Accession & Reign
In 1325, young 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. Together with Mortimer, she planned to depose King Edward II and instead crown her son.
In France, Prince Edward was engaged to the twelve-year-old Philippa of Hainault. The association was merely done to build up diplomatic and military support. Following the invasion of England and dethronement of his father, he was crowned as King of England on February 1, 1327
Since Edward III was too young to rule as the King of England, Roger Mortimer served as the de-facto ruler of England. During the latter’s reign, England not just faced a humiliating defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Stanhope Park but had to sign the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton which secured Scotland the status of an independent nation.
Relations between Mortimer and Edward III were not too good. They only worsened with time following Edward III’s marriage to Philippa and the birth of their son. Resenting Mortimer’s political position and interference with the government, Edward III premeditated Mortimer’s execution.
Following Mortimer’s death, Edward III began to rule and reign in real. His foremost aim was to rebuild England into a powerful nation that it had once been under his grandfather Edward I. He repudiated the Treaty of Northampton and with that declared the War with Scotland.
In the early 1330s, England’s relation with France turned hostile, primarily due to the ongoing dispute of the English rule of Gascony. Adding fuel to fire was French king, Philip VI’s support to the Scots, Edward III’s alliance with Flemish and the revival of Edward’s claim to the French crown as the maternal grandson of King Philip IV.
According to the Salic law of succession, King of France, Philip VI received support of the nation, thus rejecting Edward III’s claim to the throne. It was this rejection that laid the foundation for the Hundred Years’ War against France.
Between 1339 and 1340, King Edward III twice attempted to invade France from the north, but failed each time leading to bankruptcy. The only victory of this phase of war was the English naval victory at Sluys, which secured them control of the English Channel.
A new phase of the war began in 1346 when King Edward III landed in Normandy along with his son Prince Edward (popularly called Black Prince). He defeated the King of France, King Philip VI at the Battle of Crecy. The decisive victory at Crecy scattered the French army. At this battle that his son, Black Prince famously won his spurs.
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In 1346, he celebrated victories at Gascony and Brittany. David, King of Scots, was also defeated and taken prisoner at Nevilles Cross, near Durham thus re-emphasizing King Edward III’s powers as a leader and campaigner.
Following his victory at Crecy, he ventured forth and laid siege at the French port of Calais. A year later English army gained control over Calais in August 1347. Edward III colonized the town of Calais with Englishmen, ousting almost all French inhabitants and established it as the English base for future invasions of France.
Monetary constraint was a constant hindrance for King Edward III. It led him to make a new truce in September 1347. Following this, he returned to England wherein he established his scheme for the Order of the Garter. In 1348, he rejected the offer of the imperial throne by the Holy Empire.
In 1348, England was struck by the horrific and dreadful bubonic plague, Black Death. Raging until 1349, the plague killed a vast population but before a full-scale breakdown could occur, the recovery was made.
War resumed in 1355 on a larger scale. The following year, his son, Black Prince made a resounding victory at the Battle of Poitiers, capturing the new French king, John II. Unable to pay the ransom demanded, King John II submitted himself to English custody.
England had an upper hand over France at the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War. Peace was negotiated by the Treaty of Bretigny, according to which, King Edward III renounced his claim to the French crown in exchange for the whole of Aquitaine, Poitiers and Calais to be retained by England.
King Edward III’s later reign following the end of the first phase of war was dominated by a period of political strife and military ineffectiveness. Things at the administrative front also saw upheaval as inexperienced subordinates made majority of the decisions.
In 1369, when French declared war on English, King Edward III showed little vigour, enthusiasm and passion as compared to his earlier military campaign. He took up the title of the King of France but left responsibility of the military actions and administrative policies to his sons, Edward and John of Gaunt.
In 1375, English efforts to restore their possession of France failed miserably. Treaty of Bruges was signed according to which the English possession of France was limited to coastal areas of Calais, Bordeaux and Bayonne.
During the last years of King Edward III’s rule, Black Prince and John of Gaunt became leaders of the divided parties in the court and the king’s council. With the help of the King’s mistress, Alice Perrers, John of Gaunt obtained influence over his father, and controlled the government of the kingdom.
Following the illness of King Edward III and death of Prince Edward, John of Gaunt gained full control of the government.
Personal Life & Legacy
Prince Edward was engaged to the twelve-year-old Philippa of Hainault. Their marriage took place on January 24, 1348. They had twelve children, seven sons and five daughters.
Following the death of Queen Philippa in 1369, King Edward III came under the influence of his mistress Alice Perrers, a corrupt and immoral woman.
In June 1376, his son Edward was stricken with illness that cost him his life. Later the same year, King Edward III suffered from an abscess. He never fully recovered from the condition. A stroke on June 21, 1377 led to his death.
He was buried at Westminster Abbey. He was succeeded by his ten year old grandson of Edward, Richard II.