The best books about Edward III of England

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Edward III of England and why they recommend each book.

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Edward III

By W. Mark Ormrod,

Book cover of Edward III

A magnificent example of the possibilities of historical biography from an author whose life was cut tragically short. Ormrod writes with a balance of passion, precision, and wry humour. Edward III reigned in the shadow of the deposition of his father, while his own military triumphs in the Hundred Years War set an example his successor, Richard II, found impossible to emulate. Alongside a wealth of detail, Ormrod reveals the pressures of kingship during the extraordinary turbulence of the fourteenth century.

Who am I?

I was drawn into the study of medieval history through an interest in chivalry and this led to a PhD and various publications on the career and household of Edward the Black Prince (1330-76). He lived through the heart of what’s become known as the late medieval crisis: a period which many contemporaries thought was a prelude to the apocalypse. I’ve been teaching and writing about this period for more than 20 years now and remain fascinated by the contrasts between creativity and utter devastation that characterise the later middle ages.


I wrote...

The Hundred Years War: A People's History

By David Green,

Book cover of The Hundred Years War: A People's History

What is my book about?

The Hundred Years War (1337–1453) dominated life in England and France for well over a century. It became the defining feature of existence for generations. David Green focuses on the ways the war affected different groups, including knights, clerics, women, peasants, soldiers, peacemakers, and kings. He also explores how the war changed government in England and France and reshaped peoples’ perceptions of themselves and of their national character.

The book illuminates the realities of battle and the conditions of those compelled to live in occupied territory; the roles played by clergy and their shifting loyalties to king and pope. Peopled with vivid and well-known characters—Henry V, Joan of Arc, Philippe the Good of Burgundy, Edward the Black Prince, John the Blind of Bohemia—as well as a host of ordinary individuals who were drawn into the struggle, this book reveals not only the Hundred Years War’s impact on warfare, institutions, and nations, but also its true human cost.

To Calais, in Ordinary Time

By James Meek,

Book cover of To Calais, in Ordinary Time

I’d never read a book quite like this one before. Set in 1348, the pandemic setting for this book is, of course, the Black Death. A gentlewoman, her servant, and a group of soldiers travel across England, only slowly becoming aware of how much danger they are in, as the disease lays waste to the population. Be warned, it is written in an Olde English dialect which takes a little while to get used to. It’s well worth sticking with it, though, because the characters are beautifully drawn, and you will be rooting for them every inch of the way, as they attempt to out-ride their fate.


Who am I?

In my day job working for a charity, I work with emergency planners, examining how we can minimise the harm caused by disasters, including outbreaks of disease. I’m fascinated by the measures in place to deal with catastrophes, and how contingency planners respond on a practical and a human level. When writing my novel about a killer virus, I devoured both fiction and non-fiction books tackling pandemics ranging from the Black Death to Aids. I am confident I know the skills needed to survive when a pandemic reduces the world’s population to a small, doughty band of survivors. I am not confident I possess these skills.


I wrote...

The Health of Strangers

By Lesley Kelly,

Book cover of The Health of Strangers

What is my book about?

The Health of Strangers is the first book in a series of crime thrillers set in Edinburgh, against the background of a (fictional) pandemic. Written pre-Covid, the books accurately predict many of the civil liberties issues we’ve grappled with during the coronavirus crisis. The Health of Strangers introduces Mona and Bernard of the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, who hunt you down if you miss your monthly compulsory health check.

Hampered by public indifference and limited resources, the team deals with corrupt politicians, religious cults, and illegal raves, and tries very, very, hard not to end up dead. 

The Black Prince

By Michael Jones,

Book cover of The Black Prince

I reviewed this book for The Spectator. The life of the Black Prince exemplifies that of a career soldier at the highest level of command, here someone who weaved a trail of destruction across France during the Hundred Years War through chevauchées and bloody battles and sieges. I was taken by Jones’s attempt to offer a more positive image of this ruthless warrior, not least to excuse him of his notorious massacre at Limoges. Having myself written at length about the Black Prince’s infamous actions, the book made me reconsider to some extent what happened in the city. Jones also captures the drama and danger of the press of medieval battles, not least at Crécy in 1346. Brutal as medieval warfare was, it is undeniably viscerally exciting to read about.

Who am I?

A boyhood fascination with knights and castles, plus the inevitable influence of Tolkien’s world, drew me into medieval history, especially its warring side. An MA and a PhD in medieval warfare consolidated my enthusiasm, with my first three books being on that topic (what I call my Blood and Guts trilogy). I remain fascinated by the all-encompassing influence of medieval warfare on society and its unforgiving impact on warriors and non-combatants alike. Writing, lecturing, and public talks on these have led me into other interesting fields, including two TV documentaries.


