Black Prince

The Black Prince’s Baptism By Fire

Along with the Crusades, the Hundred Years’ War is one of the most famous medieval conflicts. The war is famous not just because of its length, spanning over a century, but also because of the legendary figures and iconic battles.

While these might appear set in stone today, these figures had to get their start somewhere and their destinies were far from certain. Sometimes, a single decision was all it took to send them on their path to greatness. Such was the case of one of the most popular figures of the early Hundred Years’ War, Edward of Woodstock, better known as the Black Prince.

Despite that intimidating monicker, the Black Prince was revered for his behavior, standing as an example of what a knight should be by displaying courage, intelligence, and honor throughout this war. These qualities allowed him to capture huge swaths of territory, devastate France, and even capture their king.

Before he did that, he started as simply a commander in King Edward III’s army, his father. Together, the two landed in France at the start of the war and began raiding the French country. After weeks of pillaging, the French would send their army after the Edwards.

Their forces met near the town of Crécy where the English were outnumbered by as much as 3:1. Despite that, they had an excellent position, having placed their army atop a hill covered with shrubs and trees to prevent the French from just charging them. They further strengthened their position by placing stakes on the ground.

The Black Prince was given command of the vanguard with nearly 4,000 troops. He would be the first to meet the French when they charged. Despite early success, the vanguard soon became hard-pressed when the main French army charged at them, driving them back and nearly breaking their lines.

Things became so serious that the Black Prince sent a messenger, asking his father for help. However, Edward III did not send support and told his son that he was unwounded, but this was his chance to win his spurs, a common saying meaning to earn his knighthood. Technically speaking, the Black Prince was already a knight at the time but was simply inexperienced in battle.

Semantics aside, the young prince took his father’s words to heart and continued to fight. By the end of the battle, Edward III found his son had managed to beat back the French and hold the vanguard together.

This exchanged was immortalized in this historical document.

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