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Edward II and Ireland (in fact and in fiction)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

J.R.S. Phillips
Department of Medieval History, University College Dublin


One of the most familiar facts in the history of the medieval lordship of Ireland is that, despite plans by Henry III in 1243 and by Edward III in 1331–2, no king of England came to Ireland between the expedition of King John in 1210 and those of Richard II in 1394–5 and 1399. I am not about to subvert the historical record by revealing a previously unknown royal visit to Ireland, but there is, as I shall try to demonstrate, enough evidence, some of it very strange indeed, to justify the title of this article. The unknown author of the prophecy entitled the Verses of Gildas, who was apparently writing in the middle of the reign of Edward II, forecast that in 1320 the king of England would come to Ireland after the passing of a certain grave crisis. Once in Ireland, he would bring about peace between the English and the Irish, who would live together in harmony under one English law. The English would demolish the walls of their fortifications, while the Irish would cut down the woodlands which served as their defences. On a charitable interpretation, one might find a parallel between these predictions and the letter written to Edward II by Pope John XXII in May 1318, in which the pope asked the king to give his attention to the grievances of the Irish: these grievances had been expressed at length in the famous Irish Remonstrance, which had probably been composed towards the end of 1317 and had recently been received in Avignon.

Research Article
Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2002


1 B.L., , Arundel MS 57, ff 4v-5v. I use the word apparently because prophetic writings of this kind were commonly adapted to fit the circumstances of different reigns. The discussion which follows is based on my paper ‘Edward II and the prophets’ in Ormrod, W.M. (ed.), England in the fourteenth century: proceedings of the 1985 Harlaxton Symposium (Woodbridge, 1986), esp. pp 194-5Google Scholar.

2 Expressions like this may provide a clue to the origin of the much-debated Hiberno-English term culchie, one of whose possible derivations is the Irish coillteach, ‘a wooded place’: see Dolan, T.P., A dictionary of Hiberno-English (Dublin, 1998), p. 83Google Scholar.

3 Cal. papal letters, 1305–42, p. 440; Theiner, Augustine (ed.), Vetera monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum (Rome, 1864), pp 2012Google Scholar.

4 For a discussion of the date and circumstances of composition of the Remonstrance see Phillips, J.R.S., ‘The Irish Remonstrance of 1317: an international perspective’ in I.H.S., xxvii, no. 106 (Nov. 1990), pp 125-9Google Scholar.

5 Sayles, G.O. (ed.), Documents on the affairs of Ireland before the king’s council (Dublin, 1979), nos 136, 137Google Scholar.

6 Frame, Robin, English lordship in Ireland, 1318–1361 (Oxford, 1982), p. 167Google Scholar.

7 Ibid., pp 138–9.

8 See Cuttino, G.P. and Lynam, Thomas P., ‘Where is Edward II?’ in Speculum, liii (1978), pp 52244CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Hamilton, J.S., Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall, 1307–1312 (Detroit & London, 1988), pp 5861Google Scholar.

10 Wadding, Luke, Annales Minorum (25 vols, Rome, 1733-1886), vi, 176Google Scholar. Malachy is not any further identified but may be Malachy of Limerick, the probable author of a famous treatise, De veneno, on the seven deadly sins: see Fitzmaurice, E.B. and Little, A. G. (eds), Materials for the history of the Franciscan province of Ireland, A.D. 1230–1450 (Manchester, 1920), pp 548Google Scholar.

11 Davies, R.R., ‘Lordship or colony?’ in Lydon, James (ed.), The English in medieval Ireland (Dublin, 1984), p. 157Google Scholar.

12 My colleague DrClarke, Howard has some interesting thoughts on this problem in his paper ‘Decolonization and the dynamics of urban decline in Ireland, 1300–1550’ in Slater, T. R. (ed.), Towns in decline, A.D. 100–1600 (Aldershot, 2000), pp 15792Google Scholar.

13 The only obvious exceptions to this generalisation are the well-known recommendations of Giraldus Cambrensis on how to conquer the Welsh and his suggestion that all the Welsh should be removed from Wales to other countries and the land turned over to forest: see Davies, ‘Lordship or colony?’, p. 150.

14 Ibid., p.l57.

15 For the move towards a more centralised government in independent Wales on the eve of the conquest see Stephenson, David, The governance of Gwynedd (Cardiff, 1984)Google Scholar; Smith, J.Beverley, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd: prince of Wales (Cardiff, 1998).Google Scholar

16 See Davies, R.R., Domination and conquest: the experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 1100–1300 (Cambridge, 1990)Google Scholar, ch. 5.

17 Cf.Frame, Robin, The political development of the British Isles, 1100–1400 (2nd ed., Oxford, 1995), p. 143CrossRefGoogle Scholar: ‘Yet there is little to suggest that Edward himself was dominated by imperial dreams, devoted to the construction of a unitary monarchy of the British Isles, or even irredeemably hostile to regional custom.’

18 Cf.Lydon, James, ‘Lordship and crown’ in Davies, R. R. (ed.), The British Isles, 1100–1500: comparisons, contrasts and connexions (Edinburgh, 1988).Google Scholar

19 This is assuming that the material resources were available and that other political or military distractions did not get in the way of such a war of conquest — all of them big assumptions. Edward I’s conquest of Wales between 1277 and 1283 was made possible by the fact that, for once, England was at peace both internally and with all its other neighbours; and also because, again most unusually, adequate financial resources existed in the form of grants of taxation by the English parliament and of loans from Italian bankers. It is not an exaggeration to say that Wales was conquered as much by the newly developed systems of national taxation and international credit as it was by military means: see Kaeuper, Richard W., Bankers to the crown: the Riccardi of Lucca and Edward I (Princeton, 1973)Google Scholar, esp. ch. 4; idem, ‘The role of Italian financiers in the Edwardian conquest of Wales’ in Welsh Hist. Rev., vi (1972-3), pp 387–403. Such favourable circumstances were never to recur.

20 I am not alone in the view that the medieval English crown was not seeking a ‘final conquest’ of Ireland: see also Davies, Domination & conquest, pp 111–12. ProfessorFrame, Robin’s papers ‘The “failure” of the first English conquest of Ireland’ and ‘England and Ireland, 1171–1399’ in his Ireland and Britain, 1170–1450 (London, 1998)Google Scholar throw a great deal of light on the nature of English rule in medieval Ireland, but neither paper directly addresses what the ultimate intention of the English crown may have been.

21 The political and administrative problems that arose during the reign of Edward I and were bequeathed to Edward II are very clearly analysed by Prestwich, Michael in his War, politics and finance under Edward I (London, 1972).Google Scholar

22 For the course of the Anglo-Scottish war from its beginning in 1296 see Barrow, G. W. S., Robert Bruce and the community of the realm of Scotland (3rd ed., Edinburgh, 1988)Google Scholar, and McNamee, Colm, The wars of the Bruces: Scotland, England and Ireland, 1306–1328 (East Linton, 1997)Google Scholar. The best narrative account of the war in Ireland, 1315–18, is now to be found in McNamee’s book. The close relationship between Scotland and Ireland, which goes far to explain the Scottish intervention in Ireland in 1315, is fully explored in the very illuminating article by Duffy, Seán, ‘The Bruce brothers and the Irish Sea world, 1306–29’ in Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, no. 21 (summer 1991), pp 5970Google Scholar. For an overall interpretation of the origins, course and significance of the Bruce invasion of Ireland see Frame, Robin’s revised version of his paper ‘The Bruces in Ireland, 1315–1318’ (first published in I.H.S., xix, no. 73 (Mar. 1974), pp 337)Google Scholar in his Ireland & Britain, 1170–1450.

23 Indeed, a contemporary author, John of London, writing at the time of Edward I’s death, thought the war had been won when he praised Edward for victories over all his enemies: ‘Now, at the end of time, with great King Edward, we have borne a ten-year war with Philip, famous king of France; we have won back Gascony, taken by guile, with force of arms; we have got Wales by slaughter; we have invaded Scotland and cut down her tyrants at the point of the sword’ (quoted in Smalley, Beryl, English friars and antiquity in the early fourteenth century (Oxford, 1960), p. 9Google Scholar).

24 The best examinations of relations between England and France in this period are Vale, Malcolm, The Angevin legacy and the Hundred Years War, 1250–1340 (Oxford, 1990)Google Scholar, and Lalou, Elizabeth, ‘Les négociations diplomatiques avec l’Angleterre sous le règne de Philippe le Bel’ in La ‘France Anglaise’ au moyen âge: colloque des historiens médiévistes français et britanniques, actes du IIIe congrès national des sociétés savantes (Poitiers, 1986)Google Scholar, Section d’histoire médiévale et de philologie, i (1988), pp 325–55.

