05 December, 2013

Anniversary and Wrongness

Have just realised that I missed the eighth anniversary of the blog two days ago!  Yes, I began the Edward II blog on 3 December 2005, and this is the 505th post.

Anniversaries in Edward II Land this week:

- 1 December 1319: According to the Sempringham annalist, "there was a general earthquake in England, with great sound and much noise." On the same day, Edward granted powers to four men to make a truce with Robert Bruce.  Robert confirmed it on the 22nd.

- 1 December 1325: Edward wrote to Isabella, then in Paris refusing to return to him until Hugh Despenser was removed from his side. This is the last (known) letter he ever sent to his wife.

- 2 December 1307: Piers Gaveston held a famous jousting tournament at his castle of Wallingford.

- 4 December 1307: Edward II wrote to the kings of Sicily, Castile, Portugal and Aragon, telling them that he believed the charges of his soon-to-be father-in-law Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V against the Knights Templar were nothing more than "the slanders of ill-natured men, who are animated…with a spirit of cupidity and envy," asking them to remember the Templars' devotion, honesty and long service to the Christian faith, and saying that belief in the accusations was "hardly to be entertained."

- 6 December 1318: the leading members of Edward II's household - Bartholomew Badlesmere, steward; Hugh Despenser the Younger, chamberlain; Roger Northburgh, treasurer; Gilbert Wigton, controller of the Wardrobe - created a Household Ordinance, the second oldest extant in England.

- 8 December 1321: Edward issued a safe-conduct for Hugh Despenser the Younger to return to England, "in pursuance of his petition that the judgement of exile and disherison lately passed upon him by certain magnates contains errors and should be annulled."

- 10 December 1307: Edward wrote to Clement V with reference to the Templars, saying that he had heard "a rumour of infamy, a rumour indeed full of bitterness, terrible to think of, horrible to hear, and detestable in wickedness" and declaring that "we are unable to believe in suspicious stories of this kind until we know with greater certainty about these things."
Now I'm going to respond to some hideously wrong things I've seen posted about Edward II and Isabella online in the last few weeks:

We are told that Isabella "was a slender, pale-skinned blonde with sparkling blue eyes and a full mouth."  No source records Isabella’s appearance, other than that she was very beautiful.  This account, presented as fact, is pure fiction.  We have no idea whether her hair was blonde or black or chestnut brown or auburn, whether she was slender or plump, short or tall, pale-skinned or darker, whether she had blue or green or hazel or brown eyes.

"Like the female progeny of all the Royal Households of Europe, Isabella was a pawn in the Affairs of State and whilst still an infant she was betrothed to the future King Edward II of England. The sexual proclivities of the older Edward were already being questioned and it was early suggested that the marriage would be neither happy nor fruitful."

I am so, soooooo bored with this endless, stupid 'pawn' business to describe royal and noble women in the Middle Ages.  Edward II had no choice about marrying Isabella either, and was first betrothed in the interests of his father's foreign policy when he was only five, but no-one calls him a 'pawn', do they?  No-one calls their son Edward III a 'pawn' because Isabella used him to make an alliance with Hainault in the summer of 1326.  No-one suggested beforehand that Edward and Isabella’s marriage would not be happy or fruitful, and although her uncles who attended her and Edward's coronation were supposedly angry at the king's preferential treatment of Piers Gaveston there, any comments that Edward and Isabella's marriage was therefore doomed (doomed, I tell you, dooooooomed!) were written with hindsight many years later.  They had four children together.  How was their marriage not fruitful? As I've suggested before (and here), their relationship was for many years far more successful than is commonly supposed.  And finally, I wonder who exactly was already 'questioning' Edward of Caernarfon's 'sexual proclivities' as early as 1299 when he was only fifteen, and where were they doing this?

"Isabella arrived in England in 1307, aged 15 and it was rumoured that the elderly Edward I himself deprived Isabella of her virginity because he doubted his homosexual son’s ability to do so."  

AAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!  Isabella and Edward I never met.  She arrived in England after her marriage on 7 February 1308 when she was twelve, seven months after the death of Edward I.  I repeat: Isabella of France and Edward I never met.  Where the hell does this nonsense about a lecherous Edward I in his late sixties sleeping with his daughter-in-law come from?  I've seen it before and it baffles me.  I presume it's based on his character as invented in Braveheart.

