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Canterbury Cathedral's 'Black Prince' exonerated of massacre, following new research by historian

By Gerry Warren

The tomb of the Black Prince is one of Canterbury Cathedral’s most visited sights - not least because of his formidable reputation as a military leader and warrior.

But there has also been a 630-year-old stain on his character after he was held responsible for leading a massacre of 3,000 innocent people in a French town.

Now a military historian has uncovered new evidence which he claims exonerates the prince, Edward of Woodstock, of the atrocity.

The Black Prince's tomb in Canterbury Cathedral
The Black Prince's tomb in Canterbury Cathedral

Michael Jones has published his findings in a new biography, simply called The Black Prince, and will be one of the key speakers at a conference at the cathedral in November which will examine his life.

It paints a new picture of the Prince, whose tomb and relics continue to fascinate thousands of visitors to the cathedral.

It had been recorded by a French chronicler of the time, that Edward ordered his men to kill the innocents in Limoges on September 19, 1370, during the Hundred Years War between England and France.

But evidence has been uncovered that reveals the Prince, who ruled Aquitaine in south-western France, was not responsible.

Now it is believed he had considerable support in the town and many wanted nothing to do with the city’s treacherous bishop Jean de Cros, who orchestrated the French re-taking of Limoges the previous month.

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

Mr Jones says he now believes the massacre was actually carried out by French soldiers who took dreadful reprisals on their own countrymen after accusing the locals of opening the gates to let the English in.

He says the fresh evidence removes ‘an unwarranted stain on the prince’s reputation’.

It was gained from unearthing archives in Limoges and Paris and other centuries old documents, including some about a law suit between two merchants of Limoges held in a Paris court on July 10, 1404 which shed new light on what really happened.

Mr Jones, 62, who lives in London, said: "Edward is one of our great heroes who inspired those around him to fight and achieved phenomenal military victories.

"His reputation was tarnished by Froissart’s account of the sack of Limoges which I have always been suspicious of because it seemed out of character.

"The prince was a tough warrior but a very pious man and the more I looked at the account, the more it didn’t add up.

"My gut instinct, followed by archival research, has painted a very different story of what happened."

Cathedral collections manager, Sarah Turner said: "We are very interested in Michael Jones’ views and the work he has done.

"We look forward to hearing more from him at our conference – the Black Prince: Man, Mortality and Myth on November 16 and 17."

For more information go to the cathedral's Black Prince Conference page.

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