25 November, 2007

The Conspiracy of the Earl of Kent, 1330 (1)

Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, was beheaded in Winchester on 19 March 1330 for the crime of trying to free his half-brother Edward II from Corfe Castle in Dorset. As most readers will know, this is two and a half years after Edward's death was announced...

So what the heck was going on? Was Kent utterly deluded? Or was Edward II really alive and at Corfe? Most historians, assuming that Edward II had indeed been dead for several years, are unable to explain Kent's plot except by assuming that he was stupid, gullible and unstable. However, there is plenty of evidence that Kent was none of these things, and there are contradictions in the traditional narrative, such as: if he was a fool and deluded, why was it so important to execute him? If he was a fool and politically ineffectual, then how did he persuade so many high-ranking laymen and clerics to help him?

At the very least, Kent’s plot surely means that he had not seen his brother's face clearly at his funeral on 20 December 1327. Kent did not see Edward's body before the funeral, and neither did his brother Norfolk, their cousin Lancaster, or any other members of Edward's family. Even if we assume that Kent was stupid and gullible, which I’m sure he wasn't, he’d hardly have been convinced that Edward was alive in 1330 if he’d had a good look at Edward’s exposed face during or before his funeral. I’ll look at Edward’s funeral in a future post, but the historian Ernst Kantorowicz’s study The King’s Two Bodies states that Edward II’s funeral is the first known occasion in Western Europe when a wooden mannequin or effigy was displayed in public during a royal funeral, in place of the royal corpse.

Assuming for a moment that Edward II really had been dead since September 1327, why did Kent come to believe that he was alive? There's a story in the chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker that the garrison at Corfe Castle put on a show for Kent, with an Edward II lookalike sitting in the hall, feasting and generally partying fourteenth-century style. But le Baker had a great talent for embroidering his stories, and can’t always be trusted. According to le Baker, Kent, watching from a distance, was fooled into thinking this was his brother. However, I’m certain that this story is not true. Ian Mortimer has drawn attention to the role of Sir John Pecche, constable of Corfe, in informing Kent of Edward II’s possible survival (in my next post).

Anyway, Kent wrote three letters (or rather, his wife did) to Edward II, and gave one to John Deveril of the Corfe garrison. Deveril promptly sent it to Roger Mortimer. The near-contemporary Brut chronicle gives the letter, which would have been in French in the original, but the Brut was written in English, in modernised spelling here:

"Worships and reverence, with a brother’s liegeance and subjection. Sir knight, worshipful and dear brother, if you please, I pray heartily that you are of good comfort, for I shall ordain for you, that you shall soon come out of prison, and be delivered of that disease in which you find yourself. Your lordship should know that I have the assent of almost all the great lords of England, with all their apparel, that is to say with armour, and with treasure without limit, in order to maintain and help you in your quarrel so you shall be king again as you were before, and that they all – prelates, earls and barons – have sworn to me upon a book."

[In November 1330, John Deveril was sentenced to death for his part in entrapping Kent, at the same Parliament that condemned Roger Mortimer to death. A reward of 100 marks (66 pounds) was offered for taking him alive to the king, and 40 marks for his head. "q' qi purra prendre le dit Johan vif, et mesne au Roi, auera C Marcz, et qi q' port la Teste, auera xl du Doun le Roi." Deveril fled, and in the summer of 1331, was thought to be hiding in the Dorset/Somerset area. One of the men appointed to arrest him was John Maltravers Senior, father of John Maltravers Junior, who had also been sentenced to death for entrapping Kent.]

The ‘assent of almost all the great lords of England’ is interesting, especially the reference to earls, as none of the other English earls of the time can be proved to have taken part in the plot. Was that true, or was Kent exaggerating?

