...that Edward II taught England to play! 7 July 1307 was the day that Edward I died and Edward II acceded as King of England. Even I - arguably the biggest Edward II fan* who has ever walked the planet - have to admit that his accession was hardly a cause for celebration...;)
[*apart from Piers Gaveston, of course, and probably Susan Higginbotham.]
On 7 July 1307, King Edward I was at Burgh-by-Sands, near Carlisle and the Scottish border, riding north to attempt to deal further with Robert Bruce, the crowned King of Scotland since the previous year. The old King was sixty-eight years old - born 17 June 1239 - and had reigned for almost thirty-five years. Around 3pm in the afternoon, his attendants raised him from his bed to eat, and he died in their arms.
The new King, twenty-three-year-old Edward II, heard the news on 11 July. He was in or close to London, meaning that it took the royal messengers four days to travel about 315 miles. Royal messengers had relays of horses, and could travel faster than anyone else in the kingdom. Edward set off for the north, and reached Carlisle on 18 July, travelling via Lambeth, Edgware, Dunstable, Northampton, Leicester, Rufford (between Ormskirk and Preston in Lancashire), Pontefract, Leeming (near Thirsk and Northallerton) and Brough (south of Penrith).
[Off-topic here, but tracing medieval journeys can be fascinating. This particular trip seems very zig-zaggy, presumably to take advantage of waterways for transportation and suitable places to stay overnight - though a lot of the places where Edward II stayed during his reign are tiny even today. I'd never even heard of Rufford and Leeming before.]
On the day Edward reached Carlisle, he received a message from Piers Gaveston's servant Alan of Cornwall, presumably announcing the imminent return of Piers from the continent. He was proclaimed King Edward II at Carlisle Castle on 20 July. However, written confirmation of Edward I's death didn't reach London until 25 July, two weeks after Edward heard the news, and the Chancellor Ralph Baldock was still using Edward I's seal on documents until the end of July.
[EDIT: Thanks to Gabriele for writing a post on Carlisle Castle, with a photo.]
Although it can't be proved, it's almost certain that one of Edward's first acts as King - possibly the very first - was to recall Piers Gaveston from his curious exile. Edward I had ordered Piers out of the country on 26 February, but evidently wasn't angry with him personally, as he didn't have to leave England until 30 April, was given a generous income of 100 marks a year, and was told to wait for his recall. It's likely that Edward I was alarmed at Piers' influence on his son, and as he obviously couldn't send his heir out of the country, he sent Piers instead. Piers spent his exile in the county of Ponthieu - Edward's inheritance from his mother - cutting a dashing figure on the jousting circuit (Edward had given him two splendiferous pearl-strewn tourneying outfits and five horses).
Piers was back in London within two weeks of Edward I's death, and set off for Scotland to meet Edward II; the two men were reunited in early August, in what was surely an emotional occasion. At Dumfries on 6 August, Piers was created Earl of Cornwall. Although the other English earls later complained vociferously about Piers' elevation, it's notable that seven of them fixed their seals to the charter of enfeoffment.
Edward II soon abandoned the Scottish campaign, and returned to the south of England in early September. Robert Bruce claimed that he feared the dead king more than the living one, a reasonable enough statement!
Meanwhile, Edward I's body was slowly brought south, and lay in state at Waltham Abbey in Essex from 14 August to 24 October. It was then taken to Westminster Abbey, where the funeral took place on Friday 27 October, with the Bishop of Durham, Anthony Bek, presiding. Edward's tomb was opened in 1774; he'd been embalmed, wrapped in cerecloth (waxed linen cloth), dressed in robes of red and gold with a gilt crown and holding a sceptre, and placed inside a coffin of Purbeck marble. The tomb opening proved that his nickname of 'Longshanks' was justified: he measured six feet two inches.
