21 September, 2016

21 September 1327: The Death of Edward II?

Today is the 689th anniversary of the supposed death of Edward of Caernarfon, formerly King Edward II, at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire. Or is it? My book about his murder or survival will be published next year (around May or thereabouts, probably), in which I look at all the evidence for his death in 1327, and all the evidence that he survived past that year, in detail. I've found a couple of chronicles giving accounts of his murder, and of certain events in 1326/27, that I've never heard of before, so that's been pretty interesting. I have to admit here and now that I have no 'magic bullet' to prove that he died or that he didn't one way or another. I'm not sure that after 700 years we're ever going to know for sure, unless a new document comes to light which proves beyond doubt that Edward was in Italy in the 1330s. Oh, how I hope that one day we do find something like that! My friends at the Auramala Project are working on it. But in the meantime, I'm trying to present all the evidence for both sides as fairly and objectively as I can. I'm sure that some readers will still conclude that Edward did die at Berkeley on (or around) 21 September 1327, but as long as they're aware of all the evidence on the other side, that's fine by me. Though actually I'd prefer it if more people came to believe that he survived. :-)

9 comments:

Undine said...

The question mark surrounding Edward's death is one of my favorite historical mysteries. I look forward to reading your book on the topic!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Undine!

Anonymous said...

I am so looking forward to this book Kathryn; I know you'll have researched it thoroughly. Other chronicles you haven't come across before will be fascinating. I don't want to be a parrot but, to me, it is absolutely inconceivable that leaving out Edward's half-brother who was 'naive' apparently (I don't agree), other well-respected relatives/bishops/courtiers all fell for the misguided information they were fed. I think it highly unlikely they would have risked their own lives and confiscation of wealth and lands etc on a wild goose chase; no-one but the Earl of Kent was executed for their part in the plot to release Edward, why not? They should have been dealt with harshly surely if the certain plot was rumbled and at least exiled or fined etc. It says reams that the poor Earl spent hours at Winchester waiting for someone who would use the axe and then the only person (a dung collector?) was bribed to do the deed: nobody believed he'd done anything wrong in trying to release his alive half-brother. The so-called plotters had an awful lot to risk if mistaken and must have had proof of Edward's existence. John Pecche(?) the constable of Corfe arrived back from abroad early (I think) and had every opportunity to check if Edward resided in the castle - he must have. Lord Berkeley was clearly a wily man who was persuaded to write the letter to Edward III claiming his father had died (pressurised by Mortimer?), attended the funeral, and then 2 years later said he'd only just obtained the knowledge that Edward had died! Nonsense, Berkeley was covering his own back and knew he had vital information about Edward's whereabouts and possible departure overseas and kept his silence. I do hope other evidence comes to light about Edward's last years to support the theory that he survived Berkeley castle and wasn't murdered, he didn't deserve that even though he was a disappointing and unfit king (for his times). Just my thoughts. Amanda

Anerje said...

May is such a long time to wait! I'm excited already. I'm sure it will ignite lots of discussion - which can only be good.

sami parkkonen said...

Really fascinating subject. I am pretty convinced he did not die, simply because Thomas Berkeley said so in his trial and Edward III did not punish him at all. And because of the Kent plot. Those guys were no fools nor idiots. They knew something we don't. That is why they did what they did and paid the ultimate price for it.

Also, had he been killed I pretty sure his son would have treated his mother rather differently once he got the power from Mortimer and his gang. Had Edward III known that his father had been murdered by his mother and Mortimer I am sure she would not have lived the way she did for the rest of her life. Edward III was a guy who would not have left that slide.

And then there is the "impostor" who appeared and used name William of Wales. Who the heck was he and how come he was paid up and sent away instead of being treated like all the others who were pretending as being royals or kings? Right, maybe he was what he said he was.

John Clarke said...

Can you imagine if YOU TUBE was about in those days. The conspiracy theories would make great watching.
Ive read some of Kathryns Blog, which is great and also a fair bit about Edward from Iam Mortimer. I would like to think he managed to get away maybe to Italy. Im sure the truth will never be known. I suppose it will be a bit like the princes in the tower and Richard. All this stuff is what makes English history so addictive.
Carry on the good work Kathryn :)

Anonymous said...

Kathryn, just to quickly respond to John Clarke's comment - back in the '80s channel 4 broadcasted a series of programmes set in a courtroom with qualified lawyers and barristers conducting a trial of Richard III and the murder/disappearance of the Princes in the Tower - conclusion, Richard was acquitted of murder/manslaughter. Now, wouldn't it be very interesting and fascinating if the same was to happen with Edward II and his murder/disappearance with Mortimer and conspirators put on trial? Hmm, serious television viewing if it could be done. I have to say that I am bored to tears with the repetition of the Tudors in mini-series shown on television; I know that there is currently on ITV 'Victoria' but please, let's get a series of historical less well-known kings - my 'vote' is for the three Edwards (I, II and III) all different and all intriguing. The medieval period is neglected in television and the media in my opinion but shouldn't be. Our ancestors lived during these times and just because it is hundreds of years ago it doesn't mean that we shouldn't be able to understand their laws/customs/daily lives etc. I do hope that in the near future I will be able to look forward to watching something on the tv! Amanda

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you for the comments, everyone! :-) Wow, a trial about Edward's fate would be amazing! Let's hope TV companies start to take an interest in his story soon!

Anonymous said...

Kathryn, just one other quick comment: Edward and his era was Catholic - to kill anyone was deemed abhorrent and that person would 'burn in hell' etc I believe (except wars etc when battles and other stuff was fine), so to kill/murder an anointed king would be totally worse surely: to be a king-murderer - well, one's soul wouldn't stand a chance in the 'catholic' beliefs. So the 'murderers' of Edward would have had no conscience (unlikely?) or perhaps done the deed (and answer for their actions in 'the next life', unlikely). I don't think so. Amanda