The Black Prince and the Lords of War
David Cornell

The Black Prince and the Lords of War

Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, ranks among the most famous figures in British history. A renowned soldier, a paragon of chivalry, a prince of great wealth and largesse, he became a legend within his own lifetime. That he should die before inheriting the Crown only adds to the romance that surrounds this enigmatic warrior. Yet the Black Prince personified the martial age in which he lived. He is the most illustrious of a band of young and ambitious men whose existence was defined and dominated by warfare. The rise of these lords of war fuelled the incessant conflicts of the later fourteenth century, and made possible a series of great English military triumphs in France and Scotland. Within a generation they had transformed England into the most feared military force in Christendom. Such incredible success, however, led these lords to accumulate enormous wealth and power. In the last decades of the century, when military triumph turned to failure, it was the lords of war who deposed an English king and triggered a descent towards civil war. Through the life of the Black Prince the rise of these lords can be followed, and by appreciating the age he exemplified the legendary figure of the Black Prince more fully understood.

An era of warfare and chivalry, the lords of war performed acts of both brutality and honour, fighting against the Scots and waging the Hundred Years War, engaging in battles such as Crécy and Poitiers, participating in tournaments, and aspiring to become elite knights of the Garter. The profits of war brought tremendous wealth to knights such as John Chandos, Thomas Dagworth and Robert Knolles, and yet many ‘loved honour more than silver’. In northern England the Percies and Nevilles became all-powerful, while in Scotland the bellicose earls of Douglas and March arose to prominence; the personal ambitions and rivalries of these lords had a profound impact upon the wars and led to domestic upheaval. It was a period of contradictions: of chivalry and barbarity, pious devotion and extravagant materialism, loyal service and ruthless self-aggrandisement. For many, however, above all it was remembered as a golden age of heroic military triumph, the Black Prince an inspirational figure to both Henry V and Henry VIII. Yet the truth behind the romance and legend is rather different, as is the ultimate legacy of the Black Prince and the Lords of War.

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  • Author: David Cornell
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David Cornell

David Cornell was born in Leicester and educated at Loughborough Grammar School. He read History at Durham University graduating with a First. During his time at Durham he was introduced to the Scottish wars by Professor Michael Prestwich and he subsequently returned to Durham to as a postgraduate where he spent several years researching the wars. He was awarded a PhD in early 2007 and is currently engaged in further research and the writing of a number of academic articles.
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