The Hundred Years War and the Church

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Rather than an ‘age of faith’, it would perhaps be better to think of the late middle ages as an ‘age of religion’. The church was inextricably involved in all areas of English and French society: governmental, financial, intellectual, and spiritual. To understand the Hundred Years War, we must also explore the many ways in which religion influenced Anglo-French conflict between 1337 and 1453. This chapter, provides an overview of the major themes and problems based on major developments in scholarship over the last forty years. It will also consider how the Western church was able to accept and justify warfare despite its stance on the benefits of peace between Christian peoples.

Both Plantagenet and Valois appealed to divine authority to justify their political claims. At the level of high politics, the Avignon papacy was consistently involved in negotiations for peace between the warring parties, and yet this undoubtedly francophile institution was also consistently accused by Englishmen of being partisan to the Valois cause. The Great Schism of 1378 complicated matters further and divided England and France along religious as well as political lines, resulting in the infamous Flanders Crusade of 1383. The domestic clergy of each country also played a fundamental role in promoting royal propaganda, in bankrolling English armies, and even taking up arms themselves. Bishops’ registers reveal the frequent number of writs issued by English kings that demanded prayers prior to each campaign.

The interaction between war and religion helped to create increasingly xenophobic and jingoistic societies, so that a conflict which began as a dynastic or feudal struggle increasingly came to be understood in terms of a national crusade. Indeed, the increasing politicisation and ‘nationalisation’ of both the English and French churches was an important development of the Hundred Years War. And yet this was a conflict that caused widespread destruction of ecclesiastical property, particularly in France. From the 1360s, clergy on both sides of the Channel were increasingly critical of the suffering caused by the war, attacking the avarice and brutality of the combatants.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Hundred Years War Revisited
Subtitle of host publicationProblems in Focus
EditorsAnne Curry
PublisherRed Globe Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781137389879
ISBN (Print)9781137389862, 9781137389855
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


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