English Are Driven from France Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The English were driven from France through French numerical superiority, nationalism, Burgundian support, and the creation of a national army that later gave France the leadership of early modern Europe.

Summary of Event

After 1066, when Duke William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) conquered England at the Battle of Hastings (part of the Norman Conquest) and became its king, English monarchs also ruled provinces in France. These holdings, extensive under Henry II (r. 1154-1189), were lost by his son John (r. 1199-1216) to the French king Philip II (r. 1179-1223) except for the wine-producing Guienne of southwestern France. From 1337 to 1453, English monarchs repeatedly invaded France—in a series of battles known now as the Hundred Years’ War Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) —hoping to regain lost provinces and claiming that their descent from Philip IV the Fair (r. 1285-1314) through his daughter Isabella of France gave them title to the French throne itself. English victories at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), thanks to their longbows, brought territorial gains under the 1360 Treaty of Brétigny, Brétigny, Treaty of (1360) although French guerrilla tactics regained most of these by 1396. [kw]English Are Driven from France (1453) [kw]France, English Are Driven from (1453) England;defeat by France France;victory over England France;1453: English Are Driven from France[3210] Government and politics;1453: English Are Driven from France[3210] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1453: English Are Driven from France[3210] Joan of Arc Philip the Good Charles VII (1403-1461) John of Lancaster Talbot, John

The war was renewed in 1415, however, when Henry V Henry V (king of England) soundly defeated the French army at Agincourt Agincourt, Battle of (1415) and then launched a major English effort to gain control of all France. This was an ambitious project. There were about six Frenchmen for every Englishman, and the recruitment, equipment, transport, conquest, and occupation costs would require special taxes voted by Parliament.

Meanwhile, the French people were becoming increasingly hostile to the English invaders, and the French feudal levies (conscripts) were learning to avoid futile frontal assaults. Henry’s second invasion of Normandy in 1417, however, met little opposition from France’s Valois king, the intermittently insane Charles VI Charles VI (king of France) . His teenage son, the dauphin Charles, trying to organize a patriotic front, blundered with a treacherous assassination of Duke John the Fearless of Burgundy in 1419. This threw John’s son, Philip the Good Philip III the Good (duke of Burgundy) , into the English camp, and King Charles capitulated. By the Treaty of Troyes, Troyes, Treaty of (1420) signed on June 14, 1420, Charles VI accepted Henry as his regent and heir, disinherited the dauphin as a dishonorable murderer, and gave his daughter Catherine in marriage to Henry. Their anticipated son (the future Henry VI, born in 1421), was to rule France as well as England. Paris opened its gates, and Henry’s conquest of France seemed well under way. Marriage as a political tool;France

King Edward III crossing the Somme River during the French campaign.

(F. R. Niglutsch)

Unfortunately, both Henry V and Charles VI died in 1422, leaving Henry VI Henry VI (king of England and France) as an infant sovereign for France and England. While his regent in France, John of Lancaster John of Lancaster , duke of Bedford, was capable, the regent in England, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, failed to provide money or control policy.

One result was London’s insistence on an advance to Orléans on the Loire without providing enough men, supplies, and artillery to take this fortified city. Consequently, the scene was set for an English reverse when Charles reinforced the capable leaders at Orléans with five thousand troops plus Joan of Arc Joan of Arc , a teenage country girl claiming a divine mission. She took center stage with remarkable effect. Her infectious confidence was a factor in breaking the siege of Orléans, Orléans, Siege of (1428-1429) and her participation and influence increased with the victories at Jargeau and Patay, culminating in the march through Champagne to a ceremonious coronation of Charles at Reims on July 17, 1429.

These spectacular victories, however, did not dislodge the English from northwestern France and the Guienne. After Joan’s capture in 1430 and execution in 1431, the war languished. While English war policy in the 1430’s was hampered by financial shortages and the death in 1435 of Bedford, Charles prepared methodically. An essential reconciliation with Burgundy by the 1435 Treaty of Arras Arras, Treaty of (1435) meant the recovery of Paris on April 13, 1436. Expelling the capable English army commanders from northwestern France required war, which in turn required money and an improved army. Indirect taxes and a hearth tax became permanent (if unpopular) annual revenues for the central government. The feudal levies of local lords were replaced by a national army under royal control while on the technical side, Jean and Gaspard Bureau developed more effective artillery. With “corned” gunpowder firing cast iron or lead shot, the new French army gained missile superiority over the English.





Finally, in 1441, Charles launched a well-prepared attack. Pontoise fell to French artillery, weakening the English position in the lower Seine valley, and in 1442 sieges reduced the English outer fortresses in Guienne. A 1443 English expedition proved fruitless; in 1444, Henry VI and the English “peace party” tried the path of negotiation. The Truce of Tours Tours, Truce of (1444) provided for the 1445 marriage of Henry with Margaret of Anjou, a niece to Charles VII Charles VII (king of France) , with a secret clause calling for the cession of Maine, including its line of strong fortresses, to France. These surrenders dragged on through 1448, but when English aggression against Brittany broke the truce, Charles invaded Normandy in 1449. The new French armies swiftly took many fortified towns and held the countryside, gaining a major success for “Charles the Well-Served.”

