25 July, 2010

Marguerite Of France (2)

The second and final part (part one) of my post about Marguerite of France, second queen of Edward I and stepmother of Edward II. There is evidence to suggest that Marguerite was on close terms with Edward of Caernarfon - who was only about five years younger than she was - at least before his accession in 1307. In 1299, a few weeks after Marguerite's marriage to Edward I, her household was merged for a time with that of her fifteen-year-old stepson. Edward (of Caernarfon) sent her a gold ring set with a ruby as a New Year gift in January 1303, and in the regnal year of November 1302 to November 1303 gave her, and members of her household, jewels, rings, cups and belts to the value of a little over fifty pounds. Oh, and here are some nice details I forgot to mention in the first part: as her wedding gift in September 1299, Edward I gave his new wife jewels which had once belonged to her great-grandmother Blanche of Castile, queen of Louis VIII: a gold crown, a gold coronet and a gold belt, all adorned with precious stones. For New Year 1304, Edward I gave Marguerite a gold cup with foot and cover, and a gold pitcher; three years previously, she had given him a gold goblet with cover and "two silver platters called 'Lechefrithe'." [1]

Several hundred of Edward of Caernarfon's letters happen to survive for a few months in 1304/05, eight of them to Marguerite. [2] He usually addressed her as "my very dear lady and mother" (ma treschere dame e mere); references to Marguerite after Edward's accession to the throne almost invariably call her "the king's mother," though Edward also addressed his former wetnurse Alice Leygrave in the same terms and in 1305, rather poignantly given that he can barely have remembered Eleanor of Castile, called his much older kinswoman Agnes de Valence "our good mother" (nostre bone mere) and called himself her son. (Bless him.) It was in the summer of 1305 that Queen Marguerite really came into her own, acting as a liaison between Edward and his father the irascible sixty-six-year-old king: the two men fell out for a few weeks, supposedly after Edward of Caernarfon insulted Walter Langton, the treasurer, with "gross and harsh words" and went hunting, with Piers Gaveston, in Langton's parks without permission. [3] Edward wrote several letters to Marguerite during this period asking her to intercede with his father on his behalf, especially in the matter of Piers Gaveston and Gilbert de Clare, whom the king had, with many others, removed from his household: "if we should add those two to the others, we would feel much comfort and alleviation of the anguish which we have endured, and continue to suffer, by the ordinance of our aforementioned lord and father. My lady, will you please take this matter to heart, and pursue it in the most gracious manner that you may, so dearly as you love us." Marguerite evidently did so, the quarrel was soon resolved, and on 1 September 1305 Edward sent her a courteous letter of gratitude: "We thank you as dearly as we may for the distress which you have endured for us, and for the goodwill with which you have carried out the business touching us" (Nous vous mercioms si cherement come nous pooms des travals que vous avez endure pur nous, e du bien que vous avez mis en les busoignes que nous touchent; my translation).

Edward II's closeness to his stepmother, as well as to numerous other women such as his sisters (who, to judge from the surviving letters of 1304/05, thought the world of him), various nieces and other kinswomen, and the women who populate the pages of his chamber journals dining, drinking and otherwise spending quality time with him, goes a long way to disproving the notion that he was "hostile to women" (to cite a fairly recent review on Amazon which refers to him), a theory evidently based on some bizarre idea that men who love men must automatically hate women. To return to Marguerite, there are various entries which make it apparent that she followed her husband to Scotland on his campaigns of the early 1300s, which would seem to point to a close relationship. (Isabella of France also accompanied Edward II on his unsuccessful Scottish campaign of 1310/11 and spent a few months with him at Berwick-on-Tweed, a fact often missed or ignored; she also travelled as far north as Berwick with her husband in June 1314 when he went to fight at Bannockburn.) Marguerite must have been disappointed in the summer of 1305 when the planned trip to England of her mother Marie of Brabant and her brother Louis of Evreux was cancelled. Edward of Caernarfon, keen to present himself well during the visit of his royal relatives, had ordered "two palfreys which are beautiful and suitable for our proper mounting."