Kent’s trial, if it may be dignified by the name, took place at the Winchester Parliament of March 1330. Roger Mortimer, who had appointed himself prosecutor and announced to all the gathered lords at Parliament that he had had Kent arrested, read out Kent’s letter to Edward II, and stated:

"...that you are his [Edward III’s] deadly enemy and a traitor and also a common enemy to the realm; and that have been about many a day to make privily deliverance of Sir Edward [II], sometime King of England, your brother, who was put down out of his royalty by common assent of all the lords of England, and in impairing of our lord the king’s estate, and also of his realm."

Robert Howel, coroner of Edward III’s household, who was presiding over the trial, stated:

"The tenor of your letter is that you were on the point of rescuing that worshipful knight Sir Edward, sometime king of England, your brother, and to help him become king again, and to govern his people again as he was wont to do beforehand, thus impairing the state of our liege lord the king [Edward III]."

The charge against Kent does not say anywhere that Edward II was dead, and in fact, sounds as though Kent really was on the verge of freeing Edward. And, as I pointed out in a previous post, the parliamentary records of March 1330 are missing. Even in the Parliament of November 1330, when the charges against Kent were reversed, the charges were not read out again – which is extremely unusual. Our source for the proceedings is the Brut chronicle, which is extremely detailed and almost certainly based on a newsletter written by an eyewitness.

The sentence against Kent was as follows:

"The will of this court is that you shall lose both life and limb, and that your heirs shall be disinherited for evermore, save the grace of our lord the king."

Edward III didn't save Kent, either because Isabella and Mortimer gave him no chance to, or because he knew that his father really was alive and that his uncle’s plot was a genuine one. Assuming that Edward II was alive, the last thing Edward III would have wanted was for him to be restored to the throne, which would have resulted in his mother Isabella’s being sent to a convent and, possibly, Edward’s being accused of treason by his own father.

On 16 March, Kent’s confession was read out to Parliament, which named many of his co-conspirators – I’ll look at them in another post.

Isabella’s own role in the entrapment and execution of Kent – her brother-in-law and first cousin – is certain, whatever Allocco, author of the "Canonise Perfect Isabella Now!!" tract masquerading as a PhD thesis thinks ("I do not believe that Isabella was responsible for Kent’s disgrace and death…Isabella had no reason to kill Kent.") Isabella swore on her father’s soul that she ‘would have justice’ against Kent. But justice for what? She also told her son Edward III that "he should be avenged upon him as upon his deadly enemy."

Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, offered to walk from Winchester to London (70 miles) barefoot, with a halter around his neck, by way of atonement. But this was refused. Ian Mortimer describes him as "a sincerely contrite, terrified human being, begging for forgiveness with all his heart, not fully able to grasp that he was to be executed for trying to free his brother."

Kent was taken out to the scaffold, in his shirt, where he had to wait many hours until someone willing to lop his head off could be found. The official executioner had fled, no doubt unwilling to behead someone who a) was a king’s son and b) was the victim of what was basically judicial murder. Finally, a latrine cleaner, under sentence of death himself, agreed to wield the axe in exchange for his life.

Kent, youngest son of Edward I and nephew of Philip IV of France, son of one king, half-brother of another, uncle of a third, and grandfather of a fourth, was twenty-eight years old at the time of his death (born 5 August 1301). A writ to arrest his wife Margaret Wake and imprison her at Salisbury Castle, with her three young children and only two damsels to attend them, was issued five days before Kent’s execution. The countess gave birth to her son John on 7 April, which means she was almost nine months pregnant when she was arrested and imprisoned. A great deal more interest was shown in her jewels than in Countess Margaret’s welfare. Through her mother Joan Fiennes, she was the first cousin of Roger Mortimer, son of Margaret Fiennes.

[14 March 1330: Writ of aid for Nicholas de Langeford and John Payn, king's yeomen at arms, appointed to take the countess of Kent and her children to Salisbury Castle, and there to deliver them to the custody of the sheriff, until further orders, to deliver the jewels and other goods of the countess in Arundell Castle and elsewhere to William de Holyns, king's clerk, and Roger atte Asshe, king's yeoman, and to enquire as to jewels and other goods of the countess taken away. Mandate to the said Nicholas and John to deliver the jewels to the custody of the said William and Roger by indenture. The countess is to be accompanied on the way by only two damsels and her children.]

