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Edward III

Edward III

W. Mark Ormrod
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 720
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  • Book Info
    Edward III
    Book Description:

    Edward III (1312-1377) was the most successful European ruler of his age. Reigning for over fifty years, he achieved spectacular military triumphs and overcame grave threats to his authority, from parliamentary revolt to the Black Death. Revered by his subjects as a chivalric dynamo, he initiated the Hundred Years' War and gloriously led his men into battle against the Scots and the French.

    In this illuminating biography, W. Mark Ormrod takes a deeper look at Edward to reveal the man beneath the military muscle. What emerges is Edward's clear sense of his duty to rebuild the prestige of the Crown, and through military gains and shifting diplomacy, to secure a legacy for posterity. New details of the splendor of Edward's court, lavish national celebrations, and innovative use of imagery establish the king's instinctive understanding of the bond between ruler and people. With fresh emphasis on how Edward's rule was affected by his family relationships-including his roles as traumatized son, loving husband, and dutiful father-Ormrod gives a valuable new dimension to our understanding of this remarkable warrior king.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17815-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Plates
    (pp. None)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    W. Mark Ormrod
    (pp. xv-xix)
    (pp. xx-xx)
  8. [Map]
    (pp. xxi-xxi)
  9. Genealogical Tables
    (pp. xxii-xxvi)
  10. Chapter 1 EDWARD OF WINDSOR, 1312–1322
    (pp. 1-25)

    Edward III was king of England for over fifty years. Among his predecessors, only Henry III reigned longer, and it was only much later that these records of longevity came to be exceeded by George III, Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II.¹ Edward lived out virtually all of his life in the public eye. An adolescent of just fourteen when he was placed prematurely on the throne in 1327, he spent his twenties and thirties in active military leadership. Moving into a more sedentary role in government during his forties and fifties, he then declined into infirmity and died in 1377...

  11. Chapter 2 EXILE AND SUCCESSION, 1322–1327
    (pp. 26-54)

    The events that were to lead to Prince Edward’s first real emergence on to the public stage in 1325 find their context in a tangled history of Anglo-French relations stretching back to the time of the treaty of Paris in 1259. Under the terms of this settlement, Henry III of England had agreed to renounce for ever his dynastic claims to lands already lost to the French crown during the previous half-century in Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Poitou, and to render liege homage to Louis IX for his remaining continental possession, the duchy of Aquitaine. In return, Louis had...

  12. Chapter 3 TUTELAGE, 1327–1330
    (pp. 55-89)

    The coronation of Edward III took place at Westminster Abbey on 1 February 1327.¹ It was unusual to hold such an event quite so quickly after the succession. In this case, however, no funeral and mourning were necessary for the previous monarch. And with an obvious concern to confirm the legitimacy of the regime, it made every sense to rush the ceremonies through. With most of the political elite already in the capital, it was also comparatively easy to ensure that all the key players were present. The prelates attended in force, as did the king’s uncles of Norfolk and...

  13. Chapter 4 ENGLAND’S LITTLE LION, 1330–1337
    (pp. 90-119)

    In October 1330 Queen Isabella and the earl of March moved to Nottingham to hold a council on the state of affairs in Gascony. Arriving in advance of the king, they installed themselves in the castle, Isabella taking personal possession of the keys to the fortress.¹ The tensions within the royal family had now reached such a level that Mortimer apparently feared for his personal safety when in the presence of Edward III. Accordingly, when the king arrived on the outskirts of the town he was informed that he would not be allowed into the castle with his entourage, but...

  14. Chapter 5 FAMILY AND FRIENDS, 1330–1344
    (pp. 120-146)

    If medieval monarchy was a bureaucratic and political institution, it was also very obviously a social performance. Not least of the consequences of the collapse of the minority regime in 1330 was the opportunity thus provided for the young king to exercise much more actively his personal choice over the membership of the royal household, court and council. The Nottingham coup allowed those who had been conspicuous in the young king’s service to reap the material rewards of personal loyalty. It also required a rather larger group of ministers, magnates and ecclesiastics to renegotiate their relationship with the crown and...

  15. Chapter 6 SCOURGE OF THE SCOTS, 1330–1338
    (pp. 147-178)

    Of all the troubled legacies of Isabella and Mortimer’s regime, the one that was probably felt most personally and bitterly by Edward III was the treaty of Northampton of 1328. Contemporary and later English chroniclers were at one in seeing this ruinous settlement as having been made against the will and judgement of the young king.¹ It therefore comes as something of a surprise that Edward never formally repudiated the treaty. An argument was made by his representatives in parliament in 1332 that he had been underage at the time and had been counselled (badly) by others. And in 1333...

