Considered by some to be the most chivalrous knight who ever lived, Edward of Woodstock,
also known as the “Black Prince”, lived a life that was the stuff of medieval romance.
The eldest son of King Edward III of England, he died before he could be crowned king himself.
Yet he fought in two of the most famous battles of the Hundred years war, Crecy (1346), and Poitiers
(1356), and during the latter he commanded the English forces, and captured the King of France and
the young Dauphin. He also fought during the Najera campaign (1367), assisting Pedro of Castile in
retaining his throne.
His nickname the “Black Prince,” is said by some to be the result of his wearing black armour,
but there is no evidence for this. Rather, it is more likely that the nickname came from his
“shield of peace”, which he adopted after the battle of Crecy. The old blind king John of Bohemia
fought on the French side, and had two of his household knight’s tie their horses to each side of his
own, and ordered them to lead him to the front line so that he could “strike a blow against the English.”
After the battle, the old kings’ body was found among the dead, along with his household knights, their
horses still tied to one another. Edward was so moved when he heard this that he adopted the king’s
arms, three ostrich feathers on a black field, with the motto “Ich Dien” (I serve) as his shield of
peace. His royal arms were used as his “shield of war,” whereas he used the other (his shield of peace)
when he competed in tournaments, which he was fond of doing. It is the black field on this second
shield that earned him the nickname, the “Black Prince.”
I have constructed both shields, the shield of war and the shield of peace. The shield of war has
the royal arms, with the distinctive white label (three vertical bars), indicating Edward as the
eldest son. This shield I copied from the surviving example hung over his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral,
using the same dimensions and construction methods. The quartered field is decorated with a diaper
pattern of horizontal crosses, and the lions and fluer-de-lis are molded in the same fashion as the
originals, then covered with 23 karat gold leaf. The shield of peace is somewhat more speculative,
since no example of it survives, but I’ve attempted to keep it as historically accurate as possible.