Edward II of Carnarvon 1284-1327, king of England, fourth son of Edward I by his first wife, Eleanor of Castile, was born at the newly erected castle of Carnarvon on St. Mark's day, 25 April 1284. As his parents had spent the greater part of the two previous years in Wales and the borders, his birth at Carnarvon must be regarded as the result of accident rather than the settled policy which later traditions attribute to his father. Entirely apocryphal are the stories of the king presenting his infant son as the future native sovereign of the Welsh (they first appear in Stow, Annals, pp. 202-3, and Powel, Hist. Cambria, ed. 1584, p. 377). The tradition which fixes the room and tower of the castle in which Edward was born is equally baseless. On 19 Aug. the death of his elder brother Alfonso made Edward his father's heir. He was hardly six years old when the negotiations for his marriage with the infant Queen Margaret of Scotland were successfully completed. In March 1290 the magnates of Scotland assented to the match (Federa, i. 730), but on 2 Oct. Margaret's death destroyed the best hope of the union of England and Scotland. On 28 Nov. he lost his mother, Queen Eleanor
At a very early age Edward had a separate household of some magnificence assigned to him. So early as 1294 the townsfolk of Dunstaple bitterly complained of his attendants' rapacity and violence (Ann. Dunst. p. 392). In 1296 the negotiations for the marriage of Philippa, the daughter of Count Guy of Flanders, to Edward came to nothing (Ann. Wig. p. 529; Opus Chron. in Trokelowe, p. 55). On 22 Aug. 1297 Edward became nominal regent during his father's absence in Flanders. The defeat of Earl Warenne at Stirling and the baronial agitation for the confirmation of the charters made his task extremely difficult. On 10 Oct. Edward was obliged to issue the famous Confirmatio Cartarum. In mid-Lent 1298 the king's return ended the regency. Next year a proposal of marriage between Edward and Isabella, the infant daughter of Philip the Fair, was the outcome of the arbitration of Boniface VIII between England and France (Federa, i. 954). Not until 20 May 1303, however, did the definite betrothal take place at Paris, and even then the youth of the parties compelled a further postponement of their union
On 7 Feb. 1301 Edward was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester at the famous Lincoln parliament (Ann. Wig. p. 548). This step was highly popular throughout Wales (Ann. Edw. I in Rishanger, p. 464), and marked Edward's entrance into more active life. In 1302 he was first summoned to parliament. Henceforth he regularly accompanied his father on his campaigns against Scotland. In the summer of 1301 he led the western wing of the invading army from Carlisle (Chron. de Lanercost, p. 200, Bannatyne Club), but soon joined his father, and spent the winter with him at Linlithgow (ib.; Ann. Wig. 551), though he was back early enough to hold, in March 1302, a council for his father at London (Ann. Lond. in Stubbs, Chron. Edw. I and II, i. 127). In 1303 and 1304 Edward was again in Scotland, and though on one occasion the old king commended his strategy, and always kept him well employed, the entries on his expenses rolls for these years suggest that he had already acquired habits of frivolity and extravagance. He often lost large sums at dice, and sometimes had to borrow from his servants to pay his debts. He was attended on his travels by a lion and by Genoese fiddlers. He had to compensate a fool for the rough practical jokes he had played on him (Cal. Doc. Scotland, ii. No. 1413). Among his gambling agents was the Gascon, Piers de Gaveston [qv.], who had already acquired a fatal ascendency over him. Walter Reynolds, perhaps his tutor, and afterwards keeper of his wardrobe, was an almost equally undesirable confidant. Yet the old king spared no pains to instruct him in habits of business as much as in the art of war. Accident has preserved the roll of the prince's letters between November 1304 and November 1305. They are more than seven hundred in number, and yet incomplete, and show conclusively the careful drilling the young prince underwent (Ninth Report of Deputy-Keeper of Records, app. ii. pp. 246-9.) But it was all in vain. In June 1305 he invaded the woods of Bishop Langton, the treasurer, and returned the minister's remonstrances with insult. The king was moved to deep wrath; banished his son from court for six months and ordered him to make full reparation (Chron. Edw. I and II, i. xxxix, 138; Abbrev. Plac. i. 257; Ninth Report, p. 247). In August Edward wrote a whining letter to his step-mother, begging her to induce the king to let him have the company of Gilbert de Clare and Perot de Gaveston to alleviate the anguish caused by the stern orders of his father (Ninth Report, p. 248). In October, however, the king allowed Edward to represent him at a great London banquet (Ann. Lond. p. 143)
The revolt of Scotland opened out new prospects. Edward I, declining in years and health, again endeavoured to prepare his unworthy son for the English throne. At Easter 1306 the Prince of Wales received a grant of Gascony (Trivet, p. 408). On Whitsunday he was solemnly dubbed knight at Westminster, along with three hundred chosen noble youths. Immediately after the ceremony the new warriors set out for Scotland, solemnly pledged to revenge the murder of Comyn. The prince's particular vow was never to rest twice in one place until full satisfaction was obtained. Edward and the young men preceded the slower movements of his father; but his merciless devastation of the Scottish borders moved the indignation of the old king (Rishanger, pp. 229-30; Trivet, pp. 408, 411). Edward continued engaged on the campaign until in January 1307 his presence at the Carlisle parliament was required (Parl. Writs, i. 81) to meet the Cardinal Peter of Spain, who was commissioned to conclude the long-protracted marriage treaty with the daughter of France. But Edward's demand of Ponthieu, his mother's heritage, for Gaveston provoked a new outbreak of wrath from the old king (Hemingburgh, ii. 272). On 26 Feb. Gaveston was banished, though about a month later Edward was sufficiently restored to favour for the king to make arrangements for his visiting France to be married (Federa, i. 1012); but on 7 July the death of Edward I removed the last restraint on his son
