Edward III, Edward III (November 13, 1312 (1312-11-13) – June 21, 1377) – King of England since 1327 of the Plantagenet dynasty, son of King Edward II and Isabella of France, daughter of King Philip IV the Beautiful of France. He ascended the English throne after the overthrow of his father, Edward II, by Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer. Formally during this period England was ruled by a board of regents, but the de facto ruler was Mortimer, the lover of Edward”s mother. In 1330 he was removed from power and executed, and Isabella was exiled to a monastery. Thereafter Edward”s independent rule began.
After King Charles IV of France died in 1328, leaving no sons, Edward, as the son of his sister, laid claim to the French throne. Although his claim was rejected and Philip VI, Charles” closest male relative, became king, Edward”s claim to the title of king of France led to the outbreak of the Hundred Years” War between the two kingdoms in 1337. During the first period of the conflict, called the Edwardian War, the English army had the advantage with a number of victories. At the end of the peace of Bretigny in 1360, England”s gains in France were secured. In the last years of Edward”s life, the war resumed, but this time it was on the side of the French, who were able to recapture a number of territories. Edward also undertook several military campaigns in Scotland in an attempt to enthrone the English protégé Edward Balliol.
Edward patronized the culture of chivalry and founded the Order of the Garter. Following the Black Death epidemic of 1348-1349, which claimed many lives, England faced a labor shortage. The king enacted a series of laws that forced all the poor to work for wages at the rates applied before the epidemic, and he also raised taxes. In the last years of Edward”s reign, dissatisfaction with high taxes and military setbacks in England led to growing social tensions in the kingdom. The king himself from 1374 practically withdrew from the administration of the kingdom; the de facto ruler of England at this time was his son John of Gaunt.
Since Edward III”s eldest son Edward the Black Prince died before his father, his grandson Richard II succeeded him.
Edward III was the first English ruler to include a serial number in an official title. He was also the first English ruler whose handwriting pattern survived on official documents.
Biographical information about Edward is mentioned in many chronicles, treatises, and poems compiled by monks, clerks, and sometimes high laymen. There was, however, no tradition of official history in England; most writers of this time knew virtually nothing personally about the events they were describing. On very rare occasions, writers had privileged access to information, with the result that their accounts contained authentic history. Such “privileged” chroniclers include Adam Murimut and Thomas Grey, describing the first half of Edward III”s reign, and Jean Froissard and Thomas Walsingham in the later stages of his reign.
Another important source is the official documents produced by royal officials. They are preserved in church and city archives. The most valuable of them are the documents of the royal secretariat (chancellery, lord-keeper of the seal) and financial offices (treasury, closet, treasury of the royal court). It should be borne in mind that the documentation created in the main offices of the central government was quite formulaic. Most of it was written in academic Latin, which emphasizes its artificiality even more. But letters, petitions, and poems survived in a dialect of English-Norman French, which was still spoken by the English nobility at this time. Middle English, which at this time was used for everyday communication by most of Edward III”s subjects, was rarely used for written communication outside of literary genre and poetry until almost the end of his reign.
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Origins and Childhood
Edward III descended from the English Plantagenet dynasty and was the first child of King Edward II and Isabella of France, daughter of King Philip IV the Fair of France. His subsequent relationship to the French Capetian royal dynasty on his mother”s side gave Edward cause to lay claim to the French throne.
The future king was born at Windsor Castle, so in some sources it is mentioned with the nickname “Windsor”. In the future, this castle became one of the favorite residences of Edward III, but at the beginning of the XIV century English kings visited it infrequently. Henry III made some improvements in the middle of the 13th century, but his son Edward I preferred to use the royal mansion in the Great Park, which was his favorite hunting ground. Edward II visited Windsor Castle more often and chose it for the birth of his first child. In the autumn of 1312, the king was at the castle for visits, spending most of his time hunting. He arrived on November 12, and on Monday morning, November 13, his heir was born. St. Bryce”s Day was celebrated on that day, on which Edward II distributed alms, which was sometimes noted in the registers of his household.
At the birth of the heir apparent was Henri de Mondeville, surgeon to Philip IV of France, whom he sent to supervise the delivery, although the queen had her own physician, Master Theobald. The queen”s servant John Lounge and his wife Joan, one of Isabella”s ladies-in-waiting, later received a joint annuity of 80 pounds from Edward II for informing him of the queen”s safe delivery and the birth of an heir. A number of contemporary chronicles note that this news briefly comforted the king, who was worried about the recent murder of his friend Piers Gaveston. The newborn prince was cared for by Margaret Chandeleur and Margaret Daventry. Isabella wrote a message to the people of London announcing the birth of her son, which was greeted with great enthusiasm.
In London, November 14 was declared a public holiday, and a solemn service of thanksgiving was held in St. Paul”s Cathedral. A week later a similar service was held at Westminster Abbey. “Vita Edwardi Secundi” points out about Edward II”s achievements by 1313 as follows: “Our King Edward reigned six full years, and has so far achieved nothing worthy of praise or commemoration, except that he has made a splendid marriage and produced a handsome son and heir to the kingdom.”
The birth of a prince, reputedly born healthy, allayed fears that there would be a crisis of succession if the king suddenly died. Edward II came to the throne in 1307, but for a long time he had no heir. The king”s three older brothers died young; though he had two younger brothers, Thomas Brotherton and Edmund Woodstock, they were then still children. During this period there was also the Lancaster branch of the Plantagenets, whose ancestor was Edmund the Humpback, younger brother of Edward I, and whose head at this time was Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, son of Edmund. Although he never laid claim to the English throne, his wealth and high political status made him a potential heir to Edward II.
The prince was baptized on November 16, the feast day of St. Edmund Rich, at St. Edward”s Chapel in Windsor. A fragment of the font in which the “washing with the water of holy baptism” took place survives to this day. Taking advantage of the fact that negotiations with the pope and the French were underway at this time, Edward II persuaded the papal nuncio, Arnold, cardinal-priest of Santa Prisca, to conduct the ceremony. The godparents were Arnaud d”Eau, cardinal and bishop of Poitiers; John Droxford; Walter Reynolds, bishop of Worcester; Louis, count d”Evreux, uncle of the queen; Jean of Breton, count of Richmond; Emer de Valens, count of Pembroke; Hugh Dispenser Senior. The event appears to have been of a political nature, with a number of nobles and clergy absent. Among them was Robert Winchelsea, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a notable supporter of the Lords Ordainers. Also absent were the Earl of Lancaster and other members of the nobility implicated in the murder of Gaveston, who appeared intent on continuing the struggle against the king. But on the whole, for some time after the birth of the heir apparent, the general mood of the court was festive and conciliatory.
It was rumored that the queen and her uncle, Louis d”Heureux, demanded that the boy receive a name that was common among the kings of France. In particular, it was suggested that the newborn be named Philip after Isabella”s father, but the English king insisted that the prince receive the name Edward, which was worn by his father Edward I and which goes back to the most powerful king of England, St. Edward the Confessor.
There is no evidence that the future king was treated for anything in infancy. The Oxford physician John of Gaddesden, who later treated the children of Edward III, mentioned in his treatise The Rose of England that he “saved the son of the illustrious king of England” from smallpox, using the dubious but centuries-old procedure of dressing the sick man in red clothes. Although a number of scholars have suggested that this child was Edward III, historian W. M. Ormerod points out that, given other dated accounts, this child was more likely to be one of Edward I”s younger sons, Thomas or Edmund.
On November 24, the prince was granted the earldom of Chester (having the status of palatine. Although no record survives of Edward being granted the title of Earl of Chester, it is likely that this was his title as a child, for it was with this title that he received his first challenge to Parliament in 1320. Yet he was never granted the titles of Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, which later on were traditionally received by heirs to the English throne, but in the later period his treasury was replenished by the income from both honors. Nor did Edward receive another traditional heir to the throne, the Channel Islands. It soon became clear, however, that the income from Chester was not enough to support the prince. The king used the county”s income for his own needs when necessary, and even earlier, from Chester, Queen Isabella had been allocated a Macclesfield henor, which led to conflicts between the prince”s stewards and his mother. In addition, in 1318, there was a riot in the city of Chester, which led to a decrease in the county”s income. As a result, Edward II decided to increase the prince”s land holdings. As early as December 1312, Carisbrooke Castle was given to the heir as well as control of other royal estates on the Isle of Wight. However, as in the case of Cheshire, the prince”s youth was used for all sorts of abuses, two of the constables of Carrisbrooke were subsequently fined for them. But despite the hardships, the heir”s financial well-being grew. By 1318 he was receiving income from the Wallingford fee and the manor of Petworth, as well as a thousand marks a year from the tin mines of Cornwall. In the mid 1320s, Edward”s annual income was about £4,000, which exceeded that of most nobles except his parents, the Earl of Lancaster and royal favorite Hugh Dispenser the Younger. As a result, the prince was one of the largest magnates in the kingdom.
By tradition, a separate household was established for Edward, as later for his brother and sisters, staffed by devoted servants of his father and mother. The prince”s first steward was Sir John Sapi, succeeded in 1314 by Sir Robert Morley. Edward”s treasurer was first Hugh Leominster, who was replaced no later than 1319 by the famous Yorkshire clerk Nicholas Haggate. From the beginning the heir”s household was more or less independent of his parents” households. His first Christmas, which was celebrated with all magnificence, and most of the winter of 1312-1313, the prince spent with his parents at the royal court at Windsor. But in later years he was away from his parents most of the time. For example, of the first six months of 1313, the prince was at court for only four weeks. The rest of the time he lived in the recently confiscated Templar monastery at Bisham in Berkshire, where his parents visited him briefly in February, May and August. From late May until mid-July the king and queen were in Paris; at this time the only family member whose visit to the boy was known was Queen Dowager Margaret, Edward I”s second wife. When Isabella went on a diplomatic mission to France in the spring of 1314 and the king went on a military campaign to Scotland, ending in the defeat of the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, the little prince lived at the royal manor of Lagershall in Wiltshire. From time to time his parents wrote to their son. Although these letters have not survived, there is evidence that in early 1316 Edward II sent his blessing to the three-year-old heir. For the first few years, the king provided his son”s household with discretionary subsidies from the income of the sheriffs and tax levies on North Wales income. Evidence survives that from July 8 to October 25, 1315, Prince Edward lived, at least in part, on direct income from his father at the rate of about £3 a day. During the same period the king paid for a number of special purchases for his son. So he allocated 35 pounds for the purchase of sugar and spices. Accordingly, financially, the boy did not need anything.
Later, Edward II and Isabella had several more children: John of Eltham in August 1316, Eleanor of Woodstock in June 1318, and Joan of Tower in July 1321. In 1319, John and Eleanor were moved from their mother”s household to their brother”s; several of the queen”s estates, including Macclesfield and High Peak, were given to Edward to provide for them. As early as 1320, however, John and Edward were separated from their brother, though they may have continued to spend some time together.
Edward”s first nurse was Margaret Chandeleur, then she was succeeded by Margaret Daventry, to whom the boy appears to have been strongly attached. Thus, in 1337, Edward III gave her daughter Evise a generous gift of £100 on the occasion of her wedding, and in the 1350s he intervened in court proceedings to protect the property and financial interests of the aged nurse.
When the prince was a little older, he was appointed a special tutor who was responsible for his safety, education and military training, as well as for the general supervision of his estates and home. By 1318 this post was held by Sir Richard Damory, elder brother of Roger Damory, one of Edward II”s favorites. Like the prince”s former steward Robert Moly, Damory survived the overthrow of Edward II and remained to serve in the household of Edward III. Richard probably taught the young prince manners, etiquette, singing and playing musical instruments, but it is likely that the future king spent his younger years mainly improving the knightly arts – riding, wielding weapons and hunting, in which he later excelled. In the late fourteenth century, Durham chronicler William Chumbr wrote that the prince”s tutor was Richard of Bury, the learned scholar who later became bishop of Durham, but contemporary scholars doubt that he actually taught the boy anything. Although he had been in the prince”s service since at least 1319, the historian W. M. Ormerod suggests that, as someone with the qualities the child wanted in his father, he was more concerned with the prince”s general education. The prince”s education was overseen by John Painel, a clergyman from Rosthern, Cheshire. Edward is known to have spoken an Anglo-Norman dialect of French, Continental French and English, and, through later experience on the Continent, could probably communicate in Flemish and German. In addition, he could read and write (at least to a limited extent) in administrative Latin. He was the first English ruler whose handwriting pattern survives on official documents.
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The political situation in England in the first half of the 1320s
The reign of Edward II was in constant conflict with the English barons, who forced the king in 1311 to sign special ordinances limiting the royal power, which he soon violated. In 1314, the army led by Edward II suffered a crushing defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn, which effectively restored Scottish independence. The king was then forced to submit to his cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who became de facto ruler of the kingdom for several years. At this time England was experiencing serious economic difficulties, being raided by the Scots, and low harvests in 1315-1317 led to famine. The king”s reluctance to comply with ordinances contributed to political tensions. In addition, the king had new favorites (Hugh Dispenser the Elder, Roger Damore, Hugh Audley, William Montague), so the Earl of Lancaster”s power was threatened. In addition, Edward II was increasingly distrustful of Hugh Dispenser the Younger, the son of a favorite who was accused of homosexual relations with the king. At the same time Dispenser had huge ambitions, intending, apparently, to become the largest tycoon in the kingdom. In July 1321, the Earl of Lancaster managed to secure enough support to expel the Dispensers, but in December the king reversed this decision, which eventually led to the civil war that became known as the Dispenser War.
