The Hundred Years’ War was one of the last of the great wars of the medieval period.  Charles IV of France left no male heir and was the case during the medieval period there was a struggle over who would succeed him.  Although Charles IV had a daughter she was ineligible to succeed him as monarch.  The dukes of Normandy (tracing their suitability to inherit the throne back to William the Conqueror) therefore made a claim for the throne.  The Hundred Years’ War, therefore, can be understood primarily as a dynastic struggle between the Plantegent (Normans) and Valois families.

The war itself was actually fought over more than a century in four distinct phases; it was only after the war had finished that the four phases came to be collectively known as the Hundred Years’ War.  This conflict had far reaching consequences for Europe and the world beyond.  In particular, the conflict led to the virtual disappearance of feudalism, e.g. The importance of the feudal knight all but disappeared, fiefs disappeared, feudal obligations fell away and the old authority was swept away.  A new authority centered around the person of the king became the basis for the modern nation state.  Kings themselves ruled as virtual dictators (called “absolute monarchs”).  Their power was absolute because they and they alone possessed the authority to direct the coercive power of the state.  In short, they alone commanded the standing army and this made all other institutions and personalities subordinate to the king.