King Edward I
Born: June 17, 1239
Westminster, London, England
Reign: November 16, 1272 - July 7, 1307 (34 years)
Died: July 7, 1272
Burgh by Sands, Cumberland, England (Age 68)
Edward “Longshanks” was born the eldest child of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence on June 17, 1239. Next to nothing is known about Edward’s early childhood, though it is safe to assume that he lived comfortably, received a solid education and enjoyed all of the advantages that came with being the royal heir. The prince does not appear in the records in any significant manner until 1249, when he was a youth of ten. It was at this point that King Henry decided to endow his son with the duchy of Gascony, the last remaining relic of the old Angevin empire of Henry II. Since Edward was obviously too young to rule any land (particularly one that was as notoriously difficult to govern as Gascony), the grant was merely a formality at this point and time, though it showed that Henry was serious about providing for his son during his own lifetime and that the prince should have a major piece of land to administer when he reached the appropriate age.
For the time being, Gascony was under the control of the king’s brother-in-law (and therefore Edward’s uncle), Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who was appointed as lieutenant the previous year. The fact that Montfort controlled all of Gascony’s revenues, so as to keep up with the cost of maintaining the rebellious duchy, cements the fact that Edward’s grant was not yet one of substance. Over the following years, the Gascon people became more and more disillusioned with Montfort’s autocratic form of government. When complaints starting flowing to Henry, the king became anxious to remove his brother-in-law from office and replace him with the prince (at least nominally). Montfort was indeed removed from office in 1252, but the king made sure that his son knew that he was still far too young to rule such a land. This is made clear by the fact that, when Henry himself travelled to Gascony in the summer of 1253, the prince stayed behind in England. It was while he was in Gascony that King Henry sued for peace with the Spanish kingdom of Castile, a land that had previously been hostile towards the English-controlled duchy. As a stipulation of the agreement, Edward was betrothed to Eleanor, the sister to King Alfonso X. The prince finally travelled to Gascony (and then into Spain), and the marriage between he and Eleanor of Castile took place in November 1254.
In order to prove to King Alfonso that his son was sufficiently endowed to care for his sister, Henry granted the prince with massive estates that stretched to every corner of his dominions. In addition to Gascony, Edward was now in possession of a majority of Ireland and a healthy number of castles in both England and Wales, including the lands pertaining to the earldom of Chester, an important region in the Welsh marches that was virtually independent from the English crown. Edward remained in Gascony for a year after his father’s departure and was able to get his first taste of authority. Little is known of Edward’s activities in his duchy before his return to England in 1255, and he was ultimately recalled by his father, further proof that it was the king, not the prince, who still wielded the most amount of power in Gascony, as well as in England. What little evidence we do possess of Edward’s first year in Gascony shows a young man who was seemingly overwhelmed by financial difficulties and by internal struggles within Bordeaux, Gascony’s most important city. While Edward would ultimately go on to be successful in running Gascony, he was clearly in over his head in 1254-55.
The prince faced more serious issues from his lands in Wales and the marches, where Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the self-proclaimed Prince of Wales (a man who would go on to be Edward’s arch-nemesis during the first ten years of the latter’s reign as king), was unhappy with English interference in the Welsh justice system and with the supposedly harsh rule of Edward’s officials in his Welsh lands. For these reasons, Llywelyn felt that he was justified in starting a rebellion and conquering vast swaths of Wales, building himself a sizeable principality in the process. It does not seem as if Edward was directly involved in attempts to stop the crafty Welshman, and those who acted in his name failed miserably, due in large part to a lack of resources. As Llywelyn continued to devastate the lands of his neighbors, King Henry finally decided to lead an army into Wales personally – with Edward at his side. Unfortunately, the expedition was a complete and utter failure and, by the end of 1257, the English forces were forced to retreat in humiliating fashion.
All in all, Edward’s formative years were nothing to be proud of, but it must be remembered that the prince himself played a very limited role in them. All of the historical evidence available of Edward’s activities during these years corroborates that the prince was an ambitious and energetic young man, hungry for power, who was being suffocated by a father who was borderline overbearing and by a group of advisors who were forced upon him against his will, both of whom were looking to stifle his influence over affairs. This certainly holds a grain of truth to it, but it must be remembered that the prince was still only a teenager at this point and could not possibly have governed such troublesome lands as Gascony and Wales on his own. Nonetheless, Edward’s semi-disillusionment with his father’s interference in his affairs must have been a cause of him coming under the influence of other powerful men at the English court. The prince was first influenced by the Savoyard faction (his maternal great-uncles) and then by his paternal uncles, the Lusignans (the half-brothers of King Henry). Soon enough though, Edward would be taken into a movement that would make his affiliations with the Savoyards and Lusignans seem completely harmless and innocent.
The various causes of the outbreak of the baronial-led reform movement, which swept into England in 1258, are more appropriately discussed in a biography of Henry III and, for this reason, cannot, and will not, be discussed here. As the barons were seizing control of the day to day functions of government and forcing the Provisions of Oxford on the king, severely limiting his power in the process, Edward’s first instinct was to shun the reform movement. After all, the throne would one day be his, and it would not make sense for him to allow a group of upstart barons to usurp the authority that went with it. In addition, one of the primary complaints against Henry’s regime was the presence of his Lusignan half-brothers, who were looked at as greedy and overreaching by much of the English baronage. It must be remembered that Edward was close to his uncles at this point and would not have appreciated the barons attempting to remove them from power - and from the country. For these reasons, Edward originally supported his Lusignan uncles and agreed to accept the Provisions only with the greatest reluctance.
Soon after though, Edward was brought to heel and seems to have come to an understanding with one of the primary reformers: Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. With the king firmly under their grasp, it truly must have been a boon to the barons to also have the cooperation of the heir to the throne. The prince furthered his recalcitrant behavior towards the crown the following year when he played a role in the creation of the Provisions of Westminster (which superseded the Oxford provisions) and when he firmly objected to the Treaty of Paris, which was in the process of being negotiated at this point. One of the major stipulations of the treaty was that all members of the English royal family were forced to give up their claims to the old Angevin lands (Normandy, Anjou and Poitou), which were once controlled by the Kings of England. Edward refused to do so. In doing so, the prince found support from his uncle, Simon de Montfort (another leading reformer), whose wife Eleanor, King Henry’s sister, was also required to renounce her claim to the Angevin lands. Unfortunately for these two men, their complaints would ultimately go unanswered, and the treaty was ratified by the year’s end.
