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Edward III

1312-1377

Edward was the son of Edward II of England and his queen Isabelle ("the She-wolf of France"). He came to the throne when his father was overthrown and murdered by a cabal led by Isabelle and her lover Roger Mortimer. For years afterward he "ruled" under their sway.

In 1328, France needed a new king. Edward was the heir in the more senior female line (through his mother), but the nobles of France decided to elect Philip of Valois, heir in the more junior male line (though his uncle), as king. Edward was sent to France to do homage to Philip for the English held lands of the former Aquitaine. And thus were laid the political seeds of the Hundred Years War.

England did not prosper under the She-wolf. Military defeat in Scotland forced Edward to accept Robert Bruce as King of the Scots. Favoritism was rife and payment for favors hurt the country. One such payment, at least, proved ultimately to the good: in return for the aid of the Count of Hainault, Isabelle wed Edward to Phillipa, the Count's daughter. Phillipa proved to be a loyal wife and good queen to Edward.

In 1330 Edward acted against his long borne outrage, striking down the cabal and taking control of his reign. He moved against Scotland, overthrowing the Bruce line and restoring the land to England's control. Then he turned to France, and the Hundred Years War began. Edward and his war leaders won many battles but, even with the capture of the French king, could not achieve a lasting victory. As Edward grew older, both he and his heir slipped into infirmity, England lost much of the land gained in the struggle.

By 1375, most of England's gains in France were gone and a truce was arranged. Edward was suffering from senility and very much under the thumb of his mistress Alice Perrers. The great nobles and churchmen quarreled over the proper course for the kingdom. Corruption infested the court. In 1376 the Good Parliament, under the influence of one faction, attempted to set things right: banishing Perrers from the king's presence, limiting the influence of John of Gaunt's faction, and calling for the presence at his grandfather's court of Richard of Bordeaux, the true heir now that his father Edward of Woodstock had succumbed.

Edward did not dispute such action, nor did he interfere with the jockeying for position that followed, which saw both the returned influence of John of Gaunt and the return of Alice Perrers. In 1377 Edward died, leaving the strong kingdom he had rebuilt in tatters and teetering on the brink of collapse.