Holidays over and once more to return to the gladsome but challenging task of writing a True history of these sceptic isles set in a large piece of water with bits of plastic in it…….
As we know Edward I was not really the first Edward to be king of England, but apparently that didn’t matter. As he was possessed of a ferocious countenance and being so tall he was known (behind his back) as Edward Longsocks no one felt inclined to argue with him. He was expected to be memorable though. He did not let anyone down.
Born on 17th June 1239 he was quite grown up during another of those eras of revolting barons and had been obliged to rescue his father at least once. After his coronation on 19th August 1274 he examined the royal records and found his suspicions confirmed in that his father had been a pious twit. He resolved to put some dignity and authority back into the Throne (and probably some new cushions).
If there was one thing which upset the folk of South Wales it was having a prince from North Wales claiming he was prince of all The Welsh. Llewelyn ap Gruffyd had been very good at this, until, as was the custom of those days his brothers rebelled against him. Llewelyn retaliated in the winter of 1274 by saying it was Edward’s fault and refused to give him the customary sausage expected by the King of England. Seizing the opportunity Edwards astutely invaded in the winter of 1276 through South Wales thus doubling the size of his army. As mid-Wales is a place where anyone can get lost Llewelyn thought he might have got away with it, but Edward’s army finally found North Wales the next year. In November 1274 Llewelyn was left with just the North West of Wales, but was still allowed to say he was Prince of Wales, not that anyone in South Wales paid any attention. Thus, was Edward seen as a strong king.
By 1282 Llewelyn discovered that outside of Gwynedd no one was paying attention to him and even in that realm some troublesome folk were claiming he couldn’t tell them what to do because English laws were the proper ones. At this he understandably rebelled, aided by his previously disloyal brother Dafydd who had found out his rewards for siding with Edward in 1276 were pretty feeble. In those days, this sort of action was acceptable and quite chivalrous. The Welsh did quite well until Llewelyn was treacherously pushed off a bridge and Dafydd predictably had his head chopped off. Although there were subsequent, heroic but small rebellions by 1292 Wales had been sort of subjugated. Edward was seen as a very strong king and in 1301 had his son crowned Prince of Wales; he had achieved this by having his pregnant wife Eleanor placed in Caernarfon Castle in 1284 and not allowed to come out until their son (Edward) had been born, despite this she survived, until 1290
Diplomacy and Wars
Initially Edward tried to be diplomatic and stop bits of France fighting other bits of France, claiming that he knew where Anjou, Aquitaine, Brittany, Normandy, Maine etc should be. In this effort, he was thwarted by the sudden intervention of some very arrogant Spaniards who invaded Anjou in support of some Sicilians who had courageously massacred French men women and children for the outrageous act of living in Sicily. Although Edward had shown the correct respect to the French King Philip by offering him the obligatory fromage he decided it would now be simpler if he tried to declare war and invaded Anjou, Aquitaine, Normandy, Maine etc. To do this he asked some German princes if they would care to join in, but they didn’t turn up, no doubt due to Holy Roman Emperors and some other German princes. Edward by now had lost interest because he had to go back and deal with the Scots.
Scotland (Of Kings and Councils)
All had been quite reasonable thanks King Alasdair mac Alasdair putting up with the English calling him Alexander III because they couldn’t keep track of the right title. Then in 1284 his son Alasdair (Just a Prince) at the age of 20 carelessly died leaving his widowed father hairless. Finding a wig was not an issue but obviously Alasdair (The Elder) needed sons. He married quite quickly and then in a hurry to get the son business started rode off on a dark and stormy night to meet with his wife and obviously not concentrating rode over a cliff in 1286. The Scottish nobility then insisted his young and frail 7 year old Norwegian granddaughter brought over to rule, not surprisingly the poor child died on the way in 1290.
Because the Scottish William I (The Lion- not Conqueror-see Vol. 1) had been thoroughly dissolute in his relationships with women and the scots nobility were very good at family trees fourteen claimants turned up and there was much long and loud discussion. The matters thus became titled the Great Hoarse. Thanks to efforts of the vegetarians of the realm the number of claimants was narrowed down, they, having removed a Dutch duke with the discouraging name of Florence, someone who was very confusing because everyone in his family was called Humphrey and Eric II of Norway who was scandalously raiding Denmark with a bunch of outlaws. This left John Bayli-Oil who claimed to be related to King David I who had been very saintly and invented government in Scotland. Also, John wanted a college named after him. In competition was a powerful noble who had changed his name from Bruce to Robert; his claim was based Gaelic Frantic law which said not only must a claimant be a man related to a suitably dead king, have four fingers and a thumb of each hand and be of sound mind; this latter qualification obviously removed many claimants. This situation was temporarily made impassable as 50 scots nobles said they wanted a king with four fingers and a thumb on each handd and 50 scots nobles saying they thought a king with a college named after him was a splendid idea. Edward (The I) turned up with 16 scots nobles who hadn’t been initially invited and said John was a grand name for a king while ignoring any comments about his own grandfather. Thus, Scotland had a Johnish king.
