Edward III

(Edward III of England)


Edward III was one of the longest reigning Kings of England, who is best known for his role in beginning the Hundred Years War, a long term conflict between England and France for control of several provinces in the North and West of France. Edward was a vigorous and popular king, who was credited with bringing military glory to England, and also with administrating the affairs of the kingdom in competent and able fashion, especially in the early years of his reign. In his later years, he became much less energetic and at the same time, the health of his heir apparent, the Black Prince, declined precipitously, so ground was lost on all fronts, both foreign and domestic. Overall however, his reign is considered to be a relatively positive one for England.

Edward III
In character and energy, Edward III resembled his grand-father, Edward I, far more closely than his father, Edward II, who was widely considered something of a voluptuary (to put it mildly). Edward III ascended to the throne at age 14 when his father was deposed by disgruntled nobles, but the real power was held by his mother Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer. After only a few years, Edward showed his energetic nature by leading a coup against these two, and assuming all power for himself. One of the reasons his father had been deposed was the "disgraceful" manner in which he had given up all of Edward I's conquests in Scotland. One of Edward III's first campaigns, therefore, was to re-open the war with Scotland. Although things went well for England at first, eventually the Scots were able to regain much of their lost territory.

Meanwhile, more conflicts were brewing in France. When the Plantagenets first came to the throne of England, almost 200 years previously, the King of England controlled many large provinces of France, including Normandy and Aquitaine. Over the years, much of this territory had been lost, but Edward III still laid claim to several provinces. In 1328 the last of the Capet kings of France without a male heir. Edward III felt his claim was better than that of Philip V, the first Valois king, but he did not press the issue at the time. In later years, however, as more conflicts arose with France, he asserted his claim.

His first act of war was to send a fleet to destroy the French navy at Sluys. This was an overwhelming victory for the English and gained enough concessions to delay a ground invasion, but in 1346 Edward III launched a raiding expedition into Northern France which resulted in two terrific English victories at Crecy and Calais. The war with France was interrupted by the Black Plague, but resumed ten years later with the great Victory at Poitiers, led by the Black Prince, eldest son of Edward III. English gains were established with the treaty of Bretigny in 1360.

By this time Edward III was advanced in years and relied more on his sons, particularly the Black Prince and John of Gaunt. Unfortunately, just at the time hostilities resumed with France, the Black Prince, who was England's best hope for a military leader, became ill, and in the following decade France regained much of England's hard-won territory. Nevertheless, Edward III is remember primarily for his gains in the early years of his reign, rather than the losses in later years.

Key events during the life of Edward III:

Edward III is Born.
Ascends to the throne when his father is deposed
Married to Philippa of Hainault, who bore him fourteen children.
Led a coup to depose his mother and Roger Mortimer as regents.
Edward III repudiates a treaty with Scotland and initiates Second Scottish War of Independence.
Declares himself rightful heir to English throne.
Wins naval Battle of Sluys, first conflict of the Hundred Years War
Wins a great victory at Crecy.
Town of Calais falls into English hands.
The Black Plague ravages all of Europe.
Treaty of Bretigny ends first phase of the Hundred Years War.
Struggle against France resumes, but England looses territory.
Second Treaty with France is made on terms much more favorable to France.
Death of Edward III.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Quarrels  in  Richard II  by  Jacob Abbott
How King Edward III Won the Battle Of Sluys  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
Battle of Crecy  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
Edward III. and the Hundred Years' War  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
First Period of the Hundred Years' War in  The Story of the Middle Ages  by  Samuel B. Harding
Queen Philippa and the Citizens of Calais  in  Patriots and Tyrants  by  Marion Florence Lansing
Battle of Sluys  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Edward III of Windsor—The Battle of Sluys  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
France: The Hundred Year's War  in  The Story of Europe  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Siege of Calais  in  Historical Tales: English  by  Charles Morris
Black Prince  in  Stories from English History  by  Hilda T. Skae

Image Links

Portrait of Edward the Third, Richard's Grandfather
 in Richard II

Edward III
 in Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary

Edward III and the Black Prince
 in Stories from English History
Edward III
Edward III
 in Back Matter
Edward III. And the burghers of Calais
Edward III. And the burghers of Calais
 in Back Matter

They rushed into the fray like madmen bent upon sudden death
 in The Story of France

Edward III (From a Wall Painting in Westminster Abbey
 in European Hero Stories

Short Biography
Philippa of Hainault Wife of Edward III and mother of 13. Intervened at siege of Calias in favor of citizens.
The Black Prince Excellent general and leader who ruled alongside his father, Edward III. Victor at the Battle of Poitiers.
Philip VI First Valois king of France, and rival of Edward III during the Hundred Years War.
John of Gaunt Third son of Edward III who took a leading role as his father aged. Regent for Richard II.