21 September, 2012

21 September 1327

Today is the anniversary of Edward II's supposed murder at Berkeley Castle.  Edward's biographer Seymour Phillips, and indeed most other historians of the fourteenth century, still believe that Edward did indeed die at Berkeley in September 1327, though you'd have to go a long way nowadays to find a specialist on the era who accepts the red-hot poker story. Historians who specialise in other eras but choose to write or talk on television about the fourteenth century occasionally still repeat this silly story as though it's factual, because they don't know any better and they haven't kept up with modern scholarship on the issue. Wish they wouldn't, because they give the notion a spurious plausibility. You don't see me pontificating at length on the French Revolution or the Wars of the Roses or the Tudors and repeating discredited myths about them as fact, do you?

Anyway, here are some links for further reading on the controversial issue of Edward II's death and his possible survival past 1327.  Properly-researched and sourced further reading, of course - unfortunately there's a heck of a lot of rubbish about Edward out there, both online, in published books and on television, and most especially on the subject of his presumed murder.  Also a lot of deeply unpleasant and childish sniggering about the red-hot poker, as though such vile excruciating torture supposedly inflicted on a human being is actually funny - "They put a poker up his bottom!  And he screamed really loudly!  Hur hur hur hur!".  Someone (who evidently doesn't realise that his computer has a shift key) left this barely literate comment yesterday on my Edward II Facebook page: "red hot poker lol hahaha roger u legend x".  I deleted it.  The same person also left this equally classy comment on my friend Sarah's Facebook post about Hugh Despenser the Younger's execution: "lol go on roger x", and also spammed her blog with countless stupid comments.  Sod off, nasty sadistic little boy.  (Incidentally, Sarah has written some great posts about Edward II lately: his sons John of Eltham and Adam; his daughter Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland; his queen, Isabella; and also posts about his father Edward I and grandmother Eleanor of Provence.)

- Ian Mortimer's great article about Edward's survival past 1327.  There's lots more information in his books The Greatest Traitor, The Perfect King and Medieval Intrigue.

- My post about the often-repeated story that Edward of Caernarfon was tormented and abused while in captivity at Berkeley Castle, an invention of the later chronicler Geoffrey le Baker and disproved by the Berkeley accounts of 1327, which show that he had servants and good food.

- My post about the writer John Trevisa's account of the red-hot poker story, which is often cited as definitive proof that the story is true on the grounds that Trevisa had inside knowledge, which he emphatically didn't; he only arrived at Berkeley Castle sixty-one years later in 1388 and, contrary to popular belief, never met Edward's custodian Thomas Berkeley, who died in 1361.  Amazing, the number of commentators who can't distinguish between a grandfather and grandson and can't be bothered to check incredibly basic facts such as Trevisa's approximate date and place of birth (1342, Cornwall), and parrot the line that he was a child in Berkeley in 1327.

- An account of some of the oddities and peculiarities in the traditional narrative of Edward's death and its aftermath.  If Edward really was dead in September 1327 and buried in Gloucester that December, why did so many influential people believe he was still alive years later?  Why did the archbishop of York send a letter to the mayor of London in January 1330 asking him to purchase numerous provisions for the former king and declaring that "Edward of Caernarfon is alive and in good health of body"?  See also here for more about the archbishop's letter, which is cited in full (in English translation) in Ian Mortimer's Medieval Intrigue.

- Further to the above, a detailed account of the plot of Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent to free Edward from Corfe Castle in 1330, and his execution for treason.  (Parts two, three, four, which look at some of his many supporters.)  Also, if you can access it, my article about the plot published in the English Historical Review in 2011.

- An account of the events of September to December 1327.

- A post I wrote exactly six years ago about Edward's presumed death.

 - The third part of a post, which links to the first two parts, about the men involved in the events surrounding Edward's death, or survival.

Happy reading!  ;-)

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for assembling the links in one article ... it makes it very convenient. (I've just finished Mortimer's "Greatest Traitor" and Phillips's biography. I wish Phillips had discussed some of the other evidence, such as Melton's letter; I don't think Mortimer is correct in thinking that Roger would have wanted to keep Edward alive to give him a hold over Edward III ... to chancy, IMO. Will be reading "Decoding Medieval Intrigue" next.

Esther

Esther

Kathryn Warner said...