John was not a great success as he didn’t have a coat, and gave into Edward’s demands that he pay The King of England his due in porridge. He also found out that in the small print Edward could demand that scots soldiers fight in any part of France he told them too. Feeling insulted many scots nobles told John he wasn’t king but he could flee to France because the French were better than the English. They then advanced on Carlisle and massacred people on the way. Edward gathered an army and in 1296 took back Carlisle, advanced on Berwick, took it bloodily, then did something similar at Dunbar. Due to errors in translation and transcription, he had been led to believe the Scots excelled at high teas, but found out they only had a large stone which in a fit of pique he took back to London and sat on.
At this stage, the Scots wisely opted to record all events in the form of ballads and laments in which they were heroic and the English treacherous. This gave them the moral high ground. Edward didn’t care however, as he said he ruled everywhere on the isles; this claim may have been disputed but those who challenged it were too remote to do much about the circumstance.
Civic Administration, the Continued Growth of The Common Persons and The Law.
What was starting to unsettle the barons and other nobles was the sight lots of the common people becoming wealthy by trade, craft, farming, fishing and crime. The latter was particularly infuriating to the barons as that had normally been their preserve. This re-distribution of wealth also encouraged Edward to listen to the Common People who were starting to complain that those officials appointed by the local nobility such as sheriffs and toreadors were failing even in the most simple of tasks. Edward proved this by citing evidence of at least Hundred Moles being loose in the land. Rather than massacre the nobility Edward built statues in Westminster in 1275 and 1285 and with the aid of a devoted Italian official Warranto passed a law which stated no one could do what they used to do unless they could prove the king had said they could, and if they couldn’t then only the king could do whatever it was on that person’s property. If a noble still wouldn’t obey the law then Edward with the aid of a classically trained official Emptores would pull their hair until they relented.
It was during this heroically legalistic era that Edward discovered there were more people sitting on judge’s benches than there used to be. To ensure only genuine judges were sitting there he had each conjugate the phrase De Donis Conditionailbus in various tenses, those who failed were made to consume the royal purgative and have their hair pulled.
Even in those days Banking was said to be sin. But, due to institutionalised stupidity and hypocrisy the Jewish People were forced to operate it. As it will have been seen in the previous chapter everyone liked to blame The Jews for everything even if the Jews had not been involved. Edward wishing to stop the people from complaining about how much silver he was putting into coins, made all the Jews leave England but kept their property, thus demonstrating great piety and a complete absence of knowledge of the New Testament. This was an ill-conceived policy for those times as now the common people had no one to blame but themselves when they did something wrong, which of course they would not admit to.
Edward wanted to fight the French once again for Normandy, Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine etc and also the Scots who had found another man who had changed his name from Bruce to Robert. But he needed more money, since Parliament was allowed to ask him why and so take up time he was in a fix until it was discovered by an Italian pope that banking was not a sin if conducted by Italians as Italy was not a nation but a collection of cities all of which were in quite a state. In this way Edward was able to borrow large amounts of money and solve the Unconventional Crisis of 1294- 1297 during which Parliament had said he could not have near as much money as he wanted. Unfortunately, later on the Italian banks also said he couldn’t have as much as he wanted, so he told The Church in England he would borrow from them as they couldn’t charge interest. The Pope said he couldn’t do that as the Church in England only answered to God and sent a large Vatican official known as Papal Bill to enforce this ruling. Edward countered by claiming that if the English clergy wouldn’t pay money to an English king then he could make them English outlaws, but they could still answer to God if they wanted to. In the meantime, he would refuse to not know anyone called Bill if they spoke with an Italian accent. The impasse was solved when another Vatican official who was also named Bill but to avoid confusion went by the singular name of Elsie reached a compromise which ruled that Edward could ask for some money when he really needed it, in this case to fight The French; which at the time suited The Vatican just fine. However, some self-important parliamentarian Roger Bigfoot remonstrated so loudly he had to be promised by Edward that he, Edward, would fight the Scots as soon as he had fought the French.
The Final Wars
Because there were more French than Edward had expected that did not go well and under the terms of a new clause of Magna Carta Edward returned to fight the Scots; who were led by Bruce (who had changed his name from Robert to confuse the English) and Loyal Wallace. Edward angry with popes, parliaments and his son who insisted on building cottages and hedges, took it out on the Scots, brutally defeated them, hung several in cages and ensured Scottish bards and chroniclers even more steady employment. Edward was not totally successful as Bruce disguised as Robert escaped, raised another army and defeated the English when Edward was not looking. Edward marched back north, in such a hurry he did not think to wash his hands, took ill and died in bag of sand of the 7th July 1307.
Although Edward had marched over much of the isles, defeating Scots and Welsh armies, he failed to completely conquer either nation, thus storing up problems for future kings of England. He also forgot to go to Ireland which enabled various Irish lords and those Norman lords who had become so confused they thought they were Irish to defeat those lords who thought themselves English (or Norman) until eventually the king’s representative in Ireland was an obscure character named Norminal. Whereas Edward still had bits of Anjou, Aquitaine, Normandy, Maine etc he had failed to stop other parts becoming French. In addition, he had been obliged to listen to various popes. Thus, although a fierce legalistic warrior king Edward must be considered to have been merely significant and not truly great (see Volume I: Alfred, Athel Stain, & William)
In the next chapter Edward II shall be discussed or dismembered depending whether you are a student of history or a contemporaneous noble.