|Statue of Edward II which dates to his own lifetime, c. 1320, on the King's Gate of Caernarfon Castle.|
|Caernarfon Castle, with the King's Tower on the right with the flags flying from it, traditionally (though probably wrongly) said to be Edward II's birthplace.|
At the time of Edward of Caernarfon's birth, Edward I was almost forty-five, born on 17 June 1239, and had been king of England for eleven and a half years. Edward's mother Queen Eleanor, born Infanta Doña Leonor de Castilla, was forty-two, born most probably in late 1241 in the north of Spain. According to the itinerary of Edward I, the king was in Caernarfon from 1 April to 6 May 1284, then went to Harlech via 'Lammanath'. Presumably Queen Eleanor stayed in Caernarfon after her son's birth and was churched there; the king returned to the town on 25 May and stayed till 8 June. To celebrate the birth of 'Lord Edward, the king's son', Edward I paid twelve shillings to feed 100 poor people and gave out nine pounds in alms in the town of Caernarfon. The precise location of Edward of Caernarfon's birth is unknown, as the enormous castle which still stands in the town and is usually said to be his birthplace was in the extremely early stages of construction in April 1284. Most likely he was born somewhere in the town, or perhaps in one of the timber buildings which already existed at the site where the stone castle was built. If the latter, I can't imagine it was very comfortable for the queen, giving birth for at least for the fourteenth time, in her forties, in the middle of what would basically have been a large muddy building site.
Edward of Caernarfon was baptised on 1 May, though unfortunately the identities of his godparents have not survived. His first wet-nurse was Mary, Marrola or Mariota Maunsel, presumably a Welsh woman, who fell ill and was forced to leave his service in the summer of 1284, replaced by Alice Leygrave, later called "the king's mother, who suckled him in his youth." (Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-13, p. 581.) Mary Maunsel must have remained in contact with the future king, however, as Edward II never forgot her; on 14 November 1307 when he was twenty-three, four months after he became king, he gave her seventy-three acres of land rent-free in Caernarfon for life, and in March 1312 granted her an annual income of five pounds, a very generous amount for a woman of her rank and status. (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-13, pp. 21, 448.) The future Edward II lived in Caernarfon for the first few months of his life, until sent with his elder sisters to Bristol in the autumn of 1284; he did not return to the land of his birth until he was almost seventeen in April 1301, shortly after his father created him prince of Wales.
|Caernarfon Castle, with part of the town visible in the background.|
Seymour Phillips, Edward II (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010)
Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon, 1284-1307 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1946)