Edward the Black Prince

Edward the Black Prince

(1330-1376)

Known as the “Black Prince” because of the color of his armor, Edward was the oldest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. Born at the royal manor of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, he became Prince of Wales in 1343 and was schooled in both diplomacy and war.

At the early age of 16, Edward led the van¬ guard of the English army at the Battle of Crecy (1346). The crushing English victory was partly attributed to his leadership. The blind king of Bohemia, who fought and died with the French that day, earned Edward’s admiration, and he took for himself the king’s motto, “ich dien,” or “I serve.” It remains the motto of the Prince of Wales to this day.

In 1335, Edward was given command of the English troops in Aquitaine (southern France). Fie led them in a resounding victory over the French at the Battle of Poitiers. King John the Good of France was taken prisoner, as were 2,000 other Frenchmen. The English victory was attributed to Edward’s skill and daring.

Fie married Joan, the countess of Kent, in 1361. The royal couple moved to France together and stayed there for eight years. Edward showed himself to be a poor adminis¬ trator; he alienated the local nobles and infu¬ riated them with high taxes.

In 1367, he led an invasion across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain, and he defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Najera, near Burgos. Still, the increased expenses led to further taxes, which enraged his subjects in Aquitaine even more.

Edward put down a major rebellion of his subjects by sacking Limoges in 1370. Around this time he was summoned by the King of France to appear in Paris and explain his con¬ duct. Edward’s reply was that he would appear, helmeted and with 60,000 men. This statement was a bluff, for the Prince was slow¬ ly dying from dysentery and dropsy he had acquired during the Spanish campaign.

Following the death of his oldest son, he resigned his position and went to Berkhampstead, England to live his last years as a semi-invalid. He made one major appear¬ ance before the English Parliament (1376) to ensure that the throne would pass to his sec¬ ond-oldest son. Edward died in 1376, one year before his father.

Known as the most chivalrous knight in Europe, Edward evoked great fear among his foes. He never lost a battle. His shield and armor were hung above his tomb at Canterbury, replicas of which tourists can see today.