Edward III

Edward III ruled England from 25th January 1327 to 21st June 1377. His reign saw the outbreak of the Hundred Years War, the Black Death, and coincided with the Western Schism of the Papacy.

Source Material on Edward III

In 1328 in Letters Patent referring to the Kingdom of Scotland. This was prior to Edward asserting personal rule.

We will and concede for us and all our heirs and successors, by the common counsel, assent and consent of the prelates, magnates, earls and barons and communities of our realm in our parliament that the Kingdom of Scotland, shall remain for ever separate in all respects from the Kingdom of England, in its entirety, free and in peace, without any kind of subjection, servitude, claim or demand.

As tension mounted, Edward III wrote to his admirals:

…our progenitors, the kings of England, have before these times been lords of the English sea on every side…and it would very much grieve us if in this kind of defence our royal honour should be lost.

Quoted in Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation (Vintage, 2008), p. 130

Edward III is quoted by Ian Mortimer as having explained the logic of fighting the French on the continent. In essence, he is saying that the war was inevitable, so it is better to fight it in France alongside continental allies than in England, without allies.

According to the Theory of War, which teaches that the best way to avoid the inconvenience of war is to pursue it away from your own country, it is more sensible for us to fight our notorious enemy in his own realm, with the joint power of our allies, than it is to wait for him at our own doors. King Edward III (1339)

Quoted in Ian Mortimer

Prior to the Battle of Sluys in 1340 Edward III gave a speech to his men. Quoted in the French Chronicle of London:

Good lords and my brothers, do not at all be dismayed, but be entirely of good comfort; and he who for me today gives battle will be fighting in pursuit of a just cause, and will have the blessing of God Almighty, and each shall keep whatever he may gain.

Edward III on his taking the title of King of France in 1340:

…we benignly wish that all and each of the natives of the kingdom who will subject themselves willingly to us, as the true King of France according to wise counsel, before next Easter, offering due fidelity etc. to us, as King of France, performing their duties…should be admitted to our peace and grace and to our special protection and defence.

Quoted in A. R. Myers (ed.), English Historical Documents, 1327–1485 (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1969), p. 65

Writing of the Crecy campaign, Richard Wynkeley, the kings confessor spoke of the river crossing at Blanchetaque:

…our lord the king was unable to find a way across except in the tidal reach between Crotoy and Abbeville; here the whole army crossed unharmed at a place which none of the local people knew to be a safe place except for six or ten people at a time. Our men crossed almost everywhere, as if it were a safe ford, much to the amazement of those who knew the place.

Richard Wynkeley, King Edward’s confessor. Cited in Barber.

Jean Froissart, Chroniques (Vol. I): Edward III counting the dead on the battlefield of Crécy Place of origin, date: Paris, Virgil Master (illuminator); c. 1410
Jean Froissart, Chroniques (Vol. I): Edward III counting the dead on the battlefield of Crécy Place of origin, date: Paris, Virgil Master (illuminator); c. 1410

The Statute of Labourers was an official response to the economic consequences of the Black Death. The statute was issued in 1349. It includes:

Because a great part of the people and especially of the workmen and servants has now died in that pestilence, some, seeing the straights of the masters and the scarcity of servants, are not willing to serve unless they receive excessive wages, And others, rather than through labour to gain their living, prefer to beg in idleness.

The Black Death was the defining domestic issue of Edward IIIs reign. Its significance was immense, as noted by Simon Schama:

The first century of the plague had seen the country turned upside down. In the twilight years of Edward III it seemed that nothing could damage the greatness of the Plantagenet royal estate. But the world of the village went from impoverished claustrophobia to traumatized infection. A hundred years later, everything had been upended, courtesy of King Death.

Simon Schama

Westminster Abbey


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Edward III and Richard IIs treasure

History Today

Spartacus Educational

National Portrait Gallery

Thought Co

Featured Image

Edward III on his throne, part of the 14th Century Waterford Charter Roll.

Dan Moorhouse

Dan Moorhouse graduated in History and Politics and has since undertaken postgraduate studies in Medieval History and Education. Dan is a member of the Royal Historical Society and has previously been a member of the Historical Association’s Secondary Education Committee. Dan’s early publishing was in the Secondary School History Education field. This included co-authoring the Becta Award shortlisted Dynamic Learning: Medicine Through Time series for Hodder Murray and contributing to the Bafta Award winning Smallpox Through Time documentary series by Tmelines.tv. A former teacher, Dan now concentrates on research and writing, predominantly in Medieval English history. Books by Dan Moorhouse On this day in the Wars of the Roses On this day in the Hundred Years War

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