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King Edward 2nd

Updated on July 17, 2013

Edward's birthplace

Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle

Son of Longshanks

Edward was born on April 25th, 1284 to King Edward 1st and Eleanor of Castille. He was born in Caernarfon Castle and was the first English Prince to hold the title of Prince of Wales. When he was still young his father chose a companion for him called Piers Gaveston and they became very close. It was rumoured that they formed a homosexual relationship which infuriated Edwards father, and he banished Piers Gaveston to France.

The King tried to train young Edward in the skills of warfare as well as jousting and fighting in armed combat, but the boy was not really interested, preferring to occupy himself with entertaining, and working with his hands. He accompanied his father on several campaigns against the Scots, but he only attended these campaigns because he was ordered to do so, his heart was not in it. He really wanted a life of extravagance and ease.

Edward Longshanks died on 7th July 1307 and Edward was crowned King Edward 2nd. He immediately called Piers Gaveston back from France and made him Earl of Cornwall, a title only members of the Royal Family could be awarded. The Barons were furious. The new king was disliked by the majority of his Barons and Lords and he was not well thought of by his subjects, whom he cared little for. They disliked him because he loved enjoying himself to extremes, eating and drinking to excess and associating with men rather than women. In 1308 he travelled to France to marry Isabella, daughter of King Philip of France, leaving Piers Gaveston to act as regent in his absence. The Barons were even more furious. They drew up a document during the king's nuptials, asserting the signatories' duty to guard the rights of the Crown. Three months later, the agreement was the basis for another document, justifying opposition to the king.

Edward's favourite

Even though Isabella bore him four children, Edward, John, Eleanor and Joanna, it soon became apparent to Isabella that her husband preferred the company of his male favourites over her, and rumours abounded about his homosexuality. Edward practically ignored her.

In 1312, the Earl of Lancaster declared war on the king. Piers Gaveston was taken prisoner by the Earl of Lancaster and other Barons, and held on charges of undermining the king's authority. He was handed over to two knights who murdered him, one running him through with his sword and the other decapitating him.

Edward was mortified, vowing revenge on those who had killed his favourite. The Earl of Pembroke advised the king to eliminate the barons, and the barons, fearing for their lives, opened negotiations with the king, begging his pardon and asking forgiveness. Edward reluctantly agreed.

Robert the Bruce in Scotland had been re-taking more of the land that Longshanks had taken during his long reign. The Bruce used small forces to trap the English army and took castles by stealth to preserve his troops. He used guerilla warfare by attacking quickly and then disappearing into the hills instead of facing the superior numbers of the English.

By June 1314, only Stirling Casle and Berwick remained under English control.

On 23 June 1314, Edward and 20,000 foot soldiers and 3,000 cavalry faced Robert the Bruce and his army of foot soldiers and farmers wielding long pikes. Edward had to keep the stronghold of Stirling Castle if there was to be any chance of English military success. As the castle was under a constant state of siege, the English commander, Sir Phillip de Mowbray, advised Edward that he would surrender the castle to the Scots unless Edward arrived by 24 June 1314, to relieve them. Edward decided to gamble his entire army to break the siege and force the Scots to a final battle. Edward's mistake was to think that his vastly superior numbers alone would be enough advantage to defeat the Scots. The Bruce not only had the advantage of prior warning, as he knew the actual day that Edward would come north and fight, he also had plenty of time to choose the field of battle.

As Edward moved forward towards Stirling Castle, Robert placed his army on either side of the road to the north, one part in dense woods and the other placed on a bend on the river, a difficult spot for the English army to see. Robert also ordered his men to dig holes and to cover them with foliage in order to help break any cavalry charge.

Edward's army was ill-disciplined and had seen little success in recent years. On the eve of battle, he decided to move his entire army at night and unknowingly he placed it in a marshy area, or burn as the Scots called it. Nine squadrons of his cavalry were placed in front of his foot soldiers. When the attack came, the English were bogged down and the Scots slaughtered them. The Battle of Bannockburn was the worst defeat the English had sustained since 1066.

What remained of Edward's army fled, leaving the Bruce to run riot in the Northern counties of England, killing and pillaging. Bruce had re-taken Scotland.

Edward 2nd

Another favourite

Now Edward chose another young man to be his trusted companion and advisor. Hugh Despenser, the husband of Edward's neice. Despenser gained riches, lands and properties by falsely accusing their owners of treason. He became the most hated man in England by gaining huge amounts of property and land by stealing it from its owners. All done with the blessing of King Edward 2nd who loved Despenser, and his father, and would not hear a word against them. Despenser's acts of brutality against owners of estates included torturing them until they signed over their property to him.

The Lady Baret, widow of a Knight who fought against the crown at the battle of Boroughbridge was tortured and all her limbs broken before she gave up her lands to him.

His own sister-in-law, Elizabeth, the widow of Roger Dawory was forced to sign away the Lordship of Usk valued at £770 per year, for that of Gower valued at £300 per year. Later he took Gower from her to give to one of his friends. His greed was such that he became one of the richest men in England as well as one of the most feared and hated.

In 1321, the barons met in parliament, and under the Duke of Lancaster's guidance obtained the banishment of the Despensers, father and son. The banishment of his friends goaded Edward into furious activity. In 1322 he recalled them from exile, and waged war against the barons. Such was his fury at the barons that he defeated Lancaster's army at the battle of Boroughbridge. Lancaster was executed at Pontefract. For the next five years the Despensers ruled England. They took pains to get the Commons on their side, and a parliament held at York in 1322 took the power away from the barons. From then on, no statute was valid unless the Commons had agreed to it. But the rule of the Despensers soon fell away from this wise beginning. They thought only of gaining wealth and property for themselves, and soon stirred up more hatred. In particular, they excited the ill-will of Queen Isabella. Craftily hiding her indignation, Isabella kept silence until 1325, when she went to France in company with her eldest son, Edward of Windsor, who was sent to do homage to her brother, the new French king. Her business over, Isabella would not return to her husband as long as the Despensers remained his favorites. She joined up with Roger Mortimer the exiled baron, and in September 1326 landed in Essex accompanied by Mortimer and her son, declaring that she was come to avenge the murder of Lancaster, and to expel the Despensers. Edward's followers deserted him, and on the 2nd of October he fled from London to the west, where he took refuge in the younger Despenser's estates in Glamorgan. His wife followed him, put to death both the Despensers. The younger Despenser was brutally executed in a public spectacle for the commoners' entertainment. They dragged him from his horse, stripped him, and scrawled Biblical verses against corruption and arrogance on him. They dragged him into the city market square and presented him to Queen Isabella, Roger Mortimer, and the Lancastrians. He was then condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered, and as he was deemed to be a traitor, his quarters were to be dispersed throughout England.

After a futile effort to escape by sea, Edward was captured on the 16th of November. He was imprisoned at Kenilworth Castle. Parliament met at Westminster in January 1327, and chose his son to be crowned king. It was thought best to compel the king to resign the crown, and on the 20th of January Edward was forced to renounce his office. His son of fourteen years became King Edward 3rd.

The new government of Isabella and Mortimer, being so weakly established, dared not leave the deposed king alive. On the 3rd of April he was secretly removed from Kenilworth and given into the custody of two of Mortimer's men. He was imprisoned at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, where he suffered every indignity. He was systematically ill-treated in the hope that he would die. When his strong constitution seemed likely to prevail over the ill-treatment of his enemies he was cruelly put to death on the 11th October. It was a horrific end as he was held down and a red hot poker forced into his rectum. Such was the king's treatment for practising homosexuality.

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