HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
Sort By Author Sort By Title

Sort By Author
Sort By Title


Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc

All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics
The History of England from the Accession of Henry III. to the Death of Edward III. (1216-1377)
The Preliminaries Of The Hundred Years' War
by Tout, T.F. (M.A.)

Edward III. had just entered upon his nineteenth year when he became king in fact as well as in name. In person he was not unworthy of his father and grandfather. Less strikingly tall than they, he was nobly built and finely proportioned. In full manhood, long hair, a thick moustache and a flowing beard adorned his regular and handsome countenance. His graciousness and affability were universally praised. His face shone, we are told, like the face of a god, so that to see him or to dream of him was certain to conjure up joyous images.1 He delighted in the pomp of his office, wore magnificent garments, and played his kingly part with the same majesty and dignity as his grandfather. Despite the troubles of his youth, he was well educated. Richard of Bury is said to have been his tutor, and the early lessons of the author or instigator of the Philobiblon were never entirely lost by the prince who took Chaucer and Froissart into his service. More conspicuous was his love of art, his taste for sumptuous buildings and their magnificent embellishment, which left memorials in the stately castle of Windsor and its rich chapel of St. George, in St. Stephen's chapel at Westminster, and the Eastminster for Cistercian nuns hard by Tower hill. A fluent and eloquent speaker in French and English, Edward was also conversant with Latin, and perhaps Low-Dutch. Yet no king was less given to study or seclusion. Possessed, perhaps, of no exceptional measure of intellectual capacity, and not even endowed to any large extent with firmness of character, he won a great place in history by the extraordinary activity of his temperament and the vigour and energy with which he threw himself into whatever work he set his hand to do. He was a consummate master of knightly exercises, delighting in tournaments, and especially in those which were marked by some touch of quaintness or fancy. He had the hereditary passion of his house for the chase. In his youthful campaigns in Scotland and in his maturer expeditions in France, he was accompanied by a little army of falconers and huntsmen, by packs of hounds, and many hawks trained with the utmost care. He honoured with his special friendship an Abbot of Leicester, famed throughout England as the most dexterous of hare-coursers.2
1 Continuation of Murimuth (Engl. Hist. Soc.), pp. 225-27, which gives the best contemporary description of Edward's character.

2 Knighton, ii., 127.
Edward's abounding energy was even more gladly devoted to war than to the chase. He was an admirable exponent of those chivalric ideals which are glorified in the courtly pages of Froissart. Not content with the easy victories which fall in the tiltyard to the crowned king, Edward was anxious to show that his triumphs belonged to the knight and not to the monarch, and more than once jousted victoriously in disguise. The same spirit led him to challenge Philip of France to decide their quarrel by single combat, and to win a personal triumph when masking as a knight attached to the service of Sir Walter Manny. He was liberal to the verge of prodigality, good-tempered, easy of access, and, save when moved by deep gusts of fierce anger, kindly and compassionate. His easy good nature endeared him both to foreigners and to every class of his own subjects. Not only did he enter fully into the free-masonry which regarded the knights of all Christian nations as equal members of a sworn brotherhood of arms, but he extended his favours to the London vintner's son who earned his bread in his service, and entertained the wives of the leading London citizens, side by side with the noble ladies in whose honour he gave the most quaint and magnificent of his banquets. Pious after a somewhat formal fashion, he was unwearied in going on pilgrimage and lavish in his religious foundations. Though no prince was more careful to protect the state from the encroachments of churchmen, his orthodoxy and devoutness kept him in good repute with the austerest champions of the Church. He could choose fit agents to carry out his policy, and his campaigns were a marvellous training ground for gallant and capable warriors.

Edward seldom lost sight of the material and economic interests of his subjects. He was the friend of merchants, the father of English commerce, the patron of the infant woollen manufactures, and a zealous champion of the maritime greatness of his island realm, which boasted that he was "king of the sea". Though his financial exigencies often led him to sell excessive privileges to alien traders, this policy did little harm to his subjects, for few of them were ready as yet to embark in foreign commerce. A true patriot, who declared that his land of England was "nearer to his heart, more delightful, noble, and profitable than all other lands," he succeeded in making Englishmen conscious of their national life as they had never been before; and he won for his fatherland a foremost place among the kingdoms of the world. His network of diplomatic alliances was dexterously fashioned, and enabled him to supplement the resources of his own subjects.

The breadth of Edward's ambitions hindered their complete accomplishment. Like Edward I., he undertook more than he could carry through, and, though his panegyrists praise his patience in adversity no less than his moderation in prosperity, his merely animal courage and vigour broke down under the weight of misfortune. Thus the glorious king, who in his youth vied with his grandfather, seemed in his old age to have nearly approached the fate of his wretched father. In early life he won the love of his subjects. It was only in the first years of his reign that the violence and greed of his disorderly household, which inherited the evil traditions of the previous generation, bore so heavily upon the people that Englishmen fled at his approach in dread of the purveyors, who confiscated every man's goods for the royal use.1 The somewhat shallow opportunism which abandoned, with little attempt at resistance, every royal right that stood in the way of his receiving the full support of his parliament, at least had the merit of keeping Edward in general touch with his estates. The wanton breaches of good faith, by which he sometimes strove to win back what he had lightly conceded, were regarded as efforts to save the sovereign's dignity, rather than as insidious attempts to restore the prerogative. Unjust as was the very basis of his French pretensions, they were backed up by a show of legal claim that satisfied the conscience of king and subject, and to contemporaries Edward seemed a king regardful of his honour and mindful of his plighted word. If his generosity verged on extravagance, and his affectation of popular manners and graciousness on unreality, Englishmen of the fourteenth century were no severe critics of a crowned king. It was only when in his later years Edward laid aside the soldier's life, and abandoned himself to the frivolous distractions and degrading amours2 which provoked the censure even of his admirers, that the self-indulgent traits inherited from his unhappy father stood revealed.
1 The Speculum regis Edwardi (ed. Moisant) was written before 1333, and the attribution of its composition to Archbishop Islip and the inferences drawn in Stubbs' Const. Hist., ii., 394, are therefore unwarranted; see Professor Tait's note in Engl. Hist. Review, xvi. (1901), 110-15.

