Edward II - 1307-1327
The story of Edward II has the elements of a grand horror story, with marital treachery and a gruesome death. The only surviving son of a powerful father, Edward I, he was brought up in a household of female siblings and this may well have conditioned his character.
His reign was not a happy one for he had a weakness for surrounding himself with unsuitable and incompetent advisers. One of these, Piers Gaveston, was executed by the barons who were deeply dissatisfied by Gaveston's influence on the king.
Edward's forays against the Scots, whom his father had dealt with energetically, were a failure. His army was defeated at Bannockburn by the forces of Robert Bruce.
Though Edward was able to quell a rebellion by barons at Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, his troubles were not over. His wife, Isabella of France, who had borne him four children, deserted him for Roger Mortimer and ran away to France. Here she and her lover raised an army which sailed to the Suffolk coast and defeated Edward.
This act forced him to abdicate in favour of his son Edward, later to become Edward III, during whose childhood Isabella and Mortimer would be regents. Edward was deposed with the consent of Parliament and imprisoned in Berkeley Castle in Somerset.
Attempts were made to rescue him until, on his wife's and Mortimers orders, he was murdered by hired killers who were told that no mark should be visible on his body. The only way of doing this was by pushing a red-hot poker up his anus, which at the time was a conventional, but gruesome death for homosexuals.
In 1330 when he was eighteen, Edward's son decided to take up the reins of power. Mortimer was tried and executed and Isabella was imprisoned at Castle Rising in Norfolk for the rest of her life.
Isabella of France (1292-1358) - Isabella was Queen to Edward II of England. She was known as Isabella the Fair, and later as the She-Wolf of France. As soon as she arrived in England, aged only twelve, to marry Edward, Isabella noticed that Piers Gaveston, to whom Edward had entrusted the 'care' of England, was wearing rings and jewels which her own father had just given to Edward. Edward and his gay companion were publicly kissing and embracing. Isabella wrote home in her misery, describing herself as the most wretched woman in the world.
Realizing that she could do nothing about the situation, she gritted her teeth and became a loyal and supportive consort. She bore Edward four children, and helped him on his admittedly unsuccessful military campaigns. Eventually, when Isabella had had enough of his strange relationships, she took herself a lover, Roger Mortimer. Aiming to revenge herself on Edward, Isabella recruited an army in France and after a struggle Edward was defeated.
Key Events during the Reign of Edward II
1307 - Edward accedes to the throne on the death of his father Edward I.
1308 - Edward's favourite, the Gascon noble Piers Gaveston, is exiled for misgovernment.
1309 - Gaveston returns from exile in France. Robert Bruce holds his first parliament at St Andrews.
1310 - Parliament sets up a committee of Lords Ordainers to control the King and improve administration. The King's cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, takes control.
1312 - Gaveston is kidnapped by the King's opponents and is beheaded.
1314 - Edward and the English army are routed at the Battle of Bannockburn by Robert Bruce.
1320 - Edward takes two new favourites, Sir Hugh Despenser and his son Hugh.
1322 - Barons' rebellion, led by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, is crushed at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Edward has Lancaster beheaded.
1326 - Edward's wife Isabella seizes power with her lover Roger and deposes Edward. The Despensers are both put to death.
1327 - Edward is murdered in Berkeley Castle.