Why was the Black Prince called ‘Black’?

During his lifetime, Edward Plantagenet (1330–76), eldest son and heir of England’s King Edward III, was known not as ‘the Black Prince’ but ‘Edward of Woodstock’...

The bronze effigy on the tomb of Edward Plantagenet, known as the Black Prince, in the Trinity Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral, Kent. (Photo by RDImages/Epics/Getty Images)

He was named after his birthplace. The sobriquet ‘Black Prince’ does not appear in written records until the 16th century, nearly two centuries after his death, though as a nickname it may date back to his lifetime.


The origin of the term is just as obscure as the date it was first used. It may stem from Edward’s habit, when jousting, of putting aside his royal coat of arms in favour of a black ‘shield for peace’ decorated with three white ostrich feathers.

Some historians believe he also wore black armour, while others have suggested that the name may have been derived from the French habit of referring to a particularly brutal commander as a ‘black boar’.

In truth, we do not know for certain.


This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine