Edward II of England
gigatos | January 25, 2022
Edward II, also called Edward of Carnarvon by his birthplace (25 April 1284 – 21 September 1327), was the Plantagenet dynasty king of England in 1307-1327, the son and successor of Edward I. During his father”s lifetime, he became Earl of Pontier (1290) and the first Prince of Wales in the history of the English monarchy (1301). He continued Edward I”s war with Robert the Bruce in Scotland, but was deeply unsuccessful: in 1314 he was utterly defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn and later forced to sign a truce for thirteen years. On the Continent, Edward II fought a war with the French crown that resulted in the loss of his possessions in Aquitaine (1324).
Edward was in constant conflict with the barons over his minions; historians debate whether these minions were the king”s lovers. In 1311 he had to pass special ordinances limiting the powers of the crown and expel his favorite, Piers Gaveston, but these decisions were soon reversed. The result was civil war: a group of barons led by the king”s cousin Thomas of Lancaster took Gaveston prisoner and executed him (1312).
Later, members of the Dispenser family, especially Hugh le Dispenser the Younger (another possible lover of the king), became Edward”s friends and advisers. In 1321 Lancaster allied with other barons to seize the Dispensers” lands, but Edward defeated the rebels at Borobridge and had Lancaster executed. For a time the king was able to consolidate his power by executing his enemies and confiscating their lands, but latent opposition to his regime grew. When the king”s wife Isabella of France left for the Continent for peace negotiations with France (1325), she opposed Edward and refused to return. Her ally and lover was the exile Roger Mortimer; in 1326 they landed in England with a small detachment. Edward”s regime fell and the king fled to Wales, where he was arrested. In January 1327 Edward II abdicated the throne in favor of his fourteen-year-old son Edward III. He died on September 21 at Berkeley Castle; according to most sources, it was a murder committed on Mortimer”s orders.
Contemporaries criticized Edward, noting the failures in Scotland and the repression of the last years of his reign. Nineteenth-century historians believed that in the long run the development of parliamentary institutions during his reign played a positive role for England. In the twenty-first century the debate continues as to whether Edward was the incompetent king that a number of sources portray him as.
Edward II was the hero of a number of English Renaissance plays, including a tragedy by Christopher Marlowe (1592), which was the basis for a number of other works, including, for example, Bertolt Brecht”s epic drama and Derek Jarman”s film.
Edward II was the fourth son of King Edward I of England and his first wife Eleanor of Castile. He belonged to the Plantagenet dynasty, which had ruled England since 1154, having inherited the kingdom from the Norman dynasty. Edward II”s grandfather was Henry III, and his great-grandfather was John the Soothless, the youngest of Henry II”s sons. On his mother”s side he was nephew to Alfonso X the Wise, king of Castile, and was heir to the countship of Pontier in Picardy as a descendant of Simon de Dammartin. From his father he was to inherit, in addition to the English crown, the manor of Ireland and lands in southwestern France, which the Plantagenets owned as vassals of the French monarch.
The descendants of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile were very numerous: the couple had a total of at least thirteen children, with Edward II being the most recent. Only six survived to adulthood, including five daughters. Mary of Woodstock became a nun, and the other four princesses married. Three of them were married by their fathers to the princes of the Low Countries: Eleanor to Henry III of Bar, Margaret to Jean II of Brabant, and Elizabeth to Johannes I of Holland. The latter, widowed, returned to England and became the wife of Humphrey de Bogun, 4th Earl of Hereford, and Joanna married another prominent English baron, Gilbert de Clair, 7th Earl of Gloucester. Numerous descendants of these two princesses joined the ranks of the highest English nobility.
The future king was born on April 25, 1284, at Caernarvon Castle in north Wales. He is sometimes called Edward of Carnarvon for the place of his birth. Wales had been under English rule for less than a year by then, and perhaps Carnarvon was deliberately chosen as the birthplace of the next royal son: it was symbolically important to the Welsh, a settlement that had existed since the days of Roman Britain, and the center of the new royal administration in the northern part of the region. A contemporary prophet, who believed that the end of time was near, foretold a great future for the child, naming him the new King Arthur, who would lead England to glory. New Age antiquarian writers, beginning with John Stowe (1584), claimed that Edward I had promised the Welsh a ruler born in Wales who did not know a word of English, and that the newborn prince became that ruler and was carried to his new subjects on a shield, but this story is just a legend. Edward became Prince of Wales much later, in February 1301.
The name Edward was of English origin and associated the newborn with the Anglo-Saxon saint King Edward the Confessor. The prince”s brothers received more traditional Norman and Castilian names. Edward had three older brothers: John and Henry, who died before he was born, and Alfonso, who died in August 1284. Edward remained the king”s only son and therefore heir to the throne. Although the prince was born relatively healthy, there were fears that he too might die, leaving his father without a male heir. After his birth he was cared for by a nurse named Mariota or Mary Monsel; when she fell ill a few months later, Alice de Leygrave took over that position. Edward knew little of his own mother, who in his early years was in Gascony with her husband. He had a separate court with his servants under the direction of the clerk, Gilles of Audenarde.
In 1290 Edward”s father confirmed the Treaty of Birgamme, one of the provisions of which was the future marriage of the prince (then six years old) to his peer Margaret of Norway, nominal queen of Scotland. Through this marriage, Edward was to become ruler of both British kingdoms; but the plan was never fulfilled, for Margaret died that same year. Soon Edward”s mother, from whom he had inherited the earldom of Pontier, died. The king later decided to find a bride for his son in France to ensure lasting peace between the two countries, but in 1294 another Anglo-French war broke out. Then Edward I wooed the daughter of Guy de Dampier, Count of Flanders, but even that plan fell through because of obstructions from King Philip the Fair of France.
Supposedly Edward received his religious education from Dominican monks invited to the court by his mother in 1290. His tutor was Guy Fère, who was responsible for discipline, riding and military training. There is no accurate record of how well educated Edward was. What is known, however, is that his mother was anxious to give a good education to her other children, and Guy Fer was a relatively scholarly man for the era. Researchers have long considered Edward II a poorly educated man, mainly because he recited his oath at his coronation in French rather than Latin, and because he showed an interest in physical labor. This evidence is no longer interpreted in this way, but there is still little evidence to shed light on Edward”s level of education. Presumably Edward spoke mostly English-Norman in everyday life, with some knowledge of English and possibly Latin as well (Roy Haynes is not sure of this). He was quite literate for his age, loved poetry, composed a little himself, and wrote letters willingly.
Many biographers suggest that Edward II”s childhood was marred by the lack of love in the family, which influenced his character and predetermined the emergence of serious psychological problems. The prince hardly knew his mother and was left early in the care of his father, who was always busy and became more and more oppressive over the years; Edward had to wander constantly with the royal court, and the only home-like abode for him was King Langley in Hertfordshire. It has recently been suggested that the monarch”s childhood was not, after all, unusual for the period, or particularly solitary, and that he received a typical upbringing as a member of the royal family.
The prince was interested in horses and horse breeding and became a good horseman; he also loved dogs, especially greyhounds, and trained them himself. Edward had for some time a lion, which he took with him everywhere in a cart. The prince was not particularly interested in hunting (regular or falconry), which was a popular pastime in that era. Nevertheless, it was he who commissioned the head gamekeeper William Tweety to write The Art of Hunting, the first work on the subject in medieval Europe. Edward liked music-particularly Welsh music; he held the newly invented mole instrument in high regard, as well as organs. Edward did not take part in tournaments (unknown whether for lack of ability or because of his father”s prohibition in the name of safety), but he certainly approved of such entertainment.
The prince grew tall (about six feet or 180 centimeters) and muscular. By the standards of the time, Edward was considered to have good looks. He was described as “one of the strongest men in the kingdom” and “a wonderfully handsome man”; he was proportionately built and elegantly dressed. Edward had a reputation for being eloquent and generous to those serving at his court. He enjoyed rowing, digging ditches, planting hedges and dealing with peasants and other common people, something not considered normal for the nobility of the day and criticized by his contemporaries. The historian Seymour Phillips points out, however, that little evidence has survived to prove Edward”s propensity to engage in such activities.
Edward had a sense of humor, and he liked rude jokes and pranks. He once rewarded a man who had fallen ridiculously from his horse in front of him; the painter Jack St Albans received 50 shillings from Edward for dancing on a table “and making him laugh until he fell”. There were always several jesters at Edward”s court, with whom he could even get into funny fights. This king loved to play roulette and craps, and could lose large sums of money, spending considerable sums on fancy dress and the wine and fine food in which he was well known. Edward often got drunk, and in this condition he became aggressive and could spill any secret. Even sober, he was “quick and unpredictable by word,” irritability, vindictiveness, and stubbornness were characteristic of him. He would endure a grievance for years, then give vent to his feelings, capable of all kinds of cruelty. He was a man of the same name, a man of the same name, and a man of the same name, a man of the same name, and a man of the same name.
