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Edward II

Edward II

Seymour Phillips
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 704
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    Edward II
    Book Description:

    Edward II (1284-1327), King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine, was the object of ignominy during his lifetime and calumny since it. Conventionally viewed as worthless, incapable of sustained policy, and significant only for his sporadic displays of ill-directed energy or a stubborn adherence to greedy and ambitious favorites, he has been presented as fit only to be deposed and replaced by someone more worthy of the throne.This definitive biography, the fruit of a lifetime's study, does not present Edward II as a heroic or successful king: his deposition after a turbulent reign of nearly twenty years is proof enough that it went terribly wrong. But Seymour Phillips' scrutiny of the multitude of available sources shows that a richer picture emerges, in line with the complexity of events and of the man himself. If Edward II was not a successful king, he was not fundamentally different in many ways from most English monarchs. The biography strikes a deft balance, taking full account of the problems the king faced in England, Scotland, and Ireland and in his relations with France. It also tackles the contentious issue of whether Edward II did not die in 1327, murdered under barbaric circumstances, but lived on as a captive in England and then a wanderer on the Continent. Eight hundred years on, a king's life is properly examined.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18457-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-ix)
    (pp. x-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Maps
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    (pp. 1-4)

    To all outward appearances Edward II was a founder member of that select band of rulers who seem to have been doomed to disaster and to ignominy almost from the moment of their birth; about whom little that was good was said in their lifetime, and little to their credit has been written since. Lacking even the aura of incarnate evil that has traditionally been attributed to John and to Richard III, Edward II is depicted as worthless, incapable of any sustained policy, and influencing events only by sporadic displays of ill-directed energy or by a stubborn adherence to greedy...

    (pp. 5-32)

    The general opinion of Edward II from his own day to the present has been that he was a failure: as a king he was incompetent and neglectful of his duties, leaving the business of government to ill-chosen and selfserving councillors; and as a man he had a fatal ability to create enemies through his attachment to favourites, through his hostility to the English magnates, and finally through his alienation of Isabella, his wife and queen. Even the weather appeared to conspire against him. The combination of these failings was to prove disastrous to the peace and stability of his...

  9. Chapter 2 THE NATURE OF A KING
    (pp. 33-76)

    Edward of Caernarfon, the future Edward II, king of England, was born on St Mark’s Day, 25 April 1284,² at Caernarfon castle in North Wales,³ and was baptized there on 1 May.⁴ Even in its present ruined state, the massive bulk of Caernarfon castle, set against the backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia, is an impressive and even awe-inspiring sight. At the time of Edward’s birth however the construction of the castle had only recently begun. Although the Eagle Tower in which Edward is traditionally said to have been born may already have been sufficiently complete to house such an...

  10. Chapter 3 PREPARATION FOR THE CROWN, 1297–1307
    (pp. 77-124)

    Edward’s public career began in a sense with such events as meeting his father and mother at Dover on their return from Gascony in August 1289, the family gathering at Amesbury in April 1290 to settle the succession to the crown, and the plans in the same year for his marriage to Margaret, ‘the Maid of Norway’. This never took place but in July 1290 the wedding of Edward’s sister Margaret to John de Brabant in Westminster Abbey was a splendid occasion attended, among many other leaders of society, by the sixyear-old Edward who was reportedly accompanied by a train...

  11. Chapter 4 CONFLICT AND REFORM, 1307–1312
    (pp. 125-191)

    Edward I died on 7 July 1307, the feast of the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury.¹ On the following day, which counted as the first day of the new reign, urgent messages were sent to Prince Edward, the queen, and the earl of Lincoln to tell them the news.² Edward was in or near London when he received the news of his father’s death on 11 July,³ and immediately set out for Carlisle which he reached on the 18th. In the meantime the old king’s death was kept secret, presumably to avoid giving encouragement to the Scots, and anyone...

    (pp. 192-237)

    According to theVita Edwardi Secundi, the king was deeply saddened and grieved when he heard the news of Gaveston’s death, but commented that Gaveston was foolish to let himself fall into the hands of the earls. Some reacted with derision to the king’s moderation. But the author added that he was certain that ‘the king grieved for Piers as a father at any time grieves for his son. For the greater the love, the greater the sorrow.’ Edward’s apparent moderation however concealed a determination to destroy Gaveston’s killers when the opportunity arose.¹ There was no doubting the depth of...

