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Edward III

Edward III

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Published by Michael Foley

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Published by: Michael Foley on May 14, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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“Merlin said thus with his mowth,Out of the north into the sowthSuld cum a bare [bear] over the se,That suld mak many man to fle” -Laurence Minot, c.1352
1Thomas Wright (ed.),
Political Poems and Songs Vol 1
(London, 1859) p. 75
How effective was the use of propaganda by Edward III to support hisforeign wars?
Edward III is considered by many historians to have been one of the mostsuccessful kings ever to rule over England. In a reign lasting 50 years – onegeneration Edward was able to transform England from a politically-ruinednation into a country that dared to take on the might of France and went on towin a number of historical battles on their own land. Thus, when dealing withEdward III’s reign, historians often debate over events on the battlefield and howdomestic and foreign influences were able to contribute to these drastic changesof fortunes. We are going to focus on the effects of propaganda for a number of reasons. First, there is ample evidence pointing towards Edward having an ideaof how to manipulate his people into supporting his foreign campaigns – thiscould explain why the king was able to continue funding the costly Hundred Years War. Second, propaganda may explain why those back home – especiallythe clergy were so supportive of Edward’s campaigns at the peak of hispopularity. Edward’s use of propaganda can also give us clues as to the origins of public relations, as Edward was able to maintain a working relationship withparliament – an ever-growing institution – thus avoiding the fate met by hisfather (and would meet his successor, Richard II). To fully assess the effects of Edward’s propaganda, we need to look at the methods he used, who they wereaimed for, and obviously how the propaganda affected that target audience. Weshall see how Edward’s priors preached his propaganda from the pulpit. We shallsee how his carefully worded messages to parliament and his people created asense of anxiety in regards to foreign threats and how, subsequently, he wasable to exploit their fears and foster a sense of nationalistic pride. We shall also
examine symbolism and the views of contemporary accounts from the time –each contributing to Edward’s image similar to the role played by public relationsexperts today. Overall, we shall see that although propaganda appears to havegreatly benefitted his image amongst his people and nobles, it was not soeffective in extracting material benefits, in particular money, for his wars.Based on W.M. Ormrod’s description, Edward possessed perfect qualities for amedieval, charismatic leader for he was “bluff, brave, generous, slightly boorish,heartily heterosexual, fair-minded and, on the whole, even-tempered”.
Yet, as aresult of his father’s disastrous reign, Edward came to the throne at a time of both domestic and international hardship for England. The Scots, led by Robert I,had won the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and were raiding England as farsouth as Yorkshire – unthinkable during the reign of Edward I.
France, England’sold enemy, was in a strong position, they too having a new king with thecoronation of Philip VI in 1328. To put things into perspective at the gulf instrength between the two countries, there were 21 million people living in Franceduring Philip’s reign – five times the population of England.
Whereas London hada population of 30,000, Paris alone was home to 150,000 Frenchmen.
Edward’sgreatest problem, as we shall see, is the issue of money. By 1340 alone, the costof maintaining the Hundred Year’s War was in the region of £500,000.
Thus, it islikely that when Edward begun to use propaganda to build support for his foreignwars, it was his funds that he was hoping it would benefit the most.
2 W.M. Ormrod,
The Reign of Edward III
(Yale University Press, 1990) p. 443 Desmond Seward,
 A Brief History of The Hundred Years War: The English in France,1337-1453
(Constable and Robin son Ltd, 2003) p. 264Seward,
Hundred Years War,
p. 255 Ibid6 Michael Prestwich,
The Three Edwards: War and State in England, 1272-1377 2
(Routledge, 2003) p. 193

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