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Edward of Woodstock
Prince of Wales; Prince of Aquitaine
Edward the Black Prince from an illuminated manuscript
Spouse Joan, 4th Countess of Kent
Edward of Angoulême
Richard II of England
House House of Plantagenet
Father Edward III of England
Mother Philippa of Hainault
Born 15 June 1330(1330-06-15)
Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire
Died 8 June 1376 (aged 45)
Burial Canterbury Cathedral, Kent

Edward, Prince of Wales (15 June 1330 – 8 June 1376) was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault, and father to King Richard II of England. He was called Edward of Woodstock in his early life, after his birthplace, and has more recently been popularly known as The Black Prince after the distinctive plate armour he would wear during campaigns. An exceptional military leader and popular during his life, Edward died one year before his father and thus never ruled as king (becoming the first English Prince of Wales to suffer that fate). The throne passed, instead, to his son Richard, a minor, upon the death of Edward III.


Early life

Edward was born on 15 June 1330 at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire. He was created Earl of Chester in 1333, Duke of Cornwall in 1337 (the first creation of an English duke) and finally invested as Prince of Wales in 1343. In England, Edward served as a symbolic regent for periods in 1339, 1340, and 1342 while Edward III was on campaign. He was expected to attend all council meetings, and he performed the negotiations with the papacy about the war in 1337.

Edward had been raised with his cousin Joan, "The Fair Maid of Kent."[1] Edward gained Innocent VI's papal permission and absolution for this marriage to a blood-relative (as had Edward III when marrying Philippa of Hainault, being her second cousin) and married Joan in 10 October 1361 at Windsor Castle, prompting some controversy, mainly because of Joan's chequered marital history and the fact that marriage to an Englishwoman wasted an opportunity to form an alliance with a foreign power.

When in England, Edward's chief residence was at Wallingford Castle in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) or Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire.

He served as the king's representative in Aquitaine, where he and Joan kept a court which was considered among the most brilliant of the time. It was the resort of exiled kings, like James IV of Majorca and Peter of Castile.

Peter of Castile, thrust from his throne by his illegitimate brother, Henry of Trastámara, offered Edward the lordship of Biscay in 1367, in return for the Black Prince's aid in recovering his throne. Edward was successful in the Battle of Nájera in which he soundly defeated the combined French and Castilian forces led by Bertrand du Guesclin.

During this period, he fathered two sons: Edward (27 January 1365–1372), who died at the age of 6; and Richard, born in 1367 and often called Richard of Bordeaux for his place of birth, who would later rule as Richard II of England. He had at least two illegitimate sons, both born before his marriage: Sir Roger Clarendon and Sir John Sounder.[2]

The Black Prince returned to England in January 1371 and died a few years later after a long lasting illness that may have been cancer or multiple sclerosis.[citation needed]


A painted carving on the main gate of Oriel College, Oxford depicting the emblem of the Prince of Wales

Edward and chivalry

Edward lived in a century of decline for the knightly ideal of chivalry.[citation needed] The formation of the Order of the Garter, an English royal order of which Edward was a founding member, signified a shift towards patriotism and away from the crusader mentality that characterized England in the previous two centuries. Edward's stance in this evolution is seemingly somewhat divided. Edward displayed obedience to typical chivalric obligations through his pious contributions to Canterbury Cathedral throughout his life.[citation needed]

On one hand, after capturing John the Good, king of France, and his youngest son at Poitiers, he treated them with great respect, at one point giving John leave to return home, and reportedly praying with John at Canterbury Cathedral. Notably, he also allowed a day for preparations before the Battle of Poitiers so that the two sides could discuss the coming battle with one another, and so that the Cardinal of Périgord could plead for peace. Though not agreeing with knightly charges on the battlefield, he also was devoted to tournament jousting.[citation needed]

