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The History of England from the Accession of Henry III. to the Death of Edward III. (1216-1377)
The Fall Of Edward II. And The Rule Of Isabella And Mortimer
by Tout, T.F. (M.A.)

During the deliberations of the parliament of York, the truce with Bruce expired, and forthwith came the news that the Scots had once more crossed the border. On this occasion Bruce raided the country from Carlisle to Preston, burning every open town on his way, though sparing most of the religious houses. At Cartmel, Lancaster, and Preston, favoured monastic buildings alone stood entire amidst the desolation wrought by the Scots. No effective opposition was offered to them, and after a three weeks' foray, they recrossed the Solway.

As in 1314 and 1318, the restoration of order was followed by an attempt to put down Bruce. In August, 1322, Edward assembled his forces at Newcastle and invaded Scotland. Berwick was unsuccessfully besieged and the Lothians laid waste. The Scots still had the prudence to withdraw beyond the Forth, and avoid battle in the open field. By the beginning of September, pestilence and famine had done their work on the invaders. Unable to find support in the desolate fields of Lothian, the, English returned to their own land, having accomplished nothing. The Scots followed on their tracks, but with such secrecy that they penetrated into the heart of Yorkshire before Edward was aware of their presence. In October they suddenly swooped down on the king, when he was staying at Byland abbey. Some troops which accompanied him were encamped on a hill between Byland and Rievaux. They were attacked by the Scots and defeated; their leader, John of Brittany, was taken prisoner, and Edward only avoided capture by a precipitate flight from Byland to Bridlington. All Yorkshire was reduced to abject terror, and Edward's hosts, the canons of Bridlington, removed with all their valuables to Lincolnshire, and sent one of their number to Bruce at Malton to purchase immunity for their estates. After a month the Scots went home, leaving famine, pestilence, and misery in their train. The Despensers thus proved themselves not less incompetent to defend England than Thomas of Lancaster.

As the state afforded no protection, each private person had to make the best terms he could for himself. Even the king's favourite, Louis of Beaumont, the illiterate Bishop of Durham, entered into negotiations with the Scots, while the Archbishop of York issued formal permission to religious houses of his diocese to treat with the excommunicated followers of Bruce. Not only timid ecclesiastics, but well-tried soldiers found in private dealings with the Scots the only remedy for their troubles. After the Byland surprise, Harclay, the new Earl of Carlisle, the victor of Boroughbridge, and the warden of the marches, dismissed his troops, sought out Bruce at Lochmaben, and made an arrangement with him, by which it was resolved that a committee of six English and six Scottish magnates should be empowered to conclude peace between the two countries on the basis of recognising him as King of Scots. There was great alarm at court when Harclay's treason was known. A Cumberland baron, Anthony Lucy, was instructed to apprehend the culprit, and forcing his way into Carlisle castle by a stratagem, captured the earl with little difficulty. In March, 1323, Harclay suffered the terrible doom of treason. He justified his action to the last, declaring that his only motive was a desire to procure peace, and convincing many of the north-countrymen of the innocence of his motives. To such a pass had England been reduced that those who honestly desired that the farmers of 'Cumberland should once more till their fields in peace, saw no other means of gaining their end than by communication with the enemies of their country.

The disgrace of Byland and the tragedy of Carlisle showed that it was idle to pretend to fight the Scots any longer. Negotiations for peace were entered upon; Pembroke and the younger Despenser being the chief English commissioners. Peace was found impossible, as English pride still refused to recognise the royal title of King Robert, but a thirteen years' truce was arranged without any difficulty. This treaty of 1323 practically concluded the Scottish war of independence. Bruce then easily obtained papal recognition of his title, though English ill-will long stood in the way of the remission of his sentence of excommunication. His martial career, however, was past, and he could devote his declining years to the consolidation of his kingdom and the restoration of its material prosperity. He reorganised the national army, built up a new nobility by distributing among his faithful followers the estates of the obstinate friends of England, and first called upon the royal burghs of Scotland to send representatives to the Scottish parliament. He had made Scotland a nation, and nobly redeemed the tergiversation and violence of his earlier career.

Among Harclay's motives for treating with the Scots had been his distrust of the Despensers. As generals against the Scots and as administrators of England, they manifested an equal incapacity. Their greed and insolence revived the old enmities, and they proved strangely lacking in resolution to grapple with emergencies. Nevertheless they ruled over England for nearly five years in comparative peace. This period, unmarked by striking events, is, however, evidence of the exhaustion of the country rather than of the capacity of the Earl of Winchester and the lord of Glamorgan. The details of the history bear witness to the relaxation of the reins of government, the prevalence of riot and petty rebellion, the sordid personal struggles for place and power, the weakness which could neither collect the taxes, enforce obedience to the law, nor even save from humiliation the most trusted agents of the government.