2 Chron. Anglia, 1328-1388, p. 401.
Edward was before all things a soldier. He was not only the consummate knight, the mirror of chivalry, but a capable tactician with a general's eye that took in the essential points of the situation at a glance. His restless energy ensured the rapidity of movement and alertness of action which won him many a triumph over less mobile and less highly trained antagonists; while they inspired his followers with faith in their cause and with the courage which succeeds against desperate odds. Yet the victor of Crecy cannot be numbered among the consummate generals of history. His campaigns were ill-planned; and he lacked the self-restraint and sense of proportion which would have prevented him from aiming at objects beyond his reach. The same want of relation between ends and means, the same want of definite policy and clear ideals, marred his statecraft. Yet contemporaries, conscious of his faults, magnified Edward as the brilliant and successful king who had won for himself an assured place among the greatest monarchs of history, "Never," says Froissart, "had there been such a king since the days of Arthur King of Great Britain."1 Even to his own age his senile degradation pointed the moral of the triumphs of his manhood. The modern historian, who sees, beneath the superficial splendour of the days of Edward III., the misery and degradation that underlay the wreck of the dying Middle Ages, is in no danger of appraising too highly the merits of this showy and ambitious monarch. Perhaps in our own days the reaction has gone too far, and we have been taught to undervalue the splendid energy and robustness of temperament which commanded the admiration of all Europe, and personified the strenuous ideals of the young English nation.
1 Froissart (ed. Luce), viii., 231; cf. Canon of Bridlington, p. 95.
The internal history of the first few years of Edward's reign was uneventful. John Stratford became chancellor after Mortimer's fall, and remained for ten years the guiding spirit of the administration. Translated on Meopham's death in 1333 to Canterbury, he continued, as primate, to take a leading part in politics. His chief helper was his brother Robert, rewarded in 1337 by the see of Chichester. The brothers were capable but not brilliant politicians. The worst disorders of the times of anarchy were put down, and parliaments readily granted sufficient money to meet the king's necessities. After a few years, the strife of parties was so far hushed that Burghersh was suffered to return to office, and it looks as if the balance between the Lancastrian party, upheld by the Stratfords, and the old middle party of Pembroke and Badlesmere, with which Burghersh had hereditary connexions, was maintained, as it had been during the least unhappy period of the preceding reign. The country was growing rich and prosperous. The annalists tell us of little save tournaments and mummings, and the setting up of seven new earldoms to remedy the gaps which death and forfeiture had made in the higher circle of the baronage. The earldom of Devon was revived for the house of Courtenay; that of Salisbury in favour of the trusty William Montague, and an Audley, son of Despenser's rival, was raised to the earldom of Gloucester. William Bohun, a younger son of the Humphrey slain at Boroughbridge, became Earl of Northampton, an Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, a Clinton Earl of Huntingdon, a Hastings Earl of Pembroke, and Henry of Grosmont, the Earl of Lancaster's first born, Earl of Derby. A new rank was added to the English peerage when the king's little son, Earl of Chester in 1333, was made Duke of Cornwall in 1337. The old feuds seemed dead and with them the old disorder. But Edward was ambitious of military glory, and it was natural that he should seek to reverse the degrading part which he had been forced to play in relation to Scotland and France. His hands being tied by treaties, it was not easy for him to make the first move. Before long, however, circumstances arose which gave him a chance of taking up a line of his own with regard to Scotland. From that time Scottish affairs mainly absorbed his attention until the outbreak of troubles with France.

The establishment of Robert Bruce on the Scottish throne had been attended by a considerable disturbance of the territorial balance in the northern kingdom. Many Scottish magnates, deprived of their lands and driven into exile, had abodes in England, and all might well look for the favour of the king in whose service they had been ruined. The treaty of Northampton made no provision for their restoration, and Edward showed himself disposed to uphold it. Their estates were in the hands of their supplanters, the nobles who had gathered round the throne of the Bruces. Thus it was that the exiles were cut off from all hope of return, and saw their only possibility of restitution in the break-up of the friendship of Edward and David. In like case were the English magnates who still entertained hopes of making effective the grants of Scottish estates which they had received from Edward I. and Edward II. For both classes alike every fresh year of peace between the realms decreased their chances of obtaining their desires. They failed to persuade Edward to go to war with his brother-in-law and repudiate formally the obligations imposed upon him by his mother and her paramour. But the minority of King David had unloosed the spirits of disorder in Scotland. Though the vigorous and capable regent, Sir Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, showed himself competent to stem the tide of aristocratic reaction which swelled round the throne of his infant cousin, he was one of the old generation of heroes that had aided King Robert to gain his throne. Were he to die, or become incapable of acting, there was no one who could supply his place. The Disinherited--thus they styled themselves--were encouraged both by the apathy of Edward III. and the weakness of Scotland to make a bold stroke on their own behalf.

At the head of the disinherited was Edward Balliol, the son of the deposed King John. Brought up in England, first under the care of his cousin, Earl Warenne, and afterwards in the household of the half-brothers of Edward II., Edward Balliol, who succeeded in 1315 to the French estates on which his father spent his latter years, divided his time between England and France. The forfeiture of his father still kept him out of Barnard Castle and the other Balliol lands in England. Young and warlike, poor and ambitious, with few lands and great pretensions, he never formally abandoned either the lordship of Galloway or the throne of Scotland. In 1330 he received permission to take up his quarters in England during pleasure. He soon associated himself with his fellow-exiles in a bold attempt to win back their patrimony. Chief among his followers were three titular Scottish earls, closely related by intermarriage, each of whom was also a baron of high rank in England. Of these the French-born Henry of Beaumont, kinsman of Eleanor of Castile, and brother of Bishop Louis of Durham, was the oldest and most experienced. As the husband of a sister of the last of the Comyn Earls of Buchan, he posed as the heir of the greatest of the Scottish houses which had paid the penalty of its opposition to King Robert, and was summoned to the English parliament as Earl of Buchan. Beaumont's great-nephew, the young Gilbert of Umfraville, lord of Redesdale, was a grandson of another Comyn heiress, and his ancestors had inherited in the middle of the thirteenth century the ancient Scottish earldom of Angus, though they also had incurred forfeiture for their adhesion to the English policy. David of Strathbolgie, Earl of Athol, had a better right to be called a Scot than Umfraville or Beaumont. But his father abandoned Bruce, and was driven into England, where he held the Kentish barony of Chilham, and sat in the English parliament under his Scottish title. The younger Athol was son-in-law to the titular Earl of Moray, and all three kinsmen were bound by common interests to embrace the policy of Edward Balliol. Many lesser men associated themselves with the three earls and the claimant to a throne. Nearly every nobleman of the Scottish border made himself a party to a scheme of adventure which had its best parallels in the Norman invasions of Wales and Ireland.

The object of the disinherited was to raise an army and prosecute their Scottish claims by force. Edward III. gave them no open countenance, and took up an ostentatiously correct attitude. He solemnly forbade all breach of the peace, and prevented the adventurers from adopting the easy course of marching from England to an open attack on Scotland. No obstacles, however, were imposed to hinder their raising a small but efficient army of 500 men-at-arms and 1,000 archers. Mercenaries, both English and foreign, were hired to supplement their scanty numbers, and among those who took service with them was a young gentleman of Hainault, Walter Manny, whose father had a few years before perished in the service of Edward II. in Gascony, and who had first come to England in the service of his countrywoman, Queen Philippa. Ships were collected in the Humber, and on the last day of July, 1332, the disinherited and their followers sailed from Ravenspur on a destination which was officially supposed to be unknown. A week later, on August 6, they landed at Kinghorn in Fife.

