As is widely known, Edward II's parents were Edward I, born 1239, King of England 1272 to 1307, and Eleanor, the Infanta Leonor de Castilla, probably born in 1241, died 1290. Eleanor was the twelfth of her father's fifteen children, and succeeded her mother as Countess of Ponthieu and Montreuil, though she never used the title in England.
Edward's grandparents were:
Henry III, King of England, born 1207, reigned 1216 to 1272. Crowned at the age of nine, Henry reigned for fifty-six years, one of the longest reigns in British history. In many ways, his reign foreshadows that of Edward II; Henry advanced his 'favourites' (actually his half-siblings and his wife's relatives) and was involved in long-running conflicts with his barons, led by his brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. Henry was even imprisoned for a time, though he never suffered his grandson's fate of deposition. On the plus side, Henry is remembered for his ambitious re-building programme at Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, etc, and was a devoted husband and father.
Eleanor (or Eleonore or Alianore, etc) of Provence, Queen of England, c. 1223 to 1291. Married to Henry III in January 1236, when he was twenty-eight and she was probably twelve or thirteen. Eleanor was the second of four sisters, who all became queens. They were: Marguerite, who married Louis IX of France; Sancha, married to Henry III's brother Richard of Cornwall, who became King of the Romans in 1257; and Beatrice, the wife of Louis IX's brother Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily. She and Henry had two sons and three daughters; Eleanor outlived all three daughters. She retired to Amesbury Priory in 1285.
Fernando III, King of Castile and Leon, 'the Saint', 1199/1201 to 1252. He fought against the Moors as part of the Spanish Reconquista, capturing Cordoba, Jaen and Seville. He was first married to Elisabeth of Swabia, who was known as Beatriz in Spain; she bore him ten children, including his heir Alfonso X, 'the Wise'.
Jeanne de Dammartin, Queen of Castile and Countess of Ponthieu in her own right, 1216/20 to 1279. She was betrothed to Henry III of England, but Blanche of Castile, mother of Louis IX and Regent of France, opposed the match, and it never took place. Instead, Blanche proposed a match with her widowed nephew Fernando III for the heiress, and they married in 1237. Jeanne returned to Ponthieu after she was widowed in 1252, and lived till 1279.
Edward II's great-grandparents were:
John, King of England, born 1166
Isabelle, Queen of England and Countess of Angoulême in her own right, born c. 1187/88
Ramon-Berenger IV, Count of Provence, born c. 1195/98
Beatrice, Countess of Provence, daughter of Count Thomas I of Savoy, born c. 1198/1205
Simon de Dammartin, Count of Aumale, born c. 1180
Marie, Countess of Ponthieu in her own right, born 1199
Berenguela the Great, Queen of Castile in her own right, born 1180
Alfonso IX, King of Leon, born 1171
Only one of the eight (King John) was born in England; of his sixteen great-great-grandparents, not a single one was born in England. They included: King Henry II of England (who was born in Le Mans); Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine, queen of France then queen of England; Alix (or Alais or Alys or Adele, etc), daughter of Louis VII, who was betrothed to Richard I of England and repudiated by him as she was allegedly his father Henry II's mistress; King Fernando II of Leon; King Alfonso VIII of Castile; and Eleanor, queen of Castile, daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (she was born in Normandy, not England).
Edward II himself was born in Caernarfon, Wales, though he lived practically his whole life in England. However, his ancestry was only minimally English!
And Edward's great grandaunt Mathilda, daughter of Henry II and Alinenor of Aquitaine, was married to Henry 'the Lion' Duke of Saxony, and their son became Emperor Otto IV. Makes me wonder why the German connections weren't reinforced by marriages in the younger generations.
Henry (Heinrich) spent the years of his exile (1182-85 and again 1189) at the English court. It's some time past, but I wonder if he was still known from stories.
Yep, I admit, I've some interest in Heinrich, though I never so far made the connection that his children were related to Edward II by blood. :)
Did Edward II speak English, by the way? The letters you've quoted from his reign seem to be mostly in French. I remember the tale of Edward I promising the Welsh princes a Prince of Wales who had been born in Wales and did not speak a word of English (referring to the baby Edward II who naturally didn't speak a word of anything), though I don't know if it's documented or apocryphal.
