I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get out of this book, and whether it was going to a kind of war-by-numbers like the brilliant Hundred Years War series by Jonathan Sumption. It actually surprised me how interesting it was. I bought it for research, but it’s fantastically readable account of what England and her people did when a call to arms was made during one of the most famous warring periods in history.]
Covering specific areas or, as it says on the tin, the *organisation* of Edward IIIs most famous overseas wars, sections such as defence, supplies and shipping and the movement of troops, give specific information relating to what happened when war was declared, not just for the knights and the men heading out to fight, but the coastal towns and their expected actions, the villages and towns that were suppliers of victuals for the armies, the seizing of ships to carry the king’s army, and even the mindset and outlook of the people left behind. It is extraordinary how much the normal balance of the country could be upset by these battles, and how every corner of the realm must pull together to ensure there were no weaknesses once men, horses and victuals were gleaned–and removed–from it.
There are sections in it I think I would have loved to have more depth to, as sometimes just as I’m hooked on one thing the author moves on. To be fair, it seems primarily written as a concise overview, and that’s what a bibliography is for. It’s also pretty objective; Hewitt has no qualms about writing the nastiest stuff that men at war did over in France, nor does any famous character he mentions get a free pass when he knows they did something deplorable, which is refreshing. It was a dirty business.
Overall, a great addition to any library of medieval non-fiction, for research or general interest. Also, it includes a great quote by poet Deschamps, specifying the folks in the Middle Ages had FOMO:
“Each of them eagerly answers the [king’s] order, And rushes to the army that he may say ‘I was there.'”