On the other hand, his chivalric tendencies were overridden by pragmatism on many occasions. The Black Prince's repeated use of the chevauchée strategy (burning and pillaging towns and farms) was not in keeping with contemporary notions of chivalry, but it was quite effective in accomplishing the goals of his campaigns and weakening the unity and economy of France.[citation needed] On the battlefield, pragmatism over chivalry is also demonstrated via the massed use of infantry strongholds, dismounted men at arms, longbowmen, and flank attacks (a revolutionary practice in such a chivalric age). Moreover, he was exceptionally harsh toward and contemptuous of lower classes in society, as indicated by the heavy taxes he levied as Prince of Aquitaine and by the massacres he perpetrated at Limoges and Caen.[citation needed] Edward's behaviour was typical of an increasing number of English knights and nobles during the late Middle Ages who paid less and less attention to the high ideal of chivalry, behaviour which would soon influence other countries.[citation needed]

List of major campaigns and their significance

Coin of Edward, the Black Prince.
  • The 1345 Flanders Campaign on the northern front, which was of little significance and ended after three weeks when one of Edward's allies was murdered.
  • The Crécy Campaign on the northern front, which crippled the French army for ten years, allowing the siege of Calais to occur with little conventional resistance before the plague set in. Even when France's army did recover, the forces they deployed were about a quarter of that deployed at Crecy (as shown at Poitiers). Normandy came virtually under English control, but a decision was made to focus on northern France, leaving Normandy under the control of England's vassal allies instead.
  • The Siege of Calais, during which the inhabitants suffered worst and were reduced to eating dogs and rats.[3] The siege gave the English personal and vassal control over northern France before the temporary peace due to the Black Death.
  • The Calais counter-offensive, after which Calais remained in English hands.
  • Les Espagnols sur Mer or the Battle of Winchelsea on the English Channel, which was a Pyrrhic victory of little significance beyond preventing Spanish raids on Essex.
  • The Great Raid of 1355 in the Aquitaine–Languedoc region, which crippled southern France economically, and provoked resentment of the French throne among French peasantry. The raid also 'cushioned' the area for conquest, opened up alliances with neighbours in Aquitaine, the one with Charles the Bad of Navarre being the most notable, and caused many regions to move towards autonomy from France, as France was not as united as England.
  • The Aquitaine Conquests, which brought much firmer control in Aquitaine, much land for resources and many people to fight for Edward.
  • The Poitiers Campaign in the Aquitaine-Loire region, which crippled the French army for the next 13 years, causing the anarchy and chaos which would cause the Treaty of Bretigney to be signed in 1360. Following this campaign, there was no French army leader, there were challenges towards Charles the Wise, and more aristocrats were killed at Crécy and Poitiers than by the Black Death.
  • The Reims Campaign, following which peace was finally achieved with the Treaty of Bretigny. But, on the same terms, England was left with about a third of France rather than a little under half which they would have received through the Treaty of London. This is due to the failure to take Reims which led to the need for a safe passage out of France. As a result, a lesser treaty was agreed to and Edward III was obliged to drop his claims to the French throne. France was still forced to pay a huge ransom of around four times France's gross annual domestic product for John the Good. The ransom paid was, however, a little short of that demanded by the English, and John the Good was not returned to the French. Thus, this campaign yielded mixed results, but was mostly positive for Edward. One must also remember Edward III never actually dropped his claim to the throne, and that about half of France was controlled by the English anyway through many vassals.
  • The Najera Campaign in the Castilian region, during which Pedro the Cruel was temporarily saved from a coup, thus confirming Castilian Spanish dedication to the Prince's cause. Later, however, Pedro was murdered. As a result of Pedro's murder, the money the prince put into the war effort became pointless, and Edward was effectively bankrupt. This forced heavy taxes to be levied in Aquitaine to relieve Edward's financial troubles, leading to a vicious cycle of resentment in Aquitaine and vicious repression of this resentment by Edward. Charles the Wise, king of France, was able to take advantage of the resentment against Edward in Aquitaine. However, the prince temporarily became the Lord of Biscay.
  • The Siege of Limoges in 1370 on the Aquitaine area, after which the Black Prince was obliged to leave his post for his sickness and financial issues, but also because of the cruelty of the siege, which saw the massacre of some 3,000 residents according to the chronicler Froissart. Without the Prince, the English war effort against Charles the Wise and Bertrand Du Guesclin was doomed. The Prince's brother John of Gaunt was not interested with the war in France, being more interested in the war of succession in Spain.
  • King Edward III and the prince sailed for France from Sandwich with 400 ships carrying 4,000 men at arms and 10,000 archers, but after six weeks of bad weather and being blown off course, they were driven back to England.


