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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Edward III of England


Edward III (1312 – 1377)  was born at Windsor Castle on November 13, 1312. His mother was Queen Isabella of France, his father Edward II.

Edward was handed over to a nursemaid and quickly given a separate household, away from his parents.

In 1314 he settled at Wallingford Castle. As the years went by his household expanded to include his guardian, steward and treasurer as well as his tutors and servants. Edward grew up speaking both English and French fluently


Edward was handsome, with fair-haired good looks. However by the end of his reign the senile monarch was a mess, an imbecile with an unkempt long white beard.

Shoes were becoming extremely long and pointed during his reign. Edward enacted a law that the spikes, or points of shoes should not exceed two inches.


His wife was the beautiful and charming Philippa of Flainault, the daughter of the ruler of Holland and Zeeland, whom he married in 1328.

She was his second cousin and a papal dispensation was needed to secure the marriage of such a close relative

Philippa had dark brown hair, a high and broad forehead, her face narrowed between her blackish brown deep eyes. She had a smooth nose, wide mouth, full lips and brown skin.

The couple eventually produced thirteen children, including five sons who reached maturity. Their eldest son and Edward's heir, Edward the Black Prince, born in 1330, would become a famed military leader.

Despite having an unusually happy marriage, Edward was a notorious womaniser. However there is no evidence of any actual infidelity on the king's part until the greedy Alice Perrers (1366-1400) became his mistress in 1363, when she was 15 years of age; this was six years before the queen's death.

Alice Perrers was originally Queen Philippa's's Lady of Honour. She looked after him and rather dominated him in Edward's final years as he sunk into senility.


In 1349, Edward declared the young men of England were forgetting their archery, because of "vain plays which have no profit in them". .He declared "by the people pleasing themselves with divers games such as handball, bandy ball, football...the realm is likely in a short time to be destitute of archers. " Landowners who allowed such sports to be played on their land risked a fine of £20 plus three years imprisonment.

Edward himself liked jousting and was a brilliant tournament performer.

He celebrated the victory at Crécy in the Hundred Years war by hosting a series of jousting tournaments at a huge arena at Smithfield. .                      


Edward was crowned King of England at the age of 14 on February 1, 1327 after his father was forced to abdicate.

During Edward's minority, a council of regency nominally ruled England, but the actual power was in the hands of Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer.

Edward's hold on the throne was initially was very shaky because of tension between him and Mortimer. During a council meeting in Nottingham, Edward forced their way into Mortimer's apartments, captured him and had him drawn on an oxhide to the gallows at Tyburn, where he was hanged on November 29, 1330.

 Tyburn Tree (Source Wikipedia Commons)
Edward banished his mother from court, and she was forced to surrender her riches and become a Clarissan nun.

Edward was the first post-1066 English king to speak in English rather than French as his mother tongue.

He replaced French with English as the language of government and consolidated parliament as the only maker of laws.


An accomplished Knight, Edward was at war for most of his reign.

In 1333 Edward attempted to force rule on Scotland by his victory at Hadidon. He forced Scotland's King David II to seek refuge in France for eight years.

In 1337 Edward began the Hundred Years war by claiming the French throne by right of his mother.

Having obtained a loan of £1.4 million from Florentine banks and pledging his crown jewels, to pay for the Hundred Years War, Edward found he was unable to pay it back. Consequently he was brought under a petition of bankruptcy and the unfortunate Florentine banks went under.

The war went well for England; the victories of Crécy and Poitiers led up to the 1360 Treaty of Brétigny, by which Edward ceased his claim to the throne, in return for Calais, Aquitaine and Gascony.

The French renewed the war in 1369 and regained all but Calais, Bordeaux and Bayonne from the English who were weakened considerably by the Black Death .

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


When Edward outgrew his kingly accommodation in the Tower of London, he brought a building next to St Andrews church and used it to house all his courtiers' robes of state.

Edward was responsible for turning the fortress like building on the north side of the upper ward at Windsor into royal residence apartments. To oversee the construction Edward employed William of Wykeham as clerk of works


Edward lost his daughter, Joan and a third of his subjects to the plague between 1348 and 1350.

In his old age, Edward went slightly mad bought on partly by grief over the death of Edward the Black Prince, believing his loss was a punishment for usurping his father's crown.


Around September 29, 1376, Edward fell ill with a large abscess. After a brief period of recovery in February 1377, he passed away of a stroke at the Ancient Royal Manor of Sheen, Kew on June 21, 1377.

His tomb in Westminster Abbey is made from a wax portrait modelled from Edward's dead body.


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