Edward III,surnamed the Confessor, king of the Anglo-Saxons, son of Ethelred II. and successor to Hardicanute, born at Islip, Oxfordshire, about 1004, ascended the throne in 1042, and died Jan. 5, 1066. His mother was a Norman princess, Emma, and during the Danish domination which succeeded the death of Edmund Ironside he dwelt in exile in Normandy. On the death of Canute in 1035 he crossed the channel with 40 ships, and landed at Southampton. He found himself opposed by his mother, who had become a second time queen of England by marriage with the Danish monarch, and was now regent of the kingdom. Menaced by a constantly increasing force, he hastily retreated. With his brother Alfred he received a perfidious invitation from King Harold to cross the sea in 1037. Alfred was murdered at Guildford, but Edward escaped into Flanders. After the accession of his half brother Hardicanute, Edward was received with honor into England, and was at court when the king suddenly died in 1042. The Danish heir Sweyn was then absent from the kingdom; the rightful heirs of the Saxon line, the sons of Edmund Ironside, were in exile in Hungary; the Anglo-Saxons were determined to throw off the Danish voke: the Danes were divided and dispirited; Edward was the nearest to the throne of any one present, and after a short period of hesitation and commotion he was recognized as king in a general council at Gil-lingham. During his reign the mutual aversion of the two fierce Teutonic peoples, whose struggles had vexed the country during six generations, began to subside, intermarriages and a blending of language and customs having nearly effaced the distinction between them, and the Normans began to exercise a potent influence in the country.
The first royal act of Edward was to dispossess his mother of her immense treasures, and to confine her for life in a monastery at Winchester. The government was in the hands of three powerful noblemen: Earl Godwin, who ruled all the southern provinces; Earl Leofric, who governed Leicester and the northern counties of Mercia; and Earl Siward, whose sway extended from the Humber to the confines of Scotland. Edward married Earl Godwin's daughter Edith a, a lady praised by the chroniclers for her learning, piety, and benevolence; but his motive was merely political, and the alliance proved a source of enmity between the king and his father-in-law. Edward was partial both to Norman manners and people; many foreign churchmen and dignitaries had followed him to England, where they had acquired influence in the government. A popular jealousy was already felt against them, when in 1051 Eustace, count of Boulogne, with his train, visiting England, quarrelled with the burghers of Dover, and in the tumult several persons were slain. Edward gave orders to Godwin, in whose government Dover lay, to chastise the insolence of the men of that city.
The earl refused to obey; and three armies under the command of Godwin and his two sons immediately marched against the king in Gloucestershire. Edward summoned to his aid Leofric and Siward, and was quickly in a condition to intimidate his opponents, when it was agreed to refer the dispute to the witenagemote. But Godwin fled with his wife and sons to Flanders; their estates were then confiscated, and Queen Editha was confined in a monastery. Tranquillity was hardly restored when William, duke of Normandy, the future conqueror, reached the coast of England to assist his royal kinsman. He was received honorably, visited several of the royal villas, and was dismissed with magnificent presents. Godwin, having gradually collected a fleet, suddenly appeared in 1052 on the southern coast of England, swept away the ships from the harbors, entered the Thames, menaced London, and extorted from the king the restoration of himself and his son Harold to their earldoms and the banishment of the foreigners. Godwin did not long survive this triumph, and left his possessions to his son Harold. At this period occurred the events which form the groundwork of Shakespeare's tragedy of "Macbeth." In 1039 Macbeth, a turbulent nobleman, murdered Duncan, king of Scotland, chased Malcolm, his son and heir, into England, and usurped the crown.
The exiled prince received from Edward permission to vindicate his rights with an English army, and at length in 1054 was successfully supported by Macduff, thane of Fife, and Siward, earl of Northumberland. But the support which Edward gave to Malcolm resulted in adding largely to the power of his own most ambitious and dangerous subject. To oppose Harold's progress, the king invested Algar, the son of Leofric, with the government of East Anglia, which, after a struggle, he succeeded in holding. At Algar's death in 1058 Harold was left without a rival, the most powerful subject in England. Edward the Outlaw, the Saxon heir to the throne, after a life of exile, died within a few days of his arrival in England, and there now stood between Harold and the crown only the returned exile's young and feeble son Edgar. The infirm old king turned his eyes toward his kinsman, William of Normandy, as a person whose capacity and power would render him the most formidable rival to Harold; but he was deterred by the latter, on his return from Normandy, as Hume says, from abdicating in William's favor, and Harold was crowned on the day of Edward's death. The laws and customs of "good King Edward " were long remembered with popular affection.
He was highly esteemed for his sanctity, was the first English prince that touched for the king's evil, and was canonized and styled "the Confessor" about a century after his decease. The most commendable feature of his government was his attention to the administration of justice, and to collecting the laws of the realm.
Edward III,eldest son of Edward II. and Isabella of France, born at Windsor, Nov. 13, 1312, proclaimed king of England Jan. 25, 1327, died at Shene (now Richmond), June 21, 1377. At the age of 12 he went with a splendid retinue to France to do homage to Charles IV. for the possession of Guienne and Pon-thieu, which had been resigned to him by his father. He remained with his mother at the French court, was contracted in marriage by her to Philippa, daughter of the count of Hainaut, whom he married Jan. 24, 1328, and was declared king after the captivity of his father. A council of regency, consisting of four bishops and ten noblemen, most of whom, being of Isabella's party, gave up to her and Mortimer (now created earl of March) the ascendancy in the government, had but just been appointed, when Robert Bruce, in violation of the truce, sent an army of 24,000 men under Randolph and Douglas, which ravaged the county of Cumberland. Young Edward marched to the north with more than 40,000 men, made a vain pursuit of the Scots, came up with them twice when they were in inaccessible positions, is recorded to have wept when he found himself outgeneralled by an inferior enemy, and concluded an inglorious campaign by a treaty in which the entire independence of Scotland was recognized.
The odium of this settlement was thrown upon Isabella and Mortimer, who increased their unpopularity by intrigues against the earl of Kent, whom they caused to be executed for high treason in 1330. In the same year Edward asserted his own authority against his mother and her paramour. Mortimer was executed for high treason at Smithfield, and Isabella was confined for the rest of her life in the manor of Risings. He immediately renewed his father's project of conquering Scotland, and secretly encouraged the claim of Edward Balliol to the crown of that country, who was willing to hold it as a fief of the English monarch. Balliol won the crown and lost it within three months, and the incursions of the Scots gave to Edward a pretext for renewing the war. He laid siege to Berwick, and on July 19, 1333, defeated on Halidon hill with great loss the army of the regent Douglas. The town and castle were immediately surrendered, and Balliol, being again seated on the throne of Scotland, ceded a large territory to England, a measure which was followed by his flight to that country within four months.
Three times in three years Edward invaded and devastated Scotland in support of Balliol, and then laid claim to the crown of France against Philip of Valois. The ground of this pretension was, that although females were excluded from the French throne, their male descendants were not; and that as the son of Isabella, the daughter of Charles IV., his claim was better than that of Philip, who was descended from a younger brother of Charles IV. Edward made alliance with several continental princes and rulers, the chief of whom were Louis the Bavarian, emperor of Germany, the dukes of Brabant and Gueldres, and James van Artevelde of Ghent. He formally published his claim in 1337, and in the following year sailed with a numerous fleet to Antwerp, designing to begin the campaign with the siege of Cambrai; but perceiving the difficulty of the enterprise, he advanced into France with about 50,000 men, was almost confronted with an army of nearly double that force under Philip, yet no engagement ensued, and he returned to Brussels and disbanded his army without having derived any advantage from his immense expenditures.
He returned to England in 1340, obtained an unprecedented grant from parliament, defeated a French fleet off Sluis, returned to the continent, and at the head of nearly 200,000 men, including his Flemish allies, undertook at the same time the sieges of Tournay and St. Omer, both of which were unsuccessful; and he quickly concluded an armistice for nine months, and soon after another for three years and eight months. Another English campaign in France was begun in 1346 under the earl of Derby, and prosecuted with uninterrupted success. Edward also landed with a numerous force on the coast of Normandy, advanced to Rouen, sent his light troops to insult the faubourgs of Paris, and on Aug. 26 gained over Philip the decisive battle of Crecy. The siege of Calais followed, and while the chivalry of England lay before the walls of that city, the Scots suddenly crossed the frontier, but were defeated near Durham by a miscellaneous and rapidly collected army, and their king David captured. Calais surrendered after an obstinate defence, and a truce followed which lasted till 1355. Meantime Edward invaded and widely desolated Scotland, causing a havoc long remembered.
The war was renewed in France under the Black Prince, who gained on Sept. 19, 1356, the memorable victory of Poitiers, in which he took King John of France prisoner. The Scottish king was ransomed for £100,000 in 1357, and in 1360 the "great peace" was concluded at Bretigny, by which Edward renounced his pretensions to the crown of France and restored his conquests, retaining only the full sovereignty of Poitou, Guienne, and the county of Ponthieu. Though the misfortunes of the latter years of his reign contrasted strongly with the glories of its commencement, and though his victories left few lasting acquisitions, yet they gave to England a lustre and renown which were long her strength and safety. In his reign the elegant arts began to be cultivated, the castle of Windsor was rebuilt, and English poetry and prose may be said to have been begun. He was succeeded by his grandson Richard II.