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Monarchy Rules: King Edward III

Edward was born on 13th November 1312 at Windsor Castle, the son of King Edward II and Isabella of France. The thirteenth century had not been the most successful for the English monarchy; it had begun with King John and difficulties with the Barons, and King Edward II still had problems a century later. These were partially allayed with the birth of a male heir, Edward, who was made Earl of Chester as a young baby, a title still held by the monarch’s eldest son.

Whilst still only a teenager, he was sent with his mother, now as Duke of Aquitaine, to pay homage to the French King in respect of England’s French landholdings as his father was loathed to leave England due to the tensions with the barons. In the end, after his mother met Roger Mortimer, Edward returned to England and his mother. Mortimer and others forced King Edward II to abdicate, placing the young Edward on the throne as King Edward III, aged just 14, with his mother and Roger Mortimer as his regents on 25th January 1327.

Edward rebelled when 17, as he did not like the way Roger Mortimer was ruling as his regent and may have felt some guilt towards the way his father was treated. Staging a coup, he removed Mortimer placing him in the Tower of London, later to be executed at Tyburn. His mother lived out the rest of her life under virtual house arrest at Castle Rising. Perhaps her greatest triumph was the betrothal of her son to Philippa of Hainault.

Philippa made an excellent Queen for Edward, not only in providing him with eleven children, sadly losing three of them to the Black Plague, which ravaged England as it had Continental Europe, but was also highly respected when she stood in for the King whilst he was away fighting his wars. It was these wars which were expensive, and Edward’s relationship with Parliament was a little frosty at times. The times were changing in Parliament, and it is during his reign that the two-chamber system began to take shape.

King Edward III’s personal reign of over fifty years did more than steady England; it turned it to a great military power, subduing both the Scots and French in turn and at various times both the Scottish and French Kings languished under arrest in England. Through his mother, King Edward thought he had a strong claim to the French throne, far stronger than those who were offered it. The resulting Hundred Years’ War inflicted heavy damage on the French despite their advantageous numbers with the King’s son Edward the Black Prince, acquitting himself with his performance on the battlefield.

Philippa of Hainault died in 1369, and the King became a shadow of his former self. He ruled less and less most of the court being controlled by his fourth son John, Duke of Lancaster especially after his eldest son, the Black Prince, died before his father. But when the King did die in 1377, it was his grandson Richard that took the throne as King Richard II. King Edward III had reigned for just over fifty years and was described by some as the best English King since King Arthur – a ruler he admired and provided the inspiration behind his love of the Chivalric Code and The Order of the Garter which he initiated.