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British Monarchs: Edward III (Plantagenets) 1327-1377

Edward III

House: Plantagenets
Reign: 1327-1377

Edward III (13 November 1312–21 June 1377) was one of the most successful English monarchs of the Middle Ages. He remained on the throne for 50 years; no English monarch had reigned as long since Henry III, and none would until George III. Having restored royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, he went on to transform England into the most efficient military power in Europe. To a large extent, Edward III can be credited with the birth of the English nation.

Edward was crowned at the age of fourteen, following the deposition of his father. Only seventeen years old, he led a coup against his regent, the usurper Roger Mortimer, and began his personal reign. After subjugating the Scots, he declared himself rightful heir to the French throne in 1337, starting what would be known as the Hundred Years' War. Following some initial setbacks, the war went exceptionally well for England; the victories of Crécy and Poitiers led up to the highly favourable Treaty of Brétigny. Edward’s later years, however, were marked by international failure and domestic strife, largely as a result of his inertia and eventual bad health.

Edward was also responsible for establishing the Order of the Garter, and his reign saw vital developments in legislature and government—in particular the evolution of the English parliament—as well as the ravaging of the Black Death. By character he was a temperamental man, but also capable of great clemency. He was, in most ways, a conventional king, and his interests lay mainly in the field of warfare. Highly revered in his own time and for centuries after, Edward III was denounced as an irresponsible adventurer by later Whig historians. This view has turned, and modern historiography credits him with many achievements.

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