The armed clashes of the winter of 1321-1322 provoked many local disputes and personal vendettas. Later, when he became king, Edward III would face a flood of complaints about the violence perpetrated during this period. The final battle of the Dispenser War was fought on 17 March 1322 at Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, and ended with the defeat of the rebellious barons. Edward II dealt harshly with his opponents: the captured Earl of Lancaster was executed on 22 March. Many of his supporters were also executed. One of those sentenced to death, Sir Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, was imprisoned in the Tower of London, from where he escaped in 1323, made his way to the Continent and became the leader of the Dispensers” opponents gathered there. The ordinances of 1311 under the provisions of the York Statute of 1322 were repealed and Edward II regained unlimited power. The possessions confiscated from the executed barons were distributed by the king to his favorites. The Dispensers received the most. Hugh Dispenser the Elder received the title of Earl of Winchester. In 1325, the author of The Life of Edward II wrote: “The cruelty of the king has indeed increased so much today that no one, even the great or the wise, would dare violate the king”s will… Thus, today reason will prevail. For whatever pleases the king, though devoid of reason, has the force of law.”
Because of his young age, Prince Edward did not play an active role in politics in the 1320s, which later became a distinct advantage for him and allowed him to dissociate himself from the events of his father”s reign. Until 1325, the king did not give the heir any public offices. The Earl of Chester”s name did not even appear among the witnesses to the royal charters. Sources report little about Prince Edward”s life until the mid-1320s, when he became a pawn in the hands of his parents who began a rivalry for power. Apparently, he was effectively removed from life at court, although he probably appeared at some domestic and court events.
Some changes took place in 1319, when the prince was 7 years old. From that time the correspondence between father and son became more frequent. Most of the correspondence was addressed to the heir as Earl of Chester. In August 1320 the prince was first summoned to Parliament as a peer of England. In May and June 1322 he attended parliament and the great council at York. Thereafter he attended all meetings until 1325, and in August 1322 he received a formal summons to Newcastle to meet the army assembled for the war against King Robert I Bruce of Scotland. The prince probably remained the formal head of the royal council meetings for the duration of the campaign, moving to York for the rest of the war. On September 21, the Earl of Chester first replaced his father at the head of the royal feast at York, organized on the occasion of the visit of French nobleman Henri de Sully. The prince”s first official engagement also dates to this period.
The campaign against the Scots in 1322 was unsuccessful, and Prince Edward, who was in York, risked capture. The king himself was almost ambushed by the Scots and escaped by force, while the queen barely escaped from the monastery at Teignmouth. Bruce”s army attacked York, then moved eastward, wreaking havoc; only in early November did it retreat to Scotland, after which the king and queen were able to return to York and the danger to the prince averted. Since then Edward II and Isabella preferred not to leave their son alone. The historian W. M. Ormerod has suggested that the scarcity of references to Prince Edward in 1322-1325 may be due to the constraints of his safety. In February 1323 the boy and his mother were in London. He may have attended a tournament held at Northampton in September 1323 in which his father”s young brothers, who by that time had received the titles of Earls of Norfolk and Kent, led the jousting teams.
During this period the prince was taught fencing by his distant relative Henry Beaumont, who probably became his mentor and later a close friend. Henry was unhappy with the truce with Scotland in 1323 because he was forced to give up the earldom of Buchan in Scotland, to which he claimed by right of wife. He later exerted a major influence on Edward III”s Scottish policy.
In 1323 the prince”s treasurer was replaced by Edward Cusans, a Burgundian clerk who had served as secretary to Dispenser the Younger and keeper of the royal closet, in place of Richard Bury, who had made a career in the royal administration. At the same time, Jean Claroun, perhaps a relative of Cusans, became the prince”s steward. The circle of aristocrats in the prince”s entourage also expanded. His early companions appear to have been Robert de Ufford, William Montague (son of Edward II”s steward), and William Bogun (cousin of Edward III and son of the Earl of Hereford, killed at the Battle of Boroughbridge). William Bogun”s three brothers, John, Humphrey and Edward were imprisoned in the Tower after their father”s death. But since their mother Elizabeth of Rudlane was the king”s sister, they appear to have had a rather privileged status, so Prince Edward was able to see them often. Edward Bogun later rose to prominence under Edward III. After the prince”s accession to the throne, many members of his household continued to serve him, with relatively humble figures serving him faithfully alongside members of the nobility, perhaps indicating that the future king had a strong attachment to his household servants. Among the members of Edward”s household were several supporters of the executed Earl of Lancaster, such as Gilbert Talbot, and this has given some historians reason to speculate about the increasingly “pro-Lancaster” political sympathies of the prince”s entourage. However, historian W. M. Ormerod has questioned the possibility of such a thing, since Edward II controlled appointments in the prince”s household and would hardly have allowed it to become a hotbed of conspiracy against the Dispensers. According to the researcher, the heir”s entourage were those people who had sufficient discretion and were able to adapt to the changed political situation in 1321-1323.
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Journey to France
In 1322 a new king, Charles IV, ascended the French throne. In the summer of 1323 a new Anglo-French conflict over the fortress of Saint-Sardot began. It led to the fact that Charles IV announced the confiscation of the French possessions of England – Aquitaine and Pontier, and in the summer of 1324 the French began an invasion of the English possessions. In September 1324 an armistice was declared. Shortly after Christmas, Charles IV offered to make peace and invited his sister Queen Isabella and the Prince to France to negotiate. Edward II”s council did not like that the English heir might become a hostage in France, but the queen went to Paris. She managed to negotiate the terms of a peace treaty and negotiated the terms of the omens due for Aquitaine and Potier. The French king graciously agreed to accept the omens from Prince Edward, who received the title of Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Pontier and Montreuil. As a result, Aquitaine remained part of the English kingdom and Edward II avoided the feudal oath to the French king, which was humiliating for a monarch.
Since Queen Isabella was still living in Paris, from where she was in no hurry to return to her unloved husband, Edward II began to fear that if he sent his son to France, he might become a pawn in the queen”s campaign to eliminate the Dispensers, and so he hesitated. But in the end he was forced to accept the argument made by the Dispensers that it would be dangerous for him to leave the kingdom himself. By September 10, documentation describing the transfer of Aquitaine and Pontier to the heir to the throne had been drawn up. It was also decided that the bishop of Exeter, Walter Stapledon, who had been an ally of the Dispensers, the royal envoys John Shoreditch and Richard of Gloucester, and the heir”s friends Henry Beaumont and William Montague would travel to France with the prince. The prince sailed from Dover on September 12. Bishop Stapledon and Henry Beaumont were formally appointed guardians of Edward, and the king declared that the French king had no right to arrange a marriage for the prince or to appoint a regent.
The prince and his retinue arrived in Paris on September 22 and joined his mother. On September 24 at Vincennes, in the presence of a host of prelates, Edward formally paid his homage to Charles IV as Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Pontier and Montreuil. But both sides acknowledged that the ceremony was only a secondary step in the ongoing negotiations on the terms of the peace treaty. However, Prince Edward, who was only 13 years old, could not negotiate on his own; despite the transfer of titles to his son, it was Edward II who continued to dictate policy concerning Aquitaine. The prince”s involvement in public affairs made him an important political figure, and from the summer of 1325 the opponents of Edward II began to hope that it was with the heir”s help that they could regain their position in England.
To maintain political stability in England, it was important to ensure the return of the queen and heir after the ceremony. Edward”s entourage returned to the kingdom without delay, but Queen Isabella, who had gained control of her son, remained in France. Edward is known to have dined with his mother at Poissy on 14 October, in Paris on 15 and 17 October, and at Le Bourget on 22 October. Thereafter, he accompanied his mother at all times. At the end of October, they traveled together to Reims, the coronation site of the French kings. Apparently, continental relatives and friends of the English queen had no trouble convincing Isabella that she should not return to England until she had a guarantee that Edward II and his minions, the Dispensers, would behave towards her. Bishop Stratford tried to persuade the queen and the heir to return to her kingdom without further delay, but Isabella refused, declaring that she feared Dispenser the Younger and would not allow her son to return to England, where her enemies the Dispensers were exerting an abominable influence on her husband. As a result, she publicly declared herself and her son to have fled England from the hostility of family and court. In addition, in the winter of 1325-1326, Isabella”s marital infidelity became known, becoming the mistress of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, who had previously fled the Tower and led the English fugitives – opponents of the English king.
The English king tried to appeal directly to his son: in a letter of December 2, he urged his loyalty and begged him to return, with or without his mother. But soon Edward II”s own actions made the heir”s return impossible. In January 1326 he ordered that all his son”s English estates be turned over to the crown, though the income from them continued to be used for the prince”s needs. In February he ordered the immediate arrest of the queen and Edward when they arrived in England, and declared their foreign supporters enemies of the crown. In March he proclaimed himself “governor and administrator” of Aquitaine and Ponte, trying to deprive his son of power that could be used against England, but succeeded only in getting Charles IV to order troops to reoccupy Aquitaine. Last attempts to summon the prince to his son”s allegiance in March and June 1326 were fruitless. In June, Edward II sent a last desperate appeal to the French king, barons and bishops, asking them to facilitate the queen”s return, but received no reply. Then in July he ordered the massacre of all the French in the English kingdom. The affronted Charles IV responded by ordering that all Englishmen in France be taken into custody and their goods confiscated. On August 23, Prince Edward apparently used the services of Hainaut resident Simon Hale to prepare for war.
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Negotiating a marriage
In the spring of 1323, the king of France offered his cousin as wife to the heir to the English throne, Prince Edward, but the English king refused. Later, one of the sources of contention between Edward II and his heir was rumors of the prince”s engagement to the daughter of the Earl of Hainaut. From 1323, the English king intended to use his son”s marriage to find allies for the war against France. At first he thought of marrying Edward to the daughter of King Jaime II of Aragon; then he decided that it would be better to make this alliance through his sister Joan and marry her to Jaime himself or to his heir Alfonso. He then began negotiations for a double marriage: Edward to Eleanor of Castile, sister of King Alfonso XI of Castile, and Alfonso himself to his daughter Eleanor of Woodstock. At the same time, on January 1, 1326, Edward II officially denied that his heir was going to marry in France. He later negotiated a marriage alliance with King Afonso IV of Portugal. At the same time, however, the real negotiations for Prince Edward”s marriage were being conducted by those under whose guardianship he was.
Isabella and Mortimer needed an ally to invade England, so negotiations with William I the Good, Earl of Hainaut, of Holland and Zealand were of particular importance. The Plantagenets and the rulers of the Netherlands had close ties, so the prospect of a dynastic marriage with the family of the Earl of Hainaut was no surprise. But there were complications associated with the fact that Count William was married to Jeanne de Valois, one of the daughters of Count Charles de Valois, uncle of King Charles IV. The first attempt to negotiate a matrimonial union was made as early as 1319, when a project arose for the marriage of Prince Edward to Marguerite, Count William”s eldest daughter. This project, however, provoked the strong displeasure of King Philip V of France. Although Charles IV in 1323 proposed the marriage of an English heir to one of Charles Valois” younger daughters, Edward II became more suspicious of further ties with the house of Valois. At the same time, Philippe de Valois, who had presided over the family after Charles” death, tried during negotiations in the winter of 1325-1326 to take advantage of Queen Isabella”s position by demanding a guarantee from her that she would not assert her rights to the French throne in the absence of Charles IV”s heirs. That said, the proposed marriage of her son to the daughter of Count William de Hainaut was in many ways a gesture of desperation, since Charles IV, Philippe de Valois, and Count de Hainaut were not particularly eager to publicly support the queen against her husband. But open assistance against her husband and asylum was offered to Isabella by Jean de Beaumont, William de Hainaut”s younger brother.
Edward”s first marriage proposal appears to have been made in December 1325, when Jeanne de Valois arrived in Paris for her father”s funeral, meeting Isabella at it. Now her second daughter, Philippa, was proposed as a bride. Secret negotiations began in early 1326 at Valenciennes. In May, Isabella and her son attended the coronation celebrations in Paris of Jeanne d”Evreux, Charles IV”s wife, after which they moved to Evreux in the summer.
The final terms of the marriage contract were negotiated at Mons on August 27, 1326. The prince swore on the Gospels that he would marry Philip de Hainaut within two years on pain of a fine of ten thousand pounds. His guarantors were Roger Mortimer and Edmund Woodstock, Earl of Kent, who had fallen out of favor with his elder brother after the surrender of La-Reole to the French in September 1324, and his possessions after his appearance in the camp of Queen Isabella were confiscated. This contract was made against the wishes of Edward II, and the prince himself was not yet of the age of consent, making the legality of the engagement questionable. The possibility of marriage now depended on whether Isabella could gain control of the government of England.
The overthrow of Edward II
In the summer of 1326, Edward tried to mobilize his kingdom against his wife and son: the church urged loyalty, and the magnates of the realm were appointed to defend the counties. Henry, Earl of Leicester, the king”s cousin, was appointed royal lieutenant in the Midlands, and Edward”s half-brother Thomas Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk, to East Anglia. The king himself intended to travel to the Welsh stamps “to rouse the good and faithful men of the land. Since Edward II anticipated that Isabella”s army might land at Bristol, he stationed scouts in the Forest of Dean. In addition, various secret missions were conducted on the continent. In September, for example, the king sent troops to Normandy, mistakenly believing that that was where his heir lived. Isabella”s true plans were discovered too late by the royal council. On September 2, news came that the queen”s army was about to land in East Anglia. On September 21, the crown ordered ships to be assembled from eastern ports at the mouth of the Orwell River in Suffolk County. There is no reliable evidence, however, that this order was carried out to any extent by the time the queen”s army arrived there.
