John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall

John of Eltham
Earl of Cornwall

John on the family tree of English kings
Born (1316-08-15)15 August 1316
Eltham Palace, Kent
Died 13 September 1336(1336-09-13) (aged 20)
Perth, Scotland
Burial January 1337
Westminster Abbey, London
Father Edward II of Carnarvon, King of England
Mother Isabella of France
Arms of John, Earl of Cornwall.

John of Eltham, 1st Earl of Cornwall (15 August 1316 13 September 1336) was the second son of king Edward II of England and his queen Isabella of France. He was heir to the English throne from the date of the abdication of his father (25 January 1327) to the birth of his nephew Edward, the Black Prince (15 June 1330).


Alabaster-carved tomb of John of Eltham at Westminster Abbey

John was born in 1316 at Eltham Palace, Kent. At the age of twelve, he was created Earl of Cornwall on 6 October 1328. Caught in the throes of the war between his father, Edward II, and mother Isabella, his growing years were turbulent. He was passed between his parents and even held in the Tower of London for a time before his brother, Edward III, led a coup against their mother and assumed his majority.

Information on John is scant, but by most historical accounts he was highly competent, and highly trusted by Edward. He was named "Guardian of the Realm" when Edward III was out of the country; was asked to open Parliament in Edward's absence, and was named Warden of the northern Marches, which gave him virtual autonomy in that portion of England.

Half a dozen brides had been proposed for him, most being the eligible daughters of the kings of Europe. Eventually, Maria, illegitimate daughter of Afonso IV of Portugal was chosen, but John died before the marriage.

At seventeen he was a key commander in the Battle of Halidon Hill (1333), a devastating defeat for the Scots. Later he commanded an army in the southwest of Scotland that put down resistance to Edward Balliol, whose claims to the Scottish throne were supported by England. According to Scottish accounts, who view John as a ruthless destroyer, he burned down Lesmahagow Abbey when it was filled with people who had sought sanctuary from the wrath of the English troops. As the Scottish chronicler John of Fordun tells it, this violation of the sacred laws of sanctuary so enraged King Edward III that he killed his own brother in fury. According to modern historian Tom Beaumont James, this tale "challenges the distinction between history and story."

John died, shortly after turning 20, at Perth, probably from a fever. Edward buried his brother with all honours in a beautiful tomb in Westminster Abbey, in January 1337, and had masses said for his soul regularly. His alabaster-carved tomb is at Westminster Abbey.


Titles, styles, honours and arms


As Earl of Cornwall, John had use of the coat of arms of the kingdom, differenced by a bordure France (i.e. azure semy of fleur-de-lys or).[1]


Next to Eltham Palace, his birthplace, is a footpath called 'King Johns Walk', named after him.


  1. Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family

External links

John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
Born: 25 August 1316 Died: 13 September 1336
English royalty
Preceded by
Edward of Windsor,
Earl of Chester
Heir to the English Throne
as heir presumptive
25 January 1327 15 June 1330
Succeeded by
Edward of Woodstock,
Prince of Wales

as heir apparent
Title last held by
Piers Gaveston
Earl of Cornwall
6 October 1328 – 13 September 1336
Elevation to Duchy & Dukedom
Title next held by
Edward, the Black Prince
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