Edward III of England Biography

Edward III, the charismatic and dominant King of England from 1327 to 1377, transformed his kingdom from a state of disarray into a formidable military power. Known for his military shrewdness and warfare aptitude, he initiated the Hundred Years’ War after being denied his rightful claim to the French throne. His tactical brilliance was evident in the resounding victory at the Battle of Crecy, where the outnumbered English army triumphed over the French. Edward’s reign also saw significant advancements in legislation and government, as well as successfully navigating the devastating Black Death pandemic.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In November Also Known As: Edward of Windsor, Edward III
  • Died At Age: 64
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Philippa of Hainault
    • Father: Edward II of England
    • Mother: Isabella of France
    • Siblings: Earl of Cornwall, Joan of the Tower, John of Eltham
    • Children: 1st Duke of Clarence, 1st Duke of Gloucester, 1st Duke of York, Countess of Bedford, Countess of Pembroke, Edmund of Langley, Edward, Isabella, Joan of England, John of Gaunt, Lionel of Antwerp, Margaret, Mary of Waltham, the Black Prince, Thomas of Woodstock
  • Emperors & Kings
  • British Men
  • Died on: June 21, 1377
  • Place of death: Sheen, England
  • Cause of Death: Stroke
  • City: Windsor, England
  • Founder/Co-Founder: St George’s School, Windsor Castle

Childhood & Early Life

Edward III was born to King Edward II and Queen Isabella of France on November 13, 1312 at Windsor Castle. He was popularly referred to as Edward of Windsor. At just 12 days old, Edward III was given the title Earl of Chester by his father to boost his prestige.

Accession & Reign

In 1325, Edward III accompanied his mother to perform homage for the English Duchy of Aquitaine. It was during this trip that his mother befriended exiled Roger Mortimer and together they planned to depose King Edward II and crown Edward III. After the invasion of England and the dethronement of his father, Edward III was crowned as King of England on February 1, 1327. However, since he was too young to rule, Roger Mortimer served as the de-facto ruler of England.

During Mortimer’s reign, England faced defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Stanhope Park and had to sign the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which secured Scotland’s independence. Edward III resented Mortimer’s political position and interference with the government, leading him to plan Mortimer’s execution. After Mortimer’s death, Edward III began to rule and his main goal was to rebuild England into a powerful nation. He repudiated the Treaty of Northampton and declared war with Scotland.

The Hundred Years’ War

In the early 1330s, England’s relations with France turned hostile due to disputes over the English rule of Gascony. Edward III also revived his claim to the French crown as the maternal grandson of King Philip IV. However, according to the Salic law of succession, King Philip VI received support from the nation, rejecting Edward III’s claim. This rejection laid the foundation for the Hundred Years’ War against France.

Between 1339 and 1340, Edward III attempted to invade France twice from the north but failed each time, leading to bankruptcy. The only victory during this phase was the English naval victory at Sluys, which secured control of the English Channel. In 1346, Edward III landed in Normandy and defeated King Philip VI at the Battle of Crecy. This victory scattered the French army and marked the moment when his son, the Black Prince, famously won his spurs.

Edward III celebrated further victories in Gascony and Brittany in 1346. He also laid siege to the French port of Calais, gaining control over it in 1347. Edward III established Calais as the English base for future invasions of France. Monetary constraints led him to make a truce in 1347 and return to England, where he established the Order of the Garter.

War resumed in 1355 on a larger scale, and in 1356, the Black Prince achieved a resounding victory at the Battle of Poitiers, capturing the new French king, John II. England had the upper hand over France at the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War, and peace was negotiated by the Treaty of Bretigny. Edward III renounced his claim to the French crown in exchange for retaining Aquitaine, Poitiers, and Calais.

Later Reign & Legacy

After the first phase of the war, Edward III’s later reign was dominated by political strife and military ineffectiveness. In 1375, English efforts to restore their possession of France failed, and the Treaty of Bruges limited English possession to coastal areas.

During the last years of his rule, Edward III’s sons, the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, became leaders of divided parties in the court and the king’s council. John of Gaunt gained influence over his father with the help of the King’s mistress, Alice Perrers, and controlled the government.

Edward III’s military career was highlighted by the Battle of Crecy, where he achieved a resounding victory despite being heavily outnumbered. He also secured possession of French sovereignty through the Treaty of Brétigny. In his personal life, Edward III married Philippa of Hainault and had twelve children. After the death of his wife, he came under the influence of his mistress, Alice Perrers. Edward III died in 1377 and was succeeded by his grandson, Richard II. He was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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