In the aftermath of the ratification of the treaty, King Henry lingered in France for several months. During this time, he was alarmed to discover that his son and Montfort had joined forces and had plans to hold a parliament in his absence. Also, Edward appears to have been at odds with his former ally, the Earl of Gloucester, at this time, and both men marched towards London with armed retinues. It was only when Henry returned from France with an army of mercenaries that the situation was cooled, with no major punishments being handed out. This incident seems to have sufficiently frightened Edward enough to push him most of the way back into his father’s corner, and the prince indeed played a significantly smaller role in politics in the months that followed, undoubtedly wanting to lay low after being taken down to size by the king. In the spring of 1261, it appears that Edward at least contemplated rising up against his father again. The prince disapproved of the papal bull that liberated King Henry from the Provisions but was ultimately dissuaded from any more rebellious behavior by his mother, who possessed considerable influence over him. From this point on, Edward was a firm supporter of the royalist cause.
For the second half of 1261, Edward resided exclusively in Gascony, where he is believed to have governed the troublesome duchy fairly well. The prince returned to England early the next year, before accompanying his father to France to take part in some tweaking of the Treaty of Paris, which was apparently necessary. After returning to England, Edward led an unsuccessful march against Llywelyn of Wales, who was again causing trouble. This would be nothing compared to the ensuing crisis that the crown was about to face: the return of a vengeful Simon de Montfort.
Montfort’s anger at the ratification of the Treaty of Paris (which lost him a major bargaining tool against the king – i.e. his wife’s renunciation of her claims in France – when it came to the negotiations to do with Eleanor’s dowry claims), as well as his humiliation at the hands of the king in the aftermath of the treaty’s signing, kept the earl out of the country for the greater part of two years. In the spring of 1263, Montfort stormed back into England as the clear leader of the reform movement (quite possibly at the behest of a group of Edward’s men, who were unhappy with his excessive use of foreign mercenaries over themselves). Several months of violence ensued, in which any man believed to have royalist ties (particularly foreigners) was attacked and stripped of his lands. As the situation became chaotic, it seemed that no one was safe, and Montfort’s men began to plunder and destroy at random. Laymen with no political affiliations, clergymen and even Queen Eleanor were not safe. The queen was actually bombarded with rubbish as she attempted to escape London (which was firmly under baronial control) via barge on the River Thames. It appears that the Londoners’ decision to join the barons was helped along by the fact that Edward and his men had broken into the New Temple and stolen much of the treasure within. Both the king and prince surrendered to Montfort by July, but baronial power did not last for long, and soon enough the royalists were back in power.
The situation in England remained tense until January 1264, when it exploded. It was at this point that Louis IX of France, through the Mise of Amiens, ruled in favor of King Henry and the royalist cause, declaring that the Provisions were completely invalid. Montfort was not willing to except the French king’s decision, and civil war was now, for all intents and purposes, inevitable. After initial peace talks failed, and war was virtually declared, the royalists enjoyed the early momentum, defeating the barons at the Battle of Northampton and taking a number of baronial-controlled castles. But, with the barons in control of London and other important castles, the royalists could not claim victory. The decisive encounter in this portion of the Second Barons’ War occurred at Lewes in May 1264, where the smaller baronial army crushed the royal forces. Edward, who controlled one of the three contingents on the royalist side, let his emotions get the best of him, as he routed and chased a baronial force of Londoners far away from the battlefield. In his absence, the forces of the king and Richard of Cornwall were overwhelmed by Montfort’s army. The prince’s rash behavior was more than likely due to the Londoners’ treatment of his beloved mother, in addition to their general betrayal of the royal cause. Whatever the case may be, the royalists were badly defeated at the Battle of Lewes, and both the king and prince were forced to take sanctuary in local religious houses.
Henry and Edward were ultimately forced to surrender and agree to obey the terms of the Mise of Lewes, the baronial-created peace settlement which would never be fully completed and which only a very small portion of survives today. The primary stipulation within the Mise was that the Provisions were to be the unquestioned guide for running England’s government. To insure the king’s cooperation, both Edward and his cousin, Henry of Almain, were forced to give themselves over to Montfort as hostages. The situation was truly humiliating for the royal heir, and it was to get even worse. A group of Edward’s retainers attempted to rescue him from Wallingford castle, only to have the constable of the fortress threaten to throw the prince from the castle walls if the men did not depart. In addition, Montfort forced Edward to surrender many of his most profitable and strategically-located lands to him, including those that were part of the earldom of Chester. This would give Montfort a major weapon against the other lords of the Welsh marches, who were his mortal enemies.
When terms were finally concluded for Edward’s “release” from captivity in the late winter of 1265, they were extremely lopsided, to say the very least, in favor of Montfort. The prince was forced to give over further lands to his uncle and was still kept under fairly strict surveillance to ensure his good behavior. Luckily for Edward, the puppet regime that Montfort had set up was on the verge of collapse. Just weeks after the prince’s “release,” the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for the baronial party came when Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester (the son of the previous earl, who was one of the originators of the reform movement in 1258), defected to the royal party. Soon after his defection was complete, the earl helped Edward escape from his baronial custodians. The result of this prison break was devastating for Montfort, and his cause was now in swift decline. Edward and Gloucester came to an understanding that reform would continue in the realm, but that the king and the barons would work together, not in spite of one another. Supporters now came over the royalist cause en masse, and Montfort was doomed. A game of cat and mouse ensued between the royalist and baronial forces, with Montfort clearly looking to avoid a major confrontation. In the end, he was unsuccessful in doing so and was forced to do battle with the royalists at Evesham in August 1265. As legend has it, Edward’s army marched towards Montfort’s bearing the earl’s own standard, making him believe that it was his son, Simon the younger, coming to relieve him. Once he realized that it was Edward, and not his son, Montfort knew that he was a dead man walking. The encounter that followed was more of a massacre then a battle, with Montfort, his son Henry and many of his staunchest supporters losing their lives.
Unfortunately, despite their dominating victory at the Battle of Evesham, the royalists could not yet let down their guard, as rebels continued to hold out in pockets of resistance throughout the kingdom. Edward played a major role in subduing the remaining Montfortians, and it is believed that he personally received the surrender of such important baronial strongholds as London, Dover and the Cinque Ports. On the other hand, it does not seem as if Edward was heavily involved with the submission of Kenilworth Castle (one of the last remaining baronial holdouts), or the Dictum which came as a result of it, nor was he a major player in the stripping of lands of former rebels, which created the group called the “disinherited.” Since these were two of the most important events that occurred in the aftermath of Evesham, it can safely be said that Edward’s power was not supreme at this point, and that the king (as well as the papal legate, Ottobuono) still wielded considerable influence in the affairs of the realm. The prince did play a role in negotiations with the Earl of Gloucester (after the earl’s short-lived championing of the disinherited, which resulted in him briefly occupying London) and also in the suppression of the final few rebels at the Isle of Ely. But, as the situation in England became more stable, Edward’s thoughts began to drift away from matters of state, and his mind focused on the enterprise that was to preoccupy the prince’s attentions for a total of four years: his crusade to the Holy Land.
In the minds of the Pope and all of the faithful Christians of the Western world, a crusade to the Middle East must have seemed imminent by this point. After all, the Egyptian sultan, Baibars, had made huge strides in conquering Christian territory in the region, and it did not seem as if he intended to stop until he had successfully expelled the Christians for good. In England, no man seemed to have more enthusiasm for fighting the Muslim heretics than Edward himself. Many months were spent recruiting men to accompany him to the Holy Land, and the first lay tax in over thirty years was levied to help fund the costly adventure. After all of the complex preparations were finally completed, Edward departed England in August 1270 to join Louis IX in France.
The French king and his advisers had already decided that their first stop on their holy journey would be Tunis, and the crusading army had indeed already travelled to the north-African coastal city. It appears that the logic behind Louis’ decision was that, if the crusaders were able to ally themselves with Tunis, they would cut off a major supply route into Egypt, therefore weakening the sultan; the strategy failed miserably. The Tunisian emir proved uncooperative and, more significantly, disease began to ravage the crusading army. By the time Edward arrived in Tunis, Louis had succumbed to the disease; his son and successor, Philip III, was gravely ill; and the late king’s brother, Charles of Anjou, had made a truce with the Tunisians. At first, Edward was furious that Charles had so easily agreed to make peace with the enemies of Christ, but he ultimately agreed to travel with his fellow crusaders to Sicily to complete the next leg of their journey to the Holy Land. In a stroke of irony, a large majority of the crusading fleet was destroyed off the Sicilian coast, with Edward’s ships being some of the few that remained relatively unscathed. Charles of Anjou came to the conclusion that the crusade would have to be put off for the time being. Edward, however, decided to press on, despite the fact that he had heard news that his father was gravely ill in England and that his cousin, Henry of Almain, had been murdered in cold blood by the sons of Simon de Montfort. After a brief stop in Cyprus, Edward arrived in the Christian-held city of Acre in May 1271.
The prince then proceeded to form an alliance with the Mongols (the natural enemies of the sultan) and began launching minor assaults. These relatively insignificant actions continued for the next several months, until Edward received much needed reinforcements from England, Cyprus, several Christian military orders (the Teutonic, Hospitaller and Templar knights) and from his Mongol allies. The crusaders achieved the apex of their success with a victory against the sultan’s troops at the town of Qaqun, and the Mongols caused mass devastation in Muslim-controlled territories. Unfortunately, neither side was prepared to carry on the conflict for an extended period of time. Therefore, in May 1272, the crusaders agreed to a ten year truce with Baibars and, for all intents and purposes, the Ninth Crusade had reached its conclusion.
In the month following the crusade, Edward was the victim of an assassination attempt, most likely sanctioned by one of the local Muslim rulers, or even by the sultan himself. The contemporary chroniclers vary greatly as to how the attack was perpetrated and as to how Edward was saved. In the most dramatic account of the incident, it was told that Edward’s wife Eleanor actually sucked the poison (which had been smeared on the tip of a dagger) out of her husband’s wound. While few contemporaries or historians will doubt Eleanor of Castile’s devotion to Edward, this particular story seems a bit far-fetched and is most likely a dramatization. The most likely explanation was that Edward was simply mortally wounded in the attack and needed several months to recover, which would certainly explain why he remained in the Holy Land until September of that year. All in all, the Ninth Crusade turned out to be a mixed bag for Edward. While the crusaders failed to make any significant gains on returning Jerusalem to Christian control (always the prime of objective of a crusade), Edward himself built up somewhat of a reputation for piety and bravery that was, to a certain extent, to endear him to his subjects, who up to this point were skeptical as to his qualities as their soon-to-be king.
The prince’s first stop on his lengthy return trip to England was Sicily. It was here that he discovered that his father had passed away and that he was now King Edward I. This sad news, however, did not quicken Edward’s pace home, and he still kept his plans for a leisurely journey back to his new kingdom. Edward slowly travelled up the Italian peninsula, stopping in Rome to visit Pope Gregory X (whom he knew personally), before arriving in Savoy to visit his maternal relatives. It is worth noting that, while in Savoy, Edward engaged in an all-too-real tournament with the Count of Chalons (known appropriately as the “Little War of Chalons”) that nearly developed into a full-blown battle, before cooler heads prevailed. From Savoy, Edward travelled to Paris to do homage to Philip III for Gascony, before departing to the latter land, where he would remain for the next year. While in Gascony, Edward’s primary goal was to deal with the rebellious actions of Gaston de Bearn, the most powerful of the Gascon nobles. Gaston was no match for Edward in the battlefield and was easily defeated and captured. He brought his grievances before Philip III, and a protracted court battle began. The situation was not resolved until 1278, though Gaston did not cause any major problems during, or after, the interim. It was not until August 1274, nearly two years after he became king, that Edward arrived in England.
During the period between the death of Henry III and Edward’s return home, the government of England had run surprisingly smoothly, with the Earl of Gloucester playing no small part in maintaining the status quo (taking on a regent-like role). But, there were still lingering issues to be dealt with when it came to the prestige, authority and, perhaps most importantly, the finances of the crown. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that the two years proceeding Edward’s return were virtually dominated by administrative actions. From the fall of 1274 until the spring of 1275, a massive, nationwide inquiry was performed which resulted in the creation of the Hundred Rolls, a cataloguing system that is comparable (though on a less grandiose scale) to the Doomsday Book drawn up by Edward’s ancestor, William the Conqueror, in the eleventh century. The primary purpose of the Hundred Rolls inquest was to weed out any citizens who owed money to the crown or who were alienating royal domain lands for their own personal enrichment, a practice which was, for obvious reasons, detrimental to royal finances. In addition, the personal information contained within the Hundred Rolls was a useful tool when it came to taxation. This was significant, considering the fact that Edward was deeply in debt, primarily as a result of his trip to the Holy Land. To show that the crown was still serious about reforming certain aspects of the government, the Statute of Westminster was passed in parliament. The statute was designed to curb corruption and to ensure that certain civil rights remained inalienable.
Unfortunately, by 1276, Edward’s efforts at reform were rudely interrupted when he was forced to concentrate his attentions on the deteriorating relationship between Llywelyn ap Gruffydd of Wales and the English crown. For the past twenty years and beyond, Llywelyn had been the dominating figure in Welsh politics; some historians might even go so far as to say that, with the possible exception of his grandfather, Llywelyn ap Iorwith, he was the most important figure that Wales had ever produced. Llywelyn had succeeded in conquering a majority of Wales and forcing nearly every nobleman (including, through various methods of coercion, his own brothers) within the land to acknowledge him as their liege lord. Under the terms of the Treaty of Montgomery of 1267, Llywelyn was officially acknowledged as Prince of Wales by Henry III. However, it was understood that he held this position as a vassal of the King of England (whoever that may be) and that liege homage, therefore, was due. Llywelyn duly acknowledged Henry III as his overlord and agreed to pay a yearly stipend to the English crown. While it would not be fair to say that there were no limitations on his power whatsoever, the Treaty of Montgomery, for all intents and purposes, gave Llywelyn free rein to rule his principality as he saw fit, and his power, as a result, gradually increased as time went by.
The causes of the Welsh war of 1276-77 are numerous, and blame can unquestionably be put on both sides for allowing the situation to escalate. On the one hand, Llywelyn refused to pay proper homage to Edward, as was stipulated in the Treaty of Montgomery. He also disobeyed the king’s summonses to parliament (which all vassals were required to obey) and did not keep up with the annual stipends that he had agreed to pay to the English crown. On top of all this, the Welsh prince insisted on keeping his plans to marry Edward’s cousin, Eleanor de Montfort (as he had agreed to do, as part of an alliance between himself and the baronial party, during Earl Simon’s brief time in power in 1264-65). Edward undoubtedly saw this last act as antagonistic and must have had some fear that Simon de Montfort’s remaining sons would attempt to use this opportunity to return to a place of power and prestige.
On the other hand, Llywelyn was provided with no small number of instigations, courtesy of King Edward. For example, Edward continued to provide sanctuary and support to Llywelyn’s younger brother Dafydd and a Welsh nobleman by the name of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, both of whom had been the masterminds of a plot to assassinate the Welsh prince in 1274. To further fuel the fires of war, Edward captured Eleanor de Montfort and her brother Amaury (while en route to Wales) at sea and promptly imprisoned them. Combine all of these incidents with the usual tense relationship between Llywelyn and the various marcher lords, whose lands bordered on his own, and it becomes more than clear that war was inevitable.
Unfortunately for Llywelyn, the momentum was on the side of the English, and Edward had little trouble winning over a substantial number of Welshmen to his cause, given the fact that many of them had long become disillusioned with their prince’s autocratic and borderline-despotic methods of ruling over them. For this reason, Edward received the homage of many of the most important Welsh barons before he had even finished mustering his forces to do battle with Llywelyn. While war was declared on Llywelyn in November 1276, the English forces did not begin any decisive mustering until the summer of 1277. The action that followed could hardly even be called a campaign. Llywelyn found out soon enough that he had overplayed his hand and did all he could to avoid a pitched battle with the considerably more substantial English forces. This he was able to do, but Edward and his army were able to successfully cut off supplies to the Welsh forces, causing mass starvation and ultimately forcing Llywelyn to seek terms.
As can be imagined, the treaty that came about as a result of Llywelyn’s surrender was extremely lopsided, and the advantage clearly went to Edward. In addition to being heavily fined, the Welsh prince was forced to give up a number of important castles; to lose the homage of many of the Welsh magnates that had once called him lord; to fully acknowledge that Edward was his own official overlord; and, to release his brother Owain from his long captivity (he had indeed been imprisoned for over twenty years). The only positives to come out of the Treaty of Conwy were that Llywelyn was permitted to keep his title of Prince of Wales, and he was free to marry Eleanor de Montfort. Overall, the Welsh war of 1276-77 was a major success for King Edward and a major setback for Llywelyn. The prince had been forcibly humbled and would never fully gain back the immense power that he had once possessed.
The years sandwiched in between the First and Second Welsh wars were eminently tranquil and mainly involved Edward and his ministers attempting to find more ways to better the crown – both authoritatively and financially. As a sort of aftermath to the Hundred Rolls survey, Edward began the Quo Warranto inquiries. In short, the goal of these proceedings was to see “what warrant” certain English citizens had to possess certain lands. If it was discovered that they had no warrant, and were holding the lands illegally against the crown, they would be duly stripped of said lands and, in some cases, punitive action would be taken. A number of prominent noblemen became victims of the Quo Warranto proceedings and were forced to put up vigorous defenses in some cases in order to prevent losing certain lands that had been in their families for generations. While the inquiries carried on for a number of years, they were unpopular and did very little to fatten the royal coffers.
In March 1282, Edward’s attempts at administrative reform were, once again, rudely interrupted by the outbreak of a rebellion in Wales. Unlike the Welsh War of 1276-77, which had begun after years of tension and surprised no one, the conflict of 1282-83 came about quite suddenly, without warning and from a very unlikely source: Llywelyn’s younger brother, Dafydd ap Gruffydd. Dafydd’s defection from the English cause could not have been easy to predict. After all, he had arguably been Edward’s staunchest Welsh supporter during the war of 1276-77, and he genuinely seemed to despise his brother Llywelyn. However, most historians will concur that Edward was not a very generous man, and it is likely that Dafydd’s biggest grievance with the English king was the fact that he had received very little in the way of payment or reward for the valuable services he had provided during the first Welsh War.
The Second Welsh War is believed to have officially begun when Dafydd suddenly stormed Hawarden Castle, the home of Roger Clifford, a powerful marcher lord. Soon after, castles throughout Wales and the marches were attacked at will; it was becoming adequately clear that a nationwide rebellion was at hand. Unsurprisingly, Prince Llywelyn himself soon joined in the rising. While certain historians will claim that Llywelyn was forced into rebellion by King Edward’s procrastination in ruling on an ongoing land dispute involving the Welsh prince, it would certainly not be difficult to believe that Llywelyn had been harboring his anger and hatred towards Edward ever since he had been embarrassed by the English king five years earlier. In clearer terms, Llywelyn was unhappy with English interference in Welsh politics and wanted the power and influence he had previously held returned to him. When Edward learned of Dafydd’s betrayal and Llywelyn’s breaking of the Treaty of Conwy, he was undoubtedly blinded by rage and made immediate preparations for a full-scale invasion of Wales. In 1277, Edward had punished a rebellious vassal by greatly reducing his power; in 1282, he meant to punish a contumacious vassal according to feudal law: by stripping him of all his lands. In other words, Edward was now set on conquering Wales and permanently annexing it into the English kingdom.
The initial assault on Wales returned mixed results, with neither side making any substantial gains. For this reason, Archbishop John Pecham of Canterbury decided to intervene and attempt to reach some sort of peace agreement between the two sides. However, these peace talks quickly broke down, and violence again erupted. On this occasion, it was the Welsh who were to be victorious, as they handed the English a decisive defeat at the Battle of Moel-y-don. Unfortunately, the Welsh had very little time to celebrate their victory as, the following month (December 1282), their leader, Prince Llywelyn, was killed. The sudden death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd is perhaps one of the most perplexing and mysterious incidents of the Middle Ages. Considering what a major figure Llywelyn was, details on his death are surprisingly sparse, conflicting and unreliable. The various chronicles of the time all put forward their own version of events. In the end, two scenarios seem to provide the most plausible explanations: Firstly, it is highly possible that Llywelyn was the victim of an ambush that was carefully conducted by the English; secondly, the Welsh may have been forced into battle by the English. At the ensuing Battle of Irfon Bridge (which cannot have been much more than a skirmish), Llywelyn met his end.
Whatever the case may have been, Prince Llywelyn’s death took the heart and soul out of the Welsh rebellion. Dafydd ap Gruffydd attempted to step into his brother’s shoes (even styling himself Prince of Wales), but he received little support and was forced to go into hiding. Meanwhile, the English marched into Wales virtually unopposed and, within months, conquered the entire principality. Prince Dafydd managed to evade capture until June 1283 but was ultimately seized and executed as a traitor - by way of hanging, drawing and quartering. In the months and years after his victory in the Welsh War of 1282-83, Edward consolidated his power in the region by going on a castle-building spree on an unprecedented scale. All of the sprawling, modern English castles were meant to intimidate the Welsh and deter them from future rebellions. The king indeed showed that rebellion would not be tolerated within his dominions.
In the aftermath of the Welsh conquest, the atmosphere within England was decidedly more tranquil. The king was free to further his legislative reforms and continue to consolidate his power within his newly-conquered principality. By 1286, Edward believed that the situation in his kingdom was stable enough for him to journey to his distant duchy of Gascony for an extended period of time; it would be his journey to this land that would be his next major enterprise. Departing for Gascony in the fall of 1286, Edward would spend nearly three full years in the duchy before returning to England. As can be expected, the king’s primary goals while in Gascony were very similar to those of which he attempted to achieve in 1273-74: to establish royal authority within the volatile land. Several policies were put into effect to reform the justice, coinage and taxation systems, all which met with varying amounts of success. Perhaps most significantly, Edward and his ministers set up a series of urban centers known as “bastides,” whose purpose was both to stimulate economic growth within the duchy, as well as to act as displays of royal, or ducal, authority.
Roughly a year after Edward’s departure from England, a rebellion erupted in Wales. It was led by Rhys ap Maredudd, a powerful Welsh nobleman who had been a staunch, significant supporter of the English in the Welsh Wars of 1277 and 1282-83. Rhys’s motives for rebelling are fairly straightforward: He did not, in his opinion, receive adequate recompense for his loyal services and came out on the wrong end of a number of important land disputes. This was very much the same issue that drove Dafydd ap Grufydd to rebellion in 1282. The rebellion of 1287 turned out to be only a minimal threat, and it was easily enough put down. Rhys himself went into hiding after his forces were defeated; he was ultimately captured in 1292 and given the traitor’s death, again mimicking the treatment awarded to Prince Dafydd.
When Edward returned from Gascony in the summer of 1289, he desperately needed to find ways to replenish the royal coffers. The king’s three-year stay in Gascony, as well as the Welsh rebellion of 1287, had severely depleted the crown’s finances; it was now time to levy a tax. Edward was ultimately granted a generous offer from his subjects (in addition to the English clergy). However, the request that was made in exchange for the tax represents one of the darker incidents in English history: the expulsion of the Jews from England. With a large majority of Edward’s subjects being devout Catholics in a deeply religious age, and the fact that anti-semitism was rampant within the kingdom, it comes as no surprise that the people would make such a request. Traditionally, the Jews had been used for financial purposes; they were traders and moneylenders who had proved highly useful for English kings in the past. By this point though, Edward had very much milked them dry and, for this reason, he did not deny his subjects the pleasure of deporting them. Whatever the case may have been, Edward had no choice but to comply, as he was in desperate need of the money the people were offering. By the end of 1290, the Jews had been effectively removed from the population of England; they would not be permitted back into the country for nearly four hundred years.
In the year following the expulsion of the Jews, the course of Edward’s reign took a dramatic turn. It was at this point that he was approached by the Guardians of Scotland to aid them in choosing a new monarch for their kingdom; this process has famously come to be called the Great Cause. The events that led up to the Great Cause began in 1286, when the Scottish king, Alexander III, died suddenly in a riding accident. Since all of his children had predeceased him, the Scottish throne was set to pass to the late king’s granddaughter Margaret, the Maid of Norway – a girl just approaching her third birthday. Edward immediately saw promise in this arrangement, and he put forth a proposal for young Margaret to marry his own infant son, Prince Edward. This would not only give the elder Edward sway over Scotland during his own lifetime, but it would ultimately unite England and Scotland under a single ruler. The wheels were set in motion to bring Margaret to Scotland and organize her marriage to Prince Edward. Unfortunately, Edward’s dream of a united British isle was quashed when Margaret died upon her arrival to Scotland in September 1290; the Scottish succession was thrown into complete and utter disarray.
Margaret’s death meant that a series of distant claimants to the throne were free to put forth their claims. When the Scottish Guardians approached Edward to aid them in choosing their new leader, the king must have been ecstatic. This would give him yet another opportunity to assert his authority over Scotland – an opportunity he had lost when young Margaret died. Edward automatically assumed that the Scots were officially recognizing him as their overlord, and that Scotland would be a mere fief of the English crown; this was a stipulation that Edward insisted upon. According to the Scots, however, Edward was merely being called on to act as an impartial arbitrator (much in the same way Louis IX of France had acted in negotiations between Henry III and Simon de Montfort three decades earlier); for obvious reasons, Edward found this unacceptable. It was finally agreed upon that the Guardians would not recognize Edward as overlord of Scotland, but the individual claimants were free to do as they wished. In essence, this meant that any potential king who wanted Edward’s powerful support, would need to become his vassal. The agreement was highly confusing and even more ambiguous; it would be this ambiguousness that would lead to the Scottish Wars that would engulf the final decade of Edward’s reign.