Early in 1450, the English made a belated effort to save Normandy. An army under Sir Thomas Kyriell Kyriell, Thomas landed at Cherbourg, recovered Valognes, and moved east through Carentan to reinforce the Bayeux garrison. Kyriell’s force of perhaps five thousand to six thousand spent the night of April 14 at the village of Formigny Formigny, Battle of (1450) and early on April 15 found the road back to Carentan blocked by a French army of three thousand under the count of Clermont. The English deployed west of Formigny, and for some hours, the opposing forces sought to provoke the other to attack, each hoping for a defensive victory. A melee eventually developed over two French culverins (light cannon) but the decisive factor was the arrival from Saint Lo of about twelve hundred French troops under the constable of Richemont, on the English left flank. Simultaneous French attacks broke the disjointed English defenses. The French claimed 3,774 English dead on the field, plus “more than a thousand whom shameful flight . . . did not save,” as well as fifteen hundred prisoners, including Kyriell. The reported French loss of only six, eight, or twelve is not credible, but the significant result of this decisive battle was that Kyriell’s army no longer existed. English garrisons at Bayeux, Avranches, Caen, Falaise, and elsewhere fell quickly. Cherbourg surrendered on August 12, 1450, after “such a heavy battering from cannons and bombards that the like had never been seen before,” and no part of France remained under English rule except Guienne, Calais, and the Channel Islands.

Charles VII enters Rouen in 1450, after the French had secured Normandy. From a miniature in a fifteenth century account of the Hundred Years’ War.

(Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.)

Following the defeat at Formigny, the English government was shaken by disorders at home leading to Cade’s Rebellion of 1450, and Charles VI seized the opportunity to attack in the Guienne. Again the French employed a broad-front invasion, brief sieges, threats, and bribery to converge on the English positions. The Bordeaux garrison surrendered on June 30, and Bayonne on August 20, 1451. The expulsion of the English from southwestern France was complete, although only for a year’s space. King Charles’s administrators and tax collectors became so immediately unpopular that influential Guiennese leaders promised in 1452 to support whatever expedition London could send to restore English rule. Accordingly, in October of 1452, the English sent an army of three thousand commanded by John Talbot, Talbot, John earl of Shrewsbury, a veteran of close to fifty years of campaigning, to liberate Guienne. Bordeaux indeed rose against its French garrison, and all western Guienne rallied to Talbot, soon strengthened by a reinforcement of three thousand more troops from England. In July of 1453, however, French armies advanced into Guienne, and a force of seven thousand under the direction of artillery master Jean Bureau besieged Castillon in the Dordogne valley. Talbot marched from Bordeaux to relieve Castillon with an Anglo-Guiennese army of about the same number, but these forces were evidently scattered by the time he arrived before Castillon on July 17.

Exactly why Talbot chose to make a dismounted frontal assault on the French lines with his straggling force is unclear. The attack was riddled by enfiladed artillery fire and the right flank crumpled by Franco-Breton reinforcements. In the rout, Talbot was killed and the Anglo-Guiennese army destroyed. Bordeaux surrendered to France on October 19. Only Calais remained, until 1558, as part of continental France under the English flag. The war was over, and the French king emerged as “Charles the Very Victorious” while English frustration in defeat helped cause their own divisive “War of the Roses.”


Throughout the Hundred Years’ War, England’s apparent initiative depended on battles won by superior archery. Their repeated invasions, however, antagonized the French population, gradually creating the nationalism dramatically embodied by Joan of Arc. Equally important were the systematic administrative reforms of Charles VII in giving France an army decisively superior in equipment and method to the English forces.

Three hundred years of antagonism between England and France, beginning with the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and culminating with the Hundred Year’s War, came to fruition in 1453. This year marked the end of a divisive period in the history of the Middle Ages in Europe and a new period of nationalism and military superiority for France.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Allmand, C. T., ed. War, Literature and Politics in the Late Middle Ages. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1976. Several informative articles covering topics such as espionage, artillery, chivalry, and the Hundred Years’ War.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Burne, Alfred H. The Agincourt War: A Military History of the Latter Part of the Hundred Years’ War from 1369 to 1453. Ware, Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Editions, 1999. A military analysis of the Agincourt war. Includes bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Contamine, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages. Translated by Michael Jones. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1984. Rich in details, this book offers a history of the art and science of militarism in medieval Europe. Includes an extensive bibliography and an index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Holmes, George. Europe, Hierarchy and Revolt, 1320-1450. 2d ed. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000. A good overview of the Hundred Years’ War. Explores France’s shift from regionalism to nationalism. Includes a good bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sackville-West, Vita. Saint Joan of Arc. New York: Grove Press, 2001. A biographical account of Joan, first published in 1936, including discussion of the history of France during the reign of Charles VII.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Seward, Desmond. A Brief History of the Hundred Years’ War: The English in France, 1337-1453. London: Robinson, 2003. Historical overview of the war, with illustrations, including maps.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vale, M. G. A. Charles VII. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. Scholarly analysis of war policies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Walker, David. The Normans in Britain. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1995. An overview of the Anglo-Norman period in England, beginning with the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Categories: History