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After King Edward II had married Princess Isabella of France, their son, King Edward III, was now a legitimate heir to the French throne, and eventually the dynastic dispute resulting from this caused tensions between England and France. Tensions eventually boiled over when Britain invaded France in 1337 at Normandy and the King of France asked his ally, John VI of Constantinople, for help. John VI built a system of allies against England, which included Castille, Scotland, Genoa, Venice, and Florence, lead by John VI to France, with an army massing up to 300,000 soldiers, of which there 120,000 Infantrymen, 80,000 Knights, 50,000 Archers and Crossbowmen, and the remaining 50,000 were support soldiers, and along with the Byzantines came 200 cannons.
Invasion of Normandy and Revolt of BrittanyThe English Army, at 50,000 troops, landed at Cherbourg, Le Havre and Dieppe, where they then fought to advance against the French from November 1337 to January 1338. They then were able to advance further into France, capturing Caen and multiple other Norman cities defended by the French, and finally they began pushing west to capture Brittany, which rose in revolt against the French forces, still not reinforced by their Byzantine-lead allies. A French army of 40,000 marched to Brittany to defeat the rebels, but were repelled by an English army at Fougeres.
The Revolt of Brittany destroyed French control in the region, where French forces were massacred at the centers of the Brittan's revolt, mainly Brest, Quimper, Morlaix and Rennes. Eventually, all of Brittany came under the rule of the English and collaborating revolters by late 1341, and all of northern France had now been conquered by the British, but the French had finally received their reinforcements from the Byzantine coalition, but they were too late to end the war quickely, as it would go on for years to come.
Byzantine Intervention and Siege of Paris
The French were clearly losing their war to the English, as the English now controlled all of northern France, and their army, now at 100,000 men, was marching likely to Paris, to force an end to the war, and end the House of Valois' rule in France. But the French still remained confident that their reinforcements from the Byzantines would help them vanquish the English and suppress the Brittan Revolt. The English soon moved to attack Paris, but were beaten back by a French army outside Beauvais, but were not stopped on their march to Paris. But the threat of French forces increased when on February 17, 1342, the Byzantines and their allies finally arrived in Paris, with and army of 300,000 soldiers and their 200 cannons. The English then fought a skirmish outside the city on February 20 against Byzantine forces, who defeated the English and their arrival struck fear into the English army. But the English commanders refused to stop their assault and laid a siege on Paris on February 27, with trebuchets and two cannons.
The French and Byzantine forces defended the city well, as the English were still unable to force a surrender. The Byzantine cannons fired constantly upon the English siege engines and the two English cannons were destroyed by cannon fire on the fourth day of fighting. The Byzantines were able to keep their supply lines open, and eventually broke the siege in the city's south, and from their they launched a general breakout, ending the siege on March 23, 1342. With their armies decisively defeated the English retreated back to the Normandy coast, where they then planned their next campaign in France. Meanwhile, the French and Byzantine victory was cause for celebration in Paris, and a major boost in morale for the French forces. But one major remaining obstacle was still that the Byzantine navy, which had been launched to block off the English naval supply lines, was still months away, and would then likely be the decisive force in the war. So until victory could be achieved at both land and sea, the was clearly likely to drag on until this happened.
Invasion of the West
A build-up in Tours provided a challenge to the English troops, who had expected an easy victory in attacking the west, but the English commanders were convinced it could be done. With their siege engines ready, the city was surrounded, the French and Byzantines were held in to Tours for four weeks, until they managed a successful breakout, although the city eventually fell, a majority of its defenders were able to retreat southeast to Poltiers. The English followed in pursuit and began a siege on Poltiers in November 1347.
Poltiers became a main center of French and Byzantine resistance, and French nationalism played a big role in the city's defense. French citizens helped to build defenses, and before the siege began a so called Militia was formed of citizens who were given some armor and swords or maces to use as infantry, and people with the appropriate experience were made archers or cavalrymen. The English first attacked the city on November 14, 1347 but were driven off by defending archers and cannons. A second attempt on the city by both infantry and cavalry was also driven off. However, a final attempt lead to a decisive battle, where the French Militia successfully drove off an English cavalry charge. Ultimately the day was won by the French and Byzantines, who broke the enemy's right flank, and ended up outmaneuvering the French with a frontal assault. They then launched a renewed advance against the French port of La Rochelle, where they were easily repulsed by 10,000 French cavalry and infantrymen, and forced into a general retreat.
The English invasion of Western France was now forced into a fourth month long withdrawal, where they ended up retreating back to Rennes, in Brittany. Rather than risk another attack in the north, the French and Byzantine forces returned their normal positions along the main battlefront, and the militiamen back to their respective cities
Counterattack in the North
With the English kicked out of the east, the war began to drag on in a long stalemate, neither side able to create a major breakthrough, until the Byzantine navy finally gained a major victory after ambushing a major English fleet of the English coast. This allowed them to not only cut the English supply lines off, but supply the Scots, who were fighting their own war against English in Scotland, pushing the English out of Scotland in 1344, ending the Second Scottish War of Independence, and allowing for the Byzantines to gain access to the Irish Sea, and cut the English off by sea completely.The French and Byzantines eventually pulled together enough forces to launch a wide-scale counterattack in Brittany and Northern France. From bases in Orleans and Tours, French forces invaded the so called Duchy of Brittany, where they then made deep pushes into the country, coming up to Rennes in early 1349. Meanwhile in the north French and Byzantine forces, numbering at around 250,000, attacked from bases in Paris attacking all along the English front-line, where they then pushed the English back miles behind the line. Towns such as Rouen were all either captured or underseige by late 1349. The French counterattack had finally begun.
The English and Brittans had now been pushed back to the brink of disaster, but managed to hold their lines, and keep up a fight. Rennes was not put under siege, but simply bypassed and surrounded Rennes, who's forces surrendered in April 1350. Rouen and Arras had also fallen in the east, and Amiens and Caen had also been surrounded, making their falls inevitable. Meanwhile, the first of French and Byzantine forces began arriving outside of Le Havre. And French advances had also brought Cherbourg into their range. For a few more years, the two sides fought continuously, and the English forces continued to deteriorate.
The French now came into range of their final victory against the English and Brittan rebels, with their forces finally on the verge of forcing a massive English surrender. The French forces surrounded Brest by land and sea, and Cherbourg and Le Havre remained under English control. Brest fell to the French siege in March 1353. It seemed the war had finally reached its end point. The remainder of England-held France was finally brought under French rule again. But a peace still needed to be drawn to officially end the war.
Treaty of Le Havre and Aftermath
The two sides sent emissaries to Le Havre in March 1360 to draw an official peace treaty to end this war. Emissaries from England, Scotland, France, and the Byzantine Empire arrived to discuss the terms of peace.
The terms of the treaty were as the following:
- France shall retain all of their land taken by France and be paid in three million pounds sterling to France
- The House of Plantagenet shall renounce all claims to the throne of France
- All remaining captured English troops shall be transferred to England for the price of 20 pounds sterling each
The terms were harsh for England, who had to pay an initial three million pounds sterling to France, and then an additional one million for the return of their captured troops. This lead England into a deep depression which stuck them with a horrible economy until the early 15th century. The Byzantine Empire had now proven itself capable of being the decisive force in any war, and the true master of the Mediterranean Sea.