In November 1326, King Edward II - by then, no more than a fugitive in his own country - was captured in South Wales with the younger Hugh Despenser and a small band of followers. Despenser was taken to Hereford and executed, and Edward was removed to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, in the custody of Henry of Lancaster.
Henry was King Edward's cousin, the son of Edward I's brother Edmund Crouchback, earl of Lancaster (1245-1296). He was born in about 1281 and was the younger brother of Earl Thomas of Lancaster, Edward II's most implacable enemy, beheaded in 1322. Through his elder half-sister Jeanne, Queen of France and Navarre, he was also the uncle of Queen Isabella.
Henry, arguably the only person to emerge from the period 1327-30 with any credit, treated the fallen king with respect and honour. In January, Edward was either forcibly deposed, or abdicated voluntarily - it's still not entirely clear which - leaving the new rulers of England with the thorny problem of what to do with the ex-king. Many people were uneasy with the situation of the king being in prison, but if Edward were released, he could revoke his deposition and reinstate himself. The death of Mortimer, and probably Isabella too, would certainly be the result - they had executed the Despensers, and Edward could be vindictive and merciless in revenge. Also, Henry - although an ally of the couple and Isabella's uncle - was a political danger. To ensure his support, Isabella and Mortimer had promised him his brother's earldom of Lancaster, but the huge lands and revenues of the earldom gave him great power, and his brother Thomas had used that power to constantly disagree with and thwart Edward. Although Isabella and Mortimer had needed Henry's support during their revolution, they now had to neutralise him. Custody of the king gave him enormous leverage over them - he could threaten them with Edward's restoration any time he was dissatisfied, and they didn't want Henry to wield the kind of disruptive power his brother had.
To add to their problems, a group of Edward's supporters were plotting to free him from Kenilworth in March 1327. The gang's leaders were the Dunheved (or Dunhead) brothers: Thomas, a Dominican friar and King Edward's confessor, and Stephen, Lord of Dunchurch in Warwickshire. There were contemporary rumours that Edward had sent Thomas to the Pope to secure a divorce from Isabella. While there's no direct evidence of this, it's quite plausible.
The other conspirators were: two men named William Aylmer (one the parson of Donnington Church), William Russell, Thomas Haye, Edmund Gascelyn, William Hull and John Morton. There was a flurry of writs and orders for their arrest, issued by an alarmed Mortimer and Isabella who had numerous other problems to contend with also, but the gang managed to evade capture - and were to cause many more headaches for Mortimer and Isabella later in the year.
In late March 1327, the former Edward II was removed from Kenilworth and sent to Berkeley Castle, in Gloucestershire. It's not clear if Henry of Lancaster agreed to Edward's removal - 'washed his hands of him', in Paul Doherty's words - or if it was forced on him. According to Ian Mortimer's recent biography of Edward III, Roger Mortimer supervised Edward's removal himself, and Henry was furious, though Doherty and Alison Weir claim that Henry was keen to rid himself of the huge responsibility for Edward.
The Lord of Berkeley was Thomas, who was born about 1293/97, and married Roger Mortimer's eldest daughter Margaret in 1319. He and his father Maurice were imprisoned by Edward in early 1322, during Edward's successful campaign against the earl of Lancaster and the Marcher lords, and Maurice died in prison at Wallingford Castle in 1326. Thomas, therefore, had every reason to detest the former king, and given that his father-in-law was now the main power in England, every reason to remain loyal to him. Berkeley had the advantage of being far away from Scotland, where many of Edward's allies were, and also, the Dunheveds were strong in the vicinity of Kenilworth. The disadvantage of Berkeley was its proximity to Wales, where Edward had more friends, but on the plus side, it was remote and secure. Edward arrived there by 6 April 1327 at the latest. Thomas Berkeley and his brother-in-law Sir John Maltravers - Edward's joint jailor - were awarded the princely sum of five pounds per day for the former king's upkeep.
The chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker, several decades later, gives the familiar story that Edward was mistreated at Berkeley, humiliated, half-starved, and incarcerated in a cell above animal carcasses, in the hope that the stench would kill him. However, it's also possible that Edward was treated reasonably well. The records show that he received delicacies such as capons and wine, though it may be that his guards stole them. While it seems highly unlikely that he was treated as an honoured guest, the stories of his incarceration above rotting animal carcasses may be exaggerated. It's difficult to know for sure. One thing that is definite is that Edward never saw his wife or his children again.
In part two, shortly, I'll look at the little-known story of Edward's secret release from Berkeley in the summer of 1327.