Edward III

Edward III
(1312–1377)
   Born to King Edward II and his queen, Isabelle of France, at Windsor Castle on November 13, 1312, Edward III reigned for 50 eventful years. The years were filled with both disasters—most notably the losses that occurred with the Hundred Years’War and the tragedy of the BLACK DEATH—and triumphs— most notably improvements to the monarchy, including constitutional developments such as adding a House of Commons to the Parliament, and the military victories experienced at the Battles of Crécy and Poitiers.
   In 1325 Edward’s mother returned home to France to fulfill diplomatic duties to her brother, the French king Charles IV.While in France she became engaged in an affair with Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, an English baron in exile. The paramours invaded England in September of 1326 and captured Edward II in 1327 (they eventually had the king murdered). In January of 1327 Edward II formally relinquished his reign to his son, Edward III, who was 14 at the time. During the first several years of Edward’s reign, he was known as king, but his mother and her lover were de facto rulers of England. Their administration was poorly governed and hardly better than that of Edward II. By the end of 1330, however, Edward III had Mortimer arrested, tried, convicted, and executed—all within the span of six weeks; he had his mother confined to her home, but treated to all of the luxuries she had been accustomed to, until her death. Finally Edward could personally rule his kingdom. Just one year after becoming king, Edward (fulfilling his mother’s wishes) married Philippa of Hainault in gratitude for the count of Hainault’s assistance to his mother. She was a popular and devoted queen, and together they had many children, including JOHN OF GAUNT and Edward the Black Prince. Philippa died in 1369, and after her death, Edward withdrew from public life and enjoyed the companionship of his young mistress, the despised Alice Perrers, formerly one of Queen Philippa’s maids.
   When Edward’s uncle, Charles IV, died in 1328, Edward, the only surviving grandson of Charles IV’s father, Philip IV the Fair, contested Philip of Valois’s right to rule France. Edward invaded France and laid claim to the throne, thus beginning what we know as the Hundred Years’War. Under Edward’s reign governmental reforms gave more power to the rising middle class, or Commoners, in Parliament. Parliament formally divided into two houses—the upper house representing the nobility and high clergy and the lower representing the middle class. Edward III established the office of justice of the peace. Chivalric idealism was at its height—as a prince Edward III was educated at his mother’s court (his tutor was the famous bibliophile Richard de BURY), where among other things he learned to be a valorous knight, establishing the Order of the Garter in 1348. The tragedy of the bubonic plague, or the Black Death, struck during Edward’s reign, killing roughly one-third of England’s population during its first occurrence between 1348 and 1350, and striking several more times in the latter half of the century. The plague sparked unpredictable social and economic changes.
   The year after the Black Prince died, Edward, who was still grieving, died of a stroke on June 21, 1377, at the age of 65, and was buried at Westminster Abbey. His grandson, RICHARD II, son of the Black Prince, succeeded him. Edward’s rule may be considered a success not only because of his victories and valor, but because he overcame obstacles from the preceding administration created by his father and mother, and he restored dignity to the English monarchy.
   Under Edward’s reign, the English language flourished. For the first time, in 1362, English (rather than French) was formally used in Parliament. Two of the greatest MIDDLE ENGLISH literary works,William LANGLAND’s PIERS PLOWMAN and at least two of Geoffrey CHAUCER’s CANTERBURY TALES (The SECOND NUN’S TALE and The MONK’S TALE) appeared during this period. Some of this literary flourishing was the direct result of Edward’s patronage: Chaucer received a royal annuity in 1367 and another (in the form of a daily gallon of wine) in 1374. In June of 1374, Edward appointed Chaucer controller of customs, a job he held for 12 years. Chaucer also served in the war in France under the leadership of King Edward (and after his capture was ransomed with the king’s contribution), worked as an esquire in Edward III’s household, and made several diplomatic trips to the continent during Edward’s reign.
   Bibliography
   ■ Ormrod,W.M. The Reign of Edward III: Crown and Political Society in England 13271377. New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, 1990.
   ■ Waugh, Scott. England in the Reign of Edward III. Cambridge Medieval Textbooks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
   Leslie Johnston

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

См. также в других словарях:

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