Once Edward felt he had sufficient authority on the matter, he began to debate which claimant was most appropriate for the Scottish throne. Though there were more than a dozen men who filed claims, the final decision came down to two powerful Scottish magnates: the octogenarian Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale, and John Balliol, Lord of Galloway. Both men were descended from daughters of David, Earl of Huntingdon, a younger brother of Malcolm IV and William the Lion. In the end, after much haggling amongst legal officials on both sides, Balliol (being descended from an elder sister) was chosen to be the new King of Scots. Balliol was duly crowned king in late 1291. Soon after, he paid homage to Edward, officially acknowledging him as his liege lord. As a vassal, Balliol would now have to provide military service to Edward when needed; this was in accordance with feudal law. In the opinions of Edward and his advisors, the situation was settled: Edward was now feudal overlord of Scotland, and King John Balliol was his faithful vassal whom he could call upon whenever he saw fit. To the Guardians and many other powerful Scots, however, Edward had overstepped, and they viewed him as a despot who desired to strip them of their independence. These tensions within Scotland would gradually simmer over the next few years, until they came to a boil in 1296.
Just after the situation in Scotland had supposedly been settled, new troubles had already begun to brew with England’s volatile neighbor across the channel, France. The Anglo-French conflict began with a series of simple, yet heated conflicts between English and French sailors. When these minor scuffles erupted into significant incidents of violence, Edward felt the need to intervene before the situation caused an international crisis. Therefore, he sent a diplomatic embassy, under the command of his brother Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, to the court of Philip IV of France. Initial negotiations to keep the peace proved futile, and tensions began to simmer. When all seemed hopeless, a final solution was agreed to: In order to appease the French people, the English would publicly surrender Gascony to King Philip. When the situation had cooled, Philip would then hand back the duchy to Edward. This proposal must have been looked upon with extreme skepticism by Edmund and his fellow emissaries, just as it is from a modern perspective. Nevertheless, Edmund agreed to the French king’s scheme, and Edward himself, trusting his brother’s instincts, signed off on it. Very soon after Gascony had been handed over to the French, Philip announced that he had no intention over ever returning it to the English; clearly, Edmund had been taken for a fool. This was a clear provocation which Philip could not possibly have expected Edward to accept. War between the two kingdoms was now inevitable.
A relatively small English contingent was sent to Gascony in the fall of 1294, which achieved a moderate amount of success, but Edward himself was not fully able to focus on the war with France, due to an outbreak of rebellion in Wales. While the causes of the Welsh rebellion of 1294-95 are nothing close to crystal clear, it does not seem far-fetched to assume that excessive English interference in local Welsh politics, in addition to harsh taxation, played crucial roles. The ringleader of the rebellion (and indeed the most powerful man to take part in it) seems to have been a nobleman by the name of Madog ap Llywelyn; he and several captains of lower status began attacking English castles within Wales. Edward’s response was swift; the fact that he already had forces mustered for the campaign against France made this possible. For months, the two sides struggled to gain ground on one another. In the end, the English reigned supreme. After the royal forces scored a decisive victory against the and the Battle of Maes Mydog, Welsh resistance rapidly deteriorated. By the spring of 1295, all of the leaders of the rising had been captured; some were executed, while others were pardoned. Ironically, Madog, the primary architect of the rebellion, was merely imprisoned. This would be the last serious Welsh rising against English authority until the turn of the fifteenth century.
While Edward was being kept busy with the Welsh, the English army (minus their king) which had been sent to Gascony was making moderate progress in taking back the duchy from the French. A number of towns were seized, including the important port city of Bayonne, but Bordeaux, by far the most important city in Gascony, remained in French hands. When the French counterattacked, they managed to reverse much of the progress the English army had achieved. A series of French raids on English port cities then ensued, which undoubtedly must have made Edward feel fairly helpless. He ultimately managed to push the French back, and a second army was sent to Gascony in early 1296; the force was led by Edmund of Lancaster, who must have desperately wanted to redeem himself after being duped by King Philip three years earlier. Unfortunately, Edmund fell ill and died six months after his arrival in Gascony, and his replacement, the Earl of Lincoln, achieved only moderate success. By the summer of 1297, the action had come to a complete halt.
The expedition to Gascony was merely one half of a two-pronged attack by the English. Since 1294 Edward had been buying the loyalty of various continental princes in the hopes of forming a grand alliance against France. Edward succeeding in winning over rulers such as King Adolf of Germany and the Counts of Holland and Flanders. The latter count was the most crucial man for Edward to win over, considering the fact that it was in Flanders that the king planned to land with his army. Edward’s plot was highly ambitious, and even more expensive. Even after all this effort and money that was spent, it seems as if the army which Edward led to Flanders in the summer of 1297 was destined for failure from the very beginning. King Philip had already made substantial progress in weakening the Count of Flanders before the English even arrived on the continent. On top of this, Edward was forced to deal with a heated rivalry between contingents in his own navy.
When the army finally landed, they were met with hostility by the locals, and Edward himself was nearly captured within the city of Ghent. Soon after, news arrived that King Adolf would not be able to provide Edward with the aid that he so desperately needed. A mere two months after his arrival, the English were already talking about a truce with their enemies; in February 1298, Edward departed France. Pope Boniface VIII was called in to arbitrate a peace treaty between the two sides, which was agreed to in mid-1299. The agreement (which was not finalized until 1303) was simple: Gascony was to be returned to English control and Edward was to hold it as a fief of the King of France, just as had been the case before the outbreak of war. To seal the deal, Edward was married to King Philip’s sister Margaret (Eleanor of Castile had died in 1290), and Prince Edward was betrothed to Isabella, a daughter of the French king (though their marriage would not occur until Edward II took the throne). All in all, Edward’s French expedition was a complete and utter failure, which did nothing but drain his finances to the point where the people of England began to become wrestles with his rule. In a way, the war with Scotland (which was to consume the remainder of Edward’s life and reign) can be looked at as a sort of unifier for the English; it may very well have prevented the outbreak of a civil war.
