England’s 1st Black Queen – Queen Phillipa of Hainault 1314-1369


Michael Packe in his book King Edward III gives a delightful description of King Edward III and Queen Phillipa’s first meeting:

“He spied on the unwitting sisters, and pounced on the youngest of them, Philippa by name’, at the time eight years old and nearest in age to Edward, who was nearly seven years. He had then subjected her to a minute and terrifying scrutiny. Apart from some criticism of her remaining baby teeth (they were ‘not so white’, he had found little fault with her solid physiognomy. Her hair betwixt blue-black and brown and not uncomely’, her forehead large; her eyes blackish brown and deep, her nose though ‘somewhat broad at the tip and also flattened’, was ‘yet no snub-nose’; her mouth was wide and generous, her ears and chin were ‘comely enough’, she was of middle height for her age, well taught, and of ‘fair carriage’.

‘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 brown of skin all over, and much like her father; and in all things she is pleasant enough to look at it seems to us.’

Queen Philippa is remembered by history as a tender-hearted woman, who interceded with her husband and persuaded him to spare the lives of the six burghers of Calais, whom he had planned to execute as an example to the townspeople.

Read her family genealogy here.