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3 - An Emotional Pragmatism: Edward III and Death

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 October 2020

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Summary

ONE OF THE DOWNSIDES of advanced old age, in the Middle Ages as today, is that one gradually outlives family and friends. Though not old by modern standards, upon his death at 65 in June 1377, Edward III had survived his wife, Queen Philippa (d. 1369), and his siblings, namely his brother (John of Eltham, earl of Cornwall (d. 1336)) and two sisters (Eleanor of Woodstock, countess of Guelders (d. 1355) and Joan of the Tower, Queen of the Scots (d. 1362)). Similarly, along with three children who died very young, five of his nine offspring living past infancy also predeceased him: Joan of the Tower (d. 1348); Margaret of Windsor, countess of Pembroke (d. 1361); Mary of Waltham, duchess of Brittany (d. 1362); Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence (d. 1368); and most famously, Edward, the Black Prince, his son and heir designate (d. 1376). All of these children, whether they had lived past infancy or not, are commemorated on the side of Edward's tomb monument in Westminster Abbey. Edward also outlived many close companions of his prime – William Montagu, earl of Salisbury (d. 1344), Henry Grosmont, duke of Lancaster (d. 1361), and Walter Mauny (d. 1372), to name but those closest to him – men who had helped the king seize power in 1330 and/or hold onto it thereafter, whether through support at home or military activities abroad. Mark Ormrod has often noted the importance of death in Edward III's life, his ‘sheer capacity for survival’ being beaten only by King George III, Queen Victoria and the present queen, Elizabeth II. This essay examines how Edward reacted to these deaths, as husband, brother, father, and friend, but also as the primary representative of a royal dynasty which had seen such a fundamental crisis at the beginning of the reign, namely the deposition of his father, Edward II. Moreover, the events of the previous reign left problematic legacies not just in terms of the forced end of a monarch's tenure. There were also the issues of both Edward II and Queen Isabella's familial, aristocratic and wider European relationships, including lovers for both king and queen (Piers Gaveston, Roger Mortimer, and possibly Hugh Despenser the Younger), armed revolts against each as governors of the realm, and problems with France, Scotland and Ireland.

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Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England
Essays in Honour of W. Mark Ormrod
, pp. 39 - 70
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2020

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