On September 23 Isabella, Mortimer, Prince Edward and their supporters sailed from Dordrecht and appeared at the mouth of Orwell the next day. It is very likely that Robert Waterville, who commanded the royal fleet, not only did not try to interfere, but helped by allowing the small fleet of 10 fishing vessels safe passage. If these speculations are correct, this was the first instance of desertion from Edward II”s army. Thereafter, the number who defected to Isabella”s side only grew, which quickly ensured the success of the invasion. The army was initially small, with Jean de Beaumont contributing a detachment of 700 men, and the total strength of the army hardly exceeding 1,500. Edward II had a much larger force: 3 days after the Queen”s army landed, many royal orders were issued in the counties to raise an army of 50,000 infantrymen and archers to defend the crown. It is not known whether Isabella and Mortimer had any intention of overthrowing Edward II at this time, but they clearly did not have enough forces to successfully invade. During the first few weeks of the campaign, most people involved believed that the invasion was aimed at eliminating the Dispensers and regaining their own holdings and power. Soon after the landing, the queen sent letters to the prelates and magnates of the kingdom, urging them to join her for the good of the kingdom. She entered into correspondence with the authorities in London, as the inhabitants of the capital played an important role in supporting the government. The Earl of Norfolk quickly sided with the rebels, as did a number of bishops. When the army reached Dunstable, the Earl of Leicester joined them. Archbishop Reynolds announced the excommunication of the queen and Prince Edward in London on September 30, but riots soon broke out in the city. On October 2, Edward II, the Dispensers, and the Chancellor fled the Tower. On October 6, the queen sent an open letter to the people of London, asking for help in arresting Dispenser the Younger. The victim of popular outrage was Bishop Stapledon, declared an enemy of the queen at a meeting in London Town Hall on 15 October: he tried to take refuge in the shrine of St Paul, but was captured and beheaded. On October 16 the keeper of the Tower released all the prisoners, including Mortimer”s two sons, and gave the keys to the fortress, and Prince John, then living in the Tower, was proclaimed guardian of London.
Edward II tried to flee to South Wales, probably intending then to move to Ireland. Isabella”s army followed, with many lords defecting to his side. On 26 October the army took Bristol, and after a knight”s trial Dispenser the Elder was captured and executed. Rumors surfaced of the king”s intention to flee to Ireland, and the queen”s party declared that he had failed to provide proper administration of the kingdom during his absence and proclaimed Prince Edward custodian of the kingdom “in the name and by right of the king.” Initially the prince used a personal secret seal to approve documents, and in mid-November the prince, who was then in Hereford, was forwarded the great seal created in 1308 when Edward II went to France. The great seal was used during the king”s absence from the kingdom. In general, despite the usurpation of power, Isabella”s supporters tried to respect the rule of law. Thus, until November 20, the central administration was obliged to act in accordance with the instructions given by both the prince and the king, which made governance difficult. The government set up in early November at Hereford assumed a wide range of functions. The Earl of Lester was promised the title of Duke of Lancaster, previously held by his late brother, and the royal cousin John Bogun the titles of Earl of Hereford and Essex; the bishop of Stratford was appointed acting treasurer on November 6.
On November 16, Edward II and Dispenser the Younger were captured. The royal favorite was sent to Hereford, where he was tried and executed. On November 17, another supporter of the king, the Earl of Arundel, was captured and executed, and his estates were confiscated and given to John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, who, though a supporter of Edward II, had made a treaty with the queen. The chancellor Robert Baldock also fell captive. He subsequently died in Newgate Prison in London.
Captive Edward II was first placed in Monmouth Castle, and on December 5 he was transferred to the Earl of Leicester”s Kenilworth Castle. On November 20, it was decided that since the king was in the kingdom, Prince Edward could not serve as guardian of the kingdom. Bishop Orleton and Sir William Blount were sent to the captive king and demanded that he surrender the great seal to his son. Official records claimed that Edward II authorized his wife and son “to do under the great seal not only what is necessary for law and peace, but also what they may do by grace.” The new power began to redistribute royal patronage. Thus Prince Edward himself was granted guardianship of the minor Lawrence Hastings, heir to the Earl of Pembroke.
Prince Edward had just turned 14, the age at which he was thought to be able to exercise his own will and take responsibility for his actions. But Queen Isabella was granted a special status, formally sharing power with her son. On November 28 it was decided to convene a parliament at Westminster on December 14, but it was later postponed until January 7, 1327. Mortimer”s name was at the head of a list of summoned barons. Prince Edward arrived in London in early January. It is unclear whether Isabella and Mortimer had any plan to proceed, but it is known that there was serious disagreement in the queen”s party over whether parliament could function in the king”s absence. After several days of debate, a delegation went to Kenilworth demanding that the king appear at parliament and returned with a refusal. Now even lords, clerics, knights and townspeople loyal to Edward II did not rule out the possibility of replacing the king.
On January 13 at London Town Hall, many barons swore an oath to defend Queen Isabella and Prince Edward against the Dispensers” supporters, to support the resolutions passed in the current Parliament and to defend the liberties of the city of London. On the same day, Roger Mortimer announced at Parliament that the Lords had decided to remove Edward II and replace him with his son. Archbishop Reynolds read a series of texts drawn up the night before at a meeting of magnates and prelates accusing the king of weakness and incompetence, taking evil advice, losing possessions and rights in Scotland, Ireland and France, and abandoning the kingdom. At the end he declared that the magnates, the prelates, and the people had unanimously consented to the overthrow of Edward II and wished his eldest son, Lord Edward, to take the crown. Those assembled greeted the declaration with a threefold shout: “So be it!”
A delegation representing all the estates of the kingdom, with the Earls of Leicester and Surrey, the bishops of Winchester and Hereford, and Hugh Courtenay and William Ros, playing leading roles, was to convey Parliament”s decision to the king. The delegation left London on January 15 and arrived at Kenilworth on January 20 or 21. Edward II was informed that if he did not renounce the crown, the people might reject both him and his sons and appoint a man of no royal blood as king. Fearing that Isabella”s lover Mortimer might become king, Edward II succumbed to the blackmail and agreed to resign his crown voluntarily if Prince Edward would succeed him. Without waiting for a response from the king, some of the bishops in London swore an oath recognizing Prince Edward as king as early as January 20.
The voluntary abdication of Edward II in favor of his eldest son was announced on January 24. The next day, on February 25, the reign of the new king began under the name Edward III, who became the first English ruler to include a serial number in his official title.
It is not known where Edward III was in January 1327 or whether he was present at the meetings then taking place. The historian W. M. Ormerod suggests that he was probably with his mother at Windsor Palace or in the Tower. According to researchers, the queen and her supporters did not want Edward to be somehow involved in the conspiracy against his father, so they kept him at a distance from the events, so that in the future it was possible, if necessary, to refer to the innocence of the prince. This attitude was reflected on a coin commemorating the coronation of Edward III, with the minted slogan: “I did not accept, I received”. But the real power remained in the hands of Queen Isabella for the next three years.
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Coronation of Edward III
To cement the legitimacy of Edward III”s power, the coronation was arranged quickly enough. On 1 February 1327, the Earl of Leicester knighted Edward III, along with his cousins John and Edward Bogun and Mortimer”s three sons. Then Archbishop Reynolds and the bishops of Gravesend and Stratford crowned Edward III in Westminster Abbey . During the ceremony, in the presence of magnates and prelates, the king was sworn in, anointed to the throne, and given the sword of state, then the massive crown of Saint Edward was laid upon him and a scepter and staff were presented. One later chronicle reports that the young king endured the discomfort of the regalia with noble manliness. Edward III recited the same coronation oaths as his father in 1307, including the promise to “observe and preserve the laws of the land and the just customs which the people of the country will establish.” A sumptuous feast was then held at Westminster Hall. The coronation celebrations were conducted with reckless extravagance. Surviving financial accounts indicate that a thousand pounds were spent on upholstered furniture for the abbey and palace alone. Information on the expenditure of crockery and jewels has not been preserved, but it has been estimated that they must have cost several thousand pounds. And the expenditure of food and other supplies amounted to more than £1,300, which is the largest amount spent on a feast during the reign of Edward III. The annals of Dunstable record that more than 2,800 pounds were spent on the accounts of the royal court that day.
Formally, Edward III was considered to have received full power as soon as he ascended the throne; since he was old enough, he did not need a regent or guardian. However, in order to effectively govern the state, a council was appointed by Parliament to assist the king, consisting of four bishops, four earls, and six barons. It was the duty of the council to be constantly present to the monarch; all important acts of government had to be approved by a majority of its members. It was headed by the Earl of Leicester and included the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Earls of Norfolk, Kent and Surrey, as well as the northern lords, Barons Thomas Wake, Henry Percy and William de Ros. In addition, the new Chancellor John Hotham and Adam Orleton joined the council. In reality, however, Isabella and Mortimer quickly gained effective control over the administration of the kingdom, effectively reducing the council”s role to zero. Isabella controlled influence over and access to her son, while Mortimer played the same role under the queen. As a result, Edward III had little or no independent decision-making power during this period. Roger Mortimer at the same time did not hold any major official positions, was not a member of the Royal Council, but attended as a trustee of the Queen. Mortimer was a constant participant with Isabella in her meetings with advisors, and his name regularly appears as a witness to the royal charters of this time. The Rochester Chronicle, which vehemently criticized Isabella and her lover, said on this point: the queen ruled and Mortimer ruled.
Financially, Edward III depended on his mother: during this period he had no household of his own, so he was fed and clothed in his mother”s household. The later Brutus chronicle notes that the young king”s means of subsistence depended entirely on his mother”s discretion. It was not until March 11, 1327, that a household of his own was established for the king.
In the early years of his reign, Edward traveled extensively throughout the country to learn more about his kingdom. When he traveled, he and his retinue stayed in religious houses, bishops” courts, or castles, but sometimes had to spend the night in tents. He made little use of royal residences outside London during this period. Occasionally he visited Windsor, where the coronation celebrations of Queen Philippa were held and the Great Council was held in 1329. Yet he never visited parts of his kingdom: Devon, Cornwall, Cheshire, Lancashire, Wales, Ireland and Aquitaine.
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The foreign policy of England in 1327-1330
England inherited from Edward II a rather complicated military and diplomatic situation. In October 1325, the Senechal of Gascony, Oliver Ingham, began hostilities in an attempt to recapture the French-occupied territories in Agen and Centonge, but by February 1327 Mortimer and Isabella had fears that Charles IV”s army would strike at Gascony and Guiana, the core of English holdings in Aquitaine that had remained loyal to the Plantagenets. The bishops of Stratford and Ayrmin, as well as the Earl of Richmond and Jean de Beaumont, were sent to negotiate peace with the French king. On March 31, 1327, they negotiated a peace treaty, and on April 19 its terms were reported to the king at the Grand Council. The exact status of the Treaty of Paris of 1327 is not entirely clear. In Gascony it was proclaimed in September, but in England its contents were concealed so as not to displease the inhabitants of the kingdom. The reason for this was the humiliating conditions under which Charles IV not only received control of that part of Aquitaine which his troops had occupied in 1324, but, in addition, England was obliged to pay reparations of 50,000 marks to compensate for the damage caused to those lands in the intervening period. It was also necessary for the French to return the lands recently conquered by Ingham. As a result, English possessions in France were reduced to the coastal strip from Bordeaux to Bayonne.
On January 31, 1328, King Charles IV of France died. He had no sons; his wife was expecting a child, but as soon as it became known that a daughter was born, Philip Valois (under the name Philip VI) declared himself king of France. Since Edward III, as the only surviving grandson of Philip IV, could claim the French throne, it was important that the claim be made immediately. As a result, a delegation consisting of the bishops of Worcester, Coventry and Lynchfield was sent to France in May and formally registered it in Paris. As early as May 29, however, Philip VI was crowned at Reims, after which he demanded that Edward III make an omission for the English possessions in his kingdom. As the English were slow to meet this claim, the French king moved to threaten him militarily. As a result, Edward sailed from Dover on May 26, 1329, and on June 6 in the choir of Amiens Cathedral paid a simple homage for Aquitaine and Pontier to Philip VI, thus indirectly confirming his claim to the French throne.
Relations with Scotland also remained difficult. Initially Isabella and Mortimer clung to the policies of Edward I and Edward II, refusing to recognize the royal status of Robert the Bruce and considering Scotland as a northern part of the English kingdom. Despite the armistice, northern England was constantly raided by the Scots. To subdue them the Scots planned the Wyrdale War Campaign. The formal commander of the English army was Edward III himself, to whom the military campaign provided the first experience of actual battle. The king and his mother arrived in York in late May and spent all of June in the northern capital. The visit to England”s second most important city also had political significance: before Edward III”s triumphal entry, the mayor, the townspeople and the dean of the priory presented him with the ceremonial cup. A considerable military contingent assembled in the city, including a detachment of elite mercenaries from Hainaut, who were constantly at odds with the English and caused disorder in the streets of the city. Later, news of three Scottish units crossing the border forced a change of plan. An additional army was drawn to York. In early July, the Earl of Norfolk wrote to the king about a night raid by the Scots on Cumberland, after which the army marched out of the city. The English marched to Durham, but there they spent several weeks in unsuccessful attempts to overtake the Scottish army that had recently invaded the kingdom, until they caught up with a detachment commanded by Sir James Douglas in the Wyre River valley near Stanhope Park. The position occupied by the Scots was fortunate enough that a direct attack on them by the English would have been suicidal. On the night of 3
After the failure, the army returned home; Edward III and Isabella attended a tournament at Clipston in Sherwood Forest before retiring to Nottingham. Contemporaries considered the Wyrdel campaign “a great disgrace, dishonor, and contempt of all England.” Northern England was plundered so badly that it had to be given tax exemptions. Seventy thousand pounds were spent on her, of which 41,000 went to pay mercenaries. At the same time the annual income of the crown was 30,000 marks. In the same year the Scottish army again raided northern England, devastating Northumbria.
