Edward III was the oldest son
of King Edward II
and came to the throne
at the age of 14 when his father
was deposed by the armies of his mother and her lover
. Edward started the Hundred Years War
, originally over the Flemish wool
trade; he had a claim to the throne of France
because his mother had been the sister of King Charles IV. But the Salic
Law the French used said that the throne could not pass through a woman
, so the nearest heir descended through a male line became king. Edward accepted this for the first 10 years after Charles' death, but decided to press his claim on the advice of weavers in Flanders
with whom he'd made an important economic agreement in 1338.
Philip VI of France decided that Edward's claiming the French throne was an act of war and invaded the cities that were Edward's in France. Edward defended them, and won victories at Crecy and Poitiers. Edward's son Edward the Black Prince became a hero in these wars. However, the war went on and on; English strength was greatly reduced by the outbreak of bubonic plague ("The Black Death") in 1349, and in 1360 a treaty was signed where Edward renounced his claim to France. But in 1369 he started claiming it again; in 1376, the Black Prince died of dysentery and only five fortified towns on the coast of France remained in English hands.
During Edward's reign, he did do some things in his own country; Parliament was divided into two houses, English rather than French became the language used in courts of law, and the office of Justice of the Peace was first created. Edward also founded the Order of the Garter.
Edward died of a stroke on 21 June 1377 and was succeeded on the throne by his 10-year-old grandson Richard II.