the greatest of the wars was the attempt of England to conquer France. It was to all appearances a war of princes, and a hundred years earlier would have been little more than that; it would have been brought to an end because the feudal barons would never have responded to the demand for such an effort. Actually, it was a war of peoples, although England saw many Frenchmen fighting for her. To the English it was emphatically a national war; and on the French side, despite the divisions which a dying feudalism succeeded in maintaining, it ended by provoking a lively national resistance. When it ended, two spirits had been created or awakened which were to clash- for centuries until they were united in 1914.
England had acknowledged Scottish independence in 1328, but the dream of union, by the nature of the times a military dream, did not fade. When her great enemy, Bruce, died two years later, leaving an infant son, and the heir of the luckless Baliol made an effort to recover what he considered his patrimony, he did so as an English vassal and with English aid. The levy of Scotland was wiped out at Dupplin, and Edward Baliol actually became king. Here, when England was again embroiled with Scotland, was a heaven-sent opportunity for France; a long Scottish war might well give the French king the chance to settle to his advantage the question of the English possessions in France. Philip VI. took the infant king of Scots under his protection and French aid helped to dispossess the English nominee to the Scottish crown. Edward III. indeed won a victory over the Scots at Halidon Hill (1333) but to him that was a mere preliminary to his final reckoning with France. His claim to the French throne was perilously weak, and was fundamentally a pretext, but once the claim was made war was inevitable and was enthusiastically approved by the people.
It broke out finally in 1337 and went on until 1453. At Crecy (1346) a small national English army, containing not only the great lords but ordinary gentlemen and the archers of the common people, faced and beat by superior tactics and superior unity the vassals, levies, and allies of the King of France, while at the same time at Neville's Cross, the men of the northern shires in the absence of their king defeated the invading Scots. Three years later the Black Death swept over the West with disastrous results to the whole political and economic life and made the carrying on of a national war a national burden. That it was carried on at all stamps it as a national war. The defeat and capture of Philip's successor at Poitiers in 1356 seemed decisive. But neither country was able to continue the war effort, and the French tactics of avoiding battle succeeded in forcing a peace which was only a truce. The king of England waived the claim to the French throne; the French king admitted him to be lord of Aquitaine, Ponthieu, and Calais. These were terms neither could permanently admit.