In 1297-1298, while Edward I was at war with the French on the Continent, the prince remained in England as regent. On his return, the king signed the peace treaty of 1303, by which he married Philip the Pretty”s sister Margaret and agreed to Prince Edward”s future marriage to Philip”s daughter Isabella, then only two years old. In theory, this marriage meant that the disputed portion of Aquitaine would be inherited by the joint descendants of Edward and Philip, and the strife would end there. Young Edward appears to have developed a good relationship with his new stepmother, who became the mother of his two half-brothers, Thomas Brotherton and Edmund Woodstock (in 1300 and 1301 respectively). After ascending the throne, Edward supported his brothers with money and titles. Contemporaries criticized Edward II for seeming to have supported his minion Piers Gaveston more than his brothers, but Alison Marshall”s detailed study shows great generosity toward Thomas and Edmund. Marshall writes that in this case the criticism of Edward was unfair.
Having finished with the French, Edward I once again marched with an army into Scotland (1300) and this time took his son with him, appointing him to command the rearguard at the siege of Caerlaverock Castle. In the spring of 1301, the king proclaimed Edward Prince of Wales, granting him the earldom of Chester and lands in north Wales; he apparently hoped this would help pacify the region and give his son some financial independence. Edward accepted the omens from his Welsh vassals and rejoined his father in the Scottish campaign of 1301. He moved north with a force of three hundred soldiers and seized Turnberry Castle. Prince Edward also took part in the campaign of 1303, particularly in the siege of Briha Castle. In the spring of 1304 he negotiated with Scottish rebel leaders but was unsuccessful and later joined his father in the siege of Stirling Castle.
In 1305, Edward and his father had a quarrel, probably over money. The prince argued with Bishop Walter Langton, the royal treasurer, allegedly over the amount of financial support Edward received from the crown. Edward I sided with the treasurer and forbade Edward and his companions to come within thirty miles of the royal court, denying them money. Only through the intercession of the young queen were father and son reconciled.
War in Scotland broke out again in 1306 when Robert the Bruce killed his rival John Comyn and proclaimed himself king. Edward I raised a new army, but decided that this time his son would be the formal commander. Prince Edward was made Duke of Aquitaine and then knighted along with three hundred other young men in a magnificent ceremony in Westminster Abbey. In the midst of a great feast in an adjoining hall, the decorations reminiscent of King Arthur and the Crusades, the assembly swore a collective oath to defeat Bruce. In particular, the Prince of Wales swore that he would not spend even two nights in one place until victory was won. Little is known of the events that followed: Bruce was unable to offer serious resistance, and sources report brutal punitive actions by the English. It is unclear what role Prince Edward”s troops played in this. Chronicler William Richenger held him responsible for the massacre, and historian Seymour Phillips noted that many of Richenger”s other reports are precisely unreliable; accordingly, in this case, too, the chronicler may have distorted the real picture. Edward returned to England in September as diplomatic negotiations continued over the final date of his marriage to Isabella of France.
Relationship with Gaveston
Soon after 1300 the young prince became close to Piers Gaveston, the son of a Gascon knight who had joined the royal retinue. Gaveston became a squire and was soon called a close friend of Edward; in 1306 he was knighted with the prince. In 1307 the king banished Sir Pierce to his French possessions. According to one chronicle, Edward asked his father to grant Haveston either the earldom of Cornwall or Pontier and Montreuil, and the king was so furious about the request that he pulled his son”s hair out and banished the failed earl to the continent. The prince was forbidden to visit Gaveston, although he had expressed such a desire.
The nature of Edward”s relationship with Gaveston, as with later favorites, is a subject of debate in historiography. The extant evidence is insufficient to affirm anything definite and, in particular, to speak unequivocally of a homosexual basis for this friendship. There are different opinions: for example, John Boswell believes that Edward and Gaveston were lovers; Geoffrey Hamilton believes that the sexual component of the relationship took place but was not the main one; Michael Prestwich leans towards the version that Edward and Gaveston became twinned, but with a “sexual element” in the relationship (Miri Rubin (ed. ) argues that Edward and Pierce were very close friends who cooperated politically; Seymour Phillips suggests that it is more likely that Edward considered Gaveston his twin. It is known, however, that both Edward and Gaveston were married and both had children in these marriages; Edward had an illegitimate son and possibly an affair with his niece, Elinor de Clare.
The fourteenth-century chronicles describe King Edward II”s relationship with his favorite rather ambiguously. According to the author of The Chronicle of Edward II”s Civil Wars (1320s), Gaveston “was so fond of the prince that he wished to bring him closer to him and preferred to communicate with him, bound by an unbreakable bond of affection, more than with all other mortals. The author of The Life of Edward the Second (1326) wrote that he “does not remember hearing one man so fond of another.” Claims of homosexuality were first explicitly recorded in 1334, when Adam Orleton, bishop of Worcester, was accused of declaring Edward a “sodomite” in 1326. Orleton, defending himself, explained that he was referring to Edward”s adviser Hugh le Dispenser the Younger, not to the late monarch. The Annales Paulini (English) (Russ. (1325-1350 (?)) states that Edward loved Gaveston “beyond measure”; the Lanercost Chronicle (English) (rus. (circa 1350) speaks of the “inappropriateness” of their intimacy. The Moe Abbey Chronicle (English) (Russian, 1390s) simply notes that Edward “gave himself too much to the sin of sodomy”.
Opponents of the homosexuality theory write that Edward and Gaveston may have been mere friends. Comments by contemporary chroniclers are vaguely worded, and Orleton”s statements were at least in part politically motivated and very similar to similar charges against Pope Boniface VIII and the Templars in 1303 and 1308 respectively. Later chroniclers may have proceeded from Orleton”s statements. In addition, sources” attitudes toward Edward were extremely negatively influenced by the events of the end of his reign. Historians such as Michael Prestwich and Seymour Phillips believe that because of the publicity of the English royal court, it is unlikely that the monarch”s homosexual relations remained secret; meanwhile, it is not known that Edward”s clergy, father, or father-in-law condemned or commented on them in any way.
According to one hypothesis proposed by historian Pierre Chaplet, Edward and Gaveston were twin brothers. Such a relationship, in which the parties vowed to support each other as “brothers in arms,” was common for close friends in the Middle Ages. Many chroniclers write that Edward and Gaveston treated each other as brother to brother, and one explicitly speaks of their twinning. Chapple believes that the two may have made a formal oath in 1300 or 1301 and that subsequently, if one had made a promise to part with the other, it would have been regarded as made under duress and therefore invalid. But such a vow did not necessarily exclude sexual relations. Alan Bray suggests that the fraternization may have been an attempt by the lovers to legitimize their relationship by entering into a kind of “same-sex union.
Coronation and Wedding
Edward I assembled another army for the Scottish campaign of 1307, which Prince Edward was to join that summer, but the king”s health deteriorated and he died on July 7 at Braves Bay Sands. On learning of this, Edward went immediately to London and was declared king there on July 20. On August 4 he was sworn in by his Scottish supporters at Dumfries. Edward immediately summoned Gaveston from exile and granted him the title of Earl of Cornwall, with estates generating a huge income of £4,000 (almost equal to the Queen”s allowance). Soon he married the favorite to his niece Margaret de Clare, one of the most noble and wealthy brides in England. The king ordered his old adversary Bishop Langton arrested and stripped him of his position as treasurer.
In January 1308, Edward went to France for his bride, leaving Gaveston at the head of the kingdom. The move was unusual: the ignorant knight received unprecedented powers, confirmed by a specially engraved “Great Seal. Edward apparently hoped that marriage to the French king”s daughter would strengthen his position in Aquitaine and improve his financial affairs. But negotiations were not easy: Edward and Philip the Fair disliked each other, and the French king was prepared to bargain hard over the size of Isabella”s widowhood and the details of the Plantagenet landholding in France. Eventually an agreement was reached whereby Edward swore a feudal oath to Philip for the Duchy of Aquitaine and agreed to a commission to finalize the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1303.
The wedding took place at Boulogne on January 25, 1308. Edward”s wedding gift to Isabella was a psalter, and she received gifts from her father worth more than 21,000 livres and a fragment of the Life-Giving Cross. The couple arrived in England in February, where the Palace of Westminster was prepared for the coronation and a sumptuous wedding feast, including marble tables, forty ovens and wine-ringing fountains. After some delay, the ceremony took place on 25 February, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Winchelsea. During the coronation, Edward vowed to observe “just laws and customs which the people of the kingdom will determine.” The exact meaning of these words is unclear: they may have meant that the new king gave his vassals the right to pass new laws in return for their omens (and, according to one source, their acceptance of Gaveston”s presence). The wedding was spoiled by a crowd of impatient spectators who, filling the palace, tore down the wall and forced Edward to flee out the back door.
Isabella was only 12 years old at the time of their marriage, and Edward probably had mistresses in the early years of their life together. At this time (probably as early as 1307) he had a son out of wedlock, Adam Fitzroy. Edward and Isabella”s first son, the future Edward III, was born in 1312. The couple also had three other children: John of Eltham in 1316, Eleanor of Woodstock in 1318 and Johanna of Tower in 1321.
Conflict over Gaveston
Initially the barons accepted Piers Gaveston”s return from exile in 1307, but the minion”s opponents grew rapidly. Scholars suggest that Gaveston exerted undue influence on crown politics: one chronicler complained that “in one kingdom two kings ruled, one in name and one in deed. According to another source, “if any earl or magnate needed to ask the king for a special courtesy in advancing his cause, the king would send them to Pierce, and whatever Pierce said or commanded had to be done immediately.” Gaveston was suspected (besides, he was too conspicuous at Edward”s coronation and caused the fury of English and French nobles. At the wedding feast, Edward appears to have favored the company of Gaveston over that of Isabella, and this increased everyone”s indignation.
The parliament, which met in February 1308, demanded that the king confirm in writing his willingness to consider the proposals of the barons. He refused to do so – perhaps fearing that he would be asked to expel his favorite. Then the barons, who came to the session armed, declared their readiness “to support the dignity of the crown, even if it requires disobedience to the king. Only the mediation of the less radical Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, prevented the conflict from escalating: this nobleman persuaded the barons to withdraw. In April, a new parliament met, and the barons again demanded the expulsion of Gaveston. This time they were supported by Isabella and the French crown. In the end, Edward relented and agreed to send Gaveston to Aquitaine, with the Archbishop of Canterbury threatening to excommunicate him if he returned. At the last moment Edward changed his mind and decided to send Gaveston to Dublin as lieutenant of Ireland.
Edward soon began negotiations with Pope Clement V and Philip the Fair, trying to persuade them to facilitate Gaveston”s return to England; in exchange, he offered the arrest of the English Templars and the release from prison of Bishop Langton. In January 1309 Edward called for a new meeting between representatives of the Church and key barons. Such a meeting took place in March or April. A new parliament soon assembled refused to allow Gaveston to return to England, but offered Edward new taxes in return for the king”s agreement to reform.
Edward assured the pope that the conflict connected with Gaveston was completely over. Because of these promises and procedural difficulties, Clement V agreed to annul the archbishop”s threat to excommunicate Gaveston; this meant that the latter could return. The royal favorite”s return occurred in June 1309. At a meeting of parliament the following month, Edward made a number of concessions to dissatisfied Gaveston, including agreeing to limit the power of the royal steward (ang.) (rus.) and marshal of the royal court, to limit the crown”s unpopular right to requisition goods for royal use, to abandon the newly introduced customs duties and the depreciation of coinage. In exchange Parliament agreed to new taxes for the war with Scotland. Thus, for a time, Edward and the barons reached a compromise.
Ordinances of 1311
After Gaveston”s return, his relations with the major barons continued to deteriorate. The royal favorite was seen as arrogant; he began calling the earls insulting nicknames, with one of the most powerful calling him “the dog of Warwick. The Earl of Lancaster and Gaveston”s enemies refused to join parliament in 1310 because of the presence of the king”s favorite. Edward”s financial situation was worsening: he owed £22,000 to Italian bankers Frescobaldi and faced discontent over requisitions. His attempts to raise an army for another Scottish campaign failed, and the earls suspended the collection of new taxes.
The king and parliament met again in February 1310. Policy toward Scotland was supposed to be discussed, but it was quickly replaced by arguments about domestic problems. The barons, again arriving armed, demanded a council of 21 lord-rdainers, which would carry out a broad reform of government and the royal court and become in effect a body restricting the monarch”s power. They told Edward that if their demands were not met, they would “refuse to regard him as their king and would not consider it possible to continue to keep the oath he had taken, since he himself was not fulfilling the oaths he had taken at his coronation”. The king had to agree. The order bearers were chosen, and the opposition and conservatives were about equally divided among them. While the Ordeiners drafted reform plans, Edward and Gaveston marched with an army of 4,700 men into Scotland, where conditions continued to worsen. Robert the Bruce shirked the battle, and the English, who never met the enemy, had to return home for lack of supplies and money.
By this time the ordinands had drawn up plans for reform; Edward had little political power to refuse their adoption in October. These ordinances, in particular, forbade the king to start wars, grant lands, or leave the country without parliamentary approval. The latter gained control over the royal administration, the system of requisitions was abolished, the Frescobaldi bankers were expelled, and a system of control over the observance of ordinances was introduced. In addition, the banishment of Gaveston was announced again, and this time he was not allowed to be in any of Edward”s lands, including Aquitaine and Ireland, and was deprived of his titles. Edward withdrew to his estates at Windsor and King”s Langley (Gaveston had left England, perhaps for northern France or Flanders.
The Death of Gaveston and the Temporary Resolution of the Conflict
Friction between Edward and the barons continued unabated, and the earls in opposition to the king kept their armies mobilized until late 1311. By this time Edward had distanced himself from his cousin, the powerful Earl of Lancaster, who held five counties at once (Lancaster, Leicester, Lincoln, Salisbury and Derby) and derived a huge income from his holdings, some £11,000 a year (almost twice that of the next richest baron). With the support of the Earls of Arundel, Gloucester, Hereford, Pembroke and Warwick, Lancaster led an influential faction, but he himself had no interest in running the country and was not a particularly gifted or effective politician.
Edward responded to the baronial threat by revoking the ordinances and returning Gaveston to England. The king and his favorite reunited at York in January 1312. The barons became enraged and gathered in London, where five earls vowed to kill Gaveston and the Archbishop of Canterbury excommunicated him. It was decided to capture the favorite and prevent him from escaping to Scotland. Edward, Isabella and Gaveston, taken by surprise by these events, set out for Newcastle, pursued by Lancaster and his supporters. Abandoning most of their possessions, they fled by ship to Scarborough, where Gaveston remained, while Edward and Isabella returned to York. After a brief siege, Gaveston surrendered to the Earls of Pembroke and Surrey, who promised that no harm would come to him and that his case would be heard by Parliament. He had plenty of gold, silver, and precious stones with him (he was later accused of stealing them from Edward.
Returning north, Pembroke stopped at the village of Deddington and went to his wife, leaving Gaveston under guard. The Earl of Warwick seized the opportunity and captured Gaveston, taking him to Warwick Castle, where Lancaster and his supporters gathered on June 18. After a brief trial, Gaveston, who was not allowed to say a word, was declared guilty of violating one of the ordinances and executed the very next day.
Edward was saddened and enraged by the murder; his desire for revenge against the barons guided him in the years that followed. According to the Chronicler, “the king developed a mortal and enduring hatred for the earls because of Gaveston”s death. At the same time, the baronial “party” was split: Pembroke and Surrey were angry at Warwick”s arbitrariness and subsequently sided with Edward, while Lancaster and his supporters saw Gaveston”s execution as legitimate and necessary for the stability of the kingdom. The threat of civil war arose again. But on December 20, 1312, mediated by Papal legates and Louis d”Evreux (the queen”s uncle), peace was forged: Edward granted the barons formal pardon, in exchange for their participation in a new campaign against the Scots. Lancaster and Warwick did not immediately approve this treaty, so negotiations continued for most of 1313.
Meanwhile, the Earl of Pembroke was negotiating with France, trying to settle a long-standing disagreement over Gascon. Edward and Isabella agreed to visit Paris in June 1313 to meet with Philip the Fair. Edward probably hoped not only to solve the problem of the south of France, but also to gain his father-in-law”s support in the conflict with the barons, and for Philip it was an opportunity to impress his son-in-law with his power and wealth. It was a spectacular visit: during its time, the two kings managed to knight Philip”s sons and another 200 men in a grand ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, to drink on the banks of the Seine and publicly announce that they and their queens would both join in a new crusade. Philip agreed to mild terms of resolution in Gascony, and the event was marred only by a serious fire in the quarters where Edward and his cronies were housed.
On his return from France, Edward found himself in a better position than before. After tense negotiations in October 1313, a compromise was reached with the earls, including Lancaster and Warwick, essentially very similar to the previous December”s draft agreement. Edward”s financial situation improved thanks to Parliament”s agreement to raise taxes, a loan of 160,000 florins (£25,000) from the pope, £33,000 borrowed from Philip, and further loans arranged by Edward”s new Italian banker. For the first time during Edward”s reign his government was adequately financed.
Battle of Bannockburn
By 1314 Robert the Bruce had recaptured most of the Scottish strongholds, including Edinburgh, and was raiding northern England as far as Carlisle. Edward, enlisting the support of the barons, decided to deal the “rebels” a crushing blow. He assembled a large army, reportedly numbering from 15,000 to 20,000 men, others 22,000 infantry and 3,000 knights alone. According to the author of “Vita Edvardi,” “never before had such a host come out of England; if many wagons were drawn at length, they would occupy a space of 20 leagues.” This army was led by the king himself, and with him went the earls of Pembroke, Hereford, Gloucester, Ulster, the barons of Mortimer, Beaumont, Clifford, Dispenser, and some Scottish lords. The Earls of Lancaster, Warwick, Surrey and Arundel refused to participate in the campaign, claiming that the war had not been approved by Parliament and thus a violation of the ordinances had occurred. Meanwhile Bruce besieged Stirling Castle, a key fortress in Scotland; the castle”s commandant promised the enemy to surrender if Edward did not arrive by June 24. The king learned of this at the end of May and immediately decided to hasten his march north from Berrick to defend Stirling. Robert blocked his way south of the city at Torwood Forest. He had 500 horsemen and, according to various accounts, 10,000 infantry.
The two armies converged on June 23 at Bannockburn creek (the first clashes occurred, in which the English attacks were repulsed and the vanguard commander, Henry de Bogun, was killed. The next day Edward moved his whole army forward and encountered the Scots coming out of the woods. Apparently, he did not expect the enemy to take the fight, and as a result his troops did not reorganize from marching order: the archers who were to disrupt the enemy”s line were in the rearguard, not in front. The English cavalry had difficulty operating in the hilly terrain, and Robert”s lined shiltron lancers repulsed their attack. The vanguard was destroyed along with its commander, the Earl of Gloucester (the king”s nephew). The Scots then counterattacked, pushing the English back into a marshy river valley and causing a real massacre there.
