Home » By Period » Middle Ages » 9 Epic 100 Years War Battles That Shaped European History

9 Epic 100 Years War Battles That Shaped European History

Image of Joan of Arc at the Siege of Orlean for a blog post covering significant 100 Years War battles.

The 100 Years War battles, a series of conflicts that spanned more than a century, were defining moments in European history.

From the muddy fields of Crécy to the blood-soaked streets of Orléans, this epic struggle between England and France saw the rise and fall of kings, the birth of legendary heroes, and the clash of armies on an unprecedented scale.

Through the lens of nine key battles, we will explore the twists and turns of this monumental war, uncovering the strategies, weapons, and personalities that shaped its course.

Join us on a thrilling journey through time as we delve into the heart of the 100 Years War battles and discover how these pivotal engagements forever changed the face of Europe.

Get ready to witness the courage, carnage, and ultimate triumph that defined this unforgettable chapter in human history.

List of 9 Battles of the 100 Years War

Kicking off our list of nine pivotal 100 Years War battles is the Battle of Sluys, a naval engagement that took place in 1340.

This first battle on our list marked a significant English victory and set the stage for the long, bloody conflict to come.

Image of a medieval artist's rendition of the Battle of Sluys.
English and French forces at the Battle of Sluys off Flanders

1. Battle of Sluys (1340)

The Battle of Sluys, one of the early 100 Years War battles, took place in 1340 when King Edward III of England decided to invade France.

He assembled a fleet of around 200 ships at the port of Sluys in Flanders, but found the harbor blocked by a French fleet of about 190 ships.

On June 24th, Edward III personally led the English attack, successfully trapping the French ships against the coastline.

The English archers, renowned for their skill and effectiveness, rained down arrows upon the French ships, inflicting heavy casualties and causing widespread chaos.

The French, unable to maneuver their ships or effectively fight back, lost nearly their entire fleet, while the English emerged victorious with only two ships lost.

This decisive English victory in one of the first major 100 Years War battles gave them control over the English Channel for the next three decades, providing a strategic advantage for future campaigns.

Image of Edward the Black Prince following the Battle of Crecy.
Edward the Black Prince standing over the body of what is likely King John of Bohemia

2. Battle of Crécy (1346)

Following their naval triumph at Sluys, Edward III launched an invasion of Normandy in 1346, marking another significant chapter in the 100 Years War battles.

The English army was met by a substantially larger French force led by King Philip VI near the village of Crécy.

On August 26th, the Battle of Crécy commenced with a fierce French cavalry charge, but they were outmatched by the superior tactics and weaponry of the English longbowmen.

These skilled archers could shoot with deadly accuracy from a considerable distance, decimating the French ranks.

The French suffered severe losses, including numerous noblemen and even the King of Bohemia, who fought valiantly alongside his men.

The resounding English victory at Crécy, one of the most pivotal 100 Years War battles, demonstrated the effectiveness of well-trained infantry against the once-dominant mounted knights, challenging the traditional military hierarchy of the time.

Image of a painting of the Battle of Potiers for a blog post covering epic 100 Years War battles.
English and French forces clash at Poitiers in September 1356

3. Battle of Poitiers (1356)

A decade after the Battle of Crécy, the English found themselves once again on French soil, this time led by Edward the Black Prince, in another of the significant 100 Years War battles.

On September 19th, 1356, the English encountered a French army near the city of Poitiers.

Having learned from their previous defeat at Crécy, the French avoided a direct frontal assault and instead attempted to surround and overwhelm the English forces.

However, the Black Prince, known for his military prowess, launched a surprise attack that caught the French off guard and threw them into disarray.

Amidst the confusion and chaos of the battle, the French king, John II, was captured by the English.

The Battle of Poitiers, a remarkable victory for the English and one of the most memorable 100 Years War battles, showcased their tactical superiority and dealt a severe blow to French morale.