"...Edward adored the gowns just not on her. Her jewellery he gave away to his favourite Piers Gaveston who proceeded to wear as much of it as possible whenever he was in her presence. She was humbled and humiliated time and time again particularly as her husband took a string of low-born male lovers. She hated the way he openly flaunted his homosexuality, the hugging and kissing in public displays of affection, the dancing with young men or balancing them on his knee at banquets."

 The tedious old 'Edward gave Isabella's jewels to Piers’ story AGAIN.  He didn't.  Piers deliberately wore the jewels in front of the queen?  Fiction.  Edward dancing with young men and balancing them on his knee?  Fiction.  He 'adored the gowns'?  Oh really?  Stereotype of gay men, and fiction.  A 'string of low-born male lovers'?  Fiction.  If that means Piers Gaveston, Roger Damory, Hugh Audley and Hugh Despenser, none of them were 'low-born'.  Piers' father was one of the leading barons of Béarn; Hugh Audley was closely related to the Mortimers; Roger Damory came from a long line of Oxfordshire knights; Hugh Despenser was nephew and grandson of earls of Warwick.  

"Throughout this period of instability [around Piers Gaveston's death], Isabella, who had herself taken the ambitious Sir Roger Mortimer as a lover, conspired with her husband’s enemies."

Much, much, much too early for Isabella to take Roger Mortimer 'as a lover', which didn't happen until late 1325 or early 1326, certainly not 1312 when Roger wasn't in England anyway.  And there is precisely no evidence that Isabella was opposed to Piers Gaveston or welcomed his death or had anything to do with it or that she 'conspired' with Edward's enemies.  Fiction, fiction, fiction.  People confuse Isabella's actions against the Despensers in the 1320s and project them back to fifteen years earlier, and assume that because she hated Hugh Despenser, she must also have hated Piers Gaveston and wanted rid of him.  But Piers and Hugh were very different men and to hate one was not automatically to hate the other.

"Safe in the Royal Court of her brother and with her son the heir to the throne in her possession she now openly declared her liaison with Sir Roger Mortimer, condemned her husband’s homosexuality, and declared her intention to invade England with an army raised in France."

So how did she do that then?  State in public 'I condemn my husband's homosexuality'?  I don't think so.  Interesting how very much a lot of people in modern times care so darn much about Edward II's sexuality, or what they think his sexuality was.  And notice how Isabella's teenage son the future Edward III is said to have been 'in her possession', as though he wasn't a human being at all but an object.  Odd, to moan about Isabella being a 'pawn' in affairs of state yet applaud her for arranging her thirteen-year-old son's marriage and keeping him little more than a prisoner to further her own ambitions.  This is something Isabella's fans do over and over again.

"On 3 April, 1327, Edward was removed in secret from Kenilworth to the more remote Berkeley Castle near Gloucester. A few months later Isabella was heard to remark “Edwardum occidere nolite timere bonum est” (Do not be afraid to kill Edward, it is good). According to Sir Thomas More what happened next was unequivocal in its brutality:

“On the night of 11 October while lying on his bed (the King) was suddenly seized and while a great mattress held him down and suffocated him, a plumbers iron, heated intensely hot, was introduced through a tube into his private parts so it burned the inner parts of his intestines.”

A hot rod pushed up his rectum was a truly horrible and painful way for Edward to die, but the insertion of a tube ensuring there would be no marks guaranteed that for Isabella and Mortimer it was a clean death. It was a death that had been designed specifically for him by a vengeful Queen, a punishment she felt befitted his crime."

Because when you're talking about something that happened in 1327, you really want to take Thomas More of all people as a source, especially when he gets the date so wrong (11 October instead of 21 September).  The Latin letter with the misplaced punctuation supposedly ordering Edward's death was discredited many decades ago.  The idea that Edward's murder by red-hot poker was ordered by the queen in 'revenge' for his 'crime' (of fancying men more than he fancied her, presumably - the horror!) is of course pure invention.  I often see stuff like this about Isabella and Edward posted online as though it's factual, when it's almost entirely taken directly from the pages of historical fiction.  I'm getting pretty sick of people thinking about how they might have felt in Isabella's situation and assuming she must have felt the same way, and presenting such speculation as 'fact'.