Scotland was singularly unready to meet invasion. The regent Moray had died a few weeks earlier, and his successor, Donald, Earl of Mar, incompetent to carry on his vigorous policy, had perhaps already been intriguing with the adventurers. The only resistance to Balliol's landing, made by the Earl of Fife, was altogether unsuccessful. The little army established itself easily in the enemies' territory, and, after two days' rest at Dunfermline, advanced over the Ochils towards Perth. The regent had by that time gathered together an imposing army. As the invaders approached Strathearn on their way northwards, they found Mar encamped on Dupplin Moor, on the left bank of the Earn, and holding in force the only bridge available for crossing the river. There was some parleying between the two hosts. "We are sons of magnates of this land," declared the disinherited to Mar. "We are come hither with the lord Edward of Balliol, the right heir of the realm, to demand the lands which belong to us by hereditary right." Mar returned a warlike answer to their words, and both armies made preparation for battle.

The disinherited, though few in number, were well trained in warfare, and from the beginning showed capacity to out-general the unwieldy host and feeble leader opposed to them. At sunset, some of their forces crossed the Earn by a ford which the Scots had neglected to guard, and falling upon an outlying portion of the enemies' camp, where the infantry were quartered, slaughtered the surprised Scots at their leisure. Luckily for Mar, the whole of his knights and men-at-arms were far away, uselessly watching the bridge, over which they had expected the disinherited to force a passage. Thus saved from the night ambuscade, the kernel of the Scottish army prepared next morning, August 12, to attack the disinherited. Puffed up by the memory of Bannockburn and the consciousness of superior numbers, they marched to battle as if certain of victory. All fought on foot, and the men-at-arms were drawn up in a dense central mass, supported at each side by wings. The disinherited were sufficiently schooled in northern warfare to adopt the same tactics. Save for a few score of horsemen in reserve, their heavily armed troops, leaving their horses in the rear, formed a compact column after the Scottish fashion. But archers were distributed in open order on the right and left flanks, with both extremities pushed forward, so that they formed the horns of a half-moon. Then the Scots advanced to the charge, and both sides joined in battle. The irresistible weight of the Scottish main phalanx forced back the little column of the disinherited, and for a moment it looked as if the battle were won. Meanwhile the archers on the flanks poured a galling shower on the collateral Scottish columns. The unvisored helmets of the Scots made them an easy prey to the storm of missiles, and they were driven back on to the main body. By this time the disinherited had rallied from the first shock; and still the deadly hail of arrows descended from right and left, until the whole of the Scottish army was thrown into panic-stricken disorder. Escape was impossible for the foremost ranks by reason of the closeness of their formation. At last, the rear files sought safely in flight, and were closely pursued by the victors, mounted on their fresh horses. A huge mass of slain, piled up upon each other, marked the place of combat. As at Bannockburn, the small disciplined host prevailed, but discipline was now with the English and numbers only with the Scots.1
1 The significance of the battle of Dupplin was first pointed out by Mr. J.E. Morris in Engl. Hist. Review, xii. (1897), 430-31.
The victory of Dupplin Moor was for the moment decisive. Balliol occupied Perth, and received the submission of many of the Scottish magnates, among them being that Earl of Fife who first opposed his landing. A few weeks later, on September 24, Balliol was crowned King of Scots at Scone by the Bishop of Dunkeld. It was a soldier's coronation, and the magnates sat at the coronation feast in full armour, save their helmets. The disinherited then received the lands for which they had striven; and thereupon quitted the new king, either to secure their estates or to revisit their property in England. But the Scots, of no mind to receive a king from the foreigner, chose a new regent in Sir Andrew Moray, son of the companion of Wallace; and prepared to maintain King David. On December 16, Balliol was surprised at Annan by a hostile force under the young Earl of Moray, son of the late regent, and by Sir Archibald Douglas. His followers were cut off, his brother was slain, and he himself had the utmost difficulty in effecting his escape to England. He had only reigned four months.

During Balliol's brief triumph, Edward III. had declared himself in his favour. Debarred by the treaty of Northampton from questioning the independence of King David, he was able to make what terms he liked with David's supplanter. In November a treaty was drawn up at Roxburgh, by which Balliol recognised the overlordship of Edward, and promised him the town, castle, and shire of Berwick. In return for these concessions, Edward III. acknowledged his namesake as lawful King of Scots. When, a few weeks later, his new vassal appeared as a fugitive on English soil, Edward had no longer any scruples in openly supporting him in an attempt to win back his throne. In the spring of 1333, Balliol and the disinherited once more crossed the frontier in sufficient force to undertake the siege of Berwick. The border stronghold held out manfully, but the Scots failed in an attempt to divert the attention of the English by an invasion of Cumberland. After Easter, Edward III. went in person to Berwick, and devoted the whole resources of England to ensuring its reduction. The siege lasted on until July, when the garrison, at the last gasp, offered to surrender, unless the town were relieved within fifteen days. The Scots made a great effort to save Berwick from capture, and the English king was forced to fight a pitched battle, before he could secure its possession.

On July 19 Edward, leaving a sufficient portion of his army to maintain the blockade of Berwick, took up a position with the remainder on Halidon Hill, a short distance to the west of the town. The lessons of Bannockburn, Boroughbridge, and Dupplin were not forgotten, and the English host was arranged much after the fashion which had procured the first victory of the disinherited. Knights and men-at-arms sent their horses to the rear and, from the king downwards, all, save a small reserve of horse, prepared to fight on foot. Edward divided his forces into three lines or "battles," each of which consisted of a central column of dismounted heavily armed troops, flanked by a right and a left wing of archers in open order, John of Eltham and the titular Earl of Buchan commanded the right battle, the king the centre, and Edward Balliol the left. The Scots still employed the traditional tactics which had failed so signally at Dupplin. Sir Archibald Douglas led his followers up the slopes of the hill in three dense columns. But a pitiless rain of arrows spread havoc among their ranks, and there were no answering volleys to disturb their foes. The battle was won for the English almost before the two lines had joined in close combat. It was only on Edward's right that the Scots were strong enough to push home their attack. On the centre and left, the English easily drove the enemy in panic flight down the slopes which they had ascended so confidently. The pursuit was long and bloody; few were taken prisoners, but many were slain or driven into the sea. Seven Scottish earls were believed by the English to have fallen, while the victors lost one knight, one squire, and a few infantry soldiers. Thus, for a second time the tactics, which had served the Scots so well in the defensive fight of Bannockburn, failed in offence to secure victory for them. The experience of this day completed the evolution of the new English battle array of men-at-arms fighting on foot and supported by wings of archers, which was soon to excite the wonder of Europe, when its possibilities were demonstrated on continental fields.

