- Susan Higginbotham's The Traitor's Wife (2005), a novel about Edward II's niece Eleanor de Clare. A brilliantly-researched, thorough and dramatic account of Edward's reign seen from the perspective of the woman who arguably was closest to him, by a writer who knows Edward's era inside out.
- Brenda Honeyman's The King's Minions (1974) and its sequel The Queen and Mortimer (also 1974). My reviews are here and here. Fantastic pair of novels about Edward and Isabella, full of insight and compassion, packing a lot of story, superb characterisation and good humour into a few pages. The first one especially is just gorgeous, the most beautiful, erotic and sympathetic telling of Edward II and Piers Gaveston's love story it's ever been my pleasure to read. Sadly, both novels are long out of print and extremely difficult to find these days. I live in hope that they'll be reissued some day soon.
- Ivan Fowler's Towards Auramala, a very recent novel, which explores Edward II's survival past 1327 and his secret afterlife in Italy. Ivan also runs a website on the same theme, well worth a read. I was thrilled to see my beloved Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster make an appearance in the novel, and he's written very well and convincingly; the scene where he pauses before diving into a lake to save a drowning man so that the ladies present can look at and admire his excellent figure - that's so Henry! - literally made me cry with laughter. Edward III's good friend William Montacute, earl of Salisbury, also appears as a character, which pleased me a lot. I'm not really taken with Ivan's depiction of Edward II, who too often comes across as so naive and innocent he's implausibly simple, but his memories of his beloved Piers Gaveston, dead for so long, and his relationships with the people he meets in Italy are beautifully done and moving. Overall the novel is a terrific exploration of what might have happened to Edward after 1327, and is based on very solid research.
- Margaret Campbell Barnes' Isabel the Fair (1957). Pretty good account of Isabella's life; both she and Edward are fairly sympathetic characters, and the historical accuracy is good for a novel written more than half a century ago.
- Chris Hunt's Gaveston (1992). My review is here. Sexually explicit, and despite the excessively purple prose, a very well-written account of Edward II's life narrated by the king in the first person. I got exasperated by the slow-moving middle section, and finished the novel frankly exasperated with Edward himself for being so selfish, but still, it's a detailed and accurate telling of Edward's life, or rather, his love life.
- The She-Wolf by Pamela Bennetts (1975); see my review here. The action in this one takes place between 1325 and 1330, and features a highly unlikeable, even deranged, Isabella and a rather more sympathetic, albeit totally incompetent, Edward.
- The Lion of Mortimer by Juliet Dymoke (1979), which I reviewed here. Confusing title as the main characters are Edward II's friend William Montacute and his son of the same name, but overall a short and competent account of Edward's reign and its aftermath, and well worth a read if you're interested in the era.
- Harlot Queen by Hilda Lewis (1970). Awful title and my copy has an awful cover (you can see it here), and melodramatically over-written, but despite myself I rather like this one, even though Edward II runs away at Bannockburn (nooooo, he didn't!), which makes Isabella despise him as a coward and his stepmother Marguerite of France, annoyingly called 'Madam Queen Margaret' throughout, declare "If the dead know aught he [Edward I] is shamed this day!" I like it basically because of the ending; it's one of the very few Edward II novels which follow the notion that he didn't die at Berkeley Castle, which makes a pleasant and refreshing change from endless fictional accounts of a red-hot poker. Without wanting to give too much of the story away to anyone who might want to read the novel - it was reissued a few years ago and is also easily available on Kindle - the last scene really moved me and felt emotionally satisfying and like real closure, and I'd love to think something similar actually happened.
- Alice by Sandra Wilson (1976), a romance where the (fictional) heroine Alice de Longmore falls in love with Piers Gaveston. Well, who wouldn't, say I. My hero Stephen Dunheved also features as a character, so that's two reasons to love it. A downside is the description of Edward II as having a "strange womanish air" despite also being "a giant, strong and muscular," though overall he's pretty likeable. A very nice story; I really enjoyed this one.
- The Lord of Misrule (1972) and its sequel King's Wake (1977) by Eve Trevaskis; the first one opens in 1300 and features Piers Gaveston as a major character, and the second begins shortly before Edward II's forced abdication, at Christmas 1326. I'm afraid I can't say much about either novel at the moment as it's a few years since I read them and I really can't remember much about what happens in them. Sarah Johnson at Reading the Past wrote a review of Lord of Misrule back in 2006.
- A Brittle Glory by Jean Evans (1977). I can't remember this one much either, except that it's narrated in the first person by Edward II's Fool Robert Withstaff - who was a real person - and that I enjoyed it.
