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Edward the Black Prince

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

King Charles.

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

invaded France.

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.