Queen Phillipa

Other Characters

Queen Phillipa Begs for the lives of the Burgers of Calais


Prince Edward— the future Edward III—fell in love with Phillipa when he went with his mother, Isabella of France, to Hainault in the summer of 1326. Isabella was there to ask Count William to support her bid to depose her husband and put the Prince on the throne in his place, and to reassure the Count that she was totally behind a match between one of his daughters and the future King of England.

Why was Phillipa such good catch?

Well,her mother was the granddaughter of Philip III of France and her father was descended from Louis VII of France. English wool, particularly from the Welsh Marches, the South West and Lincolnshire, was a valuable commodity and England’s main economic export. The wool sent to specialist cities in the Low Countries, France, and Italy, which used “the pedal-driven horizontal loom and spinning wheel, along with mechanised fulling and napping,” to produce superior textiles.

Hainault specialized in cloth production. Thus, it was a very astute economic move for King Edward II to marry his son to a daughter of Hainault.

Queen Isabella of France and her main ally/advisor, Roger Mortimer, were bright enough to embrace this plan even after they had deposed Edward II and were acting as regents for the newly-crowned boy-king. Moreover, they wouldn’t have cared which of William’s daughter King Edward III married, because any of them would have come with a huge dowry and connection to the wool trade and textile industry. Isabella and Mortimer were desperate to pay for the troops needed to fight in Scotland and on the continent, but they needed to raise funds while avoiding the use of the word “tax”. They arranged a “levy” on exported wool as a “loan” from merchants.

Philippa married Edward first by proxy, exchanging vows with the Bishop of Coventry at Valenciennes in October of 1327 before setting sail for England with her courtiers and her uncle, John of Hainaut. They reached England in late December, and Philippa entered London just before Christmas, where a “rousing reception was accorded her”. She and her young groom were remarried in person on 24 January 1328 at York Minster, after which the young couple went to Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire to live.

On a personal front her charity and her concern for her people was celebrated far and wide. Philippa was hailed by medieval writers as “a very good and charming person who exceeded most ladies for sweetness of nature and virtuous disposition”, and the “most gentle Queen, most liberal, and most courteous that ever was Queen in her days.” 

In fact, for the 40 years that she and Edward were married, she spent a great deal of her time trying to modify his ruthlessness.

A renowned example of her kindness on the international stage was her efforts to convince her husband to spare the lives of the Burghers of Calais in 1347 after he besieged and captured that city. When the burghers were brought before the king, the “pregnant Philippa came forward on her knees, weeping … She said she had asked for nothing since joining him in Calais but she was now asking the King to take pity on these poor men and for the love of her, to spare them.” Her pleas worked, in spite of Edward’s extreme anger toward the Burghers, because his love for his wife was even greater than the force of his impulsive temper. Without Philippa’s constant modifications on Edward’s snap judgments, he would have probably been remembered more for brutality than kingship.

Another famous instance of Philippa’s mercy came in 1331, during her mother’s visit to England with the final installment of Philippa’s ample dowry. At one of the tournaments to celebrate the Countess’s visit, some shoddy carpentering resulted in the collapse of the platform on which the ladies were seated. No one was hurt, but Edward was livid with the thought his queen could have been hurt and embarrassed that English workmanship failed in front of his international visitors. He was all set to hang the carpenters, including an apprentice of only 14 years old, but Philippa went down on her knees in public to beg the king to spare their lives. Moved, Edward forgave them, and Philippa’s kindness became legendary.


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Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.