King Edward III: The Legendary Ruler

Edward III, born on 13 November 1312, is remembered as one of the most successful kings of England, reigning from January 1327 until his death in 1377. Before his accession, he was known as Edward of Windsor, transforming England into one of Europe’s most formidable military powers under his rule.

His reign, which lasted five decades, is among the longest in English history, punctuated by notable developments in legislation, government, and the evolution of the English Parliament. His rule also witnessed the destructive effects of the Black Death.

Edward III outlived his eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, with his grandson, Richard II, ultimately inheriting the throne. Edward III’s rule was characterized by military victories, international failures, and domestic strife, predominantly due to his later years’ inactivity and deteriorating health. Nevertheless, despite varied assessments of his reign, modern historians recognize his significant achievements.

Early Life (1312–1327) and Ascendancy

Edward was born at Windsor Castle amidst a turbulent period in English history under the reign of his father, Edward II. The young prince was swiftly bestowed titles and provided with a household, indicating his destined future role. Bishop Richard de Bury, a prominent bibliophile of the century, served as an early influence, mentoring the young King, teaching him to write, and introducing him to significant contemporary works.

Edward’s ascent to the throne came in the wake of his father’s deposition by his mother, Isabella of France, and her lover Roger Mortimer. Aged 14 at his coronation, he would soon mount a successful coup against Mortimer, thus beginning his personal reign.

Early Reign and Military Success (1327–1337)

Edward III’s early reign was marked by his successful campaigns in Scotland, leading him to declare himself the rightful heir to the French throne in 1337. This announcement ignited the long-lasting conflict known as the Hundred Years’ War. Initial setbacks were followed by victories, leading to the favourable Treaty of Brétigny where Edward made territorial gains and renounced his claim to the French throne.

His personal rule truly began with the execution of Roger Mortimer, with his trusted companion William Montagu assisting in the coup. From then on, Edward III learned the art of kingship through practical experience rather than theory.

War in Scotland and Relations with France

The rekindling of conflict with Scotland had its roots in private interest rather than royal initiative. Edward III sought to maintain control over southern Scotland, eventually agreeing to a truce in 1338. This was partly due to the growing tension between England and France, with fears of a two-front war becoming increasingly likely.

Succession and Legacy

King Edward III: The Legendary Ruler
Image: William Bruges (1375–1450), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Edward III’s legacy is marked by his substantial family and his claim to the French throne. Edward’s own children would go on to establish their own dynasties within the royal family and the aristocracy. However, Edward III’s claim to the French throne led to the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century.

Personal Traits

Edward was known to be impulsive and temperamental, as evidenced by his various escapades. However, he was renowned for his clemency, with Mortimer’s grandson not only absolved but also playing a significant role in the French wars. Edward’s favourite pursuit was warfare, and he was deemed the greatest general in English history by some.

Edward III, an admired and powerful king, left an enduring legacy. His progeny would go on to shape the future of England and his claim to the French throne, though ultimately a source of conflict, would define the trajectory of English to make the conversation easier to read.

*Feature Image: William Bruges (1375–1450), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons