On this day in 1376, “the strenuous and warlike Prince departed to God. He died on Trinity Sunday, during the Great Parliament, and may God protect him, for he was the very flower of chivalry, without peer in this world.” — from the personal tribute to the Prince by military surgeon John Arderne*
Our current item comes from a long personal history of knowing about Edward of Woodstock, though not precisely what his story was. Over time I gathered a few tidbits about him, including that he was a superstar warrior in his day, but predeceased his son (1376), who then succeeded to his grandfather’s throne as Richard II (1377). For a very long time Edward was quite mysterious to me, not just owing to the conflicting reports of his reputation—a “nasty piece of work” or man of valor?—but also because I had never seen any likeness of him at all. When a household ghost, whose demeanor somehow reminded me of the Black Prince† , took up residence in a corner of one room, I determined I really did need to learn more about this historical figure.
I found there isn’t really a shortage of books about Edward Plantagenet, and the one I eventually decided upon is the focus of today’s entry: The Black Prince by Michael Jones. This is in large part because another piece here at Murrey and Blue, appeared in 2017, shared that new evidence had been revealed by a French source and is discussed in Jones’s biography. (For more on this, click here. You can also follow and search.)
And also because, well, the cover is quite attractive. This isn’t merely the visual, but also how it relates: depicting the Prince as he rests in his tomb, it returns my thoughts to those of my ghost, always just as still while breathing an aura of contradiction into the air, quietly aware of everything going on around him yet revealing nothing. In 2019 I finally purchased the book and am, sadly, still trying to find the time to read it. Happily, it has now made it to the small pile of books on a shelf near my bedside table, silently haunting me morning and night. A looming deadline keeps me from picking it up just yet, but I have officially added it to my Reading 2021 Challenge, so it won’t be long now. I’m really looking forward to finally exploring the life of this enigmatic individual as well as Jones’s new information on him. The last time I chose to read about a major medieval figure—intending to read one book and move on—he became a significant research and study focus, so I’m quite intrigued to see where Edward of Woodstock will lead me.
Book Information and Blurb:
The Black Prince‡ by Michael Jones
Published: 2017 by Head of Zeus Ltd. | ISBN: 978-1784972936
Format: Hardcover | Pages: 404
In 1346 , at the age of sixteen, he won his spurs at Crécy; nine years later he conducted a brutal raid across Languedoc; in 1356 he captured the king of France at Poitiers; as lord of Aquitaine he ruled a vast swathe of southwestern France.
He was Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III, but better known to posterity as ‘the Black Prince’. His military achievements captured the imagination of Europe: the chronicler Jean Froissart called him ‘the flower of all chivalry’; and for the man known as Chandos Herald, who fought with him, he was ‘the embodiment of all valour’
But what was the true nature of the man behind the chivalric myth, and of the violent but pious world in which he lived? Drawing on contemporary chronicles and a wide range of documentary material, Michael Jones tells the remarkable and inspiring story of one of the great warrior-princes of the Middle Ages – and paints an unforgettable portrait of warfare and chivalry in the fourteenth century.
*Jones, Michael. The Black Prince. London: Head of Zeus, 2017.
†This entity struck me as having some sort of martial background, and his discipline of stillness was astounding, combined with his ability to remain this way while nonetheless making his presence quite known. He never struck me as the Black Prince, but merely reminded me of him given the similar nature of the missing countenance (his face was covered) and that I could never quite determine if in life he had been a dangerous individual, protective, or perhaps a bit of both.
This blog first appeared at Before the Second Sleep in November 2020. Lisl is pleased to update it here, adding that she has at last begun to read The Black Prince, and readers should expect more to come. Join Lisl in her journey of learning more about Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, known to posterity as the Black Prince.