Edward Plantagenet (1239-1307)

Relation to me: 20th Great Grandfather


Edward Plantagenet is and was also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots. He was the King of England from 1272 until 1307. Edward had spent much of his reign trying to reform the royal administration and the common law. Through an extensive legal inquiry he investigated the tenure of various feudal liberties and regulated criminal and property law. Increasingly though, Edward’s attention was drawn towards military affairs.

He was a tall man for his time, hence his nickname of Longshanks. Edward was also temperamental, and this along with his height made him an intimidating man. He had often instilled fear into his contemporaries, but nevertheless he had held the respect of his subjects for the way that he embodied medieval ideal of kinship, as a soldier, an administrator, and as a man of faith.

Edward was the first son of Henry III and was involved early on in the political intrigues of his father’s reign, including an outright rebellion by the English barons. During 1259, he had briefly sided with the baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciling with his father though Edward remained loyal through subsequent armed conflicts that would be known as the Second Barons’ War.

After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was a hostage to the rebellious barons. He would escape after a few months and joined the fighting against Simon de Montfort. Simon was defeated at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, within two years the barons’ rebellion was extinguished. With England pacified, Edward joined the 9th Crusade to the Holy Land. The crusade accomplished very little. Edward was on his way back home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Regardless of his father’s passing, Edward took his time to get home, not reaching England until 1274. Upon getting back to England he was crowned at Westminster on the 19th of August.

Once he suppressed a minor rebellion in Wales in 1276-1277, Edward responded to a second rebellion in 1282-1283, with a full-scale war of conquest. After a successful campaign, he subjected Wales to the rule of the English. He would build a series of castles and towns through the countryside and settled them with people from England. His efforts were then directed towards Scotland. He was initially invited to arbitrate a succession of dispute in Scotland, but claimed feudal suzerainty over the kingdom. In the war that would follow, the Scots persevered, even though the English had seemed to be victorious at several points. At the same time, Edward was facing problems at home. In the mid-1290s, extensive military campaigns required high levels of taxation. Edward had met with both lay and ecclesiastical opposition, but these crises were initially averted. However, there were still issues that were unsettled.

When King Edward died in 1307, he would leave his son, Edward II, an ongoing war with Scotland and many more financial and political problems. Modern historians are divided on their assessment of Edward I. Some have praised him for his contribution to law and administration, yet others have criticized him for his uncompromising attitude towards his nobility. Today, Edward I is credited with many accomplishments during his reign, including restoring the royal authority after the reign of his father, Henry III, establishing Parliament as a permanent institution, thereby also establishing a functional system for raising taxes and reforming law through statutes. At the same time, Edward is also criticized for other actions. Actions like his brutal conduct towards the Scots and issuing the Edict of Expulsion in 1290, where the Jews were expelled from England. The Edict would remain in effect for the remainder of the Middle Ages and for 350 years until it was formally overturned under Oliver Cromwell in 1656.


Edward’s Early Life


Myself Outside and Across the River Thames from the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)

Born at the Palace of Westminster on the night of the 17th to 18th of June 1239 to King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, Edward Plantagenet was the eldest of their children. The name Edward is an Anglo-Saxon name, and at the time he was born it was not commonly given among the aristocracy of England after the Norman Conquest. However, Edward’s father, Henry, was devoted to the veneration of Edward the Confessor and chose to name his firstborn son after the saint.

Among Edward’s childhood friends was his cousin Henry of Almain. Henry was the son of King Henry’s brother, Richard of Cornwall. He would remain a close companion of the young prince and would remain as such through both the civil war and during the crusade. Edward was placed in the care of Hugh Giffard, the father of the future Chancellor Godfrey Giffard, until Bartholomew Pecche took over the position when Godfrey passed away in 1246.

There had been some concerns about Edward’s health when he was young. He had fallen ill in 1246, 1247 and 1251, but he would still become an imposing man, as he would grow to be six feet, two inches tall and towered over most of his contemporaries. He would be given the nickname of Longshanks, meaning “long legs” or “long shins”. Historian Michael Prestwich states that Edward’s “long arms gave him an advantage as a swordsman, long thighs one as a horseman”. During his younger years, Edward had curly blonde hair, as he grew into maturity it darkened and in his elderly years it turned to white. His features had been marred by a drooping left eyelid and his speech, despite a lisp, was said to have been persuasive.

During 1254, the English feared a Castilian invasion of their province, Gascony, which made Edward’s father arrange a politically expedient marriage between his fourteen-year-old son and the thirteen-year-old Eleanor of Castile, the half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castile.


Eleanor of Castile


Eleanor and Edward were united in marriage on the 1st of November of 1254 in the Abbey of Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas in Castile. As part of their marriage agreement, the young prince Edward had received grants of land worth 15,000 marks per year. Although the endowments that King Henry had made were sizable, they had offered Edward little independence. He had already received Gascony in 1249, but Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester, had been appointed as royal lieutenant the previous year and had consequently drew its income. Therefore, in practice, Edward derived neither authority nor revenue from this province. The grant he had received in 1254 included most of Ireland as well as a good amount of land in Wales and England, including the earldom of Chester. The King would retain a lot of control over the land that was in question, particularly that of which was in Ireland. Therefore, Edward’s power was limited there as well, but the king derived most of the income he received from those lands.

In 1254 until 1257, Edward was under the influence of his mother’s relatives, the Savoyards, the most notable being Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle. After 1257, Edward increasingly fell in with the Poitevin and Lusignan faction that included his father’s half-brothers and were led by such men as William de Valence. This association was significant because the two groups were compromised of privileged foreigners that were resented by the established English aristocracy. They would be the center of the ensuing years’ baronial reform movement. There were tales of unruly and violent conduct by Edward and his Lusignan kinsmen, which had raised some questions about the royal heir’s personal qualities. The next few years would be formative on Edward’s character.

As early as 1255, Edward has shown independence in political matters, when he had sided with the Soler family of Gascony in the ongoing conflict between the Soler and Colomb families. This ran contrary to his father’s policy of mediation between the local factions. In May of 1258, a group of magnates had drawn up a document for the reform of the King’s government. The so-called Provisions of Oxford had been largely directed against the Lusignans. Edward stood by his political allies and strongly opposed the Provisions. The reform movement succeeded in limiting the Lusignan influence, and gradually Edward’s attitude started to change. In March of the following year, Edward entered into a formal alliance with one of the main reformers, Richard de Clare, the Earl of Gloucester. On the 15th of October 1259, he announced his support of the barons’ goals and their leader, Simon de Montfort.

Simon de Montfort

The motive behind Edward’s change of heart could have been purely pragmatic. Montfort had been in a good position to support his cause in Gascony. When the King had left in November to go to France, Edward’s behavior turned into pure insubordination. He had made several appointments to advance the cause of the reformers, causing his father to believe that his son was considering a coup d’etat. Upon the king’s return from France, he initially refused to see his son, but through the mediation of the Earl of Cornwall and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the two were eventually reconciled. Edward was then sent abroad.

In November of 1260, Edward had again reunited with the Lusignans, who had been exiled to France. Two years later, in the early part of 1262 in England, Edward fell out with some of his former Lusignan allies over financial matters. The next year, King Henry had sent him on a campaign in Wales against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. He only would succeed limited results. At about the same time, Simon de Montfort, who had been outside of the country since 1261, had returned to England and reignited the baronial reform movement. It was at this pivotal moment that the King seemed ready to resign to the barons’ demands and that Edward began to take control of the situation, whereas he was so far unpredictable and equivocating. From this time on, Edward would remain firmly devoted to protecting his father’s royal rights. He would reunite with some of the men that he had abandoned the year before, among them was his childhood friend, Henry of Almain and John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey. Together they would retake Windsor Castle from the rebels. Through the arbitration of King Louis IX of France, an agreement was made between the two parties. The agreement was called Mise of Amiens and was largely favorable to the royalist side and laid the seeds for further conflict.


The Second Barons’ War

From 1264 until 1267 a conflict arose that would be known as the Second Barons’ War. Baronial forces that were led by Simon de Montfort fought against those who had stayed loyal to the king. The first battle scene was at the city of Gloucester, which Edward was able to retake from the enemy. When Robert de Ferrers, the Earl of Derby, had come to assist the rebels, Edward negotiated a truce with him, but he would later break the terms. Edward then captured Northampton from Simon’s son, also named Simon, before he left for a retaliatory campaign against Derby’s lands. Baronial and loyalist forces had finally met at the Battle of Lewes on the 14th of May of 1264. Commanding the right ring was Edward, who performed well and soon defeated the London contingent of Montfort’s forces. Unwisely, however, he would follow the scattered enemy in pursuit and upon his return would find the rest of the royal army defeated. By the agreement, known as the Mise of Lewes, Edward and his cousin Henry of Almain were given up as hostages to Montfort.

(c) Lewes Town Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Depiction of the Battle of Lewes

Edward would stay in captivity until March, even after he was released, he was kept under strict surveillance. On the 28th of May, Edward managed to escape his custodians and joined the Earl of Gloucester, who had recently defected to the King’s side. Montfort’s support was now fading. Edward had retook Worcester and Gloucester with minimal effort. Meanwhile, Montfort had made an alliance with Llywelyn and started to move to the east to join his son’s forces. Edward was able to make a surprise attack at Kenilworth Castle, where the younger Simon was quartered, before he moved on to cut off the Earl of Leicester. The two forces then met at the second major encounter of the Barons’ War, the Battle of Evesham, that took place on the 4th of August 1265. Montfort had stood little chance against the superior royal forces. After his defeat he was killed and mutilated on the field.

Through such episodes as the deception of Derby at Gloucester, Edward has able to acquire a reputation of being untrustworthy. During his summer campaign though, he was able to gain the respect and admiration of his contemporaries. The war didn’t end with the death of Montfort though, Edward would participate in the continued campaigning. At Christmas, he had come to terms with the younger Simon de Montfort and his associates at Isle of Axholme in Lincolnshire. During the following March, he led a successful assault on the Cinque Ports. A group of rebels held out in the so-called impregnable Kenilworth Castle and didn’t surrender until the drafting of the conciliatory Dictum of Kenilworth. A month later it seemed as though Gloucester would join the cause of the reform movement. The civil war would resume, but after a renegotiation of terms of the Dictum of Kenilworth the parties came to an agreement. However, Edward was only slightly involved in the settlement negotiations after the wars. At this point his main focus was on planning his forthcoming crusade.


The Crusade and Edward’s Accession

Edward had taken the crusader’s cross in an elaborate ceremony on the 24th of June 1268. With his brother, Edmund, and their cousin Henry of Almain, among others who had committed themselves to the 9th Crusade were former adversaries of Edward’s, including the Earl of Gloucester, though de Clare didn’t ultimately participate. With the country content, the greatest impediment to the project was their contributing sufficient finances. King Louis IX of France, who was the leader of the crusade, had provided a loan of about 17,500 pounds. This was not enough though, the rest had to be raised through tax on the laity, which hadn’t been taxed since 1237. In May of 1270, Parliament granted a tax of a twentieth, in exchange, the King had agreed to reconfirm the Magna Carta. They would also impose restrictions on Jewish money lending. Three months later, Edward set sail from Dover for France. Historians haven’t been able to determine the size of the force with any absolute certainty, but Edward probably brought with him around two-hundred and twenty-five knights, and altogether less than one-thousand men.