Image of battle during the 100 Years War Battle of La Rochelle.
Medieval artist’s rendition of the Battle of La Rochelle during the 100 Years War

4. Battle of La Rochelle (1372)

As the 100 Years War battles progressed, the 1370s saw a shift in fortune favoring the French.

In 1372, the English sent a fleet to relieve the port city of La Rochelle, which was under siege by the French.

On June 22nd, the French launched a daring attack on the English fleet within the harbor, employing a clever strategy involving fireships.

These vessels, filled with highly flammable materials, were set ablaze and sent towards the English ships, causing widespread destruction and panic.

The English, caught off guard by this unconventional tactic, lost nearly half their ships and were forced to retreat in defeat.

The Battle of La Rochelle, a significant turning point among the 100 Years War battles, marked the end of English naval supremacy in the Channel and demonstrated the French’s adaptability and resilience.

Image of English and French knights in battle at Agincourt.
English and French forces in combat at Agincourt in 1415

5. Battle of Agincourt (1415)

The Battle of Agincourt, fought on October 25th, 1415, is arguably the most renowned and celebrated of all the 100 Years War battles.

King Henry V of England, having invaded France and laid siege to the town of Harfleur, found himself confronted by a massive French army that greatly outnumbered his own forces, perhaps by as much as 5 to 1.

Despite the overwhelming odds, the English longbowmen once again proved their worth, unleashing a relentless barrage of arrows upon the French, who struggled to advance through the muddy, rain-soaked battlefield.

As the French became bogged down and disorganized, the English seized the opportunity to charge, routing the French forces and securing a stunning victory.

The Battle of Agincourt, immortalized in literature and folklore, stands as a testament to English courage, skill, and determination, and remains one of the most iconic 100 Years War battles.

Image of French forces in battle during the Siege of Orleans.
French forces in the foreground at the Siege of Orleans

6. Siege of Orléans (1428-1429)

By 1428, the English had made significant gains in their conquest of northern France, and the Siege of Orléans marked a critical juncture in the 100 Years War battles.

The city of Orléans, the last major stronghold north of the Loire River, was valiantly defended by Jean de Dunois and the enigmatic Joan of Arc, a young peasant girl who claimed to be guided by divine visions.

For six grueling months, the English laid siege to the city, launching repeated assaults but were met with fierce resistance from the French defenders.

On May 8th, 1429, Joan of Arc led a decisive final assault that successfully broke the siege, liberating Orléans and turning the tide of the war in favor of the French.

The Siege of Orléans, a pivotal moment in the 100 Years War battles, marked the beginning of a French resurgence and the rise of Joan of Arc as a national heroine.

Image of a medieval era painting of combat at the Battle of Patay.
Medieval artist’s rendition of the action at the Battle of Patay in 1429

7. Battle of Patay (1429)

Emboldened by their triumphant defense of Orléans, the French army, under the leadership of Joan of Arc, confronted the English at the Battle of Patay on June 18th, 1429, in another crucial engagement of the 100 Years War battles.

The English, caught by surprise and with little time to organize their defenses, were swiftly overwhelmed by the charging French cavalry.

The French, seizing the initiative and capitalizing on their momentum, quickly overran the English positions, capturing the English commander, John Talbot, in the process.

The Battle of Patay, a resounding French victory and a key turning point in the 100 Years War battles, cleared the path for Charles VII to be crowned as the rightful king of France in Reims, further legitimizing the French cause and boosting their morale.

Image of a battle scene at the Battle of Formigny.
England and France battle once again that Battle of Formigny in 1450

8. Battle of Formigny (1450)

As the 100 Years War battles neared their conclusion, the French had managed to reclaim much of Normandy by 1450.

On April 15th, a French army encountered an English force near the village of Formigny, in what would prove to be a decisive engagement.

The French, now equipped with a formidable new weapon – cannons – used them to devastating effect against the English. Faced with the daunting task of attacking uphill into the French artillery fire, the English suffered heavy casualties and were eventually routed after three hours of intense fighting.