The Despensers' continuance in power rested more on the absence of rivals than on their own capacity. The strongest of the royalist earls, Aymer of Pembroke, died in 1324. As he left no issue, his earldom swelled the alarmingly long roll of lapsed dignities. None of the few remaining earls could step into his place, nor give Edward the wise counsel which the creator of the middle party had always provided. Warenne was brutal, profligate, unstable, and distrusted; Arundel had no great influence; Richmond was a foreigner, and of little personal weight, and the successors of Humphrey of Hereford and Guy of Warwick were minors, suspected by reason of their fathers' treasons. The only new earl was Henry of Lancaster, who in 1324 obtained a partial restitution of his brother's estates and the title of Earl of Leicester. Prudent, moderate, and high-minded, Henry stood in strong contrast to his more famous brother. But the tragedy of Pontefract and his unsatisfied claim on the Lancaster earldom stood between Henry and the government, and the imprudence of the Despensers soon utterly estranged him from the king, though he was the last man to indulge in indiscriminate opposition, and Edward dared not push his powerful cousin to extremities. In these circumstances, the king had no wise or strong advisers whose influence might counteract the Despensers. His loneliness and isolation made him increasingly dependent upon the favourites.

The older nobles were already alienated, when the Despensers provoked a quarrel with the queen. Isabella was a woman of strong character and violent passions, with the lack of morals and scruples which might have been expected from a girlhood passed amidst the domestic scandals of her father's household. She resented her want of influence over her husband, and hated the Despensers because of their superior power with him. The favourites met her hostility by an open declaration of warfare. In 1324 the king deprived her of her separate estate, drove her favourite servants from court, and put her on an allowance of a pound a day. The wife of the younger Hugh, her husband's niece, was deputed to watch her, and she could not even write a letter without the Lady Despenser's knowledge. Isabella bitterly chafed under her humiliation. She was, she declared, treated like a maidservant and made the hireling of the Despensers. Finding, however, that nothing was to be gained by complaints, she prudently dissembled her wrath and waited patiently for revenge.

The Despensers' chief helpers were among the clergy. Conspicuous among them were Walter Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, the treasurer, and Robert Baldock, the chancellor. The records of Stapledon's magnificence survive in the nave of his cathedral church, and in Exeter College, Oxford; but the great builder and pious founder was a worldly, greedy, and corrupt public minister. So unpopular was he that, in 1325, it was thought wise to remove him from office. Thereupon another building prelate, William Melton, Archbishop of York, whose piety and charity long intercourse with courtiers had not extinguished, abandoned his northern flock for London and the treasury. But the best of officials could do little to help the unthrifty king. Edward was so poorly respected that he could not even obtain a bishopric for his chancellor. On two occasions the envoys sent to Avignon, to urge Baldock's claims on vacant sees, secured for themselves the mitre destined for the minister. In this way John Stratford became Bishop of Winchester and William Ayermine, Bishop of Norwich. Edward had not even the spirit to show manifest disfavour to these self-seeking prelates, but his inaction was so clearly the result of weakness that it involved no gratitude, and the two bishops secretly hated the ruling clique, as likely to do them an evil turn if it dared. Nor were the older prelates better contented or more loyal. The primate Reynolds was deeply irritated by Melton's appointment as treasurer. Burghersh, the Bishop of Lincoln, was a nephew of Badlesmere, and anxious to avenge his uncle. Adam Orleton, Bishop of Hereford, was a dependant of the Mortimers, who took his surname from one of their Herefordshire manors. Forgiven for his share in the revolt of 1322, he cleverly contrived in 1324 the escape of his patron, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, from the Tower. The marcher made his way to France, but his ally felt the full force of the king's wrath. He was deprived of his temporalities, and, when the Church spread her ægis over him, the court procured the verdict of a Herefordshire jury against him. Thus the impolicy of the crown combined the selfish worldling with the zealot for the Church in a common opposition. Like Isabella, Orleton bided his time, and Edward feared to complete his disgrace.

In such ways the king and the Despensers proclaimed their incapacity to the world. The Scottish truce, the wrongs of Henry of Lancaster, the humiliation of the queen, the alienation of the old nobles, the fears of greedy prelates,—each of these was remembered against them. Gradually every order of the community became disgusted. The feeble efforts of Edward to conciliate the Londoners met with little response. Weak rule and the insecurity of life and property turned away the heart of the commons from the king. It was no wonder that men went on pilgrimage to the little hill outside Pontefract, where Earl Thomas had met his doom, or that rumours spread that the king was a changeling and no true son of the great Edward. But though the power of the king and the Despensers was thoroughly undermined, the absence of leaders and the general want of public spirit still delayed the day of reckoning. At last, the threatening outlook beyond the Channel indirectly precipitated the crisis.