- The Follies of the King by Jean Plaidy (1980). A typical Plaidy, competently told story, well-researched, characterisation minimal, and the usual red-hot poker.
- Cashelmara by Susan Howatch (1974), Edward II's story transplanted to nineteenth-century Ireland, with Piers Gaveston renamed Derry Stranahan and Roger Mortimer Maxwell Drummond; and Gaveston by Stephanie Merritt (2002), narrated in the present day by Gaby Harvey (i.e. Margaret de Clare), who falls in love with the glamorous academic Professor Piers Gaveston and later discovers his real relationship with her uncle Edward. I really enjoyed both 'updates' of the story.
- David Pownall's The Ruling Passion (2008), which I reviewed here, achieves something I always thought was impossible and makes the story of Edward II and Piers Gaveston really, really boring, so boring, in fact, that after I'd read a few chapters staring at a bare wall began to seem preferable to reading any more. It has Edward and Isabella having to consummate their marriage while being spied on by a heavily-breathing dwarf, and in another scene has Edward being 'noisily buggered' by Piers Gaveston, which is possibly even less sexy than it sounds. The main character is not in fact Edward or Piers, but the invented and also deeply boring William Wild, the Irishman. It's very, very talky, and despite the title, has no passion whatsoever. Actually, on the passionometer, it'd clock in at about minus 286.
- Paul Doherty's Death of a King (1982), the novel which - grrrrrrr - invented the theory that Edward II was not the father of Edward III, and made Roger Mortimer his real father, which of course is entirely impossible, despite being enthusiastically taken up as a theory by various other novelists. The novel is wildly historically inaccurate, as all of Doherty's Edward II/Isabella novels and even his non-fictional book about them are, but has more credibility than it deserves, given that Doherty has a doctorate from Oxford about Isabella. It's an interesting read, as a clerk of Edward III sets out to discover the truth about Edward II's fate in 1327 and ends up putting himself in danger as he gets too close to finding out what really happened, but the characterisation lets it down: both Isabella and particularly her son Edward III are weirdly portrayed as evil, raving psychopaths prepared to kill just about anyone.
- Paul Doherty's Mathilde of Westminster novels; my review of the third and so far final one is here. (Did you know that Isabella of France was really, really, amazingly beautiful and sexy and desirable? You certainly will when you've read these novels.) As crime novels the series works, more or less, but as always Doherty abandons any pretence to historical accuracy, though his author's notes claim otherwise. There's also his Prince of Darkness, one of his Hugh Corbett series, set in 1301 and featuring Piers Gaveston and a very precocious Edward of Caernarfon, who despite being only seventeen had discarded a mistress two years previously and is now desperate for her to die, for reasons that are never made clear.
- The Vows of the Peacock by Alice Walworth Graham (1955), reviewed here. Narrated by the earl of Warwick's daughter Elisabeth Beauchamp, mysteriously much older than she was in real life. Very slow, not too bad a read and by all means give it a try if you come across a copy, but don't go out of your way to find it.
- Janet Kilbourne's 1975 Where Nobles Tread, featuring the fictional characters Eleanor 'Nell' Stanton and William Darcy and the real-life Edward II, Isabella, Piers Gaveston and so on. Nell becomes Piers' mistress, though Piers shares Edward II's bed with as much enthusiasm as he does Nell's. Edward is much given to "drunken, rutting orgies" and Isabella calls him a 'pig' to his face, though she's hardly any better herself, taking lovers with wild abandon. No-one seems to notice or care. Isabella tries to seduce Our Hero William, who of course turns her down because he has far too much integrity to take advantage of the seductive little minx. The novel is splendidly awful, full of stuff like "The Gascon eyes of Piers Gaveston blazed in a drunken wrath as he swayed slightly. 'Nell,' he gritted, 'are you coming?'...". In fact, Piers 'grits' with alarming frequency. It can't be healthy. The author has a strange allergy to the word 'said', so that the characters grit, pout, croak, hiss, huff, bawl suddenly, retort bitterly, and ooze words, but rarely 'say' anything. (To be fair, the author was only seventeen when she wrote it.)
