King Edward II of England (2024)

This profile of King Edward II of England is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

Edward II was also known as:

Edward of Caernarvon

Edward II was known for:

His extreme unpopularity and his general ineffectiveness as king. Edward lavished gifts and privileges on his favorites, fought against his barons, and was ultimately overthrown by his wife and her lover. Edward of Caernarvon was alsothe first Crown Prince of England to be given the title "Prince of Wales."



Places of Residence and Influence:

Great Britain

Important Dates:

Born:April 25, 1284
Crowned:July 7, 1307
Died:September, 1327

About Edward II:

Edward appears to have had a rocky relationship with his father, Edward I; upon the older man's death, the first thing the younger Edward did as king was give the most prestigious offices to Edward I's most notable opponents. This did not sit well with the late king's loyal retainers.

The young king angered the barons still further by giving the earldom of Cornwall to his favorite, Piers Gaveston. The title "Earl of Cornwall" was one that had hitherto only been used by royalty, and Gaveston (who may have been Edward's lover), was considered foolish and irresponsible. So incensed were the barons over Gaveston's status that they drew up a document known as the Ordinances, which not only demanded the favorite's banishment but restricted the king's authority in finances and appointments. Edward seemed to go along with the Ordinances, sending Gaveston away; but it wasn't long before he allowed him to return. Edward didn't know who he was dealing with. The barons captured Gaveston and executed him in June of 1312.

Now Edward faced a threat from Robert the Bruce, the king of Scotland, who, in an attempt to throw off the control England had gained over his country under Edward I, had been retaking Scottish territory since before the old king's death. In 1314, Edward led an army into Scotland, but at the Battle of Bannockburn in June he was roundly defeated by Robert, and Scotland's independence was secured. This failure on Edward's part left him vulnerable to the barons, and his cousin, Thomas of Lancaster, led a group of them against the king. Beginning in 1315, Lancaster held real control over the kingdom.

Edward was too weak (or, some said, too indolent) to dislodge Lancaster who was, unfortunately, an incompetent leader himself, and this sad state of affairs persisted until the 1320s. At that time the king became close friends with Hugh le Despenser and his son (also named Hugh). When the younger Hugh attempted to acquire territory in Wales, Lancaster banished him; and so Edward gathered some military might on behalf of the Despensers. At Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, in March of 1322, Edward succeeded in defeating Lancaster, a feat that may have been made possible by a falling-out among the latter's supporters.

After executing Lancaster, Edward annulled the Ordinances and exiled some of the barons, freeing himself from baronial control. But his tendency to favor certain of his subjects worked against him once more. Edward's partiality toward the Despensers alienated his wife, Isabella. When Edward sent her on a diplomatic mission to Paris, she began an open relationship with Roger Mortimer, one of the barons Edward had exiled. Together, Isabella and Mortimer invaded England in September of 1326, executed the Despensers, and deposed Edward. His son succeeded him as Edward III.

Tradition has it that Edward died in September, 1327, and that he was probably murdered. For some time a story circulated that the method of his execution involved a hot poker and his nether regions. However, this gruesome detail has no contemporary source and appears to be a later fabrication. In fact, there is even a recent theory that Edward escaped his imprisonment in England and survived until 1330. No consensus has yet been reached on the actual date or manner of Edward's demise.

More Edward II Resources:

Edward II in Print

The links below will take you to an online bookstore, where you can find more information about the book to helpyou get it from your local library. This is provided as a convenience to you; neither Melissa Snell nor About is responsible for any purchases you make through these links.

Edward II: The Unconventional King
by Kathryn Warner; with a foreword by Ian Mortimer
King Edward II: His Life, His Reign, and Its Aftermath 1284-1330
by Roy Martin Haines

Edward II on the Web

Edward II (1307-27 AD)
Concise, informative bio at Britannia Internet Magazine.
Edward II (1284 - 1327)
Brief overview from BBC History.

Medieval Britain

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King Edward II of England (2024)
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