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Edward II of Carnarvon [r. 1307 1327]

Born at Caernarvon Castle in 1284, Edward II was the first English prince of Wales. He succeeded his father Edward I. m 1307. He was of an agreeable figure and mild disposition but indolent and fond of pleasure. After marching a little way into Scotland with the army collected by his father, he returned, dismissed his troops, and abandoned himself entirely to amusement. His first step was to recall Piers Gaveston, a young Gascon, whom his father had banished, and whom he created Earl of Cornwall, and married to his niece. He then went over to France to espouse the princess Isabella, to whom he had been contracted by his father.

Soon after his return the barons associated against the favourite Gaveston, whom they more than once obliged the king to send away. He was, however, as constantly recalled when the immediate danger was over, until an open rebellion took place; and, the person of Gaveston being captured, he was executed as a public enemy. In 1314 Edward assembled an immense army to check the progress of Robert Bruce, but was completely defeated at Bannockburn. Under the unworthy Edward II, Robert Bruce's great triumph at Bannockburn secured the independence of Scotland and made permanent the division of the English into two unequal halves.

So far as concerned internal politics, the reign of Edward II seemed marked by an equally strong reaction. The Lord Earl Ordainers and their leader, Thomas of Lancaster, looked back to the oligarchical atmosphere of the Provisions of Oxford. It was only after their fall that the Despensers identified the triumphant monarchy with the representative parliamentary system.

After the death of Gaveston he selected a similar minion in the person of Hugh Spenser, a young nobleman whose father was living, and upon whom he lavished favors of every kind until the barons again rebelled, and, the parliament dooming the Spensers to exile, the king was obliged to confirm the sentence. Edward, however, on this occasion, in concert with the Spensers, contrived to raise troops and attack the barons, at the head of whom was his cousin, the earl of Lancaster, who, being taken prisoner, was executed at Pomfret. Several others also suffered, and the Spensers were enriched with the spoils. Edward subsequently made another fruitless attempt against Scotland, which ended in the conclusion of a truce of thirteen years.

In 1324 Queen Isabella went to France to settle some disputes in relation to Guienne, and while there entered into a correspondence with several English fugitives, in whose hatred to the Spensers she participated. Among those was Roger Mortimer, a young baron of the Welsh marches, between whom and Isabella a criminal intercourse succeeded; in consequence of which the queen was still more determined upon the ruin of her weak and unhappy husband. Having formed an association with all the English malcontents, and being aided with a force by the count of Hainault, she embarked for England in September 1326, and landed in Suffolk. Her forces seized the Tower of London and other fortresses, captured and executed both the Spensers without trial, and at length took the king prisoner, who had concealed himself in Wales with a view of escaping to Ireland.

The revolution of 1326, which cost Edward II his throne and his life, perpetuated the constitutional authority of the estates. The unfortunate Edward was confined in Kenilworth Castle, and in January 1327 his deposition was unanimously voted in parliament on the ground of incapacity and misgoverntnent. A resignation of the crown was soon after extorted from him, and he was transferred to Berkeley Castle, where Mortimer despatched two ruffians, who it is said murdered him on the 21st of September, 1327, introducing a red-hot iron into his bowels, that no external marks of violence might remain.

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Page last modified: 25-01-2013 18:56:33 ZULU