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Edward II
(April 24, 1284 - 1327) U.K.

Edward II

King of England


Edward, a member of the Plantagenet royal family, was born at Caernarvon Castle, Gwynedd, Wales, to Edward I (Longshanks) and Eleanor of Castille, Countess de Ponthieu. He was the fourth son, his siblings being Eleanor, Joan, John, Henry, Julian (alias Katherine), Joan, Alfonso, Margaret, Berengaria, Mary, Alice, Elizabeth, Beatrice & Blanche.

When Edward's father, King Edward I, brought in a tutor, Piers Gaveston, a young Gascon, Edward II fell in love with him. King Edward I, liked Piers, but was upset with the relationship that came about between tutor and student. King Edward I, had Piers exiled.

Edward IIIn 1307 Edward II ascended the throne and had Piers brought back to England and made him the Earl of Cornwall. He was crowned on 25 February 1308 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex. For convenience, King Edward II married Isabella, the daughter of Philip IV of France, 25 January 1308 at Boulogne Cathedral. She bore him four children, two sons and two daughters - Edward, John, Eleanor and Joan.

Edward II was not into running the government, so, he let Piers rule England. He was a proficient ruler, but he antagonized the Barons. In 1310, the barons rallied in opposition behind the king's cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster; the Parliaments of 1310 and 1311 imposed restrictions on Edward's power and exiled Gaveston. Piers rejoined King Edward II in England but the barons revolted and Gaveston was hunted down and murdered in 1312 - full rebellion was avoided only by Edward's acceptance of further restrictions.

Although Lancaster shared the responsibilities of governing with Edward, the king came under the influence of another favorite, Hugh le Dispenser the Young. A civil war broke out because of the baron's hatred of Edward II and his relationship with his new lover, Hugh. The barons exiled Hugh and his Father, but in 1322, Edward showed a rare display of resolve and gathered an army to meet Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire. Edward prevailed and executed Lancaster. King Edward II, regained the full control of the country, recalled Hugh. He and Dispenser ruled the government but again acquired many enemies - 28 knights and barons were executed for rebelling and many exiled.

Edward sent his queen, Isabella, to negotiate with her brother, French king Charles IV, regarding affairs in Gascony. She fell into an open romance with Roger Mortimer, one of Edward's disaffected barons, and persuaded Edward to send their young son to France. In 1326, Queen Isabella and Baron Roger Mortimer took control of England. Hugh was captured and his genitals were cut off and burned before his eyes before he was decapitated. Edward II, fled Wales, but was captured and forced to abdicate on 25 January 1327m and to give up the throne to his son, King Edward III. On September the 21st of 1327 King Edward II was murdered in prison, at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, by having a red hot poker inserted in his anus. Some Historians theorize that this brutal form of execution was chosen not only in retaliation for King Edward II's homosexuality, but also as a way to kill him without leaving marks on his body.

He was buried in St. Peter's Abbey (Gloucester Cathedral), Gloucester, Gloucestershire,


Edward IIAlthough one of the modern historians has challenged the idea that he was erotically involved with these men, there is little doubt that Edward was, despite his marriage and children, predominantly homosexual. What is much less well known is that Edward's tomb (which still survives) in what is now Gloucester Cathedral was a center of pilgrimage; that, despite the common knowledge of his sexuality, he was popularly regarded a saint and wonderworker for over two centuries; and that his successors [especially his great grandson Richard II] fought to get him canonized in Rome.

This official canonization was not forthcoming. This is not surprising since the politics of canonization meant that very few saints from the British Isles were canonized in the 14th and 15th centuries [a total of 4 in fact, see, Weinstein and Bell, Saints and Society, (Chicago: 1982), p. 167: Italy saw 127 new saints in the same period, France 18, and Germany 11]. Edward thus belongs with a group of English saints, including Thomas of Lancaster, who had popular cults with local ecclesiastical support, but no Roman approval.

