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Famous Men of The Middle Ages|
Edward the Black Prince
by Haaren, John H. (LL.D.) and Poland, A. B. (Ph.D.)
|Lived from 1330-1376
One of the most famous warriors of the Middle Ages was Edward the
Black Prince. He was so called because he wore black armor in
The Black Prince was the son of Edward III who reigned over England
from 1327 to 1377. He won his fame as a soldier in the wars which
his father carried on against France.
You remember that the early kings of England, from the time
of William the Conqueror, had possessions in France. Henry II,
William's grandson, was the duke of Normandy and lord of Brittany
and other provinces, and when he married Eleanor of Aquitaine she
brought him that province also.
Henry's son John lost all the French possessions of the English
crown except a part of Aquitaine, and Edward III inherited this.
So when Philip of Valois (val-wah') became king of France, about
a year after Edward had become king of England, Edward had to do
homage to Philip.
To be king of England and yet to do homage to the king of France--to
bend the knee before Philip and kiss his foot--was something Edward
did not like. He thought it was quite beneath his dignity, as his
ancestor Rollo had thought when told that he must kiss the foot of
So Edward tried to persuade the nobles of France that he himself
ought by right to be the king of France instead of being only
a vassal. Philip of Valois was only a cousin of the late French
King Charles IV. Edward was the son of his sister. But there was
a curious old law in France, called the Salic Law, which forbade
that daughters should inherit lands. This law barred the claim
of Edward, because his claim came through his mother. Still he
determined to win the French throne by force of arms.
A chance came to quarrel with Philip. Another of Philip's vassals
rebelled against him, and Edward helped the rebel. He hoped by
doing so to weaken Philip and more easily overpower him.
Philip at once declared that Edward's possessions in France were
Then Edward raised an army of thirty thousand men, and with it
The Black Prince was now only about sixteen years of age, but he
had already shown himself brave in battle, and his father put him
in command of one of the divisions of the army.
Thousands of French troops led by King Philip were hurried from
Paris to meet the advance of the English; and on the 26th of August,
1346, the two armies fought a hard battle at the village of Crécy.
During the battle the division of the English army commanded by
the Black Prince had to bear the attack of the whole French force.
The prince fought so bravely and managed his men so well that King
Edward, who was overlooking the field of battle from a windmill on
the top of a hill, sent him words of praise for his gallant work.
Again and again the prince's men drove back the French in splendid
style. But at last they seemed about to give way before a very
fierce charge, and the earl of Warwick hastened to Edward to advise
him to send the prince aid.
"Is my son dead or unhorsed or so wounded that he cannot help
himself?" asked the king.
"No, Sire," was the reply; "but he is hard pressed."
"Return to your post, and come not to me again for aid so long as
my son lives," said the king. "Let the boy prove himself a true
knight and win his spurs."
The earl went to the prince and told him what his father had said.
"I will prove myself a true knight," exclaimed the prince. "My
father is right. I need no aid. My men will hold their post as
long as they have strength to stand."
Then he rode where the battle was still furiously raging, and
encouraged his men. The king of France led his force a number of
times against the prince's line, but could not break it and was at
last compelled to retire.
The battle now went steadily against the French, although they
far outnumbered the English. Finally, forty thousand of Philip's
soldiers lay dead upon the field and nearly all the remainder of
his army was captured. Philip gave up the struggle and fled. Among
those who fought on the side of the French at Crécy was the blind
king of Bohemia, who always wore three white feathers in his helmet.
When the battle was at its height the blind king had his followers
lead him into the thick of the fight, and he dealt heavy blows upon
his unseen foes until he fell mortally wounded. The three white
feathers were taken from his helmet by the Black Prince, who ever
after wore them himself.
As soon as he could King Edward rode over the field to meet his
son. "Prince," he said, as he greeted him, "you are the conqueror
of the French." Turning to the soldiers, who had gathered around
him, the king shouted, "Cheer, cheer for the Black Prince! Cheer
for the hero of Crécy!"
What cheering then rose on the battle-field! The air rang with
the name of the Black Prince.
Soon after the battle of Crécy King Edward laid siege to Calais;
but the city resisted his attack for twelve months. During the
siege the Black Prince aided his father greatly.
After the capture of Calais, it was agreed to stop fighting for
seven years, and Edward's army embarked for England.
In 1355 Edward again declared war against the French. The Black
Prince invaded France with an army of sixty thousand men. He
captured rich towns and gathered a great deal of booty. While he
was preparing to move on Paris, the king of France raised a great
army and marched against him.
The Black Prince had lost so many men by sickness that he had only
about ten thousand when he reached the city of Poitiers. Suddenly,
near the city, he was met by the French force of about fifty-five
thousand, splendidly armed and commanded by the king himself.
"God help us!" exclaimed the prince, when he looked at the long
lines of the French as they marched on a plain before him.
Early on the morning of September 14, 1356, the battle began. The
English were few in number, but they were determined to contest
every inch of the ground and not surrender while a hundred of
them remained to fight. For hours they withstood the onset of the
French. At last a body of English horsemen charged furiously on
one part of the French line, while the Black Prince attacked another
This sudden movement caused confusion among the French. Many of
them fled from the field. When the Black Prince saw this he shouted
to his men, "Advance, English banners, in the name of God and St.
George!" His army rushed forward and the French were defeated.
Thousands of prisoners were taken, including the king of France
and many of his nobles.
The king was sent to England, where he was treated with the greatest
kindness. When, some time afterwards there was a splendid procession
in London to celebrate the victory of Poitiers, he was allowed to
ride in the procession on a beautiful white horse, while the Black
Prince rode on a pony at his side.
The Black Prince died in 1376. He was sincerely mourned by the
English people. They felt that they had lost a prince who would
have made a great and good king.