I wrote...

Blood Cries Afar: The Magna Carta War and the Invasion of England 1215-1217

By Sean McGlynn,

Book cover of Blood Cries Afar: The Magna Carta War and the Invasion of England 1215-1217

What is my book about?

While most people know something of King John and Magna Carta, very few have heard of the French invasion of England in 1216. Exactly 150 years after the Norman Conquest in 1066, history nearly repeated itself. French forces, under the chivalrous Prince Louis, invaded and took control of half of England. At one point some two-thirds of barons paid homage to Louis as the new ruler of the kingdom. The French remained in England for a year-and-a-half, during which time there were dramatic full-scale battles on land and at sea, with campaigning armies inflicting terrible destruction on the people of England.

Full of vivid, colourful characters, this critically acclaimed book is the first-ever study of the invasion, offering the most detailed accounts of its numerous, exciting military engagements.

A Plague on Both Your Houses

By Susanna Gregory,

Book cover of A Plague on Both Your Houses: The First Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew

Set in Cambridge in the 14th century, Matthew Bartholomew is a doctor trying to instill knowledge into his students while surviving the rigours of life in an under-funded college, and the censure of fellow physicians who still believe in astrological charts, and who dismiss Matthew’s new-fangled notions of cleanliness. Although keen to focus on his students and his studies, Matthew invariably becomes involved in the town vs gown troubles, along with murders and mysteries when his help is invoked by the Proctor, Brother Michael. Great reads about life in a university town along with medieval medical practice.


Who am I?

After enjoying Josephine Tey’s wonderful Daughter of Time, in which she exonerates Richard III from the crime of murdering the princes in the tower, followed by the Brother Cadfael mysteries, I became hooked on historical crimes and decided to try writing them myself! It was quite a challenge researching both the history and the settings from Australia, but the novels became a wonderful excuse for lengthy visits to travel around Great Britain and France. As well as writing the Janna Chronicles, my passion for history has also prompted several other published novels and series, including the Shalott trilogy.


I wrote...

Blood Oath: The Janna Chronicles 1

By Felicity Pulman,

Book cover of Blood Oath: The Janna Chronicles 1

What is my book about?

A young woman, alone and on the run in a medieval kingdom at war, goes in search of her unknown father, hoping to avenge her mother’s murder with his help. In this six-book series, Janna follows the clues as she flees from forest to farm, to abbey, Stonehenge, and, finally, to the royal court at Winchester.  Along her journey she solves many crimes and mysteries, including the secrets of her birth, and of her heart. Torn between love and duty, Janna is forced to take sides in the bitter fight for the crown between King Stephen and Empress Matilda: a decision that could keep her safe – but break her heart. 

The Apothecary Rose

By Candace Robb,

Book cover of The Apothecary Rose: The Owen Archer Series - Book One

Set in Medieval York I loved the detail of life in this book. The passion of Lucie Wilton, the apothecary’s wife is apparent and very real. Her anguish at his death and her guilt over her love for Owen Archer, her assistant incite pity and hunger in the reader. It taught me to try and include small details in my own writing and to make my characters come alive as Candace Robb does. I was truly hungry for the next book...and the next...and the next!

Owen Archer became a real fictional hero of mine.


Who am I?

As a great reader from birth, I love books. I am a retired teacher of English literature and love history, particularly the medieval period, inspired by my love of Chaucer. I found my chosen authors entertaining, informative, and able to lead me into my happy place, unaware of my surroundings whilst reading. I read very fast, however, and none of them write fast enough for me so I started to write my own books. Words have the power to move, to excite, to console, to entertain. I hope anyone reading my chosen list will enjoy and may feel like exploring my own books.


I wrote...

A Quenchless Fire: The Second Sherborne Medieval Mystery

By Rosie Lear,

Book cover of A Quenchless Fire: The Second Sherborne Medieval Mystery

What is my book about?

This is the second book in the Matthias Barton Medieval mysteries series, set in Sherborne, Dorset. The young schoolmaster, Matthias Barton, finds himself involved with a seriously injured man and the fire which consumed part of Sherborne Abbey in 1437.

An injured soldier arrives on the scene bringing bad news to his friend, the Coroner, Sir Tobias Delaware. Matthias travels to France to discover the truth behind his message, meanwhile, the frustrated townspeople of Sherborne agitate against the haughty Abbot. Matthias encounters danger in Paris where the death of a young prostitute causes him both pain and shame. His return coincides with the uprising in Sherborne and the terrible wounding of the injured soldier to whom Matthias has offered shelter.