The relations of France and England remained uneasy, despite the marriage of two English kings in succession to ladies of the Capetian house. The union of Edward I. and Margaret of France had not done much to help the settlement of the disputed points in the interpretation of the treaty of Paris of 1303, and the match between Edward II and his stepmother's niece had been equally ineffective. The restoration of Gascony in 1303 had never been completed, and in the very year of the treaty a decree of the parliament of Paris had withdrawn the homage of the county of Bigorre from the English duke. Within the ceded districts, the conflict of the jurisdictions of king and duke became increasingly accentuated. Having failed to hold Gascony by force of arms, Philip the Fair aspired to conquer it by the old process of stealthily undermining the traditional authority of the duke. Appeals to Paris became more and more numerous. The agents of the king wandered at will through Edward's Gascon possessions, and punished all loyalty to the lawful duke by dragging the culprits before their master's courts. The ineptitude which characterised all Edward's subordinates was particularly conspicuous among his Gascon seneschals and their subordinates. While the English king's servants drifted on from day to day, timid, without policy, and without direction, the agents of France, well trained, energetic, and determined, knew their own minds and gradually brought about the end which they had clearly set before themselves. In vain did bitter complaints arise of the aggressions of the officers of Philip. It was to no purpose that conferences were held, protocols drawn up, and much time and ink wasted in discussing trivialities. Neither Edward nor Philip wished to push matters to extremities. To the former the policy of drift was always congenial. The latter was content to wait until the pear was ripe. It seemed that in a few more years Gascony would become as thoroughly subject to the French crown as Champagne or Normandy.

Philip the Fair died in 1314, and was followed in rapid succession by his three sons. The first of these, Louis X., had, like Edward II., to contend against an aristocratic reaction, and died in 1316, before he could even receive the homage of his brother-in-law. A king of more energy than Edward might have profited by the difficult situation which followed Louis' death. For a time there was neither pope, nor emperor, nor King of France. But Philip V. mounted the French throne when his brother's widow had given birth to a daughter, and continued the policy of his predecessors with regard to Gascony. Again the disputes between Norman and Gascon sailors threatened, as in 1293, to bring about a rupture. The ever-increasing aggressions of the suzerain culminated in summoning Edward's own seneschal of Saintonge to appear before the French king's court. Edward neglected to do homage, alleging his preoccupation in the Scottish war and similar excuses. But the threatened danger soon passed away, for again the interests and fears of both parties postponed the conflict. In avoiding any alliance with the Scots, the French king showed a self-restraint for which Edward could not but be grateful. In 1320 Edward performed in person his long-delayed homage at Amiens, though his grievances against his brother-in-law still remained unredressed. In 1322 the death of Philip V. renewed the troublesome homage question in a more acute form.1

1 For the relations of Edward II. and Philip V. see Lehugeur, Hist. de Philippe le Long, pp. 240-66 (1897).
The obligation of performing homage to a rival prince weighed with increasing severity on the English kings at each rapid change of occupants of the throne of France. The same pretexts were again brought forward, as sufficient reasons for postponing or evading the unpleasant duly. But before the question was settled a new source of trouble arose in the affair of Saint-Sardos, which soon plunged the two countries into open war. The lord of Montpezat, a vassal of the Duke of Gascony, built a bastide at Saint-Sardos upon a site which he declared was held by himself of the duke, but which the French officials claimed as belonging to Charles IV. The dispute was taken before the parliament of Paris, which decided that the new town belonged to the King of France. Thereupon a royal force promptly took possession of it. Irritated at this high-handed action, the lord of Montpezat invoked the aid of Edward's seneschal of Gascony, who attacked and destroyed the bastide and massacred the French garrison.1 The answer of Charles the Fair to this aggression was decisive. Gascony was pronounced sequestrated and Charles of Valois, the veteran uncle of the king, was ordered to enforce the sentence at the head of an imposing army.

1 See for this affair Bréquigny, Mémoire sur les différends entre la France et l'Angleterre sous Charles le Bel, in Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, xli. (1780), pp. 641-92. M. Déprez is about to publish a Chancery Roll of Edward II. which includes all the official acts relating to it.
Thus, in the summer of 1324 England and France were once more at war. But while England remonstrated and negotiated, France acted. Norman corsairs swept the Channel and pillaged the English coasts. Ponthieu yielded without resistance. Early in August, Charles of Valois entered the Agenais, and on the 15th Agen opened its gates. The victorious French soon appeared before La Réole, where alone they encountered real resistance. Edmund, Earl of Kent, who had made vain attempts to procure peace at Paris, had been sent in July to act as lieutenant of Aquitaine. He had not sufficient force at his command to venture to meet the Count of Valois in the open field, and threw himself into La Réole. The rocky height, crowned with a triple wall, and looking down on the vineyards and cornfields of the Garonne, defied for weeks the skill of the eminent Lorrainer engineers who directed Charles of Valois' siege train. But when Charles announced to Edmund that he would carry the town by assault, if not surrendered within four days, the timid earl signed a truce from September to Easter, and was allowed to withdraw to Bordeaux. A mere fringe of coast-land still remained faithful to the English duke, when Charles of Valois went back to Paris, having victoriously terminated his long and chequered career. Before the end of 1325 he died.1

