From 1337 to 1453 England repeatedly invaded France on the pretext that her kings had a right to the French throne. Though it was a small, poor country, England for most of those “hundred years” won the battles, sacked the towns and castles, and dominated the war. The protagonists of the Hundred Years War are among the most colorful in European history: Edward III, the Black Prince; Henry V, who was later immortalized by Shakespeare; the splendid but inept John II, who died a prisoner in London; Charles V, who very nearly overcame England; and the enigmatic Charles VII, who at last drove the English out. In battle after battle, French knights were mowed down by English longbowmen who fired arrows capable of piercing armor. By war’s end, knights were obsolete thanks to English longbows and guns. Castles proved worthless because cannons could take down their walls. The entire feudal system broke down as people developed loyalties to their countries rather than their local lords. I thought that I would highlight the military tactics and changes in weapons that occurred during the course of this war.
One of the first things you notice when you approach Les Invalides is the row of cannons facing outward across a small moat. These are not little cannons, they are for the most part giant beasts requiring iron trolleys just to stay in place. These pieces are part of the Musée de l'Artillerie (Museum of Artillery, founded in 1785 in the aftermath of the French Revolution and expanded under Napoleon). It was moved into the Hôtel des Invalides in 1871, immediately following the Franco-Prussian War and the proclamation of the Third Republic. The collection was augmented by collections from the National Library, the Louvre, the Artillery of Vincennes, the Hôtel des Monnaies and many private collections. Another institution called the Musée Historique de l'Armée (Historical Museum of the Army) was created in 1896 following the World Fair. The two were merged in 1905 into the Musée de l'Armee.
If you are visiting the Eiffel tower and looking for something else to do, you might consider the French Maritime Museum at the Trocadero, the largest in the world. Apart from Napoleon’s canot, seen below, another striking feature in the first room at the Paris Musée de la Marine is the painting of the arrival of Napoleon III at Gênes in 1859, by Théodore Gudin seen above.
In 1748, Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau offered a collection of models of ships and naval installations to Louis XV of France, with the request that the items be displayed at the Louvre and made available to students of the Naval engineers school, which Duhamel headed. The collection was put on display in 1752, in a room of the first floor, next to the Academy of Sciences; the room was called “Salle de Marine” (Navy room), and was used for teaching. King Charles X decided to create the maritime museum in 1827, which he named the Musée Dauphin but after 1830 the name was changed to what we know it as today, the Musée de Marine.
In an ordinance of 1670 Louis XIV announced the building of a shelter for old soldiers, “to construct a royal building of sufficient size and space to receive and lodge all officers and men who are crippled or old and frail and to guarantee sufficient funds for their subsistance and upkeep.”
Louis himself chose the design of Liberal Bruant. The first stone was laid in 1671, and in 1674 the first old soldiers entered, and were received in person by Louis XIV. Today it is still a hospital and has a number of museums. Napoleon is buried under the dome.
Two or three officers shared a room, while soldiers had small dormitories of four or six beds. On being accepted the candidate was given a comb, wooden spoon, knife, uniform and shoes. Married soldiers were allowed to sleep out twice a week. All were obliged to attend mass on Sunday. No wine or food was allowed in the rooms, and smoking and women were not allowed anywhere inside Invalides.