Next day Berwick opened its gates, and was handed over to the English, according to the treaty of Roxburgh, to be for the rest of its history an English frontier town. Edward Balliol again conquered Scotland as easily as he had done on the former occasion, and far more effectually. It was no longer possible for the few remaining champions of the house of Bruce to safeguard the person of the little king and queen. David and Joan were accordingly sent off to France, where they were to grow up as good friends of King Philip. But Balliol had so clearly regained his throne through English help that he was no longer an independent agent. No sooner was his conquest assured than he was forced not only to confirm the surrender of Berwick, but to yield up the whole of south-eastern Scotland as the price of the English assistance. The depth of his humiliation was sounded when, in the treaty of Newcastle, June 12, 1334, Edward, King of Scots, granted Edward, King of England, lands worth two thousand pounds a year in the marches of Scotland, and in part payment thereof yielded up to him, besides Berwick and its shire, the castle, town, and county of Roxburgh, the forests of Jedburgh Selkirk, and Ettrick, the town and county of Selkirk, and the towns, castles, and counties of Peebles, Dumfries, and Edinburgh. Of these Dumfries then included the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, while the shire of Edinburgh took in the constabularies, the modern shires, of Haddington and Linlithgow. Thus the whole of Lothian, the whole of the central upland region, and Balliol's own inheritance of Galloway east of the Cree were directly transferred to the English crown, and were divided into sheriffdoms, and officered after the English fashion. On June 18 Balliol personally performed homage for so much of Scotland as Edward chose to leave him. The wrongs of the disinherited had been the means of re-opening the whole Scottish question, and Edward III. seemed assured of a position as supreme as that which had once been held by Edward I.

It was always easier in the Middle Ages to conquer a country than to keep it. And the experience of forty years might well have convinced Englishmen that no land was more difficult to hold than the stubborn and impenetrable northern kingdom, with its strenuous population, ever willing to cry a truce between local feuds when there was an opportunity of uniting against the southerners. Edward overshot his mark in grasping too eagerly the fairest portions of Balliol's realm. He needed for his policy a Scottish king, strong enough to maintain himself against his subjects, and loyal enough to remain true to the English connexion. Any faint chance of Balliol occupying such a position was completely destroyed by his studied humiliation. Henceforward the King of Scots, who had fought so well at Dupplin and Halidon, was but a pawn in Edward's game. Hated by the Scots as the betrayer of his country, distrusted by the English who henceforth spied his actions and commanded his armies in his name, the gallant victor of Dupplin lost faith in himself and in his cause. After all, he was his father's son, and in no wise capable of bearing adversity and indignity with equanimity. His helplessness soon proved the worst obstacle in the way of the success of Edward's plans. Even with the aid of a large Scottish party, Edward I. had failed to bring about the subjection of Scotland. It was clearly impossible for his grandson to succeed in the same task when all Scotland was united against him, and braced to action by a series of glorious memories.

Difficulties arose almost from the first. Not only had Balliol to contend against the implacable hostility of the Scottish patriots; the disinherited split up into rival factions after their triumph, and their divisions played the game of the partisans of the Bruces. The Earls of Athol and Buchan quarrelled with Balliol. Buchan, besieged by the partisans of David Bruce in a remote castle, was forced to surrender and quit Scotland for good. Athol was distinguished by the violence and suddenness of his tergiversations. After deserting Balliol for the patriots, he once more declared for the two Edwards, and persuaded many of the Scottish magnates to submit themselves to them. So long as the English king remained in Scotland, Athol was safe. On Edward's retirement to his kingdom in November, 1335, the nationalist leaders took the earl prisoner and put him to death. The war dragged on from year to year, with startling vicissitudes of fortune, but at no time was Balliol really established on the Scottish throne, and at no time did Edward III. really govern all the ceded districts.

Scottish business detained the English king and court mainly in the north. Edward was in Scotland for most of the winter of 1334-5, keeping his Christmas court at Roxburgh. In the summer of 1335 he led an army into Scotland and penetrated as far as Perth. Again in 1336, he marched from Perth along the east coast, as far as Elgin and Inverness. The Scots refused to give him battle, and their tactics of evasion and guerilla warfare soon exhausted his resources and demoralised his armies. This was Edward's last personal intervention in the business. He had long been irritated by the persistent interference of the French king in Scottish affairs, and his anger was not lessened by his hard plight forcing him, on more than one occasion, to grant short truces to the Scottish insurgents at Philip's intervention. His relations with France were becoming so strained that he preferred to spend 1337 in the south and entrust Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, with the conduct of the fruitless campaign of that year. Early in 1338, Edward made his way once more to Berwick, but his intention of invading Scotland was suddenly abandoned on the news of a threatened French expedition to England recalling him to the south. This was the decisive moment of the long struggle. Henceforth the English king could only devote a small share of his resources to an undertaking which he had not been able to compass when his whole energies were absorbed in it. The patriots, who had always dominated the open country, now attacked the castles and fortified towns, which were the bulwarks of the Edwardian power. Within three years all the more important of these fell into their hands. In 1339 Edward Balliol's capital of Perth was beset by Robert, the Steward of Scotland, who had recently undertaken the regency for his uncle David. On the approach of danger, Balliol was ordered to England, and Sir Thomas Ughtred, an English knight and one of the disinherited of 1332, was entrusted with the command. By August he had been forced to surrender, and Stirling soon afterwards opened its gates to the gallant and energetic steward. In 1341 Edinburgh castle was captured by a clever stratagem, and a few weeks later David and Joan returned from France. The king, then seventeen years old, henceforth undertook the personal administration of his kingdom. Once more there was a King of Scots whom the Scottish people themselves desired. The first military enterprise of Edward's reign ended in complete failure.

During the years of Edward Balliol's attempt on Scotland, it was the obvious interest of the English king to maintain such relations with France as to prevent the tightening of the traditional bond between the French and the Scottish courts. There were plenty of outstanding points of difference between England and France, but neither country was anxious for war, and the result of this mutual forbearance enabled Edward III. to deal with the Scots at his leisure. A survey of the relations of the two realms during the first ten years of Edward III.'s reign will show how, despite the reluctance of either party to force matters to a crisis, the Kings of France and England gradually drifted into the hostility which, from 1337 onwards, paralysed the progress of the English cause in Scotland.

At the moment of the fall of Edward II., England and France were still nominally engaged in the war which had followed the second seizure of Guienne by Charles IV. The difficulties experienced by Isabella and Mortimer in establishing their power made them as willing to give way to the French as to the Scots. Accordingly, on March 31, 1327, a treaty of peace was signed at Paris. By this treaty Edward only gained the restoration of certain of his Gascon vassals to the estates of which they had been deprived through their loyalty to the English connexion. He pledged himself to pay a large war indemnity, and accepted a partial restitution of his Gascon lands. Like so many of the treaties since 1259, it was a truce rather than a peace. Many details still remained for settlement, and it was pretty clear that the French, having the whip hand, would drive Gascony towards the goal of gradual absorption which had been so clearly marked out by Philip the Fair.