  16. Chapter 7 THE LEOPARD AND THE LILY, 1331–1339
    (pp. 179-211)

    When Edward III emerged triumphantly from the controlling power of Roger Mortimer in 1330, the most pressing issue in relation to France remained that of the English monarch’s responsibilities and liabilities as feudal vassal of the king of France. The compromise that had been struck when Edward performed simple homage to Philip VI at Amiens in 1329 had not really suited either side. But it was Philip who had set the pace over the following eighteen months, insisting that the status of the Agenais and the other provinces confiscated under the terms of the 1327 treaty from English control could...

  17. Chapter 8 THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS, 1339–1341
    (pp. 212-246)

    On 26 January 1340, in the marketplace of the city of Ghent, Edward III was formally proclaimed king of France. For the next twenty years all his formal communications with rulers on the continent would refer to him by the double style ‘king of France and England’. The new seals and heraldry adopted at this moment provided a stark comment on Edward’s scale of priorities. The lilies of France were now quartered with the leopards of England in such a way as to give France perpetual precedence.¹ The chronicler Geoffrey le Baker recalled that Philip VI had earlier upbraided Edward...

  18. Chapter 9 BRITTANY AND BACK, 1341–1346
    (pp. 247-270)

    A king less proud and determined than Edward III might well have felt in 1341 that the only way forward in relation to France was a negotiated settlement. Surely there was business enough within the British Isles to occupy even such a mighty prince as he? There are certain signs, indeed, that Edward took seriously the need to prioritize his existing territories and commitments over and above the distraction of the crown of France. In March 1341 he was busy extending to Wales and, more emphatically, to Ireland the extraordinary measures he had previously attempted to impose in England: the...

  19. Chapter 10 THE WAY OF VICTORY, 1346–1347
    (pp. 271-298)

    Edward III landed at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue on the north-eastern coast of the Cotentin on 12 July 1346. One of the king’s first actions on disembarking was to knight his eldest son, along with the new earl of Salisbury and the young Roger Mortimer. In Edward’s party were the earls of Arundel, Huntingdon, Northampton (recently recalled from Brittany), Oxford, Suffolk and Warwick and the vigorous former royal clerk Thomas Hatfield, who had recently been elevated to the bishopric of Durham. Over the next few days they worked to devise a definitive strategy. The army would split into three divisions, with the king...

  20. Chapter 11 FOR ARTHUR AND ST GEORGE, 1344–1355
    (pp. 299-321)

    Edward III returned in triumph from Calais on 12 October 1347.¹ A serious storm had blown up in the Channel during the king’s crossing, and Edward made his habitual appeal to the Virgin Mary for deliverance from peril.² The royal party landed at Sandwich on 12 October and proceeded straight to a thanksgiving service at Canterbury. From there they moved on to the capital and the great pile of accumulated business that awaited the king’s attention. In due course plans were made for not one but two successive parliaments, called for January and March 1348, to give the seal of...

  21. Chapter 12 THE ROAD TO POITIERS, 1347–1356
    (pp. 322-355)

    When he returned to England after the triumphant conclusion to the siege of Calais in the autumn of 1347, Edward III found himself gaoler to an altogether exceptional group of prisoners of war: David Bruce, Charles of Blois, the counts of Eu and Tancarville and a host of other Scottish and French nobles and knights. For the following decade, Plantagenet strategy aimed to deploy these high-status captives as bargaining counters for territorial settlements in Scotland and France and as hostages for final peace. At times, it seemed that the only gains to be made were financial ones: in difficult circumstances,...

  22. Chapter 13 PESTILENCE AND POLITICS, 1348–1358
    (pp. 356-384)

    In the decade between the victories of Crécy and Poitiers Edward III emerged as a statesman of true stature. The impressive achievements of the king and the prince of Wales dispelled many of the public anxieties over domestic policy that had been so keenly expressed in the early years of the French wars, and helped to convince the polity that the continuing military effort genuinely served the common interests of king and kingdom. But the recovery of royal authority was very far from reliant on military success alone. The public confidence that had been slowly re-established since the debacle of...

  23. Chapter 14 THE RANSOMING OF RULERS, 1356–1360
    (pp. 385-413)

    If any confirmation was needed of the invincibility of English arms after the time of Crécy and Neville’s Cross, then the battle of Poitiers provided it in truly miraculous form. Edward III and the Black Prince had never stood higher in the estimation of their subjects at home or their allies and enemies abroad. Edward’s possession of both his principal enemies, David of Scotland and John of France, seemed set to transform the crown of England into the most powerful political force in western Europe. Speculation was rife as to the likely reach of the settlement that might follow. In...