Edward (according to a much later chronicler) had ordered his son to boil down his corpse until only the bones remained, then carry the bones at the head of a great army, not to be buried until the Holy Land was conquered. Edward II, rather sensibly, ignored these instructions, being, as usual, far more concerned with Piers Gaveston. Edward's itinerary shows that he left Westminster on 29 October, and travelled via St Albans to Berkhamsted Castle, which now belonged to Piers. On 1 November 1307, a mere five days after his father's funeral, Edward took part in the great ceremony that marked Piers' wedding to Edward's thirteen-year-old niece Margaret de Clare. (My post on Margaret contains more information on the wedding.) It hardly seems that Edward was grief-stricken at the loss of his father, which is perhaps understandable, as their relationship had been a very difficult one.
Edward II and Piers Gaveston spent most of the rest of the year together; they were at Edward's favourite manor of (King's) Langley for most of November and the first part of December, and spent Christmas together at Wye in Kent, a manor of the Abbot of Battle. They were accompanied, among others, by Edward's cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and Roger Mortimer - both men, of course, later counted among Edward's deadliest enemies.
Piers, always a keen jouster, held a great tournament for around two hundred knights at Wallingford Castle - another of his new possessions - on 2 December. Oddly, Edward II's itinerary shows him to have been at Langley then - at least, his Wardrobe and Privy Seal were there. Langley is about forty-five miles from Wallingford, more than a day's ride away, and the well-informed author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi doesn't say that Edward was there. It's probable that the new King was distracted by the ongoing Knights Templar situation; on 1 December, after heavy Papal pressure, he ordered the arrest of all the Templars in England. On 4 December, however, he wote to the Kings of Castile, Aragón, Portugal and Sicily, and Pope Clement V himself, expressing his doubts about the Templars' guilt. [Edward II and the Templars will get a dedicated post, sometime.]
At Wallingford, Piers' team of young, athletic knights carried the day against the earls who participated, namely Arundel, Surrey and Hereford. These men are often portrayed as the 'older' team at the tournament, but in fact Arundel and Surrey were younger than Piers (twenty-two and twenty-one respectively) and Hereford was only thirty-one. Piers' defeat of these men was said to be an important factor in their growing hatred of him.
I don't know where Margaret de Clare was while her new husband was with Edward II, but I strongly suspect that she was still too young to be living with Piers as his full wife. Although she's usually depicted as 'tragically married' to Piers, there's no reason to assume this. She was probably having a whale of a time living it up as the chatelaine of Piers' many castles, waiting until she was physically mature enough for her marriage to be consummated (she's not known to have been pregnant until the spring of 1311). At only thirteen - or possibly just turned fourteen - she was married to a man who stood high in favour with the King and who was one of the richest and most influential men in the country besides. She was also Countess of Cornwall and one of the first ladies of England. Probably she was present at Wallingford to see her handsome and athletic husband send some of the greatest men in England tumbling from their horses.
Edward and Piers spent most of January 1308 in Kent, and on 22 January - apparently leaving several days late - Edward sailed to France from Dover, paid homage to Philip IV for Gascony and Ponthieu on the 24th, and married Isabella at Boulogne on the 25th. Piers Gaveston was left as Keeper of the Realm, custos regni, a very controversial appointment which caused widespread astonishment and anger. As the Vita Edwardi Secundi says, "An astonishing thing, that he who had lately been an exile and outcast from England should now be made ruler and guardian of the realm."
Edward's extreme dependence on and favouritism towards Piers started to cause enormous discontent, and while at Boulogne, many earls and barons set their seals to the Boulogne Agreement, which differentiated between their loyalty to the Crown, and to the King as a man. Edward II had been wildly popular at the start of his reign, with a huge amount of goodwill towards him, yet within a few months, had alienated most of his influential supporters and, by the spring of 1308, was facing war. He started his reign as he continued it and as he ended it, putting his favourites above everything, allowing his personal feelings to dictate his policy. Edward II was completely unable, or unwilling, to separate his personal self from his kingship. He spent much of his reign lurching from one crisis to another, crises usually of his own making.
But I love him anyway. :-) Happy 700th Kingly Anniversary to Edward II!