George Bernard Shaw, who portrayed Edward III in film.
Welcome to my series, “Love and the Throne,” which takes a look at the back door lives of famous monarchs.
I’ve always been interested in the lives of famous kings and queens. Their decisions have influenced the world. My series goes deeper – who personally influenced them?
The English monarchs were colorful, charismatic leaders and each new king or queen brought something to the throne that still resonates in England today. That’s why I thought I’d tackle Edward III first.
We have a lot of documentation about the type of reign Edward III had, but there’s not much about his “back door” life. I will say this, when people experience a lot of drama early in their life, it’s not something they forget easily. I would say that Edward’s parents and their scandalous behavior influenced him to be the opposite of them. After all, he is the epitome of an English medieval king. Edward II and Isabella would never be described as chivalrous.
Remember the movie, Braveheart? Historically, William Wallace wasn’t the father of Isabella’s baby. Edward III’s parents were Edward II and Isabella. Trust me. Nice movie element, but history backs Edward II as the father of Edward III. Interestingly, Edward II and Isabella had four children.
Edward II was a bi-sexual. He did his duty by his wife, Isabella, getting her pregnant and then went on to indulge in his male lovers – and he just about ruined England. Okay, Edward II didn’t ruin England, but he lost the support of the nobles by playing favorites with his male lovers. He did not make good administrative decisions as king.
Isabella gave birth to Edward II’s first child and son on 13 November 1312. He grew into a tall, handsome boy with a hint of the Plantagenet red in his hair. He was noted to be good natured and kind. He was also said to be ambitious and extravagant, traits, no doubt, he got from his mother. Edward’s childhood was that of a medieval prince. He was groomed to take the throne. Then, when he was 14, he witnessed the destruction of his father’s court.
When Edward was 14, the nobles had had their fill of his father, Edward II. Edward II’s poor decision making coupled with his bi-sexual activities lost him a good deal of allies. Isabella, who had taken a lover, Roger Mortimer, staged a coup. Edward II was forced to abdicate in favor of his son. Since Edward III was only 14, Isabella and Roger were named as Regents for the young king. Shortly after his abdication, Mortimer ordered Edward II’s death.
Isabella felt confident in her ability to control her son, Edward III. His reign is dated as starting in January 1327. One year later, Edward married his first cousin, Philippa of Hainault, on 24 Jan 1328. She was 14.
Edward III had a fruitful marriage to Philippa. Their first son was born on 15 Jun 1330. The boy, Edward, the Black Prince, was the first of 14 children, 9 survived into adulthood. Interestingly, history has not documented any bastard children attributed to Edward III. He appears to be devoted to Philippa.
In the autumn of 1330, Edward, now 17, staged a coup against Mortimer. Mortimer was getting greedy, giving himself estates from the crown property and Edward III, now a man with a family, must have decided it was time for him to assume kingship. Mortimer was disposed and within a month, Edward III had the greedy Mortimer executed for treason. As for his mother, Edward III sent her to a nunnery. It was rumored she was pregnant with Mortimer’s child at the time and miscarried at the nunnery.
Edward III did feel some remorse for his father. He did build a monument to the memory of Edward II shortly after he came to the throne.
Once Edward III had taken the throne for himself, his adventures began. His military accomplishments were legend. Philippa accompanied him on several of his expeditions to Scotland and Flanders. Rumor was his son John of Gaunt could have been a challenging, with the real baby dying in childbirth. The same rumor haunts their daughter, Joan, but there’s just not enough historical facts to back up these rumors one way or another.
Between fathering children with Philippa and warmongering, Edward III lived the life he wanted to live. He took half of France, securing the city of Calais for England. Philippa died in 1369 when Edward was 57. He took a mistress after her death, Alice Perrers. Alice was a gold digger, or so history would like us to believe. Alice used John of Gaunt to exert influence over Parliament, as Edward III declined in health in his later years. When Edward III died from a stroke in 1376, Alice supposedly took the rings off his fingers. In film, Edward III wasn't tackled very much. A movie about his life was made in 1912 and it was a silent film. I couldn't find a picture of the actor who protrayed him at that time. When Edward has been portrayed, it is usually as a old man at the end of his reign. I guess the first half wasn't scandalous enough. hehe
What resonates today? The Canterbury Tales were written during Edward III’s reign. He is also the founder of the “Order of the Garter.”
Edward III’s legacy was having too many sons.
NEXT: Edward’s heir, The Black Prince, his son, Lionel, 1st Duke of Clarence, and his son, John of Gaunt set the table for the Wars of the Roses.