07 January, 2016

The Parliament of January 1327

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful festive season.

Today, 7 January, marks the anniversary of the start of the parliament held in London in 1327 which deposed Edward II. I've never written a proper post about this parliament or about Edward's deposition/forced abdication, because to be honest the subject bores me. (There, I said it.) Edward himself was in comfortable captivity at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire at this time, in the care of his first cousin Henry of Lancaster. Edward was deposed in, or by, the January 1327 parliament, though publicly it was presented as the king carefully considering his options, then deciding to abdicate his throne to his fourteen-year-old son Edward III, which decision was subsequently accepted by his subjects. There was nothing in English law which provided any procedure for the subjects of an unsatisfactory king to rid themselves of him, but 1327 set a precedent which would followed again, most notably by the deposition of Edward II's great-grandson Richard II in 1399. Some sources claim that a delegation was sent to Kenilworth to ask Edward to attend, but he refused, which refusal was reported to parliament when the delegates returned to London on 12 January. I'm not sure whether this is true; appearing at parliament might have allowed the king to arouse sympathy and to remind his subjects of the oath of loyalty they had sworn to him. It was probably only when Edward's refusal to attend parliament – whether real or pretended – was reported to the participants that the possibility of replacing him with his son began to be seriously considered. 

All the contemporary chroniclers who wrote about the deposition record Edward II's reaction to it in much the same way: he was contrite, humble, pious and acquiescent, dressed all in black and half swooning, begging his subjects' forgiveness for his many trespasses against them. This is, of course, only the official story which was allowed to come out; Edward's real reaction cannot be known. The Westminster chronicle Flores Historiarum has the former king saying "I greatly lament that I have so utterly failed my people, but I could not be other than I am," which. whether Edward really said it or not, I can't help but find moving. The reign of his son Edward III officially began on 25 January 1327 (coincidentally, the nineteenth wedding anniversary of Edward II and Isabella of France).


Anonymous said...

Hope that you had a great holiday season ... and that you have a great year. Also, is there any evidence to support the story that Edward III refused the throne unless his father consented to it?


Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Esther! Happy New Year and all the best to you too.

That story was only recorded by Thomas Walsingham a few decades later. It might be true, but he's hardly the most reliable source for the 1320s, unfortunately. Personally, I like to think it is true!

Anerje said...

It's a shame we don't know Edward's real reaction. I can't see him swooning, but I can see him making that remark - 'I cannot be' etc.

sami parkkonen said...

Wintery greetings from Finland! Just broke -40C in the north couple days ago and down south here it is only -29C.

I wonder if Edward II personally cared much about ay parliamentary formalities at this time. I would assume that he would see all this as a farce, a mockery of everything, a play in which his role was that of a fool. And I wonder would he really have attented a parlament like this. Who knows? We have only the official version to wonder about.

Carla said...

Happy New Year, Kathryn!
I agree with you about Edward's dignified and moving remark "I greatly lament that I have so utterly failed my people, but I could not be other than I am". If it's an accurate reflection of his attitude, and if he really did escape to Italy, maybe he was heartily glad to be out of a job that he was so unsuited for.

Kathryn Warner said...

Happy New Year, Sami and Carla!