Kent’s lands were seized, and his adherents ordered to be tracked down and arrested. Roger Mortimer, labouring under the delusion that Kent’s lands had been forfeited to him personally and not to the Crown, granted the lands to himself, his son Geoffrey (who had mockingly called him ‘the King of Folly’ for his tyranny, greed and presumption not long before), and several of his supporters, including Lord Berkeley, John Maltravers, Simon Bereford and Oliver Ingham. [21 March, two days after Kent’s execution: Commission to John Maltravers, Oliver Ingham [four other men also named] to discover the adherents of Edmund de Wodestok, late earl of Kent…]

Kent’s ultimate heir was his daughter Joan, the ‘Fair Maid of Kent’, who was just eighteen months old at the time of his death. She married Edward III’s eldest son and became the mother of Richard II.

I’ll be looking at Kent’s plot in great detail in the next few posts, his co-conspirators – in particular the role played by Sir John Pecche – and reasons why the plot may or may not have been genuine.

19 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

I like Mortimer less and less. I won't be surprised if the only reason he started the affair with Isabella was to get rich and powerful. Probably much like Hugh Despenser. I don't think Piers was of the same stock, I think he really loved Edward, and why should he refuse the gifts the king gave him? ;)

It makes sense to display a dead king, else there would have been a lot more ursupers. And that's why it is so strange Edward's body was not displayed. If it was him, there'd have been no reason to break with the habit.

Alianore said...

Gabriele: I agree - I think Piers really loved Ed, too. :)

I'll look at this in more detail in a future post, but it seems that Ed's face and body were covered with cerecloth (waxed cloth)as part of the embalming process. Eight hundred gold leaves were bought to paint a leopard on to a cover placed over his body, after he'd been moved to Gloucester a month after death (it "lay over the corpse of the late king at Gloucester"). 40 shillings was spent on "carving a wooden image, in the likeness of the deceased king" - it's a real shame that this hasn't survived! When Ed's tomb was opened in 1855, a leaden tomb was seen - though when Ed's body was placed there isn't clear.

As you've said, Gabriele, there's a lot of very stinky fish about this story. ;)

Kate Plantaganet said...

Like magicians today, a few simple 'tricks' can make people believe they have witnessed 'something' they have not.

It seems extraordinary that so many people were fooled by the fake Edward body, but then why wouldn't they? A funeral is not the place to leap to the conclusion that the person who has died is in actual fact alive.

Great work Alianore. Can't wait to read more.

Alianore said...

Thanks, Kate! Maybe this was a case of people seeing what they expected to see...

Paul said...

It just seems so odd to me when Mortimer and other read out charges that Kent was about to free Edward when Edward was supposed to be dead and buried!! Like Gabriele says why not display the body (especially in circumstances like this). The primary reason I can think to not parade the body in public is that it wasn't him. I think when Richard II died (was killed?) his body was drawn in a procession through the streets to show the common folk that he was actually dead. After all these were both healthy men in the prime of their lives, I'm surprised more people didn't doubt he was dead and demand/try to see the body before the funeral even if just to satisfy some morbid curiosity. I'd have thought if I had been in Kent's shoes I'd have wondered what happened to my brother and tried to see him. Maybe I'm putting too much 21st century sentimentality into this?

You never know Alianore, maybe that "wooden image" has survived. It's probably in the leaden coffin in place of a real body!

Gabriele C. said...

Btw, I found a possible reason why Melton sent to London for Edward's haute couture. There were no fixed sizes like today, and especially boots and armour would have needed to be tailored to the body. A London merchant may have had access to the bootmaker and armourer who usually worked for Ed and got the measures, or maybe he trusted them enough to simply order the stuff. Melton in York would have had more problems to get boots that fitted. Can't have Ed walk around with blisters.:)

Alianore said...

Thanks, Gabriele - that's really helpful info, and explains a lot. Ed was a big man, so I dare say Melton had problems finding clothes and boots off the rack, as it were! ;)

Paul: the wording of the charge is really odd, isn't it, given the general assumption that Ed II had been dead for 2 and a half years??

Ed II's biographer Roy Martin Haines, who believes that Ed really was murdered in Sept 1327, writes "presumably during the two months' interval before the final exequies the public had every opprtunity to see the noble corpse lying in funereal state", but there's no evidence for this, and Haines' use of the word 'presumably' shows that he's only writing about what he thinks should have happened, rather than what actually did happen.

I wonder if Kent felt guilty about Ed, because he had played a role in the deposition, condemned the Despensers to death, and failed to visit Ed at Berkeley. And from Sept 1327, assuming that his brother had been murdered, and perhaps believing that he was partly responsible, might have made him unwilling to go and look at Ed's body and have to deal with what he believed he'd done. (Speculating wildly and possibly wildly inaccurately here.)

Paul said...

Don't you hate it when historians say things like "probably"? I know it can't always be avoided but it's not great to read - like reading "this should make you better" on your bottle of medicine.

Alianore said...

Yeah, it is kind of annoying, but then again, I do prefer it to when historians state their own opinions and speculations as fact!

Wish Ed II's tomb could be opened and a DNA analysis done, but I don't think that's a possibility.

Carla said...

Agreed - I'd far rather have "probably" and "presumably" than "this is what happened"! Some interpretation is necessary to try to make sense of events, and it's good to be able to see where the facts (if any) end and the interpretation takes over. For one thing, it makes historians look less contradictory, whereas if Prof A says X happened and Prof B says Y happened you don't know what to believe!
As you say, if Kent was of sound mind, he must have believed there was room for doubt that the original body had been Edward's. I think you're right that Kent may have felt guilty, especially if he also felt that Isabella and Mortimer had ruled no better and therefore that the ends hadn't even justified the means.

Kevin said...

Upon the opening of E II's tomb in 1855, a body was reported to be therein; so much for the uniformed comments that it may have contained the funerary wooden effigy...

Agreed that a DNA analysis would be the best bet to solve this puzzle. Who would seek permission for exhumation, and on who's behalf? As a direct descendant of Edward III, I'd be happy to stand in as proxy if my cousin Elizabeth II is unavailable...

As for the difficulty of obtaining a substitute body to be placed in Edward's tomb, one would need to employ a number of conspirators--including Mortimer and Isabella, who probably would not have profited from such an adventure. For this to work, one would have to successfully prove that the agents who carried out an act of concealment were silenced before Edward III took over the government: if they survived, no doubt they would have been happy to snitch on Isabella and Mortimer.

The challenge of maintaining a secret on such a scale as this is not difficult to imagine. Recall that the body was available for about a month prior to the funeral. There would be no object in his son's building of a grand monument, if Edward III was not personally convinced of the facts of his father's death.

The Fieschi letter has the earmarks of the solicitation of a preferment, and should remain suspect on that count alone. No doubt Fieschi was privy to the sad story of Edmund of Kent; elaboration on the theme of escape is a tale that is virtually unprovable, and thus safe to recount.

The secretive arrangements that were made regarding Edward's death and burial leaves open the possibility of conspiracy, but the arguments in support of this theory all have serious limitations (for example, the proven gullibility of Edmund of Woodstock goes way back: Isabella would be quite privy to her cousin's intellectual limitations--and quite happy to exploit them to obtain an entrapment).

It remains most plausible that Edward was murdered, methodology unknown (excluding the poker story, which appears to be a narrative farce). A nice little conspiracy theory, even if it is 680 years old and full of implausibilities, still sells. As Edward's descendant, it would be nice to imagine that he somehow survived an awful fate; in any case, he departs the world's stage after September 1327...

Kevin said...

I spotted a typo in my last comment: for the second reference to Edmund, I typed "Woodstock." S/B Kent.

Anyway, thank you for your interest in this most compelling English monarch. You have a wonderful command of your subject.

I descend from virtually all of the principals involved in Edward's saga: the Elder and Younger Despencers; Gaveston's widow, Margaret de Clare; Isabella's lover, Roger de Mortimer; Bartholomew de Badlesmere; Guy de Beauchamp (the "Black Dog of Arden"); Edmund de Arundel (anachronistically, Fitz Alan); Thomas de Berkeley.

Alianore said...

Thank you, Kevin! (Also for the tip on finding the Johnstone book.)

Not sure who would be able to give permission for Ed II's tomb to be opened. Supposedly, 80% or more of English people are descended from Ed III, so I think we should all get a say in the matter. ;) Great that you're descended from all these fascinating people.

Re Kent: I'm not at all convinced that he was gullible, though most historians believe he was - I think they, assuming that Ed II was dead and that Kent was gullible to believe otherwise, have examined his career in the light of this and twisted all the facts to fit. Mostly, evidence for his 'gullibility' rests on his unsuccessful Gascon campaign of 1324/25, which to my mind is explicable by the fact that he was only 23 and was outwitted by a man more than 30 years his senior (his uncle Valois). If his name had been a liability, Isabella would hardly have added his name to her proclamation of 1326, after she and Mortimer landed in England.

Fieschi's solicitation of a benefice: I agree he might have had ulterior motives, but if Ed III had been convinced his father was dead, this attempt at blackmail wouldn't have worked, as he could have just laughed it off. ("My father alive? Nice try, but pull the other one!") :-)

Ed II's body was at Berkeley for a month after death, but guarded by William Beaukaire (who had been pardoned 6 months earlier for holding out against Isa and Mort at the younger Despenser's castle of Caerphilly). Some 'abbots, knights, burgesses' of the area supposedly saw him, but none of his family did.

Lots more I could type, but it's very early in the morning and I have to leave soon to catch a plane...;) Thanks very much for the intelligent and thought-provoking comments! Hope to hear from you again!

Alianore said...

Oops, should have added that William Melton, the archbishop of York, definitely believed that Ed II was alive in Jan 1330, and he certainly wasn't gullible or stupid. (See my posts on 'William Melton's Letter')

Now I really have to go! ;)

Kevin said...

Re: William Melton's letter. He received this "news" second-hand; if he had opportunity for corroboration by a personal meeting, we are never told. In that particular letter, it's clear he hadn't met Edward II prior to penning his thought, thus his veracity as a witness must be called into question. Melton, like Kent, probably got wind of some of the stories that had been about for some time concerning Edward's survival. Ecclesiasts are not above telling or elaborating on a good tale: remember the legend of Lady Godiva. There is also some question about the authenticity of the letter, which I am not qualified to comment on. Suffice it to say, the document was found amongst papers of a much later date...

Proponents of the survival theory tend to also point to the alleged perpetrators and how so few of them suffered any consequences for the crime of murdering the deposed monarch. Mortimer, of course, was duly charged and executed by Edward III. Understandable, considering all of his high crimes against the person of the new king.

At this distance, we cannot fathom that the young king would have such a forgiving nature, but if one looks at the lessons of history concerning his own father's failed policy of trucking with favorites, it's not that difficult to see a value in the young king's efforts at restoring the balance of power peacefully. Edward III was a quick study in the art of kingcraft.

Then again, we have the matter of the little parcel sent to Isabella containing Edward's heart. That she buried it with her is certainly telling. Oh to be a fly on the wall when she had that conversation with the woman who supposedly embalmed her late husband. If Isabella had any inkling that the remains were of a proxy, I would think it unlikely that she would have permitted the little bundle anywhere near her coffin.

Others have proposed that Edward II survived until c1341, at which time his actual body was interred at Gloucester. Isabella could have received his heart at that time, so the story goes. Therein lies another difficulty: whether witnesses got a good look at the body or not (e.g., the cerecloth covering), there seems to be a good indication that there *was* a body. Did this body get the honor of being placed in Edward II's tomb, and if so, what happened to it when the supposed remains of the *real* king were deposited at Gloucester.

The facts may have been far more prosaic than revisionist history would have them. Isabella and Mortimer had plenty of reason to fear that Edward II's death would be revealed as murder--thus the secrecy in the preparation of the body and burial of the late monarch. They may not have understood that their efforts at glossing over a murder would result in a cultic worship of the dead king or the rumored stories of his survival (this is why Kent had to be silenced: not that he had any good information from the rumor mill, it's just that his squawking about the survival of the late king endangered their own tenuous grip on power). Yes, Isabella and Mortimer were caught between a rock and a hard place when it came to how to handle the press after Edward's deposition...

Kevin said...

Please pardon the confusion of Melton's letter with Fieschi's (re: my comments concerning genuiness of the letter). Pre-holiday distractions!

Here's some interesting facts re: William Melton that should throw some additional light on the motivations for his letter:

http://britannia.com/bios/abofy/wmelton.html

Seems Melton was raising some trouble for the new government of Edward III; he is "said to have been engaged in a dangerous intrigue to upset the new government. For this, he was arrested, though acquitted."

It may be instructive here to connect the dots: the archbishop's letter is in response to what he had heard regarding Kent's plot (e.g., Melton's knowledge is not coming to him first-hand). In order to personally believe the account, I doubt he needed any coaxing: Melton did not accept the new regime and refused to attend Edward III's coronation, though he had earlier married the prince to Philippa of Hainault.

Melton had an axe to grind with Isabella and Mortimer, as did all those involved in the restoration plot. The letter is simply the archbishop's willingness to act in concert with those who would restore Edward II to the throne, and contains no special knowledge regarding Edward's rumored survival.

A telling indication that Edward II was indeed dead at that time, is that he *never* reappears on the scene after 1327. If ever the time was ripe for Edward II to ride out of the shadows and reclaim his crown, it was in the early spring of 1330. With an organized and powerful resistance ready and willing to give him horses and money, the temptation for a living Edward would have been too great to resist...

Alianore said...

I know what happened to Melton. ;) He was accused of treason before King's Bench, but acquitted. 2 days after Mortimer's execution, Ed III appointed him treasurer of England, and he served the young king faithfully till his death in April 1340.

His letter is not proof that Ed II was alive, merely that Melton thought he was. But, he was organising clothes and money for Ed. This goes beyond a mere 'maybe he's alive but I'm not sure'. He was convinced. But who convinced him? If Kent was so gullible, as most historians believe, why did Melton believe him? If Kent was gullible, how had he persuaded other people, who were so convinced that they in turn convinced Melton?

There's no evidence in the letter that Melton was acting against Mort and Isa, only that he was trying to provide things for Ed II. Why would he do that, if he wasn't certain that Ed was alive? Do people normally buy clothes for men they think are dead? Is buying clothes a usual way of rebelling against someone or raising trouble against the government?

What puzzles me about Ed III's treatment of his father's alleged murderers isn't that he was lenient - which in fact I'd expect, given the situation in late 1330 - it's the inconsistencies.

I don't agree that the spring of 1330 was the time Ed II could or should be expected to regain his throne. There's no evidence that the attempt to free him from Corfe was successful, so no doubt he was still in prison and then removed to Ireland (at least according to Fieschi) still under strict guard. And also - did he really want to be king again? Depose his son? No doubt he wanted revenge against Mort and Isa, but I think the temptation never appeared because he was never actually free.

Oh and by the way, about the Fieschi letter: I'm no expert either, but the documents it was found with in the archive in Maguelonne all date from the mid 14th century - they're not much later.

There are problems with assuming that Ed II was alive after 1327, but there are fundamental problems with the traditional narrative that he was murdered, too. It's all fascinating stuff! :)

Unfortunately I'm on a PC in my local library and time is running out...aaaggghh. But let's continue this soon! It's thought-provoking and brilliant. Have a great Xmas!

Kevin said...

Melton's desire to purchase clothing for Edward is most certainly rock-solid proof of his belief in Edward's survival, though of course his thoughts are not proof of the actual facts on the ground. Why is this so? Certainly, Melton would have wanted to expedite the restoration with all haste. The requisition of supplies, as fast as possible, would be necessary to bring about the desired effect: the return of Edward. Who knows what kind of government would have been set up if this was to be the case: A co-regency? A graceful retirement? Reading that far into the possibilities of an event that never occured isn't productive of solving the main point of the argument, which is: Did Edward Survive or Did He Not?

The purchase of clothing is no more significant a proof of Edward's survival than, say, the purchase of any other type of goods and/or supplies (such as swift horses). Reading the evidences for survival (Fieschi and Melton), all we are told is that there is "certain knowledge" of Edward's living and breathing. The next, absolutely vital step in the proof process is never taken: we are not told what the nature of this "certain knowledge" is. Were his survival really so, the next natural step is a statement such as "my sources have spoken directly with Edward," or, "the late king was seen gazing out of the South window of yon dungeon by Master Bartholomew," etc., etc. There is a deafening silence here. Fitting the typical pattern of a rumor, all we get is the excitement minus the details. Arguing who was more gullible than whom in believing the survival story is a diversion that steers us away from the two main theses, which are, Edward Died vs. Edward Survived. Who was smart and who was not won't lead us to either conclusion.

As I, and many creditable historians, have suggested, the secrecy regarding the body of the deposed king was little more than an attempt to disguise the nature of his death. The methods of his bodily disposal and funerary preparation add up to a very poor plan, for these steps to a cover-up were bound to feed the rumor mill as we see with this string of essays. Under the circumstances, with Mortimer and Isabella in one heckuva tight spot, they handled the situation as best they could. The consequences (e.g., the appearance of Edward Survival Stories) of their actions may or may not have been perceived by themselves, but it was a chance they had to take...

Small inconsistences, when added together, do not logically imply and/or prove a thesis. The initial accounts closest to the events in question state that Edward was murdered without providing any details as to the method(s) involved in his demise. This early statement is as rigorous as historically possible given the state of evidence-gathering in the 14th century. All subsequent accounts either expand on the details of murder or depart from the murder claims altogether and insist Edward survived. Legends develop in this same pattern: they all begin with a kernel of truth.

"In a world where knowledge is no longer seen as objective or final, where the public have become suspicious of governments...rumours and ideas are expected to feature more significantly on the information market, as already typified by activity on the web." --Jean-Bruno Renard, Diogenes, Vol. 54, No. 1, 43-58 (2007)

Admittedly, either thesis isn't capable of *absolute* certainty--; however, the burden of proof in this case lies upon the secondary argument that Edward survived. I do think that, with what we have seen so far, the survival thesis is the weaker of the two arguments.

My personal feelings lie in the hope that Edward lived out a natural life, as I think that he was an unfortunate man who was victimized by his birth. Edward's deep exclusive loyalty to his friends, outside of the expectations of how a medieval king was supposed to behave, in our own time would likely be seen as a virtue, or at least a forgiveable trait, rather than as a fatal flaw. The deaths of Edward's elder male siblings was a cruel turn of events, for fate forced him into a role that he wasn't born to play. Were he alive today, Edward of Carnarvon wouldn't excite the press at all. He'd be just another wealthy playboy with a keen sense of Art.

Alianore said...

Thanks so much for all this, Kevin. I really appreciate the time you take to respond, and the extremely thoughtful and inteligent points you raise. Unfortunately, the public PC I'm on is costing me a fortune, is very slow, and has a queue waiting to use it, so no time to respond properly. Promise I'll write more asap, when I have my own PC! All the best to you.