Sir Edward of Woodstock, The Black Prince

Male 1330 - 1376  (45 years)

Personal Information    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    Event Map    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Edward of Woodstock 
    Title Sir 
    Suffix The Black Prince 
    Born 15 Jun 1330  Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Residence Aquitaine, France Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Residence Flanders, Belgium Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Also Known As Duke of Cornwall  [2
    Also Known As Prince of Aquitaine  [2
    Also Known As Prince of Wales  [2
    Died 8 Jun 1376  Westminster Palace, Westminster, London, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Buried Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I43554  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 10 Dec 2016 

    Father Edward III, King of England,   b. 13 Nov 1312, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Jun 1377, Richmond Palace, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years) 
    Mother Philippa of Hainaut, Queen of England,   b. 1312-1314, Mons, Hainaut, Belgium, Netherlands Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Aug 1369, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 55 years) 
    Married 24 Jan 1328  York Minster, York, East Riding, Yorkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Family ID F13841  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Joan of Kent, 4th Countess of Kent,   b. 19 Sep 1328, (Winchester Castle, Hampshire, United Kingdom) Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Aug 1385, Wallingford Castle, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 56 years) 
    Married Y  [1
     1. Richard II, King of England,   b. 6 Jan 1367, Bordeaux, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Feb 1400, Pontefract Castle, West Riding, Yorkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 33 years)
    Last Modified 30 Jun 2020 
    Family ID F15817  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 15 Jun 1330 - Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Aquitaine, France Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Flanders, Belgium Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 8 Jun 1376 - Westminster Palace, Westminster, London, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • Edward of Woodstock KG (15 June 1330 – 8 June 1376), called the Black Prince, was the eldest son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, and the father of King Richard II of England. He was the first Duke of Cornwall (from 1337), the Prince of Wales (from 1343) and the Prince of Aquitaine (1362–72).

      He was called "Edward of Woodstock" in his early life, after his birthplace, and since the 16th century has been popularly known as the Black Prince. He was an exceptional military leader, and his victories over the French at the Battles of Crâecy and Poitiers made him very popular during his lifetime. In 1348 he was made a Founding Knight of the Garter.

      Edward died one year before his father, becoming the first English Prince of Wales not to become King of England. The throne passed instead to his son Richard II, a minor, upon the death of Edward III.

      Richard Barber comments that Edward "has attracted relatively little attention from serious historians, but figures largely in popular history."[1]


      Edward, the Black Prince, is granted Aquitaine by his father King Edward III. Initial letter "E" of miniature, 1390; British Library, shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero D VI, f.31
      Edward was born on 15 June 1330 at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire. He was created Earl of Chester on 18 May 1333, Duke of Cornwall on 17 March 1337 (the first creation of an English duke) and finally invested as Prince of Wales on 12 May 1343 when he was almost thirteen years old.[2] 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. He also served as High Sheriff of Cornwall from 1340–1341, 1343, 1358 and 1360–1374.

      Edward had been raised with his cousin Joan, "The Fair Maid of Kent".[3] Edward gained permission for the marriage from Pope Innocent VI and absolution for marriage to a blood-relative (as had Edward III when marrying Philippa of Hainault, his second cousin) and married Joan on 10 October 1361 at Windsor Castle. The marriage caused 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 (since 1974 in Oxfordshire), or at Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire.

      He served as the king's representative in Aquitaine, where he and Joan kept a court which was considered among the most fashionable of the time.[citation needed] It was the resort of exiled kings such as James IV of Majorca and Peter of Castile.

      Peter of Castile, thrust from his throne by his illegitimate brother Henry of Trastâamara, 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 Nâajera (April 3), in which he soundly defeated the combined French and Castilian forces led by Bertrand du Guesclin. However Peter did not pay fully and refused to yield Biscay, alleging lack of consent of its states. Edward retreated to Guienne by July.[4]

      The Black Prince returned to England in January 1371 and died on 8 June 1376 (a week before his 46th birthday), after a long-lasting illness that was probably amoebic dysentery contracted ten years earlier while campaigning in Spain.[5]

      Edward and chivalry

      Edward lived in a century of decline for the knightly ideal of chivalry.[6] On one hand, after capturing John the Good, king of France, and Philip the Bold, his youngest son, at the Battle of Poitiers, he treated them with great respect — at one point he gave John permission to return home, and reportedly prayed 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 Pâerigord could plead for peace. However, some argue "he may have been playing for time to complete preparation of his archers' positions."[7]

      On the other hand, his chivalric tendencies were overridden by expediency on many occasions. The Black Prince's repeated use of the chevauchâee 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.[6]