Originally, the Crusader’s were supposed to relieve the beleaguered Christian stronghold at Acre, but King Louis had been diverted to Tunis. The French king and his brother Charles of Anjou, who had made himself the King of Sicily, chose to attack the emirate, so as to establish a stronghold in North Africa. The plans had failed when the French forces were struck by an epidemic, which on the 25th of August, had taken the life of King Louis himself. By the time that Edward would arrive at Tunis, Charles had already signed a treaty with the emir, and there wasn’t very much else to do but return to Sicily. The Crusade was postponed until the following spring, but a devastating storm off the coast of Sicily dissuaded Charles of Anjou and Louis’ successor Philip III from any further campaigning. Edward decided to continue by himself and on the 9th of May 1271, Edward finally landed at Acre.

By the time of the landing, the situation in the Holy Land was precarious. Jerusalem had fallen in 1244 and so Acre was now the center of the Christian state. The Muslim states were on the offensive under the Mamluk leadership of Baibars. They were not threatening Acre itself and even though Edward’s men were an important addition to the garrison, they had stood only a small chance against Baibar’s superior forces. Initially a raid close by at St. Georges-de-Lebeyne in une was largely futile. An embassy to the [Ikhan Abaqa] of the Mongols had helped to bring about an attack on Aleppo in the North, which had helped to distract Baibars’ forces. In November, Hugh III of Cyprus, who at the time was the King of Jerusalem, had signed a ten-year truce with Baibars. Edward had been defeated at first, but an attack by a Muslim assassin in June had forced him to abandon any further campaigning. Even though he was able to kill the assassin, he was struck in the arm by a dagger that was feared to be poisoned. He would become severely weakened over the following months.

It was not until the 24th of September that Edward departed Acre. When he arrived in Sicily, he was met with the news that his father had died on the 16th of November of 1272. Edward was deeply saddened by the news, but instead of hurrying home, Edward made his leisurely journey toward the north. This was possibly due to his own health still being poor from the dagger injury, but was due to a lack of urgency as well. The political situation in England was stable after the upheavals in the middle of the century, and Edward was proclaimed king when his father had died, rather than at his own coronation, as had been customary until this time. Since Edward was still absent, the country was governed by a royal council that was being led by Robert Burnell. The new king embarked on a journey through Italy and France to visit Pope Gregory X in Rome and King Philip III in Paris. He was also able to suppress a rebellion in Gascony. On the 2nd of August 1274, he had returned to England and was then crowned on the 19th of August.


Edward’s Early Reign

Llywelyn ap Gruffudd had enjoyed an advantageous situation in the aftermath of the Barons’ War. In 1267, the the Treaty of Montgomery, he had officially obtained the land he had conquered in the Four Cantrefs of Perfeddwlad and was recognized in his title of Prince of Wales. The armed conflict had still continued, in particular with certain dissatisfied Marcher Lords, like Gilbert de Clare, the Earl of Gloucester; Roger Mortimer; and Humphrey de Bohun, the Earl of Hereford. Problems were exacerbated when Llywelyn’s younger brother Dafydd and Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn of Powys had failed in their assassination attempt against Llywelyn. The incident was defected to the English in 1274, citing ongoing hostilities and the English king’s harboring of his enemies. Llywelyn had refused to do homage to Edward and for him, a further provocation came from Llywelyn’s planned marriage to Eleanor, the daughter of Simon de Montfort.

In November of 1276, a war was declared. The initial operations were launched under the captaincy of Mortimer, Edmund who was the brother of Edward, and William de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick. The support for Llywelyn was weak among his own countrymen. In July of 1277, Edward invaded with a force of 15,500. Nine-thousand of these men were Welshmen. The campaign never developed into a major battle and Llywelyn had soon realized that he had no choice but to surrender. Through the Treaty of Aberconwy in November he was left with only Gwynedd as his land. Even though he only had this land, he was still able to retain the title of Prince of Wales.

During 1282, another war broke out, it was an entirely different undertaking. For the Welsh, this was over national identity. They would enjoy wide support and were provoked particularly by attempts to impose English law on the Welsh subjects. For Edward, it had become a war of conquest instead of simply a punitive expedition, like the former campaign was. The war had started with the rebellion of Dafydd, who was angry with the reward he had received from Edward back in 1277. Llywelyn and other Welsh chieftains would soon join in, initially the Welsh experienced military success, but in June, Gloucester was defeated at the Battle of Llandeilo Fawr. On the 6th of November, while John Peckham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was trying to make peace negotiations. Edward’s commander of Anglesy, Luke de Tany, had chose to carry out a surprise attack. A pontoon bridge was built to the mainland, but shortly after Tary and his men had crossed it, they were ambushed by the Welsh, suffering heavy losses at the Battle of Moel-y-don. The Welsh advances would stop on December 11th. However, when Llwylen was lured into a trap and then killed at the Battle of Orewin Bridge the conquest of Gwynedd was complete with Dafydd capturing it in June of 1283. He was then taken to Shrewsbury and executed as a traitor the next autumn. More rebellions would occur in 1287 until 1288 and then again, more seriously, in 1294, under Madog ap Llylwelyn’s leadership. This final conflict would demand the King’s own attention, but in both cases the rebellions were put down.

