Edward III and Philippa of Hainault
Edward, son of Edward II and Isabel daughter of King Philip of France, was born at Windsor Castle on 13 November 1312 (at 5.40am). His father was deposed and Edward was crowned in Westminster Abbey early in 1327/8. He married Philippa, daughter of William Count of Hainault, at York Minster. Much of his reign was taken up with fighting in France, pursuing his claim to the French throne but he also brought about reforms in Parliament and founded the Order of the Garter at Windsor. During his reign the Black Death decimated the population of England. His eldest son Edward (called the “Black Prince”) died in 1376 and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral. The king himself died soon after of a stroke on 21 June 1377 and was buried near his wife in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor in the Abbey. The wooden effigy carried at his funeral is preserved in the Abbey Museum and is thought to be taken from a death mask. On his Purbeck marble tomb is a gilt bronze effigy, possibly by John Orchard, and the inscription can be translated: “Here is the glory of the English, the paragon of past kings, the model of future kings, a merciful king, the peace of the peoples, Edward the third fulfilling the jubilee of his reign, the unconquered leopard, powerful in war like a Maccabee. While he lived prosperously, his realm lived again in honesty. He ruled mighty in arms; now in Heaven let him be a king”. Originally there were bronze weepers (or statuettes) of 12 of his children round the tomb but only 6 of these now remain on the south side. Above the tomb is a wooden tester by Hugh Herland.
Philippa of Hainault was born in 1314 and often accompanied Edward on his foreign expeditions. She died in 1369. The king was devoted to her and spent about £3,000 on her tomb in the Confessor’s chapel at the Abbey. The queen’s alabaster effigy, by Hennequin of Liège, is undoubtedly a portrait. She originally held the string of her cloak in one hand and a sceptre but the hands are now broken. The tomb has been much mutilated over the centuries and most of its decoration has disappeared and there is no inscription.
Photographs of the tomb effigies and the funeral effigy of Edward can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
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