  24. Chapter 15 INTIMATIONS OF EMPIRE, 1360–1368
    (pp. 414-445)

    Between the treaties of Berwick and Calais of 1357 and 1360 and the reopening of the French war in 1369, Edward III devoted enormous personal energy to the disposition of his titles in the British Isles and France and to new opportunities for diplomatic and military intervention in other parts of continental Europe. Much of this enterprise was driven by a dynastic imperative. Edward wanted to establish his sons and sons-in-law in semi-autonomous lordships in the outposts of his dominions and other satellite states, and thus perpetuate a Plantagenet confederation of western European powers bound together by dynastic and feudal...

  25. Chapter 16 THE HOUSE OF MAGNIFICENCE, 1358–1369
    (pp. 446-471)

    In spite of the serious diplomatic problems that Edward III encountered during the 1360s, his international reputation as warrior and statesman stood never so high as in the era of Poitiers and Nájera. In 1360, the great Italian poet Francesco Petrarch commented that a generation earlier the English had been the ‘meekest of the barbarians’, humbled even by the ‘wretched Scots’. Yet now, ‘they are a fiercely bellicose nation. They have overturned the ancient military glory of the French by victories so numerous that they have reduced the entire kingdom of France by fire and the sword.’¹ Eight years later,...

  26. Chapter 17 THE THRONE OF PEACE, 1360–1369
    (pp. 472-497)

    For a quarter of a century before the treaties of Berwick and Calais, England had been in a more or less permanent state of war. If the polity was concerned from the start about the precise terms of the settlements of 1358–60, it must also have hailed the prospective dividends of peace: a significant reduction in levels of taxation and other burdens of war, and an opportunity once more to address perennial domestic issues such as the state of the economy and the preservation of public order. In keeping his focus of attention very firmly on the international stage,...

  27. Chapter 18 RETREAT AND DEFEAT, 1368–1375
    (pp. 498-523)

    Ever since the label of the ‘Hundred Years War’ was first used in the nineteenth century, there has been debate as to whether it is really valid to represent the sequence of Anglo-French hostilities between 1337 and 1453 as a single, coherent dispute. Edward III and his advisers considered the reopening of the French war in 1369 as a new phase in Anglo-French relations, one whose agenda was fixed not by the treaty of Paris of 1259 but by the imperative of defending the terms of the 1360 treaty of Calais. Nonetheless, it has to be said that few of...

  28. Chapter 19 A FRAGILE TENURE, 1369–1376
    (pp. 524-549)

    The crisis of leadership that gradually emerged between the opening of the second war and the truce of Bruges was manifest in the domestic politics of England as well as in the campaigns sent over to France. As Edward III’s subjects sought explanations for the reversal of English fortunes abroad, it was almost inevitable that they should diagnose the problem as a loss of unity and will within the royal family, the court and the government. In particular, it was a matter of public scandal that royal policy was being manipulated by a group of royal favourites led by William...

  29. Chapter 20 THE YEAR OF SORROWS, 1376–1377
    (pp. 550-576)

    The last fourteen months of Edward III’s life were the bleakest phase in his long and tumultuous reign. The death of the Black Prince and the king’s slow decline into his final infirmity forced their subjects to acknowledge the unthinkable: that the great heroes of Crécy, Calais and Poitiers were mere mortals, and that the very longevity of the Edwardian regime had become its own biggest liability. The great outpouring of frustration by the political community in the parliament of April–July 1376 and the equally dramatic reassertion of royal authority in the assembly of January–March 1377 were both...

  30. Chapter 21 EDWARD THE GREAT
    (pp. 577-603)

    Edward III died at his manor of Sheen alongside the Thames in Richmond on the evening of 21 June 1377. Quite who was in attendance at this terrible moment remains unclear. Thomas Walsingham, writing in the 1380s, imagined Edward as bereft and betrayed. In this colourful rendering of the episode, even the parasitical Alice Perrers chose to strip the rings from Edward’s fingers before fleeing, and only a single unnamed priest remained to seek out the signs of contrition appropriate to the making of a good death. In Jean Froissart’s depiction of the scene, by contrast, the administration of the...

    (pp. 604-608)
    (pp. 609-631)
    (pp. 632-671)
  34. INDEX
    (pp. 672-722)