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Edward III [r. 1327-1377]

Edward III, son of Edward II by Isabella of France, was bom in 1313. On his father's deposition in 1327 he was proclaimed king under a council of regency, while his mother's paramour Mortimer really possessed the principal power in the state. The pride and oppression of Mortimer soon became so intolerable that a general confederacy was formed against him, at the head of which was the young king himself, who now, in his eighteenth year, could ill brook the ascendency of liis mother's minion. The result was the seizure of Mortimer, in the castle of Nottingham, where he lodged with the queen, and his immediate execution upon a gibbet. The queen was also confined to her house, with a reduced allowance, and, although treated with outward respect, never again recovered any degree of authority.

Edward now turned his attention to Scotland. Assisted by some principal English nobles, who enjoyed estates in that country, which were withheld from them contrary to the terms of the late treaty, Edward Baliol, son of the John Baliol to whom the crown had been awarded by Edward I, raised a force, and, defeating the Scots in a great battle, set aside David Bruce, then a minor, and was crowned at Scone, in 1332. Baliol, being driven away on the departure of his English auxiliaries, applied to Edward, who levied a well-appointed army, with which he defeated the regent, Douglas, at the famous battle of Halidown-hill, in July, 1333. This victory produced the restoration of Baliol, who was, however, again expelled, and again restored, until the ambition of Edward was called off by a still more splendid object.

During the long reign of Edward III, the king's foreign preoccupations made it essential for him to keep on fair terms with his subjects. The subsidies and support, necessary to enable Edward III to carry on the early stages of the Hundred Years' War with France, finally consolidated the constitutional fabric and ensured its permanence. England had already become a nation under Edward I. During the reign of his grandson Edward III the might of the English state was revealed to all Europe by the extraordinary military successes which laid low the ancient feudal fashion of fighting in famous battles such as those of Crecy and Poitiers. It was now that the English King first aspired to be lord of the seas, and that English mariners and wool merchants prepared the way for the industrial England that was ultimately to supersede the military state that now claimed a great place in the affairs of Europe.

It was the age of Chaucer and Wycliffe, when the English tongue and English literature blossomed anew, and when the new nation became impatient of the narrow limits and strict restraints of the mediaeval fashions of life and thought. It wasin this age that the Church first provoked successful opposition, and first manifested signs of conscious weakness. The ravages of the Black Death, the direst of mediaeval pestilences, undermined the old social order and prepared the way for all that ultimately differentiated the social and economic system of England from that of its continental neighbors. Chivalry, whose deeds were glorified in the pages of Froissart, was threatened with decay at the moment of its apparent triumph.

The crown of France, by the Salique law, devolved to Philip de Valois, cousin-german to the deceased king, Charles the Fair. Edward was induced to claim it in right of his mother, that monarch's sister. There existed other claims that were superior; but these considerations weighed very little with a young, ambitious monarch, eager for conquest and glory. The first hostilities produced nothing of much moment. Edward, in order to obtain fresh supplies, made concessions to parliament which he never intended to keep; and, finding his territory of Guienne threatened, he sent over a force for its defense, and quickly followed himself, accompanied by his son Edward, the famous black prince, all his chief nobility, and 30,000 men. The memorable battle of Crecy followed, Aug. 25, 1346, which was succeeded by the siege of Calais.

In the mean time, David Bruce, having recovered the throne of Scotland, made an incursion, at the head of a large army, into England; but, being met at Durham by a much inferior force, raised by queen Philippa, and headed by lord Percy, he was totally defeated and taken prisoner, with many of his principal nobles. Philippa went over to her husband at Calais, and, by her interference, prevented the barbarous execution of Eusiacne de St. Pierre and five other citizens, whom Edward, on the capitulation of the place, had determined to execute, in revenge for his long detention in the siege.

In 1348, a truce was concluded with France. The year 1349 was distinguished by the institution of the order of the garter; which, owing to the fame and chivalrous character of Edward and his eldest son, soon became one of the most illustrious orders of knighthood in Europe. Philip, king of France, dying in 1350, was succeeded by his son John, the commencement of whose reign abounded with intestine commotion, and, in 1355, Edward again invaded France on the side of Calais, while the black prince, at the same time, led a large army from Gascony. Both these expeditions were attended with much plunder and devastation; and Edward, being recalled home by a Scottish inroad, soon repelled it, and retaliated by carrying fire and sword from Berwick to Edinburgh.

During this time, the prince of Wales had penetrated from Guienne to the heart of France, where he was opposed by king John, at the head of an army nearly five times more numerous. The famous battle of Poitiers ensued, in which the French monarch being taken prisoner, Edward held at the same time in captivity the kings of France and Scotland, the most dangerous of his enemies. John was taken to England, and treated with the greatest respect; and David was soon after liberated upon ransom. A truce had been made with France after the battle of Poitiers, at the expiration of which, in 1359, Edward once more passed over to Calais with a large army, and desolated the provinces of Picardy and Champagne, but at length consented to a peace, which was concluded in May, 1360. Besides the stipulation of a large ransom for king John, several provinces and districts in the southwest of France and neighborhood of Calais were yielded to Edward, who, in his turn resigned his title to the crown of France and duchy of Normandy.

The successor of John, Charles V, invaded the provinces intrusted to Prince Edward, then in the last stage of declining health, and Edward had the mortification of witnessing the gradual loss of all his French possessions, except Bordeaux and Bayonne, and of all his conquests except Calais. In the decline of life, he was in other respects unfortunate: becoming a widower, he fell into a species of dotage; and an artful nnstress, named Alice Piers, so abused her influence, that, on a parliamentary remonstrance, he found it necessary to dismiss her. His administration also became unpopular, and he had the affliction of witnessing his heroic son Edward sink a victim to a lingering illness, which calamity he survived about a year, living on the 21st of June 1377, in the sixty-fifth year "ibis age and fifty-first of his reign. In his embarrassed old age Edward III saw the loss of his foreign conquests, and the undermining of his authority at home.

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Page last modified: 25-01-2013 18:56:33 ZULU