The death of sixty-eight-year-old Edward I on 7 July 1307 left Marguerite a widow in her late twenties with three children, Thomas, Edmund and Eleanor, aged seven, almost six and fourteen months. The now dowager queen was well dowered with lands, Edward II had bound himself to provide for her children, his half-siblings, and perhaps Marguerite looked forward to a continuation of the close relationship they had long enjoyed. Within months, however, Edward's obsessive favouritism towards Piers Gaveston began to fray this relationship, and it is possible that the dowager queen's opposition to the new earl of Cornwall was at least partly rooted in concern for her niece Isabella, daughter of Marguerite's half-brother Philippe IV of France and the queen of England from February 1308. Marguerite seems, however, not to have offered the twelve-year-old girl advice on how to deal with the complicated situation, but to have retired from court. According to a newsletter of May 1308, Marguerite and Philippe IV offered the English barons opposed to Piers Gaveston the enormous sum of £40,000, which sounds like one of those wild exaggerations so beloved of medieval chroniclers (to put the sum into perspective, Marguerite's dower gave her an income of £4500 a year). Another point of conflict between Marguerite and Piers arose over the castle of Berkhamstead, which was part of the dowager queen's dower but had previously belonged to Edmund (died 1300), Edward I's cousin and the previous earl of Cornwall; Edward II seems to have granted possession of the castle to Piers, and the royal favourite certainly married Margaret de Clare there in November 1307. Although it was sometimes stated in Edward II's lifetime, and still is nowadays, that Edward I had intended the earldom of Cornwall for one of his sons by Marguerite, a document which the king drew up in August 1306 states that Thomas should receive the earldom of Norfolk and Edmund unspecified lands worth 7000 marks a year, with no title mentioned. (See here: no mention of the earldom of Cornwall going to either son.)

Marguerite attended the wedding of Edward II to her niece Isabella in Boulogne on 25 January 1308; her mother Queen Marie and half-brother the king of France were also among the guests. Her opposition to Piers Gaveston later that year, however, appears to have cooled her relationship with her stepson, and for the remaining ten years of her life it is hard to say anything much about Marguerite of France - anything much that's interesting, at least - and she certainly played little if any role in politics. Edward briefly confiscated her castles of Gloucester, Berkhamstead (certainly hers after Piers Gaveston's death in 1312), Leeds and Odiham in October 1317, but soon restored them to her, and most of the references to Marguerite in the chancery rolls after 1308 concern her lands and are therefore pretty dull. [4] It's hard to say anything much about what kind of person she was; her successful relationship with a man four decades her senior and willingness to intercede with him on her stepson's behalf suggest a pleasant, accommodating personality. Various historians of the nineteenth century, foremost among them Agnes Strickland, record that Marguerite was "good withouten lack," though I don't know what the primary source for that quotation is. (I'm sure I could find out easily enough, but to be honest my interest in it only goes so far.)

Queen Marguerite died on 14 February 1318, probably not yet forty years old, at her castle of Marlborough in Wiltshire. On 8 March, Edward II sent two pieces of Lucca cloth to lie over her body, and sent six more pieces after it was moved to London shortly afterwards. The king visited his stepmother's remains at St Mary's Church in Southwark on 14 March, and attended her funeral at the Greyfriars Church the following day, purchasing six pieces of Lucca cloth for himself and two pieces each for two other people, his sister Mary the nun and Sir Roger Damory, his current court favourite, to wear. Edward appointed his half-brothers Thomas and Edmund, aged seventeen and sixteen, as executors of their mother's will. Isabella of France, then about six months pregnant with her and Edward's elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock, also attended her aunt's funeral, apparently without the benefit of new Lucca cloth; forty years later she would be buried in the same church. [5]

Marguerite was survived by her brother Louis, count of Evreux, her mother Marie of Brabant, dowager queen of France, and two of her three children. Her younger son Edmund, earl of Kent, was beheaded in March 1330 at the age of twenty-eight after plotting to rescue the supposedly dead Edward II from Corfe Castle; her elder son Thomas, earl of Norfolk, died aged thirty-eight in August 1338 after a career which, to be frank, failed by some distance even to achieve mediocrity. Marguerite's granddaughters Joan of Kent (Edmund's daughter) and Margaret Marshal (Thomas's daughter) produced offspring from whom Marguerite has numerous illustrious descendants: Richard II, her great-grandson; all the kings and queens of England from Edward IV onwards; all the kings and queens of Scotland from James II (1430-1460) onwards; three of Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr; and my friend at the Nevill Feast blog might be interested to learn that Isobel Ingoldisthorpe was Marguerite's five greats-granddaughter and Richard Nevill, earl of Warwick, her four greats-grandson.


1) Roy Martin Haines, King Edward II, p. 4; Alison Marshall, 'The Childhood and Household of Edward II's Half-Brothers, Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock', in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson, p. 197, note 43; Pierre Chaplais, Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adopted Brother, p. 99; Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1272-1307, pp. 325, 370, 376.
2) Hilda Johnstone, ed., Letters of Edward, Prince of Wales 1304-5, pp. 44-45, 73-74, 88-90, 111, 127; J.S. Hamilton, 'The Character of Edward II', in Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, pp. 16-17.
3) See Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon 1284-1307, pp. 96-102, for a detailed account of the quarrel.
4) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 38, 46, for the confiscation of the queen's castles.
5) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 360; Thomas Stapleton, 'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836) p. 337.

18 July, 2010

Marguerite Of France (1)

The first part of a post about Edward II's stepmother, Marguerite of France, second wife of Edward I and the queen of England - albeit uncrowned - from September 1299 to July 1307. Edward II was the first king of England since before the Norman Conquest to have a stepmother; the next would be his great-great-grandson Henry V, as Henry IV's second wife Joan of Navarre outlived him by twenty-four years.

Marguerite was the daughter of King Philippe III of France and his second wife Marie of Brabant. Philippe was born in 1245 as the fourth child and eldest surviving son of Louis IX and Marguerite of Provence, and succeeded his father as king in 1270; Marie was born between about 1254 and 1260 as the daughter of Duke Hendrik III of Brabant and Adelaide, daughter of Duke Hugues IV of Burgundy, and was the aunt of Edward II's brother-in-law Duke Jan II of Brabant. Philippe III and Queen Marie married on 21 August 1274, two and a half years after the death of his first wife Isabel of Aragon, mother of Philippe IV and Charles, count of Valois (ancestor of the Valois dynasty), and had three children: Marguerite, Blanche and Louis, count of Évreux. Only Louis of Évreux's date of birth is known, 3 May 1276. Marguerite is said by the Liber de antiquis legibis [1] to have been twenty when she married Edward I on 10 September 1299, which would mean that she was born sometime between 11 September 1278 and 10 September 1279; her date of birth is often given in books and online as 1282, but there is no evidence for this. Blanche is likely to have been the youngest of the three siblings, as between 1291 and 1294 she was betrothed to the future Edward II, who was born in April 1284. There is a story, repeated as fact on Marguerite's Wikipedia page but completely without foundation, that Edward I wanted to marry Blanche because she was very beautiful but was tricked by Philippe IV into marrying Marguerite instead: perhaps the confusion arose from Blanche's betrothal to Edward of Caernarfon. Blanche ultimately married Rudolf, duke of Austria and (after Blanche's death) king of Bohemia and Poland, and died childless in 1305. Their brother Louis of Évreux, who died in 1319 and was a friend and correspondent of Edward II before his accession, married Marguerite of Artois and had five children, including Jeanne, queen of France, who married her first cousin Charles IV.

Marguerite of France's father Philippe III died in October 1285 when she was probably six, and her seventeen-year-old half-brother acceded as Philippe IV. Her mother Marie of Brabant outlived Philippe III by thirty-six years (Queen Marie in fact outlived all her three children and her stepson Philippe IV). Inevitably, almost nothing is known of Marguerite's childhood or of her relations with her siblings and half-siblings, and the first significant reference to her comes in 1294, when she was about fifteen. To cut a very long story short, it was first proposed that year, by her mother Queen Marie, Edward I's brother Edmund of Lancaster and Edmund's stepdaughter Jeanne, queen of France and Navarre (Philippe IV's wife), that Marguerite should marry Edward I in order to prevent a war between Edward and Philippe over Gascony; sadly the situation soon deteriorated and war did in fact break out. The betrothal of Edward's ten-year-old son to Marguerite's sister Blanche was terminated and little Edward betrothed instead to the count of Flanders' daughter Philippa, while Edward I's own marriage to Marguerite was cancelled. By 1299, however, diplomacy had won out: it was decided that Edward and Marguerite's marriage would go ahead after all, while his son, now fifteen, would marry the only surviving of Philippe IV's three daughters, Isabella. As she was only three or four in 1299, however, this marriage was of necessity postponed for a few years; but Marguerite's wedding to Edward I went ahead immediately.

Marguerite married Edward, who had been a widower for nine years since the death of Eleanor of Castile in November 1290, in Canterbury Cathedral on 10 September 1299; she was (apparently) twenty and he sixty, born in June 1239. They were first cousins once removed, Edward's mother Eleanor of Provence being the sister of Marguerite's grandmother, Louis IX's queen Marguerite. Edward's eldest surviving child Joan of Acre, countess of Gloucester, born in 1272, was about seven years older than her new stepmother, and his youngest child Edward of Caernarfon about five years younger. As far as one can tell, the marriage proved a happy one despite the age difference of four decades, although Edward never had Marguerite crowned queen. Their eldest child Thomas, later earl of Norfolk, was born on 1 June 1300 - nine days short of nine months after the wedding - at Brotherton in Yorkshire, one of the archbishop of York's manors. Sixteen-year-old Edward of Caernarfon, whose three brothers, none of whom he had ever known, had all died young, seems to have been delighted at the birth of his half-brother: he gave twenty pounds to the messenger who brought him the news, and generous gifts to the baby's nurses. [2]

Marguerite's second son, Edmund, later earl of Kent and destined to die on the scaffold in March 1330 for his support of his half-brother Edward II, was born fourteen months after his brother, on 5 August 1301 at the royal manor of Woodstock. Marguerite and Edward I also had a daughter, Eleanor, born on 4 May 1306 when the king was a few weeks shy of his sixty-seventh birthday. (There is some debate as to when Edward I's eldest child was born, but it was most probably in the early 1260s, meaning there was around forty-five years between the births of his eldest and youngest children. Edward I's eldest grandchild Gilbert de Clare, born in 1291, was fifteen years older than his little half-aunt; his eldest great-grandchild Hugh, Lord Despenser, son of Hugh Despenser the Younger and Eleanor de Clare, was only two or three years younger than little Eleanor, his great-aunt.) Marguerite's Wikipedia page says that her allowing her daughter to be named after her husband's first wife Eleanor of Castile is evidence of her "unjealous nature," though one wonders how much choice she really had; besides, her Wikipedia page is astonishingly inaccurate even by Wikipedia standards. Little Eleanor was betrothed at a mere four days old to Robert of Burgundy, born in 1300 as the son and heir of Othon IV, count of Burgundy and Mahaut, countess of Artois. Sadly, the little girl died at the age of five in the autumn of 1311; her half-brother Edward II paid £113 "for the expenses and preparations made for the burial of the body of the Lady Eleanor, the king’s sister" at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire. (Her fiancé Robert died unmarried in 1315; his eldest sister Jeanne inherited their parents' lands and became queen of France in 1316 by marriage to Philippe V.) [3]

In the next post, I'll look at Marguerite of France's relations with her stepson Edward II, before his accession and afterwards - there is much evidence of closeness before 1307, but her opposition to Piers Gaveston, as you'd expect, did not go down well with the king - and at other aspects of her life.


