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Template:House of Plantagenet Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, KG (June 15 1330June 8 1376), popularly known as the Black Prince, was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault, and father to King Richard II of England. Edward was an effective military leader, and very popular during his life. He died one year before his father and so never ruled as king (becoming the first English Prince of Wales to suffer that fate). The throne passed instead to his son Richard, a minor, upon the death of Edward III.



Born at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire, Edward's birth was significant to the royal family in some views, as it is said that it gave Edward III and his associates the confidence that the Plantagenet dynasty would continue, so that they could go ahead with the overthrow of Mortimer and Isabella in 1330 without feeling the dynasty was at risk.


Edward was created Earl of Chester in 1333, Duke of Cornwall in 1337 (the first creation of an English duke) and finally invested as Prince of Wales in 1343. Edward served as a symbolic regent for periods in 1339, 1340, and 1342 while Edward III was on campaign. He was expected to attend all council meetings, and he performed the negotiations with the papacy about the war in 1337. He was given the lordship of Biscay by Pedro of Castile in 1367.

Early lifeEdit

His early life saw a rise in fashion sense, with Edward taking a fancy to red and purple velvet cloaks and hats, and an early love for tournaments at the expense of learning, like his father. He also developed his recklessness with money which, along with his love of gambling, would eventually cause the end of his career.

Marriage and issueEdit

Edward had been raised with his cousin Joan, "The Fair Maid of Kent" (Edward I Longshanks was Joan's grandfather and Edward's great-grandfather). An old story relates how he meant her to marry his close friend, Sir Bernard Brocas, but that, when he broached the subject with her, she professed her undying love for Edward instead. Edward gained papal permission for this marriage to a blood-relative[citation needed] and married Joan in October 1361, prompting some controversy, for it was believed that a warrior such as Edward should have married a foreigner for diplomatic advantages in war. Some believe he was thus exiled to the province of Aquitaine (in what is now France), where he ruled as prince on behalf of his father, though some historians are critical of that idea, since Edward's time in Aquitaine allowed him to take control of a nearly sovereign area on his own. When in England, however, Edward's chief residence was at Wallingford Castle in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire).

During this period, he fathered two sons: Edward, who died in infancy; and Richard, who would later rule as Richard II of England.

Adult lifeEdit


File:Oriel College Feathers.jpg

See also main article Prince of Wales's feathers

The emblem of the Prince of Wales's feathers and its accompanying motto, Ich dien (German: "I serve"), are said to have been inherited by the prince from King John of Bohemia, against whom he fought in the Battle of Crécy. Legend tells that after the battle, Edward walked over to King John's dead body. The king had ridden into battle despite his blindness, and Edward admired his bravery. He picked up the king's helmet, lined with ostrich feathers, and took the king's motto, Ich dien. This emblem and motto were not exclusively used by the Black Prince, but also by his brothers. This story, however, is only partly true; while it may be true that he adopted the ostrich feathers from the King of Bohemia, the emblem he used was used before him by other English monarchs.

There is a theory that the Black Prince and his brothers inherited the ostrich feather badge from his mother Philippa of Hainault; she came from the family of the Counts of Hainault, and they used the ostrich (French autruche) feather symbol as a heraldic pun on the name of a place called Ostrehans which they owned.

There is a theory that "Ich dien" arose as a Germanizing mishearing of Welsh Uwch dyn = "Your servant".

View on chivalryEdit

Edward lived in a century of decline for the knightly ideal of chivalry. The formation of the Order of the Garter, an English royal order of which Edward was a founding member, signified a shift towards patriotism and away from the crusader mentality that characterized England in the previous two centuries. Edward's stance in this evolution is seemingly somewhat divided. Edward displayed obedience to typical chivalric obligations through his pious contributions to Canterbury Cathedral throughout his life.

On one hand, after capturing John the Good and his youngest son at Poitiers, he treated them with great respect, at one point giving John leave to return home, and reportedly praying with John at Canterbury Cathedral. Notably, he also allowed a day for preparations before the Battle of Poitiers so that both sides could discuss the upcoming battle with one another, and so that the Cardinal of Perigord could plead for peace. Though not agreeing with knightly charges on the battlefield, he also was devoted to tournament jousting.

On the other hand, his chivalric tendencies were overridden by pragmatism on many occasions. The Black Prince's repeated use of the chevauchée strategy was not in keeping with contemporary notions of chivalry, but it was quite successful in accomplishing the goals of his campaigns and weakening the unity and economy of France. On the battlefield, pragmatism over chivalry is also demonstrated via the massed use of infantry strongholds, longbowmen, and flank attacks (a revolutionary practice in such a chivalric age). Moreover, he was exceptionally harsh toward and contemptuous of lower classes in society, as indicated by the heavy taxes he levied as Prince of Aquitaine and by the massacres he perpetrated at Limoges and Caen. Edward's behaviour was typical of an increasing number of knights and nobles during the late Middle Ages who paid less and less attention to the high ideal of chivalry.

Such arguments have been explored in more depth by Richard Barber.