Charles IV. restored to Edward such parts of Gascony as he chose to surrender. He retained in his hands Agen and the Agenais, and Bazas and the Bazadais, on the ground that Charles of Valois had won them by right of conquest in 1324. This policy reduced Edward's duchy to two portions of territory, very unequal in size and separated from each other by the lands conquered by the French king's uncle. The larger section of the English king's lands extended along the coast from the mouth of the Charente to the mouth of the Bidassoa. It included Saintes with Saintonge south of the Charente, Bordeaux and the Bordelais, Dax and the diocese of Dax, and Bayonne and its territory. But in no place did the boundaries go very far inland. Along the Dordogne, Libourne and Saint-Émilion were the easternmost English towns. Up the Garonne, the French were in possession of Langon, while, in the valley of the Adour, Saint-Sever, perched on its upland rock, was the landward outpost of the diminished Gascon duchy. In the east of the Agenais the two châtellenies of Penne and Puymirol formed a little enclave of ducal territory which extended from the Lot to the Garonne. But this second fragment of the ancient duchy was of no military and little commercial value, being commanded on all sides by the possessions of the French king. Moreover, the fiefs dependent on the Gascon duchy had fallen away with the attenuation of the duke's domain. In particular the viscounty of Béarn, now held by the Count of Foix, repudiated all allegiance to its English overlord. Even a thoroughly Gascon seigneur, such as the lord of Albret, was wavering in his fidelity to his duke. It was no longer safe for Gascons to risk the hostility of the king of the French.

Within a year of the treaty of Paris, the death of Charles IV. further complicated Anglo-French relations. Like his brothers, Louis X. and Philip V., Charles the Fair left no male issue; but the pregnancy of his queen prevented the settlement of the succession being completed immediately after his decease. The barons of France, however, had no serious doubts as to their policy. The inadmissibility of a female ruler had already been determined at the accession of both Philip V. and Charles IV., and it was clear that the nearest male heir was Philip, Count of Valois, who had recently succeeded to the great appanage left vacant by the death in 1325 of his father, Charles of Valois, the inveterate enemy of the English. As the next representative of the male line, the French at once recognised Philip of Valois as regent. When his cousin's widow gave birth to a daughter, the regent was proclaimed as King Philip VI. without either delay or hesitation. Thus the house of Valois occupied the throne of France in the place of the direct Capetian line in which son had succeeded father since the days of Hugh Capet.

Even Isabella and Mortimer protested against the succession of Philip of Valois. Admitted that the exclusion of women from the monarchy was already established by two precedents, could it not be plausibly argued that a woman, incapable herself of reigning, might form "the bridge and plank"1 (as a contemporary put it) by which her sons might step into the rights of their ancestors? Strange as such a conception seems to our ideas, it was not unfamiliar to the jurists of that day. It was in this fashion that the Capetian house claimed its boasted descent and continuity from the race of Charlemagne. Such a principle was actually the law in some parts of France, and it was a matter of every-day occurrence in the Parisis to transmit male fiefs to the sons of heiresses, themselves incapable of succession. Edward, as the son of Charles IV.'s sister, was nearer of kin to his uncle than Philip, the son of Charles's uncle. Surely a man's nephew had a better right to his succession than his first cousin could ever claim? From the purely juridical point of view, the claim put forward by Isabella on her son's behalf was not only plausible but strong.
1 Viollet, Hist. des Institutions politiques et administratives de la France, ii., 74, from a MS. source. See also Viollet, Comment les Femmes ont été exclues en France de la Succession à la Couronne, in Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, xxxiv., pt. ii. (1893).
Happily for France, the magnates of the realm dealt with the succession question as statesmen and not as lawyers. A later age imagined that the French barons brought forward a text of the law of the Salian Pranks, as a complete answer to Edward's claim from the juridical point of view. But the famous Salic law was a figment, forged by the next generation of lawyers who were eager to give a complete refutation of the elaborate legal pleadings of the partisans of the English claim. No authentic Salic law dealt with the question of the succession to the throne,1 and the bold step of transferring a doctrine of private inheritance to the domain of public law was one of the characteristic feats of the medieval jurist, anxious to heap up at any risk a mass of arguments that might overwhelm his antagonists' case. The barons of 1328 rose superior to legal subtleties. To them the question at issue was the preservation of the national identity of their country. The vital thing for them was to secure the throne of France, both at the moment and at future times, for a Frenchman. Any admission, however guarded, of the right of women to transmit claims to their sons opened out a vista of the foreign offspring of French princesses, married abroad, ruling France as strangers, and it might be as enemies. They chose Philip of Valois because he was a Frenchman born and bred, and because he had no interests or possessions outside the French realm. They could not endure the idea of being ruled by the English king. He was not only a stranger, but the hereditary enemy. The Capetian monarchy must at all costs be kept French.
1 Viollet, op. cit., pp. 55-57; cf. Désprez, Les Préliminaires de la Giurre de Cent Am, p. 32.
Isabella did what she could on her son's behalf. She excited the noblesse of Aquitaine to support Edward's claim; but the lords of the south paid no heed to her exhortations. She was more successful with the Flemings, then in revolt against their Count, Louis of Nevers. Twelve notables of Bruges, headed by the burgomaster, William de Deken, visited England and offered to recognise Edward as King of France if he would support the Flemish democracy against their feudal lord.1 But Philip VI.'s first act was to unite with the Count of Flanders, and the fatal day of Cassel laid low the fortunes of Bruges and restored the fugitive Louis to power. Isabella was forced to resign herself to simple protests.
1 See Pirenne, La première Tentative pour reconnaitre Édouard I. comme Roi de France in Ann. de la Soc. d'Hist. de Gand, 1902.
The inevitable demand from Philip VI. for Edward's homage for Guienne and Ponthieu soon brought the English government face to face with realities. The request for his vassal's submission, conveyed to England by Peter Roger, Abbot of Fecamp, the future Clement VI., was even more unwelcome than such demands commonly were. At first Isabella used brave words: "My son, who is the son of a king, will never do homage to the son of a count".1 But a threat of a third seizure of Gascony soon brought the queen to her senses. Further insistence on the part of Philip was met with polite apologies for delay. At last, in May, 1329, the young king crossed the Channel, and on June 6 performed homage to Philip in the choir of the cathedral of Amiens. But even at the last moment there were explanations and reservations on both sides. Philip made it clear that he acknowledged no claim of his vassal to any territories, beyond those which he actually possessed. Edward's advisers protested that they abandoned no pretension to the whole by performing homage for a part. Moreover, the act of homage was couched in such ambiguous phrases that it remained doubtful whether Edward had performed "liege homage," as the King of France demanded, or only "simple homage," such as seemed to him less offensive to the dignity of a crowned king. Thus, though the cousins parted amicably and discussed proposals of a marriage treaty between the English and French houses, the homage at Amiens settled nothing.
1 Grandes Chroniques de France, v., 323 (ed. P. Paris).
The diplomatists still had plenty of work before them. The French statesmen insisted on the necessity of the ceremony at Amiens being interpreted as liege homage, involving the obligation of defending the overlord "against all those who can live or die". The English politicians complained of the "injustice and unreason of the King of France, who seeks the disinheritance of their master in Aquitaine". It was only by limiting the demands of both parties to points of detail, that a compromise was arrived at in the convention of the Wood of Vincennes on May 8, 1330. Further negotiations were still necessary; and at the moment when everything was trembling in the balance, the sudden occupation of Saintes by the Count of Alencon, brother of Philip VI., brought matters within a measurable distance of war. But Edward, then at the beginning of his real reign, had no mind for fighting. A more satisfactory convention, drawn up on March 9, 1331, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, was ratified by Edward at Eltham on March 30, when he recognised that he owed liege homage, and not merely simple homage, to the King of France. Next month, he crossed over to France so secretly that his subjects believed that he went disguised as a merchant or a pilgrim. At Pont-Sainte-Maxence, a little town on the Oise, a few miles below Compiègne, Edward held an interview with Philip VI., who came thither with equal privacy. The French king does not seem to have insisted upon a renewal of homage, being content with the assurance already given as to the character of the previous ceremony. The informal interview, which the modern historian can only ascertain by painful scrutiny of the royal itineraries, proved more fertile in friendship than all the pomp of Amiens. Before Edward went home, Philip gave him complete satisfaction for the outrage at Saintes, and arrived at a financial settlement. Thus Edward and Philip at last became friends "so far as outside appearances went," as a chronicler of the time phrased it. The fundamental difference of interests and standpoint could be glossed over by no facile compromise, and the calm of the next six years was only the prelude to a storm destined to end the policy that had regulated the relations of the two courts from the days of the peace of 1259 to those of the meeting at Pont-Sainte-Maxence.

