Hundred Years' War

English kings in the 14th and 15th centuries laid claim to the French throne, resulting in the Hundred Years' War. Historical tradition dates the Hundred Years War between England and France as running from 1337 to 1453. In 1337, Edward III had responded to the confiscation of his duchy of Aquitaine by King Philip VI of France by challenging Philip’s right to the French throne. Edward III formally assumed the title 'King of France and the French Royal Arms'.

The overseas possessions of the English kings were the root cause of the tensions with the kings of France, and the tensions reached right back to 1066. William the Conqueror was already duke of Normandy when he became king of England. His great-grandson Henry II, at his accession in 1154, was already count of Anjou by inheritance from his father and duke of Aquitaine (Gascony and Poitou) in right of his wife Eleanor.

England's King John lost Normandy and Anjou to France in 1204. His son, Henry III, renounced his claim to those lands in the Treaty of Paris in 1259, but it left him with Gascony as a duchy held under the French crown. The English kings’ ducal rights there continued to be a source of disquiet, and wars broke out in 1294 and 1324.

In 1453 the English had lost the last of their once wide territories in France, after the defeat of John Talbot’s Anglo-Gascon army at Castillon, near Bordeaux.

Its origins in national war experience gave that patriotism a chauvinistic edge that continued to colour English popular attitudes to foreigners and especially to the French for a very long time. Francophobia runs as a recurrent thread through the English story from the 15th century down to the start of the 20th, when finally the Germans replaced the French as England’s natural adversaries in the popular eye.