The Black Prince: hero or villain?

Edward III's eldest son has been both eulogised as the epitome of medieval chivalry and demonised as the instigator of brutal slaughter. Barbara Gribling charts the changing reputation of the victor at Crécy and Poitiers

The Black Prince's tomb in Canterbury Cathedral depicts Edward III's son as a resting warrior, a paragon of knightly virtue. The prince conceived the tomb's design himself but not everyone has bought into his favourable assessment of his life's achievements. (Photo by RDImages/Epics/Getty Images)

When compiling lists of English heroes, the Black Prince is not a character who immediately springs to mind. Yet in his time, and later centuries, his character was every bit as controversial as another Plantagenet who forged his reputation on the battlefields of France, Henry V.

To his contemporaries, the Black Prince was the hero of the battles of Crécy, Poitiers and Nájera, and the villain of the sacking of the city of Limoges. In his lifetime, Edward III’s eldest son garnered a reputation as a chivalric hero. After his death, he became a focal point for debates about heroism and villainy.

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