Edward III of England
King of England
Edward III (13 November 1312–21 June 1377) was one of the most successful English Kings of mediæval times. His fifty-year reign began when his father Edward II was deposed on 25 January 1327, and lasted until 1377. Among his immediate predecessors, only Henry III ruled as long, and it would be over 400 years before another monarch would occupy the throne for that duration. Edward's reign was marked by an expansion of English territory through wars in Scotland and France. Edward's parentage and his prodigious offspring provided the basis for two lengthy and significant events in British and European history, the Hundred Years' War and the Wars of the Roses, respectively.
Edward, the son of Edward II, King of England and Isabella of France, daughter of Philip the Fair, King of France, was born in Windsor Castle. In 1320, he was created Earl of Chester. In 1325, his father ceded the Duchy of Aquitaine to him, and the young Edward was sent to France along with his mother to meet his uncle, the French King Charles IV.
Upon their return from France, the powerful Queen and her lover, Roger Mortimer, forced the weak and unpopular Edward II to abdicate, installing Edward III as King.
Edward II was subsequently murdered, and Isabella and Roger Mortimer effectively ruled England during the young King's first several years on the throne.
The Great Seal of Edward III
Edward III was crowned on January 25, 1327, at the age of 14, and married Philippa of Hainault, in 1328. 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. In the same year as Edward's marriage, his uncle Charles IV of France died without male heirs, making Edward (through Isabella) the last surviving male descendant of King Philip IV, Charles' father, and potentially giving Edward the senior Capetian dynasty claim to the French throne.
In 1330, the eighteen-year old Edward seized control over the English court, overthrowing Mortimer, who was executed, and removing Isabella from power but sparing her life. The reign of Edward III was marked by continued war with Scotland. His first major military success was the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, which he won in support of his puppet, the new Scottish king, Edward Balliol.
The Hundred Years' War
Edward's claim to unite the English and French thrones was contested by French nobles who invoked Salic law, which held that the royal succession could not pass through a female line (such as Edward's mother), and who therefore asserted that the legitimate King of France was Philip VI, Edward's cousin and heir to Charles of Valois, a younger son of Philip III.
Edward declared war on Philip VI in 1337, and declared himself King of France on January 26, 1340. The conflict eventually became known as the Hundred Years' War. In 1346, Edward defeated the French at the Battle of Crecy, accompanied in this campaign by his sixteen year old son the Black Prince.
The Black Prince commanded England's victorious army at the Battle of Poitiers, in 1356. The first phase of the Hundred Years' War was concluded in 1360 with the Treaty_of_Br%E9tigny, marking the height of English influence in France and providing three million crowns' ransom for the capture of the French King John II.
While these victories were eventually reversed, and then won and lost again in the resulting generations of war, British monarchs would continue to claim the title "King of France" until the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Edward III quartered his coat of arms with "France Ancient", the Azure semé-de-lis (a blue shield with a tight pattern of small golden fleur de lis of the French royal house), and it remained a part of the English Coat of Arms until removed by George III.
Domestic Events and Personal Life
While the King and the Prince campaigned abroad, the government was left largely in the hands of the Prince's younger brother, John of Gaunt. Economic prosperity from the developing wool trade created new wealth in the Kingdom, but the ravages of the bubonic plague, or Black Death, had a significant impact on the lives of his subjects. Commercial taxes became a major source of royal revenue, which had previously been largely from taxes on land. Parliament became divided into two houses. During Edward's reign, French was still the language of the English noblesse following the Norman invasion, but this was changed.
The King also founded an order of knighthood, the Order of the Garter, allegedly as a result of an incident when a lady, with whom he was dancing at a court ball, dropped an item of intimate apparel (possibly a sanitary belt, though sources describe it as being made of velvet). Gallantly picking it up to assuage her embarrassment, Edward tied it around his own leg, and remarked Honi soit qui mal y pense ('Shame on him who thinks evil of it'), which became the motto of the Order of the Garter. The woman in the case is known only as the "Countess of Salisbury". Some say it was Edward's daughter-in-law, Joan of Kent, but a more likely candidate is Joan's mother-in-law from her first marriage.