In person the new king was almost as striking a man as Edward I. He was tall, handsome, and of exceptional bodily strength (Et si fust de son corps un des plus fortz hom de soun realme, Scalachronica, p. 136, Maitland Club). But though well fitted to excel in martial exercises, he never showed any real inclination for a warlike life, or even for the tournament. As soon as he was his own master he avoided fighting as much as he could, and when compelled to take the field his conduct was that of an absolute craven. Lack of earnest purpose blasted his whole character. He had been trained as a warrior, but never became one. He had been drilled in the routine of business, but had only derived from it an absolute incapacity to devote himself to any serious work. His only object in life was to gratify the whim of the moment, reckless of consequences. Much of his folly and levity may be set down to habitual deep drinking. His favourite pastimes were of a curiously unkingly nature. He disliked the society of his equals among the youthful nobility, and, save for a few attached friends, his favourite companions were men of low origin and vulgar tastes. With them Edward would exercise his remarkable dexterity in the mechanical arts. He was fond of smith's work, was proud of his skill at digging trenches and thatching houses. He was also a good athlete, fond of racing and driving, and of the society of watermen and grooms. He was passionately devoted to horses and hounds and their breeding. He bought up the famous stud of Earl Warenne, which he kept at Ditchling in Sussex. At one time he borrows from Archbishop Winchelsey a beal cheval bon pour estaloun, at another he gets a white greyhound of a rare breed from his sister. He boasted of his Welsh harriers that could discover a hare sleeping, and was hardly less proud of the gentz sauvages from his native land, who were in his household to train them. He was also a musician, and beseeches the abbot of Shrewsbury to lend him a remarkably good fiddler to teach his rhymer the crowther, and borrows trumpets and kettledrums from Reynolds for his little players. He was devoted to the stage, and Reynolds first won his favour, it was said, by his skill in ludis theatralibus (Monk of Malmesbury, p. 197). He was not well educated, and took the coronation oath in the French form, provided for a king ignorant of Latin. He was fond of fine clothes, and with all his taste for low society liked pomp and state on occasions. He had the facile good nature of some thoroughly weak men. Without confidence in himself, and conscious probably of the contempt of his subjects, he was never without some favourite of stronger will than his own for whom he would show a weak and nauseous affection. Sometimes with childlike passion he would personally chastise those who provoked his wrath. He could never keep silence, but disclosed freely even secrets of state. He had no dignity or self-respect. His household was as disorderly as their master's example and poverty made it. The commons groaned under the exactions of his purveyors and collectors. The notion that he neglected the nobility out of settled policy to rely upon the commons is futile. Even less trustworthy is the contention that his troubles were due to his zeal for retrenchment and financial reform to pay his father's debts and get free from the bondage of the Italian merchants. (For Edward's character the chief authorities are Malmesbury, pp. 191-2; Knighton, in Twysden, c. 2531-2; Bridlington, p. 91; Ann. de Melsa, ii. 280, 286; Cont. Trivet, p. 18; Lanercost, p. 236; Scalachronica, p. 136; and for his habits Blaauw in Sussex Arch. Collections, ii. 80-98, and the Ninth Report of Deputy-Keeper, app. ii. 246-9; for his finances, Mr. Bond's article in Archæologia, xxviii. 246-54; and the summary of wardrobe accounts for 10, 11, and 14 Edw. II in Archæologia, xxvi. 318-45)
Edward I's policy underwent a complete reversal on his son's accession. After his father's death the new king hurried north to Carlisle, where he arrived on 18 July, and after visiting Burgh next day he received on 20 July the homage of the English magnates then gathered in the north. He then advanced into Scotland, and on 31 July received at Dumfries the homage of such Scottish lords as still adhered to him (Ann. Lanercost, p. 209). But after a few weeks, during which he accomplished absolutely nothing, he left Aymer de Valence as guardian of Scotland, and journeyed to the south after his father's body. He had already been joined by Gaveston, whom, on 6 Aug., he had made Earl of Cornwall, despite the murmurs of the majority of the barons. He now dismissed with scanty courtesy his father's ministers, wreaked his spite on Langton by pilfering his treasure and immuring him in the Tower. Langton's successor at the treasury was Walter Reynolds, Edward's old favourite. The acquiescence of the Earl of Lincoln in the elevation of Gaveston saved him for a time from the fate of Langton and Baldock. On 13 Oct. Edward held a short parliament at Northampton, whence he went to Westminster for the burial of his father on 27 Oct.
On 29 Oct. he betrothed Gaveston to his niece, Margaret of Gloucester (Cont. Trivet, ed. Hall, 1722, p. 3), and also appointed him regent on his departure for France to do homage for Gascony and wed his promised bride. On 22 Jan. 1308 Edward crossed from Dover to Boulogne (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 13), and on 25 Jan. his marriage with Isabella of France was celebrated with great pomp in the presence of Philip the Fair and a great gathering of French and English magnates (Ann. Lond. p. 152; Ann. Paul. p. 258. Hemingburgh, ii. 270, wrongly dates the marriage on 28 Jan., and Bridlington, p. 32, on 24 Jan.). On 7 Feb. the royal pair arrived at Dover (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 13), and after a magnificent reception at London the coronation was performed on 25 Feb. with great state at Westminster. The minute records of the ceremony (Federa, ii. 33-6) show that the coronation oath taken by the new monarch was stricter than the older form, and involved a more definite reference to the rights of the commons. The disgust occasioned by Edward's infatuation for Gaveston had nearly broken up the coronation festivities, and the king's fear for the favourite's safety had induced him to postpone the February council till Easter. The queen's uncles left England in great disgust that Edward neglected his bride for the society of his ‘brother Peter’ (Ann. Paul. p. 262).
