Points of Interest at Gloucester Cathedral – Edward II

DSC08149It’s hard to pick just a few things to write about when it comes to Gloucester Cathedral.

There are many curiosities, nuances of architecture, grand sweeping lace like ceilings and historical characters to choose from so I have decided to write about my favourites.

I hope you enjoy!

King Edward II

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Tomb effigy of King Edward II
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Tomb of Edward II in the south side of the cathedral near the High altar

Edward II was born at Caernarfon Castle in April 1284, the fourth son of King Edward I, and his Queen, Eleanor of Castile. He was the last and 16th child born to the couple.

Two of his brothers died young, and Edward became the heir to the throne after the death of his brother Alphonso in August 1284.

In 1301, Edward was created Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Lincoln, and he was the first heir to the throne of England to hold that title.

Edward became King in 1307, and married Isabella of France, the daughter of King Phillip IV in 1308. 1312 saw the birth of his son Edward, who would grow up to be the formidable Edward III.

Edward was an unpopular King, partially due to an unusually close relationship that he had with a noble called Piers Gaveston.

In fact, it was Piers’ coat of arms displayed at Edward and Isabella’s wedding banquet, not Isabella’s and Edward offended everyone by giving the best jewels that Isabella had given him as a wedding present to Piers.

Piers had initially made a good impression on Edward’s father Edward I and he joinedDSC07883 Edward’s court when he was the heir to the throne in 1300.

Edward and Piers’ close relationship infuriated Edward I so much that he banished Piers from court, only for him to be re-summoned as soon as Edward II became King.

The other nobles of Edward’s court were frustrated by Piers’ uninterrupted access to the King, and eventually Edward himself was forced to exile Piers (making him the Lieutenant of Ireland), only to go back on his word and recall him.

This maddened the nobles so much that they eventually kidnapped him and executed him near Warwick in 1312. Edward was furious and resentful as you can imagine.

1314 wasn’t to be a better year for Edward, and it was in June that his forces met the Scots in the Battle of Bannockburn. This battle was to go down in history as one of the biggest English failures, made the more so as it undone all the work Edward I had put in to try and conquer Scotland.

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Edward’s tomb from the south east

Edward had learnt nothing from his relationship with Piers, and acquired a new favourite called Hugh Despencer. Both Hugh and his father clashed with Edward’s barons and they were eventually banished from court in 1321. However, Edward had some success the following year, when he executed Henry of Lancaster, his cousin and one of the people responsible for the death of Piers.

After the death of Henry of Lancaster, he recalled the Despencers.

Edward underestimated his Queen, Isabella. Isabella is known as the She Wolf of France, and although she had arrived in England a 12 year old girl, she had grown up an intelligent, wronged wife, tired of being ignored and sidelined by Edward.

Queen Isabella eventually rebelled against Edward after being sent on a peace making mission to France, as the French King was her brother. It was here that she met Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March and the two of them became lovers – completely unheard of and scandalous for the time!

In September, 1326 Isabella and Mortimer invaded England and were supported by many of England’s nobles who were resentful of Edward. Edward was betrayed by London, and was captured and forced to abdicate, making his teenage son Edward III. Isabella and Mortimer also ensured that the Despencers were executed.

That was it for the former King. He was imprisoned in Kenilworth castle, moved to

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The Great East window, Gloucester

Berkeley castle and he died in October, 1327. They kept him in a dungeon and tried to make him ill by throwing rotten animal corpses and other detritus in with him, but he stubbornly refused to die, which was inconvenient as it was preferred for it to look like Edward died of natural causes.

It is said that he died in the most horrendous way, having a red hot poker inserted up his rectum through a horn… so that there would be no marks on his body. However, I haven’t found any contemporary evidence of this.

Edward was laid to rest in Gloucester cathedral on the 20th of December, 1327 and his tomb can still be seen today, complete with one of the earliest alabaster effigies in England.

Subsequent monarchs donated generously to Gloucester cathedral to ensure he was honoured befitting a King, and Gloucester made good use of this money, decorating and renovating the cathedral.

If Edward hadn’t have been buried at Gloucester, it may not be as lovely today, as the King attracted many pilgrims who were also eager to donate.

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The White Hart in Gloucester cathedral, emblem of Richard II who visited his great grandfather Edward II’s tomb

 

 

 

 

 

References
Wikipedia – Edward I
Wikipedia – Edward II
EnglishMonarchs.co.uk – Edward II
IanMortimer – Edward II

 

 

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