1 Petit, Charles de Valois, pp. 207-15 (1900), gives the fullest modern account of these transactions.
The truce involved a renewal of the negotiations. Bishop Stratford and William Ayermine, the astute chancery clerk, were commissioned in November, 1324, to treat with the French, but made little progress in their delicate task. At this stage Isabella, inspired probably by Adam Orleton, came forward with a proposal. She besought her husband to allow her to visit her brother, the French king, and use her influence with him to procure peace and the restitution of Gascony. With the strange infatuation which marked all the acts of Edward and his favourites, Isabella's proposal was adopted, and in March, 1325, the queen crossed the Channel and made her way to her brother's court. The summer was consumed in negotiating a treaty, by which Edward's French fiefs were to be restored to him in their integrity, as soon as he had performed homage to the new king. Meanwhile the English garrison of Gascony was to withdraw to Bayonne, leaving the rest of the duchy in the hands of a French seneschal. Edward agreed to these terms, and put Gascony into Charles's hands. He was still unwilling to compromise his dignity by performing homage, while the Despensers were mortally afraid of his going to France, lest it should remove him from their influence. Isabella then made a second suggestion. She persuaded her brother to excuse the personal homage of her husband, if Edward would invest his young son, Edward, with Gascony and Ponthieu, and send him in his stead to tender his feudal duly. This also was agreed to by the English king, and in September the young prince, then about thirteen years old, was appointed Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Ponthieu, and despatched to join his mother at Paris, where he performed homage to his uncle.

It was expected that Gascony and Ponthieu would then be restored, and that the queen and her son would return to England. But Charles IV. perpetrated a clever piece of trickery which showed how far off a real settlement still was. He "restored" to Edward those parts of Gascony which had been peacefully surrendered to him in the summer, and announced that he should keep the Agenais and La Réole, as belonging to France by right of Charles of Valois' recent conquest. Bitterly mortified at this treachery, Edward took upon himself the title of "governor and administrator of his firstborn, Edward, Duke of Aquitaine, and of his estates". By this technical subtlety, he thought himself entitled to resume the control of the ceded districts and resist the attack which was bound to follow hard upon the new breach. Once more Charles IV. pronounced the sequestration of the duchy, and despite Edward's efforts, his power crumbled away before the peaceful advent of the French troops, charged with the execution of their master's edict.

Long before the last Gascon castles had opened their gates to Charles's officers, new developments at Paris made the question of Aquitaine a subordinate matter. Despite the breach of the negotiations, Isabella and her son still tarried at the French court. In answer to Edward's requests for their return, she sent back excuse after excuse, till his patience was fairly exhausted. At last, on December 1, 1325, Edward peremptorily ordered his wife to return home, and warned her not to consort with certain English traitors in the French court. The Duke of Aquitaine was similarly exhorted to return, with his mother if he could, but if not, without her. The reference to English traitors shows that Edward was aware that Isabella had already formed that close relation with the exiled lord of Wigmore which soon ripened into an adulterous connexion. Inspired by Roger Mortimer, Isabella declared that she was in peril of her life from the malice of the Despensers, and would never go back to her husband as long as the favourites retained power. A band of the exiles of 1322 gathered round her and her paramour, and sought to bring about their restoration as champions of the loudly expressed grievances of the queen, and the rights of her young son. The king's ambassadors at Paris, Stratford and Ayermine, recently made Bishop of Norwich by a papal provision which ignored the election of Robert Baldock the chancellor, united themselves with the queen and the fugitive marcher. With them, too, was associated Edmund of Kent, who was allowed by the treaty to return from Gascony through France. Bishop Stapledon, who had accompanied the queen to France, was so alarmed at the turn events were taking, that he fled in disguise to reveal his suspicions to the king. Thus England, already exposed to a danger of a French war, was threatened with the forcible overthrow of the Despensers and the reinstatement of Isabella by armed invaders.

By the spring of 1326 the scandalous relations of Isabella and Mortimer were notorious all over England and France. Charles IV. grew disgusted at his sister's doings, and gave no countenance to her schemes. Isabella accordingly withdrew from Paris with her son and her paramour, and made her way to the Netherlands. There she found refuge in the county of Hainault, whose lord, William II, of Avesnes, was won over to support her by a contract to marry the Duke of Aquitaine to his daughter Philippa. A large advance from Philippa's marriage portion was employed in hiring a troop of knights and squires of Hainault and Holland. John of Hainault, brother of the count, took joint command of this band with Roger Mortimer. The ports of Holland and Zealand, both of which counties were united with Hainault under William II.'s rule, offered ample facilities for their embarkation.

On September 23, 1326, the queen and her followers took ship at Dordrecht in Holland. Next day the fleet cast anchor in the port of Orwell, and that same day the expedition was landed and marched to Walton, where it spent the first night on English soil. The gentry of Suffolk and Essex flocked to the standard of the queen, who declared that she had come to avenge the wrongs of Earl Thomas of Lancaster and to drive the Despensers from power. Thomas of Brotherton, the earl marshal, made common cause with the invaders, and Henry, Earl of Leicester, hastened to associate himself with the champions of his martyred brother. A great force of native Englishmen swelled the queen's host, and reduced to insignificance the little band of Hainaulters and Hollanders. There was no resistance. Isabella marched to Bury St. Edmunds, "as if on a pilgrimage," and thence to Cambridge, where she tarried several days with the canons of Barnwell. From Cambridge she moved on to Baldock, where she despoiled the chancellor's manors and took his brother captive. At Dunstable, her next halt, she was on a great highway, within thirty-three miles of London.