The magnates complained that the foreign upstart treated them with contempt, and deprived them of their constitutional part in the government of the country. The whole nation was incensed that everything should be in the hands of the ‘king's idol.’ When the great council met on 30 April, it sharply warned Edward that homage was due rather to the crown than to the king's person, and frightened him into consenting to the banishment of the favourite before 25 June. Gaveston was compelled to bend before the storm, and to surrender his earldom (ib. p. 263); but Edward heaped fresh grants on him and remained in his society until he embarked at Bristol. He made him regent of Ireland, with a vast revenue, pressed the pope to absolve him from the excommunication threatened if he returned, and soon began to actively intrigue for his restoration. At the Northampton parliament in August a nominal understanding between the king and the barons was arrived at. His bad counsellors were removed from office, and Langton soon after released from prison; yet a tournament held by the king at Kennington proved a failure through the neglect of the magnates. At last, on 27 April 1309, Edward was compelled to confront the three estates at Westminster, and as the price of a twenty-fifth to receive eleven articles of grievances, which he was to answer in the next parliament (Rot. Parl. i. 443-5). But his proposal that Gaveston should retain the earldom of Cornwall was rejected (Hemingburgh, ii. 275), though his intrigues succeeded so far that the chief barons were won over individually to consent or acquiesce in his restoration. Only the Earl of Warwick resisted the royal blandishments (Malmesbury, p. 160). The pope was induced to absolve Gaveston from his oaths (Ann. Lond. p. 157; Malmesbury, p. 161). In July he ventured back to England, and was received with open arms by Edward at Chester. So effectually had Edward's intrigues broken up the baronial opposition that no one ventured openly to object to the favourite's return. At a baronial parliament at Stamford on 27 July Edward courted popular favour by accepting the articles of 1309, while Gloucester succeeded in persuading the magnates to a formal reconciliation with Gaveston, and even to his restoration to the earldom of Cornwall. But the favourite's behaviour was as insolent as ever. Lancaster soon raised the standard of opposition. Along with the Earls of Lincoln, Warwick, Oxford, and Arundel, he refused to attend a council summoned at York for October (Hemingburgh, ii. 275). Edward, as usual, sought by postponing its session to escape from his difficulties. He celebrated his Christmas court at his favourite palace of Langley (‘locum quem rex valde dilexit,’ Malm. p. 162). At last, in March 1310, the long-postponed meeting of magnates was held in London. The barons attended in military array; Edward's attempted opposition at once broke down. On 16 March threats of the withdrawal of allegiance compelled him to consent to the appointment (Federa, ii. 105) of the twenty-one lords ordainers, into whose hands all royal power was practically bestowed. But the limitation of his prerogative affected Edward much less than the danger of Gaveston, against whom the chief designs of the ordainers was directed. In February Gaveston left the court. As soon as the council had ended Edward hurried to the north to rejoin his favourite, and, under the pretence of warring against Bruce, keep Gaveston out of harm's way, while avoiding the unpleasant presence of the ordainers, and escaping from the necessity of obeying a summons for an interview with the king of France (ib. ii. 110; Malm. p. 165). But only two earls, Gloucester and Warenne, attended the ‘copiosa turba peditum’ that formed the chief support of the royal army. On 8 Sept. the host assembled at Berwick. By 16 Sept. the king was at Roxburgh, and by 13 Oct. at Linlithgow; but no enemy was to be found even if Edward were in earnest in seeking one. Bruce, though he boasted that he feared the bones of the old king more than his living successor, refrained from fighting. By the beginning of November Edward had returned to Berwick (Hartshorne, Itinerary of Ed. II, p. 119), where he remained almost entirely till the end of July 1311. In February (1311), Lincoln, the regent, died, and Lancaster, his son-in-law, succeeded to his estates. After much difficulty Edward was persuaded to go a few miles south into England to receive his homage for this property. At their meeting they observed the externals of friendship, but Lancaster's refusal to salute Gaveston made Edward very angry (Lanercost, p. 215).
