Marriage of King Edward III to Philippa of Hainault, 24th January 1328

In 1325 Queen Isabella was sent to France by her husband, King Edward II, to negotiate with her brother, who was the King of France. Once in France, Isabella used the opportunity to begin plotting against her husband. She wanted to oust the King, replace him with their son, the teenage Prince Edward, and rule in her son’s name with her lover, Roger Mortimer.

The plan was simple. Invade, capture the King, depose him. The only thing that stood in the way of the plan was the finance required to raise a mercenary army and to hire a large enough fleet to carry it across the English Channel from France. The solution to this was to take advantage of the marriage market.

Arranged marriages often involved transfer of land or wealth. For Queen Isabella, it presented an opportunity. A prospective bride for a future King would expect to live a life of luxury. As a consort she would be the highest ranked woman in England, and this would mean that people would be willing to back her campaign in order to secure such a marriage.

Isabella had the perfect candidate in mind, her own niece, Phillipa of Hainault. A granddaughter of Philippe III of France and daughter of Count John of Hainault, she was high ranking, and her marriage would benefit Hainault and the England that Isabella envisaged. Negotiations took place before a marriage contract was drawn up, being signed subject to papal dispensation being granted, on 27th August 1326.

The arrangements being made included promises from Queen Isabella’s uncle, the Count of Hainault, to provide the military support required for the campaign against King Edward II. He did so as his Duchy was becoming increasingly independent of France and the marriage union would build an alliance against potential French interference.

The campaign to oust Edward II was short, he was removed from power within a matter of weeks following the landing of Isabella’s invasion force, commanded by Mortimer and the Count of Hainault. Edward was duly proclaimed King of England following his fathers forced abdication.

Papal dispensation for the marriage between the King of England and Philippa arrived in August 1327. In October, King Edward sent the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield to Valenciennes in Hainault, along with a number of nobles. Here, the bishop oversaw a marriage by proxy which took place in early November. Issues such as the dowry were finalised whilst the English delegation were guests of Philippa’s family. Then the future Queen was escorted to England by the Constable of Dover and other notables.

After spending Christmas in London, where she was received very well by the commons, Philippa was escorted to York for the formal marriage ceremony.

Arrangements were made for the wedding ceremony to take place in York Minster. This was in part because the government of England was removed from London to York at this time: it was until the mid-1330s. Also, there was no Archbishop of Canterbury at this time, so the highest ranked priest in the land was the Archbishop of York.