Interesting that German connections don't seem to have been as much a focus as French and Spanish, as Gabriele comments. My guess is that might reflect the Plantagenet and Aquitaine interests in west and SW France, which meant allies in that area were more useful than allies in N France/Low Countries/Germany, but that's only a guess. Is it plausible?
Gabriele - why was Henry exiled, and was it before or after his marriage to Mathilda, out of interest?
Carla: I would guess that Edward II spoke English, as he was (excessively!) friendly with peasants, who wouldn't have spoken French. However, there's no real direct evidence that he could speak it, and French was his native language. The majority of letters and documents from his reign are in French, with some in Latin - none are in English. That came much later in the 14th century. How much English the nobility of this period could speak and understand - if they spoke it at all - is still a matter of conjecture, because they never used it as a written language.
Unfortunately, the story about Edward being presented to the Welsh princes is apocryphal - when he was born in 1284, his elder brother Alfonso was still alive and heir to the throne, and Edward wasn't made Prince of Wales till 1301.
That's an interesting question about German relatives. The only connection I can think of is that Richard of Cornwall, Edward's great-uncle (Henry III's brother) was made King of the Romans in 1257, and his son was known as 'Henry of Almayne'. Not the same thing, really! Several of Edward's sisters and two of his children made marriage alliances in the Low Countries/Northern France (Brabant/Hainault/Holland/Gelderland, and of course Edward himself was count of Ponthieu) but not Germany.
Edward III later visited Germany, I know - I remember reading about him being in Cologne and Koblenz in about 1338 - but I can't remember why he was there!
both the families of Frederick Barbarossa (Staufen) and Heinrich (Welfen) could claim the Imperial crown. Heinrich stepped back in favour of Frederick and got the duchy of Bavaria as recompensation. That one added to his own vast possessions in northern Germany and the lands of the Wendes and Abodrites he conquered, made him the most powerful magnate in Germany. In the beginning, his relationship with Frederick went well, Heinrich fought at the Emperor's side in Italy and probably saved his life during the insurrections in Rome that followed the coronation. But in the long run, Heinrich wasn't willing to spend all the time in Italy and leave his own lands unprotected (there was an Abodrite revolt, and the Margrave of Brandeburg looked at Heinrich's seat Braunschweig with a very longing eye :) ). Next followed a quarrel about the silver mines in the Harz which Heinrich claimed, and it went downhill from there.
To make a long story short, Heinrich managed to make so many enemies who ganged up on him and finally managed to draw Frederick to their side. Under pretext that Heinrich had broken his oath of fealty (the whole thing is such a mess) the princes of the realm and Frederick had him exiled and his lands forfeit.
Heinrich could eventually return, an old man, and got his family lands around Braunschweig back, but never the duchy of Bavaria, or the mines in the Harz.
Oh, and Heinrich was married to Mathilde during his exile.
Argh, those 'I should write about that' posts accumulate.
if you're gonna count ancestry, i don't think any english royal till queen elizabeth can be called very english. actually just like in those days monarchs were mostly french in blood, nowadays they are mostly german. but i don't think it's the ancestry that counts, rather than the country you feel most close to.
as a weird note, edward's great-grandfather, the infamous king john, was the first in his family to be buried in england. not sure he was the one in his family that the english would have picked as most english though :p
Gabriele: you definitely need to write a blog post about Heinrich and Barbarossa sometime - it's fascinating! I had no idea that Heinrich had spent time at the English court. I seem to remember reading that his and Matilda's son Otto fought on the side of his uncle King John at the battle of Bouvines in 1214.
Ilya: so true, it's amazing how little English ancestry the kings of England had in the Middle Ages. Most of them married French women - even Edward III's wife Philippa of Hainault had a French mother (Jeanne de Valois, sister of Philip VI). And no, I wouldn't think of John as the most 'English' member of his family - though I suppose he spent most of his life in England, unlike his brother Richard I who was hardly ever there.
