On this day in history….26th August 1346

On this day in history : 26th August 1346 – King Edward III and his son, Edward the Black Prince, lead and win the Battle of Crécy – against Philip VI of France….

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The Battle of Crecy, from a 15th Century illuminated manuscript of Jean Froissart’s Chronicles – Public domain

Crécy, which was then a village in northern France, was one of the most famous battles of the Hundred Years War…. King Edward’s army faced a much larger French force, who were renowned for their skills with the crossbow…. However, the crossbow was no match for the English longbow – and to add to French woes they had forgotten to bring their shields with them, leaving them extremely vulnerable! The crossbowmen retreated – but such was the fury of the French knights – seeing the retreat as cowardice – that they slaughtered their fleeing countrymen…. Only when the knights took up their own turn to attack did they realise the full might of the English longbow and they themselves were to face slaughter….

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Battle of Crecy (19th Century engraving) – Public domain

The battle was described as ‘a political catastrophe for the French Crown’ and ‘a total victory for the English’…. There is a legend – and it can only be described as such, as having no proven truth – that King Edward’s men did not kill the French crossbowmen that they captured…. Instead they cut off the two fingers needed to fire their bows…. It is said this is where the ‘V sign’ insult originates from – it became the two-fingered salute to the French before battle commenced….a gesture that has been used by the British – and later the Commonwealth countries ever since….

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Edward III counting the dead on the battlefield of Crecy – Virgil Master (illuminator) – Public domain

On this day in history….1st February 1327

On this day in history : 1st February 1327 – Fourteen year old Edward III is crowned King of England – but the country is to be ruled by his mother and her lover….

Edward was born on the 13th of November 1312, probably at Windsor Castle…. His father was King Edward II and his mother Isabella of France – the pair had married in January 1308…. Isabella was the daughter of Philip IV of France….

Edward II’s reign was a troubled one….he had difficulty asserting his authority over the powerful barons…. His own father had left him with enormous debts, a war with Scotland that was proving to be impossible to win – and hostilities with France…. It was all a recipe for disaster….and his nineteen year reign was to eventually come to an acrimonious end….

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Edward II shown receiving the English crown in a contemporary illustration – British Library digital collections – Public domain

Isabella returned to France in 1325 to settle a long-standing dispute between her husband and her brother, Charles IV of France…. The dispute involved the Gascogne region of Southwestern France… She was successful in her negotiations and managed to secure the land for England – on the condition that in return Edward II would pay homage to Charles IV…. Edward II, reluctant to leave England because domestic troubles were arising once again, decided to send his son on his behalf…. Once the young Edward had arrived and joined his mother, Isabella announced her refusal to return to England…. She also became the mistress of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore….

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The future Edward III giving homage in 1325 to Charles IV under the guidance of Isabella of France – Public domain

Mortimer, 1st earl of March, owned wealthy estates in Wales and Ireland and was opposed to King Edward II and his Despensers, which had eventually landed him in the Tower of London in 1323…. However, he managed to escape and fled to France…. He and Isabella began to plot….

An invasion of England in September 1326 saw the fall of the Despensers and the deposition of Edward II (and his murder in 1327)…. Edward II was charged with incompetence and breaking his coronation oath – he was forced to give up the throne…. Mortimer was heavily implicated in the proceedings….

Young Edward III was crowned but it was Mortimer who was to become the de facto ruler…. He soon set about seizing many of the noble estates and titles across the land…. He became a very unpopular man – even more so after a humiliating defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Stanhope Park….

In 1330 young Edward III decided it was time he assumed responsibility and dealt with Mortimer…. Edward had married Philippa of Hainault in January 1328 and had become father to a son in June 1330 – he now had an heir of his own….

With the help of his close friend William Montagu – and a small number of loyal trusted supporters – Edward took Mortimer by surprise at Nottingham Castle on the 19th of October 1330….

Mortimer was taken to the Tower of London…. He was condemned without trial, being accused of assuming royal power – and other charges…. His estates were forfeited to the crown…. and he was hanged at Tyburn on the 29th of November 1330…. His body was left hanging on the gallows for two days…. However, Edward III did show some degree of leniency – he refrained from having Mortimer disembowelled….

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The Tyburn – from the collections of The National Archives (United Kingdom) – Public domain