September 19, 1356: The Battle of Poitiers is fought.
The Battle of Poitiers was one of the great battles of the Hundred Years’ War, a series of intermittent conflicts fought between the Kingdoms of France and England (and their respective allies) over the throne of France. Edward III of England proclaimed himself the rightful king of France over the Valois king Philip VI, through his mother (the sister of the previous king), although he never pursued the claim until the kingdoms became embroiled in various diplomatic disagreements. Approximately twenty years into the first stage of the conflict, forces under Edward, Prince of Wales (later popularly known as “the Black Prince”) met French forces near the city of Poitiers.
Also present was John II of France, who had since succeeded Philip as king since the latter’s death in 1350. His armies outnumbered the English nearly 2:1, but superior tactics (and French blunders) granted a great victory to the English, who also suffered far fewer casualties. John and other French lords were captured during the battle. While the Dauphin and future king Charles served as regent, he was forced to enact unpopular taxes in order to pay for his father’s three million crown ransom, and deal with opposition from all segments of society (from the peasantry to the bourgeoisie to the nobles). A weakened and divided France was forced to conclude the 1360 Treaty of Brétigny, which signaled the end of the first phase of the war and ceded large chunks of France to the English, including the areas of Aquitaine, Gascony, Poitou, Saintonge, and others. In return, Edward abandoned his claim to the throne of France. The effects of the treaty were fleeting; war proceeded once more nine years later, and French efforts pushed the English out of the territories they had gained by the treaty.