Tomb effigy

He requested to be buried in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral rather than next to the shrine, and a chapel was prepared there as a chantry for him and his wife Joan (this is now the French Protestant Chapel, and contains ceiling bosses of her face and of their coats of arms). However, this was overruled after his death and he was buried on the south side of the shrine of Thomas Becket behind the quire. His tomb consists of a bronze effigy beneath a tester depicting the Holy Trinity, with his heraldic achievements hung over the tester. The achievements have now been replaced by replicas, though the originals can still be seen nearby, and the tester was restored in 2006.

The name "Black Prince"

Although Edward has in later years often been referred to as the "Black Prince", there is no record of this name being used during his lifetime. He was instead known as Edward of Woodstock, after his place of birth. The "Black Prince" sobriquet is first found in writing in Richard Grafton's "Chronicle of England" (1568).[4] Its origin is uncertain, although the following suggestions have been made:

  • That it is considered to be derived from an ornate black cuirass presented to the young prince by Edward III at the Battle of Crécy, or to his characteristic black armour.[citation needed]
  • That this nickname comes from his "shield of peace", his coat of arms used during tournaments, which is represented around his effigy at Canterbury. This coat of arms is black with three white ostrich feathers.[citation needed]
  • It is possible that the name was first coined by French chroniclers in reference to the ruinous military defeats he had inflicted on France or his cruelty in these.[citation needed]
  • From the idea that Edward garnered the nickname from his explosive temper and/or brooding temperament; the legendary Angevin temper being associated with his family's line since Geoffrey d'Anjou.[citation needed]

Cultural references


Edward is referred to in William Shakespeare's Henry V

Act 1, Scene 2

Look back into your mighty ancestors:
Go, my dread lord to your great-grandsire's tomb,
from whom you claim; invoke his warlike spirit,
and your great-uncle's, Edward the Black Prince
Who on the French ground play'd a tragedy,
Making his defeat on the full power of France,
Whiles his most mighty father on a hill
Stood smiling to behold his lion's whelp
Forage in blood of French Nobility.

and in Act 2, Scene 4

And he is bred out of that bloody strain
That haunted us in our familiar paths:
Witness our too much memorable shame
When Cressy battle fatally was struck,
And all our princes captiv'd by the hand
Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales

and again later in Act 4, Scene 7

Your grandfather of famous memory, an't please your
majesty, and your great-uncle Edward the Black
Prince of Wales, as I have read in the chronicles,
fought a most prave pattle here in France.

The Black Prince is also prominently referred to in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. From Scene 1:

Have you heard no tales of their Black Prince who was blacker than the devil himself, or of the English King's father?
I have heard tales of the Black Prince. The moment he touched the soil of our country the devil entered into him, and made him a black fiend. But at home, in the place made for him by God, he was good. It is always so.

Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery devoted his 1667 play The Black Prince to Edward.

Edward the Black Prince of Wales is also prominently featured in Edward III, a sixteenth-century play possibly attributable to William Shakespeare.



The statue of Edward the Black Prince in Leeds City Square

A large 1903 equestrian sculpture of the Prince by Thomas Brock can be seen in Leeds City Square. It was a gift from Colonel Thomas Walter Harding, Lord Mayor of Leeds between 1898 and 1899. The choice was probably also a tribute to the future Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, who opened Leeds Infirmary in 1867 and the Yorkshire College buildings (now the University of Leeds) in 1885. The statue is the centrepiece of an array of statues in the square, including more local people such as Joseph Priestley.