No, thank you
- N. Gemini Sasson's Isabeau and its sequel The King Must Die, self-published in 2010 and 2012. Isabeau is a very modern novel which follows all the usual tedious and inaccurate Victim!Isabella tropes that we see so often nowadays, and of course we have Shrieking Gay Edward II and One-Dimensionally Nasty Hugh Despenser. Edward, who was described by fourteenth-century chroniclers as "one of the strongest men of his realm" and "fair of body and great of strength" here is "frail and defenceless"; the king who fought on the front line at Bannockburn and had his horse killed underneath him is said to have fled from the battle "because the sight of blood made him queasy" and to have been too "cowardly" to hit Isabella (errrrr, what?). As with numerous other novels about Edward II and Isabella (Felber, Campbell Barnes and so on), Isabeau opens with a scene where Edward is not particularly interested in twelve-year-old Isabella at their wedding in January 1308, and evidently the reader is supposed to feel great sympathy for her and baffled annoyance with Edward for failing to acknowledge her amazing beauty and appeal, rather than thinking 'But surely it's normal and indeed preferable for a man in his twenties not to be sexually attracted to a pre-pubescent he's only just met and is having to marry for political reasons?'. There are some scenes I found really unpleasant, such as the one where Isabella's young children are literally torn from her arms on Edward's orders - this never happened - and one near the beginning where Edward "snivels," which is entirely typical of the way he's depicted throughout. Of course he does. He's a lover of men. Unpleasant stereotypes and clichés of how gay men are supposed to behave and feel such as this are what lazy writers use in place of actual characterisation. Does the very manly and hetero Roger Mortimer "snivel" in the novel? I think you know the answer to that one.
- Edith Felber's Queen of Shadows: A Novel of Isabella, Wife of Edward II (2006), which would be more accurately titled A novel of an invented Welshwoman called Gwenith who tediously spends half the novel mooning around trying to kill Edward II because his father hurt her family, which is really bizarre if you think about it. See my review and comments here, here and here. Shadows is full of awful inaccuracies and is another novel, grrrrrr, which has Edward II not being the real father of Edward III, who appears - though it's never made clear - to have been fathered instead by an unidentified Scotsman when Edward II 'abandoned' Isabella in Scotland (as for when and how that is meant to have happened, your guess is as good as mine). I did rather like the character of Edward in this one, however; Felber does have talent as a writer and, unlike Sasson and others, doesn't go down the lazy and offensive route of using Edward's sexuality and caricatures of gay men as a cheap and easy way of creating reader sympathy for Isabella.
- Brandy Purdy's self-published The Confession of Piers Gaveston (2007). My review is here. It has a few really good reviews online, but I found it laughably awful, with the characterisation of Edward II evidently taken straight out of The Big Book Of Horrible Gay Caricatures and Piers Gaveston written as a low-born prostitute. A prostitute. Piers Gaveston, a prostitute. Words fail me.
- Maurice Druon's 1959 The She-Wolf of France, La Louve de France in the French original; part of his Les Rois Maudits/The Accursed Kings series. I utterly loathed it, with its dreadful characterisation and silly, entirely implausible dialogue (see here). Druon's series has tons of fans, however, some of whom have commented or emailed me to complain about my review. Haha, tough!
- Bannok Burn, part of the series about Robert Bruce by Charles Randolph Bruce and Carolyn Hale Bruce. I read as much of it as I could stand, which wasn't much, because the dialogue is the worst I've ever read, Isabella of France inexplicably can't speak even the most basic French correctly ('mon dames'??) and Roger Mortimer is Edward III's real father. Too, too dreadful to contemplate. Here's an all too typical example of the awful writing:
"Better that, than hiein' south as you did when you heard Black Douglas was lurkin' in Douglasdale," gainsaid Percy. "Did ye fear his father's ghost was guidin' the young whoreson's hands for your throat?"
"Cease this bickerin'!" shouted the king, standing and throwing his hands in the air.
There are plenty of other novels which feature Edward II as a background or minor character, or which are set in his reign, such as David Pilling's Folville's Law; Steven McKay's Wolf's Head; Michael Jecks' long historical crime fiction series; Elizabeth Ashworth's An Honourable Estate, to name but a few. Also a few romance novels: Virginia Henley's Infamous and Notorious, which should however be given the widest berth possible unless you enjoy seeing gay men constantly derided and disdained as perverted and disgusting; Mary Reed McCall's excellent and highly recommended Templar series; books by Melissa Mayhue, Annelise Kamada, Madeline Hunter, Isolde Martyn, and the very enjoyable The Lion and the Leopard by Mary Ellen Johnson, featuring an invented character who is Edward II's illegitimate half-brother.
And finally, other novels which feature Edward II as a character, which I haven't found time to read properly yet:
- The Queen's Tale by D.L. Birmingham
- Alesia de Lacy by J.G. Ruddock
- Woman into Wolf by Terry Tucker
- Letter from Poitou by Michael J. Eardley
- A Secret Chronicle by Jane Lane (whose main character is Edward II's daughter Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland).