21 February, 2008
Appearance of Edward II
A post on what the man himself looked like! Here's what some of Edward's contemporaries said about him:
"tall and strong, a fine figure of a handsome man"
"fair of body and great of strength"
"of a well-formed and a handsome person"
"one of the strongest men of his realm"
"God had endowed him with every gift"
Even men who hated Edward found nothing to criticise in his appearance. On the outside, at least, he was every inch a king, a magnificent physical specimen.
When the future Edward III was born in 1312, the author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi expressed a wish that as the boy grew up, he would "remind us of the physical strength and comeliness of his father." And let me point out here that there is not, of course, the slightest hint that the very well-informed author thought that Edward III was not the son of Edward II (regular readers will know that's a particular bugbear of mine!)
Edward was probably as tall as his father, who was known as 'Longshanks' and stood a whopping six feet two inches (his tomb was opened in 1774 and his embalmed body measured). Edward II's grandson Edmund of Langley, duke of York (1341-1402) was five feet eleven, and his great-grandson Richard II (1367-1400) was just a shade under six feet. Pretty tall, even by today's standards.
Edward had long, fair, wavy or curly hair, which he wore parted in the middle and falling either side of his face to his jawline or shoulders - the prevailing fashion for men at the time. Later in life, he grew a moustache and beard. What colour his eyes were, or his complexion, is not known. Edward I inherited a drooping eyelid from his father Henry III (and also had a lisp!) but if Edward II inherited it too, nobody mentioned it.
There's also a contemporary representation of his face on a tomb canopy at Winchelsea church, which stupid Blogger won't let me upload. His facial features are different than on his effigy, but it's clearly intended to depict the same physical type of man, with long hair, beard, wide forehead, and long straight nose.