And of course it just wouldn't be the internet if we didn't see the 2329546th variation of the feeble old joke about gay kings really being 'queens': "A gay royal would give a great deal of humor to "God save the queen.""  Ba-doom-tish!  Give that person an originality prize!


Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Happy Anniversary to you and Edward, dear Kathryn!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you, dear Kasia! x

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

I'm sure that Edward I-Isabella nonsense is yet one more misconception we "owe" to Braveheart :-(

P.S. The quotes about "red hot poker" are simply gruesome.

Sami Parkkonen said...

Well, lets see what we REALLY know about Edward's alledged gown dancing ways...

The guy was know commonly as one of the strongest in the realm. Yes, that means physically which at that time meant he was really tuff physically and pretty strong indeed. If you doubt it try to wear an full medieval armour for six hours while wrestling and kick boxing with a rugby team, which is far less what he did at Bannockburn.

He was known as an exceptional good hunter and did hunt on horseback as well as alone, meaning he did not just stand on dais waiting others to bring the game front of him to be shot with a bow. Please, feel free to do that for a whole day or two or three in a row and remember to bring back at least one deer.

He was known to go out fishing with fishermen by himself. You are welcome to try it even today in a small trolar in the North Sea. I bet the fishermen were not fancy pants nor would have felt comfortable around feeble weakling Edward, which they did. They even shared their catch with him.

He was know for his habbbit of digging trenches and such. All those who feel this made him weak and useless cry baby can go out, pick up any shovel and start digging. I recommend a ditch twenty feet long, two feet wide and deep. Go ahead and try it. Does not feel like a hobby for a powder faced court puppy, does it?

He was also know for doing thatching, that is work as a thatcher. Anyone who thinks this made him a particulary snobbish and quivering fashionista can go out and do any roofing for a day or two at any building site even today.

As for his sexuality, he propably loved Pier Gaveston. Did they have platonic love or physical, no one knows. He most likely did not have any romantic intimate love for Hugh Despenser. But we do know he had a child out of wedlock as a young man. We also know he had four children with his wife, whom he loved very much. That makes him a bi-sexual at most. Not a prancing misogynist gay.

As for Isabellas hate for him, we have letters from her to him even after his captivity where she adresses him with exceptionally tender and intimate terms. She does not just simply adress him as a king or husband but uses many variations of loving terms. Now, if she hated him from the moment she arrived to England, she was either the most assuring liar of history or pretty confused.

Or perhaps these latent gay gay-bashers of our times are seeing something in themselves and reflect it on Edward for some reason.

Gabriele C. said...

Happy Bloggiversary.

Those time benders should write science fiction novels, not hist fic. Edward I must have found a wormhole or something to get Isa pregnant. ;-)

And the verification is 'fact moved Fr'(ance?). :-D

Bryan Dunleavy said...

A bit of naming and shaming wouldn't so go amiss. If people are recycling these fanciful tales under the cloak of history, they should be exposed.

Anerje said...

Congrats on the blog anniversary! Would love to have seen a magnificent Piers at his tournament! (Using the description of him as looking like the God Mars at the coronation as my source;) )

Can't help laughing at the idea of Edward balancing young men on his knee! Ludicrous! As for admiring her gowns - yes I can just imagine that, as he rowed down the Thames and dug ditches! As for Edward 1st and Isabella - the dreaded Braveheart strikes again! Argh!

Anonymous said...

I agree that some "naming and shaming" are warranted, so we know who is posting some of this nonsense. IIRC, didn't Isabella back her husband to the hilt when his favorite was Piers, not Hugh?


Jayne Smith said...

Shame to see you are still haven't to dispell these "facts" Kathryn . Happy 8 years anniversary of your blog. I really enjoy this blog

Sonetka said...

Happy anniversary! That's a depressing roundup of writing, though I agree that it's better not to name the writers, unless they're massively influential like Alison Weir. They may learn better in time, but embarrassing them directly probably wouldn't help them to do so.

