The above illustrations are an indication of the generally accepted view of the reign of Edward II. He preferred men and ignored his wife. She resented this, took a lover and turned successfully upon her husband, becoming the “She Wolf” of legend.
So let us go back to the beginning. On 25th January 1308, Edward II and the beautiful Isabella of France were married. He was 23 and she was a mere 16. Their coronation was on 25th November that year. For Isabella, the blot on her landscape was a certain Piers Gaveston, who appears to have been Edward’s adored lover. Certainly the handsome Gascon was regarded with inordinate favour by the besotted king, who created him Earl of Cornwall and even presented his own niece in marriage. Gaveston lorded it at the coronation, bearing the crown and having the audacity to wear royal purple, instead of the cloth of gold that was decreed for his rank of earl. Then he and Edward sat together, laughing and doting, leaving Isabella on her own with her outraged French relatives. The latter were so angry they walked out. Edward, apparently, hardly noticed their departure.
Isabella, Queen Consort of Edward II
Needless to say, Gaveston was loathed by the baronage…and, fame has always had it, by Isabella as well. He, and his successors, the even more hated Despensers, were the bane of her existence. She was scorned, humiliated, abandoned, and generally treated appallingly by the foolish Edward. Eventually she was driven into the arms of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, who became her lover. Together they managed to unseat Edward and eventually bring out his death at Berkeley Castle. (Well, that too might be a myth, for there is a persistent theory that he escaped and lived abroad for the rest of his life.)
Isabella and Mortimer
But it is with Edward’s relationship with Isabella that I am concerned here. Was she really that callously treated? It isn’t often that I’ve come across anyone defending Edward and, to a certain extent, Isabella as well. Maybe Edward has been wronged, and was a caring husband after all. And maybe she loved him in return. In the beginning. Eventually it all became too much for her, and she turned to Mortimer, but it certainly wasn’t instant.
To read an argument in favour of both parties, go to the following, which I found very interesting and thought-provoking. Has Edward been wrongly judged through the centuries? The original post was by Kathryn Warner, author of “Edward II: The Unconventional King”.