The Battle of Formigny, a crucial late-stage encounter in the 100 Years War battles, effectively crushed English hopes of regaining a foothold in Normandy and signaled the imminent end of the prolonged conflict.

Image of a painting of mounted English and French troops in battle.
Fighting during the final major 100 Years War battle, the Battle of Castillon, in 1453

9. Battle of Castillon (1453):

The Battle of Castillon, fought on July 17th, 1453, marked the climactic conclusion of the 100 Years War battles.

The English, under the command of John Talbot, sought to relieve the French siege of the town of Castillon in Gascony.

However, the French had carefully prepared a strong defensive position, bolstered by a significant number of cannons.

As the English attacked, they were met with withering cannon fire and fierce resistance from the entrenched French forces.

During the intense fighting, John Talbot was killed, and the English army was decisively defeated, suffering heavy casualties and a irreversible blow to their morale.

The Battle of Castillon, the final major engagement of the 100 Years War battles, sealed the fate of the English in France, leaving them with only the port of Calais as their sole remaining territory on the continent.

France, now unified and strengthened under the Valois dynasty, emerged as a dominant power in the aftermath of the war.

Image of English and French bowman in battle for a blog post covering major 100 Years War battles.
Medieval era rendition of the Battle of Agincourt with
English/Welsh bowman and French crossbowman in the foreground

Wrap-up: Top 100 Years War Battles

In conclusion, the 100 Years War battles were a series of monumental engagements that altered the course of European history.

From the stunning English victories at Sluys, Crécy, and Agincourt to the resurgent French triumphs at Orléans, Patay, and Castillon, these battles showcased the evolving nature of warfare and the shifting balance of power between two great nations.

Through the bravery of soldiers, the brilliance of commanders, and the impact of new technologies, the 100 Years War battles left an indelible mark on the medieval world.

As we reflect on these epic clashes, we gain a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made, the lessons learned, and the enduring legacy of this remarkable period in human history.

The 100 Years War battles may have ended centuries ago, but their echoes continue to resonate in the fabric of modern Europe, reminding us of the profound impact of this extraordinary conflict.

For more on some of the greatest battles of the medieval era, check out my article Medieval Battles: 11 Pivotal Clashes that Rewrote History!

Image of English and French forces in combat for a blog post covering epic 100 Years War battles.
English and French infantry and cavalry in battle during the 100 Years War

FAQs: Top 100 Years War Battles

1. What was the main cause of the 100-year war?

The main cause of the Hundred Years’ War was a succession dispute over the French throne.

In 1328, King Charles IV of France died without a direct male heir. The closest male relative was King Edward III of England, whose mother was Charles IV’s sister.

However, the French nobility favored Philip VI of the House of Valois, who was Charles IV’s first cousin.

The French argued that the Salic law, which governed succession in parts of France, prohibited inheritance through the female line.

This principle was used to justify Philip VI’s claim to the throne. Edward III, on the other hand, asserted that he had the right to the French crown through his mother.

Tensions escalated when Philip VI confiscated the English-held duchy of Aquitaine in 1337.

In response, Edward III declared himself the rightful king of France, leading to the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War in 1338.

While other factors, such as economic rivalry and territorial disputes, also contributed to the conflict, the succession crisis was the primary catalyst for the war.

2. How long was the 100 Years War actually?

Despite its name, the Hundred Years’ War actually lasted for 116 years, from 1337 to 1453.

The conflict was not a continuous battle but rather a series of separate phases of fighting with periods of truce in between.

The war began in 1337 when King Edward III of England claimed the French throne and lasted until 1360 when the Treaty of Brétigny was signed.

This treaty granted England significant territories in France and a large ransom for the captured French king, John II.

However, the peace was short-lived, and fighting resumed in 1369. This second phase of the war continued until 1389 when a truce was agreed upon.

