Edward III., King of England, was a very warlike prince. When the King of France died he was succeeded by his nephew Philip, but Edward declared that he, being a grandson of the late king, had a better right than a nephew; and he set off with a gallant army and many knights and nobles to enforce his claim.
The war proved a much longer one than Edward had expected. Six years after the English king’s first march into France the two nations were still fighting. By this time King Edward’s eldest son was fifteen years of age, and he implored his father to let him accompany him to the French war.
This young prince was a fine spirited youth, and skilful at all manly exercises. In appearance he was very fair, with light hair and laughing blue eyes. Perhaps he was a little vain of his appearance, because in order to show off the fairness of his complexion he always wore dark-coloured armour, a habit which led to his being known in after life as Edward the Black Prince.
Seeing his boy’s courage and warlike spirit, the king consented to his accompanying him upon his next expedition into France.
In the month of July, 1346, the king and the prince set sail with an army of thirty thousand men, ten thousand of whom were archers.
For seven weeks the English marched through the fair and smiling country of France, meeting with very little opposition, and plundering and burning wherever they went.
At last, by the little village of Crecy on the banks of the river Somme, the English came in view of the French army.
It was not difficult to tell that the army of the King of France numbered at least eight times as many men as were on the side of the English; but King Edward decided that it would never do to betray fear.
‘We will go in,’ he said calmly to his men, ‘and beat, or be beaten.’
It was too late to fight that day; and the English lay down within sight of the enemy.
Early in the morning the English king set his army in order of battle.
King Edward himself was to command one division; two of his earls another; and the eager young prince, assisted by the Earls of Warwick and Oxford, was given the charge of a third.
When the troops were all drawn up in fighting array, the king mounted his horse and rode from rank to rank, cheering and encouraging the men and their leaders.
‘He spoke so sweetly,’ says an old writer, ‘and with so good a countenance and merry cheer, that all such as were discomfited took courage in seeing and hearing him.’
By the time King Edward had gone round the whole army it was about nine o’clock, and the sun was shining warm and bright upon what was soon to be the field of battle. The king sent orders that his men were to ‘eat at their ease and drink a cup’; and the whole army sat down upon the grass and breakfasted. Then they returned to their ranks again and lay down, each man in his place, with his bow and helmet beside him, waiting until the enemy should be ready to begin the fight.
by: Hilda T. Skae
The following short story is reprinted from Stories from English History. Hilda T. Skae. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1907.