1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Edward, the Black Prince
EDWARD, prince of Wales, known as “The Black Prince” (1330-1376), the eldest son of Edward III. and Philippa of Hainaut, was born at Woodstock on the 15th of June 1330. Contemporaries called him Edward of Woodstock, and his surname of the Black Prince cannot be traced back earlier than the 16th century. It is supposed to have been derived from his wearing black armour. In 1333 he was made earl of Chester, and in 1337 duke of Cornwall, being the first duke ever created in England. Nominal warden of England during his father’s absences abroad in 1338 and 1342, he was created prince of Wales in 1343, and in 1345 he first accompanied his father on a foreign expedition.
His real career begins, however, with Edward III.’s Norman campaign of 1346. On landing at La Hogue he was knighted by his father, and took a prominent part in the whole of the campaign. He commanded the right wing of the English forces at Crécy, and, though hard pressed for a time by the French, took his full share in gaining the victory. Next year he was at the siege of Calais, and returned to England in October 1347 with his father. He was one of the original knights of the Garter, and participated in his father’s chivalrous adventures at Calais in 1349 and in the battle off Winchelsea in 1350. In September 1355 he was sent to Gascony at the head of an English army, having been appointed his father’s lieutenant there in July. He was warmly welcomed by the Gascons, and at once led a foray through Armagnac and Languedoc. By November he had got as far as Narbonne, whence he returned to Bordeaux, where he kept his Christmas court. In August 1356 he started from Bergerac on another marauding expedition, this time in a northerly direction. He penetrated as far as the Loire, but was there compelled to retire before the superior forces of King John of France. On the 19th of September the two armies met in the battle of Poitiers, fought about 6 m. south-east of the city. It was the hardest-fought and most important battle of the Hundred Years’ War, and Edward’s victory was due both to the excellence of his tactical disposition of his forces and to the superior fighting capacity of his army. The flank march of the Captal de Buch, which decided the fate of the day, was of Edward’s own devising, and the captivity of King John attested the completeness of his triumph. He treated his prisoner with almost ostentatious magnanimity, and took him to Bordeaux, whence they sailed to England in May 1357. On the 24th of that month he led his prisoner in triumph through the streets of London. In 1359 he took part in his father’s invasion of northern France, and had a large share in the negotiations at Brétigny and Calais.
In October 1361 Edward married his cousin Joan, countess of Kent (1328-1385), the daughter and heiress of Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, the younger son of Edward I. by his second wife Margaret of France. The lady, who enjoyed a great reputation for beauty, was in her thirty-third year, and the widow of Sir Thomas Holand, by whom she had had three children. Froissart says that the marriage was a love match, and that the king had no knowledge of it. However, Edward III. approved of his son’s choice, and in July 1362 handed over to him all his dominions in southern France, with the title of prince of Aquitaine. In February 1363 Edward and Joan took ship for Gascony, which became his ordinary place of residence for the next eight years. He maintained a brilliant court at Bordeaux and Angoulême, and did his best to win the support of the Gascons. He was not, however, successful in winning over the greater nobles, who, with John, count of Armagnac, at their head, were dissatisfied with the separation from France, and looked with suspicion upon Edward’s attempts to reform the administration as being likely to result in the curtailment of their feudal rights. Edward was better able to conciliate the towns, whose franchises he favoured and whose trade he fostered, hoping that they would prove a counterpoise to the aristocracy. He kept the chief posts of the administration mainly in English hands, and never really identified himself with the local life and traditions of his principality. He succeeded in clearing Aquitaine of the free companies, and kept good peace for nearly six years.
In 1367 Peter the Cruel, the deposed king of Castile, visited Edward at Bordeaux, and persuaded him to restore him to his throne by force. In February 1367 Edward led an army into Spain over the pass of Roncesvalles. After a difficult and dangerous march Edward reached the Ebro, and on the 3rd of April defeated Bertrand du Guesclin at Nájera, the last of his great victories. He then proceeded to Burgos, and restored Peter to the throne of Castile. He remained in Castile for four months, living principally at Valladolid. His army wasted away during the hot Spanish summer, and Edward himself contracted the beginnings of a mortal disease. In August 1367 Edward led the remnant of his troops back through the pass of Roncesvalles, and returned to Bordeaux early in September. He had exhausted all his resources on the Spanish expedition, and was forced to seek from the estates of Aquitaine extraordinary sources of supply. A hearth tax for five years was willingly granted to him, and generally paid. The greater barons, however, found in this impost a pretext for revolt. The count of Armagnac, who had already made a secret understanding with Charles V., appealed against the hearth tax to the parlement of Paris. Cited before this body in January 1369, Edward declared that he would answer at Paris with sixty thousand men behind him. War broke out again, and Edward III. resumed the title of king of France. Thereupon Charles V. declared that all the English possessions in France were forfeited, and before the end of 1369 all Aquitaine was in full revolt. With weak health and impaired resources, the Black Prince showed little activity in dealing with his insurgent subjects, or in warding off French invasion. Though too ill to ride on horseback, he insisted upon commanding his troops, and on the 19th of September 1370 won his last barren success, by capturing the revolted city of Limoges and putting the population to the sword. Early in 1371 he returned to England, leaving the impossible task of holding Gascony to his brother John of Gaunt. In August 1372 he joined his father in an abortive expedition to France, but contrary winds prevented their landing, and he now abandoned military life for good. In October he resigned his principality on the ground that he could not afford to retain any longer so expensive a charge. His health now rapidly declined, but he still followed politics with interest, and did what he could to support the constitutional opposition of the great ecclesiastics to the administration of John of Gaunt and the anti-clerical courtiers. His last public act was to inspire the attack on Lancaster’s influence made by the Good Parliament in the spring of 1376. The famous parliament was still in session when he died at Westminster on the 8th of July. He was buried in the east end of Canterbury cathedral on the 29th of September, where his magnificent tomb, erected in accordance with the instructions in his will, may still be seen. By Joan, “the fair maid of Kent,” who died on the 7th of August 1385, the Black Prince left an only son, afterwards King Richard II.
For authorities see Edward III. To these may be added W. Hunt’s article in the Dict. Nat. Biog.; A. Collins’s Life of Edward, Prince of Wales (1740); G. P. R. James’s Life of Edward the Black Prince (1839); J. Moisant’s Le Prince Noir en Aquitaine (1894); and R. P. Dunn-Pattison’s The Black Prince (1910).
(T. F. T.)