The conflict reignited once more in 1415 when King Henry V of England invaded France, leading to the famous Battle of Agincourt.

The final phase of the war began in 1428 and ended in 1453 with the French victory at the Battle of Castillon.

This decisive battle marked the end of the war, with England losing all its territories in France except for the port of Calais.

So, while the conflict is known as the Hundred Years’ War, it actually spanned a period of 116 years, consisting of several distinct phases of fighting interspersed with periods of relative peace.

3. Why is the Battle of Agincourt so famous?

The Battle of Agincourt, fought on October 25, 1415, is one of the most famous 100 Years War battles and has become a symbol of English military success.

There are several reasons for its enduring fame:

Overwhelming odds: The English army, led by King Henry V, was significantly outnumbered by the French forces.

Estimates suggest that the French had between 12,000 to 36,000 men, while the English had only around 6,000 to 9,000.

Despite these odds, the English emerged victorious.

Tactical superiority: Henry V’s tactical decisions and the effective use of the English longbow were crucial to the outcome.

The English archers, protected by stakes driven into the ground, rained arrows on the French cavalry and infantry, causing chaos and decimating their ranks.

Muddy terrain: Heavy rain before the battle turned the battlefield into a muddy quagmire.

This hindered the French cavalry and heavily armored soldiers, who struggled to advance through the mud, making them easy targets for the English archers.

Cultural significance: The battle has been immortalized in literature and popular culture, most notably in William Shakespeare’s play “Henry V.”

Shakespeare’s depiction of Henry V’s inspiring St. Crispin’s Day speech has become iconic and has helped cement the battle’s place in the public imagination.

Historical impact: Agincourt was a decisive English victory that altered the course of the Hundred Years’ War.

It strengthened Henry V’s claim to the French throne and paved the way for further English conquests in France.

The combination of these factors – the incredible odds overcome by the English, the tactical brilliance displayed, the dramatic setting, and the lasting cultural and historical impact – has ensured that the Battle of Agincourt remains one of the most famous and celebrated military engagements in European history.

References: Top 100 Years War Battles

““Please God and St. George”: The Battle of Sluys.” Warfare History Network, warfarehistorynetwork.com/article/edward-iii-and-the-battle-of-sluys/.

“Battle of Castillon.” Www.britishbattles.com, www.britishbattles.com/one-hundred-years-war/battle-of-castillon/.

“Battle of Formigny | European History | Britannica.” Www.britannica.com, www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Formigny.

“Battle of Poitiers, 1356 CE.” World History Encyclopedia, www.worldhistory.org/article/1511/battle-of-poitiers-1356-ce/.

cartwright, mark. “Hundred Years (Disambiguation).” Www.worldhistory.org, 17 Mar. 2020, www.worldhistory.org/Hundred_Years.

“Edward of Woodstock (the Black Prince).” Westminster Abbey, www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/royals/edward-of-woodstock-the-black-prince.

History.com Editors. “Hundred Years’ War.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 21 Aug. 2018, www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/hundred-years-war.

“Hundred Years’ War: Joan of Arc and the Siege of Orléans.” Historynet, 6 Apr. 2018, www.historynet.com/hundred-years-war-joan-arc-siege-orleans/.

MacEwen, Terry. “Edward the Black Prince.” Historic UK, 8 Nov. 2019, www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Edward-The-Black-Prince/.

Martinez, Julia. “Battle of Agincourt | Facts, Summary, & Significance.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019, www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Agincourt.

The Battle of Patay 1429. 2018, www.jeanne-darc.info/location/the-battle-of-patay-1429/.

“The Siege of La Rochelle: A Battle of Kings & Frenchmen.” TheCollector, 17 May 2023, www.thecollector.com/siege-of-la-rochelle-battle/. Accessed 11 Mar. 2024.

ThoughtCo. “Hundred Years’ War: Battle of Crécy.” ThoughtCo, 2017, www.thoughtco.com/hundred-years-war-battle-of-crecy-2360728.