On hearing of his wife's landing, Edward threw himself on the compassion of the Londoners, but met with so cold a reception that early in October he withdrew to Gloucester. Besides the chancellor and the two Despensers, the only magnates of mark who remained faithful to him were the brothers-in-law, Edmund, Earl of Arundel, and Earl Warenne. On Edward's retreat from London, Bishop Stratford made his way to the capital, where he joined with Archbishop Reynolds in a hollow pretence of mediation. The Londoners gladly welcomed the queen's messengers and soon rose in revolt in her favour. They plundered and burnt the house of the Bishop of Exeter, who fled in alarm to St. Paul's. Seized at the very door of the church, Stapledon was brutally murdered by the mob in Cheapside, where his naked body lay exposed all day. Immediately after this, Reynolds fled in terror to his Kentish estates, where he waited to see which was the stronger side. The king's younger son, John of Eltham, a boy of nine, who had been left behind by his father in the Tower, was proclaimed warden of the capital.

On hearing of Edward's flight to the west, Isabella went after him in pursuit. On the day of Stapledon's murder, she had advanced as far as Wallingford, where, posing as the continuer of the policy of the lords ordainers, she issued a proclamation denouncing the Despensers. Thence she made her way to Oxford, where Bishop Orleton, who had already joined her, preached a seditious sermon before the university and the leaders of the revolt. Taking as his text, "My head, my head," he demonstrated that the sick head of the state could not be restored by all the remedies of Hippocrates, and would therefore have to be cut off. This was the first intimation that the insurgents would not be content with the fall of the Despensers. From Oxford, Isabella and Mortimer hurried to Gloucester, whence Edward had already fled to the younger Despenser's palatinate of Glamorgan. From Gloucester, they passed on through Berkeley to Bristol, where the elder Despenser, the Earl of Winchester, was in command. The feeling of the burgesses of the second town in England was so strongly adverse that the earl was unable to defend either the borough or the castle. In despair he opened the gates on October 26 to the queen, and was immediately consigned, without trial or inquiry, to the death of a traitor. After proclaiming the Duke of Aquitaine as warden of the realm during his father's absence, the queen's army marched on Hereford, where Isabella remained, while the Earl of Leicester, accompanied by a Welsh clerk, named Rhys ap Howel, was sent, with part of the army to hunt out the king.

After his flight from Gloucester, Edward had wandered through the Welsh march to Chepstow, whence he took ship, hoping to make sail to Lundy, which Despenser had latterly acquired, and perhaps ultimately to Ireland. But contrary winds kept him in the narrows of the Bristol Channel, and on October 27 he landed again at Cardiff. A few days later he was at Caerphilly, but afraid to entrust himself to the protection of the mightiest of marcher castles, he moved restlessly from place to place in Glamorgan and Gower, imploring the help of the tenants of the Despensers, and issuing vain summonses and commissions that no one obeyed. Discovered by the local knowledge of Rhys ap Howel, or betrayed by those whom the Welshman's gold had corrupted, Edward was captured on November 16 in Neath abbey. With him Baldock and the younger Despenser were also taken. On November 20 the favourite was put to death at Hereford, while Baldock, saved from immediate execution by his clerkly privilege, was consigned to the cruel custody of Orleton, only to perish a few months later of ill-treatment. To Hereford also was brought Edmund of Arundel, captured in Shropshire, and condemned to suffer the fate of the Despensers. The king was entrusted to the custody of Henry of Leicester, who conveyed him to his castle of Kenilworth, where the unfortunate monarch passed the winter, "treated not otherwise than a captive king ought to be treated".

It only remained to complete the revolution by making provision for the future government of England. With this object a parliament was summoned, at first by the Duke of Aquitaine in his father's name, and afterwards more regularly by writs issued under the great seal. It met on January 7, 1327, at Westminster, and, after the York precedent of 1322, contained representatives of Wales as well as of the three estates of England. Orleton, the spokesman of Mortimer, asked the estates whether they would have Edward II. or his son as their ruler. The London mob loudly declared for the Duke of Aquitaine, and none of the members of parliament ventured to raise a voice in favour of the unhappy king, save four prelates of whom the most important was the steadfast Archbishop Melton. The southern primate, deserting his old master, declared that the voice of the people was the voice of God. Stratford drew up six articles, in which he set forth that Edward of Carnarvon was incompetent to govern, led by evil counsellors, a despiser of the wholesome advice of the "great and wise men of the realm," neglectful of business, and addicted to unprofitable pleasures; that by his lack of good government he had lost Scotland, Ireland, and Gascony; that he had injured Holy Church, and had done to death or driven into exile many great men; that he had broken his coronation oath, and that it was hopeless to expect amendment from him.

