Edward II

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Edward II

Edward II, 1284–1327, king of England (1307–27), son of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, called Edward of Carnarvon for his birthplace in Wales.

The Influence of Gaveston

He became the first prince of Wales in 1301 and served in the Scottish campaigns from 1301 to 1306. The prince's dissipation caused his father to banish young Edward's friend Piers Gaveston, who, however, returned to England immediately on Edward II's succession (1307) to the throne. Edward married Isabella of France in 1308. Edward's reliance on Gaveston, both as intimate and adviser, to the exclusion of the baronial council, provoked a crisis. The barons forced Edward to banish (1308) Gaveston, but he soon returned (1309). In 1310 a baronial coalition compelled Edward to consent to the appointment of a committee of 21 lords ordainers to share his ruling powers. The committee drafted the Ordinances of 1311, which, in addition to banishing Gaveston, placed serious restrictions on the royal power. Gaveston was recalled (1311) again, however, and the barons resorted to arms, capturing and killing Gaveston in 1312.

Lancaster and the Despensers

Edward tried to renew his father's campaigns against Scotland, but his forces were routed by Robert I at Bannockburn in 1314. General disorder followed in England, and for a while the most powerful man in the country was Edward's cousin, Thomas, earl of Lancaster (see Lancaster, house of). Lancaster was supplanted (1318) by a moderate group of barons under Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, who conciliated the king and maintained a relatively stable government until 1321. In that year, Lancaster led a rebellion against the king's new favorites, Hugh le Despenser (1262–1326) and his son. Lancaster was defeated and executed (1322). A Parliament at York (1322) revoked the Ordinances, and Edward, now dominated by the Despensers, regained control of the government. A truce was made (1323) with Robert I that virtually recognized him as king of the Scots. The Despensers carried through some notable administrative reforms, but their avarice caused them to make many enemies.

Abdication and Murder

When trouble threatened with the new king of France (Charles IV, brother of Edward's queen, Isabella), the queen went as envoy to France in 1325, taking her son (later Edward III). Having been alienated by Edward's neglect, she refused to return home while the Despensers ruled. Isabella, with her son and Roger de Mortimer, 1st earl of March, gathered a force and in 1326 invaded England. Edward II found no one to support him and fled westward. The Despensers were executed and Edward himself was captured and forced to abdicate (1327). He was imprisoned in Berkeley Castle and almost certainly murdered there.

Bibliography

See biography by H. F. Hutchison (1971); J. C. Davies, Baronial Opposition to Edward II (1918, repr. 1967); T. F. Tout, The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History (2d ed. rev. by H. Johnstone, 1937); H. Johnstone, Edward of Carnarvon, 1284–1307 (1947).

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