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Edward, the Black Prince

Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, KG (15 June 1330 – 8 June 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, an exceptional military leader and popular during his life, died one year before his father and thus 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.

Life

Edward was born on 15 June 1330 at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire. 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. In England 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.

Edward had been raised with his cousin Joan, "The Fair Maid of Kent." Edward gained Innocent VI's papal permission and absolution for this marriage to a blood-relative (as had Edward III when marrying Philippa of Hainaut, being her second cousin) and married Joan in 10 October 1361 at Windsor Castle, prompting some controversy, mainly because of Joan's chequered marital history and the fact that marriage to an Englishwoman wasted an opportunity to form an alliance with a foreign power.

When in England, Edward's chief residence was at Wallingford Castle in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire).

He served as the king's representative in Aquitaine, where he and Joan kept a court which was considered among the most brilliant of the time. It was the resort of exiled kings, like James of Majorca and Pedro of Castile.

Pedro, thrust from his throne by his illegitimate brother, Henry of Trastámara, offered Edward the lordship of Biscay in 1367, in return for the Black Prince's aid in recovering his throne. Edward was successful in the Battle of Nájera in which he soundly defeated the combined French and Spanish forces led by Bertrand du Guesclin.

During this period, he fathered two sons: Edward (27 January 1365 – 1372), who died at the age of 6; and Richard, born in 1367 and often called Richard of Bordeaux for his place of birth, who would later rule as Richard II of England.

The Black Prince returned to England in January 1371 and died a few years later after a long wasting illness that may have been cancer.

Emblem

Edward and chivalry

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, king of France, 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 the two sides could discuss the coming 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 (burning and pillaging towns and farms) was not in keeping with contemporary notions of chivalry, but it was quite effective 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, dismounted men at arms, 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 English knights and nobles during the late Middle Ages who paid less and less attention to the high ideal of chivalry, which would soon influence other countries.

List of major campaigns and their significance

  • The 1345 Flanders Campaign on the Northern Front, which was of little significance and ended after three 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 and rats. 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 four 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, and that about half of France was controlled by the English anyway through many vassals.
  • The Najera Campaign on the Castilian Front, during which Pedro the Cruel was temporarily saved from a coup, thus confirming Castilian 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 Edward'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 in 1370 on the Aquitaine Front, after which the Black Prince was obliged to leave his post for his sickness and financial issues, but also because of the cruelty of the siege, which saw the massacre of some 3,000 residents according to the chronicler Froissart. 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 in 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.

Burial

He requested to be buried in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral rather than next to the shrine, and a chapel was prepared there as a chantry for him and his wife Joan (this is now the French Protestant Chapel, and contains ceiling bosses of her face 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"

Although Edward is almost always now called the "Black Prince", there is no record of this name being used during his lifetime. He was instead known as Edward of Woodstock, after his place of birth. The "Black Prince" sobriquet "is first found in writing in Richard Grafton's "Chronicle of England" (1568). Its origin is uncertain; it is usually considered to be derived from an ornate black cuirass presented to the young prince by Edward III at the Battle of Crécy.

In fact, this nickname comes more than probably from his "shield of peace", his coat of arms used during tournaments, which is represented around his effigy at Canterbury. This coat of arms is black with three white ostrich feathers.

It is 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. Also possible is the idea that Edward garnered the nickname from his explosive temper; the legendary Angevin temper being associated with his family's line since Geoffrey d'Anjou.

Cultural references

Plays

Edward is referenced in William Shakespeare's Henry V in Act 2, Scene 4 KING OF FRANCE
And he is bred out of that bloody strain
That haunted us in our familiar paths:
Witness our too much memorable shame
When Cressy battle fatally was struck,
And all our princes captiv'd by the hand
Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales

and again later in Act 4, Scene 7 FLUELLEN

Your grandfather of famous memory, an't please your
majesty, and your great-uncle Edward the Black
Prince of Wales, as I have read in the chronicles,
fought a most prave pattle here in France.

The Black Prince is also prominently referred to in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. From Scene 1: ROBERT

Have you heard no tales of their Black Prince who was blacker than the devil himself, or of the English King's father?
… JOAN
I have heard tales of the Black Prince. The moment he touched the soil of our country the devil entered into him, and made him a black fiend. But at home, in the place made for him by God, he was good. It is always so.

Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery devoted his 1667 play ''The Black Prince to Edward.

Novels

Sculpture

A large 1903 equestrian sculpture of the Prince by Thomas Brock can be seen in Leeds City Square. It was a gift from Colonel Thomas Walter Harding, Lord Mayor of Leeds between 1898 and 1899. The choice was probably also a tribute to the future Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, who opened Leeds Infirmary in 1867 and the Yorkshire College buildings (now the University of Leeds) in 1885. The statue is the centrepiece of an array of statues in the square, including more local people such as Joseph Priestley.

Films

  • Edward, Prince of Wales is the main role played by Errol Flynn in the The Dark Avenger (1955). The film was also known as The Warriors in the USA, and The Black Prince in the UK although the latter seems to have been a working title. In Greece it was aired on TV as The Black Knight.
  • Edward, The Black Prince of Wales, was portrayed by James Purefoy in the 2001 film A Knight's Tale. Though never intending to be a historically accurate tale, the film puts an odd spin on Edward as he is portrayed as a kind and benevolent prince who enjoys sneaking into jousting tournaments to compete, and is very kind to the protagonist who is of poor commoner ancestry, even knighting him. This in spite of Edward's known distaste for the lower classes.

Games

  • Edward is portrayed in the 2007 PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 video game Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War by Koei. Within this video game, he is seen as the primary source of backing for the forces of England, aspiring to conquer the oppositionary country of France, no matter what must be sacrificed in the process.
  • Edward appears under the name of Black Prince in the game Empire Earth in the English campaign in the fourth and fifth scenario.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Arms

As Prince of Wales, Edward's coat of arms were those of the kingdom, differentiated by a label argent of three points.

See also

Notes

Further reading

  • Richard Barber, The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince, ISBN 0-85115-469-7
  • Barbara Tuchman, 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.
  • R P Dunn Pattison The Black Prince 1910 Methuen
  • David Green, "Edward, The Black Prince: Power in Medieval Europe", ISBN 978-0-582-78481-9

External links

Ancestry

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