      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, Jacob van Artevelde, a former brewer and eventual governor of Flanders, was murdered by his own citizens.
      The Crâecy Campaign on the northern front, which crippled the French army for ten 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 Crâecy (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, during which the inhabitants suffered greatly and were reduced to eating dogs and rats.[8] 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, after which Calais remained in English hands.
      "Les Espagnols sur Mer" or the Battle of Winchelsea in the waters of the English Channel where the English fleet defeated the Castilian fleet.
      The Great Raid of 1355 in the Aquitaine–Languedoc region, 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, the one with Charles II of Navarre being the most notable, and caused many regions to move towards autonomy from France, as France was not as united as England.
      The Aquitaine Conquests, which brought much firmer control in Aquitaine, much land for resources and many people to fight for Edward.
      The Poitiers Campaign in the Aquitaine-Loire region, which crippled the French army for the next 13 years, fomenting the anarchy and chaos which would cause the Treaty of Brâetigny 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 Crâecy and Poitiers than by the Black Death.
      The Reims Campaign, following which peace was finally achieved with the Treaty of Brâetigny. 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 in the Castilian region, during which Peter of Castile (also known as Pedro the Cruel) was temporarily saved from a coup, thus confirming Castilian 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 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 area, 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 Castile. New evidence suggests the account of English atrocities was inflated by Froissart.[9] But that claim is inconsistent with Froissart's service under Philippa of Hainault, queen consort of Edward III.
      King Edward III and the prince sailed for France from Sandwich with 400 ships carrying 4,000 men at arms and 10,000 archers, but after six weeks of bad weather and being blown off course, they were driven back to England.
      Marriage and issue[edit]

      Signet ring of the Black Prince in the Louvre
      Edward had illegitimate sons, all born before his marriage.[citation needed]

      By Edith de Willesford (d. after 1385):

      Sir Roger Clarendon (1352 - executed 1402); he married Margaret (d. 1382), a daughter of John Fleming, Baron de la Roche.[10]
      By unknown mothers:

      Edward (b. ca. 1353 - died young)
      Sir John Sounders[11]
      Sir Charles FitzEdward (b. ca. 1354-).[citation needed]
      Edward married his cousin, Joan, Countess of Kent (1328-1385), on 10 October 1361. She was the daughter and heiress of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, the younger son of King Edward I by his second wife Margaret of France. They had two sons from this marriage. Both sons were born in France, where the Prince and Princess of Wales had taken up duties as Prince and Princess of Aquitaine.

      Edward of Angoulãeme (27 January 1365 - January 1372)
      Richard II of England (6 January 1367 – c. 14 February 1400) often referred to as Richard of Bordeaux for his place of birth.
      From his marriage to Joan, he also became stepfather to her children, including Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent whose daughter, Joan Holland, would marry Edward's brother, Edmund of Langley. Edward's other stepson, John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, would marry Edward's niece, Elizabeth of Lancaster, daughter of his brother, John of Gaunt.


      Original Black Prince Heraldic achievements on display in Canterbury Cathedral
      Edward the Black Prince seemed to have good health until 1366. It was not until his campaign in Spain to restore Don Pedro the Cruel to the throne of Castille that he became ill.[5] On this expedition, his army suffered so badly from dysentery that it is said that one out of every five Englishmen would not return home.[5][12] Edward the Black Prince contracted an illness on this expedition that would ail him until his death in 1376. It is widely believed that he contracted amoebic dysentery but some argue against the likelihood that he could sustain life with a ten-year battle with dysentery.[12] Other possible diagnoses include edema, nephritis, cirrhosis or a combination of these.[5][12] His illness prevented him participating on the battlefield. However, in 1370, the Prince had to leave his sick bed and raise an army to defend Aquitaine against Charles V of France.[5] In 1371, Edward the Black Prince’s health declined to the point where his physicians advised him to leave Bordeaux and return home to England. After much rest and dieting in England, the Prince saw improvement in his health. In 1372, he sailed on an expedition with King Edward III but failed to land on the French Coast due to contrary winds.[5] After the attempted expedition with King Edward III, the Prince’s health declined drastically. He would often faint because of weakness. This run of poor health continued until his death in 1376, aged 45.[5]

      Death and burial

      Tomb effigy

      Edward died at Westminster Palace. 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, Countess of Kent. (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. The tester was restored in 2006.

      Such as thou art, sometime was I.

      Such as I am, such shalt thou be.
      I thought little on th'our of Death
      So long as I enjoyed breath.
      On earth I had great riches
      Land, houses, great treasure, horses, money and gold.
      But now a wretched captive am I,
      Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.
      My beauty great, is all quite gone,
      My flesh is wasted to the bone.

      The Black Prince's coat of arms, as heir-apparent to the English throne.

