Tag Archives: France
On the 18th March 1314 Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was executed on the orders of King Philip IV. Although he had first been arrested in 1307, and the Order was formally abolished by Pope Clement V three years later, Molay’s execution secured his place as one of the most famous members of the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar had been the final defenders of Acre in 1291, and although little is known of Jacques de Molay’s early life he was almost certainly amongst their number. He was elected Grand Master the following year, but struggled to build support among Europe’s leaders for a new Crusade to reconquer the Holy Land.
By early 1307 Molay had landed in France, where he had been invited to attend a meeting with the Pope. However, this coincided with a series of accusations of sacrilege leveled against the Templars regarding their initiation ceremony. On the 13th October, the day after he served as a pallbearer at the funeral of Catherine of Courtenay, the sister-in-law of King Philip, Molay and numerous other Templar knights were arrested on the orders of the King.
Having been tortured into confessing to various sacrilegious acts, the knights began a protracted period of confession and retraction that lasted for a number of years. Finally, on the 18th March 1314 Molay and three other senior Templars were sentenced to indefinite imprisonment. However Molay and fellow Templar Geoffroi de Charney then professed their innocence, causing King Philip to declare them relapsed heretics and condemn them to death. They were burnt at the stake later that day.
On the 26th August 1346, one of the most decisive battles in the Hundred Years War was won by the army of the English king Edward III. The Battle of Crécy was fought against the French army of King Philip VI and eventually led to the port of Calais becoming an English enclave for over two centuries.
Determined to unseat Philip from the French throne and claim it for himself, Edward had already been involved in a series of conflicts across the Channel. However, the invasion force he brought in 1346 was notable for its large number of longbow archers who made up between half and two-thirds of the approximately 15,000 men who made up the army.
The key advantage of the longbow was its ability to be fired over long distances. Although research has shown that longbow arrows could only pierce the plate armour worn by knights at a distance of 20 metres, they were highly effective against their horses and the lighter armour worn on limbs. Being able to bring down knights before the onset of hand-to-hand combat was incredibly important. Furthermore, the psychological effect of thousands of arrows raining down is known to have affected the fighting spirit of the enemy.
After forcing over 4,000 Genoese crossbowmen in the service of the French King to retreat, the French cavalry were similarly overwhelmed by the archers. Philip abandoned the battle around midnight, with his remaining knight and men-at-arms fleeing the field soon afterwards. French losses mounted into the thousands, while the English lost barely a hundred.
On the 25th October 1415, the English king Henry V celebrated a major victory in the Hundred Years War when he defeated the numerically superior French army at the Battle of Agincourt. Famous for its use of English and Welsh longbowmen, the battle is also falsely claimed to provide the origin for the so-called ‘two finger salute’, the V sign that is used as an offensive gesture in England.
Having landed in northern France on the 13th August, Henry sought to regain control of lands that had once come under the rule of the English kings. However, the time taken to capture the town of Harfleur meant that Henry was not able to mount an effective attack on the French. Instead the English marched to Calais as a ‘show of force’, but were shadowed by the French who continued to raise an army en-route. By the 24th October both armies had gathered at Agincourt, and in the morning of the 25th Henry began the battle.
Henry’s archers launched an initial volley that incapacitated many of the French army’s horses and forward troops. As well as struggling to find a way through this mass and across the muddy field that separated them from the English, the French cavalry was unable to advance efficiently due to stakes driven into the ground to protect the English archers. The French advance became more and more densely packed, making the forward French knights less and less able to fight efficiently. Over 8,000 French troops are estimated to have been killed in the battle. The English army’s losses were less than 500.
On the 12th February 1429, the curiously-named Battle of the Herrings was fought between French and English forces near the village of Rouvray in France. One of numerous clashes during the Hundred Years War, it ended in English victory. However, Joan of Arc’s prediction of the French defeat is said to have contributed greatly to her securing a visit to the French Dauphin Charles VII.
On the 12th October 1428 the English besieged the city of Orléans, but by the end of January were in need of additional supplies. A convoy of “some 300 carts and wagons” containing various weapons was sent in response. In addition, as the troops would soon be observing Lent when Christians abstain from eating meat, it also included barrels of herrings.
The convoy met a large force of 3,000-4,000 French and Scottish troops led by Charles de Bourbon, Count of Clermont, outside the village of Rouvray. The English arranged their carts into a defensive wagon fort, with sharpened stakes similar to those used at the Battle of Agincourt around the perimeter. Unable to use their cavalry, the French launched a gunpowder artillery bombardment, but were forced to abandon this after the Scots advanced prematurely. The English seized the opportunity for a counter-attack and forced them to retreat.
At the same time Joan of Arc was attempting to persuade Robert de Baudricourt help her visit the French dauphin at Chinon. Apparently she told him of the terrible defeat near Orléans, something that was only confirmed several days later. De Baudricourt felt Joan must have experienced divine help to know this, so agreed to help her.
On the 7th September the Second Cornish Uprising of 1497 began when Perkin Warbeck landed at Whitesand Bay near Land’s End. The significance of Warbeck is that he soon declared himself King Richard IV as he had convinced his followers that he was Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two “Princes in the Tower”.
After surrendering to Henry VII’s forces in Hampshire, Warbeck was held by the King in relative luxury even though he confessed to being an imposter. His admission that he was actually the son of a prosperous family in Tournai, in what is now Belgium, was subsequently proven by the nineteenth century historian James Gairdner who had access to the town archives.
Warbeck’s career as a pretender to the throne began shortly after he arrived in the Irish city of Cork where he was soon identified as a member of the York dynasty. He quickly adopted his new identity, and travelled around the royal courts of Europe securing support for his claim. The French King Charles VIII lent him support, as did Margaret of York – the aunt of the Princes in the Tower.
Warbeck led an invasion of England from France in 1495, but this went disastrously wrong. After finding little support in Ireland, he instead headed to Scotland where he stayed for two years and married the Scottish King’s cousin. After another failed invasion of England he was invited by Cornish rebels to join with them in what was to be his final failed assault.
Two years after his capture, Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn on November 23rd, 1499.
This fabulous map comes from the Harvard University Map Collection.
This revision podcast presents the background to the French Revolution. Beginning with the impact of the Enlightenment on 18th Century Europe, it goes on to examine a variety of factors that led to the Revolution. Long-term issues that are covered include the Estates System, the emergence of the bourgeoisie and the changing economy, taxation and financial problems, and the effect of the population increase. Shorter term causes that are explained include the impact of King Louis XVI, the Assembly of the Notables, the Estates General, and the Tennis Court Oath. Factors are explained thematically to make it easier to organise ideas during revision, and it’s hoped that this will in turn help you create a well-structured answer.
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First-hand accounts from 18th Century writer Arthur Young, who travelled through France in the years before the revolution. Excellent overview of the inequality of life between the French peasantry compared to that of the nobility. Extract from Curriculum Bites.