, or about, but by the end of the century-long conflict those people that started the fight have been dead for DECADES! This series of conflicts revolved around dynastic disputes over the throne of France, and encompassed nearly every feudal country across the continent of Europe. Military warfare evolved significantly over the course of this ridiculously dragged-out war. Horseback-riding, shield-carrying, face-stabbing cavalry jousters gave way to longbows, and heavy artillery cannons. To make matters so much worse than they were already, a certain notorious plague, affectionately referred to as THE BLACK DEATH, reared its fugly ass and decimated both bickering kingdoms, without mercy, prejudice, or patience. Between the Bubonic Plague’s incalculable body count and the toll of a century-long stab-fest, the population of the human race took a nose dive in the 14th century that makes Splash Mountain look like a wimpy speed bump.
The Black Plague struck in the mid-14th century, and marks the darkest hour of human history. An estimated 75 million people from three separate continents, from all walks of life, died over the course of six years. This ‘Great Pestilence’ of Biblical proportions originated from Chinese rats and their fleas, was made worse by a general lack of hygiene, and could not be reasoned, bullied, bargained, or negotiated with. The Plague nearly decimated western civilization as we were busy attempting to do it ourselves. As it turns out there’s a reason it’s earned the name the Black Death, the Bubonic Plague was far more effective at reducing populations like the poll numbers of a politician caught lying to a camera with his pants around his ankles.
In 1347 the first signs of the Plague began appearing in Europe, traced back to a smelly, rat-infested Italian merchant vessel that never should’ve been cleared into the port. They were unavailable for comment at the time… due to a bad case of BLACK PLAGUE.
People abandoned cities and towns for fear of being infected. Once the symptoms started showing it was already too late. Many were quarantined. Unfortunately pest control, medicine, and showers hadn’t been invented yet. Mass graves the size of landfills were not uncommon. Over one-third of the population of Europe evaporated from a bacterial pandemic. The modern equivalent of sheer casualties would be nuclear warfare. Basically, we got our ass kicked by germs. Didn’t stop us from trying to match that body count though…
As the God-smiting, extinction-level, outbreak wiped the floor with Europe from 1347-1353, England and France still thought it was a good idea to keep on fighting the ‘good’ fight, for another HUNDRED YEARS! Including but not limited to: The Edwardian-Era War, the Caroline War, The Lancastrian War, the Breton War of Succession, the Castilian Civil War, the War of the Two Peters (don’t ask), and the unnamed Crisis of 1383-1385.
The effects of the Black Plague were still felt throughout the various conflicts within this Hundred Year period, causing unpredictable social, economic, and political ramifications on both sides.
JOAN OF ARC, ‘The Maid of Orleans‘ herself was born right in the middle of all this Medieval madness in 1412. Joan (of Arc) has been viewed from both sides of the conflict as either a heroine or heretic. Joan was a peasant girl from a small backwoods village in France who grew up to become one of the most bad-ass women in the history of warfare. She’s essentially the original Katniss Everdeen.
At the age of 12, Joan (Jeanne d’Arc) claimed to have seen visions of God. In one of these conversations with The Creator of the known Universe Himself (or Herself respectably), God gave Joan a premonition that she would lead the army of France to fend off the British siege that would surely turn the tide against her people. Whether or not these ‘visions’ were a legit source of credibility or not didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest, she didn’t care what others thought, she knew in her heart what she had to do, and that’s what mattered. At 16, rather than beg her parents for her own horse and carriage, she took up arms, armored-up, and attempted to enlist.
“If anything could have discouraged her, the state of France in 1429 should have.”
The garrison commander, Count Robert De Baudricourt laughed in her face, and sent her back home, but his sarcasm did not deter her, she came back the following year, this time the Dauphin wasn’t laughing. Her visions were coming to fruition, it was a time of crisis, and they needed a miracle. As dynastic turmoil seized the throne of France with the insanity of Charles VI, petty accusations of extramarital affair with Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, and regency quarrels between Duke Loius of Orleans, and John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. The Kingdom was more vulnerable than ever before, and England, under the rule of Henry the Fifth, being the all around dirtbag that he was, was prepared to take advantage of this situation.
When it seemed that all was lost, Charles VII saw her as a beacon of hope in the darkness. With an army backing her, Joan set out to drive out the English in the name of God. She threw out France’s previous non-aggressive strategy of retaliation, and brought the fight to the enemy. Clearly fate was on her side, because her forces turned the tide of this over-extended war.
It was the Battle of Orleans where Joan truly proved herself. “On the fate of Orléans hung that of the entire kingdom.” She overcame the dismissive and arrogant opinions of the sausage fest that was the war council’s veteran commanders, and managed to lift the Siege of Orleans in just Nine Days, driving the British out for good, proving she had the biggest (metaphorical) balls in France.
Unfortunately Joan was eventually captured by the Burgundians who sold her to the English where, at 19, she was put on trial by a d-bag Bishop, and burned at the stake for heresy and insubordination, in other words she was made a martyr for being a woman who spoke her mind, showing them all up, and standing up for her own personal religious views which somehow threatened their own fragile faith. While other of her male contemporaries would’ve pissed themselves, and cried for their collective mommys’, Joan courageously and calmly told her accusers to ‘Bring it!’ She never backed down to the very end, she held her ground, and only death itself could stop her conviction.
Thanks to Joan of Arc and her divinely-inspired bravery, medieval England never conquered France, and wouldn’t attempt to rule the world for another couple hundred years. The Hundred Years’ War would eventually give way to an English Civil War known as the War of the Roses. Alas this would not be the final war between these two foes, scholars often refer to the period between the French Revolution and Napoleon’s reign as the Second-Hundred-Years’-War…
One major breakthrough that came about during this horrifying time period was the discovery of explosives and projectile weaponry sparking the un-originally titled Age of Gunpowder. It all started when a bunch of Chinese alchemists accidentally blew themselves up. The discovery of gun powder and subsequent invention of the ‘fire-stick’ (a primitive handgun manufactured in medieval china) eventually made its way to Europe, where people quickly set about creating the first cannon weaponry. These early cannons proved quite useful in siege warfare. Prior to their employment, the next best option of raising a fortified castle was catapulting tons of horse manure over the brick walls until a white flag was raised.
What is there to learn from this DARK AGE of war, ignorance, and disease? Perhaps it serves as a reminder of how close we came to extinction, and how far we’ve come since then. I personally think that this may have been a sign, a warning to stop investing in better ways of killing one another, and start putting our faith and finances in science and medicine, preparing for the next inevitable world-wide-epidemic that tries to make us history, because when it comes down to it, all we have is each other, so why can’t we all just get along? Then again, perhaps it was foreshadowing to our own perpetuated apocalypse, a self-fulfilling prophecy ensured by the fundamentalists of our modern world…
Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Epik Fails of History!”, if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to ’Like’ EPiK FAILs on Facebook, or Follow on Twitter, and SHARE IT with your friends!
——————————————–Click for a Complete List of Essays on Historical Failure!!
“The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” Directed by: Luc Besson, starring: Milla Jovovich.
“The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe” by: Robert S. Gottfried