By 1284, the Statute of Rhuddlan, the Principality of Wales was incorporated into England and had been given an administrative system like the English, with the counties being policed by sheriffs. English law would be introduced in criminal cases, even though the Welsh were allowed to maintain their own customary laws in some cases of property disputes. After 1277 and even more so after 1283, Edward had embarked on a full-scale project of English settlement of Wales. He would create new towns like Flint, Aberystwyth and Rhuddlan. Their new residents were English migrants. The local Welsh were banned from living inside these towns and many of the new towns were protected by extensive walls.

An extensive project of castle building was also initiated. Under the direction of Master James of Saint George, a prestigious architect who Edward had met in Savoy on his return from the crusade. These had included the castles of Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech. These new castles were intended to act both as fortresses as well as royal palaces for the King. His program of this castle building in Wales heralded the introduction of the widespread use of arrowslits in the castle walls across Europe, getting the idea for these from Eastern lands. Another product of the Crusades was the introduction of the concentric castle and four of the eight castles Edward had founded in Wales followed this same design. The castles had made a clear, imperial statement about Edward’s intentions to rule North Wales permanently and drew on imagery that was associated with the Byzantine Roman Empire and King Arthur, in an attempt to build legitimacy for his new regime.

In 1284, King Edward would be birthed a son by his wife, his name was also Edward and would later become Edward II. He was born at Caernarfon Castle. David Powel, a 16th Century clergyman suggests that the baby was offered to the Welsh as a prince saying “that was borne in Wales and could speake never a word of English”, there is no evidence to support this account though.

At Lincoln, in 1301, the younger Edward became the first English prince to be invested with the title of Prince of Wales and also the earldom of Chester and lands across North Wales. King Edward seems to have had hopes of pacifying the region through doing this. He also probably hoped that it would give his son more financial independence.

Edward would never again attend a crusade after his return to England back in 1274, but he did maintain an intention to do so. He would take the cross again in 1287 with his intentions guiding most of his foreign policy, until at least 1291. So as to stage an European-wide crusade, it was essential to prevent a conflict between the greater princes on the continent. A major obstacle to this had been represented by the conflict between the French House of Anjou, from ruling southern Italy and the Kingdom of Aragon in Spain. During 1282, citizens in Palermo arose against Charles of Anjou and turned for some help from Peter of Aragon in what has become known as the Sicilian Vespers. In the following war, Charles of Anjou’s son, Charles of Salerno, was taken as a prisoner by the Aragonese. The French started to plan an attack on Aragon, raising the prospect of a large-scale European war. To Edward, it was imperative that a war like this be avoided. Then in 1286, in Paris, Edward had brokered a truce between the French and Aragon that had helped secure Charles’ release. As far as the crusades were concerned though, Edward’s efforts provided ineffective. A devastating blow to his plans would come about in 1291, when the Mamluks captured Acre, the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land.

After Acre fell, Edward’s international role had changed from that of a diplomat to an antagonist. He’d long been deeply involved in the affairs of his own Duchy of Gascony. During 1278, Edward assigned an investigating commission to his trusted associates, Otto de Granson and the chancellor Robert Burnell, which had caused the replacement of the seneschal, Luke de Tany. During 1286, Edward would visit the region himself and stayed for nearly three years. The perennial problem though, was the status of Gascony within the kingdom of France and Edward’s role would be that of the French King’s vassal. On his diplomatic mission that year, Edward had paid homage to the new king, Philip IV. However, in 1294, Philip had declared that Gascony be forfeited when Edward refused to appear before him in Paris to discuss the recent conflict between the English, Gascon and the French sailors. This had resulted in several French ships being captured, along with the sacking of the French port of La Rochelle.

Eleanor of Castile would pass away on November 28th of 1290. The couple had legitimately loved one another, which was uncommon for a marriage at this time. Moreover, like his father, Edward was very devoted to his wife and also was faithful to her through their married lives, another rarity among monarchs at the time. When Eleanor had passed away, Edward was deeply affected by her death. He displayed his grief by erecting twelve so-called Eleanor crosses, one at each place where her funeral cortege stopped for the night. As part of the peace accord between England and France in 1294, it was agreed that Edward should marry Philip IV’s half-sister, Margaret, but the marriage was delayed by the onset of war.

Edward had made alliances with the German king, Counts of Flanders, Guelders and the Burgundians, who had attacked France from the north. The alliances proved volatile though and Edward was also facing trouble during this time back at home in both Wales and Scotland. It wasn’t until August of 1297 that Edward had finally been able to sail for Flanders, at the same time, his allies there had already suffered defeat. The support from Germany had never even materialized and thus Edward was forced to seek peace. His marriage to Margaret in 1299 would end the war, and the whole affair would prove both costly and fruitless for the English.


The Great Cause

The relationship between England and Scotland by the 1280s was actually one of relatively harmonious co-existence. In Scotland the issue of homage didn’t reach the same level of controversy as it had in Wales. During 1278, King Alexander III of Scotland would pay homage to Edward I, but apparently only for the lands he had held of Edward’s in England. Problems would arise only at the time of the Scottish succession crisis of the early 1290s. From 1281 until 1284, Alexander’s two sons and one daughter had died in quick succession and two years later King Alexander too had passed away, leaving as his heir to the throne of Scotland, his three-year-old granddaughter, Margaret. By the Treaty of Birgham, it had been agreed that Margaret should marry King Edward’s then six-year-old son, Edward of Carnarvon, even though Scotland would still remain free of English overlordship.

By the time of the Treaty, Margaret was seven-years-old and would sail from Norway to Scotland in the autumn of 1290, but she fell ill on the way, and passed away in Orkney. This would leave the country without an obvious heir, and an successions dispute, known to history as The Great Cause.

