The shield that started the Hundred Years’ War

In the middle ages, heraldry was a potent and respected form of state propaganda and individual projection of power. A man (and it was almost invariably a man) could proclaim his status, his wealth, influence and pedigree in a seemingly simple blend of colours, shapes, beasts and designs. Heraldry was taken so seriously that it could signal a claim to a kingdom, the start of a war, a declaration of peace or dynastic marriage. But what was its role in the opening phases of the Hundred Years’ War?

On 26 January 1340, Edward III gathered with his supporters in the marketplace of Ghent. One of the most powerful rulers in Europe, Edward was not only King of England but also boasted a clutch of other titles that together made up the Angevin Empire. Angevin control extended over a thousand miles, from as far north as Edinburgh to the Mediterranean territories of Toulouse.

King Edward III - By See description on linked site [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Edward had summoned this host in Flanders in an audacious bid to extend his power and become the undisputed champion of Europe. He planned to augment his complicated collection of kingdoms, lordships, dukedoms, counties, principalities, fiefs, towns and castles with the most glittering prize of all: the Kingdom of France.

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