    (pp. 238-279)

    For Edward II the defeat in Scotland was a profound personal humiliation, which showed that despite his extensive experience of campaigning, he had, unlike his father, little capacity as a military commander.¹ He did not lead another campaign against the Scots until 1319 but in the meantime the war continued, inflicting misery on the inhabitants of the northern counties of England and also, from May 1315, in Ireland. The misery was compounded by a prolonged period of wet weather, which began in the late summer of 1314, resumed on a much greater scale in 1315,² and led in succeeding years...

  14. Chapter 7 PEACE BY ORDEAL, AUGUST 1316 TO AUGUST 1318
    (pp. 280-327)

    With Lancaster’s withdrawal from the council there now began a new period of political instability. As co-operation between Edward II and Lancaster became increasingly difficult to achieve and hostility between the two men grew, so it also became impossible for over two years, between February 1316 and October 1318, to hold a parliament or to conduct a campaign against the Scots. The instability did not end until a new ‘settlement’ between Edward II and Lancaster was reached in the Treaty of Leake of August 1318. Lancaster’s departure meant of necessity that important actions took place without reference to him. Discussion...

  15. Chapter 8 FROM SETTLEMENT TO CIVIL WAR, 1318–1322
    (pp. 328-409)

    Nebuchadnezzar, that most powerful king of the Assyrians, before the twelfth year of his reign did, we are told, nothing memorable, but in that twelfth year of his reign he began to flourish and to conquer nations and kingdoms . . . Neither has our King Edward who has reigned eleven years and more, done anything that ought to be preached in the marketplace or from the rooftops. Would that, following the example of King Nebuchadnezzar, he would now at least try to attack his enemies, so that he might repair the damage and disgrace which he has borne so...

  16. Chapter 9 EDWARD VICTORIOUS, 1322–1324
    (pp. 410-454)

    ‘It is not safe to rise up against the king, because the outcome is often likely to be unfortunate. For even Simon, Earl of Leicester, was at last laid low in battle at Evesham;¹ the Earl Ferrers lost his estates;² the king himself succeeded the Earl Marshal;³ each of these had resisted the king, and each of them in the end succumbed’; ‘What does it serve, to resist the king, save to throw away one’s life and lose all one’s goods as well. For an islander to rebel against an island king is as if a chained man were to...

  17. Chapter 10 EDWARD VANQUISHED, 1324–1326
    (pp. 455-519)

    During the earlier years of Edward II’s reign relations between England and France ‘possessed many of the characteristics ofdétente’.¹ The multitude of problems caused by the earlier war in the 1290s both within the duchy of Aquitaine and in the relations of the king-duke and his French overlord had never been fully resolved, even when peace was made in 1303. The processes of Montreuil in 1306 and of Périgueux in 1311, which were conducted by expert representatives of both sides and were intended to remove outstanding problems, did not succeed in doing so. The personal visits to France by...

    (pp. 520-576)

    Isabella, her son Edward, Roger Mortimer and their followers spent Christmas 1326 at Wallingford castle, once the property of Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall and more recently the prison of Maurice de Berkeley. Here they were joined by Isabella’s younger son John of Eltham and a party of Londoners.¹ This was no mere social visit since John Stratford the bishop of Winchester, the newly appointed treasurer, and the earl of Leicester’s son-inlaw Thomas Wake had already met the mayor and aldermen of London on business ‘touching the king’:² Edward II, who spent his own Christmas at Kenilworth ‘in great sadness’,³...

  19. Chapter 12 AFTERLIVES
    (pp. 577-606)

    It has recently been argued that Thomas de Berkeley lied about the death of Edward II; that the body buried as that of Edward II was that of some other unidentified individual; and that the former king was secretly kept at Corfe, under the control of Roger Mortimer and his most trusted followers.¹ Could this be true?

    Certainly there are problems with the evidence relating to Edward II’s death and burial in 1327. Because of the press of other business, there was no opportunity for the king or anyone close to him to view the body before it was disembowelled...

    (pp. 607-613)

    Two royal proclamations from the early months of 1312 provide a very clear idea of the nature of Edward II’s kingship, as he saw it, and of his relations with his kingdom. The first was issued at York on 18 January and referred to the laws and usages of the kingdom which Edward had sworn to uphold at his coronation.¹ Five weeks later, on 24 February, a second order was issued at York, containing a proclamation of the peace in the following words:

    We desire, as befits our royal majesty, and are bound by our oath to maintain and preserve...

    (pp. 614-642)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 643-680)