The need of meeting the ordainers at last brought Edward back to the south, leaving Gaveston at Bamborough for safety. But he got to London before the magnates were ready, and, spending August (1311) on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, returned to meet the ordainers about the end of that month. The ordinances were soon presented to him, but in the long catalogue of reforms that were demanded he saw nothing of importance save the articles requiring the exile of Gaveston. In vain he offered to consent to all other ordinances to stay the persecution of his brother Peter and leave him in possession of Cornwall. At last, when he saw clearly that civil war was the alternative, he gave an insincere and reluctant consent to them on 5 Oct. Gaveston at once left England for Flanders, while the barons removed his kinsfolk and adherents from the royal household. Edward was now intensely disturbed, and complained that the barons treated him like an idiot by taking out of his hands every detail even of the management of his own household. He was detained till the middle of December in London by fresh sittings of parliament, at which very little was done. At the end of November there was a rumour that Gaveston had returned and was hiding in the west; before Christmas he openly visited the king at Windsor (Ann. Lond. p. 202), and early in the new year went with Edward to the north. On 18 Jan. 1312 the king issued a writ announcing the favourite's return and approving his loyalty (Federa, ii. 153). In February he restored him his estates (ib. ii. 157). Open war necessarily resulted. Winchelsey excommunicated the favourite. Lancaster and his confederates took arms. In vain Edward sought to purchase the safety of Gaveston in Scotland by recognising Bruce as king, but Edward's alliance was not worth buying. He was at the time so miserably poor that he could only get supplies by devastating a country already cruelly ravaged by the Scots (Lanercost, pp. 218-19). On 10 April (Bridlington, p. 42) the king and his favourite were at Newcastle. Thence they hastily retreated to Tynemouth, but Lancaster now captured Newcastle, and the pair, regardless of the queen's entreaties, fled in a boat to Scarborough (10 May), where Edward left Peter while he withdrew to York to divert the baronial forces. But Lancaster occupied the intervening country while the other earls besieged Scarborough, where Gaveston surrendered to Pembroke on condition that he should be unharmed till 1 Aug. Edward accepted these terms and set to work to interest the pope and the king of France for Gaveston, hoping that the cession of Gascony would be a sufficient bribe to make Philip support his old enemy (Malmesbury, p. 177). But the treachery of the barons, the seizure of Gaveston by Warwick, and his murder on Blacklow Hill (19 June) showed that all the bad faith was not on Edward's side. Edward was powerless to do more than pay the last honours to his dead friend. The body found a last resting-place at Langley, where a house of black friars was established by Edward to pray for the deceased favourite's soul (Knighton, c. 2533). The Earls of Pembroke and Warenne never forgave Lancaster. Henceforth they formed with Hugh le Despenser [q.v.] and Edward's other personal adherents a party strong enough to prevent further attacks upon the king. After wearisome marches and negotiations, the mediation of Gloucester, the papal envoy and Lewis of Evreux, the queen's uncle, led to the proclamation of peace on 22 Dec. 1312 (Federa, ii. 191-2).
On 13 Nov. the birth of a son, afterwards Edward III, had turned the king's mind further from Gaveston. Nearly a year elapsed before the earls made the personal submission stipulated in the treaty, and as parliamentary resources were still withheld Edward was plunged into an extreme destitution that could only be partly met by loans from every quarter available, by laying his hands on as much as he could of the confiscated estates of the Templars, and by tallages that provoked riots in London and Bristol. In May 1313 the death of Winchelsey further weakened the baronial party, and Edward prevailed on the pope to quash the election of the eminent scholar Thomas Cobham [q.v.] in favour of his creature, Walter Reynolds. But the prospects of real peace were still very dark. Under the pretence of illness Edward kept away from the spring parliament in 1313 (Malmesbury, p. 190). In May he and the queen, accompanied by a magnificent court, crossed the Channel and attended the great festivities given on Whitsunday by Philip the Fair at Paris, when his three sons, the Duke of Burgundy, and a number of noble youths were dubbed knights before the magnates of the realm (ib. 190; Cont. Guillaume de Nangis, i. 395-6; Martin, Hist. of France, iv. 501). They returned on 16 July (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 101) and reached London only to find that the barons summoned to the July parliament had already returned to their homes in disgust. By such transparent artifices the weak king postponed the settlement until a new parliament that sat between September and November. There at last the three earls publicly humiliated themselves before the king in Westminster Hall in the presence of the assembled magnates (Trokelowe, pp. 80, 81). Feasts of reconciliation were held, and nothing save the continued enmity of Lancaster and Hugh le Despenser remained of the old quarrels. On 16 Oct. the pardon and amnesty to the three earls and over four hundred minor offenders were issued (Federa, ii. 230-1). Parliament now made Edward a much-needed grant of money. The first troubles of the reign were thus finally appeased. Between 12 Dec. and 20 Dec. (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 109) Edward made a short pilgrimage to Boulogne, but his journey was a secret one, and undertaken against the opinion of his subjects (Cont. Trivet, ed. Hall, p. 11). The question of the ordinances was still unsettled, and soon became the source of fresh difficulties.
On 17 Feb. 1314 Edward attended the enthronement of Reynolds at Canterbury. On 28 Feb. Roxburgh was captured by Bruce; on 13 March Edinburgh fell, and soon after Stirling, the last of the Scottish strongholds that remained in English hands, promised to surrender if not relieved by St. John's day (24 June). Edward was provoked almost to tears by these disasters, and eagerly pressed the leading earls to march against Bruce with all their forces. The earls replied that to undertake such an expedition without the consent of parliament would be contrary to the ordinances. Edward was compelled, therefore, to rely upon the customary services of his vassals, whom he convoked for 10 June. After visiting for Easter the great abbeys of St. Albans and Ely (Trokelowe, p. 83), Edward started for the north. A great host tardily collected at Berwick, but Lancaster, Warenne, Arundel, and Warwick stayed behind, though furnishing their legal contingent of troops. At last, about a week before St. John's day, Edward left Berwick for Stirling with as much confidence as if he were on a pilgrimage to Compostella (Malmesbury, p. 202). When the great army, greatly fatigued by the march, reached the neighbourhood of Stirling, St. John's eve had arrived. A defeat in a preliminary skirmish and a sleepless and riotous night (T. de la Moor, p. 299) still further unfitted the army for action. Gloucester strongly urged the king to wait another day before fighting; but in a characteristic outburst Edward denounced his nephew as a traitor, and ordered an immediate action. The English army was divided into three lines, in the rearmost of which Edward remained with the bishops and monks in attendance, and protected by Hugh le Despenser. The first line soon fell into confusion, and Gloucester, its leader, was slain. The royal escort at once resolved that Edward must withdraw to a place of safety; and the king, after requesting in vain admittance into Stirling Castle, hurried off towards Dunbar, hotly pursued by the enemy. Thence he took ship for Berwick. The retreat of the king was the signal for the flight of the whole army. Stirling surrendered, and all Scotland acknowledged as its king the victor of Bannockburn
Meanwhile Lancaster had assembled an army at Pontefract, on the pretext that Edward, if successful in Scotland, had resolved to turn his victorious troops against the confederate earls. Edward was compelled to make an unconditional submission at a parliament at York in September, to confirm the ordinances, to change his ministers, and to receive the earls into favour. Hugh le Despenser remained in hiding. About Christmas time Edward celebrated Gaveston's final obsequies at Langley (Malmesbury, p. 209). In the February parliament at London the victorious barons removed Despenser and Walter Langton from the council, purged the royal household of its superfluous and burdensome members, and put the king on an allowance of 10l. a day. The humiliation of Edward was furthered by the appointment of Lancaster as commander-in-chief against the Scots in August, and completed by the acts of the parliament of Lincoln in January 1316, where it was ‘ordained that the king should undertake no important matter without the consent of the council, and that Lancaster should hold the position of chief of the council’ (ib. p. 224).