To discuss the situation, Parliament convened in Lincoln in mid-September and appropriated to Edward III the first direct tax of 1
The terms of the Treaty of Northampton greatly annoyed Edward III: everything England had conquered in Scotland after 1295 was lost, and for such humiliating terms for his kingdom Scotland promised to pay a paltry reparation of twenty thousand pounds for the ruin of Northern England. It was then that the English king allowed himself one of the first demonstrations of independence by refusing to attend the marriage ceremony of his sister and infant David the Bruce in July 1328; he also refused to give the bride a dowry. Robert I the Bruce, however, also did not attend the wedding because of illness.
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Marriage of Edward III
After Edward III formally ascended the throne, the question of marriage to Philippa de Hainaut arose, which Isabella and Mortimer agreed to in 1326. The overthrow of Edward II allowed the engagement to be legitimized, but more action was needed. Since the bride and groom were third cousins, papal permission was needed for the marriage, which was obtained on August 30, 1327. The terms of the marriage were finalized in October. In November, Philippa participated in the marriage ceremony “by proxy.” At the end of the year, the bride arrived in London. The sumptuous marriage ceremony took place on 24 January 1328 in York Cathedral, and was officiated by Archbishop William Melton of York. The choice of the northern cathedral was determined by the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury on 16 November 1327. Since there was no money in the treasury after the Scottish campaign, a loan was taken from the Italian bankers Bardi.
But Isabella was unwilling to give up her role as queen. It was not until the spring of 1330, when Philip was already expecting to be pregnant, that it became clear that her coronation could no longer be delayed. As a result, Philip was hastily crowned at Westminster in February.
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Domestic Politics in 1327-1330
The government”s first priority was to rehabilitate Edward II”s opponents. Parliament, dissolved in January, was reconvened on February 3 in the name of the new king. At it the charge of treason against Thomas Lancaster and his supporters was reversed. As a result, all the estates and titles of Thomas passed to the Earl of Leicester, who was confirmed as Earl of Lancaster. Also, possessions were returned to Mortimer himself, who began aggressively to increase lands in the Welsh Marches, beginning with the estates of his deceased uncle, Roger Mortimer of Chirk. Also, even before the coronation, all Isabella”s estates, which had brought her an annual income of 4,500 pounds, were returned. Later, she was given and other lands, resulting in an income increased to 20 thousand marks, which made the queen one of the largest landowners in England. Some of the estates Isabella inherited were allocated from the earldom of Lincoln, previously held by Thomas Lancaster in right of his wife, Alice de Lacy; Alice”s own rights were ignored. The queen also had access to the vast wealth amassed by her husband and the Dispensers. Although Isabella”s estates were for life, contemporaries perceived her vast wealth as a sign of unbridled greed.
Mortimer also had concerns about the imprisoned Edward II, who was transferred to Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire in April 1327, as rumors spread that the English court-raised Earl of Mar planned to free the deposed English king and restore him to power. At least two more plots to free him were uncovered. In the end, Edward II was doomed. On the night of 23 September 1327, Edward III was told that his father had died two days earlier “of natural causes”. Later, however, there were rumors that the former king had been murdered on Mortimer”s orders, which modern scholars believe to be true. Edward”s body was buried at St. Peter”s Abbey in Gloucester on December 20.
The overthrow of Edward II provoked widespread support in England, but the rule of Isabella and Mortimer caused serious controversy in English society. Mortimer, like Gaveston and the Dispensers, used his power for personal enrichment, steadily increasing his holdings in the Welsh Marches. Dissatisfaction with his regime grew and England was once again divided into warring factions. Mortimer and Isabella”s actions quickly alienated some of the country”s most powerful magnates. Thus the Earl of Lancaster refused to attend the Salisbury meeting of parliament in October 1328, where Mortimer was given the title of Earl of March specially created for him, leading the opposition, which in January 1329 threatened to go to military action. The threat of a new civil war seemed imminent. A new set of armour was even ordered for Edward III. But it never came to a military confrontation: the Earls of Norfolk and Kent disowned Lancaster, and he himself, confronted by Mortimer on 20 or 21 January at Bedford, decided in the presence of Edward III that the differences would be resolved in parliament. Although the Earl of Lancaster and his supporters escaped sanction from the crown, they were forced to take a humiliating oath to Mortimer and pay a large cash bond as a guarantee of their good conduct in the future. In so doing, some 70 were excluded from the pardon and forced to flee England to the Continent. In the end, Mortimer”s stingy generosity satisfied no one, and his criticism continued, with his former supporters, the bishops of Orleton and Stratford, who had become enemies of the favourite, also joining the queen”s lover”s enemies.
Mortimer was very suspicious of the young king, and after the events of January 1328 Edward III found himself even more subordinate to his mother”s lover. According to charges later brought against Mortimer in Parliament, he placed spies in the royal house who monitored the king”s movements. Throughout 1329, Edward III was kept away from Westminster and London, preventing him from taking power. A civil war was avoided, but in the spring of 1330 the king was old enough. By this time Mortimer had lost his popularity. Amid fears that France would finally annex the remnants of Aquitaine, he lost his last supporters as he tried to raise funds for the defense of French possessions from local communities and lords. He had many enemies, including the Earl of Lancaster and the king”s uncles, the Earls of Norfolk and Kent. Although those claimed allegiance to the crown, Mortimer saw them as a threat to his position. In March 1330, after the dissolution of Parliament, the Earl of Kent was suddenly arrested. He was accused of treason – allegedly believing a rumour circulating that Edward II was still alive, he planned to restore the former king to the throne. The earl was then executed, his widow and children disinherited and imprisoned at Salisbury Castle. Although the king wanted to pardon Kent, he was prevented from doing so. His uncle”s execution, which was in fact legalized murder, was the last straw for Edward III: the desperate, courageous and fearless young man began to plan to overthrow Mortimer.
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Seizure of power
When Edward III decided to take control of the government of the country into his own hands, he had to act very cautiously. Frustrated that he could not even secure the patronage of his domestic servants, the king secretly sent his close friend William Montague in late 1329 or early 1330 a letter to Pope John XXII, which demonstrates the tricks he had to employ: he pointed out that only messages from the royal correspondence sent to Avignon, which contained the words “pater sancte” (holy father) written in his hand, would reflect his personal wishes. Edward assured the pope that only his secretary, Richard of Bury, and Montague knew this personal cipher. The sample phrase contained in the king”s personal letter is the earliest of his surviving autographs.
An opportunity to seize power presented itself to Edward III in late 1330. In October, Mortimer and Isabella traveled to Nottingham Castle, where a council was planned to discuss the situation in Gascony. They arrived ahead of the king, with Isabella personally taking possession of the keys to the castle. By this time Mortimer clearly feared for his safety in the presence of Edward III, so the arriving king was told that he would only be allowed into the castle with four servants. The king discussed the situation with friends, one of whom, William Montague, told the king to act immediately. “Better to eat the dog than let him eat you,” he informed Edward III. With that, the Duke of Lancaster, who had arrived in town, was ready to support their plan by providing the king with his men. Mortimer, who had received information from his spies that the king”s cronies were planning an assassination attempt on him, insisted on questioning the king and his five followers, but they denied everything. This last insult appears to have been the final straw for Edward, deciding the fate of his mother”s lover.
Thanks to Edward”s personal physician, Pancho de Controne, the king secured an excuse not to be near the queen and Mortimer. On October 19, the king and his retinue left the castle. But at night a small group of conspirators, with at least 16 men, penetrated through an underground passage into the castle. It was reported by William Eland, speculator at Nottingham Castle, who knew all the corridors and passages of the castle perfectly well; that day he did not lock the secret door of the tunnel and showed the conspirators the way in the dark. Leading the detachment was Montague; also in it were Edward Bogun, Robert Ufford, William Clinton, and John Neville of Hornby. Sneaking into the castle, they entered the queen”s apartments. At this time the Earl of March was conferring with Isabella in her reception room; his sons Edmund and Geoffrey were there, as well as Simon Bereford, Sir Hugh Turpington, and Bishop Henry Bergersch of Lincoln. Breaking into the dwelling chambers, the conspirators came upon Turpington, whom Neville had killed, and several courtiers standing guard, two of whom had also been killed. Mortimer ran to the chambers for his sword, but was captured, as were the rest of his advisors and sons. Bishop Bergers attempted to escape through the latrine, from which he had to be dragged out at length. While this was going on, Isabella stood in the doorway and cried out to her son, who is behind the backs of her associates, begging for mercy for her lover. But Mortimer and his associates were shackled.
In the morning, the king issued a proclamation announcing that he had taken control of the state. Thus began the independent rule of England by Edward III, soon to be 18 years old. Traveling with his retinue to London, he stopped at Donington Castle on 21 October. It had previously been the residence of the Earl of Kent, after whose execution it was given to Mortimer”s son Geoffrey. Here the king presented all the contents of the castle to his wife. Two days later in Leicester, the residence of the Earl of Lancaster, Edward III announced the convocation of Parliament at Westminster on November 26, at which he affirmed his intention to govern himself.
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The first years of independent rule
The arrested Mortimer was taken into custody. In November 1330, at a session of parliament, he was accused of “usurpation of the king”s power and government and appropriation of the king”s property. The favorite was charged with 14 separate crimes, including alienation of royal lands, war with the Earl of Lancaster and his supporters, vilification of the Earl of Kent, and embezzlement of royal finances. He was also accused of the murder of Edward II. In the end, Mortimer, who was never allowed to speak in his own defense, was sentenced to hang as a traitor on November 29, 1330, at Tyburn. The only concession was the fact that his body was not exhibited piecemeal in various towns in England, but was buried first in London and then in Coventry. A year later Mortimer”s widow asked permission to rebury her husband in the ancestral tomb at Wigmore Abbey, but was refused. Also on December 24, Simon Bereford was executed on charges of treason. Five others who had fled England were sentenced to death in absentia for their involvement in the murders of Edward II and the Earl of Kent. Thomas Berkeley, in whose castle Edward II was murdered, was able to provide evidence that he was not in the castle at the time of the former king”s death, so he was not convicted.
Edward did not touch Isabella, but she was removed from power and sent to Rising Castle in Norfolk, where she led a life of luxury until her death. At the same time she participated in the diplomacy of the crown and attended ceremonies and family celebrations held by her son. Also on October 8, Oliver Ingham was pardoned, and the ancestral estates were returned to him. Later, in 1331, Geoffrey Mortimer was allowed to leave England and was able to inherit some of his mother”s estates in England and France.
After the massacre of Mortimer and his supporters, the claims of the victims of his actions were addressed. Thus the aristocrats executed by Isabella”s lover, in particular the Earls of Arundel and Kent, were posthumously rehabilitated, and their heirs were promised the return of their confiscated estates. The Earl of Lancaster and his supporters of the rebellion of January 1329 were officially exempted from paying the bail awarded them by Mortimer. Those involved in the Earl of Kent”s rebellion were also pardoned. In addition, associates of the king who had participated in the Nottingham conspiracy, most notably William Montague, were rewarded.
By seizing power, Edward demonstrated that he had a strong character. Now he was to restore normal life and order to a devastated kingdom, a task that took many difficult years. From then on, he pursued a similar strategy: once he identified a problem, he took drastic (often reckless) means to deal with it. He was aided in this by a close-knit group of trusted supporters. As historian D. Jones notes, this model of monarchy proved to be very effective.
From the spring of 1330, Edward III participated regularly in jousting tournaments, where he often fought dressed as a common knight. This provided him with opportunities for social and political interaction with the English aristocracy, bringing him closer to it. Although Edward adored the Arthurian legends, he never tried to take on the role of the legendary king; he preferred to identify himself as a common knight of the Round Table, most often Sir Lionel. This role was first suggested to him by Mortimer at the tournament at Wigmore in 1329, when he presented Edward with a trophy bearing the arms of Sir Lionel. During the 1330s the king often spoke at tournaments with his coat of arms, and in 1338 baptized his third son, Lionel Antwerp, with this name.
Despite political reconciliation, problems multiplied in the kingdom. The famine of 1315-1322 brought poverty, and the political turmoil of Edward II”s reign saw lawlessness flourish. Outlaw gangs ran rampant in the central counties. Attempts to restore order through itinerant judicial commissions met with local resistance and also faced endemic corruption.As a result, parliament was convened, which concluded a treaty with the nobility, under which the barons of the kingdom undertook not to protect criminals from prosecution, to assist the king and his agents in enforcing the law, and not to violate the king”s priority right to obtain food by taking from the peasants the crops. There was also a judicial reform in which the clumsy and obsolete institution of itinerant judges was replaced by a system of permanent royal representations, and the office of keeper of the peace (the forerunner of the magistrate) was introduced. Through the efforts of royal officials and special commissions of the oyer and terminer type, which dealt with special cases, as well as through the visits of the Westminster Court of the King”s Bench, a system of English local justice was established, which lasted until the end of the century. From that point on, no king would sit in court in person. According to Edward III, the king-judge was to be replaced by a king-merchant.
During the same period, Edward III encountered problems in his relations with France, as King Philip VI began to pressure him, demanding a full vassal oath for Aquitaine and Pontier and threatening to confiscate them otherwise. On September 30 Parliament was convened, at which Chancellor John Stratfor questioned the estates as to whether the question should be settled by war or diplomacy. In response, the king was called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, indicating that military intervention was more necessary in Ireland. As a result, in April 1331, the English king was forced to make a secret trip to France, disguised as a merchant, where he acknowledged that the omens he had brought in 1329 should be considered recognition of the French king as liege lord.
The problem of governing Ireland during this period was quite acute. No English king had appeared there since the reign of John the Soothless, who in 1210 undertook a military campaign to Ireland. As a result, the authority of royalty among the Anglo-Norman nobility there was minimal. In addition, there were regular outbreaks of violence on the island. In the summer of 1332 Edward III began planning a military campaign across the Irish Sea, but it never happened, for Scotland was on the agenda.
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War with Scotland
The terms of the Peace of Northampton did not suit Edward III. Although he did not outwardly show that he did not intend to abide by them, he could not ignore the demands made by the northern nobility, referred to at the time as the “disinherited”. These included both English aristocrats who, as a result of Bruce”s victory, had lost possessions in Scotland, and Scottish supporters of the former King John Balliol and John Comyn, murdered in 1306 on the orders of Robert the Bruce and thereby forced to flee Scotland. Edward Balliol, son of King John, who claimed the Scottish crown, also took refuge at the English court.
In 1329 King Robert I died, a year later his associate, William Douglas. As Bruce”s heir, David II, was still young, Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, became guardian (regent) of Scotland, ignoring Edward III”s demands that the “disinherited” return their estates distributed to Robert I”s supporters. At the same time, the “disinherited” began to induce the king to take action. In particular, Henry de Beaumont proposed Baliol as a candidate for the Scottish throne, and he organized a petition from a group of magnates to Edward III, asking for permission to invade Scotland. Although the king refused to grant it, he may have given some tacit support. As a result, Balliol and Beaumont and their supporters began preparations for an invasion of Scotland in the summer of 1332, aided by the unexpected death of the regent, the Earl of Moray.
The army of Balliol and the disinherited, led by Beaumont, was not very large. However, 10 times smaller than the Scottish army, it succeeded in defeating the army of the new regent, the Earl of Mara, at the battles of Kinghorn and Dapplin Moor. On September 24, Balliol was crowned at Scone, the traditional coronation site of Scottish kings. Balliol soon had to move to Roxburgh, closer to the Scottish border, and the kingdom itself was plunged back into the chaos of the War of Independence.
Parliament, which met at Westminster in September, advised Edward III to postpone the march to Ireland, shifting his attention to the northern frontier, and to summon the new king of Scotland as his vassal to Parliament, which was to meet at York in the winter of 1332
It was Baliol”s unexpected flight that forced Edward III to make a decision. He announced to parliament his intention to break the terms of the Northampton Peace Treaty, introduce troops into Scotland and resume the war for power over his northern neighbor. In February Edward moved all governmental institutions to York, which became the de facto capital until 1337, allowing him to concentrate on the war with Scotland. His army included a royal guard, a feudal army of nobles and their vassal knights, and mercenaries, including soldiers from Eno who had previously participated in the unsuccessful Wyrdale campaign. The regular army was recruited by conscription; it consisted of hobelars (light cavalry), infantrymen with lances, and archers who moved on horseback but fought on foot. The mounted archers, whom Edward III placed far above the other troops, would become his elite army, the most effective and dangerous unit of the medieval English army. Edward III fed and marched his army at the expense of requisitions from across the kingdom, much to the discontent of his subjects.
The military campaign began in the spring of 1333, making forays into Scotland all summer. Edward III”s main commanders were William Montague, Henry Percy, and Henry Grossmont, son of the Earl of Lancaster. In March the English besieged Beric, and on July 19 they faced the Scots, led by Archibald Douglas, at the Battle of Halidon Hill. Although the English army was half the size of the Scots, it employed the tactics devised by Henry Beaumont at the Battle of Daplin Moor. The king took up a defensive position on a hill; archers covered the flanks of three squads of dismounted foot soldiers. Edward III commanded the center, Balliol the right flank, John of Eltham, Earl of Norfolk, Earl of Cornwall (the king”s brother) the left. The English, learning from the loss of the Battle of Bannockburn, did not plan to use cavalry. As the Scottish lancers moved up the hill, a hail of arrows rained down on them, causing death and panic. Eventually they stopped before the lancers could reach them. Edward then led his army to attack the frightened and tired Scots. The king himself clashed with Robert Stuart, seneschal of Scotland, then only 17 years old. As a result, the Scots began to retreat indiscriminately, pursued by Balliol”s men saddled with horses. The Scots lost many of their best Scottish soldiers and magnates in this battle, including six earls whom the English king chivalrously buried.
The victory brought Edward III considerable advantage and prestige. Soon Beric surrendered. Several Scottish magnates recognized the English king as suzerain, and Balliol was restored to the Scottish throne.As a reward, he gave Beric and all of Lothian to England. Edward III then went to England, spending the second half of 1333 in the southeast of the kingdom hunting and hosting tournaments. In early 1334, the Scottish king agreed to make his kingdom dependent on England again, taking an oath of allegiance at Newcastle on June 12.
The deposed King David II and his wife Joan found refuge in France. In his absence, the Scottish resistance was led by Robert Stuart, grandson of King Robert I, and John Randolph, Earl of Moray. Soon Edward III found Scotland disobeying him, and Balliol was again removed from the throne. As a result, in the winter of 1334.
But a final settlement with Scotland was a long way off; English raids did not do much for Balliol”s reputation. Edward III returned to England, where he met at Nottingham in September with a large council. He then moved north again, reaching Botwell in late October and was in Beric in December. By this time Edward III was tired of seeking obedience from the Scots by fire and sword. Soon his eyes turned to another foe, France, which had been bound to Scotland by treaty since 1326. Since the English king refused to recognize the full suzerainty of Aquitaine to the French king, Philip VI supported the supporters of David II the Bruce in their struggle for independence.
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The Beginning of the Hundred Years” War
War between England and France was virtually inevitable. In 1334, negotiations over the disputed lands at Agène stalled. In March 1336, the pope, who had previously proposed a joint Anglo-French crusade, canceled the project, allowing Philip VI to move his fleet from Marseilles to the Channel, threatening the southern English coast. And on May 24, 1337, the French king announced the confiscation of Aquitaine. The official reason for this was the fact that at the English court had found refuge his four-cousin brother, son-in-law and sworn enemy Robert d”Artois, who had fled from France in 1334. Back in December 1336, the French king sent ambassadors to Gascony, demanding the extradition of the fugitive, but this was refused. Later, Edward III sent ambassadors to Paris to “Philip of Valois, who calls himself king of France,” revoking the lien oath for the French possessions, which was the basis for the outbreak of war.
In the 1340s, a Flemish poem appeared called The Heron”s Vow, which explicitly accused Robert of being the one who provoked the war: he allegedly accused Edward III of cowardice for refusing to lay claim to the French throne. The poem tells that Robert presented the king with a roasted heron at a sumptuous feast, declaring that it was the most cowardly of birds, so he gave it to the greatest coward who ever lived on earth. In response, the king promised to conquer France. The Vow of the Heron, however, is a propaganda piece whose main purpose was to portray Robert d”Artois as a conniving provocateur and Edward III as a boastful and immoral aggressor.
By the spring of 1337, Edward III may have been contemplating a renewed claim to the French throne. At a parliament that met at Westminster in March 1337, he created six new earls to add to the ranks of the nobility, from which warlords were traditionally chosen. The title was first given to the king”s associates: William Montague became Earl of Salisbury, Robert Ufford became Earl of Suffolk, William Clinton became Earl of Huntingdon, and William Bogun became Earl of Northampton. Also Henry Germont, heir to the Earl of Lancaster, was given the title Earl of Derby, and Hugh Audley, Roger Mortimer”s adversary, the Earl of Gloucester. In addition, in apparent imitation of France, Edward III introduced the title of duke in England, making his heir born in 1330, Edward (who would go down in history as the Black Prince. The title granting was marked by a grand feast and celebrations, with hundreds of pounds spent on food and entertainment. As a result, both kingdoms were preparing for a war later called the Hundred Years” War, though at this time it was impossible to imagine its extent or duration.
England needed allies to wage war, so Edward III decided to apply the same strategy as Edward I had used during the conflict with Philip IV in 1294-1296, seeking support in Germany and the Netherlands. He quickly enough concluded alliances with the rulers of Hainaut, Geldern, Limburg, Jülich, Brabant, and the Palatinate, and in August with Emperor Louis IV of Bavaria as well. Serious subsidies were promised for their conclusion. The first contributions to the allies, paid at the end of 1337, amounted to 124 thousand pounds. To obtain such enormous sums, Edward III spent much of 1337 and the first half of 1338 in fundraising. To do this, the English king borrowed large sums from Italian bankers, especially Bardi and Peruzzi, negotiated levies with Parliament and the clergy, and manipulated the international wool trade for financial gain. Royal jewels and gold and silver utensils, which the crown had taken from the English monasteries, served as collateral to secure the loans. The population was subject to taxes, which were levied frequently enough. The king also resorted to the practice of requisitions. The crown also sold monopoly rights to merchants for the wool trade, but in the end this project failed. Yet the costs, even for preliminary measures, were such that by the time Edward III sailed from Orwell on July 16, 1338, his government was already desperately short of money. Financial problems in the first phase of the Hundred Years” War were a constant headache for the English king.
For the first three years the conflict between England and France was sluggish. The only major battle during this period took place in the fall of 1339, when the English army invaded Northern France and began a military campaign in the border regions of Cambresi and Vermandois. The French army, on the other hand, invaded Aquitaine, reaching Bordeaux.
Edward III made Antwerp his base. In August he went from there to Coblenz, where he met with Emperor Louis, who made him vicar general of the Holy Roman Empire on September 5, which theoretically placed all its military resources at his disposal. But Edward”s relations with the emperor were not easy from the beginning; as a result, as early as 1341, Louis of Bavaria stripped the English king of his position as vicar in order to enter into negotiations with Philip VI. A similarly complicated relationship existed with the rulers of the Netherlands. Although the counts of Hainaut, Gueldern and Julich, as well as the Duke of Brabant, supported in September 1339 Edward”s first, long-delayed military campaign to Cabresi, which was considered part of the empire, even his father-in-law, Guillaume de Hainaut, expressed doubts about the legality of crossing the border into France and clashing with Philip VI there. These ambiguities and problems were formally resolved when, on September 26, 1340, Edward III, on the advice of Jacob van Artevelde, publicly accepted the title and arms of King of France. Since the reign of Richard I the Lionheart, the coat of arms represented three lions with a raised paw (in heraldic terms, leopards) on a scarlet background. Now the Leopards shared it with the symbol of the French crown – a golden heraldic lily on a blue background, which occupied the place of honor in the upper left and lower right squares of the coat of arms. Strategically, however, Edward III”s position improved only slightly. Although on June 24 the English fleet won a victory over the combined Anglo-Castilian fleet at the Battle of Sluysse, thus restoring English supremacy in the English Channel, the first full-scale campaign in Northern France, undertaken in July 1340, failed. Edward III had to lift the siege at Tournai and at Éplaisin and conclude a truce with the French for nine months.
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Armistice of 1340-1341
Faced with financial problems, Edward III began to look for their causes, caving in to the internal administration. Already in the spring of 1340, faced with debts of about 400 thousand pounds, he was forced to return to England to obtain further funding from Parliament. This resulted in an in-kind tax based on the church tithe, which, however, because of poor administration, could not somehow alleviate the impending bankruptcy of the king. In November, Edward III, along with Henry Grossmont, Earl of Derby, and other English lords who were in the Netherlands as hostages to pay their debts, sailed secretly from Ghent to England. Early on the morning of December 1, the king suddenly appeared at the Tower, where he immediately dismissed Robert Stratford, chancellor, and Roger Northburgh, treasurer, and sent to prison a number of leading judges, chancellery, clerks of the exchequer, and financiers. To demonstrate the fact that his government”s ministers should be held accountable for their actions and not entitled to claim ecclesiastical immunity from secular courts, Edward III appointed laymen and ordinary lawyers to the highest public offices. In addition, proceedings began at the county level for mismanagement during the king”s absence. As a result, nearly half the sheriffs and all the officials responsible for collecting royal revenues in the counties were replaced.
The king”s main target was the Archbishop of Stratford, who was head of the board of regents that governed England during the king”s absence. Even before leaving Ghent on November 18, Edward III had sent a message to the pope, claiming that the archbishop had not sent him the money he needed in Tours, wishing “to see him betrayed or killed” for lack of funds. The archbishop, on the other hand, held firm, believing that it was not his administration but the king himself who was to blame for what had happened, making exorbitant demands on the kingdom and behaving like a tyrant. In his letters to Edward, he did not hesitate to call the king a “new Rehoboam” who, like the biblical king, ignored the advice of wise men, listening only to his young friends, and oppressed people. On April 26, 1341, when Parliament met at Westminster, the king refused Stratford admission to the meetings, and also tried to bring 32 points against him. The confrontation lasted three days, after which a number of magnates insisted that they wanted to hear the archbishop personally, with the result that Edward was forced to allow him into the council on April 28 so that he could hear the charges against him. Major magnates and prelates, as well as the House of Commons, sided with Startford, drawing up a petition in his support, after which Edward was forced to relent on May 3. The king was also persuaded to agree to approve a program of reform, which resulted in a statute requiring the leading ministers of the kingdom to swear an oath before Parliament. It was also promised that the lords and ministers of the kingdom could not be arrested and could only be tried “in parliament by a court of equals,” and the king would have to submit to this decision. This statute was revoked by Edward III on October 1 because it violated the prerogatives of the king and was imposed by force. On October 23 Edward III publicly reconciled at Westminster Hall with the archbishop, and at the Parliament of 1343 he announced that all charges against Stratford had been annulled and the written materials of the case destroyed. The king also promised to restore those sections of the statute that were acceptable to him, although this was never done.
The result of the political crisis of 1341 was a mechanism that would help resolve future political crises without the bloody civil war. Despite Edward III”s embarrassment in his confrontation with Parliament, by his concessions the king earned himself enough political influence to discuss a new source to finance the war. The result was a direct tax on wool, which was a major export product for England, bringing the crown a revenue of 126,000 pounds. The most important reason why the lords of the realm decided not to exacerbate the crisis was not the personal relationship between the king and Stratford, but the need for concerted action against royal enemies in Scotland and France.
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Resumption of war with Scotland and France
Because Edward III did not deal with northern affairs after 1337, in Scotland the initiative passed to the Bruces” supporters, resulting in their capture of Edinburgh in April 1341 and Stirling in the summer. In July, King David II returned to Scotland, deposing Robert Stuart, the guardian of the kingdom. This forced Edward III to look north again. A great council was held in late September, at which Henry Grossmont was appointed lieutenant of the army in Scotland. At the end of the year, the king himself moved north, spending Christmas at Melrose. Although Edward III personally led raiding parties in the surrounding villages, no serious clashes occurred. To pass the time, the English and Scots held a series of jousting tournaments similar to those that would later become a feature of warfare in France. In 1343 a truce was concluded for three years.
In April 1341, Duke Jean III the Good of Breton died, leaving no heirs. As a result, a 5-year succession dispute erupted in Brittany, which gave Edward III to test the value of the title he accepted as king of France by continuing the war against the French king with foreign hands. Philip VI supported Charles de Blois” claim to the duchy, while the English king sided with Jean (IV) de Montfort. The war over the Breton succession was one of the local conflicts within the French provinces that Edward III used with great success for his purposes in the mid-14th century. As a result, the English king waged a military campaign in Brittany on behalf of his claimant from October 1342 to March 1343. Montfort died in 1345, after which the English king supported his son Jean (V).
In 1343 and 1344 the English were preparing for a major campaign in France. At this time the Earls of Derby and Northampton were sent with expeditionary forces to Aquitaine and Brittany. King Edward also planned to renew his alliance with the Flemish to attack the French from the north, for which he arrived in Flanders in July 1345, but the murder of Jacob van Artevelde confused the cards, after which the plan became unrealizable. So the English king announced to his subjects that a major royal expedition was planned to assist the English armies in Brittany and Gascony.
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By the mid-1340s English warfare tactics had changed. Edward decided to forgo alliances with the principalities of northwestern Europe, which were too costly and he could not count on the loyalty of his allies. Moreover, the loans he had taken from bankers, which he was unable to repay on time, contributed to the bankruptcy of the Bardi Bank. By 1346, Flanders and his supporters in Brittany were the only allies of the English.
In the spring of 1346 the English army assembled at Portsmouth. The exact location of its landing was kept secret, so it is unclear whether the original plan was to land in Normandy or (as Bartholomew Bergers thought) it was decided after the fleet had sailed and failed to set sail for Gascony. Chroniclers attribute the change of direction of the expedition to Sir Geoffroy d”Arcourt, a Norman baron who had defected to the English, whose support guaranteed a safe landing at Saint-Va-la-Ug on the Cotentin Peninsula on July 12. Immediately after the landing, Edward”s heir, the Black Prince, and several other young warriors were knighted, including William Montague, son of the Earl of Salisbury, and Roger Mortimer, grandson of the king”s mother”s executed lover. The ensuing campaign caused considerable panic among the French, as well as unprecedented enthusiasm among the English soldiers, who for the first time had the experience of indiscriminate plundering of enemy territory.
After the landing, the king”s army moved in three columns through Carantan and St. Law to Caen, which was taken on July 27. The central was led by the king himself, the rearguard by Bishop Thomas Hatfield of Durham, the vanguard formally commanded by the royal heir Edward, assisted by the Earls of Northampton and Warwick. As the Earl d”Aix and the Seigneur de Tancarville attempted to defend the city, the English began to pillage, rape, and murder its population after capturing it. Because the bridges over the Seine were destroyed, Edward could not proceed to Rouen as he had planned, but went south to Poissy, where the bridge was repaired enough for the English to cross safely on August 16. The army then moved northward. On August 24, Edward was able to cross the Somme at Blanchtac. At this time he began to be pursued by the French army, with which King Philip VI set out from Amiens for Abbeville.
The battle between the two armies took place near the village of Crecy. The English army lined the high ground on the right bank of the river May in a formation that had proved effective in the battles of Dapplin Moor and Halidon Hill. The army was divided into three detachments, led by the king, the Black Prince, and the Earl of Northampton, who had rushed alongside the soldiers. Their flanks were covered by archers. The French attacked closer to the evening of August 26. Although the English were twice as few as the French, their excellent tactics and lack of discipline among the French cavalry ensured a relatively swift and decisive victory for Edward III. The archers ensured much of the victory. The French king had Genoese crossbowmen as mercenaries, but their rate of fire was two times lower, and crossbow arrows did not reach the enemy. In the future, the advantage of a long English bow more than once will affect the outcome of the battles of the Hundred Years” War. One of the peculiarities of the battle was the English use of a small number of cannons, which was the first known example in the West of the use of firearms in a general battle. The French cavalry proved helpless against British formations. As a result, the French suffered enormous losses, including the deaths of many members of the French nobility, including 2 dukes and 4 counts, as well as King John Blind of Bohemia. Edward the Black Prince proved himself bravely in the battle.
Despite the significance of the victory at Crécy, it did not end the war, for the French military capacity was not destroyed, and the political power of Philip VI remained intact. On August 28, the English army moved northward and on September 3 reached Calais, laying siege to the city. Philip VI at this time had encouraged the Scots to take advantage of Edward III”s absence to invade England, but on October 17 they were defeated by an English army led by Ralph Neville of Raby, Henry Percy, and William de la Zouche, bishop of York, at the battle of Neville”s Cross near Durham, with the marshal, chamberlain, and constable of Scotland and the Earl of Moray killed, and four earls and King David II himself captured by the English, who would not be free until 11 years later. This news, along with improvements for the English in Aquitaine and Brittany, reassured the demoralized army besieging Calais. Dysentery and desertion took a heavy toll. However, when the French gave up hope of lifting the siege, the garrison of Calais was forced to surrender the city on August 3, 1347. Jean Lebel, followed by Froissart, gives the story that at first Edward III refused the besiegers, but then relented, demanding that the 6 largest burghers put themselves at his mercy. When they presented themselves to the English king with ropes around their necks, he was determined to execute them, but yielded to the pleas of the pregnant Queen Philippa. In spite of this, most of the inhabitants of Calais were driven out and proclamations were hung on the houses encouraging them to occupy them.
The siege of Calais was even larger than the battle of Crécy. Twenty-six thousand men took part in it – it was the largest English army in the entire Hundred Years” War to march. But maintaining the huge army for more than a year placed a heavy burden on England. To cover the costs, the government requisitioned a number of goods and export duties to the war fund, which caused great discontent among the population. Eventually, after the capture of the city, an armistice with France was concluded for 9 months and Edward III and his army returned to England, landing in Sandwich on October 12.
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Founding of the Order of the Garter
Winter and Spring 1347
The order included much of the Arthurian imagery that was a feature of court life in England under both Edward I and the early years of Edward III. The list of the Order”s founding knights shows that it was conceived as a permanent memorial to the victories of the English at Crécy and Calais. Moreover, the French symbolism of the order – blue robes (in England the traditional color of kings was red) and the choice of the motto “Let him who thinks ill of it be ashamed” (lat. Honi soit qui mal y pense) – suggests that one of its goals was to advance its claim to the French throne. Although at this time some of Edward”s cronies persuaded him not to agree to a diplomatic compromise, believing that a conquest of France was achievable, the king himself may have hesitated. In the parliaments that met in January and March 1348, he was beset by a torrent of complaints, and the economic and political situation of the country was difficult.
To many contemporaries the newly created order seemed tasteless and inappropriate, since England at this time was being devastated by the Black Death, and the population was being impoverished by the extortions of money that were used to finance the war. Thus Henry of Knighton believed that to indulge in wasteful and careless games was the height of insensitivity. But, according to contemporary scholars, the new order allowed the country”s knights to rally around the king, and also provided the king with an opportunity to mark and reward knights who distinguished themselves in foreign campaigns, making their service not a tedious duty, but a badge of honor.
The chapel of St. George”s College at Windsor was founded as the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter. Its construction began in 1350 and was completed in 1357. The building required a substantial outlay: £6500 was spent on rebuilding Windsor at this time, much of it used to build the chapel. Edward III gave it as a gift the Cross of Neath, a fragment of the Life-Giving Cross taken from Llewelyn ap Griffith in 1283 during the campaign to conquer Wales.
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Domestic policy in 1348-1356
The main problem faced by Edward III between the autumn of 1348 and the spring of 1350, which prevented the continuation of the war, was an epidemic of bubonic plague, called the Black Death. It reached England in the summer of 1348, and appeared in London in the fall. Over a period of just over a year, the epidemic killed about a third of the population of England. Many villages lost between a third and half of their inhabitants. A number of settlements died out entirely. In addition, during the same period there was a monstrous loss of livestock. As the chronicler Henry of Knighton wrote, “no one since Vortigern, king of the Britons, can remember death so relentless and cruel. Nor did the sickness spare the royal family. The daughter of Edward III, Jeanne, engaged to Pedro, son of King Alfonso XI of Castile, went to her fiancé in August, but on the way she fell ill and died on September 2.
Edward III, who went briefly to Calais on November 30 to complete negotiations with his new ally, Count Louis of Flanders, was very aware of the dangers of illness. Back in England, the king deliberately avoided the capital. He spent Christmas at Oxford, then traveled first to Windsor and then to Woodstock via King”s Langley, where the royal relics were taken. Here he was joined by some officials. The convocation of Parliament, which had been planned for early 1349, was cancelled, the proceedings of the Court of the King”s Bench and general prayers were suspended until Trinity 1349.
The government, however, continued to work. On June 18, 1349, the king, at a council meeting at Westminster, issued the Workmen”s Ordinance, a precursor to the “Statute of Workmen,” which was ratified by parliament in 1351. This law was intended to address the acute labor shortage by requiring agricultural and other laborers to contract locally, agreeing to wages that were pegged to pre-Epidemic levels. This allowed the English lords to force not only serfs but also free laborers, who were promised imprisonment for refusing. After the Black Death, many states undertook such measures, but only England had a comprehensive mechanism for enforcing them. And to a large extent the appearance of justices of the peace is associated with it.
Despite minor military clashes, the armistice with France was extended, resolving some of the political problems created by the constant wars of the previous decades. In 1352 the king agreed not to require conscription on the basis of feudal principle. Thereafter, most of the soldiers and mounted archers who were drafted into the English expeditionary armies were volunteers. Also in 1352 the Statute of Treason was issued, which established a strict limitation on the definition of treason, thus ending its arbitrary use in the royal courts. To limit the practice of disposing of benefices in England, the Statute of Commissioners (1351) and the Statute of Trespass on the King and his Government (1353) were enacted at the urging of the House of Commons. As a result, the crown increased its ability to dispose of patronage in the country. In addition, in 1351 a major reform of minting was carried out, which resulted in the first introduction of its own gold coinage, the Noble, as well as a silver coinage, the grote. As early as 1353, the English administration actually agreed to abandon its previous practice of creating monopolies on the wool trade, temporarily prohibiting its merchants to conduct foreign trade in this commodity, while encouraging foreign merchants to come to the country to produce woolen cloth in the kingdom.
It is not known what personal influence Edward III had on these and other measures of government, although it is likely that he was involved in areas that required the king”s attention, such as hearing petitions and granting patronage. He also settled various disputes between the magnates of the kingdom. Perhaps Edward”s most important contribution was the selection of capable and dedicated ministers who took over much of the routine business of government. Among them were William Edington, John of Thoresby. They were also instrumental in securing the decisions of Parliament in 1446-1455 on the levy of taxes. The only serious conflict that occurred between the king and the government occurred in 1355, when Edward III condemned the council”s decision, demanding that Bishop Elie Thomas Lyle be punished for the crimes he had committed against the king”s cousin Baroness Wake.