At first there was talk of further cementing the newly established friendship. There were suggestions of a marriage of Edward's infant son with Philip's daughter, a fresh interview between the monarchs, a treaty of perpetual alliance and a common crusade against the Turks. The last, and the most fantastic, of these projects was the one which was most seriously discussed. The chivalrous spirit of Philip of Valois rose eagerly to the idea of a great European expedition against the infidel, of which he was to be the chief commander. Inspired by John XXII., he took the cross, made preparations for an early start, and invoked Edward's co-operation. Edward cleverly utilised his kinsman's zeal as another lever for enforcing the settlement of outstanding differences. "Tell your master," he said to the French ambassador, Peter Roger, now Archbishop of Rouen, "that when he has fulfilled his promises, I will be more eager to go on the holy voyage than he is himself." But the chronic troubles, arising from the unceasing extension of the suzerain's claims in Aquitaine, and from the shelter given by Philip to David Bruce, had continued all through the years of professed friendship, and in 1334 an embassy to Paris, presided over by Archbishop Stratford, failed to establish a modus vivendi. In the same year John XXII. died without having either procured the crusade or crushed Louis of Bavaria. His successor, James Founder of Foix, who took the name of Benedict XII., pursued his general policy, though in a more diplomatic and self-seeking spirit. Benedict's great wish was to, unite France and England against his enemy, the Emperor Louis of Bavaria, and he dexterously played upon Philip's eagerness for the crusade to persuade him to abandon to the papacy the position, which he had assumed, of arbiter of the differences between Edward and the Scots. It was a signal, though transitory, triumph of this policy that a truce between England and Scotland was brought about by the mediation of the pope and not of the French king. But Benedict found that a crusade was impossible so long as the chief powers of the west were hopelessly estranged from each other. In 1336, he vetoed the crusading scheme until happier times had dawned. Philip, bitterly disappointed, sought out Benedict at Avignon, but utterly failed to change his purpose. He was in his own despite released from the crusader's vow, though exhorted still to continue his preparations. The galleys, purchased from the crusading tenths of the Church, were transferred from the Mediterranean to the Channel. The French king might well find consolation for the abandonment of the holy war in a sudden descent on England.

From that moment the horizon darkened. Philip VI., once more took up the cause of the Scots, and once more the Aquitanian troubles became acute. His irritation at Benedict led him to open up negotiations with Louis of Bavaria, whereat Benedict was greatly offended. Edward III. then sought to find friends who would help him against Philip. He was as much disgusted with the pope as was his French rival. The crusading fleet, equipped with the money of the Roman Church, threatened the English coast, and the curia was even more French in its sympathies than the temporising pontiff. It is no wonder then that both kings looked coldly on Benedict's offer of mediation between them. Yet, notwithstanding the indifference manifested by both courts, two cardinals, Peter Gomez, a Spaniard, and Bertrand of Montfavence, a Frenchman, were sent in the summer of 1337 as papal legates to France and England to settle the points in dispute. For the next three years these prelates pursued their mission with energy and persistence, though with little result.

