Edward III

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Edward III,

1327-1377

Born:

13 November 1312, the son of Edward II and Isabella of France, at Windsor Castle

Crowned:

1 February 1327 at Westminster Abbey, London

Died:

21 June 1377 at Sheen Palace, Surrey

Buried:

Westminster Abbey

Married:

24 January 1328 Philippa of Hainault, at York Minster

Succeeded by:

Richard II (grandson, son of Edward “the Black Prince”)

dward III took the crown from his deposed father in 1327, but remained a pawn of his mother and her lover. In late 1330, he took power for himself. His first priority was establishing his own regal authority and regal presence. He did so with panache. Tall and flamboyant, he was a shrewd politician and “media star,” harnessing the allure of King Arthur and the symbolism of chivalry.

He filled his court with pageantry and tournaments and, in 1349, created the elite Order of the Garter, twenty-six knightly companions led by the king. Edward also collected wild animals, especially “regal” lions and leopards, and books (he had 160 in his library in the Tower). English replaced French as the official language of Parliament and the courts during Edward’s reign.

Edward had a dynastic claim to the French throne through his mother. When that was denied, he invaded. The resulting “Hundred Years War” lasted intermittently until 1453. Edward won an astonishing victory at Crecy where, in 1346, the French lost 10,000 men and the English less than 200. The hero of the day was Edward’s son “the Black Prince.”

Following victory in France, however, came disaster in England. In 1348, bubonic plague appeared. More than a third of the population would die. Loss of manpower led to wage inflation, unrest and unauthorized mobility among the lower classes. Discontent would explode into revolt in the next reign.

English forces under the Black Prince achieved another victory in France, at Poitiers in 1356. After this, however, England slowly lost what it had so spectacularly gained.

Edward’s last years were not happy. After the death of Queen Philippa, he began to mentally deteriorate, losing control of his court and his government. Edward died of a stroke on 21 June 1377. The Black Prince predeceased his father on 8 June 1376, so Edward was succeeded by his young grandson Richard.

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