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The Reign of Edward II

The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives

Gwilym Dodd
Anthony Musson
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Reign of Edward II
    Book Description:

    Edward II presided over a turbulent and politically charged period of English history, but to date he has been relatively neglected in comparison to other fourteenth and fifteenth-century kings. This book offers a significant re-appraisal of a much maligned monarch and his historical importance, making use of the latest empirical research and revisionist theories, and concentrating on people and personalities, perceptions and expectations, rather than dry constitutional analysis. Papers consider both the institutional and the personal facets of Edward II's life and rule: his sexual reputation, the royal court, the role of the king's household knights, the nature of law and parliament in the reign, and England's relations with Ireland and Europe. Contributors: J. S. HAMILTON, W. M. ORMROD, IAN MORTIMER, MICHAEL PRESTWICH, ALISTAIR TEBBIT, W. R. CHILDS, PAUL DRYBURGH, ANTHONY MUSSON, GWILYM DODD, ALISON MARSHALL, MARTYN LAWRENCE, SEYMOUR PHILLIPS.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-501-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    J. R. S. Phillips

    In the middle of the fourteenth century, the chronicler, Jean le Bel of Liège, who was an admirer of the English crown, who had first-hand knowledge of England and who was writing in the aftermath of the great victories of Edward III, remarked, ‘it was commonly believed in England, and had often happened since the time of King Arthur, that a less able king would often come between two valiant monarchs’.¹ Thus Edward I, who was wise, a man of prowess, bold and enterprising and fortunate in war, who conquered the Scots three or four times, was succeeded by Edward...

  5. 1 The Character of Edward II: The Letters of Edward of Caernarfon Reconsidered
    (pp. 5-21)
    J. S. Hamilton

    Edward of Caernarfon came to the throne as King Edward II upon the death of his father on 7 July 1307. At the time of his accession he was twenty-three years old, and he would reign for twenty years until his deposition in January 1327. In recent years a great deal has been written about the reign in general and Edward’s kingship in particular. Much of this recent work has focused on prominent individuals, and questions of character and personality have been of great importance in shaping our understanding of the reign.¹ Interestingly, however, very little has been written about...

  6. 2 The Sexualities of Edward II
    (pp. 22-47)
    W. M. Ormrod

    Let me be clear from the outset: this study does not set out to cast Edward II as a medieval representative of any one modern category of sexual orientation, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, whatever. The efforts made in the last few generations of scholarship to ‘identify’ this king in such a manner are, in the end, both anachronistic and futile: anachronistic because medieval attitudes to sexuality were so different from our own, and futile because the nature of the evidence makes it impossible to tell what Edward actually did – let alone what he thought himself to be doing – whether and when...

  7. 3 Sermons of Sodomy: A Reconsideration of Edward II’s Sodomitical Reputation
    (pp. 48-60)
    Ian Mortimer

    Those who have dealt with the reputation of Edward II’s sexuality constitute a whole spectrum of historical commentators. Arguably the least-informed element of that spectrum is composed of those who presume Edward II may be taken as a gay icon, representing the king as a homosexual in order to reinforce arguments about homosexuality in society. Another band consists of those who objectively classify the king as a homosexual in an attempt historically to understand fourteenth-century homosexual identities, presuming that such identities existed. Another consists of those who present Edward II’s sexual inclinations in a genuine attempt to understand the personality...

  8. 4 The Court of Edward II
    (pp. 61-75)
    Michael Prestwich

    It is unlikely that any English monarch has ever seen as much naked flesh on a single occasion as did Edward II when he was at Pontoise in 1313. There, he was entertained by Bernard the Fool and no fewer than fifty-four nude dancers.¹ This event suggests a decadent extravagance, fitting the familiar stereotype of the king. Edward’s affection for his favourites and his unkingly tastes for water sports and menial activities imply that his court had an eccentric, or even exotic, quality. The evidence of the household and chamber accounts, and the household ordinance of 1318, makes it possible...

  9. 5 Household Knights and Military Service under the Direction of Edward II
    (pp. 76-96)
    Alistair Tebbit

    Historians of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries have concluded that the system of retaining knights was devised principally to provide a pool of skilled fighting men who could be called upon to serve in royal campaigns. Household knights nearly always formed the nucleus of the king’s heavy cavalry in major armies. It has also been recognized that they were useful in providing military leadership. Many acted as constables of strategically important castles and some were given command of small and medium sized forces. It is likely that most English kings took a very active interest in supervising the military activities...