The one about Edward I and Isabelle is really odd -- it's been a long time since I saw Braveheart but I don't remember anything even close to that. It did remind me of the rumours about Henry II and his son Richard's fiancee, the Countess of the Vexin, which was 150 years earlier and I have no idea as to whether any of that story was true. I wonder if someone got their vaguely scandalous royal families confused?

Kathryn Warner said...

I was going to post a link here, but now can't find the original blog post. Maybe it's been removed. If not, will check again and link!

Thanks for the support, all! :-)

Jayne, I *have* dispelled these myths, over and over again. I can't control what other people post on the internet, unfortunately. The correct info is here for anyone who wants to look.

Rachel said...

Jayne, did you mean "still having to dispell these myths"?

If so, sadly I can believe that it's still necessary for Kathryn to do so. It's because people - authors, screenwriters, bloggers who churn out articles that seem to be based on the odd biography and Wikipedia - keep perpetuating them. There's one blogger and self-described historian who runs a couple of different sites, and even managed to get a gig writing for no less than Medievalists (!), who writes terribly sloppy, error ridden pieces with minimal evidence of primary research. Then other people share their blog posts all over Facebook and Twitter, accepting them at face value, and the myths keep spreading like viruses. Another blog that publishes posts by hist-fic authors recently pubilshed an anthology of selected pieces for purchase. It's subtitled "True Tales." A friend of mine who's focusing on 13th century England in her history studies found an utterly false statement at the start of one of these supposedly "true tales", then was attacked online for daring to say that she'd decided to pass on the book because of it.

I don't blame people such as Kathryn, who have higher degrees in history, who do put a lot of effort into researching (including translating primary sources that aren't in English) and constructing careful, evidence-based hypotheses, for getting frustrated. I'm not an historian and I find it maddening.

Happy anniversary Kathryn. The upside is that you have converted many people to Edward's story, and shown us the man behind the myths. xx

Andrew Kopkin said...

Happy Blog Anniversary Kathryn!

We had an email exchange a few months ago after I wrote telling you how very much I value and enjoy your blog.

It is one of the most common-sensical, witty, erudite, entertaining and informative historical blogs in cyberspace.

I particularly love the forthright no-nonsense way in which you utterly demolish the absurd, arrogant, one-dimensional, anachronistic, hypothetical, stereotypical rubbish - which is even posited and published by supposedly eminent historians - who ought to know better!

I look forward to many great posts by you in the future and hope that maybe, one day, you will write a full biography of Edward, this much-maligned monarch. I'd be one of the first to buy it!

All the very best and thank you.

MRats said...

Oh, SNAP!!!

Give them HELL, Kathryn! Where do you find these "intellectuals"? I guess the stench of "Brave-Fart" will ever assail our nostrils. If I want to learn about Edward from the Internet, I read only the posts written by you and Anerje.

I was surprised to see that Sami shares my beliefs regarding Edward and Piers vs. Edward and Hugh. Now I don't feel so alone. Thank you, Sami! No longer am I an outcast. (Though I already knew that I was forgiven for it, thanks to Kathryn's kind words on the subject.)

Edward deserves more recognition for his efforts on the part of the Knights Templars. He apparently devoted his time and attention to it for several weeks. And even when the Pope urged his compliance with Philip's scheme, Edward wouldn't allow the inquisitors to inflict bodily harm. But Edward's detractors only condemn him for backing down--as though he could risk defying Pope Clement--and for taking the loot. But why not confiscate the wealth? Since the Templars took vows of poverty, they shouldn't have cared, and the royal treasury was empty, after all.

It's obvious that Edward's concern for the Knights might have kept him from attending Wallingford Tournament :-( even if his itinerary didn't rule it out or, to my mind, the fear that his presence might cause a distraction. I understand why you told me that two years ago, Kathryn. Have you ever considered writing a post on Wallingford Tournament? There are accusations that Piers cheated, which I'm sure are false. (Or, if he brought in extra men it was most likely due to the fact that as "the challenger" he needed reinforcements to meet the many "challenged".) I would love to read your account.

Happy anniversary!!! (But if it's your special day, why do we get all the gifts?"

Kathryn Warner said...

Andrew and MRats, many thanks for the fantastic comments! I'm so happy to have your support. And I owe both of you emails, which I hope to write before we're too much older...;-)