07 January, 2008

Seven Random Facts About Edward II

Another history meme that's doing the rounds, via Carla Nayland and Gabriele Campbell: here are seven random, weird or obscure facts about Edward II. Sticking to seven was really difficult, and I have cheated a bit by sometimes including several related facts within the same heading...

- Despite owning the vast Palace of Westminster, the Tower of London, and several other royal palaces within a few miles of London, Edward II built himself a hut - yes, a hut - in the precincts of Westminster palace. He lived there sometimes, called it Burgundy (Bourgogne) and referred to himself as the 'king of Burgundy'. Now that's eccentric.

- Edward's barge-master was called Absalom. Edward travelled up and down the Thames in his barge, buying cabbages from peasants along the route, for making soup.

- In 1310, on his way to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edward gave a pound to a 'woman he drank with'. That's a lot of money, a few months' wages for most people in the country then. Sadly, there are no details on who the woman was, or where they drank together, or why! (I have a vivid mental image of Edward sprawled in a seat in some seedy tavern, banging his tankard on the table and slurring 'I really love Piers, y'know. I mean, I really, really love him." But that's just me.)

Edward II frequently consumed too much alcohol, and was criticised for spilling state secrets to all and sundry when he was in his cups.

- Edward enjoyed the company of lowborn people, a fact incomprehensible to most of his contemporaries and often sneered at. For example, in 1325 he dined privately with two carpenters, and ten sailors on another occasion. In the autumn of 1315, spent the best part of a month at Fen Ditton near Cambridge 'with a large crowd of country people', swimming and boating. In 1322, men called Wat Cowherd, Robin Dyer and Robin and Simon Hod spent two weeks with him. (Although Edward's native language was French, this does imply that he was fluent in English, as cowherds, dyers and carpenters would not have spoken French, the language of the elite.)

- Although Edward had a taste for 'peasant' activities such as digging, building and thatching, spent time with the lowborn, lived in a hut and ate soup, he also revelled in costly and magnificent clothes, jewels, food and wine. On a month-long trip to France with Queen Isabella in 1313, he spent close to a thousand pounds on clothes and jewels. His bill for buying presents for his French hosts came to over three thousand pounds, and he spent a mind-boggling £4468, nineteen shillings and four pence just on wine. To put these sums into perspective, bear in mind that most people in England at the time earned somewhere in the region of two to five pounds a year.

- In 1304, twenty-year-old Edward bought the stud farm of the recently deceased earl of Surrey, which was located in Ditchling, Sussex. During his reign, he often sent men to Spain to buy horses for him. When one of his prized stallions bit a stable boy, Edward gave the enormous sum of fifty pounds to Peter, the surgeon who treated him (and I hope some compensation to the boy too!)

- Before his accession, his father Edward I gave food to many hundreds of paupers on Edward's birthday, 25 April, St Mark's Day; for example, on Edward's thirteenth birthday in 1297, 700 were fed in honour of St Mark and 1400 "for Lord Edward, the king's son, who is entering the fourteenth year of his life on this day". On his sixteenth birthday in 1300, 500 people were fed plus 1700 for the year of Edward's life.

For more random facts on Edward II, see my post from a year ago, and see here for more on his character and hobbies.


Gabriele C. said...

He reminds me of my grandfather in some points. The love for wine and partying with people not of his class - probably without ever really forgetting who he was, the strained marriage, the fine taste in clothes ...

Grandfather Heinrich (the other one was an Otto, btw. *grin*) died too early, unfortunately, since I was the only one in the family who accepted him the way he was, but I was too young to be of real help to him facing his disapproving wife and daughters. ;)

Kate Plantagenet said...

Edward sure knew how to party! Either it was a very very big gathering of people, or he only had the best wines! I am sure he did. Perhaps he gave wine out to his peasant friends?

Fun post.

Alianore said...

Now there are names you don't hear nowadays, Gabriele. ;)

Kate: I imagine Edward was trying to impress his French hosts and let them know that the king of England was just as rich and lavish as the king of France. ;)

Carla said...

I'm getting a picture a little like the popular image of Marie Antoinette playing at shepherdesses at Trianon. A longing for a simple rustic life on a millionaire's income :-) Is that a fair image, do you think?

Gabriele C. said...

The name changes in the last 50 years or so are amazing. Heinrich and Otto were popular names since the 10th century, but they more or less died out after WW2. Other 'old' names from that generation in my family tree are Karl, Hans, Eberhard, Volker; and Anneliese, Martha, Lotte, Margarete (Grete) for the girls.

Alianore said...

Carla: hehe, yes, I like that. ;) My grandmother used to say 'champagne tastes on an orange juice budget', but for Ed, it was the other way round. :-)

Gabriele: funny, one of my gr-grandmothers was called Martha, which really seems to be becoming popular again these days. My grandparents were Albert, Douglas, Doris and Gwendoline, all horribly old-fashioned these days (except maybe Douglas) - but probably they'll also come back into fashion in a couple of decades!

I do know a couple of German guys called Volker, in their thirties - and several years ago I taught a lady called Waltraud, who seemed far too young to have that name!

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, there are some switchbacks. We had a Rautgundis in my class, and that name was last used among the Visigoths. :)

Carla said...

"We had a Rautgundis in my class, and that name was last used among the Visigoths. :)"
Poor kid. Did she get horribly teased?