Even though as many as fourteen claimants would state their claims to the title, the real contest was between John Balliol and Robert de Brus. Scottish magnates had made a request to King Edward to conduct the proceedings and administer the outcome, but he was not to arbitrate in the dispute. The actual decision would end up being made by one hundred and four auditors, forty of which were appointed by Balliol and forty by Bruce. The other remaining twenty-four were selected by Edward from senior members of the Scottish political community. In Birgham, with the prospect of a personal union between the two realms, the question of suzerainty hadn’t been of very great importance to Edward. He would now insist that, if he were to settle the contest, he would be fully recognized as Scotland’s feudal overlord. The Scots were pretty reluctant to make such a concession and said that since the country didn’t have a king, non one had authority to make that decision. The problem was taken care of when competitors had agreed that the realm would be handed over to Edward until a rightful heir had been found. After an extensive hearing, a decision was made in favor of John Balliol on the 17th of November of 1292.

John Balliol

Even after John Balliol had ascended to the throne, Edward still continued to assert his authority over Scotland. Against the objections of the Scots, Edward agreed to hear appeals on cases that were ruled on by the court of guardians that had governed Scotland during the interregnum. A further provocation would come in a case brought by Macduff, the son of Malcolm, the Earl of Fife. In the case, Edward had demanded that Balliol appear in person before the English Parliament to answer to the charges. Balliol would do so, but the final straw was when Edward demanded that the Scottish magnates provide military service in the war against France. This was unacceptable, and the Scots instead formed an alliance with the French and launched an unsuccessful attack on Carlisle. Edward then confiscated the Stone of Destiny, which was the Scottish coronation stone and brought it to Westminster. There, he then placed it in what would come to be known as King Edward’s Chair. He then deposed Balliol and placed him in the Tower of London, and installed Englishmen to govern the country. Edward’s campaign was very successful, but the English’s triumph would only be temporary.


Edward’s Character as King

Longshanks had the reputation for having a fierce temper and could be quite intimidating. One story goes that the Dean of St. Paul’s, wishing to confront Edward over the high level of taxation in 1295, fell down and died when he was in Edward’s presence. Another story goes that when Edward of Caernarfon had demanded an earldom for his favorite, Gaveston, the King had erupted into a bout of anger and then supposedly had torn out handfuls of his son’s hair. Some of Longshanks contemporaries had considered him to be frightening, particularly in his earlier days. The Song of Lewes in 1264 had described him as a leopard, an animal regarded as particularly powerful and unpredictable.

Despite his frightening character traits though, Edward’s contemporaries had also considered him an able, even ideal, king. Though he was not particularly loved by his subjects, he was feared and respected. He would meet contemporary expectations of kingship in his role as an able and determined soldier, as well as his embodiment of shared chivalric ideals. In religious observance, Edward had also fulfilled the expectations of his time. He would attend chapel on a regular basis and gave alms generously.

He had a particularly keen interest in the stories of King Arthur, which during his reign were highly popular throughout Europe. During 1278, Edward would visit Glastonbury Abbey to open, what was then believed to have been the tombs of Arthur and Guinevere, recovering “Arthur’s Crown” from Llywelyn  after the conquest of North Wales. His new castles were also drawn upon the Arthurian myths in their design and location. Edward also held “Round Table” events in 1284 and 1302, involving tournaments and feasting. Chroniclers compared Edward and the events at his court to Arthur. In some cases he appears to have used his interest in Arthurian myths to served his own political interests, including legitimizing his rule in Wales and discrediting the Welsh belief that Arthur may return as their political savior.


His Administration and the Law

Not long after assuming the throne, Edward had set about restoring order and re-establishing royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father. In order to accomplish this, he had immediately ordered an extensive change of administrative personnel. The most important of these was the appointment of Robert Burnell as chancellor, he would remain in the post until 1292 as one of the King’s closest associates. Edward then replaced most of the local officials, such as the escheators and the sheriffs. This last minute measure was done in preparation for an extensive inquest covering all of England that would hear complaints of abuse of power by royal officers. The inquest had produced the set of the Hundred Rolls, from the administrative subdivision of the hundred.

The second purpose of the inquest was to establish what land and rights the crown had lost during the reign of Henry III. The Hundred Rolls had formed the basis for later legal inquiries called Quo warranto proceedings. The purpose of the inquiries was to establish by what warrant various liberties were held. If the defendant couldn’t produce a royal license to prove to grant of the liberty, then it was the crown’s opinion. Based on the writings of the influential 13th century legal scholar Bracton, which had said that the liberty should revert to the king. Both the Statute of Westminster of 1275 and the Statute of Westminster in 1285 had codified the existing law in England. By enacting the Statute of Gloucester in 1278, the king challenged baronial rights through the revival of the system of general eyres, royal justices to go on tour throughout the land and through a significant increase in the number of pleas of quo warranto to be heard by such eyres.

This had caused great consternation among the aristocracy, who had insisted that the long use in itself had constituted license. A compromise was eventually reached in 1290, whereby, a liberty was considered legitimate, as long as it could be shown to have been exercised since the coronation of Richard “the Lionheart” in 1189. The royal gains from the Quo warranto proceedings were insignificant and few liberties were returned to the king. Edward, nonetheless, had won a significant victory, in clearly establishing the principle that all liberties had essentially emanated from the crown.