Despite having an unusually happy marriage, and producing thirteen children with Philippa, Edward was a notorious womaniser. After Philippa's death in 1369, Edward's mistress, Alice Perrers, became a byword for corruption.
Edward died of a stroke in 1377 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The Prince Edward pre-deceased him in 1376, and Edward III was succeeded by his young grandson, King Richard II of England, son of Edward the Black Prince.
The Children of Edward III and the Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a civil war over the throne of England fought among the descendants of King Edward III through his five surviving adult sons. Each branch of the family had competing claims through seniority, legitimacy, and/or the gender of their ancestors.
(1) Edward, the Black Prince (1330-1376).
The eldest son of Edward III predeceased his father and never became King. Edward's only surviving child was Richard II who ascended to the throne but produced no heirs. The senior line was extinguished, when Richard II was eventually killed and succeeded by his first cousin Henry IV, "Bolingbroke."
(2) Lionel of Antwerp (1338-1368), Duke of Clarence. His only child, Philippa, married into the powerful Mortimer family, which as noted above had exerted enormous influence during the reigns of Edward II and Edward III. Anne Mortimer, Lionel of Antwerp's great-granddaughter, married Richard, Earl of Cambridge of the House of York, merging the Lionel/Mortimer line into the York line.
(3) John of Gaunt (1340-1399), Duke of Lancaster. From John of Gaunt descended legitimate heirs, the Lancasters (Henry IV, who deposed Richard II, and then Henry V and Henry VI). This line ended when Henry VI was successfully deposed by Edward IV, of the York faction, and Henry's son was killed.
John of Gaunt's illegitimate heirs were the Beauforts, his descendants through his mistress (later, his wife) Katherine Swynford; Gaunt's great-granddaughter Margaret Beaufort married into the House of Tudor, producing a single child who would become Henry VII. While the Beaufort offspring had been legitimized after Gaunt's eventual marriage to Swynford, this was on the condition that they be barred from ascending the throne. Undeterred by this, upon the failure of the primary Lancastrian line, the Tudors claimed precedence to the Yorks and eventually succeeded them.
[Note: John of Gaunt also had legitimate descendants through his daughter Catalina, a grand-daughter of King Pedro I and the mother of King Juan II, but these Castilians engaged in their own wars over the Spanish succession and did not assert any claims to the English throne in the Wars of the Roses.]
(4) Edmund of Langley (1341-1402), Duke of York. His descendants were the Yorks. He had two sons: Richard, Earl of Cambridge, executed by Henry V for treason, and Edward, Duke of York, killed fighting alongside Henry V at the battle of Agincourt. As noted above, Richard had married Anne Mortimer, giving the House of York, through Lionel of Antwerp, a more senior claim than that of both the Lancasters, who were descended from a younger son than Lionel, and the Tudors, whose legitimized descendents had been debarred from the throne.
(5) Thomas of Woodstock (1355-1397), Duke of Gloucester. Thomas was murdered for treason, likely by the order of Richard II; his eventual heir was his daughter Anne, who married into the Stafford family, whose heirs became the Dukes of Buckingham. Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, descended on his father's side from Thomas of Woodstock, and on his mother's side from John Beaufort, rebelled against Richard III in 1483 but failed to depose him. This failed rebellion left Henry Tudor as the Lancasters' primary candidate for the throne.
Thus, the senior Plantagenet line was ended with the death of Richard II, whose throne was usurped by Henry IV, heir to the Lancaster-third son of Edward III. The Lancasters were deposed by the House of York, also the line of Lionel/Mortimer, who were descended from the second and fourth surviving sons of Edward III. The Yorks, in the person of Richard III, then ruled, surviving an attempted coup by the Woodstock/Stafford/Buckingham heirs to the fifth son, but were deposed by Henry VII of the House of Tudor, a descendant of Edward III's third son.
See also : British monarchs family tree
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