Edward II

(Edward II of England)


Edward II
Edward II was the son of Edward I, a rigorous and highly-disciplined monarch, but he was utterly unlike his father, and gained notoriety for himself as a weak and frivolous king. His father tired to instill martial values in him, and he went along in so far as he was required to, but as soon as his father was dead he reverted to his preferred frivolous entertainments. He was highly unpopular with the nobility that his father had favored, and instead bestowed his attentions on low-born and licentious favorites, most particularly Piers Gaveston with whom he was on intimate terms. Soon after his coronation, Edward II was married to Isabella, a beautiful princess of France, but even after his marriage he preferred the company of his favorites. Although she bore him four children, Isabella eventually became one of his worst enemies, and ultimately brought about his downfall.

The last several years of Edward I's life had been spent campaigning in Scotland, yet as soon as he died, Edward II abandoned the effort to bring Scotland under England's dominion, so that he could return to his court and indulge in entertaining vices. Within a few years Robert the Bruce had won back most of Scotland, and his victories were cemented by a great military disaster for England at the Battle of Bannockburn. This defeat, in which hundreds of English nobility were slain, undermined the king's already diminished authority over the English Barons.

After five years of incompetent rulership, disgust with the king and his favorites was so high that the Barons forced the king's favorite, Gaveston, into exile, and when he returned, captured and killed him. This only infuriated Edward, who then formed an alliance with Hugh Despenser, a relation of Gaveston. By granting favors, Edward promoted enough of his partisans to stand against the barons, and abrogated all previous agreements with them. By this time his wife had turned entirely against him, and after gaining custody of Prince Edward, raised a rebellion in France and invaded England. With the help of her new lover, Roger Mortimer, and a number of English Barons who joined in the revolt, they deposed Edward II, placed prince Edward on the throne, and ruled as regents in his name. Rather than put the deposed king on trial, he was brutally murdered while being kept prisoner in a distant castle.

Key events during the life of Edward II:

Birth of Edward II
Ascends to the throne on the death of Edward I.
Marriage to Isabella of France
  Withdraws from conflict in Scotland, allowing Bruce to reclaim his throne.
Barons insist on banishment of Gaveston
Gaveston executed by the Earl of Lancaster
Scots defeat England at the Battle of Bannockburn.
Revokes previous agreements with Barons and dissolved Parliament.
Isabella leaves England and gains control Prince Edward.
Isabella and Mortimer invade England, depose Edward II.
Edward II imprisoned and murdered.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Richard's Predecessors  in  Richard II  by  Jacob Abbott
Battle of Bannockburn  in  Stories from English History  by  Alfred J. Church
First Two Edwards  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Story of the Battle of Bannockburn  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Bannockburn  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Image Links

Portrait of Edward the Second
 in Richard II

The First Prince of Wales
 in  The Story of the English

Edward II. and Piers Gaveston
 in  The Story of the English

Short Biography
Isabella Wife of Edward II, who ultimately turned against him. Mother of Edward III.
Roger Mortimer English noble who allied himself with Isabella too overthrow Edward II.
Piers Gaveston Notorious favorite of Edward II. Murdered by disgruntled barons.
Robert the Bruce Scottish nobleman who claimed the crown and led resistance to England at Bannockburn.
Earl of Lancaster Enemy of Edward II. Killed Piers Gaveston.
Hugh Despenser Unpopular favorite of Edward II after the death of Gaveston.