Edward had thus fallen completely under Lancaster's power. The invasion of Ireland by Edward Bruce, the revolt of Llewelyn Bren in Wales, the revolt of Banastre against Lancaster, the Scottish devastations extending as far south as Furness (Lanercost, p. 233), the Bristol war in 1316, aggravated by the floods of 1315 and the plague of cattle, the unheard-of scarcity of corn and the unhealthiness of the season of 1316 showed that a stronger rule was required. But Lancaster failed almost as signally as Edward. After Michaelmas he attempted a Scottish expedition; but Edward now refused to follow him, so the earl returned, having accomplished nothing (ib. p. 233). His failure to carry a new series of ordinances drove him into a sulky retirement. This attitude again restored freedom to Edward and his courtiers. The king's application to the pope to be relieved from his oath to the ordinances, and for the condemnation of the Scots, failed of its purpose. But the baronial party was now broken up, and Edward vigorously intrigued to win to his side the middle party, led by Pembroke, Badlesmere, and D'Amory, husband of one of the Gloucester coheiresses. With this party hatred of Lancaster was stronger than dislike of the royal policy. The abduction of the Countess of Lancaster by Earl Warenne, planned, it was believed, by Edward and his courtiers (Cont. Trivet, p. 21), produced a new crisis. Private war broke out between Warenne and Lancaster in Yorkshire. In July Edward went north, and under pretence of the Scots war assembled in September an army at York that was really directed against Lancaster, who in his turn collected troops at Pontefract. Both parties watched each other for some time, but no actual hostilities followed. At the end of July the mediation of Pembroke and the cardinal legates resulted in a reference of all disputes to a parliament to meet at Lincoln in January 1318. Yet even after this Edward, on his way to London, marched in arms under the walls of Pontefract (ib. pp. 23-4), but Pembroke's strong remonstrances prevented any attack on Lancaster's stronghold. The wearisome negotiations were still far from ended. The parliament originally summoned for January was postponed month after month. On 2 April the capture of Berwick by the Scots was a new indication of the need of union. Nevertheless at the council which was held on 12 April at Leicester another scheme of reconciliation broke down. All July the king was at Northampton, while the chancellor went backwards and forwards to negotiate with Lancaster. On 31 July a pardon was issued; on 14 Aug. a personal meeting of the cousins was held at Hathern, near Loughborough, where they exchanged the kiss of peace with apparent cordiality (Knighton, c. 2534). In October a parliament at York ratified the new treaty. It was a complete triumph for the foes of Edward. The ordinances were again confirmed, and a permanent council was appointed, which practically put the royal authority into commission.
The bad seasons still continued; the Scots' ravages extended; the court grew more needy; law was everywhere disregarded; while the imposture of John of Powderham at Oxford only gave expression to the general belief that so degenerate a son of the great Edward might well be a changeling. The Scottish war kept Edward in the north for the greater part of the next two years. The court, which removed to York in October 1318, remained there almost continually until January 1320. In March 1319 a second parliament met at York and made a liberal grant for the Scottish expedition (Bridlington, p. 56). The pope now confirmed the sentence of the legates against the Scots. At the end of August Edward and Lancaster laid siege to Berwick. In September the Scots ravaged Yorkshire in the rear of the besiegers, and a plan to carry off the queen from York very nearly succeeded (Malmesbury, p. 243). On 12 Sept. Archbishop Melton was severely defeated by them at Myton-on-Swale, and the enemy plundered as far as Pontefract. Edward was thus forced to raise the siege of Berwick, but entirely failed to cut off the Scots in Yorkshire. It was believed that Lancaster was bribed by the Scots, but incompetence and disunion quite account for the failure. A two years' truce was arranged. In January 1320 Edward held a council of magnates at York, which Lancaster as usual refused to attend. He then went south with his queen, entering London on 16 Feb. On 19 June he and his queen sailed for France (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 244). Before the high altar at Amiens Cathedral he performed his long-delayed homage for Ponthieu and Aquitaine to Philip V, put down a mutiny of his subjects at Abbeville, and on 20 July attended at Boulogne the consecration of Burghersh, Badlesmere's nephew, to the bishopric of Lincoln. He returned to England on 22 July (Federa, ii. 428), and on 2 Aug. made a solemn entry into London. On 13 Oct. he held a parliament at Westminster, which Lancaster again refused to attend. For the next few months the unwonted quiet continued.
