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I am of the opinion that Joan of Arc, an "amateur" general, started France on the road to winning the war because she understood something that the "professionals" did not; that is, that the French army was fundamentally better despite the earlier English victories, and that "all" that was needed to win was for France to fight the right battles.

My understanding is that the French had better artillery, a multiple of the number of English troops, and as a result, a wider range of weaponry for "combined arms" operations. The English had superiority in only one area, the long bow, which they had used to devastating effect at Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt. England's alliance with Burgundy mitigated, but did not eliminate, the French advantages.

The above is the general sense that I have, but my knowledge its a bit sketchy. Can anyone describe the French vs. English advantages with a greater degree of "granularity?" And if so, is it fair to say that Joan's gift was realizing that the French could win, under any reasonably competent "combined arms" commander (which she had behind her) even more than understanding how they could win? That is, of course, if the French could avoid battles and situations where the English long bow would show to advantage.

  • I've not seen anything depicting Joan of Arc as a competent commander (combined arms or otherwise) rather than a figure head and source of inspiration for the French army. Do you have any sources (other than the Wikipedia article you've linked) that show otherwise (I'm actually quite curious as I do enjoy this period)? – Thomo Jul 1 '16 at 0:13
  • @Thomo: "Inspiration" was the key "competency." My whole point is my belief that she was not a great strategist, but that she was a great leader, meaning that the "professionals" fell in line behind her and got off their butts. That was her main contribution to the war. Changed the parenthetical from "(what she was)" to "(what she had behind her.)" Thanks for your help. – Tom Au Jul 1 '16 at 0:15
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    Ah, okay. Your last paragraph read as her being in direct command of the French army rather than being seen as a figure head or source of inspiration. Change is a bit better – Thomo Jul 1 '16 at 0:18
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    The most important "event" was that the Burgundian's dropped their support of the English. This took place over a number of years, but was complete by 1435. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgundian_(party) – Peter Diehr Aug 5 '16 at 16:43
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    @TomAu: the "alliance" was already weakening prior to Joan of Arc; weak states & powerful regional players. The "Hundred Years War" was a very long, complicated, multi-party conflict, with many flawed leaders, and very few heroes. – Peter Diehr Aug 5 '16 at 23:24
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First of all, don't forget she was helped by a lot of war veterans, that were really happy to have someone claiming God is on their side for this endless war. One of them is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Hire . Someone nicknamed "The Wrath of God" is quite cool, and it also makes sense with the "God is with us".

What made the French win the war however was really the fact that the French Crown began centralizing its power. Which means, much more funds and a somehow more cohesive army. England on the other hand was pretty much decentralized, with powerful vassals fighting independently for fame and money. While it was cool and permitted to make a lot of skilled generals, it also permitted a lot of infighting. Thus, the cohesion of the army wasn't really impressive.

Also, The Black Prince (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward,_the_Black_Prince) and his father died quite early leaving a minor on the throne. This allowed more infighting in the english side and to the french to lick their wounds and prepare a bit more.

And lastly, Joan of Arc legitimized the French King (Nicknamed "Le Dauphin", the heir.) by securizing his crowning.

Thus we had on one side, people believing God was finally on their side, a rightful king not that stupid, competent nobleman willing to crush the opposition under the same banner (also full of revenge because of the disastrous defeats at the beginning of the war.). On the other side, disorganized nobles plotting against each other in order to become more powerfull, no king to keep them in line and finally a "witch" claiming God is against them.

Thus, I think this was was won because of the morale differences + centralization vs decentralization.

(I'm sorry if this is hard to read, english isn't my native languages.)

  • I really think i did pointing the differences between the two approach of the war? Do you think talking about what was in the armies, how the campaign was made would be more useful? – LamaDelRay Aug 5 '16 at 15:35
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    @MarkC.Wallace: I consider "centralization" a key point in how "the forces stacked up." So the answer is ok, upvoted, in fact. – Tom Au Aug 5 '16 at 15:59
  • Well, it really changed the scale of medieval war and armies so i guess centralization really helped. Also, thanks! – LamaDelRay Aug 5 '16 at 23:03
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Joan of Arc entered during the Siege of Orleans, in which the French already had the advantage by defending a well fortified position. Her assault on Paris failed and the city was only taken by diplomatic means.

Besides this, there were two major battles in the final stage of the war:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Formigny

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Castillon

They were fought with equal numbers on both sides. However, the English made tactical mistakes and lost both battles.

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    I read about Backgammon once: One has to make a lot of good decisions to win - but only one bad one to lose. The same would apply in warfare methinks. If the English made two egregious mistakes to none by Joan, that's damn good generalship. – Pieter Geerkens Jul 1 '16 at 5:46
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    @PieterGeerkens: Joan was long dead by this time. Actually, England-France read like Germans-Soviets in World War II. First France/Soviet Union lost badly. Then France/Soviet Union improved to the point where they could win with a 2 to 1 numerical advantage. Imagine if, at the end, the Soviets could win at 1 to 1 odds, which is what happened here. – Tom Au Jul 1 '16 at 6:29

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