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On Left – Portrait of Edward III of England. On Right – Edward III of England proudly receives his son, Edward the Black Prince, for the successful conduct of the Battle of Crécy.

King Edward III Had Eyes on the French Kingship and it Led to the Hundred Years War

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King Edward III of England had his eyes set on the French throne in the 14 th century AD. He was a descendant of French kings on his mother’s side and apparently was not satisfied with just being the sovereign of England. But his claim in France, which he staked in 1337, resulted in the Hundred Years War. The war lasted 116 years and caused upheaval in England and Europe.

Battles of the Hundred Years War

The French lost a naval battle at Sluys in 1340. The victory kept safe England’s trade route to Flanders.
Another key battle of the Hundred Years War was fought at Crécy-en-Ponthieu, a village in the Picardy region of France. Though the English were outmanned about 30,000-40,000 to 15,000, they won a decisive victory. The victory was attributed to the English use of the longbow, which had a greater range and was devastating when the arrows struck the victims.

Battle of  Crécy (Grandes Chroniques de France / Public Domain)

Battle of  Crécy ( Grandes Chroniques de France / Public Domain )

It was at Crécy that Edward III’s son, Edward Prince of Wales or the Black Prince, won his spurs. During the war, England took a good part of French territory.

More Longbow Victories

The English won subsequent victories in Poitiers in 1356 and Agincourt in 1415 that historians also attribute to the longbow. The English learned about the longbow from battles with Wales.
While the English were occupied in battle France, at Crécy, the Scots decided to take advantage of the king and his army’s absence. King David II’s forces attacked but were defeated at the Battle of Nevil’s Cross. The English took David II prisoner and kept him for 11 years in the Tower of London. He was released when his people paid a ransom of 100,000 marks, a huge sum for the time.

Longbowmen. (Luttrell Psalter / Public Domain)

Longbowmen. (Luttrell Psalter / Public Domain )

After 1558, the war called the Second War of Scottish Independence, fought under Edward I, resumed. Edward III had renewed the war earlier in his reign.

The Black Death

The Black Plague that struck Europe and reached England in 1348 decimated the English (and European) population and killed three of Edward’s 14 children, his daughter Joan and two young sons, Thomas and William. Joan had been promised to Peter of Castile, son of the king of Castile. She died in 1348 en route to her fiancé.

Edward III’ Sword and a Garter

Edward’s huge, two-handed, iron sword is still extant and is in the royal collection. It measures 2 meters (6 feet 8 inches) and was meant to be used in battle rather than just as an ornament.
Edward III played the key role in founding the Order of the Garter, England’s most famous order of chivalry. Legend has it that the king was dancing a ball when a lady dropped her garter. He picked it up, tied it around his own leg and said, “Honi soit qui mal y pense”, French for, Evil to him whom evil thinks. That became the order’s motto.

Edward III as head of the Order of the Garter. (William Bruges / Public Domain)

Edward III as head of the  Order of the Garter. (William Bruges / Public Domain )

King Edward’s Decline

The king’s health and luster began to wane in later years. In 1363, six years before his wife Queen Phillipa died, he took a mistress upon whom he leaned more and more. The 15-year-old girl, Alice Perrers, had served as a lady-in-waiting to the queen. She was said to be avaricious and corrupt. She had three illegitimate children by Edward III.

Philippa of Hainault, Queen consort of England. (Public Domain)

Philippa of Hainault, Queen consort of England. ( Public Domain )

When Philippa died, he began to shower Alice with gifts, property, and some of the late queens’ robes and jewels.

The Death of the Black Prince, Edward’s Heir

Edward, the Black Prince , who was considered the paragon of English chivalry, became ill and died before his father in 1376. Rafael Holinshed, Edward III’s chronicler, wrote that Edward believed his son’s death was God retribution for Edward II’s usurping his father’s reign. Holinshed wrote:

“But finally, the thing that most grieved him, was the loss of that most noble gentleman, his dear son Prince Edward … But this and other mishaps that chanced to him now in his old years might seem to come to pass for a revenge of his disobedience showed to his in usurping against him."

Edward, the Black Prince. (Tagishsimon  / Public Domain)

Edward, the Black Prince. ( Tagishsimon  / Public Domain )

Death of the King

In September 1376 was feeling ill and had an abscess in a tooth. He recovered briefly but was stricken and on June 12, 1377, the reign of Edward III came to an end with his death. Reports say Alice Perrers took his rings off his fingers before his body turned cold. The burial place of Edward III is in Westminster Abbey.

Top image: On Left – Portrait of Edward III of England. On Right – Edward III of England proudly receives his son, Edward the Black Prince, for the successful conduct of the Battle of Crécy. Source: Left, Public Domain ; Right, Public Domain .

By Mark Miller

References:

Edward III: 1327-1377, English Monarchs, [Online] Available at: http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/plantagenet_7.htm
Kennedy, H. Hundred Years War: English Longbow, ThoughtCo, [Online] Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/hundred-years-war-english-longbow-2361241
Edward III (1312-1377), BBC History, [Online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/edward_iii_king.shtml

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