Edward of Woodstock, known to history as the Black Prince (June 15, 1330 – June 8, 1376).
Edward, the eldest son of Edward III of England, Lord of Ireland and ruler of Gascony, and Queen Philippa, was born at Woodstock in the County of Oxfordshire, on June 15, 1330. His father, Edward III, had been at loggerheads with the French over English lands in France and also the kingship of France; Edward III’s mother, Queen Isabella of France was a daughter of the French king Philippe IV of France, thus placing her son in line for the throne of France.
England and France’s relations quickly deteriorated when the French king threatened to confiscate his lands in France, beginning the Hundred Years War. His mother was Queen Philippa of Hainault, daughter of the Count of Hainault, who married Edward III when his mother, Queen Isabella, arranged the marriage between them
Despite never being King, Edward nevertheless earned distinction as one of the most successful English commanders during the Hundred Years’ War, being regarded by his English contemporaries as a model of chivalry and one of the greatest knights of his age.
Edward was made Duke of Cornwall, the first English dukedom, in 1337. He was guardian of the kingdom in his father’s absence in 1338, 1340, and 1342. On May 12, 1343, Edward III created the duke Prince of Wales in a parliament held at Westminster, investing him with a circlet, gold ring, and silver rod. Edward was knighted by his father at La Hougue in 1346.
In 1346, Prince Edward commanded the vanguard at the Battle of Crécy, his father intentionally leaving him to win the battle. He took part in Edward III’s 1349 Calais expedition. In 1355, he was appointed the king’s lieutenant in Gascony, and ordered to lead an army into Aquitaine on a chevauchée, during which he pillaged Avignonet and Castelnaudary, sacked Carcassonne, and plundered Narbonne.
The next year (1356) on another chevauchée, he ravaged Auvergne, Limousin, and Berry but failed to take Bourges. He offered terms of peace to King Jean II of France, who had outflanked him near Poitiers, but refused to surrender himself as the price of their acceptance. This led to the Battle of Poitiers, where his army routed the French and took King Jean II prisoner.
Edward married his cousin, Joan, Countess of Kent (1328–1385), on October 10, 1361. She was the daughter and heiress of Edmund, Earl of Kent, the younger son of King Edward I by his second wife Margaret of France.
They had two sons, both born in Aquitaine:
Edward, born at Angoulême on July 27, 1364, died immediately before his father’s return to England in January 1371, and was buried in the church of the Austin Friars, London.
Richard, who succeeded his grandfather as King Richard II.
The year after Poitiers, Edward returned to England. In 1360, he negotiated the Treaty of Brétigny. He was created Prince of Aquitaine and Gascony in 1362, but his suzerainty was not recognised by the lord of Albret or other Gascon nobles.
He was directed by his father to forbid the marauding raids of the English and Gascon free companies in 1364. He entered into an agreement with Kings Pedro of Castile and Charles II of Navarre, by which Pedro covenanted to mortgage Castro de Urdiales and the province of Biscay to him as security for a loan; in 1366 a passage was secured through Navarre.
In 1367 he received a letter of defiance from Enrique of Trastámara, Pedro’s half-brother and rival. The same year, after an obstinate conflict, he defeated Enrique at the Battle of Nájera.
However, after a wait of several months, during which he failed to obtain either the province of Biscay or liquidation of the debt from Don Pedro, he returned to Aquitaine. Prince Edward persuaded the estates of Aquitaine to allow him a hearth tax of ten sous for five years in 1368, thereby alienating the lord of Albret and other nobles.
Prince Edward returned to England in 1371, and the next year resigned the principality of Aquitaine and Gascony. He led the Commons in their attack upon the Lancastrian administration in 1376.
From the period of the Good Parliament, Edward knew that he was dying. His dysentery became violent, and he often fainted from weakness, so that his household believed that he had already died.
He left gifts for his servants in his will and took leave of the King his father, asking him that he would confirm his gifts, pay his debts quickly out of his estate, and protect his son Richard. In his last moments, he was attended by the Bishop of Bangor, who urged him to ask forgiveness of God and of all those he had injured. He “made a very noble end, remembering God his Creator in his heart”, and asked people to pray for him.
His death took place in the Palace of Westminster. He was buried with great state in Canterbury Cathedral on September 29, and the directions contained in his will were followed at his funeral and in the details of his tomb. It has a bronze effigy beneath a tester depicting the Holy Trinity with his heraldic achievements – his surcoat, helmet, shield and gauntlets – hung over the tester; they have been replaced with replicas, and the originals now reside in a glass-fronted cabinet within the Cathedral.