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Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England

Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England (1314?-1369)

PHILIPPA OF HAINAULT (1314?-1369), queen of Edward III, daughter of William, called the Good, Count of Holland and Hainault (d. 1337), and his countess Jeanne (d. 1342), daughter of Charles of Valois (d. 1325), son of Philip III of France, was born in or about 1314. When Isabella (1292-1358), queen of Edward II, was in Hainault with her son Edward in 1326, she arranged a marriage between him and Philippa. While at the count's court at Valenciennes Edward was more with Philippa than with her sisters, and when he took leave of her she burst into tears before the court, and innocently declared before the assembled company that she was weeping because she had to part with him.1

The next year, when Edward had become king, he sent ambassadors to Count William requesting him to send him his daughter. The count agreed, provided that the pope allowed the marriage; for a dispensation was necessary, as the young king and Philippa were cousins, both being great-grandchildren of Philip III of France. At Edward's request the dispensation was granted by John XXII,2 and Philippa was provided by her father with all such apparel as became her future dignity3 In October the king sent Roger de Northburgh, bishop of Lichfield, to Valenciennes to marry Philippa to him by proxy and declare her dower,4 and on 20 Nov. Bartholomew, lord Burghersh (d. 1355), and William de Clinton were commissioned to escort her to England.5

She embarked at Wissant with a gallant suite, and landed at Dover on 23 Dec. There she was met by her uncle, Sir John of Hainault, the king being engaged in the north in negotiations with Scotland. After stopping at Canterbury to offer at the shrine of St. Thomas the archbishop, she proceeded to London, where she was received with rejoicing, and was presented with gifts of the value of three hundred marks. Leaving London on the 27th, she spent 1 Jan. 1328 at the abbey of Peterborough, and went on to York, where she was married to the king on the 30th.6 Her Flemish attendants then for the most part returned home, though a young esquire, Walter Manny, remained with her to wait upon her.7 On 15 May the king pledged himself to assign her the dower in lands and rents promised on his behalf by the bishop of Lichfield.8

At the time of her marriage Philippa was in her fourteenth year.9 Her marriage was of political importance. Queen Isabella had already used Philippa's marriage portion in hiring troops that helped her to depose her husband and set her son on the throne; Isabella landed in England with a large body of Hainaulters under Philippa's uncle, Sir John of Hainault. In the war with Scotland in 1327 Sir John and his Hainaulters took a prominent part. It was, however, when Edward was entering on his long war with France that his marriage was specially important to him, for it gave him a claim on the alliance of his queen's father and brother, her brothers-in-law the Emperor Lewis of Bavaria and William, marquis of Juliers, and other princes and lords, and her abiding affection for her own people helped forward his plans. With Philippa's marriage with Edward must probably be connected his efforts to persuade Flemish weavers to settle in England and pursue and teach their trade there.10 Many of these alien workmen appear to have settled in Norwich, and it is probable that the queen took a personal interest in their welfare, for she visited the city several times, in 1340, 1342, and 134411

Coronation of Philippa of Hainault On Edward's return from France in June 1329 he hastened to rejoin his wife at Windsor. She was crowned at Westminster on 4 March 1330, and on 15 June, at Woodstock, bore her first child, Edward, called the Black Prince. Her nurse was Katherine, daughter of Sir Adam Banaster of Shevington, Lancashire, and wife of Sir John Haryngton of Farleton in that county.12 In September 1331 she had a narrow escape at a tournament in Cheapside, for the stand from which she and her ladies were watching the proceedings broke down, and they were all thrown to the ground. Neither she nor her attendants were injured, though many others were badly hurt. The carpenters would have suffered for their negligence had she not interceded for them on her knees with the king and his friends. Her pitifulness on this occasion excited general love for her.13

After spending Christmas 1333 with the king at Wallingford, she parted from him when the festival was over, and went to Woodstock, where she bore a daughter, Isabella. While she was there, in February 1334, a letter was addressed to her by the chancellor and masters of the university of Oxford, praying her to write to the pope on their behalf against the attempt to set up a university at Stamford to which many of the Oxford students had seceded.14

She was at Bamborough apparently in the winter of 1335, when the king was at war with Scotland. The Scots, under the Earl of Moray, made an attempt on the town, were met and defeated before they reached it, and the earl was brought to the queen as a prisoner.15 She is said to have taken part in a chivalrous ceremony called the 'vow of the heron' in 1338,16 and, being about to cross over to Flanders with the king, received from him 564l. 3s. 4d. for horses, dress, and jewels.17

She landed at Antwerp with Edward in July, accompanied him on his journey to Coblentz as far as Herenthals, and returned to Antwerp, where, on 29 Nov., she bore her son Lionel (afterwards Duke of Clarence). In 1339 the king's need of money forced him to pledge her crown, which was not redeemed until 1342 (ib.). She stayed at Antwerp, Louvain, Brussels, and Ghent, where she was left at St. Peter's Abbey by the king in February 1340, when he proceeded to Antwerp and thence to England. During his absence in March she bore her son John of Gaunt, and was constantly visited by Jacob van Artevelde and the ladies of the city.

Having been rejoined by the king, she accompanied him to England in November. In 1342 she received a visit from her brother William, count of Hainault, and a tournament was held in his honour at Eltham, at which he was hurt in the arm. She was also present at a great tournament held that year at Northampton, where many were seriously hurt.18 On 20 Nov. the king gave her the custody of the earldom of Richmond granted to her son John of Gaunt, together with full powers as guardian of him and her other younger children and of their lands.19

She was staying in the Tower of London when the king returned from Brittany in March 1343, and, having been joined by him there, spent Easter with him at Havering atte Bower in Essex. When Edward held his festival of the 'Round Table' at Windsor in January 1344, at which there was jousting for three days and much magnificence, Philippa took part in the rejoicings, splendidly apparelled, and attended by a large number of ladies.20 She made some vow of pilgrimages to places over sea, and in 1344 appointed a proxy to perform it for her.21 On the death of her brother Count William in 1346, her inheritance in Zealand was claimed by the king on her behalf.22

Coronation of Philippa of Hainault During Edward's absence on the campaign of Crécy, David, king of Scotland, was defeated and taken prisoner at the battle of Neville's Cross, near Durham, on 17 Oct. 1346. Jehan le Bel and Froissart relate that the English forces were summoned by Philippa, though her son Lionel was the nominal guardian of the kingdom; that she met and harangued them at Newcastle before the battle; and Froissart says that after the battle she rode from Newcastle to the field, and remained there that day with her army.23 The victory was won by William de la Zouche, archbishop of York, and the lords and forces of the north.24

Before Christmas Philippa joined the king at the siege of Calais. When the town surrendered on 5 Aug. 1347, and six of the principal burgesses appeared before Edward in their shirts and with halters round their necks, putting themselves at his mercy, she joined with the lords there present in beseeching the king to pardon them, and, being then great with child, knelt before him, weeping and praying him that since she had crossed the sea in much peril he would grant her request 'for the love of our Lady's Son.' For her sake the king spared the lives of the burgesses, and granted them to her, and she provided them with raiment, food, and a gift of money. Having returned to England with the king in October, she soon after, at Windsor, bore a son, who died in infancy.

The offer of the imperial crown to her husband in 1348 caused her much anxiety and sorrow, but Edward declined it.25 She appears to have made a progress in the west in 1349, and while at Ford Abbey, Dorset, made an offering at the tomb of Hugh Courtenay, earl of Devon. In August 1350 she went with the king to Winchelsea, Sussex, where the fleet was gathered to intercept the Spaniards, and she remained in a religious house there, or in the immediate neighbourhood, while the king and her two sons, the Prince of Wales and John of Gaunt, sailed forth on the 28th to engage the enemy, with whom they fell in on the next day. She passed the day of the battle of 'Lespagnols sur mer' in great anxiety, doubting of the issue; for her attendants, who could see the battle from the hills, told her of the number and size of the enemy's ships. In the evening, after the victory was won, the king and her sons joined her, and the night was spent in revelry.26

Her presence at the festival of the Garter on St. George's day, 23 April, 1351, is expressly noted; and in March 1355 she was at a grand tournament held by the king at Woodstock to celebrate her recovery after the birth of her son Thomas at that place. A special grant was made by the king for her apparel at the St. George's festival of 1358, which was of extraordinary splendour. During the summer of that year she and the king stayed at Marlborough and at Cosham, and while she was hunting there she met with an accident in riding, and dislocated her shoulder-joint.27 She did not accompany the king to France in 1359.

In 1361 Froissart came over to England and presented her with a book that he had written on the war with France, and specially the battle of Poitiers, the germ of his future chronicles. Philippa, who loved the people of her own land, received him and his gift with kindness, made him her clerk or secretary, and encouraged him to pursue his historical work. He was lodged in the palace, entertained her with noble tales and discourses on love, and received from her the means of travelling about the country to collect materials for his work, being once sent by her to Scotland with letters setting forth that he was one of her secretaries, and there and everywhere he found that for love of his sovereign mistress, that 'noble and valiant lady,' great lords and knights welcomed him and gave him aid. For five years he remained in England in her service, and when he left in 1366 travelled as a member of her household.28

Her presence at the magnificent tournaments held in Smithfield in May 1362 is expressly noted. After Christmas she went with the king from Windsor to Berkhampstead in Hertfordshire, on a visit to the Prince of Wales, who resided there, to take leave of him before he went to his government in Aquitaine. She bore her share in the festivities of that year and the early months of 1364, when the kings of France, Scotland, and Cyprus were all in London at the same time, entertained King John of France at Eltham, and gave many rich feasts to King Peter de Lusignan of Cyprus, and made him presents when he left. The illness and death of King John caused her much grief.

