The 5 Longest Reigning Kings & Queens – Edward III, Fifth Place

By , May 2, 2010 1:57 am

King Edward III – 50 years 4 months 25 days

Some English (and British, after the accession of King James I of England & VI of Scotland) managed to keep their backsides firmly on the throne for longer than the average birth to death life expectancy of their subjects.

This post is one of a series about the 5 longest reigns – all of which were (or are, in the case of Elizabeth II) over 50 years.

For obvious reasons, they were all young when they came to the throne, but not all were children.

The fifth-longest reign was a Medieval one – King Edward III’s domination of the 14th century

A portrait of King Edward III

A portrait of King Edward III

Family and childhood

Edward III lived from 13th November 1312 – 21th June 1377, and was the eldest child of King Edward II and his wife, Isabella of France.

The politest word for Edward and Isabella’s marriage is “disastrous”. Known also as Edward of Carnarvon / Caernarfon after his Welsh birthplace, he married Isabella, daughter of the King of France, in 1308.

Edward II had two successive male “favourites” who were allowed to run riot with the country, and Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser the Younger. Both were eventually killed by irate barons.

In a further twist to Edward III’s childhood harmony, Edward II was then deposed by his angry and humiliated wife, Queen Isabella, and her lover Roger Mortimer, and then died quietly in captivity, probably murdered on Isabella’s orders.

Effigy of Queen Philippa of Hainault

Effigy of Queen Philippa of Hainault

Accession to the throne

Thus Edward III came to the throne at the age of 14, with the country effectively ruled by Mortimer.

Edward married Phillipa of Hainault when he was 15, and she was 16, and then instituted a coup of his own when he was 17, arresting and executing Roger Mortimer, and exiling his mother, Queen Isabella.

Edward’s Reign

Despite a background which could only be described as dysfunctional, Edward and Phillipa seem to have had a happy marriage – far fewer mistresses and bastards than was common for medieval Kings. Edward’s only known mistress, Alice Perrars, entered his life when Queen Philippa was frail and terminally-ill, and he had no bastard children.

King Edward III and his son, Edward the Black Prince, from a contemporary illustration

King Edward III and his son, Edward the Black Prince, from a contemporary illustration

They had 9 children who survived to adulthood – Edward the Black Prince, Isabella, Joan, Lionel of Antwerp, John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley, Mary, Margaret and Thomas of Woodstock, as well as 5 others who died in childhood.

Edward III’s reign was, in many ways, successful and busy. He succeeded in winning famous battles against the French, including Poitiers and Crecy, and did the traditional Scots-bashing, too.

Edward also calmed things down in the country after the turmoil and rebellion of his father’s reign.

One obvious bleak spot in his reign was the Black Death, which made its first appearance in the early 1350s, and killed an estimated third to half of the population, including two of King Edward’s own children.

Edward was succeeded by his grandson, King Richard II. Richard’s father, Edward the Black Prince, died before his own father.

One long-standing and unforeseen consequence of King Edward’s many surviving children was the growth of the wealthy, royal aristocracy who helped kick off the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century………

2 Responses to “The 5 Longest Reigning Kings & Queens – Edward III, Fifth Place”

  1. Joanna says:

    What a lovely family…NOT. I’m ever amazed that the monarchy has survived in any form considering the perils experienced by those who wore the crown in earlier times. (:

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