Issue of Edward III of England

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Six of the children of King Edward III depicted as bronze statuettes on the south side of the base of his tomb in Westminster Abbey: Edward the Black Prince; Edmund of Langley; William of Hatfield; Lionel of Antwerp; Mary of Brittany; Joan of the Tower. Similar statuettes of six further children appeared on the north side, now lost[1]
1840 drawing of the six surviving bronze statuettes on the south side of the base of the tomb of King Edward III in Westminster Abbey, representing some of his progeny

King Edward III of England is the ancestor of many European monarchs (as well as the issue of many English Dukes, Earls and Viscounts) through his sons Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence; John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster; Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York and Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester. All of Edward's legitimate children were by his wife Philippa of Hainault.

The Wars of the Roses were fought between the different factions of Edward III's descendants. The following list outlines the genealogy supporting male heirs ascendant to the throne during the conflict, and the roles of their cousins. However to mobilise arms and wealth, significant major protagonists were Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ("Neville (The Kingmaker)" Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset and Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland and their families. A less powerful but determining role was played by Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Elizabeth Woodville and their families.


The Wars of the Roses were a civil war over the throne of the Kingdom of England fought among the descendants of King Edward III through his five surviving adult sons.[2] Each branch of the family had competing claims through seniority, legitimacy, and/or the sex of their ancestors. Thus, the senior Plantagenet line was ended with the death of Richard II, but not before the execution of Thomas of Woodstock for treason. The heirs presumptive through Lionel of Antwerp were passed over in favour of the powerful Henry IV, descendant of Edward III through John of Gaunt. These Lancaster kings initially survived the treason of their Edmund of Langley (York) cousins but eventually were deposed by the merged Lionel/Edmund line in the person of Edward IV. Internecine killing among the Yorks left Richard III as king, supported and then betrayed by his cousin Buckingham, the descendant of Thomas of Woodstock. Finally, the Yorks were dislodged by the remaining Lancastrian candidate, Henry VII of the House of Tudor, another descendant of John of Gaunt, who married the eldest daughter of Yorkist King Edward IV.

Edward, the Black Prince (1330-1376)[edit]

Arms of Edward the Black Prince: Royal arms of King Edward III a label of three points argent for difference

Edward, the Black Prince (15 June 1330 – 8 June 1376), Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales. The eldest son of Edward III who predeceased his father and never became king. Edward's only surviving child was Richard II who ascended to the throne but produced no heirs. Richard II designated as his heir presumptive his cousin Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, senior heir of the female line, the grandson of Lionel of Antwerp, but this succession never took place as Richard II was eventually deposed and succeeded by another of Richard's cousins, Henry Bolingbroke (who ascended as Henry IV), who was senior heir of the male line.

William of Hatfield (1337-1337)[edit]

William of Hatfield (16 February 1337 – 8 July 1337), second son, buried at York Minster.

Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence (1338-1368)[edit]

Arms of Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence: Royal arms of King Edward III a label of three points argent each point bearing a canton gules (or: a label of five points argent each point bearing a Cross of St George[3])

Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence (29 November 1338 – 7 October 1368), third son. He also predeceased his father. Lionel's only child, Philippa, was acquired as a wife by the powerful Mortimer family, which as noted above had exerted enormous influence during the reigns of Edward II and Edward III. Philippa's son Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March was the designated heir of King Richard II but predeceased him, leaving his young son Edmund as heir presumptive. Anne Mortimer, Edmund Mortimer's eldest sister and Lionel of Antwerp's great-grand-daughter, married Richard, Earl of Cambridge of the House of York, merging the Lionel of Antwerp/Mortimer line into the York line.

John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399)[edit]

Arms of John of Gaunt: Royal arms of King Edward III a label of three points argent on each point three spots ermine

John of Gaunt (6 March 1340 – 3 February 1399), 1st Duke of Lancaster, fourth son.

Legitimate male heirs (Lancaster)[edit]

Arms of King Henry IV (1399-1413), eldest legitimate son of John of Gaunt: Royal arms of England

From the marriage of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, daughter and heiress of the Duke of Lancaster, descended legitimate male heirs, the Lancasters (King Henry IV (1399-1413), who as Henry of Bolingbroke in 1399 deposed his first cousin King Richard II (1377-1399), and was followed by his son King Henry V(1413-1422) and the latter's son King Henry VI (1422-1461). This line ended in 1461 when King Henry VI's son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury and when he himself was deposed by his third cousin Edward, 4th Duke of York of the York faction (great-grandson of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, 5th son of King Edward III), who reigned as King Edward IV.

