Edmund Plantagenet, 1st Earl of Kent

Born: August 5, 1301

Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England

Died: March 19, 1330

Winchester, Hampshire, England (Age 28)

Kent in History

Edmund of Woodstock was the youngest son of King Edward I, from his second marriage, and was born when the king was well into his sixties. Therefore, Edmund lost his father just before his sixth birthday. The late king had attempted to provide for his youngest son before his death, but this came to nothing and Edmund was dependent on his half-brother, King Edward II, to provide for him. Edward II treated his brother with much favor and gradually drew him into politics as he came of age. As a result of his kind treatment, Edmund was one of his brother's most loyal supporters and was created Earl of Kent in 1321. The new earl even stayed loyal to the king during the rebellion of the marcher lords and the Earl of Lancaster (1322) and was one of the lords who passed the death sentence on the latter after his defeat. Kent then served his brother in a military capacity in Scotland and in France, where the English territories there were being threatened. While in France, Kent was unsuccessful in his efforts to defend the Gascon territories and was forced to agree to a truce with Charles IV. By 1325, Queen Isabella, the French king's sister and Edward II's wife, was sent to France in an attempt to hammer out a truce, which she did accomplish but then proceeded to form an alliance with one Roger Mortimer, a powerful marcher lord who had escaped from prison after the rebellion of 1321-22. The two became lovers, and Kent ultimately joined forces with them.

It appears that the main reason for Kent's defection against his more than generous brother was the powerful influence of the Despensers, a father and son duo who had become the king's new favorites and who would not allow anyone access to the king. Prince Edward, the heir to England's throne was later sent to France, and the queen and Mortimer planned to use the youth to conduct a coup against Edward II. The rebel party landed in England in September 1326 and were able to capture the king and the Despensers with virtually no opposition. Both Despensers were executed and Edward II was deposed in favor of his son, who was subsequently crowned as Edward III. Kent played a role in all the proceedings and was rewarded for his loyalty. Soon after, the king died in captivity under mysterious circumstances.

With the new king only fourteen, Isabella and Mortimer governed the realm as unofficial regents. Kent served them loyally at first but, like many others, became disillusioned with their rule and joined a rebellion against them, which would eventually come to nothing. The downfall of the Earl of Kent began when he was tricked into believing a mere rumor that his brother was still alive. Kent agreed to assist in placing him back on the throne and was arrested and convicted of treason by Mortimer, who the information had reached. The earl was sentenced to die, but no one wanted to do the deed due to Kent's high status. Therefore, Kent was executed by a common criminal. If Kent had been able to hold out for a few months longer, Mortimer would have been executed, and he would have been able to live comfortably under his nephew. It goes to show that the earl did not possess a great deal of common sense and acted rashly when making his decisions.

Kent in Marlowe

Appears in: Edward II

The Earl of Kent, brother to the king, appears throughout the action of Edward II. Despite the fact that, historically, he was only about six at the time, he appears in the play's opening scene as a full-fledged member of the king's entourage. Later on, Kent decides to join the rebel party when he becomes frustrated with his brother's favoring of Gaveston and the Spencers. The lords are skeptical of his defection at first, but they ultimately agree to bring him into the fold. However, once the king is captured and deposed and Mortimer comes to power, Kent once again has a change in heart and supports his fallen brother, angering Mortimer, who then has him arrested and executed despite - the new king's pleadings. Our last impression of Kent is a positive one and is that of a man who made a wrong choice and was trying to amend himself.


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