Edward III: Better Than Most

Born in 1312, crowned 1327, and dying in 1377, Edward III was king of England for fifty years. He was highly regarded by the people of his times and for centuries after.

Even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert used to dress up like Queen Philippa and King Edward in fancy-dress balls. Edward established the Noble Order of the Garter in 1348.



Here’s the table by Dan Jones, The Plantagenets:

The above table gives a good overview of the entire Plantagenet family.

Two more by Jones:


Valois Kings from the Encyclopedia of Medieval France:



He was born at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, 13 Nov 1312. He was proclaimed King Edward III on 25 Jan 1326/27. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey 29 Jan 1326/27. He married at York on 24 Jan 1327/28 Philippa of Hainault (Hainaut). They had to get a papal dispensation dated 30 Aug 1327, because they were related in the 3rd degree. On 7 July 1377 the king suffered a stroke, which paralyzed him and made him speechless. He died in the early hours. He was buried 21 July 1377 at Westminster Abbey.

Philippa: She was the daughter of William the Good, count of Hainault, Holland. They had eleven children. Her (future) mother-in-law Queen Isabella arranged the marriage. Philippa died at Windsor Castle 15 Aug 1369. Edward died at Sheen Palace (now Richmond), Surry, 21 June 1377. He and his wife were buried at Westminster Abbey. He left a will dated 8 Oct 1376.

Their children:

1.. Edward of Woodstock: He was nicknamed the Black Prince because of his black armor. He was born at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, 15 June 1330. He married Joan of Kent, in a secret ceremony in spring 1361 and publically 6 Oct 1361. She was born 29 Sept 1328. He died at Westminster 8 June 1376 and was buried at Canterbury Cathedral. She died 7 Aug 1385 and was buried at Grey Friars, Stamford, Lincolnshire. They had two sons: Edward and Richard (future Richard II). He also had Roger Clarendon, by his mistress Edith de Willesford.

2.. Isabel of Woodstock: She was born at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, on 16 June 1332. On or before 1 May 1351 she was contracted to marry Bernard d’Albret. At the last minute she changed her mind, and the wedding never took place. She married at Windsro castle, Berkshire, on 27 July 1365 Enguerrand (Engerand Ingram) de Coucy. They had two daughters Marie and Philippa. She died 5 Oct 1382 and was buried in the choir of the church of Grey Friars (now Christ’s hospital), London. He died during the plague at Bursa, Anatolia on 18 Feb 1396/97.

3.. Joan of the Tower: She was born in the Tower of London about Feb 1335. She was contracted to marry about 17 Mar 1346 Pedro I of Castile-Leon. The marriage was never consummated. She died of the plague at Lormont, outside Bordeaux, France, on 2 Sep 1348 and was buried at Bayonne Cathedral.

4.. William of Hatfield: He was born before 16 Feb 1337 at Hatfield, near Doncaster, Yorkshire. He died before 8 July 1337 and was buried at York Minster.

5.. Lionel of Antwerp: He was born at Antwerp in Brabant 29 Nov 1338. He married (1) Elizabeth de Burgh. They had one daughter Philippa. Elizabeth died died at Dublin, Ireland on 10 Dec 1363 and was buried at the convent of the Austin Friars at Clare, Suffolk. He married (2) Violante Viconti. They had no issue. He died at Alba (Longuevil) in Piedmont in Italy 17 Oct 1368. He was buried first at Pavia, but his body was removed to England and buried at the convent of the Austin Friars at Clare, Suffolk beside his first wife. She remarried. She died at Pavia in Nov 1386.

6.. John of Gaunt: He was born at St. Bavon’s Abbey, Ghent, Flanders in Mar 1340. He married (1) Blanche of Lancaster at reading, Berkshire, 13 May 1359. She was born about 1340-43. They had four sons: John, Edward, John, and Henry (later IV). She died on 12 Sep 1368 at Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. He married (2) Constance (Constanza) of Castile-Leon at Roquefort, near Bordeaux, before 29 Sep 1371. She was born at Castrojeriz in 1354. They had one daughter, Katherine (Catalina). She died at Leicester 24 Mar 1394 and was buried in the Newark there. He had been having an affair with Katherine de Roet (Ruet) and had four children out of wedlock: John, Henry, Thomas, and Joan. Gaunt and Katherine married on 13 Jan 1395/96 at Lincoln Cathedral, Lincolnshire. Their four children were legitimized by assent of Parliament 9 Feb 1396/97. He died at Leicester Castle 3 Feb 1398/99 and was buried 16 Mar 1398/99 in St. Paul’s cathedral with his first wife Blanche. His widow Katherine died at Lincoln 10 May 1403 and was buried in the angle choir in Lincoln Cathedral.

7.. Edmund of Langley: He was born at King’s Langley, Hertfordshire, 5 June 1341. He married (1) Isabel of Castile-Leon in Sep 1371 and a second time at Hertford Castle about 1 Mar 1372. They had two sons: Edward and Richard. Isabel died died 23 Dec 1392 and was buried in the church of the Friars Preachers at King’s Langley, Hertfordshire 14 Jan 1392/93. He married (2) Joan of Holand before 4 Nov 1393. She was born about 1380-84. They had no issue. Edmund died at King’s Langley, Hertfordshire 1 Aug 1402 and was buried there in the church of the Friars Preachers. She remarried.

8.. Blanche of the Tower: She was born and died in the Tower of London Mar 1342.

9.. Mary of Waltham: She was born at Bishops Waltham (near Winchester) Hampshire, 10 Oct 1344. She married Jean (john) de Montfort about 3 July 1361 at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. He was born between 30 Sep and 8 Dec 1340. They had no issue. She died shortly before 13 Sep 1361 and was buried at Abingdon Abbey, Oxfordshire. He remarried.He died at Nantes, France, 1 Nov 1399 and was buried in Sait-Pierre Cathedral in Nantes.

10.. Margaret of Windsor: She was born at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, 20 July 1346. She married John of Hastings at Reading, Berkshire, on 19 May 1359. He was born at Sutton Valence, Kent, on 29 Aug 1347 and baptized there the same day. They had no issue. Margaret died soon after 1 Oct 1361 and was buried at Abingdon Abbey, Berkshire. He remarried. He died 16 Apr 1375 and was buried in the choir of the church of the Friars Preachers at Hereford.William of Windsor: He was born at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, shortly before 24 June 1348 and was buried at Westminster Abbey about 5 Sep 1348.

11.. Thomas of Woodstock: He was born at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, 7 Jan 1354/55. He married before 24 Aug 1376 Eleanor de Bohun. They had one son, Humphrey de Bohun and Anne, Joan, and Isabel. He was murdered by suffocation by orders of the king at Calais 8 (or 9) Sep 1397, for treason. Eleanor died testate at Minoress Convent in Aldgate 3 Oct 1399. Both were buried at first in the Chapel of St. Edmund and St. Thomas the martyr in Westminster Abbey. His remains were removed in the reign of Henry IV to the Confessor’s Chapel.

12.. John of Surry (or Southerey): He was the son of Edward III and Alice Perrer, his mistress.

13.. John de Surry (or Southerey): She was the daughter of Edward III and his mistress Alice Perrers. She married before 14 May 1406, a man unknown.

Alice Perrers died at Upminster, Essex, shortly before 25 Nov 1400. She left a will dated 20 Aug 1400, requesting burial in the church of Upminster, Essex.


Unlike his unstable father Edward II, King Edward III was comfortable in his own skin and had the common touch. He also cut a fine figure.

Edward’s chief asset was his personality. He was uncomplicated and likeable. He was flamboyant, extrovert, and generous. His household and his war retinue became centres of chivalry. He presided at splendid entertainments at court. He was addicted to practical jokes and fancy-dress parties. He fought in the lists himself, with the same reckless courage that he would later show in battle. For his humbler subjects, it was enough that he behaved as a king was expected to behave and favoured the sort of people whom a king was expected to favour. It is clear that even in their eyes he was more than a graven image of royalty. On campaign, he was capable of showing a common touch: pulling a bow at the butts with humble archers and playing the fool with the minstrels’ kettledrums. His household accounts have plenty of references to tips paid to ordinary people in whose houses he had rested on his travels. (Sumption 52-53).

The rest of the points are numbered for clarity and conciseness.

  1. England and France were the two main developing nation-states in Europe; however, England had 5 to 6 million people, while France had 15 to 18 million. London was at 50,000, while Paris had 200,000, the largest in Europe.
  2. Yet England was governed more smoothly with a strong and centralized bureaucracy because ever since William the Conqueror subdued the land in 1066, the counties and earldoms were united. The opposite in France: It was still divided up into various counties and duchies. Even England lay claim to some territories, like Gascony
  3. England was ruled by about 60 baronial families, who were happy if the king did not encroach on their lands and rights. In return, the barons would not encroach on royal power. He had to seek taxes only with their permission. “They resented exclusion more than they loved power” (Sumption 6).
  4. Two big issues the future King Edward III would face: Relations with the island neighbors, chiefly Wales and more importantly Scotland. The second: relations with their European neighbors, mainly France.
  5. Edward was born at Windsor Castle on 13 Nov 1312. His main nursemaid was Margaret Daventry, a woman of modest birth. His parents were absentees. His education was standard, French, Latin and music, though so little is known about his childhood Medievalists don’t know whether he excelled at them. His training was also standard: riding, jousting, and hunting.
  6. He was involved in international diplomacy and intrigue. His mother Queen Isabelle left for France to her brother King Charles She was to smooth over rough relations with the king and Edward II, who refused to cross the Channel to pay homage for the duchy of Gascony. Too humiliating.
  7. One solution was to send young Prince Edward, who was about thirteen at the time. He was sent over to France. Big mistake. His mother refused to return to England. She took Roger Mortimer as her lover, who had escaped from the Tower of London. Scandal. Worst of all she used Prince Edward as her ticket for a successful invasion.
  8. Charles IV was straight-laced and refused to sponsor an invasion from his realm, so Isabelle went to Holland and arranged a match with Philippa, daughter of count William of Hainault. Prince Edward was now nearly fourteen.
  9. A small force of 700 Dutchmen and the retinue of the disaffected English noblemen invaded England on 24 Sep 1326. Any resistance on the king’s side soon collapsed, which shows how that the king was disliked.
  10. He was captured and kept in prison, but rumors of people intent on helping him escape provoked Roger Mortimer to have him assassinated, on 21 Sep 1326.
  11. On 1 Feb 1327 Edward III was crowned in Westminster Abbey. He was just fourteen.
  12. Real power remained in Mortimer and Isabelle’s hands. As the new king came of age, he resented their control. He could not travel without their permission. They controlled the purse. They sent spies into his household.
  13. In Feb 1328 Charles IV of France died, leaving no male heir. Two candidates to replace him: Edward III of England, whose mother was the last surviving daughter of Philip IV. The second was Philip of Valois, who was descended in an unbroken male line from King Philip III. The French nobility did not even consider Edward. He was a foreigner who spelled trouble for France. Shortly after, Isabelle and Mortimer made peace with the fact that her son would not be king of France. Philip of Valois became king, as Philip VI.
  14. In 1329, Edward was of age, a married man, and expecting the birth of their first child. He resented being a king in name only. Rumors spread that Isabella was pregnant with Mortimer’s child, and they were intent on usurping the throne.
  15. Edward had to act. On 19 Oct 1130, Edward, a nobleman named Montagu and others “home-invaded” Isabella’s private apartment, where she was preparing for bed. She was alleged to have cried, “Fair son, have pity on noble Mortimer” (qtd. in Sumption 22). A few deaths of household servant s ensued in the fighting.
  16. Mortimer and the queen were arrested. He was soon executed at Tyburn, the first person ever to be so. She was banished to live on her dower lands and was rarely heard of again.
  17. From 1330 to 1337, it was time to handle the Scottish question. England was improving its military tactics, particularly the longbow that was rapid fire, relative to the crossbow. Then they adopted the phalanx or close formation to repel cavalry charges.
  18. France got involved in the Anglo-Scottish conflicts, sending expeditionary forces, but the logistics was too complex to disembark. The Anglo-Scottish conflicts with France in the mix resulted in … not much.
  19. In the same timeframe of 1330 to 1337, the conflicts shifted to France. The French wanted to take Aquitaine, but inferior generalship resulted in ….nothing. Edward had his eye on northern France.
  20. In 1337 the Hundred Years War erupted.
  21. From 1337 to 1347 the English king and his military won great victories. In 1337 he proclaimed himself the King of France. Some Flemings accepted it because the French encroached on their border lands. Some disaffected French noblemen also accepted the claim. Germany was a loose confederation of principalities and on its western borderlands the French also encroached. Edward also bribed its officials, and even Louis of Bavaria, “King of the Romans,” accepted money. Edward’s ambassadors promised a total of £120,000 in annuities, an exorbitant sum.
  22. Edward and Louis met on the Rhine amidst a splendid ceremony, in Sep 1338. Louis made Edward the Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire.
  23. Edward did not have a good head for budgets and finance, and wars were expensive. When funds ran out, he blamed corrupt officials. However, it was not their fault. Corruption surely existed on some level, but not enough to bankrupt the country. That was the king’s fault.
  24. One military strategy was the chevauchée, a long-distance mounted raid with the destruction of the country. The goal was to draw the French out to a pitched battle, but Philip VI knew the English had money troubles, so he waited without battle, and sure enough it was often that Edward had to withdraw.
  25. During the beginning stages of the conflict, from 1338 to spring 1339, the French navy harassed the English coast and sacked Southampton.
  26. On 23 Oct 1339, outside the village of la Chapelle, east of Cambrai, the two sides waited in their trenches and fieldworks, but did not attack. The French withdrew. The English taunted them for cowardice, but the French did not care. The withdrawal spelled the end of Edward’s campaign.
  27. On 24 June 1340 the English fleet entered the enclosed bay of Sluys. After four hours of fighting, men boarding ships and swinging swords and weapons and ships ramming other ships, the English destroyed all but 23 of the 213 French ships. Between 16,000 and 18,000 French seamen and soldiers were dead. Edward was in the thick of fighting and took an arrow in the thigh.
  28. Throughout this time, Edward brought in and listened to the nobility (unlike his father Edward II). They became his friends and partners. This friendly posture and relations may have been Edward’s most significant achievement.
  29. At the Battle of Crécy, France, on 26 Aug 1346, the French army had between 20,000 and 25,000. Charges and arrows from the longbow … the Black Prince, Edward’s son, was in the thick of battle (he was called the Black Prince because of the color of his armor). King Edward directed the battle from a windmill at the crest of the hill. The English won.
  30. Now comes the English siege of Calais. The French depended on incursions into northern England from Scotland, to distract England away from France. It was a good plan.
  31. However, something unexpected happened. On 17 Oct 1346, after passing Durham, the Scots ran into a large, local army and lost at Neville’s Cross. The Scottish king, David II, was captured and paraded through London and imprisoned in the Tower.
  32. Calais surrendered on 3 Aug 1346, after being starved out, blockaded by the English navy by sea and army by land. The French land force had arrived a few days earlier, but too late.
  33. The king showed mercy at the last moment to the six burghers of Calais, thanks to the importunity of his wife Philippa.
  34. The surrender of Calais was depicted in scenes that were the most famous in the Middle Ages. England held this foothold for two centuries afterwards. A large professional garrison and English citizens occupied it. Edward returned home in triumph, after he agreed to a truce with Philip VI.
  35. In 1348 the Black Plague or Black Death invaded England.
  36. In 1348, the king founded the Royal Order of the Garter in honor of his victory at Crécy. He took St. George, an archetypal militant saint, as the patron saint of England. Honi soit qui mal y pense (“shame be on him who thinks badly / evil of it”) was the motto, and it probably refers to Edward’s claim to the French throne. “Shame on you if you think badly of my claim!” (Others say it refers to his statement to protect the reputation of a lady who lost her garter during a dance. The political reason is more likely.)
  37. In 1350 King Philip VI died, and his son John II succeeded him. He was weak and vacillating, like David, the captured king of the Scots.
  38. Truces broke down quickly at this time. In 1355, the Black Prince, now 24, was making headway in Gascony and southern France with an army. He was not fighting to take over France just yet, but territory that belonged to the English crown. Would John II confront him?
  39. Meanwhile, King Edward invaded Scotland, and Edward Balliol repudiated his claim to the throne, on 20 Jan 1356.
  40. John summoned a bigger army and pursued Prince Edward, the Black Prince. They did meet in battle and Edward won on 19 Sep 1356 at Poitiers, France. He captured King John. Amazing. He was brought to England, while France descended into chaos.
  41. The Estates-General did not think seriously about ransoming John, but focused on domestic chaos.
  42. King Edward capitalized on the chaos by landing at Calais with 10,000 men and stomped around northern France. However, the French adopted a new strategy—retreat into walled and fortified and stocked towns and castles and wait. It was effective. The English had to withdraw, often due to bad weather. This happened outside Reims in Jan 1360. In April 1360 Edward’s army marched back and forth outside Paris and had to withdraw, without fighting.
  43. After these “defeats” or non-victories, captive John was in a slightly improved negotiating position.
  44. They agreed to a treaty on 8 May 1360, called the Treaty of Brétigny. John was to be released on parole, with twenty-five top-level elite hostages and representatives from all the main towns kept as surety / security, including John’s three younger sons. The English were to get the duchy of Aquitaine and the town and district of Calais, and the county of Ponthieu, about one-third of France. Payable over six years, 3 million écus were to be delivered to England in installments, equivalent to several years’ revenue for France. Exorbitant and designed to fail.
  45. However, into the treaty a side letter was inserted: Edward would renounce his claim to the French throne when the ceded territories were delivered to him, while John would retain nominal (in name only) sovereignty over them until Edward abandoned his claim to the throne. The double renunciations were taken out of the treaty and put in a side letter called the clause c’estassavoir (“that is to say”).
  46. Trouble ahead. But for now there was a lull in the Hundred Years War.
  47. For the next seventeen years the treaty crumbled to dust in Edward’ hands. John traveled to London to renegotiate the terms, but died from the plague at the Savoy Palace on 8 Apr 1364. His son Charles V said he was not a party to the treaty, so he renounced it.
  48. Principalities for his sons: Black Prince, duke of Aquitaine, but he was not a shrewd politicians, and he returned home. Lionel: Clarence. He was also married to the daughter of Gian Galazzo Viscounti, despot of Milan and got a generous settlement in northern Italy. John of Gaunt got Lancaster. Edmund Langley was supposed to marry Margaret, daughter of the count of Flanders, the greatest heiress of Europe; he also got Ponthieu and Calais and surrounding territory, but she was married off instead to Charles V’s younger brother Philip, duke of Burgundy. Everywhere these plans fell apart, except Prince Edward’s sack of Limoges on 19 Sep 1370.
  49. By 1370 England was out of money because cattle murrain (disease), the bubonic plague and continental wars, mainly waged by Prince Edward, weakened the economy.
  50. The “Good Parliament” convened on 28 Apr 1376 and when it dissolved on 10 July the members scolded the king’s ministers and did not grant them much.
  51. Alice Perrers, the king’s mistress, had been kept in the shadows when Queen Philippa lived. But when the queen died on 15 Aug 1369, the mistress came out into the open. She was pushy and greedy. People were tired of her. The Good Parliament told her by statute that if she appeared in the confines of the royal court, she would be deprived of her assets.
  52. Worst of all, when the Good Parliament was in session, Prince Edward died on 8 June 1376, at Kensington. He was splendidly interred beside the high altar of Canterbury. John of Gaunt held the reins of power.
  53. On 23 Apr 1377, on the 50th anniversary of the king’s accession, the king himself rowed to Windsor to celebrate the Garter festivities. The king knighted Prince Edward’s son, Richard, heir to the throne.
  54. On 5 July 1377 the king suffered a stroke, which paralyzed him and made him speechless. He died in the early hours.
  55. Summary: Thirty years of conquest was reduced in five years to what he had at the beginning of his reign, for the French and Scots won everything back (or most of everything). His realm was exhausted with intensive taxation and military failure. He simply could not sustain his conquests overseas.
  56. He bequeathed division to his grandson Richard.


Henry II Plantagenet: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Aquitaine: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Henry II)

King Richard I, Lion-Heart: Interesting Facts and Stories

King John: Interesting Facts and Stories

Henry III: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Provence: Interesting Facts and Stories (married Henry III)

Edward I: Interesting Facts and Stories

Eleanor of Castile: Interesting Facts and Stories (married to Edward I)

Edward II: A King of Bad Judgment

Edward III: Better Than Most

Richard II: The Weak King

Henry IV King of England

Henry V King of England

Henry VI King of England

Edward IV King of England

Edward V: Prince in the Tower

Richard III, King of England


Rolf or Rollo the Viking



(They lived before Henry II, above)

Richard I, Norman Marquis and Count

Richard II, Duke of Normandy

Robert I, Duke of Normandy

William the Conqueror: Interesting Facts and Stories

Matilda: Wife and Queen of William the Conqueror

King William II, Rufus: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Henry I: Interesting Facts and Stories

King Stephen: Interesting Facts and Stories

Empress Matilda and Three Henrys


Jim Bradbury, The Capetians: Kings of France (Continuum, 2007).

Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (New York: Metro Books, 2006).

Christopher Given-Wilson, Edward II: the Terrors of Kingship (Allen Lane, Penguin, 2016).

Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (New York: 2014).

Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).

Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).

The Plantagenet Encyclopedia: An Alphabetical Guide to 400 Years of English History, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (Crescent Books, 1996).

Michael Prestwich, Edward I, Yale English Monarchs (Yale UP, 1997, 1998).

Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols. (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).

Desmond Seward, The Demon’s Brood: A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty (Pegasus, 2014).

John Sumption, Edward III: A Heroic Failure (Allen Lane, Penguin, 2016).

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