Again Edward endeavoured to avert the conflict by a formal cession of Guienne into Philip's hands during forty days, but the refusal of the French sovereign to restore the province left no choice for him but war. The refusal of the Scotch barons to answer his summons to arms, and the revolt of Balliol, proved that the French outrage was but the first blow in a deliberate and long-planned scheme of attack; Edward had for a while no force to waste on France, and when the first conquest of Scotland freed his hands, his league with Flanders for the recovery of Guienne was foiled by the strife with his baronage. A truce with Philip set him free to meet new troubles in the north; but even after the victory of Falkirk Scotch independence was still saved for six years by the threats of France and the intervention of its ally, Boniface the Eighth; and it was only the quarrel of these two confederates which allowed Edward to complete its subjection. But the rising under Bruce was again backed by French aid and by the renewal of the old quarrel over Guienne - a quarrel which hampered England through the reign of Edward the Second, and which indirectly brought about his terrible fall. The accession of Edward the.
Third secured a momentary peace, but the fresh attack on Scotland which marked the opening of his reign kindled hostility anew; the young King David found refuge in France, and arms, money, and men were despatched from its ports to support his cause. It was this intervention of France which foiled Edward's hopes of the submission of Scotland at the very moment when success seemed in his grasp; the solemn announcement by Philip of Valois that his treaties bound him to give effective help to his old ally, and the assembly of a French fleet in the Channel drew the King from his struggle in the north to face a storm which his negotiations could no longer avert.
From the first the war took European dimensions. The weakness of the Empire, the captivity of the Papacy at Avignon, left France without a rival among European powers. In numbers, in wealth, the French people far surpassed their neighbours over the Channel. England can hardly have counted four millions of inhabitants, France boasted of twenty. Edward could only bring eight thousand men-at-arms into the field. Philip, while a third of his force was busy elsewhere, could appear at the head of forty thousand. Edward's whole energy was bent on meeting the strength of France by a coalition of powers against her; and his plans were helped by the dread which the great feudatories of the Empire who lay nearest to him felt of French annexation, as well as by the quarrel of the Empire with the Papacy. Anticipating the later policy of Godolphin and Pitt, Edward became the paymaster of the poorer princes of Germany; his subsidies purchased the aid of Hainault, Gelders, and Jiilich; sixty thousand crowns went to the Duke of Brabant, while the Emperor himself was induced by a promise of three thousand gold florins to furnish two thousand men-at-arms. Negotiations and profuse expenditure, however, brought the King little fruit save the title of Vicar-General of the Empire on the left of the Rhine; now the Emperor hung back, now the allies refused to move; and when the host at last crossed the border, Edward found it impossible to bring the French king to an engagement.
But as hope from the Imperial alliance faded away, a fresh hope dawned on the King from another quarter. Flanders was his natural ally. England was the great wool-producing country of the west, but few woollen fabrics were woven in England. The number of weavers' gilds shows that the trade was gradually extending, and at the very outset of his reign Edward had taken steps for its encouragement. He invited Flemish weavers to settle in his country, and took the new immigrants, who chose the eastern counties for the seat of their trade, under his royal protection. But English manufactures were still in their infancy, and nine-tenths of the English wool went to the looms of Bruges or of Ghent. We may see the rapid growth of this export trade in the fact that the King received in a single year more than 30,000 from duties levied on wool alone. A stoppage of this export would throw half the population of the great Flemish towns out of work; and Flanders was drawn to the English alliance, not only by the interest of trade, but by the democratic spirit of the towns which jostled roughly with the feudalism of France. A treaty was concluded with the Duke of Brabant and the Flemish towns, and preparations were made for a new campaign.
Philip gathered a fleet of two hundred vessels at Sluys to prevent his crossing the Channel, but Edward with a far smaller force utterly destroyed the French ships, and marched to invest Tournay. Its siege however proved fruitless; his vast army broke up, and want of money forced him to a truce for a year. A quarrel of succession to the Duchy of Brittany, which broke out in 1341, and in which of the two rival claimants one was supported by Philip and the other by Edward, dragged on year after year. In Flanders things went ill for the English cause, and the death of the great statesman Van Arteveldt in 1345 proved a heavy blow to Edward's projects. The King's difficulties indeed had at last reached their height. His loans from the great bankers of Florence amounted to half a million of our money; his overtures for peace were contemptuously rejected; the claim which he advanced to the French crown found not a single adherent save among the burghers of Ghent. To establish such a claim, indeed, was difficult enough.
The three sons of Philip the Fair had died without male issue, and Edward claimed as the son of Philip's daughter Isabella. But though her brothers had left no sons, they had left daughters; and if female succession were admitted, these daughters of Philip's sons would precede a son of Philip's daughter. Isabella met this difficulty by contending that though females could transmit the right of succession they could not themselves possess it, and that her son, as the nearest living male descendant of Philip, and born in his lifetime, could claim in preference to females who were related to Philip in as near a degree. But the bulk of French jurists asserted that only male succession gave right to the throne. On such a theory the right inheritable from Philip was exhausted; and the crown passed to the son of his brother Charles of Valois, who in fact peacefully mounted the throne as Philip the Fifth. Edward's claim seems to have been regarded on both sides as a mere formality; the King, in fact, did full and liege homage to his rival for his Duchy of Guienne; and it was not till his hopes from Germany had been exhausted, and his claim was found to be useful in securing the loyal aid of the Flemish towns, that it was brought seriously to the front.