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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Edward the Black Prince

Prince Edward of Woodstock KG (1330 – 1376), better known as Edward the Black Prince was born on June 15, 1330, He was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. Edward was bought up at the Palace of Westminster.

Edward was made Duke of Cornwall, the first Duchy in England, on March 17, 1337.

Edward began his military career with his father's Norman campaign. When a messenger told Edward III that his 16-year-old son was in the thick of the fighting and in some danger at the Battle of Crécy, the king refused to recall or help young Edward. "Let the boy win his spurs", was all his father said.

Edward was awarded the crest of John having distinguished himself at the Battle of Crécy. His crest shows three ostrich feathers and has been carried by every Prince of Wales since. From this comes the phrase "A feather in one's cap".

The 1356 Battle of Poitiers was a major victory for England during the Hundred Years' War. After capturing John the Good, king of France, and his youngest son Philip the Bold, the Black Prince treated them with great respect. He invited John and some of his leading men at a banquet, the prince personally serving his royal foe at his table, before sending the French king off to London.

Edward lead John the Good in triumph through the streets of London. The Peace of Brétigny was signed to liberate the French king, by which France lost many territories and paid an enormous ransom.

Edward had been brought up with his cousin, Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent" (1328-85). He had long been an admirer of the beautiful princess and when her husband died leaving her a widow of 32 with four children the prince quickly announced his betrothal to her. They married in St George's Chapel, Windsor in October, 1361.

Edward gained permission for the marriage from Pope Innocent VI and absolution for marriage to a blood-relative. The marriage caused 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.

They had two sons, Edward (who died in infancy) and Richard, who would later rule as Richard II of England.

Like the other Plantagenets,  Edward had a large frame. He was possibly called the Black Prince as his mother was dark.

Edward, Prince of Wales as Knight of the order of the Garter, 1453, illustration from the Bruges Garter Book

It was said Edward revolted against the extravagance of others by always wearing black armor at the head of his army. However the darkness of his apparel was not referred to until 1569 and it was possibly just a medieval urban legend.

In 1362, Edward was appointed prince of his father's lands in South France (Aquitaine). Edward's formal titles gave him the then impressive income of £8,600. His court at Bordeaux, Aquitaine was known for its extravagance and he alienated many by summoning several parliaments to levy taxes.

Edward, the Black Prince, is granted Aquitaine by his father King Edward III

Edward the Black Prince contracted dysentery during a campaign in 1366 to restore Don Pedro the Cruel to the throne of Castille.

After restoring Peter the Cruel to the throne of Castile the ungrateful tyrant refused to repay Edward the vast sums that had been expended on his behalf. When Edward tried to pay for the expedition by levying taxes on his Aquitaine Barons, they revolted.

In 1371, Edward the Black Prince’s health declined to the point where his physicians advised him to leave Bordeaux and return home to England.

The Prince’s health declined drastically and he would often faint because of weakness. Edward died on June 8, 1376 at Westminster Palace and was buried at Canterbury Cathedral on the south side of the shrine of Thomas Becket behind the quire.

Edward The Black Prince's tomb. By Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD - Wikipedia Commons

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