Edward III of England

King of England from 1327 to 1377

Edward III (13 November 1312 – 21 June 1377), also known as Edward of Windsor before his accession, was King of England and Lord of Ireland from January 1327 until his death in 1377. He is noted for his military success and for restoring royal authority after the disastrous and unorthodox reign of his father, Edward II. He transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe. His fifty-year reign was the second-longest in medieval English history, and saw vital developments in legislation and government, in particular the evolution of the English Parliament, as well as the ravages of the Black Death. He outlived his eldest son, Edward the Black Prince, and the throne passed to his grandson, Richard II.

Edward III


  • 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.
    • Letters-patent (1 March 1328), quoted in G. W. S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland (Edinburgh University Press, 2005), pp. 333–334
  • ...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.
    • Letter to his admirals (18 August 1336), quoted in Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation (Vintage, 2008), p. 130
  • ...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.
    • Assuming the title King of France (8 February 1340), quoted in A. R. Myers (ed.), English Historical Documents, 1327–1485 (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1969), p. 65
  • Whan Kyng Philip of Frauns was fled thus cowardly fro the sege of Caleys, thei of the same town offered the town to Kyng Edward withoute any poyntment. And he lay in the town a month, considering the strong disposicion thereof. Thanne, at instauns of the Pope, was taken trews betwix the two Kyngis for a yere. Aboute the fest of Seynt Michael, the Kyng took the se into Ynglond and there had he grete tempest, and mervelous wyndes; and thanne he mad swech a compleynt onto oure Lady, and seide, "O blessed Mayde, what menyth al this? Evyr, whan I go to Frauns, I have fayre wedir, and whanne I turne to Ynglond intolerable tempestes."

Quotes about Edward III

  • Here lies the glory of the English, the flower of kings past, the pattern for kings to come, a merciful king, the bringer of peace to his people. Edward III, who attained his jubilee. The undefeated warrior, a second Maccabeus, who prospered while he lived, revived sound rule, and reigned valiantly, now may attain his heavenly crown.
    • Epitaph on his monument in Westminster Abbey, quoted in D. A. L. Morgan, 'The Political After-Life of Edward III: The Apotheosis of a Warmonger', The English Historical Review, Vol. 112, No. 448 (Sep., 1997), p. 861
  • ...an English ship we had, noble it was and high of tower, it was held in dread throughout Christendom: the rudder was neither oak nor elm but Edward the Third, the noble knight.
    • The Vernon Manuscript (c. 1400), quoted in Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation (Vintage, 2008), p. 394
  • He was the flower of earthly warriors, under whom to fight was to rule, to go forth was to prosper, to contend was to triumph ... Against his foes he was grim as a leopard, toward his subjects mild as a lamb.
    • 'Cronica bona et compendiosa de regibus Noe usque in hunc diem' (c. late 1300s), quoted in D. A. L. Morgan, 'The Political After-Life of Edward III: The Apotheosis of a Warmonger', The English Historical Review, Vol. 112, No. 448 (Sep., 1997), p. 866
  • Few were the blemishes which may be thought to tarnish the lustre of this reign of Edward the Third. Few and short were the struggles between him and his people; for as he was fierce and terrible to his enemies, he was amiable and indulgent to his subjects. He not only observed the laws, but he made the sense of the nation, in some measure, a law to him. On this principle, in which, to a considering mind, there will appear as much wisdom as goodness, he removed a son, nay a favorite mistress from court.
    • Lord Bolingbroke, Remarks on the History of England (1730–1731), quoted in Lord Bolingbroke, Historical Writings, ed. Isaac Kramnick (1972), p. 183
  • Edward the third, your King of rich renowne,
    Against the French did use his conquering sworde:
    Mauger their beardes, he did possesse their Crowne,
    The French were faine, to serve him as their Lord.
    Take courage then, maintaine your Countries right,
    Gainst Rabsica, in Gods name enter fight.
    • John Phillips, A Commemoration of the Life and Death of Sir Christopher Hatton, knight, Lord Chancellor of England (1591), pp. 6-7
  • The greatest of all the Plantagenet kings was Edward III. Edward inherited the throne as a teenage puppet king under his mother and her lover Roger Mortimer, who were responsible for the removal of Edward II. He soon shook off their influence, and the next three, triumphant decades of his reign are described in Part VI, 'Age of Glory.' In these years, the Plantagenets expanded in every sense. Under the accomplished generalship of Edward, his son the Black Prince, and his cousin Henry Grosmont, England pulverized France, and Scotland (as well as other enemies, including Castile), in the opening phases of the Hundred Years' War. Victories on land at Halidon Hill (1333), Crécy (1346), Calais (1347), Poitiers (1356) and Najera (1367) established the English war machine – built around the power of the deadly longbow – as Europe's fiercest. Success at sea at Sluys (1340) and Winchelsea (1350) also gave the Plantagenets confidence in the uncertain arena of warfare on the water. Besides restoring the military power of the English kings, Edward and his sons deliberately encouraged a national mythology that interwove Arthurian legend, a new cult of St George and a revival of the code of knighly chivalry in the Order of the Garter. They created a culture that bonded England's aristocracy together in the common purpose of war. By 1360, Plantagenet kingship had reached its apotheosis. Political harmony at home was matched by dominance abroad. A new period of greatness beckoned.
    • Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Kings Who Made England (2012), p. xxxvi-xxxvii
  • This diplomatic revolution, part of the growing bureaucratization of government, was complemented by a revolution in political ideas that we can measure in the changing use of the term “state.” In the fourteenth century the Latin term status (and vernacular equivalents such as estat or state) was mainly used with reference to the standing of rulers themselves, much as we would today use the term “status.” Thus the chronicler Jean Froissart, describing King Edward III entertaining foreign dignitaries in 1327, recorded that his queen “was to be seen there in an estat of great nobility.” Gradually, however, usage was extended to include the institutions of government. In the works of Machiavelli, written in the 1510s, lo stato becomes an independent agent, separate from those who happen to be its rulers. In a similar vein, Thomas Starkey, the English political commentator of the 1530s, claimed that the “office and duty” of rulers was to “maintain the state established in the country” over which they ruled. The thrust of such arguments was to limit the power of kings by postulating their higher obligation to the common good. In radical hands this implied that subjects had the right to overthrow tyrannical rulers, which is what happened in the English civil wars of the 1640s and Europe’s bitter wars of religion. Responding to this crisis of governance,Thomas Hobbes moved the debate to a different level, defining the state as “an artificial man” abstractly encapsulating the whole populace, who enjoys absolute sovereignty (his “artificial soul . . . giving life and motion to the body”) which is exercised in practice through a sovereign ruler. This gradual but dramatic word shift, from the medieval state of princes to the person of the Hobbesian state, was hugely important for political thought. It also reinforced the decline of dynastic summitry: diplomacy, like governance, was no longer regarded as the sole prerogative of princes.
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings that Changed the Twentieth Century (2007), p. 18
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