Edward III was born on 13th November 1312 the son of Edward II and Isabella of France. He became king on 25th January 1327 after his father was deposed by his mother and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Because he was only fourteen years of age Isabella and Mortimer acted as regents for the young king.
In 1328 Edward married Philippa of Hainault and the first of their fifteen children was born two years later in 1330.
Edward bore no love for Roger Mortimer and in 1330 at the age of 17 led a successful coup against him and his mother Isabella. Mortimer was charged with treason and executed. Having gained control Edward turned his attention to Scotland and between 1330 and 1336 led three campaigns against the Scots. Although he had some successes the Scots rallied under David II and reclaimed lost territories.
In 1337 Edward turned his attention to France and began what was to become known as the Hundred Years’ War. Edward’s decision to invade France in 1337 was caused by three main factors – firstly, France was allied to Scotland and provided aid to Scotland against the recent English campaigns; secondly, there had been a number of French raids long the south coast and many believed that this was a precursor to a full-scale French invasion and thirdly, Philip VI had confiscated the regions of Aquitaine and Pointhieu that were under English control.
The first years of the war achieved little except discontent among Edward’s subjects who faced financial hardship as a result of the campaign. In 1346 Edward decided to launch a major offensive and landed in Normandy with a force of 15,000 and in August 1346 had a major victory against the French at the Battle of Crecy. Edward’s son, Edward the Black Prince was the first recipient of the Order of the Garter which was established by Edward III around 1348.
From 1347 to 1351 Europe was ravaged by the Black Death which killed around 25 million people – about a third of the population of Europe. The French campaign was put on hold as the king turned his attention to rebuilding the economy.
In 1356 the French campaign was resumed with Edward’s eldest son, Edward the Black Prince scoring a series of victories and the 1360 Treaty of Bretigny ended the first phase of the war with nearly a quarter of France being in English possession.
In 1369 the French renewed the war but Edward left the fighting to his sons. A series of defeats meant that by 1375 England had lost all possessions in France except Calais, Bordeaux and Bayonne.
In 1369 Queen Philippa had died. Edward’s son, the Black Prince, had died in 1376 and his son Richard succeeded to the throne when Edward III died in 1377.