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Edward III of Windsor
King of England (more...)
Reign 1 February 1327 – 21 June 1377 (50 years)
Coronation 1 February 1327
Predecessor Edward II of Carnarvon
Successor Richard II of Bordeaux
Regent Roger Mortimer, Earl of March
& Queen Isabella (de facto)
Council inc. Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster (1327–1330; de jure)
Consort Philippa of Hainault
m. 1328; dec. 1369
Edward, Prince of Wales The Black Prince
Isabella, Lady of Coucy
Lady Joan
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
Mary of Waltham, Duchess of Brittany
Margaret of Windsor, Countess of Pembroke
Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester
House House of Plantagenet
Father Edward II of Carnarvon
Mother Isabella of France
Born 13 November 1312(1312-11-13)
Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Died 21 June 1377 (aged 64)
Sheen Palace, Richmond
Burial Westminster Abbey, London

Edward III (13 November 1312 – 21 June 1377) was one of the most successful English monarchs of the Middle Ages. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into the most efficient military power in Europe. His reign saw vital developments in legislature and government—in particular the evolution of the English parliament—as well as the ravages of the Black Death. He remained on the throne for 50 years; no English monarch had reigned for as long since Henry III, and none would again until George III, as King of the United Kingdom.

Edward was crowned at the age of fourteen, following the deposition of his father. When he was only seventeen years old, he led a coup against his regent, Roger Mortimer, and began his personal reign. After defeating, but not subjugating, the Kingdom of Scotland, he declared himself rightful heir to the French throne in 1338, starting what would be known as the Hundred Years' War. Following some initial setbacks, the war went exceptionally well for England; the victories of Crécy and Poitiers led up to the highly favourable Treaty of Brétigny. Edward’s later years, however, were marked by international failure and domestic strife, largely as a result of his inertia and eventual bad health.

Edward III was a temperamental man, but also capable of great clemency. He was, in most ways, a conventional king, mainly interested in warfare. Highly revered in his own time and for centuries after, Edward was denounced as an irresponsible adventurer by later Whig historians. This view has turned, and modern historiography credits him with many achievements[1].




Early life

Edward was born at Windsor on 13 November 1312, and was called "Edward of Windsor" in his early years. The reign of his father, Edward II, was fraught with military defeat, rebellious barons and corrupt courtiers, but the birth of a male heir in 1312 temporarily strengthened Edward II's position on the throne.[2] To further this end, in what was probably an attempt by his father to shore up royal supremacy after years of discontent, Edward was created Earl of Chester at the age of only twelve days, and less than two months later, his father gave him a full household of servants for his court, so he could live independently as if he were a full adult Nobleman.[3]

On 20 January 1327, when the young Edward was fourteen years old, his mother the queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer deposed the king. Edward, now Edward III, was crowned on 1 February, with Isabella and Mortimer as regents. Mortimer, the de facto ruler of England, subjected the young king to constant disrespect and humiliation. On 24 January 1328 the fifteen-year-old king married sixteen year old Philippa of Hainault at York Minster.[4]

Mortimer knew his position was precarious, especially after Philippa had a son on 15 June 1330.[5] Mortimer used his power to acquire noble estates and titles, many of them belonging to Edmund FitzAlan, 9th Earl of Arundel. FitzAlan, who had remained loyal to Edward II in his struggle with Isabella and Mortimer, had been executed on 17 November 1326. However Mortimer's greed and arrogance caused many of the other nobles to hate him; all this was not lost on the young king.

The young, headstrong king had never forgotten the fate of his father, or how he himself had been treated as a child. At almost 18 years old, Edward was ready to take his revenge. On 19 October 1330, Mortimer and Isabella were sleeping at Nottingham Castle. Under the cover of night, a group loyal to Edward entered the fortress through a secret passageway and burst into Mortimer's quarters. Those conducting the coup arrested Mortimer in the name of the king, and he was taken to the Tower of London. Stripped of his land and titles, he was hauled before the 17-year-old king and accused of assuming royal authority over England. Edward's mother—presumably pregnant with Mortimer's child—begged her son for mercy to no avail. Without trial, Edward sentenced Mortimer to death one month after the coup. As Mortimer was executed, Edward's mother was exiled in Castle Rising where she reportedly miscarried. By his 18th birthday, Edward's vengeance was complete and he became de facto ruler of England.

Early reign

Gold Noble of Edward III, 1344, 33mm, 6.78g.

Edward chose to renew the military conflict with the Kingdom of Scotland in which his father and grandfather had engaged with varying success. Edward repudiated the Treaty of Northampton that had been signed during the regency, thus renewing claims of English sovereignty over Scotland and resulting in the Second War of Scottish Independence.

Intending to regain what the English had conceded, he won back control of Berwick and secured a decisive English victory at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333 against the forces of the boy-king David II of Scotland. Edward III was now in a position to put Edward Balliol on the throne of Scotland and claim a reward of 2,000 librates of land in the southern counties - the Lothians, Roxburghshire, Berwickshire, Dumfriesshire, Lanarkshire and Peebleshire. Despite the victories of Dupplin and Halidon, the Bruce party soon started to recover and by the close of 1335 and the Battle of Culblean, the Plantagenet occupation was in difficulties and the Balliol party was fast losing ground.

At this time, in 1336, Edward III's brother John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall died. John of Fordun's Gesta Annalia is alone in claiming that Edward killed his brother in a quarrel at Perth.

Although Edward III committed very large armies to Scottish operations, by 1337 the vast majority of Scotland had been recovered by the forces of David II, leaving only a few castles such as Edinburgh, Roxburgh and Stirling in Plantagenet possession. These installations were not adequate to impose Edward's rule and by 1338/9 Edward had moved from a policy of conquest to one of containment.