The poet Robert Baston, who saw the Battle of Bannockburn with his own eyes, described it this way:
Edward did not want to leave the battlefield for a long time, but in the end he yielded to the pleas of the Earl of Pembroke, who understood that the battle was finally lost. The king fled, losing his personal seal, his shield, and his horse. Edward vowed that if he could evade pursuit, he would build a Carmelite monastery in Oxford. He first reached Stirling, but the commandant, according to some accounts, simply refused to let him in, while others offered to enter, only to soon surrender to the enemy along with the garrison. Edward then rode as far as Dunbar, and from there by sea headed south. Stirling soon fell. These events were a disaster for the English: they suffered great losses and could no longer claim control of Scotland.
The Bannockburn fiasco increased the political influence of the opposition, and it forced Edward to reinstate the ordinances of 1311. For a time Lancaster became the de facto ruler of England, and the king was a puppet in his hands. In 1316 the earl presided over the great royal council, promising to enforce the ordinances through a new reform commission, but apparently he soon left the post. Disagreements between him and other barons and ill health may have been the cause. For the next two years Lancaster refused to meet Edward in Parliament, making it almost impossible for the government to work effectively. This made a new march into Scotland impossible and raised public fears of civil war. After protracted negotiations, Edward and Lancaster reached the Treaty of Leek in August 1318, Lancaster and his supporters were pardoned, and a new royal council headed by the Earl of Pembroke was created. Thus, open conflict was temporarily averted.
Meanwhile Robert the Bruce used his victory at Bannockburn to improve his position. He took Berwick, thus taking control of all Scotland, and his brother Edward landed in Ireland in 1315 and was proclaimed supreme king. At one time there was even a threat that Scotland and Ireland would be united under one monarch. In Lancashire and Bristol in 1315 and in Glamorgan in Wales in 1316, popular uprisings broke out, but these were quickly crushed. Bruce”s fleet dominated the Irish Sea, pillaging the Welsh coast. Edward the Bruce was defeated at the Battle of Foghart Hills in 1318, and his severed head was sent to Edward II but later Scots landed in Ireland (though they made little progress in their raids). Northern England proved the most vulnerable to the enemy: it became the scene of constant raids, and Edward II could not protect it from plunderers. Local communities had to pay off the Scots themselves. For example, the bishopric of Durham paid Robert the Bruce £5333 in 1311-1327, and half that sum to the English crown. In total, the Scots were able to get 20,000 pounds as tribute during these years (to which should be added tribute in kind – cattle, provisions, etc.). Edward in 1319 besieged Beric, but could not take this fortress and retreated in winter, agreeing to a two-year truce. During this siege the Scots made a devastating raid deep into Yorkshire and defeated a militia assembled by the archbishop at Myton.
Famine and failure in Scottish politics were seen as divine punishment for royal sins, and resentment of Edward grew; one contemporary poet wrote of the “evil times of Edward II” in this connection. In 1318 a mentally ill man named John Deirdre appeared in Oxford, claiming to be the real Edward II, who had been switched at birth. The impostor was executed, but his claims resonated with those who criticized Edward for not being royal enough and for lacking the ability to lead firmly. Discontent was exacerbated by the emergence of the king”s new favorites, Hugh de Audley and Roger Damory, and later Hugh le Dispenser the Younger. Many of those who had taken a moderate stance and helped reach a peaceful compromise in 1318 began to defect to Edward”s opponents, so the likelihood of civil war grew.
The Dispenser War
Friction between the barons and the royal favourites escalated into armed conflict in 1321. By this time, the main favorite of the monarch was Hugh le Dispenser, who belonged to a relatively low class family, but who had managed to marry Edward”s niece from the de Clere family as early as 1306. His father had served the crown faithfully all his life; he himself had long supported the Lord Ordeiners, but in 1318 he became Edward”s closest friend, chamberlain and member of the royal council. The historian Froissart claimed that Dispenser “was a sodomite and was even said to have consorted with the king. There is no unequivocal evidence that Hugh the Younger and Edward were lovers. Regardless of the nature of their relationship, however, Dispenser exercised enormous influence over the king and used this to create his own territorial principality in the Welsh marque. Through the marriage he gained one-third of the vast lands of the de Clers, and now claimed the remaining two-thirds and neighboring estates. Dispenser”s enemies in this situation were his brothers-in-law, Hugh de Audley and Roger Damory (also heirs of the de Clers), as well as the most powerful barons of the Marches – Humphrey de Bogun, 4th Earl of Hereford, and Roger Mortimer, 3rd Baron Wigmore – and smaller lords. This coalition was led by Edward”s old adversary Thomas Lancaster. According to the chronicler, “Sir Hugh and his father wanted to rise above all the knights and barons of England,” and so there was “fierce hatred and resentment against them,” so that all they needed was an excuse to start a civil war.
The occasion arose in 1320: at the request of Dispenser the Younger, Edward gave him Gower in Glamorgan, previously confiscated from John Mowbray. The king thus flagrantly violated the customs of the Marches, under which landed estates passed from family to family. Mowbray immediately formed an alliance with Audley, Damory, and Mortimer and received a promise of support from Lancaster. Meeting on February 27, 1321, the allies decided to raise troops and move them into the Dispensers” lands in South Wales to further force Edward to expel the minions from the country. Edward and Hugh the Younger learned of these plans in March and went west, hoping that the mediation of the moderate Earl of Pembroke would prevent the conflict from escalating. This time, however, Pembroke refused to intervene. Edward”s unconditional support for his favorite led most of the Marchi barons and many other lords to join the rebellion against the crown. The rebels ignored Parliament”s summons, the king retaliated by confiscating Audley”s lands, and fighting broke out in May.
The barons invaded Dispenser lands, where they occupied Newport, Cardiff, and Caerphilly. They then plundered Glamorgan and Gloucestershire, met with Lancaster at Pontefract, and organized a session of “private parliament,” during which a formal union was made. Later an assembly of barons and representatives of the Church condemned the Dispensers for violating the ordinances. In July, the rebels, led by Mortimer, approached London and demanded that the king expel the Dispensers, accusing them of usurping the supreme power. The barons openly declared that they would overthrow Edward if they refused. The latter was forced to sign decrees to expel the minions, confiscate their estates and pardon the Lords of the Marches for rebellion (August 19-20, 1321).
Immediately after these events, Edward began to prepare for revenge. With Pembroke”s help, he assembled a coalition that included his half-brothers, several earls and bishops, and prepared for a new war. The king began with the influential Kent baron Bartholomew de Badlesmere, who had participated in the rebellion: Queen Isabella went (presumably on behalf of her husband) to Canterbury, and on her way approached Bartholomew”s fortress, Leeds Castle, to ask for shelter for the night there. The baron was not at the castle, and his wife expectedly refused to let the queen in, fearing her imposing escort and seeing that Isabella had for some reason deviated from the traditional route between Canterbury and London. The baroness”s men even killed several of the queen”s escorts, and Edward had a legitimate reason to take up arms. Leeds was besieged. Mortimer and Hereford moved to his aid, but Lancaster, Badlesmere”s personal enemy, refused to support them, and they stopped halfway. The King was supported by his brothers, the Earls of Surrey, Arundel, Pembroke and Richmond, so that a 30,000-strong army gathered at Leeds. Overall, public opinion was on the side of the crown, for Isabella was loved. On October 31, 1321, Leeds surrendered. The Baroness and her children were sent to the Tower.
This was Edward II”s first military victory. He was now ready to deal with his enemies and their loved ones in the most brutal way, without trial. In December, the king moved an army into the Welsh marque. He met no organized resistance; Roger Mortimer and his uncle, Baron Chirk, surrendered to the king and were chained up and their estates confiscated. The same fate befell the lands of Bogun, Damory, Audley, and Baron Berkeley. The latter, too, ended up in prison. The Earl of Hereford fled north to Lancaster, who was negotiating an alliance with Robert the Bruce. In March, the king moved there as well. En route, Roger Damory was taken prisoner, sentenced to death, immediately pardoned “because the king loved him much”, but died of his wounds three days later. Lancaster”s troops were defeated first at Burton Bridge on 10 March, then at the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March (where the Earl of Hereford died). Lancaster surrendered, the tribunal at Pontefract found him guilty of treason and sentenced him to death. On March 22, the earl was beheaded, and historians note that this was the first execution of an aristocrat for treason in England since William the Conqueror.
Edward and Dispensers
Edward punished the rebels through a system of special courts throughout the country: judges were told in advance what sentences the accused would be given, and the latter were not allowed to speak in their own defense. Some were executed, others sent to prison or fined; lands were seized and surviving relatives were taken into custody. Several dozen men were executed, including Barons Badlesmere and Clifford. The bodies of those executed were chopped into four pieces and displayed for two years. The Earl of Pembroke, whom Edward had lost confidence in, was arrested and released only after declaring all his possessions a pledge of his own loyalty. Two Mortimer men, an uncle and a nephew, were to be imprisoned for the rest of their lives (they were sentenced to death, but the king commuted their execution to life imprisonment). The latter”s daughters were sent to monasteries, the Earl of Hereford”s sons and Lancaster”s widow and mother-in-law were imprisoned. Edward was able to reward his loyal supporters, especially the Dispenser family, with confiscated estates and new titles. Fines and confiscations enriched Edward: in the first few months he received more than £15,000, and by 1326 he had £62,000 in his coffers.
