17 July, 2011

Chronicles On Edward II's Accession

Here's a look at what some fourteenth-century chroniclers said about the death of Edward I and the accession of Edward II in July 1307:

- Vita Edwardi Secundi (Latin):

"On the day of the Translation of St Thomas in the thirty-fifth year of his reign [7 July 1307], died Edward the First after the Conquest, and his son Edward II began to reign, a robust young man in about his twenty-third year*.  He did not achieve the ambition that his father had set before himself, but directed his plans to other objects.  He recalled Piers Gaveston, who had recently abjured the realm at his father's command.  This Piers had been the most intimate** and highly-favoured member, as soon became abundantly clear, of the young Edward's household when the latter was Prince of Wales and the old king still alive...
If our king Edward had borne himself as well [as Richard Lionheart] at the outset of his reign, and not accepted the counsels of wicked men, not one of his predecessors would have been more notable than he.  For God had endowed him with every gift, and had made him equal to or indeed more excellent than other kings.  If anyone cared to describe those qualities which ennoble our king, he would not find his like in the land...What hopes he raised as Prince of Wales!  How they were dashed when he became King!"

* Edward was twenty-three, born 25 April 1284.
** Doesn't imply sexual intimacy.

- The Brut (Middle English; modernised spelling):

"And after this King Edward, reigned Edward his son, that was born in Caernarfon [Carnaryvan], and went into France, and espoused Isabel, the king's daughter of France...And anon [soon] as the good King Edward was dead, Sir Edward his son, king of England, sent after Piers Gauaston into Gascony*; and so much loved him that he called him his brother; and anon after gave him the lordship of Wallingford; and it was not long after that he gave him the earldom of Cornwall, against all the lords' will of the realm."

* Piers spent his first exile in 1307 in Ponthieu, Edward's inheritance from his mother Eleanor of Castile, not his native Gascony.

- The French Chronicle of London (French):

"In this year, on the Friday after the Feast of St Luke [18 October], King Edward was nobly buried at Westminster.  At this time the Templars were destroyed.  In this year, on the Sunday after the feast of St Peter's Chair [25 February 1308], the King and the Queen, Lady Isabele, were crowned; at which coronation, Sir John Bacwelle, a knight was killed by falling from a wall.  In this year there was a great malady of the eyes, whereby many persons lost their sight*.  At this time came Sir Piers de Gaverstone into England, who had been banished by King Edward the Conqueror; and was made Earl of Cornwall, to the great detriment of all the realm. In this year there was a very great frost on the Thames, so that many persons passed over on foot, upon the ice, to Suthwerk, and back again to London. In this year, judgment was given at Westminster against the franchise, as to the rights of bastardy; to the effect that if any one should die without heir and without testament made, his lands and tenements should escheat to the King."

* Wonder what that was!?

- Chronicle of Lanercost (Latin):

"...this illustrious and excellent King, my lord Edward, son of King Henry, died at Burgh-upon-Sands...in the thirty-sixth year of his reign and the sixty-seventh of his age.*  Throughout his time he had been fearless and war-like, in all things strenuous and illustrious; he left not his like among Christian princes for sagacity and courage...Messengers were sent in haste to my lord Edward Prince of Wales, his son and heir...Thus Edward the younger succeeded Edward the elder, but in the same manner as Rehoboam succeeded Solomon, which his career and fate were to prove."

* Edward I was sixty-eight when he died, born 17 June 1239, and in the thirty-fifth year of his reign, acceded 20 November 1272.

- Scalacronica (French):

"After the death of Edward the First after the Conquest, his son, Edward the Second, reigned in great tribulation and adversity.  He was not industrious, neither was he beloved by the great men of his realm; albeit he was liberal in giving, and amiable far beyond measure towards those whom he loved and exceedingly sociable with his intimates.  Also, in body he was one of the strongest men in his realm."

11 comments:

Clement of the Glen said...

What was the feast of St. Peter's Chair, Kathryn ?

This is a great example of how the modern historian is at the mercy of those early chroniclers and their idiosyncrasy. Great post!!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, Clement - and yes, you're absolutely right! :)

St Peter's Chair, 22 February, is when Christ invited Peter to sit in his place as head of the Church - when he said "You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church..."

Clement of the Glen said...

Thanks Kathryn. Must have missed that at Sunday School ;)

Anerje said...

what, no mention of a shrill, girly voice? no mention of Isabella as the most beautiful woman in the world - ever? ;> There's no doubt that Edward must have been an imposing, handsome young man - and although there is some negativity in these chronicles, all concede Edward looked the part and had the qualities to be a great king. So it must be all Piers' fault!:>

Kathryn Warner said...

Clement: :-) :-)

ROFL, Anerje! :) I think Edward II novelists have read different primary sources to the rest of us. :-)

Carla said...

Curious about the 'great malady of the eyes'. Perhaps an infectious epidemic of some sort; a really serious infection might scar the cornea sufficiently to cause loss of sight.

Gabriele C. said...

Anerje, they surely harp on Piers' return a lot. As if this was a more important incident than his marriage and coronation. ;)

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla, thanks for that! It's intriguing, isn't it?

Exactly, Gabriele...:-)

Ashmodiel said...

"In this year there was a great malady of the eyes, whereby many persons lost their sight*. At this time came Sir Piers de Gaverstone into England"
You still wonder what that was?
Piers' beauty shone too bright for their sight. :)

Kathryn Warner said...

*Big grin* Of course! Why did I never think of that before? :-)

Anerje said...

Gabriele - of course Piers was more important than Ed's marriage and coronation:>

Ashmodiel - great comment!