10 September, 2016

Edward II And Germany

Edward II never visited Germany during his reign, and had little contact with it or with its rulers, apart from Albrecht von Habsburg, king of Germany, who attended Edward's wedding to Isabella in Boulogne in January 1308 and who was assassinated by his nephew only a few weeks later. The list of goods Edward left behind at Tynemouth in May 1312 includes "a buckle of gold with two emeralds, two rubies, two sapphires and eleven pearls, with a cameo in the middle," a present to Edward from the queen of Germany (I presume this means either Elisabeth of Görz-Tirol, wife of Albrecht, or Margaret of Brabant, wife of Heinrich VII of Luxembourg and sister of Edward's brother-in-law Duke John II of Brabant). Edward did have cousins in Germany, the descendants of his father's first cousin Margarethe von Hohenstaufen or Margaret of Sicily, only surviving child of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and his third wife Isabella of England. Isabella was the sister of Henry III. There's not much else that can be said about Edward II's connections to Germany, really.

All that changed in Edward's presumed 'afterlife', when two pieces of evidence place him, or someone claiming to be him, in Germany on two different occasions in the 1330s - i.e. years after his official death on 21 September 1327. The Fieschi Letter says that Edward escaped from Berkeley Castle in 1327 and made his way to Corfe Castle, then to Ireland, then to the continent to visit the pope in Avignon, then to Brabant, then to Cologne. In Cologne, the Letter says, Edward wished to visit the Shrine of the Three Kings: see my recent post about it here. This would probably have been in 1331, as the Letter states that Edward left Ireland nine months after the execution of his half-brother the earl of Kent on 19 March 1330, so he would have left Ireland shortly after his son Edward III's execution of Roger Mortimer on 29 November 1330. Allowing a few weeks or months for his (alleged) travels around the continent, Edward would have reached Cologne sometime in 1331, or even 1332 if he wasn't travelling fast, and there is no reason to suppose that he was, especially as the Fieschi Letter says he was dressed as a hermit. After worshipping at the shrine of the Three Kings, the Letter says that Edward "crossed over Germany" on his way to Milan, and indeed the obvious route is to follow the Rhine south through Germany.

Another piece of evidence places a man claiming to be Edward II in Cologne and Koblenz in early September 1338. This is the wardrobe account of Edward III, then in Germany meeting the emperor Ludwig of Bavaria, which has two entries relating to a William le Galeys, 'the Welshman', "who asserts that he is the king's father." William (Edward?) was picked up in Cologne and taken the sixty or so miles south to Koblenz, where his son and the emperor were staying. Hmmm, what are we to make of this? He certainly wasn't executed as a royal pretender.

So, supposedly, Edward of Caernarfon visited Germany twice in the 1330s, once in c. 1331/32 and once in 1338. The same part of Germany as well, Cologne and Koblenz (if Edward did follow the Rhine south through Germany to Milan in 1331/32, his journey would have taken him through Koblenz, which stands on the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers). I therefore decided in my forthcoming book about his murder or survival that it would be a really good idea to take a look at who was ruling western Germany at this time, and see if I could come to any conclusions about who might have known the former king of England was crossing their territories. Results in the book, published in a few months! :-)


Anonymous said...

Kathryn, all very interesting - I wouldn't know where to start to try to make sense of this subject. However, I cannot believe that Edward III had 'Edward/William the Welshman' brought to him, entertained him for several weeks (I think) and then let him go unharmed if he wasn't genuine. A pretender surely would have been dealt with harshly, examples being in the reign of Henry VII Lambert Simnel (sent to work in the kitchens but a child) and more severely Perkin Warbeck (executed). Perhaps the Fieschi family had connections in Germany that Edward II vaguely knew or the Pope advised him who to meet - no doubt you will explore these options. I am really looking forward to this book. I've finished the second one, 'Isabella', and my humble opinion is that she has been labelled unfairly as 'She-wolf of France'; again, even if she was against reconciling with Edward it would go against her royal French upbringing to allow her anointed husband's murder. Amanda

Anerje said...

It's surely too coincidental that Edward II is associated with the same German city - Cologne. If Edward III did meet his father here, it suggests that Edward II was familiar with Cologne and was comfortable meeting his son there. It would have been an extraordinary meeting between father and son - if that is indeed what took place. And if not, Edward III seemed happy to let this pretended to walk away....? unlikely.

Unknown said...

Great post! However, would a pretender who didn't challenge the current monarch's right to the throne be treated differently than a pretender that did? Both Simnel and Warbeck led rebellions against the Tudors -- and John of Powderham claimed that Edward II had no right to the throne because he was a changeling. OTOH, there are stories of a Richard of Eastwell who claimed to be Richard III's bastard son -- but worked as a bricklayer and so, survived the Tudors. Also, if William the Welshman really was Edward II, why couldn't they just say that he was the king's father? Edward III ruled by right of his father's "abdication" -- which he could ratify -- not as a result of his father's death.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting article and though I may not check this blog every day I do like to read it periodically.

I must confess I haven't got round to reading your earlier books, Katherine, though they are on my "list". My understanding is that Lambert Simnel did eventually escape the kitchens and became a falconer.

Of course as a lay person (i.e. not a trained historian) it's difficult for me to make up my mind but I would like to think that Edward II escaped rather than suffering murder in a very horrible way at Kenilworth.

Incidentally, I'm not anonymous - I'm Patricia O