Just Who Was Edward II of England?

We take a closer look at the life of Edward II of England, and here’s a better look at his reign.

When talking about kings and queens, it’s easy to romanticise them, get caught up in royal weddings, jubilee ceremonies, and perhaps compare them to Disney cartoons and classics.

The truth of the matter, though, is that whereas we are thankfully much more civilized, centuries ago that wasn’t the case and our monarchs were a great deal more controversial and occasionally bloodthirsty and barbaric too.

England has seen many a king over the centuries, though arguably it is Henry VIII that grabs the headlines and steals the limelight more often than not.

The king that we’re looking at today, though, is a king whose reign was marred by conflict and betrayal, the likes of which would be more at home in an episode of Game of Thrones.

The king in question is Edward II of England, and here’s a better look at his reign.

Early Life

Edward was born on the 25th of April, 1284, and was the fourth son of Edward the first, King of England at the time.

Just Who Was Edward II of England?
Caernarfon Castle, where Edward II of England was born. | Image: James Petts from London, England, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Edward II was actually also the first prince to officially hold the title of the Prince of Wales, which was a title that was bestowed upon him by his own father back in 1301 when he was just 17 years of age.

When his father was 60 years of age, he married in the year 1299, to Margaret of France. She was just 17 years at the time and was the sister of Phillip IV.

At just two years older than him, Edward grew fond of his stepmother and the two got along very well together.

Edward was a handsome, tall, slender and athletic youth who enjoyed music and acting.

Edward II was also reportedly homosexual and embarked upon a relationship with Piers Gaveston, whom Edward I banished into exile.

Reign As King

Once Edward I died in 1307, Edward II took to the throne and instantly recalled Piers back to his household and out of exile so that the two could rekindle their romance.

Just Who Was Edward II of England?
Edward II of England receiving the English crown. Image: British Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Edward II presented Piers with the title of Earl of Cornwall, which, controversially, had previously only been a title given to royalty.

This rubbed people the wrong way, and, as a result of his favouritism towards Gaveston, people began to conspire behind the King’s back.

In 1311, nobles issued the ‘Ordinances’ which were put in place in an attempt to limit royal control of appointments and finances. The Barons in control at the time, exiled Piers not once, but twice more.

In 1312, tragedy struck as Piers was captured and executed by the Barons.

Edward II of England invaded Scotland in 1314, only to be defeated, in emphatic style, by Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. Now, power had shifted and it was the Barons in control and Edward’s own cousin, Thomas of Lancaster, proclaimed himself as the ruler of England.


Not long after, Edward married Isabella of France, who became known as the ‘She Wolf’ after she embarked on an affair with Roger Mortimer, an enemy of Edward.

Mortimer invaded England, captured Edward, and had him imprisoned where he was placed in a dungeon full of rotting animal carcasses, where it was hoped he would die from the disease.

Fortunately for him, Edward, however, was a fit and healthy man, and he didn’t succumb to illness or disease.

Just Who Was Edward II of England?
Edward II’s effigy at Gloucester Cathedral. Image: Philip Halling / Tomb of Edward II.

This angered his enemies, and he was reportedly executed by a process known as ‘Horning the Fox’. Here, a horn was inserted in his rectum, followed by a red-hot poker that pierced his internal organs from within. The horn was then removed, leaving no physical evidence of murder taking place.

Feature Image: The Royal Collection Trust