Ian Mortimer believes, not that Edward III was actually a "perfect king," but that he was striving towards it - that it was one of his goals in life to live up to the great prophecies made at his birth in 1312.
Edward III was the grandson of Edward I, "Hammer of the Scots," and the son of Edward II, a weak king, and Isabella of France, daughter of Philip IV "the Fair." (The latter epithet relates to Philip's hair color, not his personality; he was a tough king, and sometimes a very cruel one.) Isabella would be the only one of Philip's four children (he also had three sons) to produce male children who would live to adulthood, which would result in great tragedy for France for the next hundred years.
Few English kings can have come to the throne in a more perilous situation - he was a boy of fourteen, and the puppet of his mother and particularly of her lover, the ambitious Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. For diplomatic reasons he was almost immediately married to the twelve-year-old Phillipa of Hainault (a principality in what is now Belgium). He had few friends, and little time not monitored by either Isabella or Mortimer. He was told, and spread the news far and wide, that his father, Edward II, died of grief in September of that year, while in confinement at Berkeley Castle.
At seventeen, in 1330, already a father, and aware of how precarious his situation was, he took an enormous chance, and personally overthrew Mortimer in the middle of the night, while they were staying at Nottingham Castle. He would rule alone for the rest of his life, which would be long (he died only in 1376).
However, Mortimer argues, Edward III already knew that he had been lied to in 1327, and that his father still lived. It's a really interesting argument, and I think he has pretty good evidence. (Mortimer has a fairly long article on his webpage laying out the general lines of his argument: http://www.ianmortimer.com/EdwardII/death.htm .)
Edward III's future prowess as a warrior king is legendary - he would lead the English to victories over the Scots, at Halidon Hill, and the French, at Crecy, Poitiers, and Sluys (the great naval battle of the Hundred Years' War). What may be less famous is his attention to, and building up of, the English Parliament, his great building projects (he had hot and cold running water in his bathroom!), or his fascination with the new inventions and machinery, such as clocks. (There's also an interesting bit about Edward III as a model for Arthur in medieval romances.)
It may have taken me a year to finish, but I kept getting distracted. I blame you lot, as I keep thinking "well, that book looks interesting..."
Chapter 5: War in Scotland
While the young Edward III and the not-quite-so-young Philip VI (both on their thrones only a few years) dispute the latter's holdings in France, Scotland is also a matter much on Edward's mind.
His grandfather, Edward I, after totally subduing Wales, had turned on Scotland (his nickname was "the Hammer of the Scots" for good reason), where he made and broke kings, but failed to conquer the entire kingdom. The kings of Scotland, however, are technically the greatest of his vassals. In Edward II's day, however, this is less true, and the Scots rebel rather more successfully than previously. In the chaos surrounding the overthrow of Edward II, Edward III's youngest sister, Joan, is married to David II of Scotland (also a child - she is seven and he is four), in order to seal a peace. (She is mockingly known as "Joan Makepeace.") Edward III loathes this peace.
To break it, he will use the claim of Edward Baliol, son of John Baliol, to be king of Scotland; Baliol has already sworn fealty. He defeats David II's regent, the Earl of Mar, at Dupplin Moor, and is crowned at Scone in 1332. However, he has little support within Scotland itself, and is forced to flee back to England after a devastating surprise attack, only three months later. The English are quick to provide him with support, and use with great success many of the tactics that the French will become familiar with at a later date, at Halidon Hill. At the end of the battle, five of Scotland's earls lay dead, as well as the regent and thousands of other men. The English casualties were light.
Edward Baliol, as previously agreed, then ceded most of the southern counties of Scotland, and "ruled" over a rump Scotland. Where he had few supporters. That situation could not last, and did not. David II was in exile in Paris, where he had friends at the French court, and other rebels would rise. Edward Baliol's rule would be short.
Edward III had won victory on the battlefield, but could not subdue the Scots as his grandfather had the Welsh; he was distracted by events elsewhere. Philip VI had a new great minister, Miles de Noyer, more aggressive than his predecessors, a man confident in his own abilities and his master's rights to rule all of France. And Philip, under his advice, would be supporting the Scots via privateers, the promise of 6000 men, and confronting Edward III's position in Gascony.
Edward III cared about retaining Gascony more than conquering Scotland - Gascony was part of his inheritance, and Scotland was not.
Next time: The war actually kicks off!
This is amazingly encyclopedic account of the history of the Iberian peninsula from Visigothic times to the end of the 15th century. While it may be getting a little dated, it's narrative of the development of the kingdoms, societies and cultures of the region holds together thanks to Joseph O'Callaghan's clarity and his command of the sources. This is a book from which a reader can profit either by reading it cover-to-cover or by dipping into its clearly-delineated chapters, each of which can stand alone as a mini-essay on their topic. If you're looking for a book on Spain during the Middle Ages, this is definitely an excellent place to start.