  10. 6 England in Europe in the Reign of Edward II
    (pp. 97-118)
    W. R. Childs

    The England of Edward II is firmly embedded in Europe in every aspect of life: territorially, dynastically, socially, culturally, religiously and commercially. Awareness of these varied European contacts is clear in the writers of the fourteenth century and among modern historians. Some facets of these contacts have been quite fully explored, but others are rarely mentioned, and there is no full study of England’s European contacts in all their aspects for this period. In particular, there is no study of formal government links at the diplomatic level, beyond the obviously important negotiations within the core north-south axis of Scotland, France...

  11. 7 The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel? Edward II and Ireland, 1321–7
    (pp. 119-139)
    Paul Dryburgh

    Fleeing his estranged queen and her lover, Roger Mortimer, Edward II put to sea at Chepstow on 20 October 1326.¹ In revisiting the denouement of his reign, contemporaries keenly speculate on his destination and purpose. A Franciscan friar writing on the Scottish marches fifteen years later offers this striking interpretation.² His is the most developed version of a story with its origins in popular rumours, as expressed by the Anonimalle chronicler, that the king ‘voleit aver passe en Irland’.³ This, though, countered general opinion. Adam Murimuth believed Edward aimed ‘ad partes remotas’. Most chroniclers assume he intended flight to Wales...

  12. 8 Edward II: The Public and Private Faces of the Law
    (pp. 140-164)
    Anthony Musson

    In terms of legal theory, the king was regarded as God’s representative on earth: he was responsible for promulgating just laws, he headed the judicial system (the writs and courts sessions operating in his name) and was held to be the fount of justice.¹ At his coronation he undertook to uphold the laws and customs of the realm and do justice to all.² This paper engages not simply with the monarch’s theoretical duties and the restraints upon his executive power,³ but with his real life actions, his inaction, and the ‘virtual reality’ of kingship. Rather than focusing on the institutions...

  13. 9 Parliament and Political Legitimacy in the Reign of Edward II
    (pp. 165-189)
    Gwilym Dodd

    Half as many parliaments met under Edward II as under Edward III, and a fraction of parliamentary records survive for the earlier reign compared to the latter, and yet it is the development of parliament under Edward II that has really caught the attention and fired the enthusiasm of twentieth-century constitutional historians.¹ This is because scholars have looked to the reign of Edward II to identify the first signs of a fundamental change that overtook parliament in the first half of the fourteenth century; namely, the emergence of the representatives as a permanent and important force in English politics.² The...

  14. 10 The Childhood and Household of Edward II’s Half-Brothers, Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock
    (pp. 190-204)
    Alison Marshall

    Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock – the youngest sons of Edward I by his second wife, Margaret of France – were born on 1 June 1300 and 5 August 1301 respectively.¹ Between 1301 and 16 December 1312 (on which latter date Thomas was created earl of Norfolk), the two young princes were brought up within a royal household which had been created by the king in order to cater for their needs.² Since this household was subject to audit on a regular basis, a considerable number of its financial and administrative records have survived amongst the governmental documents of the...

  15. 11 Rise of a Royal Favourite: The Early Career of Hugh Despenser the Elder
    (pp. 205-219)
    Martyn Lawrence

    It was the complaint of a great many medieval chroniclers and moralists that monarchs too often chose inappropriate favourites. The chroniclers, as innately conservative as the barons themselves, wrote of men ‘raised from the dust’ to dazzling pre-eminence against all the strictures of the establishment.¹ Walter of Guisborough used just this language when he referred to Piers Gaveston having been ‘raised up as if from nothing’.² It was also a common refrain that kings spurned the counsel of the hoary heads. Both Edward II and Richard II were likened to King Rehoboam, who ‘followed the counsel of youths [and] lost...

  16. 12 The Place of the Reign of Edward II
    (pp. 220-233)
    J. R. S. Phillips

    To put it mildly, Edward II has received a bad press from his own day to the present. His name is a byword for incompetence and neglect of duty; and he has been used in England (and sometimes also in France) to demonstrate the folly of allowing power to accrue to irresponsible favourites and chief (or prime) ministers.¹ Seemingly the only good thing to be said about Edward II was Tout’s remark that Edward’s very ineffectiveness was almost a blessing since ‘a strong successor to Edward I might have made England a despotism; his weak and feckless son secured the...

  17. INDEX
    (pp. 234-244)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-247)