Edward III of England Worksheets
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- Background and early years
- Succession and early reign
- Mid-reign and the Hundred Years’ War
- Later years
Key Facts And Information
Let’s find out more about Edward III of England!
At the age of fourteen, Edward III ascended to the English throne in 1327, after his mother, Isabella of France, orchestrated the deposition of his father, Edward II. His personal rule generally began in 1330. He is noted for his military victories in the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War leading to the highly favourable Treaty of Brétigny, in which England made territorial gains in France. In contrast to his early successes, his later reign was marked by domestic conflict and international failure, as a consequence of his inactivity and poor health.
Background and early years
- Born at Windsor Castle on 13 November 1312, Edward was the eldest son of Edward II and Isabella of France. His father’s reign was problematic owing to the king’s limited capability and hopeless campaign to control the powerful barons. The birth of Edward in 1312 temporarily improved the king’s position.
- Immediately following Edward’s birth, he was created Earl of Chichester but never received the title of Prince of Wales.
- Edward was brought up in a period of struggles between his father and several barons who were attempting to curb the king’s power in order to gain more authority in the governance of England.
- Meanwhile, his mother, Isabella, disagreed with Edward II’s treatment of the nobles and was angered by the confiscation of her English estates by the king’s supporters.
- In 1325, Isabella travelled to France with the intention to intervene in the dispute between her brother, Charles IV of France, and her husband over the latter’s French possessions such as Guyenne, Gascony and Ponthieu.
- Her mediation turned out to be successful in securing the Duchy of Aquitaine for England on the condition that Edward II pay homage to the French king.
- The English king was reluctant to leave the country because, at the time, discontent was brewing in England, which required his attention.
- Consequently, Edward, accompanied by his mother, was sent to France in the king’s place to perform the homage.
- He was created Duke of Aquitaine whilst Isabella was meant to negotiate a peace treaty with the French.
- Isabella began an affair with the exiled opponent of her husband, Roger Mortimer, and conspired with him to have Edward II deposed.
- However, Charles IV refused to support his sister’s scheme and subsequently ordered her away.
- Failing to secure French support, Isabella and Mortimer left Paris, took Edward with them and negotiated with William I, Count of Hainaut and Holland.
- Isabella betrothed Edward to the twelve-year-old daughter of the count, Philippa of Hainault, in return for a substantial dowry.
- This money was used to raise a mercenary army for Isabella’s campaign against Edward II.
- During the invasion of England in 1326, Edward II’s forces deserted him completely. Parliament was then summoned by Isabella and Mortimer, charging the king with incompetence and forcing him to abdicate the throne in favour of Edward. Edward II was imprisoned and died in Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire in September 1327, perhaps having been killed on the orders of the new regime.
Succession and early reign
- Edward, aged fourteen, was proclaimed king in London on 25 January 1327. A few days later, he was crowned Edward III at Westminster Abbey. During the first four years of his reign, Isabella and Mortimer governed in the young king’s name.
- Mortimer, now the de facto ruler of England, was able to acquire noble estates and titles.
- In the summer of 1327, Edward III took part in the Weardale campaign against the Scots.
- The humiliating defeat of the English in this venture earned Mortimer much unpopularity.
- Edward III was deeply troubled with the resulting Treaty of Northampton in 1328, which recognised Scottish sovereignty.
- In January 1328, he married Philippa at York minster. The couple had a son, Edward of Woodstock, later known as the Black Prince, on 15 June 1330.
- During this period, tension between the king and Mortimer began to grow and in November 1330, Edward III made a successful effort to remove Mortimer from power and assert his independence from his mother.
- He had Mortimer captured and executed. He treated his mother with more leniency, but Isabella’s political influence was certainly at an end.
- Edward III succeeded in claiming his authority over the kingdom. With this, he aimed to restore England to what it had been under Edward I.
- Still frustrated with the settlement made with Scotland earlier, the king acted on re-establishing English control over Scotland. He aided the exiled Scottish barons in their campaign to place their leader, Edward Balliol, on the Scottish throne in 1332. Balliol became king of Scotland but was despised as a puppet of Edward III. The deposed young king, David II of Scotland, fled to France.
Mid-reign and the Hundred Years’ War
- Edward III’s mid-reign was marked by England gradually drifting into a state of hostility with France. This was instigated by the French support to the Scots and the renewal of Edward III’s claim to the French crown. The first phase of the Hundred Years’ War, also referred to as the Edwardian War, broke out in 1337.
- The successor of Charles IV, Philip VI of France, now allied with David II of Scotland, confiscated the English king’s Duchy of Aquitaine and the county of Ponthieu. Instead of seeking a peaceful resolution, Edward III responded by laying claim to the French throne as the grandson of Philip IV.
- The English king’s claim was rejected by the French, based on the precedents for agnatic succession in France set in 1316 and 1322. The French upheld the right of Philip VI. This set the stage for the war.
- In the early stages of the conflict, Edward III sought alliances with other Continental rulers. In fact, he successfully secured the backing of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV in 1338. The king’s alliances failed to measure up to France’s. The only major English triumph during this period was a naval victory at Sluys in June 1340, which secured English control of the Channel. Furthermore, the costly alliances resulted in increasing debt and discontent at home, driving Edward III to return to England in November 1340.
- With the intention to bring domestic instability under control, Edward III purged the royal administration of a great number of ministers and judges. This measure then created tension between the king and John de Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury. Edward III was accused of violating the laws of the land by arresting royal officers. At the parliament of April 1341, the king was forced to accept severe limitations on his financial and administrative freedom, in exchange for a grant of taxation. By the end of the year, he had repudiated this statute and reinforced his power.
- During the years after 1342, Edward III invested much time and money in reconstructing Windsor Castle and instituting the Order of the Garter, which became Britain’s highest order of knighthood.
- Come July 1346, he staged a major offensive in Normandy with 15,000 men. His army ravaged the city of Caen, and marched across northern France to meet up with English forces in Flanders. The 35,000-strong army dominated the Battle of Crécy in August.
- In October, the English victory at Crécy was followed by another victory at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, during which David II was captured. This strengthened the position of Edward III, who then continued his major offensive against France, laying siege to the town of Calais. The town surrendered in August 1347. Meanwhile, the Estates of France refused to fund Philip VI’s plan to counter-attack and invade England.
- By 1348, the Black Death was sweeping through England and France wiping out over a third of the population. The epidemic killed millions, creating labour shortages and impacting wages and inflation. Both Philip VI and Edward III concentrated on stabilising their kingdoms and ceased conflict. This period of Edward III’s reign was characterised by significant legislative activity. Perhaps the most significant of these legislations was the Statute of Labourers of 1351, which addressed the labour shortage problem caused by the Black Death. Military operations in France only resumed on a large-scale in the mid-1350s.
- Philip VI died in 1350 and was succeeded by his son, John II. In 1356, Edward III’s heir, Edward the Black Prince, fought and won the Battle of Poitiers. He captured John II and his youngest son, Philip. England enjoyed a series of victories and held large swathes of France. The French king was in custody and the French government nearing collapse in his absence.
- Proposed by England and accepted by France, the Treaty of London followed the Black Prince’s resounding victory at Poitiers. In the terms signed in 1359, England was permitted to annex its lands such as Normandy, Anjou, Maine and Aquitaine, within its ancient limits of Calais and Ponthieu, and was given independence rather than the fiefdom of the Duchy of Brittany. In addition, France would pay a ransom of three million écus for John II’s release.
- The French Estates-General rejected the Treaty of London, stating too much territory was being relinquished. Edward III launched a fresh invasion. His weak army led him to reopen negotiations. As a result, a truce was agreed between John II and Edward III in May 1360. The English king accepted the Treaty of Brétigny, securing his French possessions in full sovereignty, clear of homage. These French possessions included Guyenne, Gascony, Poitou, Saintonge, Aunis, Agenais, Périgord, Limousin, Quercy, Bigorre, the countship of Gauré, Angoumois, Rouergue, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Ponthieu, Calais, Sangatte, Ham and the countship of Guînes. Edward III relinquished the Duchy of Touraine, the countship of Anjou and Maine, and independence of Brittany and Flanders. More importantly, he also relinquished his claim to the French throne.
- The acceptance of the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360 marked the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War.
- The peace treaty signed between Edward III and John II failed to bring rest or prosperity to either England or France. Nevertheless, Edward III now had time to focus on domestic affairs. However, the day-to-day affairs of England appeared to have less appeal to the king.
- During the 1360s, Edward III grew increasingly dependent on the help of his subordinates.
- The deaths of his most trusted men, some from the 1361-62 recurrence of the plague, left the majority of the magnates younger and more naturally aligned to the princes than to the king himself.
- When the new French king, Charles V, repudiated the Treaty of Brétigny, Edward III resumed the title of king of France but showed little of his former vigour in asserting his claim.
- The king also began to rely on his sons for the leadership of military operations.
- His sons, Edward the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, headed the fighting and the administration of Edward III’s foreign territories.
- The two struggled with little success against France. Aquitaine was gradually lost to France.
- Edward the Black Prince went back to England in poor health in 1371 whilst John of Gaunt’s military campaign in France achieved nothing by 1373.
- In 1372, Edward III attempted to personally lead an army abroad but this was thwarted by unfavourable weather conditions that prevented his landing in France.
- In 1375, the king agreed to a truce, resulting in the signing of the Treaty of Bruges, under which the great English possessions in France were reduced to only the coastal towns of Calais, Bordeaux and Bayonne.
- Failure in France and the financial pressure of constant campaigns once again caused political discontent in England.
- At the parliament of 1376, also known as the Good Parliament, the Commons took the opportunity to address specific grievances.
- This resulted in the dismissal of the king’s closest advisers from their positions.
- The Commons was also opposed to the increasing authority of John of Gaunt in royal government amidst the incapacity of both Edward III and Edward the Black Prince due to illness.
- Gaunt was forced to submit to the demands of parliament but in 1377 he successfully reversed the achievements of the Good Parliament.
- After around 1375, Edward III was already an inactive ruler, playing a limited role in the management of the kingdom. He fell ill in September 1376 and briefly recovered in February 1377. He died of a stroke at Sheen on 21 June 1377. His heir apparent, Edward the Black Prince, had died in June 1376, leading to the succession of his ten-year-old grandson, Richard II, to the English throne.