Her nephew William, count of Holland, second son of the Emperor Lewis of Bavaria, had been insane since 1357, and his dominions were governed for him by his brother Albert of Bavaria as regent. Albert desired to be recognised as sovereign, but the claims that Edward acquired by his marriage with Philippa were unsettled, and hindered the accomplishment of his wish. To remove this obstacle, he obtained from the estates of Holland, assembled at Gertruydenberg on 25 April 1364, a decision that the English queen could not inherit any part of the dominions of her brother Count William, his sovereignty being indivisible. Albert visited the English court in 1365, but was unable to obtain the king's assent to his wishes respecting Philippa's rights.29 In 1369 she joined the king in his vain endeavours to procure Albert as an ally against France, and it was probably in connection with this attempt that she sent certain jewels over to Maud, countess of Holland, a daughter of Henry of Lancaster, first duke of Lancaster.30
Effigy of Queen Philippa
In the course of that year she was dangerously ill at Windsor Castle, and, knowing that she was dying, took leave of the king, requesting that he would fulfil all her engagements to merchants and pay her debts; that he would pay all that she had left or promised to churches in England or the continent, wherein she had made her prayers; and would provide for all her servants, and that he would be buried by her side at Westminster, which things the King promised. She was attended on her deathbed by William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester. She died on 16 Aug., and was buried with great pomp on the south side of the chapel of the kings, where her tomb, built by her husband, stands, with her recumbent effigy, evidently a likeness, surrounded by the effigies of thirty persons of princely rank who were connected with her by birth.31

A bust by an unknown sculptor, taken from this effigy, is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. There are also heads, believed to be hers, in some of the Bristol churches, specially in the crypt of St. Nicholas; for, like other queens, she had the town and castle of Bristol as part of her dower.32 A painting of her is said to have been found in the cloisters of St. Stephen's, Westminster, and there is a wooden effigy of her in the library of Queen's College, Oxford.

In person Philippa was tall and handsome. She was prudent, kindly, humble, and devout; very liberal and pitiful, graceful in manner, adorned, Froissart says, 'with every noble virtue, and beloved of God and all men.' While she was strongly attached to the people of her fatherland, she greatly loved the English, and was extremely popular with them. Her death was a terrible misfortune to her husband. She bore him seven sons and five daughters. Two mottoes that she used were 'Myn Biddenye' and 'Iche wrude muche,' and they were worked on two richly embroidered corsets that were given to her by the king.33 She greatly enlarged the hospital of St. Katherine, near the Tower, and was a benefactress to the canons of St. Stephen's, Westminster, and to Queen's College, Oxford, founded and called after her by her chaplain, Robert of Eglesfield. Queenborough, in the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, where part of her dower lay, was founded and called after her by Edward III, who, in honour of her, made the place a free borough in 1366.34

1. Froissart, Chroniques, i. 235, ed. Luce.
2. Rymer's Foedera, iv. 306, 307.
3. Jehan Le Bel, Les vrayes chroniques, &c., i. 76.
4. Foedera, iv. 313-4.
5. ib. 323.
6. Annales Paulini, ap. Chronicles Edward II, i. 339.
7. Jehan Le Bel, u.s.
8. Foedera iv. 353.
9. Froissart, i. 285.
10. Cunningham, English Industry and Commerce, i. 9, 282.
11. Blomefield, History of Norfolk, i. 83-8.
12. Beltz, Memorials of the Order of the Garter, p. 244.
13. Geoffrey Le Baker, Chronicon, p. 48; Annales Paulini, p. 365; Murimuth, p. 63.
14. Fletcher, ed., Collectanea, i. 8, Oxford Historical Society.
15. Knighton, in Twisden's Decem Scriptores, col. 2567.
16. Wright, ed. Political Poems, i. 23.
17. Foedera, v. 19.
18. Murimuth, p. 124; Nicolas, History of the Orders of Knighthood, i. Introd. p. lxxx.
19. Foedera, v. 348-9.
20. Murimuth, p. 156; Froissart, iii. 41, 268.
21. Foedera, v. 418.
22. ib. pp. 509, 510, 515.
23. Jehan Le Bel, ii. 109-10; Froissart, iv. 18-29.
24. Murimuth, p. 218; Avesbury, De Gestis Edwardi Tertii, p. 376; Foedera, v. 528.
25. Knighton, col. 2597.
26. Froissart, iv. 4, 97, 827.
27. Eulogium Historiarum, iii. 227.
28. Darmesteter, Froissart, pp. 13-28.
29. L'Art de verifier les Dates, xiv. 448; Foedera, iii. 779, 789.
30. ib. p. 868.
31. Stanley, Memorials of Westminster, p. 122.
32. Taylor, Bristol, Past and Present, i. 59, ii. 167.
33. Nicolas, Orders of Knighthood, ii. 486.
34. Hasted, History of Kent, 1886 ed., ii. 620, 666.

      Excerpted from:

      Hunt, Rev. William. "Philippa of Hainault."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. XV. Sidney Lee, Ed.
      New York: The Macmillan Co., 1909. 1050-3.

Other Local Resources:

Books for further study:

Mortimer, Ian. The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III.
            Pimlico, 2007.

Ormrod, W. Mark. Edward III.
            Yale University Press, 2013.

St. John, Lisa Benz. Three Medieval Queens: Queenship and the Crown
            in Fourteenth-Century England.
            Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Waugh, Scott L. England in the Reign of Edward III.
            Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men
Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Fleet Prison
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer

The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster


Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
London in late 16th century
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's View of London, 1616
Larger Visscher's View in Sections
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London

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