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 – he was the first English king to have the exact time of his birth recorded. 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 in 1348. During his reign the Black Death decimated the population of England.
He married Philippa, daughter of William III, Count of Holland and Hainault, at York Minster on 24 January 1328. They had seven sons and five daughters. Their eldest son Edward of Woodstock, later called the "Black" Prince probably due to the colour of the armour he wore, died in 1376 and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.
His father was deposed and later murdered and Edward was proclaimed Keeper of the Realm in October 1326 and King in January 1327. In February he was crowned in Westminster Abbey by Walter Reynolds, Archbishop of Canterbury. Philippa's coronation took place a few weeks after their marriage.
Burial, Monument and funeral effigy
The king died of a stroke at Sheen Palace on 21 June 1377. A torch lit procession accompanied the coffin which first stopped at St Paul's cathedral. His funeral took place in the Abbey on 5 July and he was buried near his wife's monument in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor. His bones lie in the tomb chest
The wooden effigy, which was carried at his funeral, is preserved in the Abbey collection and the face (a plaster mask fixed to the wood, slightly distorted on the left side of the mouth) is thought to be taken from a death mask.
On his Purbeck marble tomb is a gilt bronze effigy, with long hair and beard, which is possibly by John Orchard. He wears his coronation robes and holds the handles of two sceptres (the rest being broken off). He has small buttons on his cuffs and decoration on his shoes. On the flat tomb top are niches, some of which still hold small gilt angels. The pillow below the king's head is a replacement from 1871 (given by Queen Victoria), the original having been lost. The lion at his feet (shown in an engraving of 1677) has now gone. 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 twelve of his children round the tomb but only six of these now remain on the south side - Edward the "Black Prince", Edmund of Langley, William of Hatfield, Lionel of Antwerp, Mary of Brittany and Joan of the Tower. (Those that are now missing were to Isabel, Dame de Couci, William of Woodstock, John of Gaunt, Blanche of the Tower, Margery Countess of Pembroke and Thomas Duke of Gloucester, with their enamelled coats of arms below).
Above the tomb is an elaborate wooden tester by Hugh Herland. The arches terminate in half-angels as pendants. The soffit has a rich ribbed vault of six bays with cusping and bosses carved with human and beast-heads, many of which are missing. Four large enamelled shields (showing the cross of St George and the arms of France and England quarterly) remain on the south side of the tomb chest.
A state sword, seven feet long, was traditionally associated with this king and was kept near his tomb for many centuries. Also a shield covered with canvas and black leather, now much mutilated.
During the Great War the effigy was stored in the crypt of the Chapter House. Both effigy and tester were evacuated to a country house during the Second World War.
Tomb dimensions in metres: length 2.90. width 1.35. height 1.70.
The funeral effigy, state sword and the shield will be on show in the new Jubilee Galleries, due to open in mid 2018.
Philippa of Hainault
Philippa was born in 1314 and often accompanied Edward on his foreign expeditions. She is remembered for pleading successfully for the lives of the burghers of Calais who surrendered the town to Edward. She died at Windsor Castle on 14 August 1369. The king was devoted to her and spent about £3,000 on her tomb in the Confessor's chapel at the Abbey, in which her bones lie. The queen's alabaster effigy, by Hennequin (Jean) of Liège, is undoubtedly a portrait as it shows her plump figure and kindly face. She originally held the string of her cloak in one hand and a sceptre but the hands are now broken. She wears a reticulated head dress, tight bodice laced in front, buttoned sleeves and a loose cloak. Her bones lie in the tomb chest below the effigy.
The tomb has been much mutilated over the centuries and most of its decoration has disappeared and there is now no inscription. But this short Latin inscription was recorded in 1677, translated as "Queen Philippa. Wife of Edward lies here. Queen Philippa. Learn to Live" on the base below the shields. The railings which once protected the tomb on the south side were removed in the early 19th century.
Only two of the many weepers (statuettes) around the tomb still survive (the original scheme of figures is recorded in the Abbey's Liber Niger cartulary, together with statues above the tomb ie. St Louis (king), St Louis (bishop), St John the Baptist and St George). The weepers, including one thought to be Blanche of Lancaster holding her pet monkey, are protected by a grille. The headless one has the arms borne by Philippa herself below it. When the Chantry Chapel of Henry V was built this encroached on the eastern end of her tomb. Two shields of arms remain on the south side of the tomb, two are hidden at the east end and three are on the north side (behind the protective grille).
Tomb dimensions in metres: length 2.74. width 1.34. height 1.55.
The tomb was sandbagged for protection during the Great War and evacuated to a country house 1939-45.
Photographs of the tomb effigies, weepers, Edward's funeral effigy, sword and shield can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
The Perfect King. The life of King Edward III by Ian Mortimer, 2006
The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey edited by A. Harvey and R. Mortimer, 2003 revised edition.
Gothic tombs of kinship, by A. Morganstern, 2000 (with plan of names of all weepers once round the tomb)
The history of the King's works vol.1 ed. by H.M.Colvin, 1963 (chapter XI royal tombs and monuments)
Royal Monuments in the 19th century by John Physick in Church Monuments II, 1987
Gleanings from Westminster Abbey by Sir G.G.Scott, 1863 p.64-5 (he found parts of her tomb in a museum)
A genealogical history of the kings of England... by F.Sandford, 1677 (shows her crown, the beast at her feet and more of the shields)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004
The reign of Edward III by W.M.Ormrod, 2000
A 19th century reconstruction of part of Philippa's tomb base is at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Click on the images to enlarge