A fresh dispute further embittered the personal relations of Philip and Edward. In 1336, Edward offered a refuge in England to Robert of Artois, Philip's brother-in-law and mortal enemy. The grandson of the Count Robert of Artois who was slain in 1302 at Courtrai, Robert of Artois was indignant that the rich county of Artois should, according to local custom, have devolved upon his aunt Maud, the wife of Otto, Count of Burgundy, or Franche Comté, and the mother-in-law of the last two kings of the direct Capetian line. Though he had failed in several suits to obtain it, Robert renewed his claim after his brother-in-law became King of France. It was soon proved that the charters upon which he relied to prove his title had been forged. The sudden death of the Countess of Artois, followed quickly by that of her daughter and heiress, added the suspicion of poisoning to the certainly of forgery. Robert was deprived of all his possessions and was exiled from France. Driven from his first refuge in Brabant by Philip's indignant hostility, he found shelter in England, where he was received with a favour which Philip bitterly resented. Condemned in his absence as a traitor, and devoured by a ferocious hatred of Philip and his Burgundian wife, Robert did all that he could to inflame the mind of Edward against the French king. French romance of the next generation, in the poem of the Vow of the Heron,1 tells how Robert, returning to Edward's court from the chase, brought as his only victim a heron, which he offered to the king as the most timid of birds to the most cowardly of kings; "for, sire," he declared, "you have not dared to claim the realm of France which belongs to you by hereditary right". Stirred up by this challenge, Edward swore to God and the heron that within a year he would place the crown of France on Queen Philippa's brow. This famous legend is, however, a fiction. It was not until later that Edward seriously renewed the claim which he had advanced in 1328. But when once war became certain, the challenge of the French throne was bound to be made, and the dissolution of the friendly personal relations of the two kings, which had so long prevented either from proceeding to extremities, was certainly in large part the work of Robert of Artois. For the moment, Edward probably thought that his welcome of Robert was only a fair return for Philip's reception of David Bruce.
1 Les voeus du héron in Wright, Political Poems and Songs, i., 1-25 (Rolls Ser.)
War being imminent, Edward looked beyond sea for foreign allies. Commercial and traditional ties closely bound England to the county of Flanders, but our friendship had latterly been with its people rather than with its princes. Louis of Nevers, the Count of Flanders, had been expelled in 1328 by a rising of the maritime districts of the county, and had been restored by force of arms through the agency of Philip of Valois. Gratitude and interest accordingly combined to make Count Louis a strong partisan of Philip of Valois. Though far from absolute, he was still possessed of sufficient authority over his unruly townsmen to make it impossible for Edward to negotiate successfully with them. In 1336 the count answered Edward's advances by prohibiting all commercial relations between his subjects and England. Bitterly disgusted at the hostility of Flanders, Edward in 1337 passed a law through parliament which prohibited the export of wool to the Flemish weaving centres. This measure provoked an economic crisis at Ghent and Ypres; but for the moment such a catastrophe could only accentuate the differences between England and the count. It was otherwise, however, with the neighbouring princes of the imperial obedience. Count William I. of Hainault, Holland, and Zealand was Edward III.'s father-in-law, and, during the last months of his strenuous career, he welcomed Bishop Burghersh, Edward's chief diplomatist, to his favourite residence of Valenciennes, where from April, 1337, the English ambassadors kept great state, "sparing as little as if the king were present there in his own person," and striving with all their might to build up an alliance with the princes of the Low Countries. When the count died, his son and successor, William II., persisted, though with less energy, in his father's policy, and the Hainault connexion became the nucleus of a general Low German alliance. Burghersh was lavish in promises, and soon a large number of imperial vassals took Edward's pay and promised to fight his battles. Among these were Count Reginald of Gelderland, who since 1332 had been the husband of Edward III.'s sister Eleanor, and with him came the Counts of Berg, Jülich, Cleves, and Mark, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, and a swarm of minor potentates.

Hardest to win over of the Netherlandish princes was Duke John III. of Brabant, a crafty statesman and a successful warrior, who had recently conquered limburg, and won a signal victory over a formidable coalition of his neighbours. Among his former foes had been the house of Avesnes, but he had reconciled himself with Hainault, by reason of his greater hatred for Louis of Flanders. The Flemish cities were the rivals in trade of his own land, and their count's friendship for his French suzerain ensured the establishment of Philip of Valois as temporary lord of Mechlin, the possession of which had long been indirectly disputed between Brabant and Flanders. The hesitating duke was at last won over by a favourable commercial treaty, which made Antwerp the staple of English wools, and ensured for the looms of Louvain and Brussels the advantages denied by Edward's hostility to the clothworkers of Ghent and Ypres. Convinced that war with Philip was the surest way of adding Mechlin to his dominions, he then joined the circle of Edward's stipendiaries. The excommunicated and schismatic emperor, Louis of Bavaria, welcomed the advances of Burghersh. More than one tie already bound the Bavarian to England. The English Franciscan, William of Ockham, proved himself the most active and daring of the literary champions of the imperial claims against John XXII. Moreover, the emperor and Edward had married sisters, and their brother-in-law, the new Count of Hainault, Holland, and Zealand, was childless, so that they had common interests in keeping on good terms with him. Louis' bitter enemy, Benedict XII., forbade all hope of French support, and blocked the way to all prospect of reconciliation with the Church. It was natural that Louis should take his revenge by an alliance with the prince who ignored the advice of the pontiff, and hated the Valois king. As the result of all this, an offensive and defensive alliance between Edward on the one hand and Louis and his Low German vassals on the other was signed at Valenciennes in the summer of 1337.

The die seemed cast. Philip VI. pronounced the forfeiture of Gascony and Ponthieu. The French at once invaded Edward's duchy and county, while the French sailors in the Channel plundered the Anglo-Norman islands and the towns on the Sussex and Hampshire coasts. Edward redoubled his preparations for war, and issued a long manifesto to his subjects in which he set forth in violent language his grievances against Philip. It was at this unlucky moment that the two cardinal legates came upon the scene, reaching Paris in August, intent on arranging a pacification. The irritation, which Benedict showed against Edward for concluding an alliance with the schismatic emperor, did not make him more disposed to the work of conciliation. But the pope saw in the outbreak of a great war the destruction of his last hopes of humiliating the Bavarian, and once more played upon the weakness and impolicy of Philip. Though France was more ready than England, and Philip had everything to lose by delay, the French king allowed himself to be persuaded by the two legates to enter once more upon the paths of conciliation. As a preliminary measure, he revoked the order for the confiscation of Gascony, and accepted a temporary armistice. As before in the Scottish business, Philip again played the game of the papacy. Unlike his adversary, Edward continued steadily in the line which he had determined upon, while welcoming any delay that gave him opportunity to get ready. He employed the interval in making peace more impossible than ever. On October 7, he renewed his claim to the French crown, repudiated the homage into which he had been tricked during his infancy, and sent Bishop Burghersh straight from Valenciennes to Paris as bearer of his defiance. Thus the autumn of 1337 saw a virtual declaration of war. In November the first serious hostilities took place. Sir Walter Manny devastated the Flemish island of Cadzand, taking away with him as prisoner the bastard brother of the Count of Flanders.

Papal diplomacy had not yet exhausted its resources. Benedict XII. was deeply concerned at the conclusion of the Anglo-imperial alliance. He was convinced that the only possible way of avoiding its perils was to persuade Edward and Philip to bury their differences and unite with him against the emperor. He succeeded in obtaining short prolongations of the existing armistice and, in December, 1337, the two cardinal legates landed in England, and were gladly received by Edward, who was delighted to gain time by negotiations. For the next six months they tarried in England, hoping against hope that something definite would result from their efforts. Meanwhile the English hurried on their preparations for war, and Edward made ready to cross over to the continent. As months slipped away, the tension became more severe, and in May Edward denounced the truces, though he still kept up the pretence of negotiations, and so late as June appointed ambassadors to treat with Philip of Valois. The real interest centred in the hard fighting which at once broke out at sea between the rival seamen of England and Normandy. At first the advantage was with the Normans. Not only were many English ships captured, but repeated destructive forays were made on the coasts of the south-eastern counties. Portsmouth was burnt; the Channel Islands were ravaged; and so alarming were the French corsairs that, in July, 1338, the dwellers on the south coast were ordered to take refuge in fortresses, or withdraw their goods to a distance of four leagues from the sea.