The author of The Life of Edward II writes thus about the situation in England in 1322:
Oh, the misery! It is hard to see people, so recently dressed in purple and fine cloth, in rags, in chains, imprisoned. The king”s cruelty has grown so great that no one, not even the greatest and wisest, dares to defy his will. The nobility is intimidated by threats and retribution. There are no more obstacles to the will of the king. Therefore, power now prevails over reason, for the king”s every wish, even the unreasonable one, has the power of law.
In March 1322 a parliament met in York, which formally abolished the ordinances and agreed to new taxes to finance the Scottish war. An army of about 23,000 men was raised for a new march north. Edward reached Edinburgh and sacked Holyrood Abbey, but Robert the Bruce evaded the battle, luring the enemy into the interior. Plans to supply supplies by sea failed, and the English quickly ran out of provisions. According to John Barbour, the English encountered not a soul during the entire campaign; they came across only one lame cow, and the Earl of Surrey said: “This is the most expensive beef I have ever seen.” Edward had to retreat. The Scots pursued him; at Byland they defeated the English rearguard, capturing the Earl of Richmond, and the king himself barely escaped to York. The king”s illegitimate son Adam was killed in the campaign, and Queen Isabella, based at Tynemouth, was narrowly missed and forced to flee by sea. The king planned a new campaign, raising taxes for it, but public confidence in his Scottish policy was visibly declining. Andrew Harkley, the honored warlord who had shortly before become Earl of Carlisle, began separate peace talks with Bruce. The agreement, made in January 1323, provided that Edward would recognize Robert as King of Scotland, and that he would cease his attacks on England and pay the huge sum of 40,000 marks. Edward, learning of this, became enraged and immediately executed Harkley, but soon agreed to a thirteen-year truce with Bruce.
Hugh Dispenser the Younger lived and ruled in a stately manner after his return from exile, playing a key role in Edward”s government and pursuing independent policies through a wide network of vassals. He received the entire de Clers inheritance, bringing South Wales under his control, and continued to acquire lands by legal and illegal means. In this, Dispenser had the support of Robert Baldock and Walter Stapledon, Edward”s chancellor and treasurer, respectively. Meanwhile, the number of discontent with Edward was growing. There were rumors of miracles near the tomb of the Earl of Lancaster and the gallows on which the opposition at Bristol was executed. The chaos caused by land confiscation contributed to the breakdown of law and order. The old opposition attempted to free the prisoners that Edward had held at Wallingford Castle, and the most significant of the arrested lords of the brand, Roger Mortimer, was able to escape from the Tower to France on August 1, 1323.
War with France
A disagreement between Edward and the French crown over the Duchy of Aquitaine led in 1324 to a military conflict called the War of Saint-Sardot. Edward”s brother-in-law Charles IV the Fair, who ascended the throne in 1322, pursued a more aggressive policy than his predecessors. In 1323 he demanded that Edward come to Paris and pay an oath for Aquitaine, and that Edward”s men in the duchy let French officials in and allow them to carry out the orders given in Paris. One of Edward”s vassals built a bastide in the village of Saint-Sardeau in Agène (English) (Russian, disputed territory on the border of Gascony. Charles”s vassal occupied this bastide, but the Gasconians repulsed it and hanged the French king”s captured officials. Edward, denying responsibility for the incident, denounced the spirited vassals, but relations between the two kings deteriorated sharply all the same. In 1324, Edward sent the Earl of Pembroke to Paris to resolve the situation, but on the way he unexpectedly fell ill and died. Charles announced the confiscation of the duchy and moved an army into Aquitaine to enforce the decision.
Edward”s military forces in southwestern France numbered about 4,400 men, while the French army under Charles Valois had 7,000; Valois took Agen, Razas, Condom and the county of Gor without a fight. At the strong fortress of La Réole, Edward”s viceroy in Aquitaine, his brother Edmund of Kent, took up the defense. He repulsed the first assault, but the enemy succeeded in breaching the wall through the use of artillery. An army that was to leave England to help La Réole revolted over non-payment of wages. As a result, Edmund had to surrender (September 22, 1324), make a truce until April 14, 1325, and swear that he would persuade his brother to make peace or return as a prisoner. Now only a fairly narrow strip of coast with Bordeaux and Bayonne remained under Edward”s control. The king ordered the arrest of all the French in his dominions and confiscated Isabella”s lands because of her French ancestry. In November 1324, he met with the earls and representatives of the church, who recommended that he personally go to the Continent with an army. Edward decided to remain in England, sending the Earl of Surrey in his place. Meanwhile, new negotiations with the French king began. Charles put forward various proposals, the most attractive of which to the English side was that if Isabella and Prince Edward went to Paris and the prince brought an oath to the French king for Gascony, he would end the war and return Agénie. Edward and his supporters were afraid to send the prince to France, but agreed in March 1325 to send the queen alone. Subsequent events showed that this was a tragic mistake.
Isabella and Edward”s embassy negotiated with the French in late March. Negotiations were not easy, and an agreement was reached only when Isabella personally discussed the matter with her brother Charles. The terms were favorable to France: in particular, Edward had to personally pay Charles an oath for Aquitaine, and officials in his French possessions were henceforth appointed by the French crown; the duke could only appoint chatelaine. Unwilling to enter into a new war, Edward agreed to the treaty, but decided to transfer the continental possessions to his eldest son and sent the prince to Paris. Edward junior crossed the Channel and swore an oath of vassalage to Charles IV in September 1324. But the latter did not give the new duke all his possessions, retaining Agène. Edward II retaliated by disavowing his son”s oath and Charles again confiscated the duchy. The situation remained unresolved until the end of Edward II”s reign.
Breaking with Isabella
Edward II expected his wife and son to return to England now, but Isabella remained in France and showed no intention of leaving. Until 1322, Edward and Isabella”s marriage seemed successful, but by the time the queen left for France in 1325, relations between the couple had deteriorated significantly. Apparently, Isabella hated Dispenser the Younger, not least because of his insults to women of high status. The queen was ashamed of having to flee from the Scots army three times during her marriage, and she blamed Dispenser for the last of these incidents in 1322. Edward”s last peace with Robert the Bruce severely damaged a number of noble families who owned lands in Scotland, including the Beaumont, Isabella”s close friends. The queen was angered by the confiscation of her lands in 1324; finally, Edward, because of the war of Saint Sardo, took her children from her and placed them in the custody of his wife Dispenser.
Isabella ignored her husband”s appeals to return. Edward repeatedly appealed to his son to return home and to his brother-in-law Charles IV to intervene, but even this had no effect. Meanwhile, Edward”s opponents in Paris began to gather around the queen: Sir John Maltravers, the Earl of Richmond, John Cromwell; the Earl of Kent, who hated royal favourites, joined them. In the Queen”s house and in her presence they began to discuss plans to overthrow the Dispensers and even to assassinate the King. The latter, learning of this in the autumn of 1325, ordered his wife to go to London immediately. She responded by declaring that Dispenser stood between her and her husband and that she would not return “until this insolent was eliminated,” nor would she allow her son to return to England. From then on, Isabella defiantly wore widow”s clothes, and Edward stopped paying her expenses. Soon the queen met Roger Mortimer, who became her lover and chief ally in the struggle against her husband; this connection became public by February 1326.
Around the same time, Edward II learned that his wife had made an alliance with William I, Count of Hainaut: Prince Edward was to marry William”s daughter, and in return William promised military aid. This news greatly alarmed the king, and he announced the gathering of an army. The official letter stated that “the queen will neither return to the king, nor release his son, why the king believes that she has heeded the instigation of Mortimer, the king”s worst enemy and rebel, and has entered into agreement with the people of those parts and other strangers to make an invasion. However, the landing did not take place any time soon. The king appealed to the pope, and he sent his legates to settle the conflict. They first met Isabella, who expressed her willingness to reconcile with her husband if he would send the Dispensers away; but Edward refused to do so, and made it clear that he was thinking of annulling the marriage. In response, the queen accelerated preparations for the disembarkation. Count William promised her 132 transport ships and eight military ships, and in August 1326 Prince Edward and Philippa d”Hainaut were engaged.
In August-September 1326 Edward prepared fortifications along the coast of England in case of an attack from the Continent. A navy was concentrated in the ports of Portsmouth on the south coast and Harwich on the east coast, and a detachment of 1,600 men was sent to Normandy to sabotage the attack. Edward issued a proclamation to his subjects urging them to defend the kingdom, but it had no effect. Locally, the king”s authority was very weak, Dispensers were disliked by few, and many of those entrusted by Edward to defend the country proved incompetent, quickly defected to the rebels or simply did not want to fight. In particular, 2,200 men were ordered to Port Harwich to defend it, but only 55 actually arrived; much of the money allocated to prepare the coast for defense was never spent.
