St Albans historian reveals why Edward III was the best of English kings

Nicole Harding

Nicole Harding - Credit: Archant

Researcher Nicole Harding is in no doubt who is England’s top monarch - the medieval King Edward III.

Silvia Somaggio

Silvia Somaggio - Credit: Archant

He got the vote of the historian from St Albans who has completed a dissertation on the king at the University of Huddersfield and has now embarked on a doctorate switching her attention to the Victorian era.

In her MA dissertation entitled Exemplar King and Doting Parent, Nicole researched the life and work of Edward III who reigned from 1327 until his death in 1377 at the age of 64.

He presided over military successes overseas while bringing stability at home and his reign was heralded as a golden age of chivalry with the creation of the Order of the Garter.

But what really sold him to Nicole was that he was a good family man - he had a large brood of children but unlike other medieval monarchs, was never in conflict with his elder sons, who included the Black Prince, and had a good relationship with all his children.

King Edward II from the National Portrait Gallery

King Edward II from the National Portrait Gallery - Credit: Archant

Nicole said: “Fatherhood was essential to Edward III’s reign and to his masculinity,”

When she began to research kingship and masculinity for an undergraduate project, she was fascinated by an image of Edward III’s tomb at Westminster Abbey in which an effigy of the king was surrounded by 12 figurines representing his children.

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She added: “That is absolutely unusual. His children were so important to Edward that they stood for posterity on his tomb, signifying something so important about his kingship.”

Her highly original appraisal of the king earned her an MA degree and she has now moved on to a doctoral project in which she is collaborating with the Hepworth Wakefield to examine a Victorian art collection that reflects the medieval past of Yorkshire.

* Growing up in Italy, Silvia Somaggio spent her teenage years studying science which was never really her forte.

But even then she was fascinated to learn how italian magistrates risked their lives to overthrow the Mafia and secretly wanted to become part of the justice system.

When she went to work with a worldwide company in London, she was supporting the legal department and during a working lunch with the legal counsel and other directors, she confessed that she felt she had failed at school and had wanted to study law.

That was when Silvia, who lives in St Albans, heard about the Open University and despite her fears, she enrolled for a law degree.

She said: “I always worked full-time, but whilst studying I have also had a baby, been made redundant, changed job, bought a flat and then a house; no matter how stressful and complicated my life has been, I never stopped studying. I loved it.

“The more exams I passed, the more I gained confidence; the more I gained confidence, the more I wanted to push myself a little bit further. My English improved dramatically as well.”

She has now graduated in law and has just started a degree in Italian Law. Next year she plans to start studying for her Legal Practicing Certificate.

Silvia added: “Thanks to the OU I now know that I can achieve everything I want if I work hard, and I’ve never felt so proud of myself.”