A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 2


The French Wars (1337 - 1453) and the Wars of the Roses (1455 - 1485) 

When William de Argentein returned home to Halesworth from the French Wars in 1415, he is believed to have ordered the building of the North Porch of the Parish Church in thanks for his safe deliverance.

The war had started in 1337 following French moves to invade this England, so Edward III retaliated by proclaiming himself King of France.

He defeated the French army at Crecy in 1346, he captured Calais in 1347, and totally routed the French at Poitiers in 1356. Sir John de Wingfield, who established the Collegiate Church at the village of Wingfield near Halesworth, was the Chief Staff Officer to the Black Prince in the campaign in France, and in the Battle of Poitiers he captured a French nobleman whose ransom brought him a sum of money which would be worth many millions of pounds today. Sir John died in 1361. The whole conflict rumbled on between 1337 to 1453, and it became known as 'The Hundred Years' War'. It was fought against the background in England of the Black Death, and the uprisings of the Peasants' Revolt' which resulted from the heavy taxation needed to pay for the military campaigns.

The second phase of the war between 1369 - 1373 was a period when England lost most of the territories won earlier. So when Henry V came to the throne in 1413 his first act was to make his claim for the French throne. A military force was gathered together, and landed in France. Michael de la Pole, the Earl of Suffolk died of fever at Harfleur on the march to Agincourt and is buried in a magnificent tomb at Wingfield Church.

It was on St. Crispin's Day in 1415, that the English force of 6,000 men (of which 5,000 were archers), met a French army of between 20,000 - 30,000 men. Sir Thomas Erpingham of Norwich distinguished himself as Commander of the bowmen at Agincourt, and King Henry, to break the stalemate which had arisen, called for Sir Thomas Erpingham to position the archers. When he was satisfied, he threw his gold Marshall's baton in the air to indicate that the bowmen were ready. With a cry from Henry V 'In the name of Jesus, Mary and St.George' the battle of Agincourt commenced.

With them at Agincourt was Sir Edmund de Thorpe, a well-known soldier who died in the later siege of Louviers in 1418, and is buried in Ashwellthorpe in Norfolk and Lord Bardolph of Dennington, near Halesworth. William Lord Bardolph fought under Henry at Harfleur and Agincourt and became Henry VI's Chamberlain. He died in 1441 and was buried in Dennington Church. During the battle, 7,000 - 10,000 Frenchmen died, and 1,500 were taken prisoner. The English dead totalled 500, which included the young Earl of Suffolk, and the grandson of Michael de la Pole.

Joan of Arc now came on the scene, and defeated the English at Patay having lifted the siege of Orleans where William de la Pole led the English troops. She then persuaded Charles to march on Rheims, where he was crowned. Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians in 1430 and sold to the English who condemned her to the stake in 1431. The tide had turned, and in a succession of battles the French recaptured Paris in 1436, Normandy in 1449 - 1450, and Bordeaux in 1453, leaving only Calais in English hands.

William Lord Bardolph was Lieutenant of Calais, which remained in English hands until lost in 1558. As England was soon to enter into civil war with the Wars of the Roses, the Hundred Years' War ended in 1453. Calais was captured by the Duke of Guise during the reign of Queen Mary, who is stated to had said "When I am dead and opened, you shall find Calais lying upon my heart".

For more than thirty years 1455 - 1485 England was split by the 'War of the Roses'. The Lancastrian kings sat on the English throne, but their right to it was challenged by the House of York. During that time the crown passed to and fro between these two families at battle, giving the victors a chance to reign. Finally Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485. He became Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the two warring factions. Sir John Howard was made Duke of Norfolk, and died fighting on the losing side at Bosworth Field.


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