At last the army and fleet were ready. On July 12, 1338, Edward appointed his son, the eight-year-old Duke of Cornwall, warden of England, and a few days later sailed from Orwell on a great ship named the Christopher. A favourable wind quickly bore the royal fleet to the mouth of the Scheldt. Thence the king and his army sailed up the river to Antwerp, the chief port of Brabant, where they landed on July 16. There, on July 22, Edward revoked all commissions addressed to the King of France, and withheld from his agents all power to prejudice his own pretensions to the throne of the Valois. He passed more than a month at Antwerp, holding frequent conferences with his imperial allies, and thence proceeded through Brabant and Jülich to Cologne. From that city he went up the Rhine to Coblenz, where on September 5 he held an interview with his queen's imperial brother-in-law. Their meeting was celebrated with all the pomp and stateliness of the heyday of chivalry. Edward was accompanied by the highest nobles of his land, the emperor by all the electors, save King John of Bohemia, who, as a Luxemburger, was a convinced partisan of the French. Louis received his ally clothed in a purple dalmatic, with crown on head and with sceptre and orb in hand, surrounded by the electors and the higher dignitaries of the empire, and seated on a lofty throne erected in the Castorplatz, hard by the Romanesque basilica that watches over the junction of the Moselle with the Rhine. Another throne, somewhat lower in height, was occupied by the King of England, clothed in a robe of scarlet embroidered with gold, and surrounded by three hundred knights. Then, before the assembled crowd, Louis declared that Philip of France had forfeited the fiefs which he held of the empire. He put into Edward's hands a rod of gold and a charter of investiture, by which symbols he appointed him as "Vicar-general of the Empire in all the Germanies and in all the Almaines". Next day the allies heard a mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Cologne in the church of St. Castor. After the service the emperor swore to aid Edward against the King of France for seven years, while the barons of the empire took oaths to obey the imperial vicar and to march against his enemies. Thereupon the English king took farewell of the emperor, and returned to Brabant.

All was ready for war. The interview at Coblenz was the deathblow to the papal diplomacy, and the sluggish Philip awaited in the Vermandois the expected attack of the Anglo-imperial armies. Yet the best part of a year was still to elapse before lances were crossed in earnest. The lords of the empire had no real care for the cause of Edward. They were delighted to take his presents, to pledge themselves to support him, and to insist upon the regular payment of the subsidies he had promised. But John of Brabant was more intent on winning Mechlin than on invading France, and even William of Avesnes was embarrassed by the ties which bound him to Philip, his uncle, even more than to Edward, his brother-in-law. They contented themselves with taking Edward's money and giving him little save promises in return. It became evident that an imperial vicar would be obeyed even less than an emperor. Every week of delay was dangerous to Edward, who had exhausted his resources in the pompous pageantry of his Rhenish journey, and in magnificent housekeeping in Brabant. It was then Edward's interest, as it had previously been Philip's, to bring matters to a crisis. That he failed to do this must be ascribed to the lukewarmness of his allies, the poverty of his exchequer, and, above all, to the still active diplomacy of Benedict XII.

The cardinal legates appeared in Brabant, but their tone was different from that which they had taken in the previous spring in England. Profoundly irritated by the alliance of Edward and Louis, Benedict lectured the English king on the iniquity of his courses. The empire was vacant; the Coblenz grant was therefore of no effect; if Edward persisted in acting as vicar of the schismatic, he would be excommunicated. Benedict stood revealed as the partisan of France. It was in vain that Edward offered peace if France gave up the Scots and made full restitution of Gascony. Benedict ordered his legates to refuse to discuss the latter proposal, and, as the Gascon question lay at the root of the whole matter, an amicable settlement became more impossible than ever. Edward hotly defended his right to make what alliances he chose with his wife's kinsmen, and bitterly denounced the employment of the wealth of the Church in equipping the armies of his enemies. Though the cardinals, Peter and Bertrand, remained in Edward's camp, they might, for all practical purposes, as well have been at Avignon. The papal diplomacy had failed.

Edward employed the leisure forced upon him by these events in elaborating his claim to the French throne. His lawyers ransacked both Roman jurisprudence and feudal custom that they might lay before the pope and Christendom plausible reasons for their master's pretensions. They advanced pleas of an even bolder character. Was not the right of Edward to the French throne the same as that of Jesus Christ to the succession of David? The Virgin Mary, incapable of the succession on her own behalf, was yet able to transmit her rights to her Son. These contentions, sacred and profane, did not touch the vital issue. It was not the dynastic question that brought about the war, though, war being inevitable, Edward might well, as he himself said, use his claim as a buckler to protect himself from his enemies. The fundamental difference between the two nations lay in the impossible position of Edward in Gascony. He could not abandon his ancient patrimony, and Philip could not give up that policy of gradually absorbing the great fiefs which the French kings had carried on since the days of St. Louis. The support given to the Scots, the Anglo-imperial alliance, the growing national animosity of the two peoples, the rivalry of English and French merchants and sailors, all these and many similar causes were but secondary.1 At this stage the claim to the French throne, though immensely complicating the situation, and interposing formidable technical obstacles to the conduct of negotiations, loomed larger in talk than in acts. It was only in 1340, when Edward saw in his pretensions the best way of commanding the allegiance of Philip's sworn vassals, that the question of the French title became a serious matter.
1 Déprez, Les Préliminaires de la Guerre de Cent Am, pp. 400-406, admirably elucidates the situation.
On which side did the responsibility for the war rest? National prejudices have complicated the question. English historians have seen in the aggression of Philip in Gascony, his intervention in Scottish affairs, and the buccaneering exploits of the Norman mariners, reasons adequate to provoke the patience even of a peace-loving monarch. French writers, unable to deny these facts, have insisted upon the slowness of Philip to requite provocation, his servile deference to papal authority, his willingness to negotiate, and his dislike to take offence even at the denial of his right to the crown which he wore. Either king seems hesitating and reluctant when looked at from one point of view, and pertinaciously aggressive when regarded from the opposite standpoint. It is safer to conclude that the war was inevitable than to endeavour to apportion the blame which is so equally to be divided between the two monarchs. The modern eye singles out Edward's baseless claim and makes him the aggressor, but there was little, as the best French historians admit, in Edward's pretension that shocked the idea of justice in those days. Moreover this view, held too absolutely, is confuted by the secondary position taken by the claim during the negotiations which preceded hostilities. If in the conduct of the preliminaries we may assign to Edward the credit of superior insight, more resolute policy, and a more clearly perceived goal, the intellectual superiority, which he possessed over his rival, was hardly balanced by any special moral obliquity on his part; though to Philip, with all his weakness, must always be given the sympathy provoked by the defence of his land against the foreign invader. It is useless to refine the issue further. The situation had become impossible, and fighting was the only way out of the difficulty. When in the late summer of 1339 the curtain was rung down on the long-drawn-out diplomatic comedy, Edward had not yet finally assumed that title of King of France, which made an inevitable strife irreconcilable, and so prolonged hostilities that the struggle became the Hundred Years' War.


Terms Defined

Referenced Works