Edward faced military problems on two fronts; the challenge from the French monarchy was of no less concern. The French represented a problem in three areas: first, they provided constant support to the Scottish through the Franco-Scottish alliance. Philip VI protected David II in exile, and supported Scottish raids in Northern England. Second, the French attacked several English coastal towns, leading to rumours in England of a full-scale invasion.[6] Finally, the English king's possessions in France were under threat—in 1337, Philip VI confiscated the duchy of Aquitaine and the county of Ponthieu.

Instead of seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict by paying homage to the French king, Edward laid claim to the French crown as the only living male descendant of his deceased maternal grandfather, Philip IV. The French, however, invoked the Salic law of succession and rejected the claim, pronouncing Philip IV's nephew, Philip VI, the true heir (see below) and thereby setting the stage for the Hundred Years' War. Edward incorporated England's coat of arms, rampant lions, and France's coat of arms, the fleurs de lys, and declared himself king of both England and France.[7]

In the war against France, Edward built alliances and fought by proxy through minor French princes. In 1338, Louis IV named him vicar-general of the Holy Roman Empire, and promised his support. These measures, however, produced few results; the only major military gain made in this phase of the war was the English naval victory at Sluys on 24 June 1340, where 16,000 French soldiers and sailors died.

Meanwhile, the fiscal pressure on the kingdom caused by Edward's expensive alliances led to discontent at home. In response he returned unannounced on 30 November 1340. Finding the affairs of the realm in disorder, he purged the royal administration[8], and defaulted on England's external debt (the first of only two defaults on such debt in all of English history).[9] These measures did not bring domestic stability, however, and a standoff ensued between the king and John de Stratford, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Edward, at the Parliament of England of April 1341, was forced to accept severe limitations to his financial and administrative prerogatives. Yet, in October of the same year, the king repudiated this statute, and Archbishop Stratford was politically ostracised. The extraordinary circumstances of the 1341 parliament had forced the king into submission, but under normal circumstances the powers of the king in medieval England were virtually unlimited, and Edward took advantage of this.[10]

Fortunes of war

Coin of Edward III as Duke of Aquitaine, 3.86g.

After much inconclusive campaigning in Continental Europe, Edward decided to stage a major offensive in 1346, sailing for Normandy with a force of 15,000 men.[11] His army sacked the city of Caen and marched across northern France. On 26 August he met the French king's forces in pitched battle at Crécy and won a decisive victory. Meanwhile, back home, William Zouche, the Archbishop of York mobilized an army to oppose David II, who had returned, defeating and capturing him at the Battle of Neville's Cross on 17 October. With his northern border having been secured, Edward felt free to continue his major offensive against France, laying siege to the town of Calais, which fell after almost a year—probably the greatest single military operation undertaken by the English state in the Middle Ages[citation needed]—in August of 1347.

After the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV in October of 1347, his son Louis V, Duke of Bavaria negotiated with Edward to compete against the new German king Charles IV, but Edward finally decided in May 1348 not to run for the German crown.

In 1348, the Black Death struck Europe with full force, killing a third or more of England's population.[12] This loss of manpower meant a halt to major campaigning. The great landowners struggled with the shortage of manpower and the resulting inflation in labor cost. Attempting to cap wages, the king and parliament responded with the Ordinance of Labourers (1349) and the Statute of Labourers (1351). The plague did not, however, lead to a full-scale breakdown of government and society, and recovery was remarkably swift.[13]

In 1356, Edward's oldest son, the Black Prince, won a great victory at the battle of Poitiers. The greatly outnumbered English forces not only routed the French but captured the French king, John II. After a succession of victories, the English held great possessions in France, the French king was in English custody, and the French central government had almost totally collapsed. Whether Edward's claim to the French crown originally was genuine or just a political ploy,[14] it now seemed to be within reach. Yet a campaign in 1359, meant to complete the undertaking, was inconclusive. In 1360, therefore, Edward accepted the Treaty of Brétigny, whereby he renounced his claims to the French throne but secured his extended French possessions in full sovereignty.

Later reign

Edward III and Edward, the Black Prince

While Edward's early reign had been energetic and successful, his later years were marked by inertia, military failure and political strife. The day-to-day affairs of the state had less appeal to Edward than military campaigning, so during the 1360s Edward increasingly relied on the help of his subordinates, in particular William Wykeham. A relative upstart, Wykeham was made Lord Privy Seal in 1363 and Lord Chancellor in 1367, though due to political difficulties connected with his inexperience, the Parliament forced him to resign the chancellorship in 1371.[15]

Compounding Edward's difficulties were the deaths of his most trusted men, some from the 1361–62 recurrence of the plague. William Montacute, Edward's companion in the 1330 coup, was dead by 1344. William de Clinton, who had also been with the king at Nottingham, died in 1354. One of the earls of 1337, William de Bohun, died in 1360, and the next year Henry of Grosmont, perhaps the greatest of Edward's captains, succumbed to what was probably plague. Their deaths left the majority of the magnates younger and more naturally aligned to the princes than to the king himself.