Mortimer, Isabella, and Prince Edward, in company with the king”s half-brother Edmund Woodstock, landed at Harwich in Orwell Bay on September 24 with a small army (various accounts range from 500 to 2,700 men) and met no resistance. The Dispensers” enemies quickly began to join them, with another brother of the king, Thomas Brotherton, Lord Marshal and the most powerful man in East Anglia, being the first. He was followed by Henry Lancaster, who had inherited the earldom from his brother Thomas, other lords and a number of high-ranking clergymen. Of all the barons, only the Earls of Arundel and Surrey remained loyal to the crown. Residing in the halls of the fortified and secure Tower, Edward tried to find support in the capital, but London rebelled against him, and on 2 October the king fled the city with the Dispensers. The capital descended into chaos: mobs attacked the remaining officials and supporters of the king, murdered his former treasurer, Walter Stapledon, in St. Paul”s Cathedral, and occupied the Tower, freeing the prisoners.
Edward continued westward, reaching Gloucester between October 9 and 12; he hoped to reach Wales and raise an army there, but he received no real support. At one point he had only 12 archers left, and the king pleaded with these men not to abandon him. Edward”s plans changed: at Chepstow he boarded a ship with the younger Dispenser, probably hoping to get first to Lundy (an island in Bristol Bay belonging to the favourite) and then to Ireland, where he could find refuge and support. Because of a storm, however, the king had to land at Cardiff. He took refuge at Caerphilly Castle, from where he began to send out proclamations to his vassals and decrees for recruitment. But these messages had no effect; by 31 October even the servants had left Edward.
Thus Edward”s power in England collapsed within a month. The rebels initially demonstrated their loyalty to the king: Isabella declared immediately after the landing that her aim was to avenge the death of Thomas Lancaster and to do away with the Dispensers, “enemies of the kingdom.” The proclamation of October 15 stated that Hugh the Younger had “denounced himself as a manifest tyrant and an enemy of God, the Holy Church, the dearest sovereign-king, and the whole kingdom,” so that Isabella and her allies aimed to “protect the honor and benefit … of the sovereign-king.” There was nothing resembling a criticism of Edward in this document. But on the same day, Bishop Adam Orleton delivered a sermon in Wallingford before a large crowd, attacking the king vehemently. According to the bishop, Edward at one time “carried a knife hidden in his stocking to kill Queen Isabella, and said that, for want of other weapons, he could bite her in the teeth”; allegedly this is why his wife had to leave him. From this Orleton concluded that rebellion was justified and that it was necessary to depose the king: “When the head of state becomes sick and infirm, necessity forces him to be eliminated without resorting to futile attempts to use other means. The sermon was a great success, and it provoked an outburst of hatred against Edward.
The rebels used the king”s attempt to sail away from Chepstow to their advantage. The council, meeting on October 26 under the queen”s presidency, declared that Edward had abandoned his people and appointed the Prince of Wales as “guardian of the realm” in his absence. Dispenser the Elder, surrounded at Bristol, surrendered, was immediately condemned and executed. Edward and Hugh the Younger fled Caerphilly on or about November 2, leaving behind jewels, considerable supplies, and at least 13,000 pounds; they may still have hoped to reach Ireland. On November 16, the king and his favorite were found and arrested by a search party led by Henry of Lancaster near Llantrisant. Edward was taken to Monmouth Castle and then back to England, where he was imprisoned in Henry of Lancaster”s fortress at Kenilworth.
Hugh Dispenser the Younger was convicted, proclaimed a traitor, and sentenced to hang, gutted, gutted and quartered; the execution took place on November 24, 1326. Edward”s former chancellor, Robert Baldock, died in Fleet Prison; the Earl of Arundel was beheaded without trial. By the end of November, the coup became a fait accompli. Edward gave the Great Royal Seal to his wife, and she now signed documents on his behalf.
Having lost any actual power, Edward remained formally king, which posed a serious problem for the rebels. Much of the new administration was unwilling to allow his release and return to power. Meanwhile, the laws and customs of England did not provide for a procedure for the deposition of a monarch. In January 1327, Parliament met at Westminster, and Edward was invited to sit to abdicate. But the king responded to the deputies before him with a firm refusal. He “showered them with curses and emphatically declared that he did not wish to appear among his enemies, or rather traitors. Then Parliament met on 12 January 1327 and agreed that Edward II should be deposed and replaced by his son, Edward III. This decision was supported by a crowd of Londoners who were allowed to enter Westminster Hall. The deputies approved specially drafted “Articles of Deposition”, which stated that Edward II was incapable of ruling independently, that he was constantly under the influence of bad advisers, “indulged in vain amusements and occupations quite unfit for a king”, thought only of his own gain and lost Scotland, lands in Ireland and Gascony as a result.
Further, because of his personal vices and weaknesses and because of his gullible following of bad advice, he ruined the Holy Church. He kept some of the clergy in prison and others in deep sorrow. Moreover, many great and noble men of his kingdom were put to shameful death, cast into prison, banished, exiled, and disinherited.
The Prince of Wales was immediately proclaimed king, but he refused to accept the crown until his father had renounced it: the prince understood that if he received power from Parliament, Parliament might in future depose him. So a new deputation, including representatives of all estates, set out for Keniluert. On January 20, 1327, it met Edward. Before this, the three deputies, led by Adam Orleton, told the king that if he renounced, his son would succeed him, but if he refused, his son might also be disinherited, and the crown would pass to another candidate (Roger Mortimer was clearly meant). In tears, Edward agreed to abdicate. On January 21, Sir William Trussell, representing the kingdom as a whole, withdrew his omens and formally ended Edward II”s reign. A proclamation was sent to London, announcing that Edward, now called Edward of Carnarvon, voluntarily abdicated the kingdom. The coronation of the new monarch already took place on February 2.
Edward spent the entire winter of 1326-1327 in Kenilwirth under the care of Henry Lancaster. There the prisoner was treated respectfully, in keeping with his rank. Edward”s life was quite comfortable; it is known that the queen regularly sent him fine food, fine clothes, and other gifts. At the same time, Edward was in a depressed state. He repeatedly begged to be allowed to see his wife and children, but his pleas went unanswered. The poem “Complaint of Edward II”, said to have been written during his imprisonment, has been ascribed to the king, but many modern scholars have expressed doubts on the subject.
In March 1327, it emerged that opponents of the new government were plotting to free Edward, so the prisoner was moved to a safer place – Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, where the former king arrived on 5 April 1327. He was now in the custody of Thomas Berkeley (Mortimer”s son-in-law, imprisoned for four years after the battle of Borobridge) and John Maltravers, a former ally of Thomas Lancaster; the third guard was Sir Thomas Gurnay, a man of Mortimer”s circle who had been in the Tower with him. Thus all three had reason to be antipathetic to Edward, and some sources report that the prisoner was ill-treated. For example, one chronicler states that Edward was prevented from sleeping on his three-day journey to Berkeley, that he was kept cold in his light clothing, that he was mocked, called mad and had a crown of straw placed on his head, and finally, to make the former king unrecognizable, they shaved his beard, sat him on a bump and poured cold ditch water on his face. Presumably all these tales are fictions dating from the end of the fourteenth century. We know from Berkeley”s account books that much good food was purchased for Edward”s needs: beef, capons, eggs, cheese, etc., as well as wine. Lord Berkeley, according to one chronicle, was ordered to treat the prisoner “with all respect.
Edward”s supporters among the Dominican monks and former court knights did not abandon their attempts to free him. In June they succeeded in breaking into Berkeley Castle. According to one version, they stormed the castle and kidnapped the former king, but later he was captured and by July 27 returned to its original place; according to another, Edward was taken away by his jailers because of the threat, and for some time the former king was secretly transferred from castle to castle (in Corfe and other castles, whose names are unknown) until they returned to Berkeley. In early September, another plot to free Edward was uncovered, led by the Welsh knight Rhys ap Griffith. And on September 23, 1327, Edward III was told that his father had died at Berkeley Castle on the night of September 21.
There are no credible sources detailing the death of Edward II. The earliest ones do not specify the cause of death, or speak of strangulation. The Annals of St. Paul, for example, report that “King Edward died in Berkeley Castle, where he was kept in confinement. According to Adam Muirimuth (circa 1337), it was rumored throughout the country that Mortimer had ordered the prisoner killed “as a precaution” and that Maltravers and Gurney had strangled the former king. The testimony of one Hywel ap Griffith, given in 1331, speaks of a “dastardly and treacherous murder” without detail, while the Brutus chronicles that the death was the result of illness. According to the London Chronicle of the 1340s the king was “treacherously put to death” by Maltravers and Berkeley. Finally, the Bridlington canon, who wrote a biography of the king before 1340, reports that “there are various accounts of this death” and that he himself gave no weight to the many versions.
After Mortimer”s execution (1330), a version of an unusual way of killing Edward emerges and becomes very popular. The earliest account of this is found in the chronicle Brutus: the former king had “a long horn shoved deep into his anus, and then they took a red-hot brass rod and inserted it through the horn into his body and turned it many times in his entrails. Thus, the murderers did their work, leaving no trace, and punishing Edward for his homosexual tendencies. This version was supported by Historia Aurea (in which the king “was killed by inserting a red-hot iron through a horn inserted in his ass”) and by Ranulf Higden (in his account Edward “was shamefully killed by a red-hot rod that was pierced through his anus”).
