King of England (1327-1377)
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Edward III came to the throne of England aged only sixteen after the successful rebellion of his mother, Isabella of France, and her lover Roger Mortimer against her husband Edward II to become the seventh English king of the House of Plantagenet. For the first two years of his reign, his mother and Mortimer ruled the country in his name and arranged to have Edward II murdered at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.

The young king and his friends staged a coup d'état; Roger Mortimer was tried and hanged for treason while Edward's mother, Isabella of France, was tried and found guilty but spent the remainder of her days at Castle Rising in Norfolk.

The long reign of Edward III was dominated by war with France. The first twenty years of warfare with France brought repeated successess but these were folowed by a series of failures.

The great French possessions of the early Plantagenet kings had lessened under King John and Henry III but Edward I still held Gascony and Guienne. The French Kings operated a consistent policy of annexing the fiefs of their feudal vassals at any available pretext. While Edward I held his own against the French Crown, Edward II had suffered losses.

Charles IV, the last male of the house of Capet died in 1328 and the French decided that his cousin, Philip of Valios should succeed him. Edward III could also possibly claim the throne of France as he was the son of Isabella of France, sister of Charles IV - although the claim was made, it was not pressed.

Edward III claimed the French throne in 1340 and the Royal Arms have reflected this claim by being quartered Arms of France (three gold fleur-de-lys on a blue background) until 1801 when the anachronistic title of "King of France" was abandoned by English monarchs at the Peace of Amiens.

Philip VI was crowned and continued the old policy of annexing his vassals' fiefs and thus placed Edward III in danger of loosing the French possessions which were of considerable commercial importance to England. Edward pressed his claim to the French throne and thus, what became know as the Hundred Years' War with France began in 1337.

The naval victory at Sluys in 1340 secured command of the Channel for the English. In 1346, Edward III led a great raid into France but the assemblage of a huge force by the French to repel him caused him to retreat towards Flanders. The French overtook Edward's force at Crécy near the Somme and the French were thoroughly routed in the battle which followed. mainly due to the English archers.

In 1347, the English captured Calais giving them a foothold in France which the English monarchs were to retain for two centuries, and a huge market for English commerce. The town was starved into surrender (it was one of the first battles in which canon were used - although they were not very effective) and, although Edward III spared the lives of the six chief burghers of the town who had been condemned to death, its French citizens were expelled and replaced by Edward's English subjects.

The Battle of Cr�cy

Edward's son, the Black Prince, won the Battle of Poitiers over an enormouslt superior French force in 1356 and this led to the Peace of Brétigny by which Edward III acquired complete sovereignty over the fiefs he had previously held as vassal of the French Kings.

The short period of peace was brocken when war again errupted in 1359 - each of the sides claiming that the other had brocken the treaty. Unlike the earlier successes, however, each campaign which followed ended in failure and, on his death in 1377, Edward III's possessions in France were no greater than when the war began.

Edward married Philippa of Hainault. The couple had twelve children, nine of whom survived:

Edward the Black Prince
Lional (Duke of Clarence)
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399)
Edmund (Duke of York)
Thomas, Duke of Gloucester (1355-)

EDWARD III (1327-1377)

One of the effects of the wars with France was to reduce the amount of labour available while the armies were abroad soldeiring. In the short-term, this brought economic prosperity to the country.

Edward also sought to encourage sound trading conditions, particularly as regarded the woolen industry. Weavers' Guilds had existed as early as the 12th century but clothworking had declined so the monarch took steps to revive it; Edward forbade the importation of foreign wool and the excellent weavers of Flanders were invited to settle in England and many did and settled in centers such as Bristol, London and Winchester, among others. At the time, England was practically the only country supplying wool to Western Europe.

The wool staple was transferred to England from Bruges though, after its capture, it was transferred to Calais (the object of a staple town was that all trade in wool should pass through it and, thus, the monarch's revenue due on the trade could be readily secured.

The economy of England was thrown into turmoil during Edward's reign by the arrival of the Black Death or Plague from the Middle East (from whence it had been carried by the travels of the crusaders) in 1348. The Black Death is thought to have wiped out about a third of England's population.

The scarcity of labour caused by the Black Death caused a scarcity of labour and a consequent increase in wages and turmoil throughout the feudal system. The small freeholder was frequently able to purchase his land from his lord because the latter could not afford the wages involved in working it. Because of the high wages for labour, the feudal lord valued service highly and was very unwilling to commute it as had often been the custom. Unable to pay their rents, many bitter villeins deserted their holdings to try and seek a livlihood in the towns - there was a serious danger to the ecenomy of the country of much land falling out of cultivation.