The king's second son, Lionel of Antwerp, attempted to subdue by force the largely autonomous Anglo-Irish lords in Ireland. The venture failed, and the only lasting mark he left were the suppressive Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366.[16]

In France, meanwhile, the decade following the Treaty of Brétigny was one of relative tranquillity, but on 8 April 1364 John II died in captivity in England, after unsuccessfully trying to raise his own ransom at home. He was followed by the vigorous Charles V, who enlisted the help of the capable Constable Bertrand du Guesclin.[17] In 1369, the French war started anew, and Edward's younger son John of Gaunt was given the responsibility of a military campaign. The effort failed, and with the Treaty of Bruges in 1375, the great English possessions in France were reduced to only the coastal towns of Calais, Bordeaux and Bayonne.[18]

Military failure abroad and the associated fiscal pressure of campaigning led to political discontent at home. The problems came to a head in the parliament of 1376, the so-called Good Parliament. The parliament was called to grant taxation, but the House of Commons took the opportunity to address specific grievances. In particular, criticism was directed at some of the king's closest advisors. Lord Chamberlain William Latimer and Lord Steward John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby were dismissed from their positions. Edward's mistress, Alice Perrers, who was seen to hold far too much power over the aging king, was banished from court.[19]

Yet the real adversary of the Commons, supported by powerful men such as Wykeham and Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March, was John of Gaunt. Both the king and the Black Prince were by this time incapacitated by illness, leaving Gaunt in virtual control of government. Gaunt was forced to give in to the demands of parliament, but by its next convocation, in 1377, most of the achievements of the Good Parliament were reversed.[20]

Edward himself, however, did not have much to do with any of this; after around 1375 he played a limited role in the government.[21] Around 29 September 1376 he fell ill with a large abscess. After a brief period of recovery in February, the king died of a stroke (some sources say gonorrhea[22]) at Sheen on 21 June.[21] He was succeeded by his ten-year-old grandson, King Richard II, son of the Black Prince, since the Black Prince himself had died on 8 June 1376.

Achievements of the reign


The middle years of Edward's reign was a period of significant activity. Perhaps the best known piece of legislation was the Statute of Labourers of 1351, which addressed the labour shortage problem caused by the Black Death. The statute fixed wages at their pre-plague level and checked peasant mobility by asserting that lords had first claim on their men's services. In spite of concerted efforts to uphold the statute, it eventually failed due to competition among landowners for labour.[23] The law has been described as an attempt "to legislate against the law of supply and demand", making it doomed to failure.[24] Nevertheless, the labour shortage had created a community of interest between the smaller landowners of the House of Commons and the greater landowners of the House of Lords. The resulting measures angered the peasants, leading to the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.[25]

The reign of Edward III coincided with the Babylonian Captivity of the papacy at Avignon. During the wars with France, opposition emerged in England against perceived injustices by a papacy largely controlled by the French crown. Papal taxation of the English Church was suspected to be financing the nation's enemies, while the practice of provisions — the Pope providing benefices for clerics — caused resentment in an increasingly xenophobic English population. The statutes of Provisors and Praemunire, of 1350 and 1353 respectively, aimed to amend this by banning papal benefices, as well as limiting the power of the papal court over English subjects.[26] The statutes did not, however, sever the ties between the king and the Pope, who were equally dependent upon each other.

Other legislation of importance includes the Treason Act of 1351. It was precisely the harmony of the reign that allowed a consensus on the definition of this controversial crime.[27] Yet the most significant legal reform was probably that concerning the Justices of the Peace. This institution began before the reign of Edward III, but by 1350, the justices had been given the power not only to investigate crimes and make arrests, but also to try cases, including those of felony. With this, an enduring fixture in the administration of local English justice had been created.[28]

Parliament and taxation

Parliament as a representative institution was already well established by the time of Edward III, but the reign was nevertheless central to its development. During this period membership in the English baronage, formerly a somewhat indistinct group, became restricted to those who received a personal summons to parliament.[29] This happened as parliament gradually developed into a bicameral institution composed of a House of Lords and a House of Commons. The widening of political power can be seen in the crisis of the Good Parliament, where the Commons for the first time — albeit with noble support — were responsible for precipitating a political crisis. In the process, both the procedure of impeachment and the office of the Speaker were created. Even though the political gains were of only temporary duration, this parliament represented a watershed in English political history.

The political influence of the Commons originally lay in its right to grant taxes. The financial demands of the Hundred Years' War were enormous - at one point leading to the king declaring bankruptcy - and the king and his ministers tried different methods of covering the expenses. The king had a steady income from crown lands, and could also take up substantial loans from Italian and domestic financiers. To finance warfare on Edward III's scale, however, the king had to resort to taxation of his subjects. Taxation took two primary forms: levy and customs. The levy was a grant of a proportion of all moveable property, normally a tenth for towns and a fifteenth for farmland. This could produce large sums of money, but each such levy had to be approved by parliament, and the king had to prove the necessity.[30] The customs therefore provided a welcome supplement, as a steady and reliable source of income. An 'ancient duty' on the export of wool had existed since 1275. Edward I had tried to introduce an additional duty on wool, but this unpopular maltolt, or 'unjust exaction', was soon abandoned. Then, from 1336 onwards, a series of schemes aimed at increasing royal revenues from wool export were introduced. After some initial problems and discontent, it was agreed through the Ordinance of the Staple of 1353 that the new customs should be approved by parliament, though in reality they became permanent.[31]

Through the steady taxation of Edward III's reign, parliament—and in particular the Commons—gained political influence. A consensus emerged that in order for a tax to be just, the king had to prove its necessity, it had to be granted by the community of the realm, and it had to be to the benefit of that community. In addition to imposing taxes, parliament would also present petitions for redress of grievances to the king, most often concerning misgovernment by royal officials. This way the system was beneficial for both parties. Through this process the commons, and the community they represented, became increasingly politically aware, and the foundation was laid for the particular English brand of constitutional monarchy.[32]

Chivalry and national identity

The Great Seal of Edward III

Central to Edward III's policy was reliance on the higher nobility for purposes of war and administration. While his father had regularly been in conflict with a great portion of his peerage, Edward III successfully created a spirit of camaraderie between himself and his greatest subjects.

Both Edward I and Edward II had conducted a policy of limitation, allowing the creation of few peerages during the sixty years preceding Edward III's reign. The young king reversed this policy when, in 1337, as a preparation for the imminent war, he created six new earls on the same day.[33] At the same time, Edward expanded the ranks of the peerage upwards, by introducing the new title of duke for close relatives of the king.

Furthermore, Edward bolstered the sense of community within this group by the creation of the Order of the Garter, probably in 1348. A plan from 1344 to revive the Round Table of King Arthur never came to fruition, but the new order carried connotations from this legend by the circular shape of the garter. Polydore Vergil tells of how the young Joan of Kent, Countess of Salisbury —the king's favourite at the time—accidentally dropped her garter at a ball at Calais. King Edward responded to the ridicule of the crowd by tying the garter around his own knee with the words honi soit qui mal y pense—shame on him who thinks ill of it.[34]

This reinforcement of the aristocracy must be seen in conjunction with the war in France, as must the emerging sense of national identity. Just like the war with Scotland had done, the fear of a French invasion helped strengthen a sense of national unity, and nationalise the aristocracy that had been largely Anglo-French since the Norman conquest. Since the time of Edward I, popular myth suggested that the French planned to extinguish the English language, and like his grandfather had done, Edward III made the most of this scare.[35] As a result, the English language experienced a strong revival; in 1362, a Statute of Pleading ordered the English language to be used in law courts[1] and, the year after, Parliament was for the first time opened in English.[36] At the same time, the vernacular saw a revival as a literary language, through the works of William Langland, John Gower and especially The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Yet the extent of this Anglicisation must not be exaggerated. The statute of 1362 was in fact written in the French language and had little immediate effect,[2] and parliament was opened in that language as late as 1377.[37] The Order of the Garter, though a distinctly English institution, included also foreign members such as John V, Duke of Brittany and Sir Robert of Namur.[38] Edward III—himself bilingual—viewed himself as legitimate king of both England and France, and could not show preferential treatment for one part of his domains over another.

Assessment and character

Edward III enjoyed unprecedented popularity in his own lifetime, and even the troubles of his later reign were never blamed directly on the king himself.[39] Edward's contemporary Jean Froissart wrote in his Chronicles that "His like had not been seen since the days of King Arthur".[40] This view persisted for a while, but, with time, the image of the king changed. The Whig historians of a later age preferred constitutional reform to foreign conquest and discredited Edward for ignoring his responsibilities to his own nation. In the words of Bishop Stubbs:

Edward III was not a statesman, though he possessed some qualifications which might have made him a successful one. He was a warrior; ambitious, unscrupulous, selfish, extravagant and ostentatious. His obligations as a king sat very lightly on him. He felt himself bound by no special duty, either to maintain the theory of royal supremacy or to follow a policy which would benefit his people. Like Richard I, he valued England primarily as a source of supplies.
William Stubbs, The Constitutional History of England[41]

Influential as Stubbs was, it was long before this view was challenged. In a 1960 article, titled "Edward III and the Historians", May McKisack pointed out the teleological nature of Stubbs' judgement. A medieval king could not be expected to work towards the future ideal of a parliamentary monarchy; rather his role was a pragmatic one—to maintain order and solve problems as they arose. At this, Edward III excelled.[42] Edward had also been accused of endowing his younger sons too liberally and thereby promoting dynastic strife culminating in the Wars of the Roses. This claim was rejected by K.B. McFarlane, who argued that this was not only the common policy of the age, but also the best.[43] Later biographers of the king such as Mark Ormrod and Ian Mortimer have followed this historiographical trend. However, the older negative view has not completely disappeared; as recently as 2001, Norman Cantor described Edward III as an "avaricious and sadistic thug" and a "destructive and merciless force."[44]

From what we know of Edward's character, he could be impulsive and temperamental, as was seen by his actions against Stratford and the ministers in 1340/41.[45] At the same time, he was well-known for his clemency; Mortimer's grandson was not only absolved, but came to play an important part in the French wars, and was eventually made a knight of the Garter.[46] Both in his religious views and his interests, he was a conventional man. His favourite pursuit was the art of war, and, as such, he conformed to the medieval notion of good kingship.[47] As a warrior he was so successful that one modern military historian has described him as the greatest general in English history.[48] He seems to have been unusually devoted to his wife, Queen Philippa. Much has been made of Edward's sexual licentiousness, but there is no evidence of any infidelity on the king's part before Alice Perrers became his lover, and, by that time, the queen was already terminally ill.[49] He is quite unusual among medieval English monarchs in having no known illegitimate children. This devotion extended to the rest of the family as well; in contrast to so many of his predecessors, Edward never experienced opposition from any of his five adult sons.[50]

Fictional portrayals

Edward is the central character in the play Edward III, sometimes attributed to William Shakespeare. He also appears as a boy in Edward II by Christopher Marlowe. Edward is also the protagonist of William Blake's early drama Edward the Third, part of his Poetical Sketches, published in 1783. George Bernard Shaw portrayed Edward for dramatic purposes as, in Shaw's preface to The Six of Calais, behaving himself like an unrestrained human being in a very trying situation.

Edward III has rarely been portrayed on screen. He was portrayed by Charles Kent in the 1911 silent short The Death of King Edward III and by Michael Hordern in the 1955 film The Dark Avenger, about Edward, the Black Prince. As a boy he has been portrayed by Stéphane Combesco in the 1982 French TV adaptation of Marlowe's play and by Jody Graber in Derek Jarman's 1991 version.

Although he did not appear in the film, Edward is implied to be the son of Isabella and the Scottish rebel, William Wallace, in the film Braveheart. This is impossible, as Wallace died 7 years before Edward was born when Isabella was about 10 years old. It is extremely unlikely William Wallace and Isabella ever met.

Edward appears in the Bernard Cornwell novel Harlequin and in Maurice Druon's series of historical novels The Accursed Kings. Actor Aurélien Wiik played him in the 2005 French TV series adaptation of these novels.

Edward also appears in the Owen Archer mystery novel "The Lady Chapel" of Candace Robb.

Titles, styles, honours and arms


Like his father and grandfather before him, Edward's arms as heir-apparent were differenced by a label azure of three points, which he lost when he acceded the throne.[51]. Part-way through his reign, in 1340, he altered those arms by quartering them with those of France, to signal his claim thereto.

Family tree

Philip III
Philip IV
Charles of Valois
(† 1325)
Louis X
Philip V
Charles IV
Edward II Philip VI
Edward III

See here for a comprehensive family tree of British monarchs.



Arms of Edward III and his sons, Trinity College Cambridge
Name Birth Death
Edward, the Black Prince 15 June 1330 8 June 1376
Isabella 16 June 1332 1379
Joan 1333 2 September 1348
William of Hatfield 16 February 1337 8 July 1337
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence 29 November 1338 7 October 1368
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster 6 March 1340 3 February 1399
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York 5 June 1341 1 August 1402
Blanche 1342 1342
Mary 10 October 1344 1362
Margaret 20 July 1346 1361
William of Windsor 24 June 1348 5 September 1348
Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester 7 January 1355 8/9 September 1397


  1. ^ Mortimer, The Perfect King - The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation, 1.
  2. ^ For an account of Edward II's later years, see Fryde, Natalie (1979). The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II, 1321–1326. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-22201-X.
  3. ^ Mortimer, The Perfect King - The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation, 1.
  4. ^ Michael, 'A Manuscript Wedding Gift from Philippa of Hainault to Edward III', 582.
  5. ^ Ormrod, Reign of Edward III, 6.
  6. ^ Ormrod, Reign of Edward III, 9.
  7. ^ Hanawalt, The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History, 133.
  8. ^ Fryde, N.M. (1978). "Edward III's removal of his ministers and judges, 1340–1", British Institute of Historical Research 48, pp. 149–61.
  9. ^ This Time Is Different, Reinhart and Rogoff, 2009, p. 87
  10. ^ Ormrod, Reign of Edward III, 16.
  11. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 132.
  12. ^ Hatcher, J. (1977) Plague, Population and the English Economy, 1348–1530 London: Macmillan ISBN 0-333-21293-2.
  13. ^ Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 553.
  14. ^ For a discussion of this question, see Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 307–10.
  15. ^ Ormrod, "Reign of Edward III", 90–4; Ormrod, "Edward III", DNB.
  16. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 231.
  17. ^ Ormrod, "Reign of Edward III", 27.
  18. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 145.
  19. ^ Ormrod, "Reign of Edward III", 35–7; McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 387–94.
  20. ^ The earlier belief that Gaunt "packed" parliament in 1377 is no longer widely held. See Wedgewood, J. C. (1930) "John of Gaunt and the packing of parliament", English Historical Review 45, pp. 623–5.
  21. ^ a b Ormrod, "Edward III", DNB.
  22. ^ Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague, 38
  23. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 335.
  24. ^ Hanawalt, B. (1986). The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 139. ISBN 0-19-503649-2.
  25. ^ Prestwich, M. (1981). "Parliament and the community of the realm in the fourteenth century", in Art Cosgrove and J.I. McGuire (eds.) Parliament & Community, p. 20.
  26. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 280–81.
  27. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 257.
  28. ^ Musson and Ormrod, Evolution of English Justice, 50–54.
  29. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 186–7.
  30. ^ Brown, Governance, 70–1.
  31. ^ Brown, Governance, 67–9, 226–8.
  32. ^ Harriss, King, Parliament and Public Finance, 509–17.
  33. ^ K.B. McFarlane (1973) The Nobility of Later Medieval England, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 158-9 ISBN 0-19-822362-5.
  34. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 251-2. Another candidate for the owner of the original garter was her mother-in-law Catherine Grandisson, the Dowager Countess of Salisbury.
  35. ^ Prestwich, Three Edwards, 209–10.
  36. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 524.
  37. ^ Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 556.
  38. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 253; Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 554.
  39. ^ Ormrod, Reign of Edward III, 37.
  40. ^ Ormrod, Reign of Edward III, 38. Froissart's predecessor, Jean le Bel, who had served under the king in 1327, likewise called Edward "Arthur come again."
  41. ^ Stubbs, William. The Constitutional History of England, quoted in McKisack, Edward III and the historians, p. 3.
  42. ^ McKisack, Edward III and the historians, 4–5.
  43. ^ K.B. McFarlane (1981). England in the fifteenth century, London: Hambledon Press, p. 238. ISBN 0-9506882-5-8.
  44. ^ Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague, 37, 39.
  45. ^ Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 289.
  46. ^ McKisack, Fourteenth Century, 255.
  47. ^ Ormrod, Reign of Edward III, 44; Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 290–1.
  48. ^ Clifford J. Rogers, "England's Greatest General," MHQ SUMMER 2002, VOL: 14 NO: 4
  49. ^ Mortimer, Perfect King, 400–1; Prestwich, Three Edwards, 241.
  50. ^ Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 290.
  51. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family




  • Mortimer, Ian (2006). The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-07301-X. 
  • Ormrod, W.M. (1987). "Edward III and his family". Journal of British Studies 26: 398. doi:10.1086/385897. 
  • Ormrod, W.M. (1990). The Reign of Edward III. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-04876-9. 