Glad you liked the post, Esther! Great to hear about your reading. Couldn't agree more about Phillips not mentioning the Melton Letter, hmm. It's a wonderful biography apart from that. Hope you enjoy Medieval Intrigue!

Anerje said...

You'll be pleased about a book on the history of Wales that describes the red hot poker story as a myth and gives credence to the story of Edward's survival:> It would be a horrible way to kill someone - just horrible. It would also be quite difficult to carry out if you think about it. Especially if you wanted to committ a murder - so much easier to poison or smother. Why go to those elaborate lengths? . I'd say RIP Edward II for today - except I'm not convinced he did die then........But I will say THANK YOU to kathryn for changing my whole viewpoint!

Anonymous said...

Kathryn, I hope that today I will find some time to read the post and your articles via links you have included.
Sharon called it a mental telepathy and included a link to your blog in her yesterday's note as well:-) I suppose the link I posted, the one that will get the readers stright to Kent's conspiracy, is still there, in Sharon's box, awaiting moderation:-)I just wanted to explain myself because it hasn't appeared on Sharon's blog so far:-)
The Kent's Conspiracy is a food for thought indeed. There are so many 'pros' in the story. It's hard not to believe that Edward was still alive at the time.

Kasia Ogrodnik

Kathryn Warner said...

Anerje, I'm so pleased to hear about that book, and so true what you say - it's such a pointlessly sadistic way to try to kill someone that they couldn't have known would work - not to mention the silly contradiction of the belief that it was done to make it look as though Edward died a natural death, but (according to legend) the villagers heard him scream. Duuuuuhhhhh. So glad to have changed your point of view! ;-)

Kasia, I hope you enjoy the posts! Sharon was so nice about me on Facebook, in her link to my blog. ;) Thanks for letting me know about the Kent link!

Kathryn Warner said...

I hate 21 September every year because of all the sad sick weirdos who crawl out of the woodwork to gloat and snigger at the (supposed but actually not) manner of Edward's murder. Check out this typical example, from Facebook this morning:

"unless you were there in that room with the pervading odour of freshly sizzled arsehole up your nostrils............... or not as the case maybe......then Im afraid after some 700 years its open for discussion.....Poker Botty or not the debate carries on".

What an almighty idiot. There really are a lot of people who think it's funny.

Anonymous said...

By the legs of God! The quotation above is gruesome indeed. You're right Kathryn: only a total idiot could write such a thing. I'm far from being an expert when Edward is concerned, know little about the way he died, but I would never dare to write such a thing about anyone. Your commandments regarding writing historical fiction come to mind. "Freshly sizzled arshole"... that's the most disguisting thing I have ever read! I'm shocked!

Kasia Ogrodnik

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks for sharing my horror, Kasia. I find it absolutely vile, and I think a lot of people forget that we're talking about torture and a slow excruciating death inflicted on a human being (it didn't really happen, but they think it did) - so to take such relish in it and joke about it is sick. :-(

Anonymous said...

It is sick! Sometimes I'm glad that Henry the Young King is so utterly forgotten! The chronicles writing shortly after his premature death were far from being kind to him, but at least nobody joked about the way he died.
You must feel helpless on the occasions like this. After a seven-year struggle to rehabilitate Edward and change general attitude towards him, such outrageous 'surprises'. You are very brave. You remain as steadfast and loyal as William Marshal ever was (when it came to Henry the Young King:- and all the kings he served after him (even the insufferable John:-))

Kasia Ogrodnik

Kathryn Warner said...

It's really awful to see things like that - somehow I never get used to it. :/ I'm very glad no-one was horrible about Henry's death, at least, even if they weren't very kind about him. Awww, thanks so much for the William Marshal compliment - what a lovely and flattering comparison! :) :) :)

Anerje said...

I am shocked that people post that kind of stuff! I really am. Although I don't believe that Edward died that way, I still feel sick thinking about it - it's just so horrible and cruel. I'm sorry you have to put up with this.

Kathryn Warner said...

Isn't it just horrendous, Anerje? :-( Nasty little boys, if not physically then emotionally, who lack the essential human traits of empathy and compassion. I pity them and their sad little lives.

Gabriele C. said...

I don't check the net for information about Varus and Arminius after the nonsense I found about them being lovers. I don't want to know what other silliness may be around. :(

Kathryn Warner said...

That's probably very sensible, Gabriele. I'm not sure sometimes why I inflict such nonsense on myself. :/