Today is the anniversary of Edward II's supposed murder at Berkeley Castle. Edward's biographer Seymour Phillips, and indeed most other historians of the fourteenth century, still believe that Edward did indeed die at Berkeley in September 1327, though you'd have to go a long way nowadays to find a specialist on the era who accepts the red-hot poker story. Historians who specialise in other eras but choose to write or talk on television about the fourteenth century occasionally still repeat this silly story as though it's factual, because they don't know any better and they haven't kept up with modern scholarship on the issue. Wish they wouldn't, because they give the notion a spurious plausibility. You don't see me pontificating at length on the French Revolution or the Wars of the Roses or the Tudors and repeating discredited myths about them as fact, do you?
Anyway, here are some links for further reading on the controversial issue of Edward II's death and his possible survival past 1327. Properly-researched and sourced further reading, of course - unfortunately there's a heck of a lot of rubbish about Edward out there, both online, in published books and on television, and most especially on the subject of his presumed murder. Also a lot of deeply unpleasant and childish sniggering about the red-hot poker, as though such vile excruciating torture supposedly inflicted on a human being is actually funny - "They put a poker up his bottom! And he screamed really loudly! Hur hur hur hur!". Someone (who evidently doesn't realise that his computer has a shift key) left this barely literate comment yesterday on my Edward II Facebook page: "red hot poker lol hahaha roger u legend x". I deleted it. The same person also left this equally classy comment on my friend Sarah's Facebook post about Hugh Despenser the Younger's execution: "lol go on roger x", and also spammed her blog with countless stupid comments. Sod off, nasty sadistic little boy. (Incidentally, Sarah has written some great posts about Edward II lately: his sons John of Eltham and Adam; his daughter Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland; his queen, Isabella; and also posts about his father Edward I and grandmother Eleanor of Provence.)
- Ian Mortimer's great article about Edward's survival past 1327. There's lots more information in his books The Greatest Traitor, The Perfect King and Medieval Intrigue.
- My post about the often-repeated story that Edward of Caernarfon was tormented and abused while in captivity at Berkeley Castle, an invention of the later chronicler Geoffrey le Baker and disproved by the Berkeley accounts of 1327, which show that he had servants and good food.
- My post about the writer John Trevisa's account of the red-hot poker story, which is often cited as definitive proof that the story is true on the grounds that Trevisa had inside knowledge, which he emphatically didn't; he only arrived at Berkeley Castle sixty-one years later in 1388 and, contrary to popular belief, never met Edward's custodian Thomas Berkeley, who died in 1361. Amazing, the number of commentators who can't distinguish between a grandfather and grandson and can't be bothered to check incredibly basic facts such as Trevisa's approximate date and place of birth (1342, Cornwall), and parrot the line that he was a child in Berkeley in 1327.
- An account of some of the oddities and peculiarities in the traditional narrative of Edward's death and its aftermath. If Edward really was dead in September 1327 and buried in Gloucester that December, why did so many influential people believe he was still alive years later? Why did the archbishop of York send a letter to the mayor of London in January 1330 asking him to purchase numerous provisions for the former king and declaring that "Edward of Caernarfon is alive and in good health of body"? See also here for more about the archbishop's letter, which is cited in full (in English translation) in Ian Mortimer's Medieval Intrigue.
- Further to the above, a detailed account of the plot of Edward II's half-brother the earl of Kent to free Edward from Corfe Castle in 1330, and his execution for treason. (Parts two, three, four, which look at some of his many supporters.) Also, if you can access it, my article about the plot published in the English Historical Review in 2011.
- An account of the events of September to December 1327.
- A post I wrote exactly six years ago about Edward's presumed death.
- The third part of a post, which links to the first two parts, about the men involved in the events surrounding Edward's death, or survival.
Happy reading! ;-)