Crecy Dinner and Lecture 2011 held at The Athenaeum on 15th September
"The Origins of the Hundred Years' War"
delivered by Professor David Carpenter King's College, University of London
The chosen venue for this biennial occasion was the Athenaeum in Pall Mall with its splendid decor proved to be a truly fitting backdrop for an enjoyable dinner followed by a stimulating lecture. The attendance was a healthy total of forty members and guests. This included a number who particularly wanted to hear Professor David Carpenter talk on a period of history for which he is renowned in the academic world.
The evening commenced with a champagne reception. This was swiftly followed by dinner. The chosen menu comprised marinated salmon in beetroot with sour cream, horseradish and chive followed by chicken supreme with braised endive and a Madeira sauce. The pudding was roast peaches with ginger and frozen yoghurt. A Muscadet sur lie was served to accompany the first course and a Côtes du Rhone was on offer later. Tea and coffee added to the feeling of being replete.
The Master then rose to introduce Professor Carpenter and welcome him back to the Bowyers Company to whom he had spoken on an earlier occasion. There appeared to be some confusion on the top table as to the subject of that earlier talk much to the amusement of all concerned. The Company values its links with the History Department of King's College.
In a witty and entertaining fashion Professor Carpenter spoke for nearly forty minutes on his subject. The causes of the Hundred Years' War were numerous but one or two carry more weight than others. Edward III's claims to the French Throne and lands in France were an excuse to wage war as was the desire to punish Phillip V continuing the Auld Alliance with David II of Scotland. The real purpose of the campaign was economic necessity and expediency. It was imperative that England with its wool production maintained its links with the Flanders' textile trade. Furthermore the idea of ceding Gascony with its income from taxes on salt and wine was an anathema. Herein also lay a 'catch 22' scenario. With no income from the French fiefdoms Edward did not have the financial resources to wage war on the continent.
There was a further cause, sometimes overlooked, and that was the pressure from English society. This manifested itself in a desire among the upper middle 'Knight' class to wage war in France in the hope of 'earning their spurs' and regaining land that had formerly been owned by their family. The elements of duty and pleasure played their parts in this conflict waged at a time when the mercenary soldiers were beginning to take over from the conscripted men of an earlier period.
Like all good lectures this one resulted in some erudite questions from the floor and a desire to know more about the subject. A brief vote of thanks was proposed by the Master to Professor Carpenter. Subsequently what wine as was left was consumed and the evening concluded. It was acclaimed a great success by all whom attended.