In this same year, the statue of Quo warranto had been the only part of a wider legislative effort, which would end up being one of the most important contributions of Edward I’s reign. This ear of legislative action had began by the time of the baronial reform movement with the Statute of Marlborough in 1267. It had contained elements of both of the Provisions of Oxford and Dictum of Kenilworth. The compilation of the Hundred Rolls had been followed not long after by the issue of Westminster I in 1275. This had asserted the royal prerogative and outlined restrictions on liberties in the Mortmain in 1279, the issue of this was grants of land to the church. The first clause of Westminster II, in 1285, known as De donis conditiona libus had dealt with a family settlement of land and its entails. The Merchants of 1285 had dealt with peacekeeping on the local level and Quia emptores of 1290 was issued along with Quo warranto. It had set out to remedy land ownership disputes that resulted from the alienation of land by subinfeudation. The age of great statutes had largely ended with the death of Robert Burnell in 1292.


The King’s Finances, Parliament and Decision to Expel the Jews

Edward’s frequent military campaigns had put a large financial strain on the nation. There were several ways through which he could have raised money for his wars, such as customs duties, money lending and lay subsidies. During 1275, Edward had negotiated an agreement with the domestic merchant community that had secured a permanent duty on wool. Many years later, in 1303, a similar agreement would be reached with foreign merchants, in return for certain rights and privileges. The revenues from customs duty were handled by the Riccardi, a group of bankers from Lucca in Italy. This was in return for their service as money lenders to the crown, which had helped to finance the Welsh Wars. When the war with France broke out, the French king confiscated the Riccardi’s assets and the bank went bankrupt. After this, the Frescobaldi of Florence took over as the money lenders to the English crown.

Another source of the crown’s income was actually represented by England’s Jews. They were the king’s personal property and he was free to tax them at will. By 1280, the Jews had been exploited to the level of which they were no longer of much financial use either to the crown, but they could still be used for political bargaining. Their usury business; a practice forbidden to Christians; had made many people indebted to them and had caused a general popular resentment. In 1275, Edward had issued a statute known as the Statute of the Jewry. It would outlaw usury and encouraged the Jews to take up other professions. Four years later, in the context of a crack-down on coin-clippers, Edward had arrested all of the heads of Jewish household in England and had around three hundred of them executed. A year after this, Edward would order that all Jews attend special sermons, which were preached by Dominican friars. He had hoped to persuade the Jews to convert, but these exhortations were not followed. The final attack on them in England was with the Edict of Expulsion in 1290. Upon this Edict, Edward had formally expelled all Jews from England. This would not only generate revenues through royal appropriation of Jewish loans and property, but also gave the king political capital to negotiate a substantial lay subsidy in the 1290 Parliament. The expulsion, which was reversed in 1656 had followed a precedent that was set by other European territorial princes. This had included: Philip II of France, who had expelled the Jews from his land in 1182; by John I, Duke of Brittany, who drove them out of his duchy in 1239; and Louis IX of France, who had expelled them from royal demesne before his first passage to the East.

Edward would help Parliament on a reasonably regular basis throughout his reign. In 1295, a significant change would occur. This Parliament, in addition to secular and ecclesiastical lords, two knights from each county and two representatives from each borough were summoned. The representation of commons in Parliament was nothing new. What was new was the authority under which these representatives were summoned. Previously, the commons had been expected simply to assent to decisions that had already been made by magnates. It was now proclaimed that they should meet with full authority (plena potestas) of their communities, and to give assent to decisions that were made in Parliament. The King now had full backing for collecting lay subsides from the entire population. Lay subsidies were taxes that were collected at a specific fraction of the movable property of all laymen. Whereas, Henry III had only collected four of these in his time as King, Edward would collect nine. This format would eventually become the standard for later Parliaments and historians have named this assembly as the “Model Parliament”.


A Constitutional Crisis

The incessant warfare of the 1290s had put a great financial demand on Edward’s subjects. Even though the king had only levied three lay subsidies until 1294, four such taxes were granted from 1294 until 1297, raising over 200,000 pounds. Along with this had come the burden of prises; the appropriation of food, and seizure of wool and hides, as well as the unpopular additional duty on wool; dubbed the maltolt. The fiscal demands on the King’s subjects caused them to resent their king and this would eventually lead to serious political opposition. The initial resistance was not cause by lay taxes though, but by clerical subsidies.

During 1294, Edward made a demand of a grant for one half of all clerical revenues. There was some resistance to this but the king responded by threatening with outlawry, the grant would eventually be made. At the time the Archbishopric of Canterbury was a vacant position since Robert Winchelsey was in Italy to receive his consecration. He would return in January of 1295, and would consent to another grant that November. The following year, his position changed when he received the papal bull Clericis laicos. This bull would prohibit the clergy from paying taxes to lay authorities without explicit consent from the Pope. When the clergy, with reference to the bull, refused to pay, Edward responded with outlawry. Winchelsey was presented with a dilemma between loyalty to his king and upholding the papal bull. He would respond by leaving it to every individual clergyman to pay as he saw fit. By the end of the year, a solution was offered by a new papal bull, Etsi de statu, which would allow clerical taxation in cases of pressing urgency.

The opposition from laity would take longer to surface. This resistance had focused on two things, the King’s right to demand military service and his right to levy taxes. At the Salisbury parliament in February of 1297, Roger Bigod, the Earl of Norfolk, in his capacity as Marshal of England, had objected to a royal summons of military service. Bigod argued that military obligation only extended to service alongside the king. If the king had intended to sail to Flanders, he could not send his subjects to Gascony. In July, Bigod and Humphrey de Bohun, the Earl of Hereford and Constable of England, drew up a series of complaints known as Remonstrances, in which objections to the extortionate level of taxation were voiced. Undeterred, Edward had requested another lay subsidy. This one was particularly provocative because the king had sought the consent only from a small group of magnates for it, rather than from representatives from the communities in parliament. While Edward was in Winchelsea preparing for his campaign in Flanders, Bigod and Bohun had turned up at the Exchequer to prevent the collection of the tax. As the king was leaving the country with a greatly reduced force, the kingdom had seemed to be on the verge of a civil war. In resolving the situation, the English were defeated by the Scots at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the renewed threat to the homeland gave the king and magnates a common cause. Edward had signed the Confirmatio cartarum, a confirmation of the Magna Carta and its accompanying Charter of the Forest. The nobility would agree to serve with the King on the campaign in Scotland.