  • Bothwell, J.S. (2001). The Age of Edward III. York: The Boydell Press. ISBN 1-903153-06-9. 
  • McKisack, M. (1959). The Fourteenth Century: 1307–1399. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-821712-9. 
  • Prestwich, M.C. (1980). The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272–1377. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-77730-0. 
  • Prestwich, M.C. (2005). Plantagenet England: 1225–1360. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822844-9. 
  • Waugh, S.L. (1991). England in the Reign of Edward III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-31090-3. 


  • Allmand, Christopher (1988). The Hundred Years War: England and France at War c.1300-c.1450. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-26499-5. 
  • Ayton, Andrew (1994). Knights and Warhorses: Military Service and the English Aristocracy Under Edward III. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-568-5. 
  • Curry, Anne (1993). The Hundred Years' War. Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-53175-2. 
  • Fowler, K.H. (1969). The King's Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster, 1310–1361. London: Elek. ISBN 0-236-30812-2. 
  • Nicholson, Ranald (1965). Edward III and the Scots: The Formative Years of a Military Career, 1327-1335. London: Oxford University Press. 
  • Rogers (ed.), C.J. (1999). The Wars of Edward III: Sources and Interpretations. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-646-0. 
  • Rogers, C.J. (2000). War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy under Edward III, 1327–1360. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-804-8. 


  • Michael, M.A. (1994). "The iconography of kingship in the Walter of Milemete treatise". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 54: 35–47. 
  • Michael, M.A. (1985). "A Manuscript Wedding Gift from Philippa of Hainault to Edward III". Burlington Magazine 127: 582–590. 
  • Lachaud, Frédérique (1985). "Un "miroir au prince" méconnu : le De nobilitatibus, sapienciis et prudenciis regum de Walter Milemete (vers 1326-1327)". Paviot, Jacques; Verger, Jacques (ed.), Guerre, pouvoir et noblesse au Moyen Âge. Mélanges en l'honneur de Philippe Contamine (Cultures et civilisations médiévales, XXII) 127: 401–10.. 


  • Bothwell, J. (1997). "Edward III and the "New Nobility": largesse and limitation in fourteenth-century England". English Historical Review 112. 
  • Vale, J. (1982). Edward III and Chivalry: Chivalric Society and its Context, 1270–1350. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-170-1. 


  • Harriss, G.L. (1975). King, Parliament and Public Finance in Medieval England to 1369. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822435-4. 
  • Richardson, H.G. and G.O. Sayles (1981). The English Parliament in the Middle Ages. London: Hambledon Press. ISBN 0-9506882-1-5. 

Law and administration

  • Brown, A.L. (1989). The Governance of Late Medieval England 1272–1461. London: Edward Arnold. ISBN 0-8047-1730-3. 
  • Musson, A. and W.A. Omrod (1999). The Evolution of English Justice. Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-67670-X. 

External links

Edward III of England
Born: 13 November 1312 Died: 21 June 1377
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Edward II
King of England
Lord of Ireland

25 January 1327 – 21 June 1377
Succeeded by
Richard II
English royalty
Preceded by
Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk
Heir to the English Throne
as heir apparent

13 November 1312 – 25 January 1327
Succeeded by
John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
French nobility
Preceded by
Edward II
Duke of Aquitaine
Succeeded by
Edward, the Black Prince
Count of Ponthieu
Succeeded by
Created by the
Treaty of Bretigny
Lord of Aquitaine
Merged with the
French Crown
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Charles IV
King of France
Reason for succession failure:
Capetian Succession Failure
Succeeded by
Richard II

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EDWARD III. (1312-1377), "of Windsor," king of England, eldest son of Edward II. and Isabella of France, was born at Windsor on the 13th of November 1312. In 1320 he was made earl of Chester, and in 1325 duke of Aquitaine, but he never received the title of prince of Wales. Immediately after his appointment to Aquitaine, he was sent to France to do homage to his uncle Charles IV., and remained abroad until he accompanied his mother and Mortimer in their expedition to England. To raise funds for this he was betrothed to Philippa, daughter of the count of Hainaut. On the 26th of October 1326, after the fall of Bristol, he was proclaimed warden of the kingdom .during his father's absence. On the 13th of January 1327 parliament recognized him as king, and he was crowned on the 29th of the same month.

For the next four years Isabella and Mortimer governed in his name, though nominally his guardian was Henry, earl of Lancaster. In the summer he took part in an abortive campaign against the Scots, and was married to Philippa at York on the 24th of January 1328. On the 15th of June 1330 his eldest child, Edward, the Black Prince, was born. Soon after, Edward made a successful effort to throw off his degrading dependence on his mother and her paramour. In October 1330 he entered Nottingham Castle by night, through a subterranean passage, and took Mortimer prisoner. On the 29th of November the execution of the favourite at Tyburn completed the young king's emancipation. Edward discreetly drew a veil over his mother's relations with Mortimer, and treated her with every respect. There is no truth in the stories that henceforth he kept her in honourable confinement, but her political influence was at an end.

