This will be my last post till 6 June or thereabouts, as I'm off on holiday. Yay!
Edward II good news: he now has 237 fans on Facebook, a number which creeps up by at least one or two people daily. Edward II bad news: I was deeply irritated by a very silly recent review of Seymour Phillips' new biography of the king, which calls Edward "a nasty piece of work" and makes more factual errors about him and his reign than I can shake a stick at. Writing about Edward's "grisly murder," saying that he "was also thought to have been a homosexual, who...was killed by a red-hot poker thrust into his anus" as though these are certain facts and claiming that Edward inherited a rich, peaceful country on the verge of 'annexing' Scotland in 1307 and left it impoverished twenty years later make it painfully, embarrassingly apparent that the reviewer has not read any recent, or even semi-recent, scholarship on the subject and is a long, long way from being even remotely knowledgeable about Edward II and his reign. (In fact, Edward I left his son £200,000 of debt in July 1307; Edward II left £60,000 in his treasury in November 1326.) No, I'm not linking to the review. Bleugh. Bad, horrid review.
But anyway, here's some more good news: Ian Mortimer's Medieval Intrigue is due out in early September, a collection of essays including several on Edward II. Woot! For more info, see Ian's website.
The new Robin Hood film with Russell Crowe has led to much online speculation about Robin's real identity, with many people expressing their belief that he lived during Edward II's reign rather than Richard I's. See here and here for more about this debate.
This forum thread - scroll down past all the arguing - puts forward the theory that Robin Hood "was contemporary with Edward II (and perhaps had to rebuff that monarch's homosexual advances)". This theory is developed at greater length here:
"We have seen that Edward was undoubtedly "gay" as it is called these days, and that in 1324 he was behaving very badly with the Despensers, pillaging the land and terrorising the population and more than likely sharing his bed with Hugh the Younger. We also know that he had a taste for the lower elements of the population, which had probably begun as a simple enjoyment of the Great Outdoors but by 1322 he is recorded as entertaining the likes of Wat Cowherd and other roughnecks, and paying them for their company! Could it be that, perish the thought, the king was casting a roving eye in Robin’s direction? Was Robin both afraid for his life from the jealous Hugh, and afraid too, for his honour! Was this the reason he asked the king if he could go back north on a pilgrimage to the church of St Mary Magdalene, and that once away from court, he refused to return to London? Or did he know, or suspect, that terrible events were just round the corner ? Whatever the cause of his defection, it must have incurred Edward’s wrath so much that Robin was re-outlawed as a result..."
OK, this theory is tongue in cheek and I don't want to be accused of lacking a sense of humour, but as Edward II's (self-appointed) Official Defender, I feel that this is putting 2 and 2 together to make 67. As I've pointed out before, Wat Cowherd and the other supposed 'roughnecks' like Simon and Robin Hod who have been named in print as Edward II's probable lovers (Edward quote was being promiscuous with low-born men unquote and paying them lots of money for their 'company', allegedly) were in fact members of his chamber staff who often appear in the king's accounts and were in close attendance on him for the last few years of his reign. There is nothing at all to suggest, absolutely no reason whatsoever to think, that Edward took these men as his lovers or that he ever hit on them, to use a modern idiom. I don't know why Robin Hood, a porter of the king's chamber, was sent away from court; some kind of misbehaviour, perhaps. The Household Ordinance of 1318 sets out misdemeanours for which the king's servants could be punished, which included taking bread, wine or food out of the household without permission, eating outside the hall without permission and riding a horse if below the rank of vallet de mestier. Wat Cowherd, far from being some roughneck paid for providing sexual services to the king for a couple of weeks in 1322, remained loyal to Edward to the very end: he was one of the men ('Walter Couhierd') pardoned in March 1327 for holding out at the late Hugh Despenser the Younger's stronghold of Caerphilly against the new regime. Other former members of Edward's chamber staff, such as Peter Bernard and Giles of Spain, joined the earl of Kent's conspiracy to rescue Edward from Corfe Castle in 1330, which demonstrates their loyalty to and affection for him, even two and a half years after his supposed death. There's nothing at all anywhere to suggest that Edward came on to his servants and ordered them away from court in a rage if they rejected him.
I feel that it's also worth stating here, for all the countless statements online and in books that Edward II was 'undoubtedly gay', for all the portrayals of him in fiction as a swishy, mincing, horrible stereotype of a gay man, what we actually know about Edward's sex life amounts to this:
- He had intercourse with Isabella of France four times, in or about February 1312, November 1315, September 1317 and October 1320, which resulted in their children.
- He once had intercourse with an unknown woman, sometime between about 1305 to 1308, which resulted in his illegitimate son Adam.
And that is it. Everything else is speculation. Whether Edward had sex with Piers Gaveston, Hugh Despenser or other men or women, whether his sexual preference was for men or women or both, whether he had an incestuous relationship with his niece Eleanor, how regularly or irregularly he had sex with his queen and how much he enjoyed it or didn't, I have no idea, and neither does anyone else, whatever they might claim to be 'fact' or 'undoubted truth'. (Yes, person on Facebook who stated as 'fact' that Edward "begat children on her [Isabella] - note not with her - as a painful duty," this means you too. You cannot know that.) Certainly Edward II loved Piers Gaveston, and most probably Hugh Despenser the Younger too. How he loved them...well, I'm sure everyone reading this will have their own opinion.
Lots more Edward II posts (and, according to this terrific post which I love every word of, an equal amount of 'excitable squee' about Edward loving Piers Gaveston 4eva!) to come in June. See you then, and take care.