  • Edward, Prince of Wales is the main role played by Errol Flynn in the The Dark Avenger (1955). The film was also known as The Warriors in the USA, and The Black Prince in the UK although the latter seems to have been a working title. In Greece it was aired on TV as The Black Knight.
  • Edward, The Black Prince of Wales, was portrayed by James Purefoy in the 2001 film A Knight's Tale. Though never intended to be an historically accurate tale, the film puts an odd spin on Edward. He is portrayed as a kind and benevolent prince who enjoys sneaking into jousting tournaments to compete, and he is very kind to the protagonist, who is of peasant ancestry, even knighting him. This is in spite of Edward's known distaste for commoners.[citation needed]


  • Edward is portrayed in the 2007 PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 video game Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War by Koei. Within this video game, he is seen as the inspirational commander the forces of England, aspiring to conquer the oppositionary country of France by his father's will, though remaining compassionate to the feelings of the French peasantry, knowing that they would be his people upon success in France.
  • Edward appears under the name of Black Prince in the game Empire Earth in the English campaign in the fourth and fifth scenario.
  • Edward is also a key military commander in Medieval: Total War.
  • A British cavalier named The Black Prince appeared in Age of Empires II map editor and is one of the random names for the Britons' commander in random map games.
The Black Prince's shield as heir-apparent

Titles, styles, honours and arms


As Prince of Wales, Edward's coat of arms were those of the kingdom, differentiated by a label argent of three points.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Edward I was Joan's grandfather and Edward's great-grandfather.
  2. ^ The Three Edwards by Thomas B. Costain (1958, 1962) p 387
  3. ^ H. E. Marshall, Our Island Story, ch XLVII
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1985, "Edward the Black Prince"
  5. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family

Further reading

  • Richard Barber, The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince, ISBN 0-85115-469-7
  • Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Alfred A. Knopf, New York City, 1978.
  • Life of the Black Prince by the Herald of Sir John Chandos.
  • Royal Berkshire History: Edward the Black Prince including images in both civilian and military dress
  • Guilhem Pepin, 'Towards a new assessment of the Black Prince's principality of Aquitaine: a study of the last years (1369–1372)', Nottingham Medieval Studies, Vol. L, 2006, pp. 59–114.
  • R P Dunn Pattison The Black Prince 1910 Methuen
  • David Green, "Edward, The Black Prince: Power in Medieval Europe", ISBN 978-0-582-78481-9

External links


Edward, the Black Prince
Born: 15 June 1330 Died: 8 June 1376
English royalty
Preceded by
John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
Heir to the English Throne
as heir apparent

15 June 1330 – 8 June 1376
Succeeded by
Richard of Bordeaux, Prince of Wales
later King Richard II
Title last held by
Edward of Carnarvon, Prince of Wales
later King Edward II
Prince of Wales
Title next held by
Richard of Bordeaux, Prince of Wales
later King Richard II
Peerage of England
New title Duke of Cornwall
Title next held by
Richard of Bordeaux, Prince of Wales
(Extraordinary recreation)
French nobility
New title Prince of Aquitaine
Merged with the Crown

Simple English

Edward, the Black Prince (15 June 13308 June 1376) was the oldest son of King Edward III of England.

Edward was born at Woodstock Palace near Oxford. He was made Prince of Wales in 1343 and followed his father into battle against France. He became a famous soldier, helping win the Battle of Crécy and the Battle of Poitiers. In 1361, he married his cousin, Joan of Kent. They had two sons, Edward and Richard. The older son, Edward, died when he was only six.

Edward of Woodstock has become known in history as "the Black Prince", but no one is quite sure of the reason for the nickname. He died at the age of 45 and was buried at the Canterbury Cathedral. Because his father was still living, he never became king himself. He asked his father to give the title of Prince of Wales to his son Richard, who later became King Richard II of England.

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