The Anglo-Scottish War began in 1296, while Edward was in full preparation mode for the Flanders campaign. While the causes of the war are many, three major factors can be isolated and labeled as the primary instigators: Firstly, the Scots were none too happy with the excessive amount of English interference in their judicial system, as they felt that they were their own separate nation, not a mere fief of the English crown; Secondly, the Scottish nobility, to say the least, were insulted by the fact that Edward summoned their king, John Balliol, to serve in the French Wars. Technically, Edward, as John’s overlord, had every right to do this. However, when it came to crowned and anointed monarchs, there was supposed to be a mutual respect amongst them; many contemporaries undoubtedly felt that Edward crossed a line in summoning a fellow king to fight for him, as if he were some minor baron; Finally (and this was likely a direct result of Edward’s insulting summons of the King of Scots), the Scots did the unthinkable and formed a pact with the French against their common enemy, the English. This agreement has come to be known as the Auld Alliance, and it would continue to exist for the greater part of the next two hundred years.
In March 1296 (the month following the formation of the Auld Alliance), Edward marched north with a large army and annihilated the populace of the border-town of Berwick. The Scots retaliated by laying waste to the English county of Northumberland. After these initial barbs were traded, it was the English who gained the upper hand with a decisive defeat of the Scottish forces at the Battle of Dunbar. This victory proved to be substantial, as it took the heart and soul out of the Scottish resistance, and Edward marched through Scotland, taking town after town, virtually unopposed. Within six months of the encounter at Dunbar, the English had conquered Scotland. Much of the Scottish nobility, seeing no other option, did homage to Edward, and John Balliol (who had proven himself to be an inept leader) surrendered with no resistance and no support from his magnates. Balliol was publicly stripped of his crown and subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London.
The conquest of Scotland had been accomplished swiftly and with relative ease; it undoubtedly took away some of the sting that Edward was still feeling from losing Gascony. With the situation seemingly under control, Edward left his newly conquered territory in the hands of his ministers and departed for the continent. Apparently, he was wrong to do so. By the spring of 1297, the Scots had, once again, become disillusioned with their English overlords. Mass recruiting in Scotland for Edward’s Flanders campaign seems to have been what pushed the Scots towards rebellion on this occasion. This time around, the Scots had a true leader to fight for their cause: William Wallace, a borderline commoner of knightly descent. Under Wallace’s leadership, the Scots were able to crush the English army at the Battle of Sterling Bridge in September 1297. Hugh Cressingham, the unpopular English treasurer in Scotland, was killed and skinned in a fit of Scottish rage. Wallace was duly created Guardian of Scotland for his patriotic victory, and, to say the very least, the English cause suffered a major setback.
When Edward arrived back in England in the winter of 1298, it can only be assumed that he was in an extremely foul mood. His grand voyage to France had yielded nothing and Gascony was still, for the time being, in French possession; he had heard the news of the English defeat at Sterling Bridge; and he was facing widespread disgruntlement from both his magnates and the commons because of high taxation and failed campaigns abroad. Quite possibly the only positive result of the otherwise disastrous encounter at Sterling Bridge was the fact that it forced the English citizenry to unite behind their king, likely preventing a civil war, just as had occurred during the reign of Edward’s father, Henry III, whose disastrous “Sicilian Business” had led to the formation of the baronial party. By the summer, a massive army had been assembled to march against the Scots; clearly, Edward was taking no chances. While the English army faced some initial hardships, these were wiped away when they crushed the Scottish army, under the command of William Wallace, at the Battle of Falkirk. This would be the last pitched battle that Edward would personally fight in, and it was his first since Evesham in 1265. Wallace was able to escape capture, but he had been thoroughly discredited and was forced to go into hiding. The English triumph at Falkirk was significant, and it represented yet another reversal in fortunes in the Anglo-Scottish conflict. Unfortunately, Edward was not able to follow up on this success in its immediate aftermath. He did attempt to lead another, smaller campaign into Scotland in late 1299, but this came to nothing and is hardly worthy of mention.
Edward’s next attempt to pacify the Scots came in the summer of 1300, when he led an army into Galloway; the enterprise was painfully uneventful (the siege of Caerlaverock Castle represented the only real action) and much of it was consumed by diplomatic wrangling. Both Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface chastised Edward for his actions against the Scots. Philip even went so far as to bring the deposed John Baliol into his custody in a show of support. Edward, however, would not budge on the situation and defended his rights over Scotland vigorously. While the Galloway campaign ended just a few months after it had begun, Edward again renewed the war in the summer of 1301. This expedition was equally uneventful, as the Scots not only continued to hold on to various strongholds throughout the realm, but also refused to meet the English in the battlefield for a decisive encounter, in which they would have been at a distinct disadvantage. A truce was soon agreed to by both sides to last until late 1302.
One positive event that occurred during the time of truce was the fact that both Philip IV and Pope Boniface dropped their support for the Scottish cause in order to concentrate on more crucial issues (Philip was facing major troubles in Flanders and, without his powerful support, the Pope was limited in what he could do). This led to another English invasion of Scotland in the late spring of 1303. The campaign of 1303 was, at first, very similar to its two predecessors: highly uneventful. A back and forth game of cat and mouse between the two sides continued into 1304, but it began to become clear that the English were making gains (albeit slowly). Soon enough, much of the Scottish nobility had again submitted to Edward’s will, though not until they received reassurances that Scottish customs and traditions would not be alienated by English control; this Edward readily agreed to.
The second conquest of Scotland was effectively completed when Edward successfully besieged Sterling Castle, a major stronghold which had been under Scottish control for the past several years. In August 1305, Edward triumphed yet again when the rebel William Wallace (in hiding since his defeat at Falkirk, though occasionally resurfacing to launch sporadic guerilla attacks) was captured, given a show trial and executed as a traitor. While it cannot be argued that Wallace had been largely discredited by this point, his capture was a major moral victory for Edward. The king’s henchman, John of Brittany, was appointed to act as guardian and lieutenant of Scotland (the former title was ironically held by Wallace previously), and the English proceeded to impose their laws on Scotland.
