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Edward the Black Prince

Edward the Black Prince, 1330–76, eldest son of Edward III of England. He was created duke of Cornwall in 1337, the first duke to be created in England, and prince of Wales in 1343. Joining his father in the campaigns of the Hundred Years War, he established his reputation for valor at the battle of Crécy (1346). It was apparently the French who called him the Black Prince, perhaps because he wore black armor; the name was not recorded in England until the 16th cent. In 1355 the prince led an expedition into Aquitaine, and in 1356 he defeated and captured John II of France in the battle of Poitiers. Edward became ruler of the newly created English principality of Aquitaine in 1363 and, with his wife Joan of Kent, maintained a brilliant court at Bordeaux. In 1367 he went to the support of Peter the Cruel of Castile and temporarily restored him to his throne by the victory of Nájera. However, the expenses of the war compelled Edward to levy a tax in Aquitaine that was protested by his nobles and by Charles V of France on their behalf. War with Charles resulted, and the prince, though ill, directed the capture and burning of Limoges (1370) with needless massacre of the citizens. By 1372 his bad health forced him to resign his principalities, leaving his brother, John of Gaunt, to attempt the impossible task of holding them for England. The aging Edward III had relaxed his hold on the government, and the Black Prince, aware that he would not live to succeed his father, tried to strengthen the hand of the clerical party against John of Gaunt so that the accession of his son (later Richard II) would be assured. To that end he supported (and possibly directed) the proceedings of the so-called Good Parliament of 1376, which, among other things, impeached two followers of John of Gaunt and removed Alice Perrers, the king's mistress, from court. The Black Prince died shortly thereafter.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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