The Hundred Years War begins

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The Hundred Years War begins

The 24th of May 1337 AD

Relations between the Kings of France and England had been strained since William the Conqueror became King of England, his Dukedom of Normandy, however, still rather uncomfortably making him a vassal of the French crown. Dynastic rivalries following the dying out of the Capetian male line in France meant that the two countries were at war several times before the start of the so-called Hundred Years War (a rather neater title than the more accurate Hundred and Sixteen Years War would have been).
Edward III , King of England from 1327, had a reasonable claim on the French crown, though for the time being he chose not to pursue it, leaving Philip VI as King of France. In 1331 Edward indeed gave up his claims, his domestic concerns ruling out any adventures across the Channel at that time. Edward, however, was allowed to keep the fiefdom of Gascony, of enormous importance economically to England, its wine and salt in particular generating huge incomes and its relatively prosperous population providing an important market for English wool and cloth.
War with Scotland in 1333, in which France supported Scottish King David against Edward III, led to a worsening of Anglo-French relations, and eventually Philip of France seized the opportunity to reclaim Gascony. On May 24 1337 Philip declared that Edward had not performed his duties as a vassal in Gascony, and thus the fiefdom was ended. At the same time English possessions in Aquitaine and Ponthieu were ordered by Philip to be taken. Surrogate wars and diplomacy were replaced by direct armed struggle between the two kingdoms. When the terrible conflict finally ended the population of France had been reduced by two thirds.

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