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Wars with France and Scotland 1349-1357
During Christmas celebrations in December 1349, Edward III received news that the governor of Calais was going to surrender the city to the French. He reacted quickly and, accompanied by his eldest son and a small military contingent, set out for Calais, where he managed to prevent the betrayal and defeat the French army commanded by Geoffroy I de Charny. In recounting this battle, Froissart reports that the English king fought incognito – under the banner of Sir Walter Manny. In August 1350, King Philip VI of France died, which may have encouraged Edward. He began planning a military campaign to seize the throne, but this was prevented by the Castilian fleet in the Channel. On 29 August the English fleet put to sea and was able to defeat the Castilian fleet in the sea battle of Winchelsea. The king himself nearly drowned: the ship he was sailing in collided with the Castilian, causing severe damage, but Edward was saved by the Earl of Lancaster. After this victory, the Channel was closed to the Castilian fleet for many years, and the English fleet secured free passage between English ports and Bordeaux.
Although warfare continued in Brittany and Aquitaine in the early 1350s, Edward III himself did not undertake military campaigns against the new French King John II the Good until 1355. During this period he was actively engaged in diplomacy. In 1351 he formed an alliance with Charles II the Wicked, king of Navarre, who not only claimed the French throne himself, but was also an important figure in Normandy. In 1353, Edward came to an agreement with the English captive Charles de Blois, with the result that he was willing to withdraw his support for Jean de Montfort in Brittany. Later, however, Charles the Wicked reconciled with John II of France, which was a serious setback for the English. Eventually Edward III appeared willing to consider the French king”s offer of peace. In 1354, the Treaty of Guin was drafted, giving England Aquitaine, Pontier, the provinces of the Loire and Calais. The French king gave up suzerainty for them and in return the English king gave up his claim to the French throne forever. Neither side, however, ratified the treaty.
In 1355, Edward decided to launch a military campaign against France, attacking it from two sides – from Gascony and Normandy. The army of Gascony, commanded by the Black Prince, set sail on September 14, but the departure of the Norman army, led by Henry Grosmont, by this time titled Duke of Lancaster, was delayed because an unfavorable wind was blowing, and news was received that Charles the Wicked had again reached an understanding with the French king. Later, the Norman army was dispatched to Calais because news was received that the city was threatened by the French. Edward III led it personally, landing at Calais on November 2, before moving south. He almost met the army of John II the Good, a few miles short of it, but then retreated without a fight because the French king refused to fight in response to a call to arms. Returning to Calais, Edward learned that the Scots had captured Beric, so he hastily departed for England. In January 1356, the English king led an army that marched into Scotland. On January 13, he returned Beric to the English, and so badly devastated Lothian that the expedition was called the “Burning Mideast. This was Edward III”s last English military campaign against Scotland.
The Black Prince landed in Gascony, overwintered there, and in the spring undertook a devastating campaign into southern France, called the great chevochet. In May the army of the Duke of Lancaster landed in Normandy, but after ruining a number of towns, it retreated. For their unwillingness to oppose the English, the French aristocracy expressed extreme displeasure to the king. As a result, John II in April ordered the arrest of Charles II the Wicked, King of Navarre, who led the opposition, after which in August Philip, brother of the King of Navarre, defected to the English, bringing an oath to Edward III as “King of France and Duke of Normandy.” As a result, the French king was forced to oppose the English army of the Black Prince. In September 1356, the battle of Poitiers took place, in which the French army suffered a crushing defeat. A number of aristocrats died, many were taken prisoner, among them King John II himself. The captured hostages were sent to England. As a result of this success, Edward III, who also had the Scottish king as his prisoner, was in a very strong bargaining position. The English king had to choose between receiving a large ransom for his release and concluding a peace treaty, relinquishing his royal titles, or continuing the costly war of conquest. On January 20, 1356, at Roxburgh, Edward Balliol surrendered his rights to the Scottish throne to Edward III. On October 3, 1357, the English negotiated a peace with Scotland. Under its terms, Edward III effectively granted David II the title of King of Scotland. The king himself received his freedom in exchange for a ransom in installments of 100,000 marks (66,666 pounds). Although Edward III could have demanded recognition of suzerainty from Scotland, this was not mentioned in the Treaty of Berwick, which the Scots considered a major victory. This treaty ended the wars of Scottish independence.
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The Campaign of 1359-1360 and the Peace of Bretinia
Negotiations with France proved more difficult. Edward III was determined to obtain substantial territorial gains in return for abandoning the French crown. The draft Treaty of London of 1358 proposed terms little different from those eventually agreed in 1360: the sovereignty of England over Calais, Pontier and the enlarged Duchy of Aquitaine. In addition, John II was to pay 4 million gold ecus (666,666 pounds) for the ransom. However, the treaty was never concluded, perhaps because the French regent could never find the money for the first installment of the ransom. By January 1359, Edward was planning a new military campaign. Under the new draft of the Treaty of London of March 24, 1359, the English king demanded sovereign control of Normandy, Anjou, Maine and Touraine, as well as suzerainty over Brittany, in addition to the territorial concessions of the previous draft. As a result England could control the entire French coast from Calais to the Pyrenees. The terms proposed were so unacceptable that, according to historians, they amounted to a declaration of war.
On October 28, Edward III sailed from Sandwich and reached Calais the same day. He was accompanied by his three eldest sons, as well as a large army of about 10,000 soldiers. Dividing it into three columns, the English king moved on Reims, which was besieged on October 4. Since Edward took his crown with him, he likely intended to formally become King of France at the traditional coronation site of the Capetians. Reims, however, was well fortified. The English made no attempt to seize the city and after five weeks, in January 1360, the siege was lifted. Edward then led the army through Burgundy with a chevoche. It is not known whether this was originally planned, but Duke Philip I of Burgundy was forced not only to offer a ransom of 700,000 gold ecus (166,666 pounds) to remove the English army from his domain, but also to promise that as peer of France he would support Edward”s coronation in the future. The English king”s march on Paris failed to provoke the French dauphin Charles into battle, so he moved south along the Loire valley. At Chartres, the English army was caught in a storm on April 13, killing men and horses. The army was weakened by the winter campaign, during which the weather was bad, and demoralized. Eventually Edward III decided to return to peace negotiations.
Negotiations began on May 1 in Bretigny. Their heirs spoke on behalf of the English and French kings. A draft treaty was prepared on May 8. By its terms, England for the rejection of Edward III of the claim to the French throne received the same territorial acquisitions that were offered by the treaty of 1358, but the amount of the ransom for John II was reduced to 3 million gold ecus (500 thousand pounds). However, this agreement was reached without reference to the kings, so it was provisional until confirmed by them. On May 18, Edward III sailed from Honfleur, disembarking at Rye, from where he went to Westminster, while his army returned to England via Calais. Meanwhile, the French government had the task of collecting the first part of the ransom for its king.
On October 9, Edward III returned to Calais to confirm the treaty. By that time negotiations had been underway for several weeks, since the stumbling blocks were provisions for John II to renounce suzerainty over the ceded possessions and for the English king to renounce his rights to the French crown. As a result, these provisions were removed from the text of the main treaty and turned into a separate agreement. It was to be concluded only after the transfer of the ceded territories, which was to be completed no later than November 1, 1361. As a result, both sides reaffirmed the agreement on October 24, without actually fulfilling all of its terms. Thereafter, both sides evaded their sections of the treaty concerning the relinquishment of claims. Ultimately, this delaying tactic benefited France in the first place, although it is possible that the compromise reached at Calais was the work of Edward III, who was dissatisfied with the terms of the Bretigny peace and continued to cling to his ambitions to conquer larger parts of France. At the same time, the peace agreement was applauded in England, where it was ratified by parliament in January 1361 and solemnly celebrated by the king and his family in Westminster Abbey.
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The dynastic strategy of Edward III
After resolving conflicts with France and Scotland, Edward III was able to move on to the strategy he had been moving toward for a number of years. Between 1330 and 1355, Queen Philip gave birth to at least 12 children. Of these, only 5 sons and 4 daughters made it past childhood. By 1358, only one of the sons was married – Lionel Antwerp, Earl of Ulster, who had only one daughter, Philippa. But in 1358-1359 there were several important marriages: Princess Margaret was engaged to John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke; Philippa of Ulster to Edmund Mortimer, heir to the Earl of March; and Prince John Gaunt to Blanche of Lancaster, one of Henry Grossmont”s heirs, Duke of Lancaster. These marriages had important implications for Edward III”s dominance of the British Isles. The alliance between the Earls of March and Ulster was very important, enabling the advancement of royal interests in Ireland. To this end, the king appointed Lionel lieutenant of Ireland in 1361 and granted him the title Duke of Clarence in 1362. John of Gaunt”s marriage was also important, resulting in extensive estates that made him one of the largest magnates in northern England. In 1362 he won the title Duke of Lancaster, playing an important role in maintaining security on the Anglo-Scottish border in later years. In the 1360s Edward III even tried to persuade the childless David II Bruce, who continued to owe a huge sum for his ransom, to recognize Gaunt as heir to the Scottish throne.
In 1362, Edward III also appointed his heir prince of Aquitaine, making the duchy de facto palatine. By this time he had also married (apparently for love) Johanna of Kent, and the wedding was considered rather scandalous. The bride had already been married twice; though her first husband, by whom she had five children, was dead, another, William Montague, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, was alive.
Similar patterns emerged in the marriage projects for Edward III”s other children, who sought through them to gain for his family control of lands both in England and beyond. Jean de Montfort, whom the king continued to support as a claimant to the title of Duke of Brittany, married Princess Mary in 1365. She died shortly after the wedding, but Montfort agreed not to remarry without Edward III”s permission. In 1366 he married Joan Holland, stepdaughter of the Prince of Wales. Although Edward III relinquished suzerainty over Brittany in 1362, the duchy was still under Plantagenet influence for several years. The English king also tried to marry his fourth son Edmund Langley, to whom he granted the title of Earl of Cambridge, to Margaret, heiress to the Counts of Flanders and Burgundy. Negotiations over the marriage had progressed far enough. Edward also tried to arrange the marriage of his daughter Isabella, but she said she would marry only for love.
A series of marriages of Edward III”s children during this period suggests that the English king tried to act like Henry II, seeking to create a confederation of states bound to the Plantagenets by various ties. He was not, however, particularly successful in this endeavor. Thus Edmund Langley”s Flemish marriage project ran up against the pro-French Pope Urban V, and the marriage was not consummated. In response, Edward III carried out a series of repressive measures against the influence of the papal curia in England, including the reassertion in 1365 by Parliament of the “Statute of Commissioners” and the “Statute of Imposture on the Authority of the King and his Government. Within a few years, however, the prospect of lucrative marriages and foreign titles probably satisfied Edward III”s ambitions and helped to maintain the spirit of amiability and unity that characterized the English royal family during this period.
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Domestic policy in 1360-1369
In 1361-1362 the plague returned to England, causing the deaths of several of Edward III”s close associates as well as two young royal daughters, but the king himself, who celebrated his 50th birthday in 1362, did not fall ill. To coincide with his birthday, Parliament announced a general pardon and also passed an important statute defining and limiting the royal right to requisition provisions for the needs of the court. These concessions proved popular. Their necessity was determined by the fact that the king had to ask the House of Commons to renew the revenue levy on wool, levied over and above the usual customs duties, in order to pay the considerable debts which the government claimed to have accumulated during the war years. The House of Commons agreed to this proposal, which demonstrated the important difference between direct taxes, which could only be levied during the war, and indirect taxes, which became more or less permanent in later years. Another proposal, presented to Parliament in 1362, concerned the exportation of goods produced in England and the need for a single trans-shipment point at Calais for this purpose. The House of Commons could not agree on this proposal, so the English government alone decided in 1363 to establish such a terminal at Calais. But this decision did not benefit the English economy, but the trading company that had been appointed to manage the export of goods.
Historians evaluate Edward III”s contribution to these decisions, as before, largely in terms of the choice of ministers and their administration. The chief figure in the royal administration at this time was William of Wickham, who became keeper of the minor seal in 1363 and chancellor in 1367. At the same time the single-mindedness that had characterized the English government in the 1350s was now lacking. Thus in the 1360s it was several times indecisive as to whether the justices of the peace should be allowed to retain the power to pass judgment and sentence: in 1362 the powers were confirmed, in 1364 they were abolished, and in 1368 they were finally returned. In 1365 the chief justice of the court of the treasury and the president of the court of the royal bench were dismissed on charges of corruption in the treasury. In 1368, Sir John Lee, administrator of the royal court, was imprisoned because of allegations of abuse of special judicial powers. Although there was no public dissatisfaction with the government at this time, these scandals point to emerging problems in the administration of the state, for which the king was to some extent responsible.
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Resumption of war with France
In 1364 King John II of France died and was succeeded by his son Charles V. As a result, the prospects that a settlement reached in 1360 would lead to a lasting peace became less likely. The new French king was instrumental in thwarting Edmund Langley”s marriage to Margaret of Flanders, after which he arranged her marriage to his brother, Duke Philip II of Burgundy the Bold. He also secured suzerainty over the Duke of Brittany, Jean de Montfort, and was able to negotiate with Charles II the Wicked, King of Navarre. But the main reason for the renewal of the war was Aquitaine, now ruled by Edward III”s heir, Edward the Black Prince. A number of its inhabitants, dissatisfied with the Prince of Wales”s rule, appealed to the French parliament. Since Charles V did not formally relinquish suzerainty over Aquitaine, he summoned the Black Prince to himself. When he did not come, the French king declared the English prince a disobedient vassal and that Aquitaine was to be confiscated. This decision violated the settlement reached at Bretigny, so Edward III had no choice but to reassert his dynastic claims to the French throne. After consultations with parliament, he formally proclaimed himself king of France again on June 11, 1369.
