Rather a hotch-potch of a post today, but I was just thinking recently how even seemingly dry and dull letters and other primary sources of the fourteenth century can give us an insight into Edward II's character, attitudes and knowledge. Here are some examples...
Edward asked Robert Winchelsey, archbishop of Canterbury, to meet him at Westminster in late February 1310, to discuss a letter the Pope had recently sent him. Winchelsey duly arrived for the meeting, which Edward promptly postponed until 15 March. The day came and went, and Edward failed to summon Winchelsey to him for the meeting. Forced to hang around at Westminster waiting for Edward's summons, Winchelsey sent a messenger to the king, asking him for another appointment to discuss the letter. Edward sent his confessor John de Lenham to tell the archbishop that he needed more time to think about it. Finally, at the end of March, he sent word to Winchelsey that he would write to the Pope directly, and had no need to meet the archbishop after all. [Source: Winchelsey's Register]
Edward had kept Winchelsey hanging around fruitlessly at Westminster for an entire month. I bet the good archbishop muttered a few ungodly curses under his breath at his exasperating monarch.
In a letter to Philippe IV of France on 3 August 1309, Edward showed his intense annoyance with his father-in-law. Edward I and Edward II refused to acknowledge Robert Bruce as king of Scots (Popes Clement V and John XXII didn't either), but one of Philippe's messengers showed Edward letters in which Philippe referred to Bruce as 'king of Scots' in letters to Bruce himself, but as 'earl of Carrick' - Bruce's previous title - in letters to Edward.
Edward's letters to Philippe usually begin along the lines of "To the most excellent and most puissant prince, the noble king of France, our very dear and beloved lord and father, greetings and very dear affection". This one, about Philippe's letters to Bruce, opens abruptly with "To the king of France, greetings." (Al Roy de France, saluz). Quite a difference! Rather snippily, Edward tells his father-in-law "Regarding this matter, sire, kindly have regard for the honour of yourself and us." His letters to Philippe usually close with something like "very dear sire and father, may our lord grant you a good and long life", but this one contains no closing line at all. Edward couldn't express his displeasure with Philippe as directly as he would have liked, but all the same, his annoyance is as obvious as if he'd screamed it from the rooftops. [Source: Foedera]
For all his irritation with the French king, however, Edward himself was not averse to offering to acknowledge Bruce as king of Scots, when it served Piers Gaveston's interests. And in October 1311, Edward wrote to Philippe after Piers had been ordered into exile for the third time, asking for his support. This letter, not at all surprisingly, opens with flowery declarations of Philippe's all-round wonderfulness and Edward's great and undying affection for his beloved father. Hehehe. [Foedera]
On 11 June 1312, Edward sent Philippe a letter, declaring, amusingly, that he was "grievously annoyed by his subjects". Not, however, as annoyed as he would be a few days later, when the earls of Lancaster, Warwick, Hereford and Arundel killed Piers Gaveston. And probably not half as grievously annoyed as his subjects were with him. [Foedera]
On 16 October 1307, Edward sent a letter to the ruler of the Tartars, calling him "the most excellent prince, Dolgietus, illustrious king of the Tartars". Six weeks later, however, when he sent another letter, the ruler was upgraded to 'emperor' and not named: "To the most serene prince, the most puissant lord, emperor of the Tartars". Apparently, Edward and his advisers were uncertain of the current political situation in distant Tartary - not unreasonably. At the same time, he sent a letter to the king of Armenia, and although said king is called Edward's "dearest friend" (amico suo karissimo), he isn't named either. This is probably because King Leo and his predecessor and regent Hetoum were murdered in August 1307, and no-one at Edward's court knew who their successor was. (It was Oshin.)
(Google brings up zero results for 'Dolgietus', except this post, presumably.)
When it came to Castilian politics, however, Edward was on much firmer ground. His cousin Fernando IV died in 1312, and was succeeded by his baby son Alfonso XI. For the next few years, a variety of regents battled it out for control of the kingdom, including doña María de Molina, don Pedro, don Juan, don Felipe, don Juan Manuel, don Juan el Tuerto, and doña María Díaz de Haro. All of these people were close relatives of Edward, one way or another, and his letters to Castile show a good knowledge of their relationships, positions and titles, and who was in power at any one time.
On 6 February 1325, Edward sent a letter to doña María Díaz de Haro, Lady of Biscay, who was his second cousin and the widow of his first cousin don Juan, regarding the planned marriage of his daughter Eleanor of Woodstock to Alfonso XI. The letter states:
"The king is cognisant of her good will towards him and that she is prepared to further the king's honour, as experience of the past has shown...He [Edward] rejoices greatly at the clinging together of such progeny sprung from his and her common stock, whilst they applaud each other with mutual honours and cherish each other with mutual counsel and aid." [Close Rolls]
It's the Edward II and Lady of Biscay Mutual Appreciation Society!