Since Edward had put himself in the hands of Pembroke and Badlesmere he had enjoyed comparative security and dignity. Only when great enterprises were attempted was Lancaster still in a position to break up the government of the country. But Edward loved neither Pembroke nor his allies, and had now found in the younger Hugh le Despenser [q.v.] a congenial successor to Gaveston. The increasing favour shown by Edward to father and son, the revival of the old court following under their leadership, and the extensive grants lavished on them by the king, made them both hated and feared. As the husband of the eldest of the three Gloucester coheiresses, the younger Despenser's ambition was to obtain the Gloucester earldom. Early in 1321 private war had broken out in South Wales between him and the neighbouring marchers, among whom were Audley and Amory, his rivals for the Gloucester inheritance. Edward in vain attempted to protect Despenser. He approached so near the scene of action as Gloucester. As soon as he went back towards London Despenser's lands in Wales were overrun. Meanwhile Lancaster and the northern lords held on 28 June a meeting at Sherburn in Elmet, and resolved to maintain the cause of the marchers. Pembroke and Badlesmere also took the same side, after Edward had rejected their advice to dismiss Despenser. On 15 July parliament met at Westminster, and Edward was finally compelled to accept their sentence of forfeiture and banishment. The elder Despenser immediately withdrew to foreign parts, but his son took to the high seas and piracy.
Edward as usual was spurred by the misfortune of his favourites into activity, and cleverly took advantage of the want of harmony between the various elements arrayed against him to prepare the way for Hugh's return. An accident favoured his design. On 13 Oct. 1321 the queen, on her way to Canterbury, requested the hospitality of Lady Badlesmere in Leeds Castle. The doors were closed against her; six of her men were slain in the tumult that ensued. Edward was terribly roused by this insult to his wife. He at once took arms, and besieged Leeds Castle with such vigour that on 31 Oct. it capitulated. During this time an army, said to be thirty thousand strong, had gathered round Edward's standard. Six earls and many magnates were in his camp. Lancaster, in his hatred of Badlesmere, had taken no measures to counteract Edward's plans. The fall of Leeds gave Edward courage to unfold his real designs. On 10 Dec. he extorted from the convocation of clergy their opinion that the proceedings against the Despensers were illegal. He ordered the seizure of the castles of the western lands, and himself marched westwards at the head of his forces and kept his Christmas court at Cirencester. His object now was to cross the Severn; but Gloucester was occupied by the barons, and at Worcester he found the right bank guarded by armed men. At Bridgnorth, Shropshire, the Mortimers headed the resistance, and in the struggle that ensued the town was burnt. Thence he proceeded to Shrewsbury, where the Mortimers, afraid to risk a battle in the absence of the long-expected Lancaster, allowed him to cross the river, and finally surrendered themselves into his hands. Edward now wandered through the middle and southern marches, and took without resistance the main strongholds of his enemies. At Hereford he sharply reproved the bishop for his treason; thence, returning to Gloucester, he forced Maurice of Berkeley to surrender that town and Berkeley itself. On 11 Feb. 1322 Edward issued at Gloucester writs for the recall of the Despensers (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 276). He thence proceeded to the midlands, where the northern lords, thoroughly frightened into activity, were now besieging Tickhill. On 28 Feb. the royal levies assembled at Coventry, but Lancaster, after endeavouring to defend the passage of the Trent at Burton, fled to the north, where Sir Andrew Harclay was turning against the traitors the forces collected against the Scotch. The king's triumph was now assured. Tutbury and Kenilworth surrendered, Lancaster's most trusty officers deserted him, and Roger D'Amory fell dying into the king's hands. Lancaster and Hereford, unable to find shelter even at Pontefract, hurried northwards to join the Scots. On 16 March they were met by Harclay at Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, where Hereford was slain and Lancaster captured. Five days later Edward presided over Lancaster's hasty and irregular trial at his own castle of Pontefract. Refused even a hearing, he was beheaded the next day. The perpetual imprisonment of the Mortimers and Audley, the hanging of Badlesmere at Canterbury, the execution of about thirty lesser offenders, completed the signal triumph of Edward and the Despensers. On 2 May a full parliament met at York, finally revoked the ordinances, and, in opposition to the baronial oligarchy that had so long fettered the action of Edward, laid down the principle that all weighty affairs of state should proceed from the counsel and consent of king, clergy, lords, and commons. The issue of some new ordinances of Edward's own was perhaps intended to show that the king, no less than Earl Thomas, was willing to confer the benefits of good government on his people.
The troubles were no sooner over than, at the end of July (1322), Edward undertook a new expedition against Scotland, the truce having already expired; but the invasion was no more successful than his other martial exploits. Berwick was besieged, but to no purpose. Bruce withdrew over the Forth, leaving Lothian desolate. Before September Edward was defeated by pestilence and famine rather than by the enemy (Lanercost, pp. 247-8). On his return to England Bruce followed in his wake. About Michaelmas Edward was nearly captured at Byland Abbey. He fled as far as Bridlington. The parliament, summoned to Ripon on 14 Nov., was unable to meet further north than York. In January 1323 Harclay turned traitor, making his private treaty with the Scots (ib. p. 248), justified, it was thought in the north, by the king's inability to defend his realm. At last, on 30 May (Federa, ii. 521), a truce for thirteen years ended Edward's vain attempts to subdue Scotland.
From 1322 to 1326 Edward reigned in comparative tranquillity under the guidance of the Despensers. Some slight attempts to assail the Despensers were easily put down; but the deplorable condition of the country and the miserable poverty of the royal exchequer were from the beginning the chief dangers of the new government. The Despensers showed little capacity as administrators, and their greed and insolence soon caused old hatreds to be revived. In particular, Queen Isabella became a furious enemy of the younger Despenser, by whose counsel, it was believed, she was on 28 Sept. 1324 deprived of her lands and servants, and limited to an allowance of twenty shillings a day (Lanercost, p. 254; Ann. Paul. p. 307). Meanwhile Edward offended some of the most important of his old friends. He alienated Archbishop Reynolds by making the archbishop of York his treasurer; his treatment of Badlesmere had already made Burghersh a secret foe; new men, like Stratford and Ayreminne, disliked Edward for opposing their promotion. With even greater folly Edward provoked a quarrel with Henry, earl of Leicester, the brother and heir of Thomas of Lancaster (Malmesbury, pp. 280-1). On 1 Aug. 1324 Roger Mortimer escaped from the Tower to France, where he became a nucleus of disaffection. Thus Edward gradually alienated all his possible supporters, and, quite careless or unconscious of his isolation, was left to face the indignation of a misgoverned nation, and the rancorous hatred of leaders of embittered factions.