Unfortunately, Edward’s dominance over the Scots was to be short-lived, and events were about to take a drastic turn. The beginning of the reversal of fortunes for the English began in February 1306 when Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick (grandson of the Robert Bruce who had been John Baliol’s main competitor for the Scottish throne), murdered John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (whose father had also been amongst the claimants for the throne during the Great Cause) at Dumfries. This sudden, and seemingly cold-blooded, assassination sent shock waves through England, all the way up to the king himself. Edward must have been surprised at Bruce’s actions considering the fact that the latter had been a staunch ally of the English cause for at least the past four years; he had been one of the Guardians of Scotland before his defection. Bruce’s motives for this violent act are obscure at best, and his true intentions may never be known. It can hardly be debated that Bruce was an ambitious man, as most magnates were, and Comyn represented a threat to his royal ambitions (himself being a distant claimant to the Scottish throne). This line of thinking would bring us to the conclusion that Bruce simply wanted the throne and was prepared to take drastic measures to take advantage of a confused political situation. On the other hand, his motives very well may have been more along the lines of those of Dafydd ap Gruffydd: King Edward had not provided thorough recompense for the valuable services which Bruce had provided.
Whatever the case may have been, Bruce’s defection was a massive blow to the English cause, and his coronation ceremony the following month brought a new sense of unity to the people of Scotland. After being crowned, Bruce, now King Robert I, wasted no time in beginning the process of expelling his enemies out of his kingdom and began attacking English-controlled castles . The English, however, possessed superior resources, and began the war with an advantage. This was more than apparent when they routed the Scottish forces at the Battle of Methven in June 1306; Bruce was defeated again at the Battle of Dalry soon after, forcing the newly-crowned king to go into hiding to avoid capture. The English showed very little mercy in putting down the rebellion. A number of Scottish noblemen were executed (a rare occurrence in those days, as they were usually kept for ransom), including Bruce’s brother Neil. Even the women of the nobility (of whom Bruce’s sister was one) were not spared humiliation, as they were thrown in cages like zoo animals. Two more of Bruce’s brothers, Thomas and Alexander, were captured and executed in February 1307.
Bruce himself returned to Scotland soon after, seemingly with new purpose and anxiousness to revenge the deaths of his brothers and the humiliation of his sister, and crushed an English army led by the Earl of Pembroke at the Battle of Loudoun Hill. This defeat prompted Edward to lead another campaign against the Scots in person. As he journeyed north, the king fell ill; decades of constant stress had finally taken their toll on this seemingly indefatigable man. King Edward I died at on July 7, 1307, aged sixty-eight, at Burgh-by-Sands. He was succeeded on the throne by his eldest surviving son, Edward II.
Assessment and Analysis
While it can cannot be said that Edward I is the easiest of medieval kings to analyze, most historians will come to one general conclusion: He was a strong ruler. His strong reign was sandwiched between the weak reign of his father, Henry III, and the disastrous reign of his son, Edward II. The question then becomes: Why was Edward I so successful, whereas his father and son could never fully seem to grasp the idea of kingship? In comparing Edward I to other monarchs of the time, we are almost immediately reminded of other strong leaders, such as Henry II (his great-grandfather) and Edward III (his grandson). There are no easy answers as to why some of these Plantagenets ruled firmly over their kingdom, while others could not fully handle the task, but certain hypotheses seem obvious.
Edward I entered the throne in a strong position mainly because of the fact that he had so much in the way of experience by the time of his accession. His father had done an excellent job of endowing him with various responsibilities early on in his life, with the lieutenancy of Gascony perhaps being the most significant. Edward was then forced to play a major role in the events of the Second Barons’ War and, in the end, was able to defeat a powerful enemy in Simon de Montfort. By the time Edward became king, at the age of thirty-three, he was already an established leader, general and administrator. On the other hand, Edward’s father, Henry III, took the throne at the age of nine during the First Barons’ War. Even once he came of age, Henry was not able to make decisions for himself and was constantly dependent on his advisers, some of whom steered him in the wrong direction.
Edward I did his best to make sure that his own son and heir, the future Edward II, followed in his own footsteps, rather than those of Henry III. He did so by allowing him to lead, on several occasions, contingents into Scotland to build up his military resume. Unfortunately, the younger Edward proved to be a subpar commander at best, and he was clearly not ready to take the throne in 1307, at the younger age of twenty-three. He too would fall under the influence of a few false councilors and would go on to be cuckolded, deposed and murdered. Perhaps if he had the ten extra years of experience that his father had when he ascended the throne, events would have turned out quite differently for Edward II. Edward I, unlike his father and son, knew who he could trust and kept a fairly small number of loyal followers around him for most of his reign, never allowing any of them to become too powerful or influential.
Over the years, Edward I has come to be known for his martial abilities. He undoubtedly proved himself as a competent military commander by his routing of the baronial forces at Evesham in 1265, and solidified that position through his conquest of Wales, a move that was highly significant in creating the United Kingdom that exists today. Even as an older man, Edward proved himself to be a formidable opponent, defeating the crafty William Wallace and the Scots at the Battle of Falkirk. However, not all of Edward’s military enterprises were successful. He embarrassed himself with his rash behavior at the Battle of Lewes, which lost the royal army the fight. Later on, he would engage in the disastrous Flanders campaign, which damaged his reputation to the point that he nearly faced a civil rebellion at home. Even his ventures against the Scots in his final years can be looked as merely mediocre.
All of these
failed enterprises showed that Edward, while a strong personality, was not
perfect and was very much human; this undoubtedly leaves historians with a
mixed picture of this fascinating medieval king, at least to a certain extent.
Personally, Edward was far from generous (his lack of generosity indeed bough
him many powerful enemies); he was by no means the most loved of medieval
monarchs; and he does not seem to have possessed a great sense of humor. Yet,
he commanded the respect of his subjects and was feared as a ruler by his
enemies, even if they were willing to stand up to him, as the Scots did. In
addition to his martial skills, Edward proved to be an excellent administrator,
and many of the reforms he put into practice greatly aided the kingdom and
helped to strengthen the monarchy after his father’s less-than-stellar tenure
as king. All in all, it would be difficult to argue that Edward’s time on
England’s throne was not successful, despite his relative failures in France
and Scotland. He faced no serious civil wars at home and had the respect of
both his allies and his enemies. It can easily be stated that he was the
archetypal medieval king – one that other rulers could learn quite a bit from.
References & Further Reading
Gravett, Christopher and Adam Hook. The Castles of Edward I in Wales, 1277-1307
Hawthorne, Jennifer. England Under Edward I: Castles, Conquests, and Community
Morris, John E. Welsh Wars of Edward I
Morris, Marc. A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
Plucknett, T. F. T. Edward I and Criminal Law
Prestwich, Michael. Edward I
Prestwich, Michael. The Three Edwards: War and State in England
Raban, Sandra. England Under Edward I and Edward II: 1259-1327