1) John Carmi Parsons, 'Margaret of France (1279?-1318)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
2) Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon 1284-1307, p. 46.
3) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1301-1307, pp. 431, 460; Frederick Devon, Issues of the Exchequer: Being A Collection of Payments Made Out of His Majesty’s Revenue from King Henry III to King Henry VI Inclusive, p. 124.

11 July, 2010

Edward II Prefers Speaking French To Latin And Therefore Is Stupid, 'Experts' Claim

Edward II's mother tongue was French, or rather the version of it used in medieval England, which is usually called Anglo-Norman today. In February 1308, Edward made his coronation oath in French, rather than in Latin as previous English kings had done (though records are missing for Edward I's coronation in 1274, and it may be that he made the oath in French too). In January 1312, the writ declaring that Piers Gaveston had returned to England from his third exile and that the king considered him "good and loyal" was written in French rather than the usual Latin, and a memorandum declares that the king himself had dictated the form of the writ (la dite forme fu fete par le Roi meismes). And in 1317, Pope John XXII thanked the archbishop of Canterbury, Walter Reynolds, for translating a papal bull from Latin into French for Edward's benefit. [1]

These factors caused various historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to condemn Edward II for 'laziness', 'stupidity' and 'illiteracy' because he had failed to master Latin. [2] This is completely and utterly ridiculous. Edward I's biographer Professor Michael Prestwich says that the king "had some understanding of Latin," [3] but I've never seen anyone condemn Edward I for 'laziness', 'stupidity' and 'illiteracy' because he wasn't completely fluent in the language. Funny, that, isn't it? I've never seen anyone claim that Edward III was stupid because he took his coronation oath in French not Latin in 1327, or Richard II in 1377, or Henry IV in 1399, or the other kings who also did. Pope John XXII asked Edward II's brother-in-law Charles IV of France in 1323 to write to him in Latin in the future, not in French as Charles was wont to do, as his (the pope's) knowledge of French, or rather the Parisian form of it, was inadequate. [4] Has anyone ever called Charles IV stupid and lazy for sending letters in his native language rather than in Latin? Of course not.

Hmmm. If you didn't know better, you might even think that some writers have been biased against Edward II and determined to think the worst of him in any and every situation. (God forbid.) Using Latin to give the responses during the coronation oath would have required the king to learn a mere five words (Servabo; Faciam; Concedo et promitto) by heart, assuming he didn't know them already, which he more than likely did. How on earth could Edward II, who might not have qualified for Mensa membership but who was certainly not stupid*, have been unable to learn five words by heart? A ludicrous notion. [5] It is virtually certain that Edward did learn Latin as a child, as his father and son did and his mother Queen Eleanor most probably did too, growing up at the sophisticated and literary Castilian courts of her father Fernando III and half-brother Alfonso X. [6] Despite his education, however, Edward II wasn't a great Latin scholar. Of course he wasn't; nobody would ever have expected him to be. His father and son weren't either. And regarding his coronation, it may be that Edward or his advisers decided that he should give his responses in French because it was the native language of just about everyone attending, and perhaps also out of respect for the large French delegation present, who included Queen Isabella's uncles the counts of Valois and Evreux and her brother, the future Charles IV.

* Some modern commentators have sneeringly described Edward as stupid, but they're wrong, as wrong as older commentators who sneered at him for supposedly being illiterate and lazy. Sneering at Edward II on highly dubious grounds (his rustic hobbies being a favourite excuse for a good old-fashioned lip curl, with his sexuality coming a close second) has been a popular pastime for more than a century, but that's no reason why we should take any notice of these people.

As for the 1317 translation by the archbishop of Canterbury, papal bulls, letters and so on were often written in a Latin difficult and convoluted even for scholars to understand, as Hilda Johnstone has pointed out. Edward's request for a translation does not demonstrate ignorance; for pity's sake, how many people would be able or willing to read a complex text in a language they had learned twenty years previously but had had little occasion to use since? If some commentators weren't so eager to slam Edward II for every single damn thing he ever did, they might realise that his wish to read the letter in his native language is far more likely to have arisen from common sense - because he wanted to ensure that he understood it correctly - than from ignorance. For myself, I can read French and German pretty fluently and have enough knowledge of various other languages to get the gist of, say, some newspaper articles and other texts that don't have an advanced level of vocabulary, but I'd still much rather read material in English if a translation is available. I don't think anyone would argue that this makes me stupid, ignorant or lazy. As anyone who's ever read (or tried to read) a contract will know, legalese is hard enough to grasp in your native language, never mind in a language you learned at school decades previously. Same for the writ declaring Piers Gaveston loyal in 1312; why should Edward have done it in Latin, when dictating it to his clerks in his native language was obviously going to be far more precise and to the point than struggling to find the right Latin words?

I'll end this post with the two memoranda appended to this writ and the one following, which restored Piers to his earldom and lands (and was written in Latin). The first begins, as stated above, with "this form was made by the king himself" and continues "he took the writs as soon as they were sealed and put them on his bed." The second reads "these writs were made in the king's presence by his order under threat of grievous forfeiture." Needless to say, Edward was not usually present, and indeed couldn't be owing to time constraints, whenever his clerks wrote and sealed writs, charters, letters and the like, but these two involved the return of Piers Gaveston; the king's emotions were therefore fully engaged and are easily visible from that second memo. It creates a vivid image in my mind of Edward II striding about telling his clerks what he wanted them to write about Piers and losing his temper when they were reluctant to do it - probably because they knew the effect Piers' restoration was going to have on Edward's barons - to the extent that he shouted dire threats at them. (Edward always did have a pretty vile temper.) The king's personality and emotions suddenly spring into view, not for the first time, in what would otherwise be a dry legal document.


1) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 448-449; Foedera 1307-1327, pp. 153-154; Pierre Chaplais, English Diplomatic Practice in the Middle Ages, pp. 128, 130; T.F. Tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of England, vol. 2, pp. 199-200.
Hilda Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon 1284-1307, pp. 19-20, and J.R.S. Phillips, 'The Place of the Reign of Edward II', in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson, pp. 221-223, make valuable points about some historians' insistence on Edward's 'stupidity' and 'illiteracy' and the lack of foundation for these claims.
2) For example, V.H. Galbraith, 'The Literacy of the Medieval English Kings', Proceedings of the British Academy, 21 (1935), p. 215, and W. Stubbs, The Constitutional History of England, vol. 2, p. 332.
3) Michael Prestwich, Edward I, p. 6.
4) Pierre Chaplais, English Medieval Diplomatic Practice, vol. 1, pp. 21-22.
5) The full text of Edward II's coronation ceremony is given in Foedera 1307-1327, pp. 33-36, in Latin. The French and English versions of his oath are in the sidebar on the left.
6) See Phillips, 'Place of the Reign of Edward II', pp. 224-225.

For interest's sake, here's the original text and my translation of the January 1312 writ restoring Piers Gaveston, which Edward II himself dictated and addressed to all the sheriffs of England:

Come monsieur Peres de Gavaston, counte de Cornwaill', n'adgueres fust exile hors de nostre reaume, contre les leis et les usages de mesmes le reaume, as queus garder et meintenir nous sumes tenez par le serment, que nous feismes a nostre coronement; en le quel exil il fu nome autre que bon et leal; Et meismes celui counte, par nostre maundement, seit ja revenu a nous en dit reaume, prest d'ester a droit, devant nous, a touz que de rien li vodront chalanger, solom les leis et les usages avanditz; Par quei nous li tenoms bon et loial, et a nostre fei et a nostre pees, et unqes a autre ne li tenismes: Nous, de nostre real poer, vous commandoms ceste chose facez par tote vostre baillie publier.