Even the agents of Mortimer shrunk from the odium of decreeing Edward's deposition, and the more prudent course was preferred of inducing the king to resign his power into his son's hands. An effort to persuade the captive monarch to abdicate before his estates, was defeated by his resolute refusal. Thereupon a committee of bishops, barons, and judges was sent to Kenilworth to receive his renunciation in the name of parliament. On January 20, Edward, clothed in black, admitted the delegates to his presence. Utterly unmanned by misfortune, the king fell in a deep swoon at the feet of his enemies. Leicester and Stratford raised him from the ground, and, on his recovery, Orleton exhorted him to resign his throne to his son, lest the estates, irritated by his contumacy, should choose as their king some one who was not of the royal line. Edward replied that he was sorry that his people were tired of his rule, but that being so, he was prepared to yield to their wishes, and make way for the Duke of Aquitaine. On this, Sir William Trussell, as proctor of the three estates, formally renounced their homage and fealty, and Sir Thomas Blount, steward of the household, broke his staff of office, and announced that the royal establishment was disbanded. Thus the calamitous reign of Edward of Carnarvon came to a wretched end. His utter inefficiency as a king makes it impossible to lament his fate. Yet few revolutions have ever been conducted with more manifest self-seeking than that which hurled Edward from power. The angry spite of the adulterous queen, the fierce vengeance and greed of Roger Mortimer, the craft and cruelty of Orleton, the time-serving cowardice of Reynolds, the stupidity of Kent and Norfolk, the party spirit of Stratford and Ayermine, can inspire nothing but disgust. Among the foes of Edward, Henry of Leicester alone behaved as an honourable gentleman, anxious to vindicate a policy, but careful to subordinate his private wrongs to public objects. Though his name and wrongs were ostentatiously put forward by the dominant faction, it is clear from the beginning that he was only a tool in its hands, and that the reversal of the sentence of Earl Thomas was but the pretext by which the schemers and traitors sought to capture the government for their own selfish ends.

The resignation of the king was promptly reported to parliament. On January 24 the Duke of Aquitaine was proclaimed Edward III., and from the next day his regnal years were reckoned as beginning. Henry of Leicester dubbed him knight, and on January 29 he was crowned in Westminster Abbey. A few days later the young king met his parliament. A standing council was appointed to carry on the administration during his nonage. Of this body the Earl of Leicester acted as chief, though most of his colleagues were partisans of Mortimer and the queen. Orleton, who was made treasurer, continued to pull the wires as the confidential agent of Isabella and Mortimer. A show of devotion to the good old cause was thought politic, and therefore the sentences of 1322 were revoked, so that Earl Henry, restored to all his brother's estates, was henceforth styled Earl of Lancaster. The commons went beyond this in petitioning for the canonisation of Earl Thomas and Archbishop Winchelsea. The revolution was consummated by a new confirmation of the charters.

Even in the first flush of victory, Isabella and Mortimer were too insecure and too bitter to allow Edward of Carnarvon to remain quietly in prison under the custody of the Earl of Lancaster. As long as he was alive, he might always become the possible instrument of their degradation. At Orleton's instigation the deposed king was transferred in April from his cousin's care to that of two knights, Thomas Gurney and John Maltravers. He was promptly removed from Kenilworth and hurried by night from castle to castle until, after some sojourn at Corfe, he was at last immured at Berkeley. Every indignity was put upon him, and the systematic course of ill-treatment, to which he was subjected, was clearly intended to bring about his speedy death. But the robust constitution of the athlete rose superior to the persecutions of his torturers, and to save further trouble he was barbarously murdered in his bed on the night of September 21. Piercing shrieks from the interior of the castle told the peasantry that some dire deed was being perpetrated within its gloomy walls. Next day it was announced that the lord Edward had died a natural death, and his corpse was exposed to the public view that suspicion might be averted. He was buried with the state that became a crowned king in the Benedictine Abbey Church of St. Peter, Gloucester. A few years later the piety or remorse of Edward III. erected over his father's remains the magnificent tomb which still challenges our admiration by the delicacy of its tabernacle work and the artistic beauty of the sculptured effigy of the murdered monarch.

The tragedy of Edward's end soon caused his misdeeds to be forgotten, and ere long the countryside flocked on pilgrimage to his tomb, as to the shrine of a saint. By a curious irony the burial place of Edward of Carnarvon rivalled in popularity the chapel on the hill at Pontefract where Thomas of Lancaster had perished by Edward's orders. Like his cousin, Edward became a popular, though not a canonised, saint. From the offerings made at his tomb the monks of Gloucester were in time supplied with the funds that enabled them to recast their romanesque choir in the newer "perpendicular" fashion of architecture, and embellish their church with all the rich additions which contrast so strangely with the grim impressiveness of the stately Norman nave. There was only one impediment to the people's worship of the dead king. The secrecy which enveloped his end led to rumours that he was still alive, and the prevalence of these reports soon proved almost as great a source of embarrassment to his supplanters, as his living presence had been in the first months of their unhallowed power.

