Edward III was King of
England from 1327 until his death; he is noted for his military success and
for restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father,
Edward II. Edward III transformed the Kingdom of England into one of the
most formidable military powers in Europe; his reign also 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 is one
of only five British monarchs to have ruled England or its successor
kingdoms for more than fifty years.
Edward was crowned at age fourteen after his father was deposed by his
mother and her consort Roger Mortimer. At age seventeen he led a successful
coup against Mortimer, the de facto ruler of the country, and began his
personal reign. After a successful campaign in Scotland he declared himself
rightful heir to the French throne in 1337, starting what would become known
as the Hundred Years' War. Following some initial setbacks the war went
exceptionally well for England; victories at Crécy and Poitiers led to the
highly favourable Treaty of Brétigny. Edward's later years, however, were
marked by international failure and domestic strife, largely as a result of
his inactivity and poor health.
Edward III was a temperamental man but capable of unusual clemency. He was
in many ways a conventional king whose main interest was warfare. Admired in
his own time and for centuries after, Edward was denounced as an
irresponsible adventurer by later Whig historians such as William Stubbs.
This view has been challenged recently and modern historians credit him with
some significant achievements.
Edward was born at Windsor Castle on 13 November 1312, and was often
referred to as Edward of Windsor in his early years. The reign of his
father, Edward II, was a particularly problematic period of English history.
One source of contention was the king's inactivity, and repeated failure, in
the ongoing war with Scotland. Another controversial issue was the king's
exclusive patronage of a small group of royal favourites. The birth of a
male heir in 1312 temporarily improved Edward II's position in relation to
the baronial opposition. To bolster further the independent prestige of the
young prince, the king had him created Earl of Chester at only twelve days
In 1325, Edward II was faced with a demand from the French king, Charles IV,
to perform homage for the English Duchy of Aquitaine. Edward was reluctant
to leave the country, as discontent was once again brewing domestically,
particularly over his relationship with the favourite Hugh Despenser the
Younger. Instead, he had his son Edward created Earl of Aquitaine in his
place and sent him to France to perform the homage. The young Edward was
accompanied by his mother Isabella, who was the sister of King Charles, and
was meant to negotiate a peace treaty with the French. While in France,
however, Isabella conspired with the exiled Roger Mortimer to have the king
deposed. To build up diplomatic and military support for the venture,
Isabella had Prince Edward engaged to the twelve-year-old Philippa of
Hainault. An invasion of England was launched and Edward II's forces
deserted him completely. The king was forced to relinquish the throne to his
son, who was crowned as Edward III on 1 February 1327.
It was not long before the new reign also met with other problems caused by
the central position at court of Roger Mortimer, who was now the de facto
ruler of England. Mortimer used his power to acquire noble estates and
titles, and his unpopularity grew with the humiliation at Stanhope Park and
the ensuing Treaty of Edinburgh--Northampton, signed with the Scots in 1328.
Also the young king came into conflict with his guardian. Mortimer knew his
position in relation to the king was precarious and subjected Edward to
disrespect and humiliation. The tension increased after Edward and Philippa,
who had married on 24 January 1328