25 November, 2008

My Favourite Edward II Quotes

A collection of quotes about or by or otherwise related to Edward II and his era, from fourteenth-century letters and chronicles, or in secondary sources, that I like!

1) "Edward II sat down to the game of kingship with a remarkably poor hand, and he played it very badly." [Noel Denholm-Young, from the introduction to his translation of the Vita Edwardi Secundi, 1957, p. ix]

2) "He set off with all speed, he and his silly company of swimmers, to the parliament which he had ridiculously caused to be summoned to Lincoln." [Flores Historiarum, vol. iii, ed. H. R. Luard, 1890, p. 173]

The contemporary Westminster chronicler gets in a dig at Edward for his autumn 1315 swimming and rowing holiday in the Fens - and is so busy sneering at the king that he gets the dates wrong: the Lincoln parliament began in late January 1316, but Edward had left the Fens in mid-October 1315, and spent most of the intervening period at Clipstone in Nottinghamshire with Isabella.

And a king summoning parliament? Yeah, that's ridiculous.

3) "...which answer the king deems altogether insufficient and derisory." [CCR 1318-1323, p. 408, dated 28 November 1321]

Edward II responds to his former favourite Roger Damory, who was busy making excuses as to why he couldn't hand over Glamorgan into the king's hands after the August 1321 exile of Hugh Despenser, lord of Glamorgan. I'm longing to use this phrase in conversation.

Waiter: Are you enjoying your meal, madam?
Me: No. I deem it altogether insufficient and derisory.

4) 20 November 1313: "Notification for the security of Mariota de Karliolo, and to relieve her from sinister suspicion touching the loss of her ear, that she whilst in the army of king Edward I in Scotland, passing between the carts of that army, stumbled and fell, and that a carter accidentally cut off her right ear with his cart which he was leading. By testimony of Hugh le Despenser." [CPR 1313-1317, p. 40]

5) 30 March 1324: "Notification, lest sinister suspicion should arise hereafter, that the defect which William Sampson suffers in his right ear arose from the stroke of a tun of wine as he was walking amongst the tuns on board a ship to see that no harm came to them, as the king is informed on sufficient evidence." [CPR 1321-1324, p. 403]

What was it with people getting their ears attacked by inanimate objects?

6) "The earl of Hereford is even more dejected and thoughtful than usual." Hugh Despenser the younger describes Edward II's brother-in-law in a letter to the sheriff of Glamorgan, 21 March 1321. [English Historical Review, 1897, p. 761]

7) "Meanwhile it was publicly rumoured in England that the queen of England was coming to England."

The Lanercost chronicler, describing the events of 1326, attempts the world record for how many times he can write 'England' in a short sentence. [ The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell, facsimile edition, 2001, p. 250]

8) "...threatening some of the king's subjects with loss of life and limb, asserting that he would slay and dismember them wherever he should find them, either in the presence or absence of the king." [CCR 1318-1323, pp. 285-6; CPR 1317-1321, p. 596]

The thuggish Robert Lewer, constable of Odiham Castle and a member of Edward II's household, threatens the men Edward has sent to arrest him, late 1320.

9) "Seldom did a son contrast so strangely with his father as did Edward of Carnarvon with Edward the Hammer of the Scots. The mighty warrior and statesman begot a shiftless, thriftless craven." [Charles William Chadwick Oman, A History of England, 1895, p. 171]

I'm thinking of changing the name of the blog from 'Edward II' (dull!) to 'Edward II, the shiftless, thriftless craven'. Try saying that fast.

10) Victorian writer Emily Sarah Holt moralises Victorianly about Alice de Lacy (died 1348), countess of Lincoln and wife of Thomas, earl of Lancaster: "I doubt there can be found, through the whole of the fourteenth century, another woman so literally steeped in vice and crime as this young and beautiful heiress." We learn that not only did poor Alice poison her second husband Eubolo Lestrange, she attempted to poison her first husband Lancaster and left him for the "lame and hump-backed" Richard St Martin, whereupon Lancaster remonstrated with his "wicked Countess." "With her reply I will not disgrace these pages; suffice it to say, that she boldly defended her shameless proceedings, in such a style as to proclaim her utterly lost to all sense of womanly honour." [Emily Sarah Holt, Memoirs of Royal Ladies, vol. 1, 1861, pp. 45-62]

I wonder how you can be 'literally' steeped in vice and crime?

11) "Oh! The insane stupidity of the king of the English, condemned by God and men, who should not love his infamy and illicit bed, full of sin, and should never have removed from his side his noble consort and her gentle wifely embraces, in contempt of her noble birth." [Flores, p. 224]

The Westminster chronicler, who by no stretch of the imagination could be considered Edward II's greatest fan, puts the boot in again.

12) "In his insane fury he hated all the magnates with such wicked hatred that he plotted to overthrow, once and for all and without distinction, the great men of the realm together with the whole English aristocracy." [Yup, Flores again, p. 200]

Edward II was planning a cull of the entire English nobility and knightly class in 1322. Who knew?

13) "The king rejoices greatly that providence has illuminated abundantly the boldness of Alfonsus's youth by gifts of virtues and natural and gracious good things, as widely diffused fame has made known and is as now spread to the ends of the world." [CCR 1323-1327, p. 344]

Edward II waxes lyrical about the wonderfulness of his thirteen-year-old cousin Alfonso XI of Castile, early 1325.

14) "We have nothing but good news in front of us." Letter of Edward II to William Aune, 4 May 1321, the very day thousands of men began attacking the Welsh lands of his favourite Hugh Despenser. Oops. [J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II, 1970, p. 266, my translation]

15) "From his youth he devoted himself in private to the art of rowing and driving carts, of digging ditches and thatching houses, as was commonly said, and also with his companions at night to various works of ingenuity and skill, and to other pointless trivial occupations unsuitable for the son of a king." [Lanercost, p. 222]

Wonder what the night-time occupations of ingenuity and skill were?