A new danger now came from France. Charles IV, who had succeeded Philip V in 1322, had long been clamouring that Edward should perform homage to him for Aquitaine and Ponthieu. In June 1324 Pembroke, the last influential and faithful friend of Edward, died at Paris while attempting to satisfy the French king's demands. Edmund of Kent [q.v.], who had been sent to Paris in April, proved a sorry diplomatist. Before the end of the year actual hostilities commenced by a French attack on Gascony.
All could have been easily settled if Edward had crossed over and performed homage. But the Despensers were afraid to let him escape from their hands, and on 9 March 1325 Edward gave way to the blandishments of his queen, and allowed her to visit her brother's court as his representative. It was not Isabella's policy to settle the differences between her brother and husband. She procured the prolongation of a truce until 1 Aug., while Edward, whose arbitrary proceedings in the early summer had provoked discontent without actual resistance, met his parliament at London on 25 June, when the magnates strongly expressed their opinion that he should immediately go to France
Edward pretended to make preparations for his departure, but gladly availed himself of a proposal of the French king that he should give Gascony to his eldest son, and that the homage of the latter should be accepted in place of his. On 12 Sept. the young Duke of Aquitaine sailed to France, and before the end of the month performed homage to Charles IV at Vincennes.
Edward now recalled Isabella to England, but she absolutely refused to go as long as Hugh le Despenser remained in power. Edward laid his grievances before the parliament which sat at Westminster between 18 Nov. and 5 Dec., and requested mediation. A letter from the bishops had no effect either on Isabella or her son. Early in December Edward wrote strong letters to Charles, to Isabella, and to the young Edward (Federa, ii. 615-16). All through the spring of 1326 he plied them alternately with prayers and threats, but all to no purpose. It was now plain that Isabella had formed with Mortimer and the other exiles at Paris a deliberate plan for overthrowing the Despensers, if not of dethroning Edward himself. The king's ambassador, his brother, the Count of Hainault, whose daughter was betrothed to the Duke of Aquitaine, joined them. On 24 Sept. 1326 Isabella and her followers landed at Orwell in Suffolk, and received, immediately on landing, such support as insured her triumph.
Edward meanwhile had made frantic and futile efforts in self-defence; but his parliaments and councils would give him no aid, his followers deserted him, and the armies he summoned never assembled. In August (1326) he was at Clarendon, Porchester, and Romsey, whence he returned to London, and took up his abode in the Tower. On 27 Sept. he received in London the news of Isabella's arrival. He had in previous times made efforts to conciliate the Londoners, but it was all in vain. On 2 Oct. he fled westwards with the chancellor Baldock and the younger Despenser, doubtless with the object of taking refuge on his favourite's estates in South Wales, and relying with too great rashness on the promise of the Welsh and his popularity with them (T. de la Moor, p. 309). On 10 and 11 Oct. he was at Gloucester, whence he issued an abortive summons of the neighbourhood to arms. Next day he was at Westbury-on-Severn, in the Forest of Dean. On 14 Oct. he was at Tintern, and from 16 to 21 Oct. at Chepstow (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 451-452), whence he despatched the elder Despenser to Bristol, where on 26 Oct. he met his fate. On the same day the proclamation of the Duke of Aquitaine as guardian of the realm showed that success had given the confederates wider hopes than the destruction of the Despensers and the avenging of Earl Thomas (Federa, ii. 646).
Edward next made an attempt to take ship for Lundy, whither he had already sent supplies as to a safe refuge; but contrary winds prevented his landing (T. de la Moor, p. 309), and he again disembarked in Glamorgan. On 27 and 28 Oct. he was at Cardiff. On 28 and 29 Oct. he was at Caerphilly, still issuing from both places writs of summons and commissions of array (Federa, ii. 646; Parl. Writs, ii. i. 453). Between 5 and 10 Nov. he was at Neath beseeching the men of Gower to come to his aid (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 454). On 10 Nov. he sent the abbot of Neath and others to negotiate with the queen. Meanwhile Henry of Lancaster and Rhys ap Howel, a Welsh clerk newly released from the Tower by the queen, were specially despatched to effect his capture. Bribes and spies soon made his retreat known. On 16 Nov. the king and all his party fell into the hands of the enemy, and were conducted to the castle of Llantrissaint (Ann. Paul. p. 319; Knighton, c. 2545, says they were captured at Neath). On 20 Nov. Baldock and the younger Despenser were handed over to the queen at Hereford, where they were speedily executed. On the same day Edward, who had been retained in the custody of Lancaster, was compelled to surrender the great seal to Bishop Adam of Orlton at Monmouth (Federa, ii. 646). Edward was thence despatched to Kenilworth, where he remained the whole winter, still in Lancaster's custody, and treated honourably and generously by his magnanimous captor.
A parliament assembled at Westminster on 7 Jan. 1327. At Orlton's instigation the estates chose Edward, duke of Aquitaine, as their king. Bishop Stratford drew up six articles justifying Edward's deposition. But a formal resignation was thought desirable by the queen's advisers. Two efforts were made to persuade Edward to meet the parliament (Parl. Writs, ii. i. 457; Lanercost, p. 257), but on his resolute refusal a committee of the bishops, barons, and judges was sent to Kenilworth. On 20 Jan. Edward, clothed in black, gave them audience. At first he fainted, but, recovering himself, he listened with tears and groans to an address of Orlton's. Then Sir W. Trussell, as proctor of parliament, renounced homage to him, and Sir T. Blount, the steward of the household, broke his staff of office. Edward now spoke, lamenting his ill-fortune and his trust in traitorous counsellors, but rejoicing that his son would now be king (Knighton, c. 2550). The deputation then departed, and Edward II's reign was at an end.
The deposed king remained at Kenilworth until the spring, on the whole patiently bearing his sufferings, but complaining bitterly of his separation from his wife and children. Some curious verses are preserved which are said to have been written by him (they are given in Latin in Fabian, p. 185, but the French original is given in a manuscript at Longleat, Hist. MSS. Commission, 3rd Rep. 180). The government of Isabella and Mortimer was, however, too insecure to allow Edward to remain alive, and a possible instrument of their degradation. He was transferred at the suggestion of Orlton from the mild custody of his cousin to that of two knights, Thomas de Gournay and John Maltravers, who on 3 April removed him by night from Kenilworth. Such secrecy enveloped his subsequent movements that very different accounts of them have been preserved. Sir T. de la Moor (pp. 315-19), who has preserved the most circumstantial narrative (but cf. Archæologia, xxvii. 274, 297), says he was taken first to Corfe Castle and thence to Bristol. But on his whereabouts becoming known some of the citizens formed a plot for his liberation, whereupon he was secretly conducted by night to Berkeley. Murimuth (pp. 53-5) gives a rather different account of his wanderings, but brings him ultimately to Berkeley. The new gaolers now inflicted every possible indignity upon Edward, and entered on a systematic course of ill-treatment which could have but one end. He was denied sufficient food and clothing, he was prevented from sleeping, he was crowned with a crown of hay, and shaved by the roadside with ditch water. Yet the queen reproved the guards for their mild treatment. At last Thomas of Berkeley was removed from his own castle, so that the inhumanity of the gaolers should be deprived of its last restraint. Edward was now removed to a pestilential chamber over a charnel-house in the hope that he would die of disease; but as his robust constitution still prevailed, he was barbarously murdered in his bed on 21 Sept. His dying shrieks, resounding throughout the castle, sufficiently attested the horror of his end. It was given out that he had died a natural death, and his body was exposed to view as evidence of his end (‘Documents relating to the Death and Burial of Edward II,’ by S.A. Moore, in Archæologia, l. 215-226). At last it was buried with considerable pomp in the abbey of St. Peter at Gloucester, now the cathedral (ib.). In after years his son erected a tomb over his remains, which is one of the glories of mediæval sculpture and decorative tabernacle work (Archæol. Journ. xvii. 297-310). His misfortunes had so far caused his errors to be forgotten, that it was much debated by the people whether, like Thomas of Lancaster, he had not merited the honour of sanctity (Knighton, c. 2551). The Welsh, among whom he was always popular, kept green the memory of his fate by mournful dirges in their native tongue (Walsingham, i. 83).
Edward's death was so mysterious that rumours were soon spread by the foes of the government that he was still alive. For believing such rumours Edmund of Kent incurred the penalties of treason in 1328. In the next generation a circumstantial story was repeated that Edward had escaped from Berkeley, and after long wanderings in Ireland, England, the Low Countries, and France, ended his life in a hermit's cell in Lombardy (letter of Manuel Fieschi to Edward III from Cartulary of Maguelone in No. 37 of the Publications de la Société Archéologique de Montpellier (1878); cf. article of Mr. Bent in Macmillan's Magazine, xli. 393-4, Notes and Queries, 6th series, ii. 381, 401, 489, and Stubbs, Chron. Edw. I and II, ii. ciii-cviii).
Edward's family by his wife consisted of (1) Edward of Windsor, born at Windsor on 13 Nov. 1312, who succeeded him [see Edward III]; (2) John of Eltham, born at Eltham; (3) Eleanor, also called Isabella (Ann. Paul. p. 283), born at Woodstock on 8 June 1318, and married in 1332 to Reginald, count of Guelderland; (4) Joan of the Tower, born in that fortress in July 1321, married in 1328 to David, son of Robert Bruce, and afterwards king of Scots; she died 14 Aug. 1362 (Sandford, Genealogical History, pp. 145-56).
Some of the best authorities for Edward II's life and reign are collected by Dr. Stubbs in his Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II in the Rolls Series, with very valuable prefaces. They include the short and incomplete biography by Sir T. de la Moor, and also the Annales Paulini, Annales Londinienses, and the Lives by the Monk of Malmesbury and canon of Bridlington. Other chroniclers are A. Murimuth and W. of Hemingburgh (Engl. Hist. Soc.), the continuator of Trivet (ed. Hall), 1722, the Annals of Lanercost and Scalachronica (Bannatyne Club), Henry of Knighton in Twysden's Decem Scriptores, Higden's Polychronicon, Trokelowe (Rolls Ser.), Blaneford (Rolls Ser.), Walsingham (Rolls Ser.). The chief published original documents are those collected in Rymer's Federa, vol. ii. Record edition, Parliamentary Writs, vol. ii. and the Rolls of Parliament, vol. i. The Rev. C. H. Hartshorne has published an itinerary of Edward II in Collectanea Archæologica, i. 113-44, British Arch. Association. The best modern accounts of the reign are in Stubbs's Const. Hist. vol. ii. and Pauli's Geschichte von England, vol. iv
Contributor: T. F. T. [Thomas Frederick Tout]