      The "shield for peace" used by the Prince of Wales, with the ich dien motto, use of which was attributed to Edward according to a long-standing but unhistorical tradition.[14]

      A painted carving on the main gate of Oriel College, Oxford, depicting the badge of the Prince of Wales as it was in the early 17th century; the three feathers are believed to derive from the heraldic device used by Edward.
      Arms: Quarterly, 1st and 4th azure semâee of fleur-de-lys or (France Ancient); 2nd and 3rd gules, three lions passant guardant or (England); overall a label of three points argent. Crest: On a chapeau gules turned up ermine, a lion statant or gorged with a label of three points argent. Mantling: gules lined ermine. As Prince of Wales, Edward's coat of arms were those of the kingdom, differenced by a label of three points argent.[15] Edward also used an alternative coat of Sable, three ostrich feathers argent, described as his "shield for peace" (probably meaning the shield he used for jousting). This shield can be seen several times on his tomb chest, alternating with the differenced royal arms. His younger brother, John of Gaunt, used a similar shield on which the ostrich feathers were ermine.

      Edward's "shield for peace" is believed to have inspired the badge of three ostrich feathers used by later Princes of Wales.

      The name "Black Prince"

      Although Edward is often referred to as the "Black Prince", there is no record of this name being used during his lifetime, nor for more than 150 years after his death. He was instead known as Edward of Woodstock (after his place of birth), or by one of his titles. The "Black Prince" sobriquet is first found in writing in two manuscript notes made by the antiquary John Leland in the 1530s or early 1540s: in one, Leland refers in English to "the blake prince"; in the other, he refers in Latin to "Edwardi Principis cog: Nigri".[16] The name's earliest known appearance in print is in Richard Grafton's Chronicle at Large (1569): Grafton uses it on three occasions, saying that "some writers name him the black prince", and (elsewhere) that he was "commonly called the black Prince".[17] It is used by Shakespeare, in his plays Richard II (written c.1595) and Henry V (c.1599). It later appears prominently in the title of Joshua Barnes's The History of that Most Victorious Monarch, Edward IIId, King of England and France, and Lord of Ireland, and First Founder of the Most Noble Order of the Garter: Being a Full and Exact Account Of the Life and Death of the said King: Together with That of his Most Renowned Son, Edward, Prince of Wales and of Aquitain, Sirnamed the Black-Prince (1688).

      The origins of the name are uncertain, though many theories have been proposed. These fall under two main heads:

      that it is derived from Edward's black shield, and/or his black armour.
      that it is derived from Edward's brutal reputation, particularly towards the French in Aquitaine.
      The black field of his "shield for peace" is well documented (see Arms above). However, there is no sound evidence that Edward ever wore black armour, although John Harvey (without citing a source) refers to "some rather shadowy evidence that he was described in French as clad at the battle of Crecy "en armure noire en fer bruni" – in black armour of burnished steel".[18] Richard Barber suggests that the name's origins may have lain in pageantry, in that a tradition may have grown up in the 15th century of representing the prince in black armour. He points out that several chronicles refer to him as Edward the Fourth (the title he would have taken as King had he outlived his father): this name would obviously have become confusing when the actual Edward IV succeeded in 1461, and this may have been the period when an alternative had to be found.[19]

      Edward's brutality in France is also well documented, and this may be where the title had its origins. The French soldier Philippe de Mâeziáeres refers to Edward as the greatest of the "black boars" – those aggressors who had done so much to disrupt relations within Christendom.[20] Other French writers made similar associations, and Peter Hoskins reports that an oral tradition of L'Homme Noir, who had passed by with an army, survived in southern France until recent years.[21] In Shakespeare's Henry V, a reference by the King of France to "that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales" suggests that the playwright may have interpreted the name in this way. There remains, however, considerable doubt over how the name might have crossed from France to England. In 1642, Thomas Fuller commented that the Black Prince was "so called from his dreaded acts and not from his complexion".[22]

      Recently however, his name being associated to any misdeeds or brutality have been in doubt by several historians. The greatest stain on Edward's dark reputation was the 1370 sack of Limoges, in which chronicler Jean Froissart describes "It was a most melancholy business – for all ranks, ages and sexes cast themselves on their knees before the prince, begging for mercy; but he was so inflamed with passion and revenge that he listened to none, but all were put to the sword. Upwards of 3,000 men, women and children were put to death that day."[9] However a more contemporary document written by Edward himself was recently discovered in a Spanish archive. The letter was written to the Count of Foix and describes how, during the invasion of Limoges, the Black Prince took "200 knights and men-at-arms prisoner". A local contemporary source from an abbey at Limoges documented "300 fatalities total in the city." There is no mention of a massacre of 3000 people or more.[9] It is possible Froissart greatly exaggerated the events that gave the Black Prince his name, but possible that Edward did not produce a truthful account of the campaign.

      In France Edward is seen as a villainous invader who ruled the occupied territories with an iron fist. The 1963–66 French television series Thierry la Fronde dramatized the era, following the exploits of a young disenfranchised lord who fights gallantly against the Black Prince and English occupation.[citation needed] [2]

  • Sources 
    1. [S7467] "Edward III (13 November 1312 - 21 June 1377)" biography,.

    2. [S10131] "Edward, the Black Prince" biography, accessed & downloaded Saturday, December 10th, 2016 by David A. Hennessee, https:/.

    3. [S51653]

    4. [S13263] "Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England", Biography,, abstracted by D.