I agree with ilya too! Even John, Edward II's closest 'English' ancestor was only born in England because Eleanor of Aquitaine hot-footed in back there to confront her husband about his affair with Rosamund Cliffors! John wasn't really English, in the modern sense of the word - French parents, and probably exlusively French speaking. Interestingly though (as pointed out by Alianore) he spent far more time in England than his brothers, and was more interested in England than he was in his French lands.
While Elizabeth I boasted about being 'mere English' (and a few generations later, Queen Anne would tell her parliament she 'knew her heart to be entirely English) I think Mary I can be considered an English queen. Yes, she was half Spanish, but she was raised entirely in England and it was her first language - surely that's what counts, as ilya says.
On a different note, I've always found Henry III an interesting (though obviously unsuccessful) king. Hard to believe he reigned for 56 years! By the time he died, his subjects probably couldn't recall anyone else.
Argh, it should read 'Rosamund Clifford' in my last post, sorry.
That'll teach you to post comments without previewing them, Liam...;) I didn't know the Clifford affair was the reason for John's being born in England! AFAIK, Richard I was born in Oxford in 1157, but grew up in Aquitaine, the lands he'd inherit from his mother. Henry the Young King grew up in England. But it's funny that that's the only reason for Edward II having one English-born great-grandparent!
Agree that Henry III is interesting, Liam - though my interest mainly lies in the Baronial Wars of the 1260s. I love the idea that the events cast long shadows over Edward, Roger Mortimer, Hugh Despenser, etc - the grandsons of (some of) the men involved.
If I remember correctly, there's a line in Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time where a character comments favorably on Richard III's solidly English ancestry--though I can't remember if it occurs to the character that Edward IV had the same ancestry!
Haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I got a review copy yesterday of Nancy Goldstone's Four Queens, about Eleanor of Castile and her sisters. Looks very interesting so far.
"Argh, those 'I should write about that' posts accumulate."
Sorry, Gabriele - but at least you'll never run out of material! Thanks for coming back to answer.
Alianore - sorry for going off-topic.
no problem. It would be easier if I didn't aim for a MA thesis with that sort of history posts, though. ;)
Alianore - what a pity the story is apocryphal! It seems just the sort of devious thing Edward I might have done.
Exactly - just the kind of sneaky, underhand thing I'm sure he'd have done if only he'd thought of it. ;)
Great blog! I have a question. What do you thinbk of Alison Weir book on Queen Isabella, Edward's wife?
Thanks, Anon! Sorry for the delay in writing, but I've been on holiday! I think Weir's book is very well-researched and thorough, but also very biased and overly indulgent towards Isabella, and Weir carefully picks and chooses the sources that best reflect the image she's putting forward of her subject, ignoring sources that are negative about the queen.
Wow--all posts are fascinating, but how in the world does one keep it all straight? My head is spinning...but still, it's sooo very interesting. I can see I need to branch out from my Sharon Kaye Penman fixation & explore the many other authors writing of that splendid era.
Thanks, William! The complex inter-marriage of royals and nobles at least isn't as bad as it became in later centuries. ;) Hope you enjoy branching out into this era, though please do bear in mind that a lot of what appears about Edward II in print is inaccurate and biased.
It is very imprtant to remember that English is a developed language. Various parts of england had different languages, not just dialects, and it wasn't until Chaucer that we started to blend into a formed language, the educated literate people used french or latin, not necessarily locally where they would have a working knowledge of the local patois. Also when peole speak of France and Germany France was a small state centred round Paris It didnt consist of the France of modern times these were different states Provence Aquitaine etc owing feilty to the king of France this included the king of the English. The feudal system depended on the power of the church, the church used latin. There were differnt languages in France too. Normany Brittany had celtic roots, langedoc would have been different. On the subject of Royal Blood Lines The Tudors were Welsh, the Stuarts Scots the Hanoverians Guelfs and SaxeCoburg were German bases states. The present queen is German /Scottish Charles has an added german The first monarch with english blood may be William. I refer to Norman Davies "The Isles" and reccomend
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