Philippa of Hainault (24 June 1314 – 15 August 1369) was the Queen consort of King Edward III of England from her marriage on 24 January 1328 until her death at the age of 55, which was the result of an illness closely related to dropsy.
She acted as regent on several occasions when her husband was away from his kingdom, and she often accompanied him on his expeditions to Scotland, France, and her native Flanders. Philippa won much popularity with the English people for her kindness and compassion which was demonstrated in 1347 when she successfully persuaded King Edward to spare the lives of the Burghers of Calais. It was this popularity that helped maintain peace in England throughout Edward's long reign.
The eldest of her 14 children was Edward, the Black Prince, who was a renowned military leader.
The Queen's College, Oxford was founded in her honour.
Philippa was born in Valenciennes, Flanders, a daughter of William I, Count of Hainault, and Joan of Valois, the granddaughter of Philip III of France. She was one of eight children and the second of five daughters. Her eldest sister Margaret married in 1324 Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor; and in 1345, she became the suo jure Countess of Hainault upon the death of their brother William in battle.
Philippa was interested in learning, and was an avid reader like her mother, Joan of Valois, who introduced French literary culture to the court of Hainault.
King Edward II had decided that an alliance with Flanders would benefit England and sent Bishop Stapledon of Exeter to inspect the daughters of Count William to determine which girl would be the most suitable as an eventual bride for Prince Edward. The bishop's report to the king as regards Philippa (who was about eight years old at that time) reads in part: "The lady ..... has not uncomely hair, betwixt blue-black and brown. Her head is clean-shaped; her forehead high and broad, and standing somewhat forward. Her face narrows between the eyes, and the lower part of her face is still more narrow and slender than the forehead. Her eyes are blackish-brown and deep. Her nose is fairly smooth and even, save that it is somewhat broad at the tip and flattened, yet it is no snub-nose. Her nostrils are also broad, her mouth fairly wide. Her lips somewhat full, and especially the lower lip. Her teeth which have fallen and grown again are white enough, but the rest are not so white. The lower teeth project a little beyond the upper; yet this is but little seen. Her ears and chin are comely enough. Her neck, shoulders, and all her body and lower limbs are reasonably well shapen; all her limbs are well set and unmaimed; and nought is amiss so far as a man may see. Moreover, she is of brown skin all over like her father; and in all things she is pleasant enough, as it seems to us."
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