Despite the recent portrayal of Edward in the most demeaning terms in the fallacious movie Braveheart contemporaries described Edward thus:

He was of a well-proportioned handsome person
Of a courteous disposition, and well-bred,
And desirous of finding an occasion
To make proof of his strength.
He managed his steed wonderfully well.
(from Roll of Arms of the Princes, Barons and Knights who attended Edward at the Siege of Caerlaverock)
Edward was completely in love with a young Gascon called Piers Gaveston. Gaveston was exiled by Edward I (Edward II's father), and was the occasion of massive rows between father and son. Edward II's first act on becoming king was to recall Gaveston, and to make him Earl of Cornwall . All sources report that the king was obsessed with Gaveston, who prevented others reaching the king's ear. The king preferred Gaveston's company to all others, including that of his wife, Isabella of France. The anonymous author of the Vita Edwardi Secundi wrote:
I do not remember to have heard that one man so loved another. Jonathan cherished David, Achilles loved Patroclus. But we do not read that they were immoderate. But we do not read that they were immoderate. Our King, however, was incapable of moderate favour, and on account of Piers was said to forget himself, and so Piers was accounted a sorcere.
Other sources at the time understood what was going on: when Gaveston was recalled, once chronicler wrote "Anon, he had home his love Piers of Gaveston...and did him great reverence and worshipped him and made him great and rich..."; the chronicler of the Abbey of Meaux condemned Edward for being "to much given to sodomy". [for refs. see Bingham, p. 54] Historians such as Bingham note that it is not explicitly noted that Edward was sexually active with Gaveston, but the circumstantial evdience is strong. In particular the linking of Edward with both David and Jonathan, and especially Achilles and Patroclus is noteworthy. One might recall here the famous verses of Christopher Marlowe about Edward in his eponymous play:
The mightiest kings have had their minions:
Great Alexander lov'd Hephaestion,
The conquering Hercules for Hylas wept,
And for Patroclus stern Achilles droop'd.
And not kings only, but the wisest men;
The Roman Tully lov'd Octavius,
Grave Socrates wild Alcibiades.
(Marlowe, Edward II, Act 1: scene 4)
Edward's passion for Gaveston, and later, after Gaveston was murdered, for Hugh Dispenser, were among the factors which led to a rebellion, aided by his wife, against him. In 1327 a successful rebellion led by Isabella and her lover Mortimer succeeded in deposing Edward, and his son (Edward III), was crowned king in January 1327. For the next few months Edward II was kept in a variety of prisons until he was murdered sometime in September 1327, his death being announced on September 21. Contemporary chroniclers merely report that he had died, but soon other stories came to the fore. The chronicler Murimuth wrote:
Many persons, abbots, priors, knights, burgesses of Bristol and
Gloucester were summoned to view his body, and indeed
superficially examined it, nevertheless it was commonly said that
he had been slain as a precaution by the orders of Sir John
Maltravers and Sir Thomas Gurney.
Within a few years, Ranulph Higden indicated how Edward had died: - "cum veru igniti inter celenda confossus ignominioise peremptus", i.e. "He was ignominiously slain witha red-hot poker thrust into his anus", an action which both hid the murder and indicated the type of pleasure the king was supposed to have enjoyed. (For refs. see Bingham, p. 197; she argues that the stories are credible).

In 1330, Edward III overthrew the regime of Mortimer and Isabella, and Morrtimer was executed. Isabella retired to Castle Rising in Norfolk where she lived in comfort. She was buried as a Poor Clare. No-one else was brought to justice. But Edward III did build his father a magnificent shrine at what is now Gloucester Cathedral. The shrine became a center of pilgrimage, visited by various members of the royal family, but also by many local people. Although Richard II was unable to secure papal canonization, Edward II was seen sympathetically by the people and his cult was preserved by popular pilgrimages until the Reformation.

Although a failure as king, Edward II was well liked by many, was known to be both courageous and to have a sense of humor. Moreover, he was vigilant in observing impartial Royal justice. For the people, his reign was less onerous than that of his famous father - there was less taxation, and less conscription - all required by Edward I's "glorious" wars. The period was fairly prosperous to boot. (for all this see Bingham, 198-208).

So here we have perhaps the most famous of English homosexual (or bisexual) kings, a man who was popularly known as such, also regarded for centuries as a saint, and whose shrine was the focus of pilgrimage.


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