As Sir Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, was lately exiled from our realm contrary to the laws and customs of the same realm, which we are held to keep and to maintain by the oath which we made at our coronation; in which exile he was named as other than good and loyal; And this same earl, by our order, has now returned to us in the said realm, and is ready to stand trial [literally 'stand to right'], before us, of everything he may be accused of, according to the laws and customs aforesaid; Wherefore we hold him good and loyal, and in our allegiance and in our peace, and at no time will we hold him otherwise; We, of our royal power, command you to have this judgement published throughout your whole jurisdiction.

04 July, 2010

Speeches Of Edward II

For all his many faults, Edward II was - or at least, was capable of being on occasion - a fluent, articulate and persuasive speaker who could think on his feet, as the following story demonstrates. In June 1320, Edward had to travel to Amiens in France to pay liege homage to his brother-in-law Philip V for his French territories, Gascony and Ponthieu. (Philip had succeeded to the throne on the death of his five-day-old nephew John I 'the Posthumous' in November 1316; Edward managed to put off the dread moment of having to kneel to him for more than three and a half years.) Philip's counsellors insisted that Edward swear an oath of personal fealty to the French king as well, and a clerk of Edward's, an eyewitness, gives this account of what followed:

"And when some of the said prelates and nobles leaned towards our said lord [Edward] and began to instruct him, our said lord now turned towards the said king [Philip] without having been advised," and announced: "You will well remember that the homage which we did at Boulogne [in 1308] was done according to the form of the agreement between our ancestors, and according to the form in which our ancestors performed it, and your father [Philip IV] agreed to this form, and we have his letters regarding this, and we have now done homage in this same form. One cannot properly demand another form of us, and we will not recognise the validity of doing it. And as for this fealty, we are certain that we will not do it, and nor should it be demanded of us at a later time, and we are unable to believe that this fealty should be given as you demand of us." The clerk/eyewitness continues "And then the king of France turned to the men of his council, and none of them could say anything to contradict the response of our said lord." [My translation from the French.] [1]

Edward's fluent response, spoken spontaneously without the benefit of any advice, reduced the French delegation to stunned silence, and the issue of personal fealty was quietly dropped. And thus we can see that whatever else Edward II might have been, he wasn't "a scatter-brained wastrel," "brutal and brainless," "a greater ninny never sat on the English throne" or "a fool" as he has sometimes been described by people (J. Mackinnon, K. H. Vickers, T. F. Tout and May McKisack) who really should know better. (Richard Baker in his Chronicle of the Kings of England says that Edward was "worthy never to have been born." How dare anyone say such a vile thing about another human being? Edward II was deeply flawed, of course, he made numerous mistakes, of course, but he wasn't evil, a sadistic serial killer, a child rapist, a concentration camp guard, a professional torturer, an insane genocidist; whatever did he do to deserve such an incredibly harsh judgement?)

Another speech Edward gave, to parliament in October 1324, still survives (the only one of his speeches to parliament which does), which he delivered in French, his native language. At the time, England and France were at war over Gascony, the War of Saint-Sardos. I won't quote the king's speech in full here as it's pretty long and frankly not terribly interesting, but it begins:

"Lords, I have shown you certain things which concern the crown which have come under debate, as one who is your chief and who has the sovereign keeping of it, and as one who is ready to maintain the crown in all its rights, with your counsel and aid, and to defend it as far as a man can, by the power of all your might, on which matter I have always asked for your counsel, and have done nothing in the said business [i.e. war with France] without counsel, in which I believe that I have done my part."
(Seignurs, joe vous ai monstre ascunes choses qe appendent a la coroune qe cheent en debat, come celi qest vostre chief et qe en ad la sovereyne garde et come celi qest prest est a meintenir la coroune en touz ses dreitz, par conseil et eide de vous, et adeffendre le come un homme purra fere par la puissaunce de tutes voz forces, sur quele chose j'ai touz jours voz conseals demandez et rien en la dite busoigne sanz conseil n'ay fet, par qoi je entenqe avoir fait ce que a moy apartient)

Edward's speech ends "I do not want any concealment or sly evasion between us on such an important matter but to be answered orally, clearly and distinctly, just as the matters are distinctly and openly shown to you." [2]

A month or so after Edward gave this speech, the envoys of Robert Bruce, king of Scots, arrived in England to say that Robert wanted "to turn the truce into a perpetual peace," that is, the thirteen-year truce which the two men had agreed in 1323. Edward, fighting a war with France, "wrote back that he would willingly consent," but changed his mind when he heard the Scottish demands "that Scotland should be forever free from every English exaction," that Robert should be restored to "a certain barony in Essex" which he had forfeited to Edward I, that the Stone of Scone be restored to Scotland (it remained in England until 1996) and that Edward's son Edward of Windsor marry Robert's daughter to seal the peace. Edward II's reply to all this is a fascinating - and doubtless infuriating, if you're Scottish - illustration of how he had been raised to think of Scotland as part of his own inheritance. This is given by the Vita Edwardi Secundi in Latin, though Edward presumably spoke French; how closely it matches what he really said is a matter for conjecture:

"The Scots have come to us not to draw us into a peace but to seek opportunities for further discord and for unprovoked breaches of the truce. To grant these demands would be much to our loss, and they will return to their own country without satisfaction. For how without prejudice to our Crown can we surrender the right we have in Scotland, which from the coming of the Britons to the coming of the Saxons and down to our own time, is known always to have been subject to our ancestors; which, although in rebellion it often spurned our authority, was, nevertheless, as no one doubts, reduced to its due state of servitude, though unwillingly?...Robert Bruce claims the inheritance which my father once took from him for manifest crime, and it is not fitting that the son should make void what the father decreed. For we know that my father, when Scotland had been conquered, took with him the famous royal stone [of Scone] as a sign of victory; and if we were to restore it we should seem basely to repudiate the right thus acquired. Nevertheless, we should make little difficulty about returning the stone, if their other demands were not beyond all reason...But, as their demands are too damaging to us, they shall return home unsatisfied." [3]

Finally, here's a speech of Edward II also cited in the Vita, dating from early 1322, when Edward was on campaign against the Contrariants and Andrew Harclay, sheriff of Cumberland, came to ask him for aid to defend the north against Robert Bruce's friends and allies James Douglas and Thomas Randolph, who had invaded England with their armies as soon as the two-year truce between England and Scotland expired at Christmas 1321. Edward's attitude towards his domestic enemies and the Scottish invasions could hardly be clearer:

"You may know for certain, Andrew, that if Robert Bruce attacks me from behind, and my own men, who have committed such enormities against me, should appear in front, I would attack the traitors and leave Robert Bruce alone. Small wonder if the Scots, who are in no way bound to me, invade my kingdom, while those who are bound to me by fealty and homage rise against me, plunder my men and set fire to my towns; if the servants attack the lord, how much more will a foreigner?...Return to your own country, and keep the strongholds committed to you; I shall pursue my traitors whithersoever they betake themselves, and I shall not turn back until they are brought to naught." [4]

Given that Edward was shortly to execute at least twenty men for treason and numerous other crimes and imprison dozens more, he was as good as his word, as perhaps Hamo Hethe, bishop of Rochester, had guessed that he would be. The day after the Contrariants forced Edward to consent to the Despensers' exile in August 1321, Edward ate breakfast at Westminster with Hethe, who told him consolingly that he would soon "amend the defeat." Edward responded that he "would within half a year make such an amend that the whole world would hear of it and tremble." [5]


1) E. Pole Stuart, 'The Interview between Philip V and Edward II at Amiens in 1320', English Historical Review, 41 (1926), pp. 412-415.
2) The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. C. Given-Wilson et al, October 1324 parliament.
3) Vita Edwardi Secundi, ed. N. Denholm-Young, pp. 131-134.
4) Ibid., pp. 120-121.
5) Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, July 1321 parliament, citing Historia Roffensis.