A post about letters Edward II sent to distant places!
I've mentioned in a previous post that Edward sent a letter in October 1307 to 'Dolgietus, king of the Tartars'. Six weeks later, he sent a letter to the same man, except that now he was addressed 'emperor of the Tartars' and not named. The letters thanked 'Dolgietus' for sending letters to Edward I - who had died in July that year - and talked diplomatically of Edward's pleasure at the friendship and peace between himself and Dolgietus.
'Dolgietus' is better known as Oljeitu or Öljaitü, also called Mohammed Khadobandeh, great-great-great-grandson of Genghis Khan and the ruler of the Il-Khanate from 1304 to his death in 1316. The Il-Khanate was one of the four khanates of the Mongol Empire, and covered modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and western Pakistan. (The Mongol Empire was the second greatest empire the world has ever seen, only behind the British Empire in terms of territory, and not by much: see this map for its development.)
Early in his reign, Edward II also sent two letters to the king of Armenia, one on behalf of the bishop of Lidda and a group of English Dominicans going to Armenia to preach against Islam (!!) and the second thanking the king for his gift - sadly not specified - and promising to attend to his unspecified requests at a later date. (He didn't.) In the first letter, the king is not named, but in the second, dated 1 March 1308, he's addressed as Leo; in fact, King Leo III of Armenia had been murdered the previous August.
And on 20 May 1313, Edward II sent a letter to four eminent men:
- Oljeitu, his old correspondent, now addressed as 'emperor of the Persians' (and not named)
- David, king of Georgia (or 'king of the Georgians', Jurgiani)
- the emperor of Trebizond (not named)
- the emperor of Cathay (not named)
Edward sent the letter recommending a friar called Guillerinus de Villanova, travelling to these places to spread the word of Christ among the infidels, as Edward called them. Unfortunately, Edward's information was somewhat out of date, and Davit VIII, king of Georgia, had died two years previously and been succeeded by his young son Giorgi VI, the Little, who was appointed by Oljeitu. (Davit's father was King Demetre II, called 'the Self-Sacrificing'). The Emperor of Cathay, i.e. China, was Renzong, or Ayurbarwada Buyantu Khan, of the Yuan dynasty, who died in 1320. The Empire of Trebizond was a successor state to the Byzantine Empire, founded in 1204 on the shores of the Black Sea in modern-day Turkey. Its emperor in 1313 was Alexios II, son of John II and Eudokia Palaiologina, and nephew of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos.
Unfortunately, it's not clear if Edward's messengers reached these distant places safely, or when they returned to England, or what the reaction was to the preachy Friar Guillerinus de Villanova.
In 1313, Edward made strenuous attempts to free the English knight Sir Giles Argentein - said to be the third greatest knight in Europe, after the Holy Roman Emperor and Robert Bruce - who had been captured in Thessalonika on his way back from the Holy Land. On 12 October 1313, Edward sent letters to the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos, his son and co-emperor Michael, his second wife the Empress Eirene, born Yolande of Montferrat, and another of his sons, Theodore, marquis of Montferrat. He also sent a letter on Argentein's behalf to Federico III, king of Sicily, the son of Pedro III of Aragon. This major diplomatic effort worked, and Giles Argentein returned to England - to be killed at Bannockburn on 24 June 1314.
In August 1320, Edward wrote to the king of Cyprus, asking him to protect three Dominicans going there to preach to the Saracens. The king is not named in the letter, which says "To the magnificent lord prince..., by the grace of God illustrious king of Cyprus, Edward, etc, greetings...", as though no-one knew the king's name but left a gap in the hope that they could find someone to fill it in. In fact, he was Henry II de Lusignan.
Since 1291, several had men claimed the title of 'king of Jerusalem', one of them being Henry of Cyprus. Tactfully, however, Edward II also acknowledged the claims of a rival king and addressed him as 'king of Jerusalem' - this was Robert the Wise, king of Naples, titular king of Sicily as well as Jerusalem, duke of Calabria and count of Provence and Forcalquier, and the grandson of Beatrice of Provence, sister of Edward II's grandmother Eleanor, and thus Edward's second cousin. He was the brother of Philip, prince of Archaea and Taranto, who sent his minstrel to play for Edward in 1316. Edward sometimes asked Robert the Wise to intercede with the pope for him, for example in 1316 and 1317, when he wrote to John XXII at least ten times asking him to inaugurate William Melton as archbishop of York. Robert died in 1343.
As well as the usual suspects with whom Edward corresponded frequently - for example, the king of France, the counts of Hainault, Flanders, Bar, the duke of Brabant - he wrote occasionally to Haakon V, king of Norway, uncle of Edward's first fiancée, Margaret the Maid of Norway. On 12 June 1319, Edward addressed a letter to Haakon, asking him to ensure that the debts a Norwegian bishop owed to the merchants of Lynn (Norfolk) were paid - unaware that Haakon had died on 8 May. Edward also corresponded rather infrequently with Jaime II, king of Aragon, King Diniz of Portugal, his cousin - Diniz's mother Beatriz being the illegitimate daughter of Alfonso X of Castile, Edward's uncle - and Diniz's wife Isabel of Aragon and his successor Afonso IV. Edward also showed an excellent knowledge of intricate Castilian politics and precisely who was wielding power at any given time during the minority of Alfonso XI, though his knowledge of Aragonese affairs was not quite as impressive: in October 1325, he was forced to write to the archbishop of Zaragoza to apologise that his envoys had not presented themselves or communicated their affairs to the archbishop on their recent visit to Aragon.
And finally, Edward, a great supporter of the Dominican order, often asked Dominican chapters in other countries to pray for himself, Queen Isabella and their children - in Toulouse, Pamplona, Marseilles, Rouen, Paris, Florence, Venice and Barcelona.
- Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae et Cujuscunque Acta Publica, ed. Thomas Rymer, volume II, i, pp. 8, 17, 18, 37, 39, 216, 288, 324, 385, 400, 405, 421, 433, 466, 470.
- Calendar of Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 71, 76, 462.
- Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 187, 363, 699.
- Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 353, 516-517, 556.
- W. R. Childs, 'England in Europe in the Reign of Edward II' in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson (2006), pp. 97-118.