Yesterday evening, I watched part of the fourth episode of the historical drama series The Bastard Executioner (which presumably means an executioner who is illegitimate rather than one who only executes bastards). The reason? Edward II and Piers Gaveston appeared in it. The series is about a Welsh knight who fought for Edward (or his father? Not sure) and takes place in a Welsh county called 'Ventrishire', and the episodes have titles in both English and Welsh. I haven't seen the first three episodes; frankly I'm not interested enough, but just wanted to see how it portrayed Edward and Piers. The fourth episode is called 'A Hunger/Newyn'.
Ummmm yeah. One of the main characters, who appears to be called 'Lady Love' for some weird reason, travels from Wales to Windsor Castle as she's been summoned by Edward II. She meets Piers Gaveston and is rudely kept waiting for many hours by Edward, hungry and forced to sit at a table groaning with food which she is not allowed to eat. In fact, she is only summoned to the king after she's gone to bed and is asleep, when Piers waltzes into her bedchamber and sits on her bed. Piers is young, handsome, elegant and very French (played by Tom Forbes, who also played William Stafford in Wolf Hall; see here, and here for a pic of him as Piers). So, weirdly, is Edward II (played by Jack Greenlees, very nice!), who speaks English with a strong French accent and keeps lapsing from English into French. At one point he called Lady Love une petite scarabée d'or, 'a little golden beetle', and on another occasion says something in French and looks to Piers to translate it for him. This is bizarre. Although French was almost certainly Edward's first language, he wasn't a Frenchman. On quite a few websites I've seen, viewers are - understandably - confused about this and refer to him as 'the French ruler'. I've also seen various people online claim that Edward II grew up in France, and that the makers of The Bastard Executioner therefore did good research. Nope, Edward grew up entirely in England (having left his birthplace of Wales when he was only a few months old) and set foot in France for the first time in January 1308 when he was twenty-three, when he married Isabella in Boulogne. Given that Edward was born in Wales and was the first member of the English royal family to be prince of Wales, and given that the whole show is about Wales, I'd have thought the producers could have made good use of that fact, but no. Edward is...French. Okey-dokey then. I think the programme missed a trick there.
The titles are odd: Edward II keeps being called 'His Majesty', a later invention, and 'Lady Love' addresses Piers Gaveston as 'Sir Gaveston', even though she knows he's the earl of Cornwall. 'Sir' should be used with a man's first name, not his last name. Lady Love is called 'the baroness'. The makers of the programme seem to confuse Edward II with his father and call him 'Edward Longshanks II'. Lady Love addresses her female attendant as 'Maiden', and I seem to recall hearing another character addressed as 'Chamberlain', presumably because that's what he is.
The best you can say really is that Piers and Edward are both young and good-looking, though Edward tends perhaps to a certain femininity. He's also immature and faintly useless; when he meets Lady Love, he's far more interested in continuing to take part in archery (at night) than in sorting anything out for her, and hands the whole matter over to Piers. I suppose the whole thing could have been much worse. (It could also have been a lot better, but still.) At least Edward isn't snivelling and throwing tantrums and generally behaving like a teenage girl in a strop, the way he's so often depicted. Instead he's doing something active and sporty, which I rather liked. He's tall, handsome and has long fair hair, which is accurate, and the Twitter account of the programme acknowledges his great strength. He's useless but not malicious, and friendly, apart from rudely keeping Lady Love waiting for him all day. It looks as though Piers Gaveston appears again in episodes five and nine, so I might have to watch those soon. It'll be something of an ordeal for me though, I'm afraid. I skipped through episode four searching for the Piers/Edward scenes, but still saw the grotesque torture of a man having his eye put out with a knife and both his arms cut off, which made me shudder with horror and disgust. Absolutely, definitely not my kind of programme. Anyway, I suppose at least the programme is increasing Edward II's name recognition among an audience who've probably barely heard of him before. So yay for that.