Edward, Prince of Wales, the Black Prince

Scope and Content

Manuscript volume containing a metrical chronicle composed by the Chandos Herald in French verse, commemorating the life and feats of arms of Edward the Black Prince, [1385]. The poem is a valuable authority for certain events of the Hundred Years War, and gives a brief description of Edward III's French campaign of 1346, culminating in the Battle of Crecy, and followed by the Battle of Calais, with some details of the plot for the recovery of the latter at the end of 1349. Next comes a very detailed description of the Battle of Poitiers (1356), and an eyewitness account of the Spanish Campaign of the Black Prince on behalf of Don Pedro (Peter) of Castile, culminating in the Battle of Nejera (1367). A brief overview is given of the end of the Black Prince's government in Gascony, and of the war which led to the loss of almost all the possessions gained at Brétigny, followed by a comprehensive account of the last years of the Prince's life. After the poem, the author also gives a list of the chief officers of the Black Prince in Aquitaine, and copy of the epitaph on his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral.

The manuscript contains a full-page miniature illuminated in gold and colours, which is divided into two compartments. The upper compartment contains a representation of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity; God the Father is here portrayed in a blue robe on a background of gold. He is seated on a throne and holds in His extended arms a crucifix, above which a dove is introduced to symbolise the Holy Ghost. In the lower compartment the Black Prince is depicted kneeling in adoration on a red cushion. His hands are joined in prayer, and his special devotion to the Holy Trinity is indicated by a scroll proceeding from his mouth bearing the words 'Et hec tres unum sunt' (1 John v.7). The Prince is clad in armour, covered by a tight-fitting leather jupon without sleeves, finished along the bottom edge with a border of escallops, and emblazoned with the arms of England and France. He wears a sword and dagger, golden elbow and knee cops, and golden spurs. On each side of the kneeling Prince, standing in a golden socket, is a large ostrich feather in silver, his personal badge assumed after the Battle of Crecy, with the motto 'Ich dene' on a scroll below. The text of the poem commences on the next page with a large illuminated initial O, containing the Royal Arms emblazoned, and this leaf is surrounded by a border of strap work and flowers in gold and colours. There are also a number of small initial letters in gold on a coloured background.

Administrative / Biographical History

The poem was written by the Chandos Herald, the domestic Herald of Sir John Chandos, who was a devoted friend and follower of Edward the Black Prince. Little is known of the life of the author, except that he accompanied Sir John Chandos in some of his later military campaigns, and was therefore in the position of eyewitness to the events he describes. The poem was composed about 1385, nine years after the death of Edward.


Single item.

Access Information

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purposes of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Uncatalogued material may not be seen. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description.

Alternative Form Available

f.3v, ff.3v-4v and f.4v are available as negatives.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Octavo. On vellum. Written by an English scribe in lettres batardes, with forty lines to a page. The headings are written in red. Old calf binding, with ornaments tooled in gold in the centre of each cover and at the four corners. In a morocco case by Sangorski and Sutcliffe.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Sarah Smith as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Separated Material

The poem is also found in a manuscript in the library of Worcester College, Oxford University.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original, which must be assessed by a conservator. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Custodial History

A note on the manuscript itself seems to imply that its first owner was John Shirley, a transcriber of Chaucer and Lydgate (?1366-1456). A bookplate in the volume states that the manuscript was in the possession of Sir Thomas Mostyn in 1744, and it was catalogued by the Historical Manuscripts Commission in 1873 at Mostyn Hall. In 1920 the Mostyn Manuscripts were offered for sale by Sotheby's, and this manuscript was purchased by Messrs Maggs, from whom it was bought by the University of London. It was presented to HRH the Prince of Wales on the occasion of the conferment on him of the honorary degrees of Master of Commerce and Doctor of Science, on 5 May 1921, and was placed by him on permanent loan to the University of London for the use of future students and researchers.


The first printed notice of the poem appears in Thomas Warton's The History of English Poetry (London, 1774), where it is incorrectly attributed to the Herald of the Black Prince. The three printed editions of the poem have been made from the manuscript at Worcester College, Oxford University.