English strategy in the war of 1369-1375 copied that of the 1340s-1350s. However, Edward now lacked the personal and diplomatic ties that he had before, so he could not intervene effectively in the affairs of the northern provinces. In addition, in 1372 the English fleet under the Earl of Pembroke was defeated by the Castilians at the sea battle of La Rochelle. As a result, the English could not effectively replenish the garrisons in Aquitaine, which was taken advantage of by Charles V, whose army seized most of the northern lands of the duchy. As a result, the English controlled only a narrow coastal strip from Bordeaux to Bayonne. Chances were brighter in Brittany, as Jean de Montfort renewed his alliance with Edward III in 1372. But in 1373 he himself was forced to flee to England, and a military expedition organized by John of Gaunt to help never reached Brittany. Instead, the Duke of Lancaster opted for a chevoche through eastern and southern France, making his way from Calais to Bordeaux.
Despite his advanced age, Edward III took an active part in military planning and also sought to participate in military campaigns himself. In the summer of 1369, he intended to lead an army to Calais, but John of Gaunt ended up commanding it; the king may have been delayed by the death of Queen Philippa on 15 August. After defeating the Earl of Pembroke”s fleet, Edward III intended to go on an expedition to Aquitaine in place of the ailing Prince of Wales. On 30 August, the king, having nominated his grandson Richard of Bordeaux as formally regent, boarded the ship. However, the weather conditions were extremely unfavorable, so the fleet was never able to reach its destination. As a result, after five weeks the king was forced to order his return to England without ever having been to Aquitaine.
In 1374-1375, mediated by Pope Gregory XI, negotiations were held between representatives of the kings of England and France. On July 27, 1375, an armistice was concluded at Bruges for a year. As a result, the expeditionary forces in Brittany, commanded by Jean de Montfort and Edmund Langley, Earl of Cambridge, were forced to lift the siege of Camperlé and leave the duchy. But the truce achieved in England was met with discontent.
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In the early stages the war of 1369-1375 was paid for by indirect taxes as well as by royal revenues from fines and grants from the clergy. It was not until 1371 that the crown asked Parliament for a direct tax. The House of Commons proposed to raise 50,000 pounds through a standard levy on every parish in the country. The price was the dismissal of the chancellor, the treasurer and the keeper of the petty seal, who were replaced by laymen. At the same time, between 1371 and January 1377, laymen were appointed to the posts of chancellor and treasurer.
By 1376, all the taxes collected by Parliament in 1371 and 1373 had been spent, leaving the government with no money. Although the truce with France was extended for another year in 1376, the crown”s finances were in a sorry state. As a result, a parliament was called in April 1376. It was subsequently called “The Good.” It refused to impose direct taxes, but agreed to extend the tax on wool. But beyond that, this parliament saw the most dramatic and vigorous attack on the royal government ever made in a medieval parliament.
Edward III was too ill to attend parliament and his heir was dying at this time. The next oldest son, Lionel Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, died in 1368. So the third of the sons, John of Gaunt, presided. Perhaps it was the king”s absence that made the House of Commons less restrained in its claims to the crown. It elected Peter de la Mara as its speaker. After some delay, the House of Commons secured the appointment of a new council, which included the Earl of March and Bishop Wickham, who had a number of grievances against the royal court. De la Mar then brought charges on behalf of the House of Commons against a number of financiers, most notably the royal chamberlain William Latimer, the administrator of the royal household, John Neville of Raby, and the London merchant Richard Lyons. Latimer and Lyons, who were the main targets, were accused of profiting from controversial financial schemes designed to raise money for the treasury. Also under indictment was Alice Perriers, who after the death of Queen Philippa in the mid-1360s became Edward III”s mistress, and from whom at least three children were born. The royal mistress was accused of greed and using her enormous influence at court to increase her wealth. The charges were heard before the Lords (which established parliamentary impeachment proceedings), after which Latimer and Neville were dismissed, Lyons was imprisoned, and Alice Perriers was sentenced to banishment from the royal court. As a result, by the time Parliament was dissolved, the court was in utter disarray.
But the victory of the Good Parliament was short-lived. By October 1376 all the ousted courtiers were pardoned and restored to their rights. In January 1377 a “Bad Parliament” was assembled, which was entirely subject to John of Gaunt and reversed all the decisions of the Good Parliament.
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Death and Inheritance
The first evidence of the king”s deteriorating health dates back to 1369, when the king”s physician John Glaston was away from the royal court from February 13 to May 9, “preparing medicine” for the king. Between June 1371 and July 1372, Gladstone was absent for the same reason for 67 days. Such periods of indisposition were not necessarily due to illness, though; they may have been caused by the king”s senile infirmity, the exact nature of which is unknown. Although historians have traditionally described Edward III during this period as afflicted with senile dementia, there is no direct evidence of dementia in him. It has been suggested that the king”s mental faculties may have suffered as a result of a series of strokes. However, there is evidence that, at least until the mid-1370s, Edward III continued to take an occasional active part in public affairs.
At the same time, the king”s capacity for work appears to have declined. Already in the 1360s the king”s movements were generally limited to southern England. At this time Edward III spent longer and longer periods at his residences, primarily at Windsor. The council at this time met most often at Westminster, resulting in a somewhat distant center of government from the royal court. Moreover, in 1375 the chamberlain of the king”s court was given the right to acknowledge petitions received at court with notes supposedly reflecting the king”s personal wishes. From this, historians conclude that during this period Edward was not actually involved in government, although government officials maintained a semblance of the king”s active participation in affairs.
On Pentecost 1376 Edward III was brought from Havering to Kensington Palace so that he could bid farewell to his dying eldest son Edward. On St. Michael”s day he himself fell ill at Havering, and was diagnosed with a large abscess. Preparing for his death, the king appointed trustees of his personal estates on October 5, and three days later made his will. On February 3, 1377, the abscess burst, causing Edward to revive slightly. Doctors found a suitable diet for him, which included “meat broth … and soups of the best white bread made with warm goat”s milk.” On February 11 the king was transported from Havering to Sheen; as the boat sailed past the Palace of Westminster, where Parliament was in session at the time, the lords came out to cheer him up. On April 23 Edward visited Windsor, where on that day many young nobles and members of the royal family were knighted, and two of the king”s grandsons, Richard of Bordeaux and Henry Bolingbroke, were admitted to the Order of the Garter. After the ceremony, Edward was taken back to Sheen. There he died on June 21. The wooden funerary image of Edward III is the oldest extant and was probably copied from a royal funerary mask. The face is slightly distorted, possibly a sign of stroke, which may have been the cause of death.
A solemn funeral was arranged for the deceased king. The body of Edward III was embalmed by Roger Chandeleur of London for 21 pounds, after which it was transported from Sheen Palace to London in 3 days. During the funeral procession, 1,700 torches were used. Funeral masses were held at St. Paul”s Cathedral on June 28 in the presence of Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, and on July 4 when two of the late king”s surviving sons, John Gont and Edmund Langley, were present. The funeral took place on July 5 at Westminster Abbey. The king”s tomb was located on the south side of Edward the Confessor”s Chapel. The tomb, preserved to this day, appears to have been built in 1386.
Edward III was king for 50 years, one of the longest reigns in English history. Of his predecessors, only Henry III ruled longer. Later, these longevity records were exceeded by George III, Victoria and Elizabeth II. Edward became king at 14, after which he fought in wars for 20-30 years before becoming more sedentary. Living to the age of 64, he is survived by three siblings, a wife, and 8 of his 12 children. He also survived the Black Death epidemic, which took many lives in the kingdom. Because of this, the king was seen as a sign of divine favor. After Edward III died, his subjects experienced a collective sense of loss as there were few Englishmen left in 1377 who could remember the kingdom without Edward.
Since Edward III”s eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, died before his father, his grandson, Richard II of Bordeaux, succeeded to the English throne.
Under the terms of Edward III”s will, 2 endowment funds were established: at the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary de Grasse, outside the Tower, and at the College of Secular Canons attached to St. Stephen”s Chapel in Westminster and at Kings Langley Monastery in Hertfordshire, where some members of his family were buried. Some of Edward”s personal estates were given to provide funds. However, Richard II”s government attempted to use these estates for the royal tutor, Sir Simon Burleigh. This decision caused a legal battle, which was concluded in 1401, after which all the terms of Edward III”s will were finally fulfilled.
The king”s leadership was largely regarded by his contemporaries and descendants as a great warrior. Although nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars did not generally regard the king as a great strategist, later scholars have noted his leadership skills, emphasizing his active participation in directing military operations, his ability to inspire confidence and discipline in the army, and his success in employing chevoche and mixed formation tactics on the battlefield. The confidence with which he was regarded by rulers and European nobles was largely due to both the reverence and the fear that the English army inspired by its actions on the Continent.
Although scholars have long believed that Edward III was only interested in martial feats and was crude in his tastes, it is now believed that he was a more versatile individual. The king was a patron of some of the finest artistic achievements of his time. In the 1350s and 1360s Edward undertook a major rebuilding of Windsor Castle, which is also important in that it shifted the center of King Arthur”s reverence from Glastonbury and Winchester. Construction work also took place at a number of royal residences: Westminster, Eltham, Sheen, Leeds, Woodstock, and King”s Langley. In addition, Quinborough Castle was built on Sheppey Island in the 1360s, which was primarily intended to protect the mouth of the Thames, but was generously equipped for royal visits as well. Edward may have had a penchant for the use of modern devices: it was during his reign that hot water was supplied to the royal baths at Windsor, Westminster and King”s Langley, and mechanical clocks began to appear in the royal palaces.
Much of the lifetime image of Edward III was built around his chivalry. Thus the Hainaut chronicler Jean Lebel repeatedly adds the epithet “noble” to his name. His example was followed by many English chroniclers, contrasting the noble Edward III with the “tyrant” Philip VI of France. In the court context, the code of chivalry was supported by lavish ceremonies and highly stylized protocol. An important measure of the king”s authority as a model knight was his treatment of women: he saved the Countess of Atholl, heeded the pleas of Queen Philippa at Calais, and took on the role of protector of the Baroness of Wake. However, not everyone was attracted to such an image. Although the story that Edward raped the Countess of Salisbury, which was later “cleansed” and transformed into the founding myth of the Order of the Garter, is now considered part of French propaganda, a number of contemporary English writers accused his court of promiscuity. Considerable damage was done to Edward”s reputation in the last years of his life by his affair with Alice Perreres.
In the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, the cult of Edward III began to develop. The policy of his grandson Richard II made modern chroniclers remember the middle of the fourteenth century as the golden age of the golden king. When Henry V resumed the Centennial War in the early fifteenth century, he was greatly interested in the achievements of his illustrious great-grandfather, as well as stories about the military campaigns of Edward III and the Black Prince, which are recorded in various chronicles.
The Lancaster, York, and Tudor dynasties all trace back to Edward III, who was involved in the bloody War of the Scarlet and White Rose, but his reputation in all political regime changes has never been questioned. At the end of the sixteenth century an anonymous play, Edward III, was written, the creation of which a number of scholars attribute to William Shakespeare. In it, the achievements of Edward III were emphasized, and the Battle of Slaice was compared to the defeat of the Spanish Invincible Armada.
Edward III”s posthumous reputation was not made up solely of his military achievements. Henry IV and Edward IV were urged to behave like Edward III in legislative and fiscal policy, and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries transcriptions of the customs accounts of the 1350s were made to demonstrate the wealth of the English monarchy and the favorable balance of trade during Edward III”s reign. In the seventeenth century he was cited as a constitutional monarch during whose reign the crown and parliament worked together for common benefit. In 1688, when the Glorious Revolution took place, a substantial and scholarly biography of Edward III was published.
In the nineteenth century, attitudes toward the king changed. William Stubbs, in his Constitutional History of England, strongly criticized Edward III, calling him a voluptuous ruler and accusing him of depriving England of wealth in order to subsidize irresponsible wars. Also, in his view, the king lacked foresight; by buying popularity and alienating the prerogative of the crown, he plunged the English monarchy into constitutional paralysis, which eventually led to the Scarlet and White Rose War. At the same time, twentieth-century scholars such as Kenneth MacFarlane have a more positive view of Edward III, primarily for the reason that they evaluated the personalities of medieval rulers based on the values of their time. So M. McKissack in his work “Edward III and Historians” notes that Stubbs” judgments are theological in nature, and that one should not expect a medieval monarch to be an ideal of constitutional monarchy, for as a king he would not have been good at his job per se, his role was rather pragmatic: he had to maintain order and solve problems as they came, in which Edward III succeeded rather well. To charges that Edward III”s lavish distribution of land to his younger sons contributed to the dynastic strife that led to the War of the Scarlet and White Rose, MacFarlane argues that this was not only the accepted policy at the time, but the best. This historiographical trend is followed by later biographers of Edward III, such as Ian Mortimer. At the same time, negative assessments of the king”s personality have not disappeared. Thus Norman describes him as a “greedy bandit and sadist,” carrying “destructive and merciless power.
Wife: Philippa Hennegau (1313) from 1326.
Three illegitimate children of Edward III by his mistress Alice Perreres are also known:
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