Just a quick post, but I couldn't let today pass without a mention of Edward II's courageous and principled half-brother Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, who was beheaded in Winchester on 19 March 1330 for the 'crime' of trying to free the former king from Corfe Castle, two and a half years after Edward's supposed death at Berkeley Castle. Edmund was the son of Marguerite of France and the youngest son of Edward I, who was sixty-two when Edmund was born on 5 August 1301. Edmund was twenty-eight at the time of his death, and left his heavily pregnant widow, Margaret Wake, who gave birth to their son John on 7 April 1330, and their children Edmund, Margaret and Joan, the latter to become Richard II's mother in 1367. I've written about Edmund's plot to free Edward of Caernarfon and the men who helped him here, and far more extensively in my 14,000-word article published in the English Historical Review in 2011. See also Ian Mortimer's article about Edmund's plot in his Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies (2010), and his 'Death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle' in the same volume, which also discusses it. Dr Mortimer focuses on the timeline of the conspiracy, I on the many dozens of men who joined and aided the earl, to demonstrate that the usual modern explanation for his plot - that Edmund was a stupid gullible fool tricked into trying to free a dead man to provide an excuse for (Edmund's first cousin) Isabella of France and (his wife Margaret Wake's first cousin) Roger Mortimer to execute him - are untenable. That Edmund was 'stupid' is an invention of the twentieth century, by commentators unable otherwise to explain why he was so utterly convinced that his half-brother was alive in 1330 despite having attended his funeral in December 1327, and is based on no contemporary evidence. Furthermore, it uses a circular logic: Edmund only believed that Edward II was alive because he was stupid and gullible; and how do we know he was stupid and gullible - because he believed that Edward II was still alive. Ian Mortimer explains in his two articles cited above how Edmund's actions have been twisted to provide 'evidence' for his alleged stupidity and demonstrates that Edmund began trying to free Edward of Caernarfon shortly after he and his brother the earl of Norfolk had been reconciled to Isabella and Roger Mortimer following their brief participation in the earl of Lancaster's rebellion against them. This gives the lie to the frequent modern explanation that the plot should be seen in the light of the participants' dissatisfaction with the Mortimer and Isabella regime rather than in any belief that Edward II was alive. I provide detailed backgrounds and allegiances for Edmund's many dozens of co-conspirators and show how many of them had been loyal to Edward II before, during and in many cases even after the revolution of 1326/27. The many men who joined Kent are usually either ignored altogether or dismissed as a handful of disaffected clerics. Furthermore, I point out the contradictions in the usual modern explanation for Edmund's actions in 1329/30 by writers convinced that Edward II did indeed die at Berkeley Castle in September 1327 who interpret the plot in that light: at one and the same time, Edmund is said to have been stupid, gullible, unstable and politically insignificant, yet to have represented such a danger to Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella's position and political survival that they were forced to manufacture a reason to execute him in order to protect themselves. And therefore, they decided to spread rumours all around the country that Edward of Caernarfon was alive, intending that Kent would hear the rumours, try to free his brother and thus commit treason against his young nephew Edward III.
RIP, Edmund of Woodstock, a brave man who tried to do the right thing and help his brother and suffered the ultimate penalty for it, and has seen his posthumous reputation unfairly trashed in the last few decades.