Edward III.'s real reign now begins. Young, ardent and active, he strove with all his might to win back for England something of the position which it had acquired under Edward I. He bitterly resented the concession of independence to Scotland by the treaty of Northampton of 1328, and the death of Robert Bruce in 1329 gave him a chance of retrieving his position. The new king of Scots, David, who was his brother-in-law, was a mere boy, and the Scottish barons, exiled for their support of Robert Bruce, took advantage of the weakness of his rule to invade Scotland in 1332. At their head was Edward Baliol, whose victory at Dupplin Moor established him for a brief time as king of Scots. After four months Baliol was driven out by the Scots, whereupon Edward for the first time openly took up his cause. In 1333 the king won in person the battle of Halidon Hill over the Scots, but his victory did not restore Baliol to power. The Scots despised him as a puppet of the English king, and after a few years David was finally established in Scotland. During these years England gradually drifted into hostility with France. The chief cause of this was the impossible situation which resulted from Edward's position as duke of Gascony. Contributing causes were Philip's support of the Scots and Edward's alliance with the Flemish cities, which were then on bad terms with their French overlord, and the revival of Edward's claim, first made in 1328, to the French crown. War broke out in 1337, and in 1338 Edward visited Coblenz, where he made an alliance with the emperor Louis the Bavarian. In 1339 and 1340 Edward endeavoured to invade France from the north with the help of his German and Flemish allies, but the only result of his campaigns was to reduce him to bankruptcy.

In 1340, however, he took personal part in the great naval battle off Sluys, in which he absolutely destroyed the French navy. In the same year he assumed the title of king of France. At first he did this to gratify the Flemings, whose scruples in fighting their overlord, the French king, disappeared when they persuaded themselves that Edward was the rightful king of France. However, his pretensions to the French crown gradually became more important. The persistence with which he and his successors urged them made stable peace impossible for more than a century, and this made the struggle famous in history as the Hundred Years' War. Till the days of George III. every English king also called himself king of France.

Despite his victory at Sluys, Edward was so exhausted by his land campaign that he was forced before the end of 1340 to make a truce and return to England. He unfairly blamed his chief minister, Archbishop Stratford, for his financial distress, and immediately on his return vindictively attacked him. Before the truce expired a disputed succession to the duchy of Brittany gave Edward an excuse for renewing hostilities with France. In 1342 he went to Brittany and fought an indecisive campaign against the French. He was back in England in 1343. In the following years he spent much time and money in rebuilding Windsor Castle, and instituting the order of the Garter, which he did in order to fulfil a vow that he had taken to restore the Round Table of Arthur. His finances, therefore, remained embarrassed despite the comparative pause in the war, although in 1339 he had repudiated his debt to his Italian creditors, a default that brought about widespread misery in Florence.

A new phase of the French war begins when in July 1346 Edward landed in Normandy, accompanied by his eldest son, Edward, prince of Wales, a youth of sixteen. In a memorable campaign Edward marched from La Hogue to Caen, and from Caen almost to the gates of Paris. It was a plundering expedition on a large scale, and like most of Edward's campaigns showed some want 'of strategic purpose. But Edward's decisive victory over the French at Crecy, in Ponthieu, on the 26th of August, where he scattered the army with which Philip VI. attempted to stay his retreat from Paris to the northern frontier, signally demonstrated the tactical superiority of Edward's army over the French. Next year Edward effected the reduction of Calais. This was the most solid and lasting of his conquests, and its execution compelled him to greater efforts than the Crecy campaign. Other victories in Gascony and Brittany further emphasized his power. In 1346, David, king of Scots, was also defeated and taken prisoner at Neville's Cross, near Durham. In the midst of his successes, however, want of money forced Edward to make a new truce in 1347. He was as far from the conquest of France as ever.

Edward returned to England in October 1347. He celebrated his triumph by a series of splendid tournaments, and completed his scheme for the establishment of the order of the Garter. In 1348 he rejected an offer of the imperial throne. In the same year the Black Death first appeared in England, and raged until 1349. Yet the horrors which it wrought hardly checked the magnificent revels of Edward's court, and neither the plague nor the truce stayed the course of the French war, though what fighting there was was indecisive and on a small scale. Edward's martial exploits during the next years were those of a gallant knight rather than those of a responsible general. Conspicuous among them were his famous combat with Eustace de Ribemont, near Calais, in 1349, and the hard-fought naval victory over the Spaniards off Winchelsea, in 1350. Efforts to make peace, initiated by Pope Innocent VI., came to nothing, though the English commons were now weary of the war. The result of this failure was the renewal of war on a large scale. In 1355 Edward led an unsuccessful raid out of Calais, and in January and February 1356 harried the Lothians, in the expedition famous as the Burned Candlemas. His exploits sank into insignificance as compared with those of his son, whose victory at Poitiers, on the 19th of September 1356, resulted in the captivity of King John, and forced the French to accept a new truce. Edward entertained his royal captive very magnificently, and in 1359 concluded with him the treaty of London, by which John surrendered so much that the French repudiated the treaty. Edward thereupon resolved to invade France afresh and compel its acceptance. On the 28th of October he landed at Calais, and advanced to Reims, where he hoped to be crowned king of France. The strenuous resistance of the citizens frustrated this scheme, and Edward marched into Burgundy, whence he made his way back towards Paris. Failing in an attack on the capital, he was glad to conclude, on the 8th of May 1360, preliminaries of peace at Bretigny, near Chartres. This treaty, less onerous to France than that of London, took its final form in the treaty of Calais, ratified by King John on the 9th of October. By it Edward renounced his claim to France in return for the whole of Aquitaine.

