Accession & Reign
During his father’s absence in 1297, Edward II took over as the regent in charge of England for a year. In 1300, the father-son duo set forth to Scotland, with young Edward as commander of the rearguard, at the siege of Caerlaverock.
He was made Prince of Wales in 1301, thus becoming the first English Prince to hold the title.
During the early 1300s, Prince Edward befriended Piers Gaveston, son of the King's household knights. The two shared a close relationship. This close friendship augmented Gaveston’s social status largely. In 1306, Prince Edward was knighted by the King.
In 1307, Gaveston was exiled to Gascony. It is speculated that the King’s order for exile was as a response to a suggestion made by Prince Edward to give Gaveston the County of Ponthieu which he had inherited from his mother. Some even suggest that Gaveston and Prince Edward shared a sexual relationship
In 1307, Robert the Bruce jumped to power as the King of the Scots, thus disintegrating King Edward I’s dream of a unified British nation. Though Prince Edward II was appointed as the head of the expedition against Bruce, his forces had to retreat following orders from King Edward I.
King Edward mobilized a fresh army in 1307 for the Scottish campaign. Just when Prince Edward was to join the military forces, the king fell terminally ill which finally led to his death. Following the death of King Edward, Prince Edward was proclaimed as the King of England on July 20, 1307.
As the King of England, Edward II first recalled Piers Gaveston from exile and appointed the latter as the Earl of Cornwall, a title until then limited to the members of the royalty only. The appointment caused a fury amongst the powerful barons and earned him the wrath of the nobles and magnates.
In 1308, when King Edward II left for France, he appointed Gaveston as his ‘custos regni’ in charge of the kingdom during his absence. This appointment was loathed by barons as it gave Gaveston unprecedented powers.
In 1308, Edward II married Isabella of France with the hope that the union would strengthen his position in Gascony and bring him much needed funds. However, the negotiations proved to be tough.
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At King Edward II and Isabella’s coronation and wedding feast, a large reception was organized during which Gaveston played a crucial role. His precedence at the ceremonial celebrations provoked much fury amongst the English and French contingents.
At the 1308 parliamentary meet, the King’s constant preference to Gaveston became a major subject of contention. Two months later, a fresh parliament was held during which the barons successfully forced Gaveston’s exile. Originally intended to go to Aquitaine, Gaveston was instead sent to Dublin, where he was appointed as the Lieutenant of Ireland.
During Gaveston’s exile, King Edward II made numerous efforts to allow the return of Gaveston in England by convincing Pope Clement V and Philip IV in addition to the members of the Church, key barons and leading earls, but in vain. Finally, based on his assurance, the Pope annulled Archbishop's threat to excommunicate Gaveston, thus opening the possibility of the latter’s return.
In an attempt to pacify Gaveston’s critics, he agreed to limit the powers of the royal steward and the marshal of the royal household, to regulate the Crown's unpopular powers of purveyance and to abandon recently enacted customs legislation
In 1310, a 21 elected member baronial committee was formed. They drafted the Ordinance which limited King’s rights and instead gave parliament the control over the royal administration, abolishing the system of prises, excluding the Frescobaldi bankers, and introducing a system to monitor the adherence to the Ordinances. It further limited the King’s right to go to war or grant land. It also exiled Gaveston whose return in 1312 led to his capture and execution.
Following the rise in power of Robert the Bruce and his regaining of the kingdom of Scotland, King Edward II invaded Scotland. However, he was defeated resoundingly at the Battle of Bannockburn. His defeat in the battle led the barons to take control over the administration. By 1315, his cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster became the real master of England.
The period between 1315 and 1321 was largely dominated by the Great Famine which ruefully engulfed the whole of England. Adding to the woes was the ascending power of the Scottish regime led by Robert the Bruce. His brother, Edward Bruce successfully invaded Ireland and became the King of Ireland
By 1321, King Edward II had new favorites in the form of Hugh Dispenser and his son, Hugh Dispenser the Young. The association with the Dispenser was yet again loathed by the barons. As such, when the King supported the Dispensers in their territorial ambitions in Wales, Lancaster banished the two. King Edward II defeated Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge, Yorkshire and later captured and executed him.
In 1325, while on a diplomatic mission to France to negotiate a peace treaty, his wife Isabella befriended exiled Marcher lord, Roger Mortimer and became his mistress. The two soon invaded England, executed the Dispensers, deposed King Edward II and instead made Edward III the rightful King.
Following his banishment, he was transferred to Berkley Castle in Gloucestershire on April 5, 1327. Later in September the same year, he was murdered.
Personal Life & Legacy
According to the customary practice amongst the royal families of those times, Edward II’s marriage was more of an imperial arrangement to strengthen the kingdom rather than a love alliance. After a string of failed associations, his marriage to Isabella of France was fixed.
King Edward II tied the nuptial knot to Isabella on January 25, 1308. The couple was blessed with four children, Edward III, John, Eleanor and Joan. King Edward II also fathered an illegitimate son Adam from his relationship with mistresses.
His marriage to Isabella was mostly successful. However, Isabella’s visit to Paris in 1325 changed the course of their relationship and the impending future of the couple. In Paris, she became a mistress to Roger Mortimer. The two carefully planned the invasion of England and subsequent execution of King Edward II.
After his death on September 21, 1327, King Edward II was succeeded by his son, Edward III. His body was embalmed at Berkeley Castle before being taken to Gloucester Abbey where he was finally buried by the high altar.