Clash Of Kings: England’s Edward Longshanks Versus France’s Philip The Fair

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Homage of King Edward I (kneeling) to Philip IV (seated). As Duke of Aquitaine, Edward was a vassal to the French king, by Jean Fouquet (15th century) (Public Domain)

Clash Of Kings: England’s Edward Longshanks Versus France’s Philip The Fair

The Anglo-French war of 1294-1303 has not been the subject of a major study since the early 1900s. Recent histories tend to treat it as a sideshow compared to King Edward I’s wars in Wales and Scotland, which gives a false impression. In reality the Welsh and Scottish campaigns were distractions, and King Edward regarded the war against France as his main focus. The main issue at stake was the defense and recovery of Aquitaine, the last substantial piece of the so-called ‘Angevin empire’. To that end King Edward spent enormous sums of money on recruiting allies in the Low Countries and the Holy Roman Empire. King Edward’s rival, King Philip IV of France, also recruited allies to counter King Edward, until the conflict engulfed much of Western Europe. The result was a series of military stalemates, demonstrating that neither England nor France could achieve outright victory in a head-to-head conflict. The contrast in the ambitions of King Edward I of England and King Philip IV of France and their rivalry compelled the Anglo-French war of 1294–1303 and the far-reaching consequences that lay beyond.  

King Edward: Crusader and Tournament Fighter

In the mid-1280s Edward was at the height of his powers, respected at home and abroad. Since he came to the throne in 1272, he had been remarkably successful. The King had put an end to conflict in England, united the baronage and implemented a vast programme of legislative and judicial reform. He had recently completed the conquest of Wales – a feat that eluded his predecessors – and stamped his authority on the Welsh with a series of mighty castles. Overseas Edward had clawed back lands in France and did wonders for his reputation by going on a crusade. His venture to the Holy Land brought little material reward, but unlike virtually all his peers he could boast of having actually set foot in Outremer. He had risked his skin in the defense of the Christian states, and carried the scars to prove it.

Edward I kills his attempted assassin on crusade in Acre by Gustave Doré (Public Domain)

Edward I kills his attempted assassin on crusade in Acre by Gustave Doré (Public Domain)


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