13 January, 2006

Happy Belated 2006!

Reading books and magazines during my holiday has reinforced my (already strong) belief that a re-appraisal of poor old Edward II is long overdue. Quotes such as "Edward II - great of body and little of brain"; "bending over and taking the Edward II treatment"; "Edward II ran away at Bannockburn" (not true). Am I the only person (apart from Susan! :) who actually likes Edward, and thinks he's been really hard done by? I'm also getting heartily sick of all the modern apologists for Queen Isabella, who do their best to construct a narrative of a powerful, influential woman, but then deny that she might have been involved in anything nasty or distasteful, such as Edward's imprisonment and murder, and Kent's execution. Grr! I'll be looking at this very shortly!

8 comments:

ilya said...

you're not the only one who likes edward better than isabella. i don't know why, really, i have a certain sympathy for all the more obscure people in history, and this is one of them. edward ii seems lost between his father and his son and he seems like such a failure compared to them. and yet i can't help feel sympathy for him...

Alianore said...

Hi ilya,
That's right, I think Edward II suffers by being stuck between a famous father and a famous son, but it's the obviously flawed people in history who fascinate me the most! I do think a lot of modern (from the late 19th century onwards) historians have been far more vicious to Edward than he deserves. He was a bad king by the standards of his time, but not a bad man, in my opinion.

Prince_Lieven said...

Yes! I agree with both of you! Edward, though a bad king, most definitely did not deserve what happened to him. People often comment on what a bad husband he could be - but two wrongs don't make a right!

Laura said...

Amen to that! Even if he'd been much worse he still wouldn't have deserved to be killed in so horrible a way.

I love your blog, BTW. I'm a hopeless revisionist myself. People are complex, and it annoys me no end when I see historians trying to force historical figures into certain preconceived molds or archetypes just to make the narrative more compelling. Edward, I think, has gotten a particularly raw deal because of nineteenth century attitudes toward homosexuality.

Alianore said...

Hi Prince - looking forward to many more discussions with you! :)

Laura - great to see you here, and glad you're enjoying the blog. Hope to hear lots more from you!

Agree about the attitudes to Edward II - it's high time we in the 21st century rejected this old-fashioned homophoic mentality. Of course we can't change the way Edward's contemps saw him, but if we can forgive Isabella for her adultery, we can forgive Edward for his!

Laura said...

I think Isabelle has benefitted from modern feminism, as has Eleanor of Aquitaine. Feminism, of course, is a good thing :-D ... but not when it results in feminist historians whitewashing or glossing over the evil deeds of powerful women in the past. As a modern woman I can certainly sympathize with Isabella's desire to take a lover ... after all, Edward had his partners, so why shouldn't she have hers? (Of course her contemporaries wouldn't have seen it that way!) But fooling around is one thing; deposing and imprisoning your husband (and quite likely conspiring to murder him as well!) is another.

Michael said...

I agree that Edward is definatley overshadowed by his larger than life father and son. I don't like to think of him as a victim, though. An inconstant and selfish person, definatley. He seems almost a modern person too, seeking validation and approval from other people, rather than on the strength of his own achievements

Alianore said...

Hi Michael, thanks for the comment! I think you're right, it's not helpful to think of Edward - or Isabella, for that matter - as victims.

BTW, you might be interested in my latest post, where I argue that Edward was a 'man out of his time' - utterly unconventional by the standards of the 14th century, but more comprehensible to the modern mind.

It certainly seems that he was insecure, with little if any faith in his ability to make his own decisions, and the kind of personality that constantly needed validation from another person. Also, a pretty bad judge of character, if his favourites are anything to go by! He seriously under-estimated Isabella, too.