1902 Encyclopedia > Edward II, King of England

Edward II
King of England

EDWARD II. (1284-1327), king of England, fourth son of Edward I. and of Eleanor, was born at Carnarvon, April 25, 1284, and became heir-apparent in 1285. His first title was earl of Carnarvon, but in 1301 he was created earl of Chester and prince of Wales. His personal character, and the whole tenor and tendency of his reign, may perhaps be best described as the opposite of those of his father. Though not the slave of any of the worst vices, and not without natural abilities, he was weak, indolent, and faithless; and his utter incompetence for the position in which fortune had placed him requires no other proof than the fate which finally overtook him. His first acts after the death of his father foreshadowed his future career. He at once recalled Piers Gaveston, a favourite whom his father had banished from the court, and created him earl of Cornwall, caused his father's body to be buried at Westminster, and, after rejoining the army for a few days, returned again to London, and for six years made no serious effort to prosecute the war with Scotland. Previous to his coronation he went to France to be married to Isabella, daughter of Philip II.; and by appointing Gaveston guardian of the kingdom during his absence, and loading him with honours and presents on his return, he roused the animosity of the nobles to such a height that it was only on his promising to agree to certain demands that might be submitted to him at a future Parliament, that they consented to his coronation. It took place 25th February 1308. Until the nobles rose in rebellion in 1312, and executed Gaveston at Warwick castle, the favourite formed a perpetual subject of dispute between the nobles and the king, and was alternately banished and recalled according to the king's exigencies. In 1311 Parliament confirmed the report of the "Committee of Ordinances" appointed to reform the abuses of the administration. The king nominally agreed to act in accordance with the report, but by a saving clause secured to himself full liberty to evade the principal enactments, the result of which was a series of quarrels with the nobles, becoming more serious each successive time, followed by reconciliations increasing gradually in hollowness till the end of his reign. Robert Bruce took full advantage of the internal difficulties of England, and in 1314 had reconquered the principal strongholds of Scotland with the exception of Stirling castle. For its relief Edward raised an army of 100,000 men, but suffered a ruinous defeat at the battle of Bannockburn, 24th June 1314. Edward made no further effort of importance against the Scots till 1319, when he besieged Berwick, which Bruce had taken, but was compelled to raise the siege, and concluded a two years' truce with Scotland. After the death of Piers Gaveston, the place of favourite with the king was occupied by Hugh Despenser. He was banished by Parliament in 1321, but soon returned; and, provoked at this, the barons under Lancaster declared war, but were defeated and Lancaster executed in March 1322. In 1323 a fourteen years' truce was concluded with Scotland. In 1324 Edward was persuaded to send the queen to France in order to settle some disputes with the French king. She succeeded in her mission, but refused to return home, on account, she affirmed, of previous ill-treatment by her husband, although doubtless intrigues with Roger Mortimer had something to do with her refusal. From France she went to Flanders, and, raising a small army against the king, landed at Orwell in Suffolk, 22d September 1326. The whole nation flocked to her standard, Despenser was executed, and young Edward was appointed guardian of the kingdom. In 1327, the king was formally deposed by Parliament, and his son elected in his stead. A plot was formed against the deposed monarch in the same year, and he was murdered with great cruelty at Berkeley Castle on the 27th September.

See the same writers for this reign as for the last, viz. as follows: --

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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