The prosperity at the start of Edward III's reign had turned to widespread discontent at the time of the monarch's death. Edward was succeeded by his ten-year-old grandson, the son of the Black Prince, as Richard II.

Desperate to raise funds for the wars with France, Edward III granted a charter to Bristol in 1373 granting it the status of a county - the first charter of its kind - for a payment of 600 marks.

The charter fixed the boundaries of Bristol until the Municipal Reform Act of 1835. The mayor was given the right to have a sword of state borne before the king and the mayor and sheriff could hold courts in the town saving the expense of travelling to Gloucester or Ilchester. The posts of mayor and councillors fell into the hands of the town merchants who tended to fill them with their own nominees.

The commons were summoned to all the parliaments of Edward III and, by the end of his reign, a separate House of Commons began to appear. The first known speaker was elected in the last year of his reign (1377).


John of Gaunt,   Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399)
The fourth son of the king, statesman and father of King Henry IV.
Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland   (1342-1408)
Percy held high offices in the administration of northern England under Edward.


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1312Birth of the future Edward III to king Edward II (1307-1327) by Isabella of France
by 1324De Praerogativa Regis (Royal Prerogative) provided for management of estates of incapacitated tenants to ensure their maintenance, with profits going to the crown
1327Murder of King Edward II, his 14-year-old son Edward III becomes King of England
1328Robert I (the Bruce) forces Edward II to recognize Scotland\'s independence
1329The Treaty of Northampton conceded Scotlands independace won by the Scottish victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
1330End of the regency as Edward III executes Roger Mortimer and banishes his mother from court
1333Edward III defeats David II of Scotland at the Battle of Halidon Hill
1337Edward III confiscates the estates of the Alien Priories
1338Edward the Black Prince, eldest son of Edward III, created first Duke of Cornwall
1340Abolition of Englishry
(the proof that a slain but unknown man was English for the hundred in which he was found to be exempt from fine for the murder)
1340.Jan.26Edward III claims the French throne (starting the Hudred Years War)
The claim is reflected in the Royal Arms
1340.Jun.24Naval victory at Sluys secures command of the English channel for the English
Ships and men from the Cinque Ports taking part
1344Edward III introduces three new gold coins; the florin (6 shillings), leopard (3 shillings) and helm (1 shilling and sixpence)
The amount of gold in the coins does not match their face values so they were withdrawn and most melted down by August
1347English capture Calais in France
1348Foundation of the Order of the Garter by Edward III
1348.MayBlack Death or Bubonic Plague arrives in Britain through Melcombe Regis in Dorset having ravaged mainland Europe
In three years it is thought one third of Europe\\\'s population perished
1355.Jan.07Birth of Thomas of Woodstock to king Edward III
Later created Earl of Buckingham and then Duke of Gloucester
1356.Jan.20Edward Balliol surrenders title as King of Scotland to Edward III of England
1356.Sep.19English defeat French at Battle of Poitiers
1361Second outbreak of the Black Death
1361Edward III restores the estates of the Alien Priories confiscated in 1337
1362Under Edward III, English replaces French as England's national language, for the first time since the Norman Conquest of 1066
1369Third outbreak of the Black Death
1369.Aug.14Death of Philippa of Hainault, wife of King Edward III of England
1373Bristol, partly in Gloucestershire and partly in Somerset, given county status by King Edward III to raise money for the war with France
1376Parliament rebelled against the cost of war against France and refused to grant Edward III the money to continue fighting
1376Death of Edward the Black Prince, his son (later king Richard II) created Prince of Wales by his grandfather, Edward III
1377Election of the first Speaker of Parliament
1377.Jan.27The Bad Parliament convenes
1377.Feb.23Dissolution of the Bad Parliament
1377.Jun.21Death of King Edward III of England aged 65 - accession of 10-year-old Richard II, eldest son of Edward, the Black Prince
the country was governed by a council of regency and the state distracted by the contentions of his uncles John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Thomas, Duke of Gloucester
1377.Jul.16Coronation of Richard II

Year   Word/Phrase    

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The Black Death
The Statutes of Labourers

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  Savernake Forest   In 1330 the Council of Regency redefined the borders of the forest.
  Whaddon   If legend is to be believed, King Edward dined at the Three Crowns inn in the village with the kings of France and Scotland.


Recommend a Book for this Page



Like Edward I (1285) and Edward II before him, Edward III siezed the alien priories on the outbreak of war between England and France. In 1337, he confiscated their estates and let out the priories themselves for 23 years. Peace having been concluded between England and France, he restored the estates to the priories in 1361.



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