The Secret Origin of Edward II

Edward II was born in 1284, at Caernarfon Castle, on the Welsh coast. That’s not strictly true. It would be more accurate to say that he was born on the site of the castle, as, to paraphrase Tristram Shandy, it was not yet built. Not quite being as grand or as good as you might expect was something that became a bit of a theme throughout his life. His father was Edward I (and he was succeeded by his son, Edward III. Variety was not popular in his family), a man considered to be one of the great English kings, especially at the time. Edward II was significant from birth, not only as the heir to the throne, but as the first Prince of Wales, a title born by the eldest son of the monarch ever since. Edward I effectively used him as a device to placate the newly subdued Welsh, and to stop any other from claiming the title vacated by Llewellyn’s death.

Edward went on to have a fairly typical royal upbringing, learning statecraft and warfare, and all of the things generally assumed to be useful to medieval kings. Despite this, he seemed to prefer things like boating and other, less regal activities. He appears to have done as his father asked, and took part in various campaigns against the Scots, who being rowdy as ever, but he was never entirely like his father. There seems to have been a general belief that whereas Edward I was a great monarch, Edward II was far more frivolous. In truth, Edward II appears to have somewhat doomed from the start, with his father’s shadow cast over him from the beginning.

Edward II clashed with his father’s advisers, and his close friendship with Piers Gaveston caused concern in many quarters as he appeared to be easily influenced by him. However, upon the death of his father, he succeeded tot he throne in 1307. Already he had opposition in court, a reputation for being less than kingly material, and a confidante that alarmed the establishment. Edward II was in a rather awkward position from the very start, and it would have taken a lot of effort to recover from this to be remembered as even a worthy successor to his father. Sadly, he managed to completely¬†misjudge several important things almost straight out of the blocks.

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