The subject was revealed in maximum detail by Geoffrey Baker, who wrote his chronicle between 1350 and 1358. According to this author, the jailers received a letter from the queen that was very cleverly drafted. A comma was missing in one sentence, causing it to be interpreted in different ways. The phrase Eduardum occidere nolite timere bonum est with a comma after nolite translates “Do not kill Edward, must fear to do so,” and with a comma after timere translates “Must not fear to kill Edward, so do” (a short translation is “execute cannot have mercy”). Maltravers and Gurney understood what was expected of them. At first, they tried to drive Edward to natural death: starving him, keeping him awake for long periods of time, and holding him by the pit of decaying animal corpses. When they saw that it was no use, they plotted to kill him. In the evening Maltravers and Gurnay got Edward drunk, then let him sleep, went into his room with four soldiers, put a large table on his stomach, and put his legs up. Through the horn, the assassins inserted into the king”s intestines “a rod used by braziers, red-hot,” “and so burned the vital organs.” At this point Edward screamed so loudly that he was heard in the neighboring town, “and everyone understood that a man was being murdered.
The former king”s death, as Mark Ormerod notes, seems “suspiciously timely” as it greatly improved Mortimer”s position. Most historians assume that Edward was murdered on the orders of the new authorities, though absolute certainty is impossible. The red-hot rod version appears in most of Edward”s later biographies, but it is often disputed by contemporary historians: a murder carried out in this way could not have remained a mystery. Researcher Seymour Phillips considers strangulation more likely, and notes that the story of the horn may be true, but it is suspiciously similar to earlier accounts of the death of King Edmund the Ironborn. Ian Mortimer and Pierre Chaplet acknowledge this similarity. Paul Dougherty notes that contemporary historians are more than skeptical of “the sensationalist description of Edward”s death.” Michael Prestwich writes that much of Geoffrey Baker”s story “belongs in the world of the novel rather than the story,” but still admits that Edward “quite possibly” died from the insertion of a red-hot rod into his anus. Finally, the letter episode is recognized as a clear fiction for two reasons: Matthew of Paris has the exact same story about the murder of the Queen of Hungary in 1252, and Adam Orleton, to whom Baker attributes authorship of the letter, was in Avignon at the time of Edward”s death.
There are versions that Edward did not die at Berkeley in 1327. Information that the former king was alive reached his brother Edmund of Kent in 1330; he believed the news to be true and even wrote several letters to Edward, but later it was discovered that this was a provocation by Mortimer. As a result, Edmund was accused of treason and executed. Another version is based on a “letter of Fieschi” sent to Edward III by an Italian priest named Manuelo de Fieschi in the mid 1330s and early 1340s. This letter states that Edward escaped from Berkeley Castle with the help of a servant and became a hermit in the lands of the Empire. The gatekeeper, whose body was shown to Isabella by his assassins to escape punishment, is allegedly buried in Gloucester Cathedral. The letter is often linked to reports of Edward III”s meeting with a man named William the Welshman in 1338 in Antwerp; this man claimed to be Edward II.
Some parts of the letter are accurate, but many details have been criticized by historians as implausible. Some scholars support the version of the letter. Paul Dougherty doubts the authenticity of the letter and the identity of William Wallace, but concedes that Edward may have survived imprisonment. Allison Ware believes that the gist of the events described in the letter is true, and uses the letter as proof that Isabella is innocent of Edward”s murder. Ian Mortimer believes that the story in Fieschi”s letter is generally true, but that Edward was actually secretly released by Mortimer and Isabella, then faking his death; Edward III supported this version of events after he came to power, although he knew the truth. When first published, Mortimer”s version was criticized by most historians, especially David Carpenter.
Some of those suspected of involvement in the murder, including Sir Thomas Gurney, Maltravers, and William Oakley, later fled. Edward III spared Thomas Berkeley after a jury concluded in 1331 that the baron had not participated in the murder of the late king. The same jury decided that William Oakley and Gurnay were guilty. Oakley was never heard from again, Gournay fled to Europe, was captured in Naples, and died on his way to England. John Maltravers was not formally charged, but he went to Europe and from there contacted Edward III – perhaps to make a deal and tell all he knew about the events of 1327. Eventually in 1364 he was allowed to return to England.
The reign of Isabella and Mortimer did not last long. The queen and her favorite had turned the English against themselves with an unprofitable treaty with Scotland and great expenditure; in addition, relations between Mortimer and Edward III deteriorated steadily. In 1330 there was a coup d”état at Nottingham Castle: the king arrested Mortimer and subsequently executed him on fourteen charges of treason, including the murder of Edward II. Edward III”s government blamed Mortimer for all the problems of recent times, politically rehabilitating the late king.
Funeral and Cult
Edward”s body was embalmed at Berkeley Castle and shown to representatives of Bristol and Gloucester there. On October 20 he was taken to Gloucester Abbey and on October 21 Edward was buried in the chancel, apparently postponed so that the young king could attend. Gloucester was probably chosen because other abbeys refused to receive the king”s body or were forbidden to do so. The funeral was staged in grand style, costing the treasury a total of £351, including gilded lions, gold leaf banners, and oak barriers to contain the expected crowds.
For the funeral, a wooden figure of Edward II with a copper crown was made and presented to the audience instead of the body; this was the first known use of portrait sculpture for such purposes in England. This was probably necessary because of the condition of the king”s body, which had been dead for three months. Edward”s heart was placed in a silver casket and later buried with Isabella in the Franciscan church at Newgate in London. His tomb was an early example of English alabaster portrait sculpture with a canopy of oolite. Edward was buried in the shirt, coif and gloves from his coronation; the sculpture represents him as king, with scepter and orb in his hands. The sculpture has a distinctive lower lip, so perhaps this sculpture bears a close portrait resemblance to Edward.
The tomb quickly became a popular pilgrimage site, probably aided by local monks who lacked the lure of pilgrims. Abundant donations from visitors allowed the monks in the 1330s to rebuild much of the church. Certain alterations were made to the church plan so that pilgrims, attracted by reports of miracles at the tomb, could walk around the tomb in large numbers. Chronicler Geoffrey Baker writes of Edward as a righteous martyr, and Richard II supported an unsuccessful attempt to canonize Edward in 1395. In 1855 the tomb was opened: it contained a wooden coffin, still in good condition, and a sealed lead coffin. A major restoration of the tomb was carried out in 2007-2008 at a cost of over £100,000.
Edward II and Isabella of France had four children:
Edward had at least one other illegitimate son, Adam Fitzroy. (c. 1307-1322), who accompanied his father on the Scottish campaigns of 1322 and died shortly afterwards.
Style of government
Ultimately, according to scholars, Edward did not make a good ruler. Michael Prestwich writes that the king “was lazy and incompetent, prone to outbursts of anger over matters of little importance, but indecisive when it came to important matters”; he is echoed by Roy Haynes, who describes Edward as “incompetent and vicious” and “not a man of action”. John Norwich believes that “weakness and indecision, drunkenness and an endless stream of catamites” drove the king “to imminent ruin. Edward delegated to his subordinates not only routine matters of government but also important governmental decisions. In this connection, Pierre Chaplet concludes that Edward “was not so much an incompetent king as a reluctant one,” preferring to rely on favorites, Gaveston or Dispenser the Younger. Favoritism in this case had serious political consequences, although the monarch tried to buy the loyalty of the nobility through the distribution of money.
In all this Edward could take an interest in minor matters of government and sometimes took an active part in public affairs.
One of Edward”s main problems throughout most of his reign was lack of money; of the debts left by his father, even in the 1320s, some £60,000 remained unpaid. Under Edward, many treasurers and other finance-related officials were replaced, few of whom remained in office for long. The treasury was replenished by collecting often unpopular taxes and requisitioning goods. The king made many loans, first through the Frescobaldi family and then through his banker Antonio Pessagno. Toward the end of his reign Edward took a keen interest in financial matters, distrusting his own officials and trying to reduce spending on his own court to improve the state of the treasury.
Edward administered royal justice through a network of judges and officials. It is unclear to what extent he was personally involved in the country”s courts, but the king appears to have had some involvement in this work during the first half of his reign and intervened in it personally on several occasions after 1322. Edward used Roman law extensively in defense of his actions and those of his minions, which may have drawn criticism from those who saw it as a rejection of the basic principles of English common law. Contemporaries also criticized Edward for allowing the Dispensers to exploit the royal court system for their own purposes; the Dispensers certainly abused the courts, though it is not clear to what extent. During Edward”s reign armed gangs and violence spread across England, destabilizing many local gentry; much of Ireland was plagued by anarchy.
During Edward”s reign the role of parliament in political decision-making grew, although, as historian Clare Valente notes, assemblies were still “an event as much as an institution. After 1311 representatives of knights and townspeople, who would later form the House of Commons, in addition to barons, were called to parliament. Parliament often opposed the imposition of new taxes, but active opposition to Edward came from the barons, who tried to use parliamentary assemblies to legitimize their political demands. Resisting for many years, in the second half of his reign Edward began to interfere with parliament to achieve his own political ends. It is unclear whether in 1327 Edward was deposed by a formal assembly of parliament or simply by an assembly of the political classes along with the existing parliament.
Edward”s royal court had no permanent location, traveling around the country with the king. Located in the Palace of Westminister, the court occupied a complex of two halls, seven chambers and three chapels, as well as other smaller rooms, but due to the Scottish conflict, most of the court was spent in Yorkshire and Northumbria. At the center of the court was Edward”s royal haushold, in turn divided into a “hall” and a “chamber”; the size of the haushold varied, but in 1317 it contained about 500 men, including knights, squires, kitchen staff and stables. The haushold was surrounded by a larger group of courtiers and also appears to have attracted a circle of prostitutes and criminal elements.
Music and minstrels enjoyed great popularity at Edward”s court, in contrast to hunting, which seems a less important pastime; little attention was paid by the king to tournaments. Edward was more interested in architecture and painting than in literary works, which were little sponsored at court. Gold and silver dishes, precious stones, and enamels were widely used. Edward kept a camel as his pet, and in his youth carried a lion with him during the Scottish campaign. The entertainments of the court may have been of an exotic nature: in 1312 an Italian snake charmer performed before him, and the following year 54 naked French dancers.
Edward”s approach to religion was normal for his time; historian Michael Prestwich describes him as “a man of exclusively traditional religious views. Services and alms were held daily at his court, and Edward blessed the sick, although he did so less frequently than his predecessors. Edward remained close to the Dominicans involved in his education and followed their advice when, in 1319, he asked the pope for permission to be anointed with the holy oil of St. Thomas of Canterbury; the request was denied. Edward supported the expansion of universities, founding King”s Hall in Cambridge to promote the teaching of religious and civil law, Oriel College in Oxford, and a short-lived university in Dublin.
Edward maintained good relations with Clement V, despite his frequent interventions in the affairs of the Church of England, including punishing bishops with whom he disagreed. With the support of the pope, he tried to enlist the financial support of the Church of England for the war against the Scots, including collecting taxes and borrowing from the funds raised for the Crusades. The Church of England made relatively little attempt to influence the king”s behavior, perhaps because of the bishops” concern for their own well-being.
Pope John XXII, elected in 1316, sought Edward”s support for a new crusade and generally supported the king. In 1317, in exchange for papal support in the war with Scotland, Edward agreed to resume the annual payments to the Holy See to which King John had agreed in 1213; but he soon stopped the payments and never brought the omens that had been provided for in the 1213 agreement. In 1325 the king asked John XXII to order the Church of Ireland to preach openly in favor of his right to rule the island and to threaten his opponents with excommunication.
Edward”s contemporary chroniclers were for the most part very critical of him. For example, the Polychronicon, Vita Edwardi Secundi, Vita et Mors Edwardi Secundi, and Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon condemn the king”s personality, his habits, and his choice of associates. Other sources relay Edward”s criticisms of his contemporaries, including the Church and courtiers. Pamphlets were written about the king complaining of military failures and administrative oppression. In the second half of the fourteenth century some chroniclers, including Geoffrey Baker, rehabilitated Edward, presenting him as a martyr and potential saint. His great-grandson Richard II venerated his ancestor”s memory: in 1390 he arranged for prayers to be recited constantly at his tomb and was clearly waiting for the miracle necessary for canonization. But the miracle did not occur, and the tradition of veneration of Edward II was soon interrupted. At the same time, the overthrow of this king by the barons was a precedent for the opposition of later eras. In 1386, for example, Thomas Gloucester openly threatened Richard II that if he did not accept the demands of the lords-appellants, Parliament would approve his deposition based on the experience of 1327.
Historians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries paid the most attention to Edward”s relationship with Gaveston, comparing Edward”s reign with events surrounding the Duke d”Epernon”s relations with King Henry III of France and the Duke of Buckingham with Charles I. In the first half of the nineteenth century Charles Dickens and Charles Knight, among others, popularized the figure of Edward among the Victorian public, focusing on the king”s relationship with his minions and increasingly referring to his possible homosexuality. Since the 1870s, however, open academic discussion of Edward”s orientation has been limited by changing English values. By the early twentieth century, the government was advising English schools to avoid discussing Edward”s private life in history classes.
By the end of the nineteenth century much of the administrative data of the period were available to historians, including William Stubbs, Thomas Tout (rus.), and J. S. Davies, who focused on the development of England”s constitutional and governmental system during Edward”s reign. They were critical of Edward”s “inadequacy” as king, but emphasized the development of the role of parliament and the decline in personal royal power, which they saw as a positive development. The pattern of consideration of Edward”s reign in historiography changed in the 1970s; a new approach was facilitated by the publication of new documents of the period in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The works of Geoffrey Denton, Geoffrey Hamilton, John Maddicott, and Seymour Phillips shifted attention to the role of individual leaders in the conflict. With the exception of Hilda Johnstone”s work on Edward”s early life and Natalie Fryde”s research on his final years, the focus of important historical research was on leading magnates rather than Edward himself, until the substantial biographies of the king published by Roy Haines and Seymour Phillips in 2003 and 2011.
Edward II became the hero of a number of works of the English Late Renaissance. The modern image of the king was largely influenced by Christopher Marlowe”s tragedy Edward II (Engl.) (rus.). This play, first performed around 1592, tells the story of Edward”s relationship with Gaveston, reflecting 16th-century ideas about the negative consequences of monarch favouritism, with a clear allusion to same-sex love. Marlowe depicted Edward”s death as murder, comparing it to martyrdom. The playwright did not describe the murder weapon, but the productions usually followed the traditional story of the red-hot poker. The main character in the play is compared to the author”s contemporaries, King James I of England and King Henry III of France; he may have influenced the image of Richard II in William Shakespeare”s Chronicle. The same theme was chosen by Michael Drayton. (The Legend of Piers Gaveston, 1593), Richard Niccols (English) (Russ. (The Life and Death of Edward II, 1610), Elizabeth Carey (History of the Life, Reign, and Death of Edward II, 1626
The artist Marcus Stone painted Edward II and Piers Gaveston in 1872. It was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts but was later taken down because contemporaries saw it as a clear allusion to homosexual relations, considered unacceptable at the time.
In 1924 the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, together with Lyon Feuchtwanger, significantly revised Marlowe”s play and staged The Life of Edward II of England. It was the first experience of creating “epic theater.
In 1969, theater director Toby Robertson created a play based on Marlowe”s play with Ian McKellen in the title role. The production was a great success, it was played on tour in many European countries. The play caused a scandal because of the openly shown same-sex love. A year later a television version of the theatrical production was broadcast on the BBC, which caused a sensation because it was the first time a gay kiss had been shown on the screen in Great Britain.
Filmmaker Derek Jarman adapted Marlowe”s play in 1991, creating a postmodern pastiche of the original. The film presents Edward (played by Stephen Waddington) as a strong, overtly homosexual leader who is eventually defeated by powerful enemies. Jarmen”s screenplay is based on Fieschi”s letter: Edward escapes captivity in the film. The film won awards at the Venice Film Festival (for Best Actress) and the Berlin Film Festival (FIPRESCI and Teddy). Parallel to the film, Jarmen created an essay, Quir Edward II, in which he spoke out much more explicitly against homophobia and laws that discriminate against homosexuals than in the film.
The modern image of the king was also influenced by his 1995 appearance in Mel Gibson”s Oscar-winning film Braveheart (he wears silk clothes, wears makeup, avoids female society and is incapable of commanding an army in the Scottish War. The film has been criticized for historical inaccuracies and negative portrayals of homosexuality. Edward II appears in at least two other films about the Scottish War, this is Bruce (played by Billy Hole as Edward).
David Bintley made Marlowe”s play the basis for his 1995 ballet Edward II. The music for the ballet became part of John McCabe”s symphony of the same name, written in 2000. Based on the same play, in 2018 composer George Benjamin wrote an opera, Lessons in Love and Violence, based on a libretto by Martin Crimp, which received positive reviews from critics.
The French writer Maurice Druon made Edward II one of the characters in his series of historical novels, The Cursed Kings. In particular, the novel The French Wolf describes the overthrow of this king, his imprisonment and his death, with Druon sticking to the poker version. This is how he describes the appearance of Edward II in connection with the events of 1323:
The king was undoubtedly a very handsome man, muscular, agile, agile, and athletic; his body, hardened by exercise and games, resisted the creeping obesity, for Edward was nearing forty years of age. But whoever looked at him more closely would have been struck by the absence of wrinkles on the forehead, as if the cares of the state had failed to imprint their mark on this forehead, struck by the bags under his eyes, the unexpressively outlined nostrils; the chin line under the light curly beard showed neither energy nor power, nor even real sensuality, it was just too big and long… Even the silky beard could not conceal the king”s mental weakness. With a languid hand he rubbed his face for no reason, then waved in the air, then fiddled with the pearls sewn on his camisole. His voice, which he considered commanding, was betraying him in spite of his best efforts. His back, though broad, was unpleasant, and the line from his neck to his loins seemed to undulate as if his backbone were bending under the weight of his torso. Edward could never forgive his wife for once advising him not to show his back if possible, if he wished to command the respect of his barons. Edward”s legs, unusually straight and slender, were by far the most valuable gift that nature had bestowed on this man, so ill-suited to his role, who had been crowned by a direct misjudgment of fate.
The King of England appears in two TV adaptations of The Cursed Kings. In the 1972 mini-series he is played by Michel Bohn, in the 2005 film by Christopher Buchholz.