This is a brief post marking the events of this day in history. The circumstances leading to the forced abdication of Edward’s Father are well known and shall not be discussed within this post but I will write about them at a later date. A further reading list is included at the end for anybody wishing to expand upon this blog post.
In early January 1327 Prince Edward of Wales made his first appearance in London since 1325. The city, still in turmoil since the invasion headed by Edward’s Mother Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, 2nd baron Wigmore had hardly abated since the previous September. Feelings were high and at the opening of parliament on the 7th a mob of people forced their way into Westminster Hall. Edward was not present at the beginning of the proceedings at Westminster. He was certainly at the palace, perhaps in the kings apartments. These apartments were luxurious with brightly coloured tiled floors and painted lions on the walls. The great bed at the far east end overlooking the river Thames between a fireplace and doorway to the kings small private chapel which adjoined. Perhaps Edward prayed there at this time.
It was bound to have been a highly emotive time for him, whatever the failings of Edward II, the king was his Father. Of course we can only speculate at the dynamics of the relationships between long dead people but Edward must have been in turmoil, thoughts of his Father and his failure to rule properly, his Mother and her troubling relationship with the domineering Roger Mortimer must have played on his mind as the nobles and clergy of England debated as to what course to take next.
Roger Mortimer himself, despite being at the top of the list of barons to be summoned for this revolutionary parliament, kept to the shadows to begin with much as he had done since the September invasion. His presence could undermine Isabella’s position as a wronged woman, wearing the robes of a widow, mourning the death of her marriage, torn asunder by her husbands infatuation with Hugh Despenser the Younger. The latter had been put to death the previous November but there was no real effort for the King and Queen to reconcile, although Isabella did write and send small gifts to her estranged husband and declared that she would like to visit him. This was forbidden and it is not unlikely that this was the work of Roger Mortimer. His position depended on the continued goodwill of the Queen, his ally and lover and above all; control of her son. Doubtless, Mortimer was also behind Bishop Orletons assertion -untrue- that the King carried a knife purely to kill Queen Isabella. Certainly, after hearing about it, the king himself denied any such thing.
There cannot be any doubt that the end of Edward II’s reign was brought about through a collusion of Mortimer and the various Bishops. The latter all had their part to play in parliament preaching sermons whipping their listeners up into a frenzy. In Bishop Orleton’s case the sermon preached on January 12th was Ecclesiastes [10:16] “A foolish King shall ruin his people…” It would, however, be extremely inaccurate to say that all of the nobility and clergy were in agreement with deposing Edward II because they were not but any whom spoke up for the king were shouted down, for Mortimer had taken care to pack parliament full of his friends, relatives and supporters. Mortimer himself, growing impatient, on January 13th told parliament that it had already been agreed that Edward would be deposed and his son King in his stead. Earlier the same day a large group of the nobility had taken an oath to protect Queen Isabella and her son, Prince Edward. Parliament, predictably assented to the removal of Edward II from the throne. Prince Edward himself, being thrust into parliament, still only fourteen years old and no doubt bewildered, refused to accept the crown.
A twenty four strong deputation was dispatched to Kenilworth where King Edward was being held. Extreme pressure was placed on the beleaguered king to abdicate in favour of his son, the men dispatched to treat with King Edward stating that his people would repudiate him in favour of his son regardless. It is extremely hard not to feel sympathy with king Edward at this point, who had been very loyal to his favourites- but that loyalty, placed as it was in the wrong people had ultimately led him to disaster. On January 21st after being told of the refusal of his son to take the crown a black clad and extremely distressed Edward II agreed to abdicate and let the prince take his place. No doubt alarmed that Mortimer himself would attempt to make himself king, Edward II realised that he must agree to abdicate so his son would agree to take the crown.
Edward II’s reign came to a close on January 24th 1327 and Edward III was proclaimed King on January 25th, the very next day. Few could have been in any doubt that it was Roger Mortimer who was truly in power.
Isabella and Mortimer at their invasion of 1326
The Chronicle of Geoffrey le Baker
Vita Edwardi Secundi
Scalacronica (Thomas Grey of Heton)
The reign of Edward III, W.M Ormrod (2nd edition, 2000)