16) "May help come from you, our lord, if it please you, for in you, Sire, is all our hope and trust." [G. W. S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, second edition, 1976, p.249]

The earl of Ross, whose lands were being invaded and attacked by Robert Bruce, appeals to Edward II in the spring of 1308. Oh dear, placing all your hope and trust in Edward regarding military matters was a really bad idea. (Ross submitted to Bruce shortly afterwards.)

17) "It was decided that the said Piers [Gaveston] should leave the realm [in 1308], and he left it, and that he did not return by common consent, but only by the consent of some, who consented to this on condition that after his return he should be of good behaviour, and now it is found of a certainty that he has behaved badly." [Vita, p. 20, quoting the twentieth Ordinance]

The lamest part of the Ordainers' justification for exiling Piers again, autumn 1311.


Susan Higginbotham said...

These are great! I love that last one especially. You could title this blog "Men Behaving Badly."

Susan Higginbotham said...

Or, to be more precise, "Medieval Men Behaving Badly."

Carla said...

Wasn't chopping off an ear a punishment for some crimes? I can't remember the details - theft, maybe? So if you lost an ear in an accident people would (wrongly) assume you were a convicted thief, unless you could prove otherwise. Could that account for the obsession with ears?

Hannah Kilpatrick said...

It was! So seeing someone without an ear would raise eyebrows, as it were. Later, I believe it was changed to ear 'cropping' - there were two politically annoying men in the reign of Charles I who were sentenced to have their ears cropped for being nuisances and too noisy with Puritan views, but one of them had already had his ears cropped so the remaining stumps were cut off. Just what you want to read about over breakfast.

I don't remember their names - damn, now I'm going to have to go and look them up.

And - Piers? behaving badly? Whoever would believe sucha thing? ;)

I do like the Flores. It's good fun. It's also a good lesson in What Chronicles Will Say About People They Don't Like, with a side helping of Don't Take Them Too Seriously.

And 'literally' just means 'really, really a lot'. Obviously!

Jules Frusher said...

Oh I just love this collection of quotes! There isn't enough time or space for me to comment on all of them (although I could quite happily, trust me!).

I'll just comment on one that particularly stood out though and that is No 4 - the strange case of Mariota's ear. I notice that the excuse of her losing it is by the testimony of that most trustworthy of courtiers (when it comes to spin!) - Hugh Despenser. The whole wording really reminds me of his defense when he attacked John de Ros lol!

Hannah Kilpatrick said...

It sounds exactly like him, doesn't it? :)

Now it's going to bother me trying to remember if ear-loss/cropping was a punishment for something in particular, or more generic. The civil war example would suggest it was considered an appropriate punishment for Speaking Badly - target the ears for the sins of the tongue? - but that's three centuries later, of course. And you can't really describe a trend from one example.

Christy K Robinson said...

In "Edward II" by Harold F. Hutchison (pg 7), Edward I had, in his early years, "ordered an inoffensive youth, casually met on the highway, to suffer the loss of an ear and an eye simply for his pleasure."

Hannah Kilpatrick said...

... There must be a LITTLE more to the story than that, you'd think. Edward does tend to get very selective reporting from some of his biographers.

Kathryn Warner said...

'Medieval Men Behaving Badly', bwhahaha!

Carla: yes, presuambly that's why the 'sinister suspicion' was mentioned. What amuses me is not the suspicion, but the fact that a man had his ear assaulted by a barrel of wine! :-)

Ceirseach: the Flores is wildly entertaining. ;) I lose count of how many times he calls Ed II 'insane' or talks about his 'violent boiling anger'. There's a theory that it was written around the time of Ed III's coronation, possibly commissioned by Isabella to prove that Ed was a disastrous king and his deposition was justified. It certainly lauds Isa to the heavens.

Lady D: as the entry dates from 1313, and doesn't qualify Hugh as 'the son', I'm 99% sure it means Hugh the Elder.

Christy: I don't have it to hand, but I have a feeling the great chronicler Matthew Paris mentions the incident, and says something along the lines of 'people worried about the day this man would become king when he was capable of ordering something like that'. Ceirseach: so true!

Gabriele Campbell said...


The insufficient and derisory answer, and the parliamentary swimmers are my favourites. :)

Jules Frusher said...

Ah yes, if it was 1313 then it would definitely have been Hugh the elder - as he wasn't really called 'the father' at that point, and 'our' Hugh was always referred to as 'the son'. Still, obviously it shows where 'the son' learnt how to spin a good tale lol!

Satima Flavell said...

Whatever was poor Mariota doing wandering around the army baggage train anyway? No doubt our Victorian moralist would have had a great deal to say about Mariota's profession, which one suspects might have involved the oldest of all:-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Gabriele: I'm very fond of the insufficient and derisory one, too. And there's something about 'silly swimmers' that always makes me giggle. ;)

Satima: *grin*. Exactly what I thought too! I could only imagine 2 reasons for Mariota to be accompanying the army - either she was a laundry woman, or, ahem, she took care of the soldiers' more basic needs. ;) Which begs the question, how did Hugh Despenser know about her?? :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Lady D: oops, just noticed your comment! Yep, like father, like son. :-)

Anerje said...

Hmmm - the Duchess of Lancaster was the most scandalous woman in the 14th century? Isabella would be miffed reading that! And just imagine a tv series 'Medieval Men Behaving Badly' - it would be simply wonderful! Great collection of quotes!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Anerje! I hoped you'd enjoy (or not!) the Piers one. ;)

Unknown said...

Please give the quotation of Edward II as a Historical chronicle play.