List of major campaigns and their significanceEdit

  • The 1345 Flanders Campaign on the Northern Front, which was of little significance and ended after 3 weeks when one of Edward's allies was murdered.
  • The Crécy Campaign on the Northern Front, which crippled the French army for 10 years, allowing the siege of Calais to occur with little conventional resistance before the plague set in. Even when France's army did recover, the forces they deployed were about a quarter of that deployed at Crecy (as shown at Poitiers). Normandy came virtually under English control, but a decision was made to focus on northern France, leaving Normandy under the control of England's vassal allies instead.
  • The Siege of Calais on the Northern Front, during which the inhabitants suffered worst and were reduced to eating dogs, rats and babies. The siege gave the English personal and vassal control over northern France before the temporary peace due to the Black Death.
  • The Calais counter-offensive on the Northern Front, after which Calais remained in English hands.
  • Les Espagnols sur Mer or the Battle of Winchelsea on the English Channel Front, which was a Pyrrhic victory of little significance beyond preventing Spanish raids on Essex.
  • The Great Raid of 1355 on the Aquitaine-Languedoc Front, which crippled southern France economically, and provoked resentment of the French throne among French peasantry. The raid also 'cushioned' the area for conquest, opened up alliances with neighbours in Aquitaine of which that with Charles the Bad of Navarre is most notable, and caused many regions to move towards autonomy from France, as France was not as united as England.
  • The Aquitaine Conquests on the Aquitaine Front, which brought much firmer control in Aquitaine, much land for resources and many people to fight for Edward.
  • The Poitiers Campaign on the Aquitaine-Loire Front, which crippled the French Army for the next 13 years, causing the anarchy and chaos which would inevitably cause the Treaty of Bretigney to be signed in 1360. Following this campaign, there was no French Army leader, there were challenges towards Charles the Wise, and more aristocrats were killed at Crécy and Poitiers than those lost to the Black Death.
  • The Reims Campaign, following which peace was finally achieved with the Treaty of Bretigny. But, on the same terms, England was left with about a third of France rather than a little under half which they would have received through the Treaty of London. This is due to the failure to take Reims which led to the need for a safe passage out of France. As a result, a lesser treaty was agreed to and Edward III was obliged to drop his claims to the French throne. France was still forced to pay a huge ransom of around 4 times France's gross annual domestic product for John the Good. The ransom paid was, however, a little short of that demanded by the English, and John the Good was not returned to the French. Thus, this campaign yielded mixed results, but was mostly positive for Edward. One must also remember Edward III never actually dropped his claim to the throne.
  • The Najera Campaign on the Castillian Front, during which Pedro the Cruel was temporarily saved from a coup, thus confirming Castillian Spanish dedication to the Prince's cause. Later, however, Pedro was murdered. As a result of Pedro's murder, the money the prince put into the war effort became pointless, and Edward was effectively bankrupt. This forced heavy taxes to be levied in Aquitaine to relieve Castile's financial troubles, leading to a vicious cycle of resentment in Aquitaine and vicious repression of this resentment by Edward. Charles the Wise, king of France, was able to take advantage of the resentment against Edward in Aquitaine. However, the prince temporarily became the Lord of Biscay.
  • The Siege of Limoges on the Aquitaine Front, after which the Black Prince is obliged to leave his post for sickness and financial issues, but also partly because of the cruelty of the siege. Without the Prince, the English war effort against Charles the Wise and Bertrand Du Guesclin was doomed. The Prince's brother John of Gaunt was not interested with the war in France, being more interested with the War of Succession in Spain.
  • King Edward III and the prince sail from Sandwich with 400 ships, carrying 4,000 men at arms and 10,000 archers for France, but after six weeks of bad weather and being blown off course they are driven back to England. This is the final campaign of the black prince, and following the failure the prince formally resigns from his position as prince of Aquitaine.

Death and burialEdit


He requested to be buried in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral rather than next to the shrine, and a chapel was prepared there as his chantry (this is now the French Protestant Chapel, and contains ceiling bosses of the face of his wife Joan and of their coats of arms). However, this was overruled after his death and he was buried on the south side of the shrine of Thomas Becket behind the quire. His tomb consists of a bronze effigy beneath a tester depicting the Holy Trinity, with his heraldic achievements hung over the tester. The achievements have now been replaced by replicas, though the originals can still be seen nearby, and the tester was restored in 2006.


The name "Black Prince"Edit

Although Edward is almost always now called the "Black Prince", he was never known as such during his lifetime. He was instead known as Edward of Woodstock, after his place of birth. The "Black Prince" moniker does not appear in writing until at least 200 years after Edward's death. Its origin is uncertain; according to tradition, it derived from an ornate black cuirass (piece of body armor) presented to the young prince by Edward III at the battle of Crécy. However, it is also possible that the name was first coined by French chroniclers in reference to the ruinous military defeats he had inflicted on France or his cruelty in these. One apocryphal etymology of the name has it deriving from the blackness of Edward's tomb effigy from dirt and/or black polish, when it is in fact shiny metal now, although it may have been tarnished or polished before.

In FictionEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Richard Barber, The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince, ISBN 0-85115-469-7
  • Tuchman, Barbara, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Alfred A. Knopf, New York City, 1978.
  • Life of the Black Prince by the Herald of Sir John Chandos.
  • Royal Berkshire History: Edward the Black Prince including images in both civilian and military dress
  • Guilhem Pepin, 'Towards a new assessment of the Black Prince's principality of Aquitaine: a study of the last years (1369-1372)', Nottingham Medieval Studies, Vol.L, 2006, pp. 59-114.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Template:Start box |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by:
Edward III |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Prince of Wales
1330–1376 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Succeeded by:
Richard II |- |- |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by:
(new creation) |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Duke of Cornwall
1337–1376 Template:Succession box |} Template:Dukes of Cornwall