It is not widely known that King Edward II (here pictured in his coronation robes and with St. George) visited Hathern in 1318. The setting for this was a temporary reconciliation between him and his cousin Thomas, Second Earl of Lancaster. Edward was born on 25 April 1284, and succeeded his father, Edward I in 1307. Unfortunately he proved to be weak, incompetent and extravagant monarch. On his accession he brought his lover, Piers Gaveston, back from exile. He granted him a great many favours, including the earldom of Cornwall which had previously been restricted to members of the royal family. He also wed him to his own niece. In 1308 Edward married Isabella of France, and the French royal family were enraged when Edward gave the place of honour to Gaveston at his coronation later the same year. The barons, including his cousin Thomas, became increasingly incensed by Edward’s behaviour and Gaveston’s preferment and arrogance. They issued 'The Ordinances' in 1311 in an attempt to curb Edward’s control of royal appointments and finance. The nobles exiled Gaveston to France, but he returned to England. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, captured and imprisoned him and instigated his beheading in June 1312. Edward soon replaced him with another equally unacceptable companion, Hugh Despenser the Younger. Relations between the King and Lancaster deteriorated further. Thomas refused to accompany Edward on his march to Scotland. There the King’s lack of military leadership led to the defeat of the English army in 1314 by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn. After this the barons grew more powerful, and Thomas became the virtual ruler of England by 1315. There were occasional periods of reconciliation between the two cousins. During one such brief spell an agreement was reached between the King and barons with Thomas at their head. They exerted pressure on Edward to reconfirm the Ordinances of 1311 and issue pardons to 600 of Lancaster’s men. With great reluctance the King signed the Treaty of Leake on 9 August 1318. This took place in either East Leake or West Leake in Nottinghamshire. On the 14th August the cousins met and exchanged a kiss of peace on “Sotesbryge” which has been identified as Zouch Bridge at Hathern. The rise of Edward’s favourites, Hugh Despenser and his son, caused even greater division between him and the nobles. In 1321 Roger Mortimer and the Earl of Hereford, together with Thomas and many other barons, sacked Hugh Despenser’s lands in Wales. They then marched on London and forced Edward to exile the two Despensers. The King lashed back and forced one of their leaders, Roger Mortimer, to surrender and exiled him to France. The remaining rebels fled north and joined Thomas of Lancaster. They made an approach to Robert the Bruce asking him to help them defeat Edward. The King’s army marched north and defeated the barons at the battle of Boroughbridge in March 1322. Thomas of Lancaster was captured and taken prisoner at his own castle at Pontefract. Thomas was convicted of treason and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Picture below is Thomas being led to his execution. Edward commuted the sentence to beheading and confiscated all his lands and titles. In 1325, the tide finally turned against King Edward II. He sent long-suffering Queen Isabella on a diplomatic mission to France. When she met the exiled Roger Mortimer the pair became lovers. The following year they invaded England, meeting with little resistance. They captured and executed the Despensers who had, meanwhile, returned to England. Edward was deposed in 1326. He was imprisoned at Berkeley Castle and reputedly murdered there in September 1327 by the insertion of a red hot poker into his body. Edward and Isabella's son was crowned Edward III in January 1327.
References
Tout, T.F. and Johnstone, H. 1936. The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History. Manchester University Press, p. 121.
Haines, R.M. 2003. King Edward II: His Life, his Reign and its Aftermath, 1284–1330. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press, page 113.
Stubbs, W. 2012. Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II. Cambridge University Press, p. lxxii.
A.M. Bagley

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