English Forces sent to France in the later part of the Hundred Years War
A Preliminary Review and Analysis
in 1429 C.E. France
The last part of the Hundred Years War although much written about in certain aspects frequently those writings do not give a very good overview of the war. Here I will give a listing, albeit incomplete of English forces sent to France during the period 1415-1453 C.E.
English Forces Sent to Northern France 1415-1453
At the same time English forces were sent to Gascony but far more infrequently and in much smaller numbers.
In 1415 480 men were sent. In 1423 200 men were sent along with 200 more in 1428. In 1431 620 men were sent along with 2,298 in 1439. In 1442 500 men were sent and in 1443 620 men were sent. The English lost Gascony in 1451 but in 1452 an English army of 5,000 men was sent to reconquer Gascony. In 1453 2,325 reinforcements were sent. Despite that the French drove the English out of Gascony in 1453. Thus ending the Hundred Years War. The figures for Gascony even more than the figures for Northern France are incomplete. Even so the total is that in the period 1415-1453 12,243 men were sent to Gascony.
At the same time in 1436 an army of 7,675 was sent to relieve the English port of Calais on the French coast and to ravage the possessions of the Duke of Burgundy. The garrison of Calais was also getting a more or less regular stream of replacements / reinforcements so this figure in incomplete.
The Totals and Average Per Years if you include Gascony and Calais works out as follows:
1415-1419, Total – 23,724 AVP – 4,745
1420-1429, Total - 18,473 AVP – 1,847
1430-1439, Total - 41,039 AVP – 4,104
1440-1444, Total - 14,448 AVP – 2,890
1448-1450, Total - 4,998 AVP – 1,666
1451-1453, Total - 7,324 AVP - 2,442
Grand Total - 91,4125
As I mentioned above these figures are not complete and neither do they include mercenaries or local forces employed on the continent but they do tell us something about war making at this time.
Aside from revealing the small size of Medieval armies of the time the above figures also give some idea of how the small size of such armies didn’t preclude military effectiveness. It also illustrates the limits that Medieval governments had in terms of keeping up army strength. The simple fact is that Henry V’s ability in 1415 and again in 1417 to raise an expeditionary force of over ten thousand man was basically a huge effort and not one easily repeated. It has been known for some time that even before Henry V’s death there was growing resistance to Henry V’s efforts which were likely simply unsustainable for England hence the significant slacking off during the 1420’s even before Henry V’s death.6 It is of interest that despite this reduction in English commitment the period 1420-1428 was over all a very successful period for the English.7
All that changed in 1429 with the appearance of Joan of Arc, the relief of Orleans and the coronation of Charles VII in Rheims. In their struggle to maintain their possessions in France the English had to strain there reserves of financial and military strength for a prolonged period of time and for a much longer duration than under Henry V. It also appears that financially the situation was less positive than under Henry V. Despite this during the 1430’s the English were able to pull off sending the largest number of forces to the continent. In 1436 a total of 15,601 men were sent, about half to Northern France and the rest to Calais. The effort was unprecedented and a fiscal horror for the English government.8 The war was clearly unsustainable the longer it went on. It is common to condemn the government of Henry VI for not prosecuting the war vigorously. It appears that to the extent that they were able they did so. Further the erosion of the English position after Joan of Arc was not due to any lack of effort by the English government to contain the damage. Their efforts were considerable they were simply not sufficient because English resources were not sufficient. Certainly when faced with understandable resistance to continued financial exaction's to prosecute an un-winnable war Henry VI’s advisers did their level best overall.9
In the 1440’s there was a overall slacking of effort related to the resistance to further exactions to finance a war that both being slowly lost and grinding on and on. Fortunately the devastation caused by the war in France made a truce a good idea for them also. So in 1444 the Truce of Tours was agreed to.10
The French building on work done before were able to use the truce to build up their financial and military resources. The English government severely hamstrung by massive debts and poor credit and a population adverse to more war taxes and loans was unable to profit much from the truce. Those serious fiscal etc., problems were aggravated by some truly bad policy decisions. So when the truce broke down in 1449 the result was disaster.11
The French overran the English possessions in Northern France in a year, (1449-1450). Hamstrung by their serious problems the English government still managed to send 4,000 reinforcements over but it was not enough.12
After the loss of Gascony in 1451 the English in one last very costly effort managed to send 5,000 men to reconquer Gascony in 1452 and 2,325 men to reinforce them in 1453. It was again simply not enough and the effort greatly damaged English government finances. In the end it appears that conquering France was beyond the resources of England and that the Hundred Years War was not lost through lack of effort by the English but by lack of means.13
1. AVP – Average Per Year
2. Year of Truce of Tours. Truce of Tours lasts 1444-1449.
3. 1450 year English driven out of Northern France.
4. Grand Total for Northern France 1415-1450.
5. These figures and all the other ones used in this essay come from, Curry, Anne, English Armies in the Fifteenth Century, in Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War, Ed. Curry, Anne & Hughes, Michael, The Boydell press, Bury St. Edmund, Suffolk, 1994, pp. 39-68, at pp. 44-48, Griffiths, R. A., The Reign of King Henry VI, Second Edition, Sutton Pub., Gloucestershire, 1998, pp. 178-208, 443-473, 482-532. In the last table I added the various figures together.
6. Henry V died in 1422. For more about the extent of the English effort see Curry, Ormrod, W. M., The Domestic Response to the Hundred Years War, in Curry et al, pp. 83-101. See also Griffiths above and pp. 107-122.
7. Griffiths, pp. 178-189.
8. Ormrod, Curry, Griffiths, pp. 178-208, 443-473.
9. IBID. and Griffiths, pp. 482-532. For the view that the English were betrayed by an administration that could have fairly easily done more see Barker, Juliet, Conquest, Little Brown, London, 2009.
10. Griffiths, pp. 443-473, Ormrod, Curry, Jones, Michael, John Beaufort, duke of Somerset and the French expedition of 1443, in Patronage, The Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England, Ed., Griffiths, R. A., Alan Sutton Humanities Press, New York, 1981, pp. 79-102.
11. Ormrod, Griffiths, pp, 482-532, Rogers, Clifford J., Military Revolutions of the Hundred Years War, The Journal of Military History, v. 57 no. 2, April 1993, pp. 241-278.
12. IBID. Griffiths, Curry.
13. IBID. and Griffiths, pp. 107-122.