Edward’s problems with the opposition didn’t end with the Falkirk campaign. Over the following years he would be held up to the promises that he had made, in particular that of upholding the Charter of the Forest. In the parliament of 1301, the king was forced to order an assessment of the royal forests. Then in 1305, he had obtained a papal bull that freed him from this concession, ultimately, it had been a failure in personnel that spelled the end of the opposition against Edward I. Bohun had died in 1298 after he returned from the Falkirk campaign and in 1302 Bigod had arrived at an agreement with Edward that was beneficial for both sides. Bigod, who had no children, had made Edward his heir, in return for a generous annual grant. Edward would finally get his revenge on Winchelsey in 1305 when Clement V was elected as the Pope. Clement was a Gascon sympathetic to the King, on Edward’s instigation he would have Winchelsey suspended from office.


Edward Returns to Scotland

The situation in Scotland had seemed as though it was resolved when Edward left the country in 1296, but the resistance soon emerged under the leadership of William Wallace. On the 11th of September 1297, a large English force under the leadership of John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, and Hugh de Cressingham, was routed by a much smaller Scottish army that was led by Wallace and Andrew Moray at Stirling Bridge. The defeat would send shock waves into England, preparations for a retaliatory campaign had started immediately. Shortly afterwards, Edward would return to Flanders and headed north. On the 22nd of July 1298, in the only major battle he would fight since Evesham in 1265, Edward defeated Wallace’s forces at the Battle of Falkirk. However, Edward was not able to take advantage of the momentum and in the next year the Scots managed to recapture Stirling Castle. Though Edward had campaigned in Scotland in 1300, when he had successfully besieged Caerlaverock Castle. The Scots had refused to engage in an open battle again in 1301, preferring instead to raid the English countryside in smaller groups.

The Scots that were defeated appealed to the Pope to assert a claim of overlordship to Scotland in place of the English. His papal bull that was addressed to King Edward was firmly rejected on Edward’s behalf by the Barons’ Letter of 1301 under these terms. The English managed to subdue the country by other means though. In 1303, a peace agreement was reached between England and France, effectively breaking up the Franco-Scottish alliance. Robert the Bruce, grandson of the claimant to the crown in 1291, sided with the English in winter of 1301-1302. During 1304, most of the nobles of the country had also pledged their allegiance to Edward. The English had also managed to retake Stirling Castle. A great propaganda victory was achieved in 1305 when Wallace was betrayed by Sir John de Menteith and turned over to the English, who took him to London where he was publicly executed. With Scotland largely under the control of the English, Edward installed Englishmen and collaborating Scots to govern the country.

On the 10th of February 1306, the situation changed yet again. Robert the Bruce murdered his rival John Comyn and a few weeks later, on the 25th of March he had himself crowned as the King of Scotland by Isobel, sister of the Earl of Buchan. Bruce had now embarked on a campaign to restore Scottish independence, this campaign took the English by surprise. Edward was suffering from ill health at this time and instead of leading an expedition himself, he had given different military commands to Aymer de Valence and Henry Percy, while the main part of the royal army was led by the Prince of Wales. Initially, the English were successful, on the 19th of June, Aymer de Valence routed Bruce at the Battle of Methven, Bruce was forced into hiding while the English forces recaptured their lost territory and castles.

Edward had responded with severe brutality against Bruce’s allies and supporters. Bruce’s sister, Mary had been hung in a cage outside of Roxburgh for four years, Isabella MacDuff, the Countess of Buchan, who had crowned Bruce, was hung in a cage as well, but outside of Berwick Castle for four years as well. His younger brother, Neil, was executed by being hanged and then drawn and quartered. He was captured after he and his garrison had held off Edward’s forces who were seeking Bruce’s wife, Elizabeth, his daughter Marjorie and sisters Mary, Christina and Isabella.

Clearly, Edward had now regarded the struggle not as a war between the two nations, but as the suppression of a rebellion fo disloyal subjects. Instead of helping to subdue the Scots, this brutality had the opposite effect and ended up rallying growing support for Bruce.


Edward’s Death and Legacy

Bruce had reappeared and started to gather together men in February of 1307. By May, Bruce defeated Aymer de Valence at the Battle of Loudoun Hill. Edward, who rallied somewhat, had now moved north himself. On his way though, he developed dysentery and his condition deteriorated. On the 6th of July, he encamped at Burgh by Sands, just south of the Scottish border. When his servants came the next morning to lift him up so the could eat, he died in their arms.

There are various stories that have emerged about Edward’s deathbed wishes. According to one tradition, Edward had requested for his heart to be carried to the Holy Land, along with an army to fight the infidels. A more dubious story tels of how Edward had wished for his bones to be carried along on future expeditions against the Scots. Yet another account of the scene of his deathbed is a bit more credible. According to one chronicler, Edward gathered the Earls of Lincoln and Warwick, Aymer de Valence and Robert Clifford around him and charged them with looking after his son Edward. In particular, they were to make sure that Piers Gaveston was not allowed to return to the country. However, this wish was ignored by his son and he instead had his favorite recalled from exile almost immediately. The new king, Edward II, remained in the north through July, but then abandoned the campaign and headed south. The younger Edward was crowned as King of England on the 25th of February 1308.