It was not easy for Isabella and Mortimer to restore the waning fortunes of England at home and abroad. We shall see that it was only by an almost complete surrender that they procured peace with France and a partial restoration of Gascony. In Scotland they were even less fortunate. Robert Bruce, though broken in health and spirits, took up an aggressive attitude, and it was found necessary to summon the feudal levies to meet on the border in the summer of 1327 in order to repel his attack. While the troops were mustering at York, a fierce fight broke out in the streets, between the Hainault mercenaries, under John of Hainault, and the citizens. So threatening was the outlook that it was thought wise to send the Hainaulters back home. From this accident it happened that the young king went forth to his first campaign, attended only by his native-born subjects. The Scots began operations by breaking the truce and overrunning the borders. The campaign directed against them was as futile as any of the last reign, and the English, though three times more numerous than the enemy, dared not provoke battle. This inglorious failure may well have convinced Mortimer that the best chance of maintaining his power was to make peace at any price. Early in 1328, the negotiations for a treaty were concluded at York. During their progress, Edward, who was at York to meet his parliament, was married to Philippa of Hainault.

The Scots treaty was confirmed in April by a parliament that met at Northampton. All claim to feudal superiority over Scotland was withdrawn; Robert Bruce was recognised as King of Scots, and his young son David was married to Joan of the Tower, Edward III.'s infant sister. This surrender provoked the liveliest indignation, and men called the treaty of Northampton the "shameful peace," and ascribed it to the treachery or timorousness of the queen and her paramour. But it is hard to see what other solution of the Scottish problem was practicable. For many years Bruce had been de facto King of Scots, and any longer hesitation to withhold the recognition which he coveted would have been sure to involve the north of England in the same desolation as that which he had inflicted before the truce of 1322. But the founder of Scottish independence was drawing near to the end of his career. His health had long been undermined by a terrible disease which the chroniclers thought to be leprosy. He died in 1329, and on his death-bed he bethought him of how he, who had shed so much Christian blood, had never been able to fulfil his vow of crusade. Accordingly he entreated James Douglas, his faithful companion-in-arms, to go on crusade against the Moors of Granada, taking with him the heart of his dead master. Douglas fulfilled the request, and perished in Spain, whither he had carried the heart of the Scottish liberator. With the accession of the little David Bruce, new troubles began for Scotland, though danger from England was for the moment averted by the English marriage and the treaty of Northampton.

The ill-will produced by the "shameful peace" spread far and wide the profound dislike for Mortimer which pity for the fate of Edward had first aroused in the breasts of Englishmen. The greedy marcher was at no pains to make himself popular. Holding no great office of state, he strove to rule through his creatures Orleton, the treasurer, and the hardly less subservient chancellor, Bishop Hotham of Ely, or through lay partisans such as Sir Oliver Ingham and Sir Simon Bereford. But his best chance of remaining in power was through the besotted infatuation of the queen-mother, whose relations with him were not concealed from the public eye by any elaborate parade of secrecy. He still posed as the inheritor of the tradition of the lords ordainers, and never failed to put as much of the responsibility of his rule as he could on Henry of Lancaster and the old baronial leaders. But with all his force and energy, he was too narrowly selfish and grasping to take much trouble to frame an elaborate policy. As an administrator he was as incompetent as either Thomas of Lancaster or the Despensers.

Mortimer's chief care was to add office to office, and estate to estate, in order that he might establish his house as supreme over all Wales and its march. Besides his own enormous inheritance, he ruled over Ludlow and Meath in the right of his wife, Joan of Joinville, the heiress of the Lacys. He had inherited Chirk and the other lands of his uncle, the sometime justice of Wales, who had died in Edward II.'s prison; and he procured for himself a grant of his uncle's old office for life, so that, while as justice of Wales he lorded it over the principality, as head of the Mortimers he could dominate the whole march. To complete his ascendency in the march became his great ambition. He obtained the custody of Glamorgan, the stronghold of his sometime rival, Hugh Despenser the younger. To this were added Oswestry and Clun, the Fitzalan march in western Shropshire, forfeited to the crown by the faithfulness with which Edmund Fitzalan, the late Earl of Arundel, had laid down his life for Edward II. Minor grants of lands, offices, wardships, and pensions were constantly lavished upon him by the complacency of his mistress. In Ireland he received complete palatine franchises over Trim, Meath, and Louth, along with the custody of the estates of the infant Earl of Kildare, the chief of the Leinster Geraldines. He extended his connexions by marrying his seven daughters to the heads of great families, and where possible to men of marcher houses. He soon numbered among his sons-in-law the representatives of the Charltons of Powys, the Hastingses of Abergavenny, now the chief heirs of Aymer of Pembroke, the Audleys of the Shropshire march, the Beauchamps of Warwick, the Berkeleys, the Grandisons, and the Braoses. Anxious to extend his dignity as well as his power, he procured his nomination as Earl of the March of Wales, "a title," says a chronicler, "hitherto unheard of in England". As earl of the march and justice of the principality, he ruled the lands west of the Severn with little less than regal sway. His banquets, his tournaments, his pious foundations even, dazzled all men by their splendour.

Mortimer was created Earl of March in the parliament held in October, 1328, at Salisbury, where John of Eltham was made Earl of Cornwall and James, Butler of Ireland, Earl of Ormonde. His assumption of this new title at last roused the sluggish indignation of Earl Henry of Lancaster, who felt that his own marcher interests were compromised, and bitterly resented the vain use made of his name, while he was carefully kept without any control of policy. He refused to attend the Salisbury parliament, though he and his partisans mustered in arms in the neighbourhood of that city. Civil war seemed imminent, and Mortimer's Welshmen devastated Lancaster's earldom of Leicester, but Archbishop Meopham (who had lately succeeded Reynolds in the primacy) managed to patch up peace. Not long afterwards Lancaster was smitten with blindness, and was thenceforth unable to take an active part in public affairs. Mortimer again triumphed for the moment, and, with cruel malice, excepted Lancaster's confidential agents from the pardon which he was forced to extend to the earl. His success over Lancaster was materially facilitated by the weakness of Edmund, Earl of Kent, who, after joining with Earl Henry in his refusal to attend the Salisbury parliament, deserted him at the moment of the capture of Leicester by the Earl of March. But his treachery did not save him from Mortimer's revenge. In conjunction with the queen, Mortimer plotted to lure on Earl Edmund to ruin. Their agents persuaded him that Edward II. was still alive and imprisoned in Corfe castle, and urged him to restore his brother to liberty. The earl rose to the bait, and agreed to be party to an insurrection which was to restore Edward of Carnarvon to freedom, if not to his throne. When Kent was involved in the meshes, he was suddenly arrested in the Winchester parliament of March, 1330, and accused of treason. Convicted by his own speeches and letters, he was adjudged to death by the lords, and on March 19 beheaded outside the walls of the city.

The fall of Kent convinced Lancaster that his fate would not be long delayed, and that his best chance of saving himself and his cause lay in stirring up the king to energetic action against the Earl of March. The death of his uncle irritated Edward, who at seventeen was old enough to feel the degrading nature of his thraldom, and was eager to govern the kingdom of which he was the nominal head. In June, 1330, the birth of a son, the future Black Prince, to Edward and Philippa seems to have impressed on the young monarch that he had come to man's estate. Lancaster accordingly found him eager to shake off the yoke of his mother's paramour. The opportunity came in October, 1330, when the magnates assembled at Nottingham to hold a parliament there. Isabella and Mortimer took up their abode in the castle, where Edward also resided. Suspicions were abroad, and the castle was closely guarded by Mortimer's Welsh followers. Sir William Montague, a close friend of Edward's, was chosen to strike the blow, and lay outside with a band of troops. Some rumour of the plot seems to have leaked out, and on October 19 Mortimer angrily denounced Montague as a traitor, and accused the king of complicity with his designs. But Montague was safe outside the castle, and, when evening fell, all that Mortimer could do was to lock the gates and watch the walls. William Eland, constable of the castle, had been induced to join the conspiracy, and had revealed to Montague a secret entrance into the stronghold. On that very night, Montague and his men-at-arms effected an entrance through an underground passage into the castle-yard, where Edward joined them. They then made their way up to Mortimer's chamber, which as usual was next to that of the queen. Two knights, who guarded the door, were struck down, and the armed band burst into the room. After a desperate scuffle, the Earl of March was secured. Hearing the noise, the queen rushed into the room, and though Edward still waited without, cried, with seeming consciousness of his share in the matter, "Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer". Her entreaties were unavailing, and the fallen favourite was hurried, under strict custody, to London.

Edward then issued a proclamation announcing that he had taken the government of England into his own hands. Parliament, prorogued to Westminster, met on November 26, and its chief business was the trial of Mortimer before the lords. He was charged with accroaching to himself the royal power, stirring up dissension between Edward II and the queen, teaching Edward III. to regard the Earl of Lancaster as his enemy, deluding Edmund of Kent into believing that his brother was alive and with procuring his execution, accepting bribes from the Scots for concluding the disgraceful peace, and with perpetrating grievous cruelties in Ireland. The lords, imitating the evil precedents set during Mortimer's time of power, condemned him without trial or chance of answer to the accusations made against him. On November 29 the fallen earl was paraded through London from his prison in the Tower to Tyburn Elms, and was there hanged on the common gallows. His vast estates were forfeited to the crown. His accomplice, Sir Simon Bereford, suffered the same fate; but Sir Oliver Ingham, another of his associates, was pardoned. Edward discreetly drew a veil over his mother's shame. Mortimer's notorious relations with her were not enumerated in the accusations brought against him, and Isabella, though removed from power and stripped of some of her recent acquisitions, was allowed to live in honourable retirement on her dower manors. Scrupulously visited by her dutiful son, she wandered freely from house to house, as she felt disposed. She died in 1358 at her castle of Hertford, in the habit of the Poor Clares—a sister order of the Franciscans. The later tradition that she was kept in confinement at Castle Rising has only this slender foundation in fact that Castle Rising was one of her favourite places of abode. With her withdrawal from public life Edward III.'s real reign begins.


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