The treaty of Calais did not bring rest or prosperity either to England or France. Fresh visitations of the Black Death, in 1362 and 1369, intensified the social and economic disturbances which had begun with the first outbreak in 1348. Desperate, but not very successful, efforts were made to enforce the statute of Labourers, of 1351, by which it was sought to maintain prices and wages as they had been before the pestilence. Another feature of these years was the anti-papal, or rather anti-clerical, legislation embodied in the statutes of Provisors and Praemunire. These measures were first passed in 1351 and 1353, but often repeated. In 1366 Edward formally repudiated the feudal supremacy over England, still claimed by the papacy by reason of John's submission. Another feature of the time was the strenuous effort made by Edward to establish his numerous family without too great expense. In the - end the estates of the houses of Lancaster, Kent, Bohun, Burgh and Mortimer swelled the revenues of Edward's children and grandchildren; in whose favour also the new title of duke was introduced.

In 1369 the French king, Charles V., repudiated the treaty of Calais and renewed the war. Edward's French dominions gladly reverted to their old allegiance, and Edward showed little of his former vigour in meeting this new trouble. He resumed the title and arms of king of France, but left most of the fighting and administration of his foreign kingdoms to his sons, Edward and John. While the latter were struggling with little success against the rising tide of French national feeling, Edward's want of money made him a willing participator in the attack on the wealth and privileges of the Church. In 1371 a clerical ministry was driven from office, and replaced by laymen, who proved, however, less effective administrators than their predecessors. Meanwhile Aquitaine was gradually lost; the defeat of Pembroke off La Rochelle deprived England of the command of the sea, and Sir Owen ap Thomas, a grand-nephew of Llewelyn ab Gruffyd, planned, with French help, an abortive invasion of Wales. In 1371 the Black Prince came back to England with broken health, and in 1373 John of Lancaster marched to little purpose through France, from Calais to Bordeaux. In 1372 Edward made his final effort to lead an army, but contrary winds prevented his even landing his troops in France. In 1375 he was glad to make a truce, which lasted until his death. By it the only important possessions remaining in English hands were Calais, Bordeaux, Bayonne and Brest.

Edward was now sinking into his dotage. After the death of Queen Philippa he fell entirely under the influence of a greedy mistress named Alice Perrers, while the Black Prince and John of Gaunt became the leaders of sharply divided parties in the court and council of the king. With the help of Alice Perrers John of Gaunt obtained the chief influence with his father, but his administration was neither honourable nor successful. His chief enemies were the higher ecclesiastics, headed by William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, who had been excluded from power in 1371. John further irritated the clergy by making an alliance with John Wycliffe. The opposition to John was led by the Black Prince and Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, the husband of Edward's grand-daughter,Philippa of Clarence. At last popular indignation against the courtiers, came to a head in the famous Good Parliament of 1376. Alice Perrers was removed from court, and Duke John's subordinate instruments were impeached. But in the midst of the parliament the death of the Black Prince robbed the commons of their strongest support. John of Gaunt regained power, and in 1377 a new parliament, carefully packed by the courtiers, reversed the acts of the Good Parliament. Not long after Edward III. died, on the 21st of June 1377.

Edward III. was not a great man like Edward I. He was, however, an admirable tactician, a consummate knight, and he possessed extraordinary vigour and energy of temperament. His court, described at length in Froissart's famous chronicle,. was the most brilliant in Europe, and he was himself well fitted to be the head of the magnificent chivalry that obtained fame in the French wars. Though his main ambition was military glory, he was not a bad ruler of England. He was liberal, kindly, good-tempered and easy of access, and his yielding to his subjects' wishes in order to obtain supplies for carrying on the French war contributed to the consolidation of the constitution. His weak points were his wanton breaches of good faith, his extravagance, his frivolity and his self-indulgence. Like that of Edward I. his ambition transcended his resources, and before. he died even his subjects were aware of his failure.

Edward had twelve children, seven sons and five daughters. Five of his sons played some part in the history of their time, these being Edward the Black Prince, Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, Edmund of Langley, afterwards duke of York, and Thomas of Woodstock, afterwards duke of Gloucester. John and Edmund are also important as the founders of the rival houses of Lancaster and York. Each of the last four was named from the place of his birth, and for the same reason the Black Prince is sometimes called Edward of Woodstock. The king's two other sons both died in infancy. Of his daughters, three died unmarried; the others were Isabella, who married into the family of Coucy,. and Mary, who married into that of Montfort.

Authorities. - The two chief modern lives of Edward III. are W. Longman's Life and Times of Edward III., and J. Mackinnon's History of Edward III. Neither work can be regarded as adequate, and in some ways J. Barnes's quaint History of Edward III. (1688) is less unsatisfactory. The general history of the time can be read in W. Stubbs's Constitutional History of England, vol. ii. chapters xvi. and xvii.; in T. F. Tout's Political History of England, 1216-1377, pp. 301-441; in R. Pauli's Geschichte von England, iv. pp. 307-504; and in Edward's life by W. Hunt in the Dictionary of National Biography. For the Hundred Years' War, see E. Deprez's Les Preliminaiies de la guerre de cent ans, 1328-1342, and H. Denifle's La Desolation des eglises, monasteres et hopitaux en France pendant la guerre de cent ans. For economic and social history see W. J. Ashley's English Economic History, and W. Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce during the Early and Middle Ages. For the end of the reign see S. Armitage Smith's John of Gaunt, J. Lechler's Wiclif and die Vorgeschichte der Reformation, translated as Wycliffe and his English Precursors, R. L. Poole's Wycliffe and Movements for Reform, and G. M. Trevelyan's England in the Age of Wycliffe. (T. F. T.)

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