Waltham Abbey

Edward I’s body was brought back to the south, lying in state at Waltham Abbey, before he was buried in Westminster Abbey on the 27th of October. There are few records of the funeral, which had cost four hundred and seventy-three pounds. His tomb was an unusually plain sarcophagus of Purbeck marble, without the customary royal effigy, possibly being a result of the shortage of royal funds after the king’s death. His sarcophagus may have normally been covered over with rich cloth and originally may have been surrounded by carved busts and a devotional religious image, all have since been lost. The Society of Antiquaries opened Edward’s tomb in 1774 and found that his body had been well preserved over the preceding 467 years. They took this opportunity to also determine the King’s original height. Traces of the Latin inscription Edwardus Primus Scottorum Malleus hic est, 1308. Pactum Serva (“Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots, 1308. Keep the Vow), can still be seen painted on the side of his tomb. “Keep the Vow” refers to Edward’s vow to avenge the rebellion of Robert Bruce. This vow had resulted in Edward being given the epithet the “Hammer of the Scots” by historians, but is not contemporary in origin, having been added by the Abbot, John Feckenham, in the 16th Century.


Edward’s first wife, as noted before was Eleanor of Castile. With her Edward would have at least fourteen children, but possibly as many as sixteen, of these children there were five daughters who survived into adulthood, but only one son that outlived his father. He was reportedly concerned with his son’s failure to live up to his expectations as an heir to the crown, and at one point he decided to exile the prince’s favorite Piers Gaveston. Edward’s sons by this marriage were John, Henry, Alphonso, an unnamed son, and Edward. John would die before his father at Wallingford while he was in the custody of his grand-uncle Richard, the Earl of Cornwall. He would be buried at Westminster Abbey. Henry too would die before his father and was also buried at Westminster Abbey. Alphonso would become the Earl of Chester and also passed before his father and was buried at the Abbey. There is little evidence that their unnamed child existed but I’ve decided to still take note of him here. Their son Edward would be their eldest surviving son and heir to the throne. He would become King Edward II when his father passed away and in 1308 married Isabella of France. Together, Edward II and Isabella would go on to have four children of their own.

Eleanor and Edward’s daughters were Katherine, an unnamed daughter, Joanna, Eleanor, Juliana, Joan, Margaret, Berengaria, another unnamed daughter, Mary, and Elizabeth. The couple’s first daughter was unnamed and was either stillborn or died shortly after she was born. Katherine was buried at Westminster Abbey, as was Joanna. Eleanor would marry in 1293, Henry III, the Count of Bar. Together they would have two children. Eleanor would be buried at Westminster Abbey as well. Juliana would marry twice, first to the Earl of Hertford, Gilbert de Clare, in 1290, of whom she had four children with. Her second marriage occurred in 1297 and was to Ralph de Monthermer. They would have three or four children together. Margaret would marry in 1290 to John II of Brabant and they would go on to have one son. Berengaria was buried at Westminster Abbey, as was Edward and Eleanor’s second unnamed daughter. Mary, also known as Mary of Woodstock, would become a Benedictine nun in Amesbury, Wiltshire, England and is probably buried there as well. Their final daughter was Elizabeth, also known as Elizabeth of Rhuddlan. She would marry twice as well. Her first marriage was in 1297 to John I, the Count of Holland, they would not have any children together. Her second marriage was to Humphrey de Bohun, the Earl of Hereford and this marriage would produce many children, ten to be exact.

When Edward I married a second time it was to Margaret of France. They would have two sons together and both would live into adulthood. They also had a daughter but she would pass away as a child. The Hailes Abbey chronicle indicates that John Botetourt might have also been Edward’s illegitimate son but the claim is unsubstantiated. Edward’s sons with Margaret were Thomas of Brotherton and Edmund of Woodstock. Thomas would become the 1st Earl of Norfolk and was married twice. His first marriage was to Alice Hales and would produce children. His second marriage was to Mary Brewes, but they would have no children together. Thomas was buried in Bury St. Edmunds Abbey. Edmund of Woodstock would become the 1st Earl of Kent and married Margaret Wake. The marriage would produce children. Margaret and Edward I’s daughter was named Eleanor, anything more about her is not known by myself at this time.

3 thoughts on “Edward Plantagenet (1239-1307)”

  1. One of our better-known kings, mainly for his persecution of the Scots, and his majestic Welsh castles.
    Of course, many will think of him as portrayed by Patrick McGoohan, in the historically inaccurate film, ‘Braveheart’. But his legacy of creating Scotland as a bitter enemy still continues with some people today.

    I like the photo of you near Westminster Bridge. A typical grey London day!

    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, that was one of my favorite photos from my trip there…I actually didn’t know that the Houses of Parliament used to be the palace of Westminster until now lol. I didn’t get to go inside there while I was over but did go in westminster abbey…no pictures inside were allowed, at the time I didn’t know I was related to Edward or that he was buried there, I do remember seeing his grave though…my dad and I knew a bit about him before this post though as my dad is Jewish he’s talked about how he kicked them out of the country…now that kind of reminds me of what is happening in my own, but with people from Muslim countries. It’s really sad….but anyways, back to Edward, I didn’t know until this post that he had built castles in Wales. I really enjoy reading and writing about everyone cause it is teaching me so much, and as I follow along with how people are interacting with one another even as far as back then, it’s amazing to see how their actions then are both still affecting us today and how their choices have brought us to where we are now and really shows how our actions now can shape the future…even hundreds of years from now.

      Liked by 1 person

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