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The Black Prince

The Black Prince Link with the Chilterns

Owned the non-monastic estates of Risborough and country residences of Wallingford Castle and Berkhamsted Castle

Born

15th June 1330

Died

8th June 1376

Biography

Edward of Woodstock was the eldest son of Edward III and Queen Philippa of Hainault. He became Prince of Wales in 1345. He never became king as he died a year before his father. The crown passed to his son who became Richard II.

Edward became Duke of Cornwall in 1337 (aged 7 years). An act of Parliament had been passed in 1335 to create the Duchy of Cornwall and various castles and honours were included in it. The Act allowed that the Duchy should always be bestowed on the eldest son of the King of England and so Edward became Duke and came to own Wallingford and Berkhamsted Castles.

During the 1340s, the non-monastic estates of Risborough came into Edward’s hands. From this time, the distinction was made between the Prince’s estate (Princes Risborough) and the nearby estate owned by an Augustinian monastery (Monks Risborough). Edward had a grand palace in Princes Risborough, within a moat (now dry), adjacent to where St Mary’s Church now stands. He is known to have held the manor in 1343. The remnants were excavated in 1955, and all that remains now are earthworks forming the boundary of the churchyard.

In 1361, Edward married his cousin Joan of Kent (also known as the ‘Fair Maid of Kent’). They honeymooned at Berkhamsted Castle and Edward was known to have enjoyed hunting in the extensive deer park behind the castle.

When Edward left Berkhamsted to fight at the battles of Poitiers and Crécy he took with him archers from Berkhamsted and district. Berkhamsted archers practised shooting in ‘butts’ near the centre of the town on what is now called Butts Meadow. A brass commemorating John Raven, squire to the Black Prince, can be seen in St. Peter’s Church.

Edward spent most of his adult life in France and Spain, but when in England, his main residence was Wallingford Castle. Following Edward’s death,Wallingford Castle was retained by his wife, Joan, who died there on 8th August 1385. She supposedly died of a broken heart after her son Richard II condemned his half-brother, John Holland, to death for the accidental murder of a court favourite. Holland(Joan’s son by Thomas Holland) was later reprieved.

The title ‘The Black Prince’ was never used during Edward’s lifetime. It is thought to have developed after his death and may have referred to the ornate black armour he wore.

Further Information

The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince by Richard Barber, published by The Boydell Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85115-469-7

Grid Reference

SP996083

What you can visit

The remains of Berkhamsted Castle, near the railway station in Berkhamsted, are owned by English Heritage and are free to visit.

Wallingford Castle Gardens are free to visit.

The site of the palace at Princes Risborough is within the grounds of St Mary’s Church in the town centre.

Related links

Berkhamsted Castle

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