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Black Prince

Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Edward III. Froissart says he was “styled black by terror of his arms” (c. 169). Strutt confirms this saying: “for his martial deeds surnamed Black the Prince” (Antiquities ). Meyrick says there is not the slightest proof that Edward, Prince of Wales. ever wore black armour (vol. ii.); indeed, we have much indirect proof against the supposition. Thus Shaw (vol. i. plate 31) gives a facsimile from a picture on the wall of St. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, in which the prince is clad in gilt armour. Stothard says “the effigy is of copper gilt.” In the British Museum is an illumination of Edward III. granting to his son the duchy of Aquitaine, in which both figures are represented in silver armour with gilt joints. The first mention of the term “Black Prince” occurs in a parliamentary paper of the second year of Richard II.; so that Shakespeare has good reason for the use of the word in his tragedy of that king:

“Brave Gaunt, thy father and myself Rescued the Black Prince, that young Mars of men, From forth the ranks of many thousand French.”

Richard II.,
ii. 3.

“That black name, Edward, black Prince of Wales.” —Henry V. ii. 4.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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