We Happy Few
A Short Tour of the Long 100 Years War
- Tour a range of iconic battlefields, from Agincourt and Crecy, to Patay
- Enjoy the many delights of Bordeaux, with free time to sample wine or wander its charming streets
- Visit sites associated with the iconic Joan of Arc in Rouen
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...” Shakespeare has King Henry V exhort his troops ahead of their victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415. But that battle, romanticised by the Bard, was just one clash in the savage, century-long struggle for supremacy between England and France, in which the English won most of the battles, but fi nally lost the war.
In this wide-ranging tour across some of France’s most beautiful countryside, staying in her historic cities, top medieval historian Dr. Michael Jones leads us through the main events and major battlefi elds of the 100 Years War: Crecy, Patay, Poitiers, Agincourt and Castillon; explaining what happened and why, and considering both the causes and consequences of the conflict.
We also meet some of the fascinating characters whose exploits in the war have since become legendary: Edward III and his French Queen Eleanor, as well as their son, Edward, the Black Prince; Henry V himself; and Joan of Arc, among others. For lovers of both France and history alike, this tour is simply unmissable.
Meeting at Victoria coach station, we board our luxury coach, which takes us to Dover. Here, we embark upon our Club Class ferry for Calais, where we visit Rodin’s sculpture of the Seven Burghers of Calais, and hear Dr. Jones explain their role in England’s siege and seizure of the city early in the war. Calais remained in English hands as her last possession in France right up until the reign of Mary I in the 1550s. We then travel to the nearby battlefield of Crecy. Here, in 1346, Edward III inflicted a decisive defeat on a numerically superior French army and the English longbow proved its worth as a weapon of war. Here too, the King’s young son, Edward, the Black Prince, ‘won his spurs’ for his courage and precocious military ability. We then check into our nearby hotel.
After breakfast, we drive to the battlefield of Agincourt, immortalised by Shakespeare in ‘Henry V’, where the warrior king, leading a bedraggled, starving and outnumbered army, nevertheless defeated a far larger French force; once again utilising the longbow to achieve this famous victory. Guiding us over the remarkably unchanged field of battle, Dr. Jones will explain where Shakespeare got his history right – and wrong. After lunch, we drive to Rouen, capital of Normandy, and the centre of English power in France for much of the war, and check into our next hotel.
Today is devoted to exploring the Medieval centre of Rouen, concentrating on sites associated with Joan of Arc, who was tried and burned at the stake here for heresy in 1431. We visit the contemporary church built on the site of her martyrdom, which may look a little out of keeping with the local architecture. However, the sweeping curve of its roof represents the flames that killed her and the dramatic stained glass windows were taken from a nearby 16th century church. We also visit the Joan of Arc interpretation centre and the city’s cathedral, which contains the heart of King Richard the Lionheart. The organ is entombed separately from the rest of his body in a sarcophagus bearing his image.
Leaving our charming Rouen hotel, we drive on to the ancient city of Orleans, which, like Rouen, was fiercely contested during the war. In 1429, after a six month siege, Orleans was on the point of falling to the English and their Burgundian allies when a teenage girl, Joan of Arc, claiming to be instructed by angels, arrived at the head of a revitalised French army and lifted the siege. We visit the sites in the city associated with the ‘Maid of Orleans’, including the cathedral and the old city hall, the Hotel Groslot. Afterwards, we check into our Orleans hotel for the night.
This morning, we take a drive to the history-steeped city of Poitiers, home to one of France’s oldest universities (established in 1432), via the battlefield of Patay. Here, inspired by Joan of Arc, the French cavalry swept through the demoralised English to achieve a rare French victory in 1429, though soon afterwards Joan herself was captured at Compeigne. Upon arrival in picturesque Poitiers, we tour the battlefield, where, in September 1356, Edward, the Black Prince achieved a sweeping victory over a pursuing French army led by King John II. The King was taken prisoner and died in London years later. Following a captivating day of touring, we head to our Poitiers hotel and can relax here for the remainder of the evening.
Leaving Poitiers this morning, we drive through the increasingly beautiful countryside of Aquitaine to the city of Bordeaux, long the capital of English-ruled Gascony. Home, of course, to some of the world’s best wine, there is also a wealth of history to discover here. After lunching in the beautiful city, we drive on to Castillon, scene in 1453 of the final battle of the war. Here, the aged English commander John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, was defeated and killed by a revitalised French army using a new weapon of war – cannons with gunpowder – which finally overcame the dominance of the English longbow.
We are treated to a morning at leisure in Bordeaux and can use this opportunity to pick up some fantastic bottles of wine, enjoy a coffee and pastry in one of the charming cafés or simply sightsee. Later, we fly back to Britain from the city’s airport.
- Tour Manager & Guide Lecturer
- Meals - Most meals included
- Transport - Eurostar to France, return flight to London (UK only) & all local travel
- Hand-picked hotels throughout the tour
Shining light on the Dark Ages
The Medieval era was filled with breathtaking artistic achievement spurred on by tremendous religious faith. Alongside the beauty, life could be coarse and cruel; cut short by famine, disease or the religious zeal that spurred on wars that still echo today.
This era is one of the most intriguing yet misrepresented periods of history. Did people really think the world was flat? No, that enduring myth was created by a 19th-century American journalist. Were witches put on trial and burnt at the stake? Yes, but you’d have to wait for the refined Renaissance period to bear witness to that. Travel alongside an expert guide lecturer, and separate fact from fiction in this fascinating period.