War, Politics and Finance in Late Medieval English Towns

By Christian D. Liddy,

Book cover of War, Politics and Finance in Late Medieval English Towns: Bristol, York and the Crown, 1350-1400

Why would this 50 year period be so interesting in these two cities? In these years Bristol and York were second only to London in influence and growth within the realm, and as the rising merchant class accrued wealth they used it to make agreements with the crown—to their advantage, of course. With King Edward III it was all about his war with France; with his grandson and successor King Richard II it was about gaining charters that made them more independent of royal interference as well as negotiating their way between the political factions within the nobility.

Richard’s reign was a dangerous time, especially at the end when York merchants chose to loan money to Henry Bolingbroke’s uprising against his cousin the king.  The stakes were high and the personalities larger than life.


Who am I?

I have been writing the Owen Archer mysteries, set in and around the city of York in the late 14th century, for 30 years, ever since falling in love with the city of York on a visit. As I studied medieval literature and culture in graduate school, with a special interest in Chaucer, I’ve focused my research on the period in which he lived. I’ve spent months walking the streets of the city, hiking through the countryside, and meeting with local historians. Besides the 13 Owen Archer mysteries I’ve also published 3 Kate Clifford mysteries covering Richard II’s downfall, both series grounded in the politics and culture of medieval York and Yorkshire. 


I wrote...

The Riverwoman's Dragon

By Candace Robb,

Book cover of The Riverwoman's Dragon

What is my book about?

May, 1375. Owen Archer returns from London to find York in chaos. While the citizens are living in terror of the pestilence, a newly arrived physician is whipping up fear and suspicion against traditional healers and midwives. Aided by parish priests, he is especially hostile towards Magda Digby, who has helped and healed the people of York for many years. For her part, Magda is uneasy about the arrival of two long-lost kinsfolk, between whom she senses a hidden agenda. Her troubles multiply when she discovers a body in the river near her home and falls under suspicion of murder.

Days later, fire rips through a warehouse in the city. Amongst the charred debris lies the body of a man – not burned, but stabbed in the back. Is there a connection to the corpse in the river? Determined to prove Magda’s innocence, Owen investigates amidst violent outbursts within and without the city walls– but the more he uncovers, the deeper the mystery becomes… 

The Cross of Lead

By Avi,

Book cover of The Cross of Lead

Crispin is a young serf in Medieval England--an orphan despised by everyone for reasons he does not understand. Though I never had problems as dire as Crispin faced, I frequently felt mistreated as a child, and like him, the forest was my comfort and refuge. Like him, I had a lively curiosity about the lives of others and many times learned important lessons through observation. I shared Crispin's tendency to hero worship those who befriended me, and like him, I generally chose my role models well.

Who am I?

All my life I’ve been pushing against limits. Being the oldest of five children born to a farm couple who became mill workers, I was frequently reminded by family that “people like us” did not need much education, didn’t get the good jobs, and shouldn’t “rise above themselves.” Being a girl, I had additional limits. Naturally, when I learned to read, I was drawn to books in which characters broke through unfair restraints to have adventures and accomplish great deeds. I wanted to be one of those people. By the time I came of age, I knew I had a shot at becoming the heroine of my own story!


I wrote...

Halley

By Faye Gibbons,

Book cover of Halley

What is my book about?

Halley is a fourteen-year-old girl in Depression-era Georgia. Her father has died and she, along with her mother and brother, must move in with her domineering preacher grandfather. Pa Franklin has no sympathy for Halley’s desire to get an education. The only future he sees for her is marriage and children. Until then he considers any money she earns as rightfully his.  In fact, he is ready for her to drop out of school and go to work at a local mill. Waiting for the Rapture, when Jesus will return, may satisfy others, but Halley wants more. She yearns for some control over her own life. An education, she hopes, might allow that.

The Archer's Tale

By Bernard Cornwell,

Book cover of The Archer's Tale: Book One of the Grail Quest

Bernard Cornwell’s fight scenes are what I would call emotional rather than technical. You feel his fights, the vibration of sword against shield, the panic of your feet slipping in the mud, the fear rising up in your guts that will allow only a half-crazed scream to come out of your mouth. If you’re looking for a manual on sword fighting, Cornwell is not your man. But if you want to be put in a character’s armor while someone is trying to skewer him with a spear, no one does it better. I was drawn to this book because it was about an archer, and I know how hard it is to write fight scenes with archers in them. I am an amateur bowyer and having made more than a few bows I know how much skill it takes to make and use these weapons. Cornwell did a lot of…


Who am I?

I love a good fight scene! It doesn’t need to be long and gruesome, but it must be visceral and make me nervous for those involved. Don’t get me wrong, I also love a good first-kiss scene but unfortunately, my past has made me more adept at recognizing and writing one over the other. I started training in martial arts at the age of nine and continued for thirty years. I don’t train much these days but I took up bowmaking a few years back and now spend a lot of time carving English longbows and First Nations’ bows. I recently also took up Chinese archery.


