Edward II King of England
Aged: 43.4 years
Edward II (1284-1327), Plantagenet king of England (1307-27), Prince of Wales, and Duke of Aquitaine, whose incompetence and distaste for government finally led to his deposition and murder. Edward was born on April 25, 1284, at Caernarvon, Wales, the fourth son of King Edward I and his first wife, Eleanor of Castile. The deaths of his older brothers made the infant prince heir to the throne; in 1301 he was proclaimed prince of Wales, the first heir apparent in English history to bear that title. The prince was idle and frivolous, with no liking for military campaigning or affairs of state. Believing that the prince's close friend Piers Gaveston (died 1312), a Gascon knight, was a bad influence on the prince, Edward I banished Gaveston. On his father's death, however, Edward II recalled his favorite. Gavestone incurred the opposition of the powerful English barony. The nobles were particularly angered in 1308, when Edward made Gaveston regent for the period of the king's absence in France, where he went to marry Isabella (1292-1358), daughter of King Philip IV. In 1311 the barons, led by Thomas, earl of Lancaster (1277?-1322), forced the king to appoint from among them a committee of 21 noblemen and prelates, call the lords ordainers. They proclaimed a series of ordinances that transferred the ruling power to themselves and excluded the commons and lower clergy from Parliament. After they had twice forced the king to banish Gaveston, and the king had each time recalled him, the barons finally had the king's favorite kidnapped and executed (1312). In the meantime Robert Bruce had almost completed his reconquest of Scotland, which he had begun shortly after 1305. In 1314 Edward II and his barons raised an army of some 100,000 men, with which to crush Bruce, but in the attempt to lift the siege of Stirling were decisively defeated (see Bannockburn, Battle of). For the following eight years the earl of Lancaster viturally ruled the kingdom. In 1322, however, with the advice and help of two new royal favorites, the baron Hugh le Despenser the Elder, and his son Hugh the Younger, Edward defeated Lancaster in battle and had him executed. The Despensers thereupon became de facto rulers of England. They summoned a Parliament in which the commons were included and which repealed the ordinances of 1311 on the ground they had been passed by the barons only. The repeal was a great step forward in English constitutional development, for it meant that thenceforth no law passed by Parliament was valid unless the House of Comman approved it. Edward again futilely invaded Scotland in 1322, and in 1323 signed a 13-year truce with Bruce. In 1325 Queen Isabella accompanied the prince of Wales to France, where, in accordance with feudal custom, he did homage to king Charles IV for the fief of Aquitaine. Isabella, who desired to depose the Despensers, allied herself with some barons who had been exiled by Edward. In 1326, with their leader Roger de Mortimer (1287?-1330) Isabella raised an army and invaded England. Edward and his favorites fled, but his wife's army pursued and executed the Despensers and imprisoned Edward. In January 1327, Parliament forced Edward to resign and proclaimed the prince of Wales king as Edward III.On September 21 of that year Edward II was murdered by his captors at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire.