1902 Encyclopedia > Edward I, King of England

Edward I
(1239-1307)
King of England




EDWARD I. (1239-1307), king of England, was the son of Henry III. of England, and of Eleanor, daughter of the count of Provence, and was born at Westminster, June 16, 1239. In 1252 he was named governor of Gascony in room of Simon de Montfort, with whom Henry was dissatisfied; and in 1254, by his marriage with Eleanor, daughter of Alphonso X. of Castile, he secured to the English for a time undisputed possession of that province. At the battle of Lewes, 13th May 1264, Edward, by the impetuosity of his attack, at first defeated the barons with great slaughter, but by his too great rashness in pursuit failed to give the king proper support in another part of the field, and was thus the cause ultimately of the utter rout of the royal forces. He was taken prisoner, but escaping by a clever stratagem, he joined with the earl of Gloucester, and inflicted a disastrous defeat on De Montfort and his sons at Evesham, August 3, 1265. In 1269, at the request of the Pope, he undertook a crusade to the Holy Land. He reached it in 1270, and in 1271 he captured Nazareth and massacred all the Turks found within its walls. In revenge, perhaps, for this act, an assassin, on June 12, 1272, stabbed him in three places with a poisoned arrow; but his vigorous constitution triumphed over his injuries and he completely recovered. In the same year his father died, and he was proclaimed king. He had arrived at Sicily when the news reached him, but instead of going direct to England, he crossed over to Italy, and thence into France, where in a tournament his followers quarrelled with those of the count of Chalons, and he slew the count in single combat. He landed in England August 2, 1274, and was crowned on the 19th. In October of the same year he issued writs to inquire into the state of the realm, and the next year there were passed the laws called the Statutes of Westminster, which reformed many of the abuses of the feudal system, secured freedom from undue influence in the election of sheriffs and other justices, and threatened with penalties certain oppressive acts on the part of the barons. In 1277 he conquered Wales and caused Llewelyn to sue for peace; but in 1280, a Welsh war again broke out, which continued till the death of Llewelyn in 1282. Edward's plan to obtain money for the expenses of this war, by summoning for consultation in 1283 representatives of the shires, the boroughs, and the church, was the germ of the English House of Commons, although the first properly constituted Parliament did not meet till 1295. A less creditable method of raising money was the banishment, in 1280, of the Jews from England, on condition that the clergy and laity submitted to a tax of a fifteenth. Two other important decisions were the consequence of his money difficulties:— in 1297 he refused submission to the bull of Boniface VIII. forbidding the clergy to be taxed on their ecclesiastical revenue, and in 1299 he was obliged to confirm the charters conferring on the people the right to fix their own taxation. In 1290 Queen Eleanor died, and in 1293 Edward entered into negotiations for a marriage with Margaret, sister of Philip IV. of France; but on account of an act of treachery on the part of the French, these negotiations were broken off for a time, and the marriage did not take place till 1299. From 1295 the affairs of Scotland occupied his chief attention. In 1292 he had decided the claims of the candidates for the Scottish crown in favour of Baliol, on condition that the latter acknowledged him as lord paramount, and on the breaking out of war with France he demanded his assistance. On Baliol's refusal, and on learning that he had entered into a treaty with France, Edward in 129G captured Berwick, defeated the Scots at Dunbar, took the castles of Roxburgh, Jedburgh, Edinburgh, Dumbarton, and Stirling, and, receiving at Perth Baliol's unconditional surrender, sent him prisoner to the Tower. In 1297 Wallace headed a rebellion of the Scots, and defeated the English with great slaughter at the battle of Stirling bridge; but next year the Scots suffered an overwhelming defeat at Falkirk, and only prevented the further success of the English by laying waste their own country. In 1299 and 1300 Edward's attempts at invasion met with little success on account of opposition from his barons. In 1301 he invaded Scotland for the fifth time, but at the request of the king of France granted it a truce. In 1304 he compelled its submission, and excepted from the amnesty granted to the Scotch nobles Sir William Wallace, who was captured and executed in 1305. In 1307, to avenge Bruce's murder of Comyn and his attacks on the English, Edward resolved on a seventh invasion, and, though in great bodily weakness, determined to lead his army in person; but his almost unexampled labours had already undermined his vigorous health, and he died 7th July 1307, at the village of Burgh-on-the-Sands, on the fifth day of his march northwards from Carlisle. He had given orders that his dead body should be carried before the army until his enemies were conquered; but his son Edward made no endeavour to fulfil his wish. The body was escorted to Waltharn, and was buried at Westminster on the 27th October. In Edward were united in a rare degree both the physical and mental qualities of a great general; and he is one of the few English kings, and perhaps the first, who can lay claim to the higher qualities of statesmanship. The measures which he passed for the government of his own kingdom, and the concessions he made to the demands of his subjects, almost entitle him to be called the founder of England's constitutional freedom; while the far-seeing wisdom of his foreign policy was shown by his sacrificing his influence in France in order to quell the opposition to his authority in Scotland. That his claims on Scotland were altogether just can scarcely be affirmed; but that he clearly saw the necessity of a union of Scotland and England, and devoted his whole efforts to the attainment of this end, is perhaps his highest title to honourable remembrance. His harsh manner of attaining his end, and the cruel punishments he exercised on those who sought to thwart his efforts, may be excused partly on account of the times in which he lived, and partly as arising from the just vexation of a stern and eager nature; and they are somewhat counter-balanced by the righteousness and clemency with which he governed Scotland at the periods when it was under his rule.

See Hallam's Middle Ages; Pearson's History of England during the Early and Middle Ages, vol. ii.; Longman's Lectures on the History of England, vol. i.; Stubbs's Early Plantagenet Kings; Hill Burton's History of Scotland, vol. ii.; and Green's Short History of the English People.








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