I wrote...

Acre

By J.K. Swift,

Book cover of Acre

What is my book about?

Brother Foulques just wants to stay in Acre and perform his sworn duties as a Knight Justice. Instead, the young Hospitaller Knight of Saint John must undertake a dangerous journey from the Holy Land to a remote village nestled deep in the Alps, the "Spine of the World." His mission: buy 500 peasant boys and return them to Acre to be trained as Soldiers of Christ. Pursued across the Mid-Earth Sea by slavers, Brother Foulques and his charges are about to be thrust into a confrontation with the greatest warriors the East has ever known: the Mamluks. Once warrior-slaves, the Mamluks have overthrown their masters and now turn their eyes on Christendom itself. What chance does one Hospitaller and an army of children have?

Master of War

By David Gilman,

Book cover of Master of War

Not all medieval soldiers were willing participants in war and Gilman’s first book in his Master of War series tells the story of one such man, Thomas Blackstone, a stonemason. Brilliant character building and prose is at the forefront here and Gilman’s hero is a man torn by the immorality of what he sees while fighting in France in 1346. More than that, he is the sole protector of a mute, disfigured brother who accompanies him to battle by order of the magistrate in lieu of execution for the crime of murder and rape. Blackstone is a moral man struggling in a world without pity in this exciting novel which sets the pace for the entire series.


Who am I?

Long before I started my career in journalism I was a voracious reader of historical novels. I devoured epic adventure about medieval Europe and eventually got involved in European martial arts: fighting in full armour in tournaments and melees. My love of history finally won out over my day job of defence reporting and I began penning novels. The books I most enjoy are more than just battle tales, they’re about people. Good historical fiction isn’t just about the history. It needs more than volleys of arrows and swinging swords, it needs characters you care about. These books combine authenticity with passionate, compelling writing and unique characters you won’t soon forget.


I wrote...

Hawker and the King's Jewel

By Ethan Bale,

Book cover of Hawker and the King's Jewel

What is my book about?

August 1485. The eve of the Battle of Bosworth. King Richard III summons a grizzled knight, Sir John Hawker, and charges him with one final mission. After the battle, he must return a priceless ruby to its giver, the Doge of Venice. Richard believes the jewel has brought ill luck to his family, and wants rid of it. Hawker must also protect Richard’s arrogant, newly knighted illegitimate son, a youth unaware of his true parentage. But the commands are overheard by a Tudor spy…

When the king falls, Hawker flees the field, Tudor agents in hot pursuit. Not knowing who to trust, Hawker and his small Yorkist band take the only course left open: Venice, with all its conspiracies—and the love Hawker left behind there...

The First Princess of Wales

By Karen Harper,

Book cover of The First Princess of Wales: A Novel

Star-crossed lovers and a strong female heroine! This setting is the beginning of the end for the Plantagenets. Their royal court is turbulent—filled with secrets and enemies after the dramatic coup of the current king’s father, King Edward II (the events of which are featured in my book). When the beautiful and willful Joan of Kent, cousin to the royal family, is sent to live among them, she soon learns they’re the ones responsible for her father’s unjust execution and her family’s subsequent shame. Though the handsome and chivalrous Black Prince of Wales is falling at her feet, she twists his affection against him in an act of revenge, only allowing Fortune’s Wheel to turn once she decides it should be so.


Who am I?

I am a strong, independent woman (*snaps fingers through the air*), yet I adore a soul-sucking romance. Many might think this is a contradiction, but it’s not! A woman can be both loving and stubborn…both enamored by her partner yet still strong enough to speak up for herself. Sadly, I think historical fiction often defaults to portraying dependent and subjugated women, and this isn’t necessarily wrong—in fact, it’s probably more accurate. However, when I’m getting lost in the magic of a novel, I want to experience the all-consuming love without sacrificing the resiliency and independence of the women involved, and these books spin stories where both outcomes are possible!


I wrote...

All the Gold in Abbotsford

By E.L. Daniel,

Book cover of All the Gold in Abbotsford

What is my book about?

Elena Redewolde has lost everything—her family, castle, title, and dignity—and King Edward II’s corrupt court is to blame. All that remains is her freedom, but even that’s taken away when she’s forced to wed the local mercenary captain, Stephen Warde. Though Stephen promises to restore her lands and salvage her family’s reputation, he refuses to tell her how. The months pass by while her circumstances remain the same, but then strange events start unfolding around their town, and she begins to wonder whether she might twist the situation to her advantage. Tax raises, falsely forged gold, whispers of a foreign invasion? If Elena can uncover this fraud and corruption surrounding her, maybe it’ll help her reclaim her destiny and win back her home…

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