The Lancaster kings also had Plantagenet ancestry on the female side from Blanche of Lancaster, wife of John Gaunt, daughter of Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster (c.1310-1361), descended from Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster, the second son of King Henry III (1216-1272), the great-grandfather of King Edward III. A legend was developed, although without foundation, claiming that Edmund Crouchback was older than his brother King Edward I and had been passed over in the succession because of physical infirmity.[4]

Legitimized male heirs (Beaufort)[edit]

Arms of Beaufort, legitimized sons of John of Gaunt by Katherine Swynford: Royal arms of King Edward III a bordure compony argent and azure for difference

John of Gaunt's legitimized heirs were the Beaufort family, his descendants by his mistress, and later his wife, Katherine Swynford. Gaunt's great-grand-daughter from this union, Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509) was the last legitimate descendant of the Beauforts and married into the House of Tudor, producing a single child Henry Tudor, Earl of Pembroke who in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth seized the throne from his mother's third cousin King Richard III (1483-1485) and ruled as King Henry VII (1485-1509). While the Beaufort offspring had been legitimized after Gaunt's eventual marriage to Katherine Swynford, this was on the condition that they be barred from ascending the throne. Undeterred by this, and following the 1461 seizure of the throne by the Yorkist King Edward IV (1461-1483) from the Lancastrian King Henry VI (1422-1461), the Tudors claimed precedence to the Yorks the last of whom, King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The present Somerset family, Dukes of Beaufort, of Badminton House in Gloucestershire, are illegitimate direct male descendants of John of Gaunt, being illegitimate descendants of Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset, first cousin of Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509), and are thus the sole surviving direct male descendants of the House of Plantagenet. They assumed "Somerset" as their family surname, but bear as arms the ancient arms of the Beaufort family: The royal arms of King Edward III within a bordure compony argent and azure,[5] and in 1682 were created Dukes of Beaufort.

Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York (1341-1402)[edit]

Arms of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York: Royal arms of King Edward III a label of three points argent on each point three torteaux for difference[6]

Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York (5 June 1341 – 1 August 1402), fifth son. His descendants were the Yorks. He had two sons: Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, killed fighting alongside Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, and Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, executed by Henry V for treason (involving a plot to place heir presumptive Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, Cambridge's brother-in-law and cousin, on the throne). As noted above, Richard had married Anne de Mortimer, this giving their son (and the House of York), through Lionel of Antwerp, a more senior claim than that of both the House of Lancaster, which descended from a younger son than Lionel, and the House of Tudor, whose legitimized Beaufort ancestors had been debarred from the throne. In 1460 Richard, 3rd Duke of York claimed the throne on this basis, but an Act of Accord meant he instead became heir. However he was killed later that year, causing his son Edward to take over.

Thomas of Windsor (1347–1348)[edit]

Thomas of Windsor (1347 – 1348), 6th son.

William of Windsor (1348-1348)[edit]

William of Windsor (24 June 1348 – 5 September 1348), 7th son. Died as an infant from the plague.

Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester (1355-1397)[edit]

Arms of Thomas of Woodstock: Royal arms of King Edward III a bordure argent for difference

Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester (7 January 1355 – 8/9 September 1397), eighth son. He was one of the Lords Appellant influential under Richard II, was murdered or executed for treason, likely by the order of Richard II; his eventual heir was his daughter Anne, who married into the Stafford family, whose heirs became the Dukes of Buckingham. Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, descended on his father's side from Thomas of Woodstock, and on his mother's side from John Beaufort.



  1. ^
  2. ^ Burke's Presidential Families of the USA, 1981
  3. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family
  4. ^ John of Gaunt also had legitimate descendants through his daughters Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal, the mother of Edward, King of Portugal; Elizabeth of England, Duchess of Exeter, the mother of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter; and Catherine of Lancaster, Queen of Castile, a granddaughter of King Peter and the mother of King John II of Castile, but these Castilians engaged in their own wars over the Spanish succession and did not assert any claims to the English throne in the Wars of the Roses — and they all were of the female line, something the Lancaster claim avoided because they were originally secondary to certain senior female descents such as the Mortimers.
  5. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.125
  6. ^ Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family