On 26th January 1340 King Edward III of England assumed the title of King of France. It was an assertion by English monarchs that was to remain in place throughout the Hundred Years War and beyond,remaining a claim and part of English royal heraldry until 1801.
Declaration of Edward III as King of France
The declaration took place in Antwerp and is described in the Lanercost Chronicle:
“Meanwhile, the King of England, having prepared to sail back to England, being entreated by the community of Flanders, remained several weeks at Ghent, where the Flemings acknowledged him as rightful heir, King and Lord of France, and swore fealty and homage to him as to the rightful King of France. In compliance with their suggestion and advice the King of England assumed the title of King of France and the arms of each realm, to wit, of England and France, whereof he claimed dominion, and entitled himself King of England and France, in consequence of which he caused public letters given at Ghent to be displayed and published throughout England and France, and he besought the Supreme Pontiff for letters of absolution for the invasion of the realm of France. After which, with consent and advice of the Flemings and the Duke of Brabant, he sailed for England with the Earls of Salisbury and Suffolk, leaving Queen Philippa in Flanders.”
Legitimising Edward’s claim to the French throne
The decision to declare himself King of France was highly significant. It was a clear statement of legitimacy as the rightful monarch. Visually, it soon presented itself in the Royal arms and heraldic banners. King Edward III was now fighting for his right. Those in France who opposed him, were fighting against justice and their own rightful leader.
Edward III’s Double Monarchy
Given Edward had a good claim to the French crown, this move would be intended to make people think twice about who to support in the Anglo-French conflict. The manner in which the declaration of the Double Monarchy was made shows that the legitimisation of the claim was important. Subjects of the King of France swore fealty. The Papacy was asked for its blessing in pursuing the claim.