King Edward III of England: Facts & Family Tree

Instructor: Mollie Madden
Edward III was king of England during the fourteenth century. This lesson describes the basic facts of his reign, specifically his family tree and connections to the French monarchy and the War of the Roses.

Who Was Edward III?

Edward III, one of the great Plantagenet kings of England, was born in 1312, the eldest son of King Edward II of England and Isabella of France, the daughter of King Philip IV of France. He became king at the age of fourteen. Due to Edward III's young age when he became king, his mother acted as regent, with her lover Roger Mortimer, Earl of March at her side. There was considerable conflict between the king and his guardians, and in 1330, Edward III acted to remove Mortimer from power. After Mortimer's execution in 1330 and Isabella's exile to northern England, Edward III reigned until his death in 1377.

Edward III was a successful warrior king who led campaigns in Scotland and France. He was a canny politician, able to convince Parliament to fund his military efforts, and he founded the Order of the Garter.

King Edward III, Order of the Garter
Edward III, Order of the Garter

He was also king when the Black Death struck England in 1348. Two of his children died of the plague (see below), and roughly one third of England's population was lost. While some places survived with minimal losses, other villages disappeared entirely.

Edward III's Claim to the Throne of France

The other major event of Edward III's reign was the start of the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453). While the causes of the war were many and complex, the king's justification for the war was the denial of his claim to the French throne. His mother was the daughter of King Philip IV of France, and her three older brothers were all successive kings of France and all died without sons. Thus, Edward III of England was the closet male relation. However, the French throne went to Philip de Valois, who became Philip VI of France. Philip was the grandson of King Philip III of France (Edward III's great-grandfather) through a junior line of the family, although his claim was through the male line. Edward's claim was through his mother and thus was denied on the basis of Salic Law, which meant that the throne of France could not pass through a woman.

French succession to the throne
French succession

Edward III's Children

Edward III's connection to the French monarchy complicated the succession to the French throne and on the surface led to war with France. In a similar fashion, Edward III's descendants had competing claims to the English throne, claims that ultimately led to the War of the Roses. Edward III and his wife, Philippa of Hainault, had twelve children, nine of whom survived childhood. Five of these were sons.

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