25 Phillips, J.R.S., ‘The mission of John de Hothum to Ireland, 1315–1316’ in Lydon, James (ed.), England and Ireland in the later middle ages (Dublin, 1981), pp 62, 67Google Scholar. For a general view of the war at sea see McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, chs 5–6.

26 Baluzius, Stephanus (Etienne Baluze), Vitae paparum Avenionensium, ed. Mollat, Guillaume (4 vols, Paris, 1914-27), i, 21-2Google Scholar. For a full examination of this very important episode in Anglo-French relations see Brown, Elizabeth A. R. and Regalado, Nancy Freeman, La grant feste: Philip the Fair’s celebration of the knighting of his sons in Paris at Pentecost of 1313’ in Hanawalt, Barbara A. and Reyerson, Kathryn L. (eds), City and spectacle in medieval Europe (Medieval Studies at Minnesota 6, Minneapolis & London, 1994), pp 5686Google Scholar.

27 As Innocent III had done in 1215 after King John was forced to give his approval of Magna Carta.

28 John XXII was personally less favourable to Edward II than his predecessor Clement V, who had a particularly close relationship with the English monarchy, but his overriding interest in preserving the peace of Christendom so that the great military powers, especially France and England, could embark on a new crusade, made him unsympathetic to the Scots. For a discussion of Anglo-papal relations during the pontificates of Clement V and John XXII see Wright, J.R., The church and the English crown, 1305–1334 (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Studies and Texts 48, Toronto, 1980), esp. pp 168-73Google Scholar; Watt, J. A., The church and the two nations in medieval Ireland (Cambridge, 1970), pp 18397CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29 Cardinals Luke Fieschi and Gaucelin d’Eauze.

30 The English diplomatic mission to Avignon in early 1317, which led to the appointment of the papal envoys and to the issue of the bulls directed against Scottish intervention in Ireland, is discussed in Phillips, J.R.S., Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, 1307–1324 (Oxford, 1972), pp 10711Google Scholar.

31 Barrow, Robert Bruce, pp 246–7.

32 See Phillips, ‘Irish Remonstrance of 1317’, pp 112–29. For a critical edition of the Remonstrance see Walter Bower, Scotichronicon, ed. D. E. R. Watt et al. (9 vols, Aberdeen, 1987–98), vi, pp xxi-xxv, 384–404, 465-83.

33 They met in the chamber of the cardinal of Pellegrue (Baluze, Vitae paparum Avenionensium, ed. Mollat, ii, 130).

34 Watt, Church & two nations, p. 84.

35 Lunt, W.E., Financial relations of the papacy with England to 1327 (Cambridge, Mass., 1939), pp 1669Google Scholar. Since the 1213 agreement between John and Innocent III was a fundamental document in English claims to exercise authority in Ireland, it is surprising that neither Edward II’s Scottish nor his Irish opponents appear to have used the failure to pay tribute or to perform homage and fealty as a legal weapon against him at the papal curia. Instead the Remonstrance of 1317 concentrated on the alleged English failure to observe the terms of an even earlier document, Adrian IV’s bull Laudabiliter of c. 1155. On the place of Laudabiliter in fourteenth-century Anglo-Irish relations see Phillips, J. R. S., ‘The Remonstrance revisited: England and Ireland in the early fourteenth century’ in Fraser, T. G. and Jeffery, Keith (eds), Men, women and war: Historical Studies XVIII (Dublin, 1993), pp 1617, 23–1Google Scholar. For a recent edition of the text of Laudabiliter see Bower, , Scotichronicon, ed. Watt, et al., vi, pp xxi-xxii, 402-5, 481–3.Google Scholar

36 New hist. Ire., ii, 196; Lydon, J. F., ‘Edward II and the revenues of Ireland in 1311–12’ in I.H.S., xiv, no. 53 (Mar. 1964), pp 56-7Google Scholar.

37 New hist. Ire., ii, 201–2, citing Lydon, ‘Edward II & the revenues of Ireland in 1311–12’, pp 52–3.

38 The language used in Edward II’s letter closely resembles the appeals for assistance regularly addressed to the royal government in England by the king’s officials in Ireland during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This particular letter has not survived, but there are many such documents in the Public Record Office class of Ancient Correspondence (SC 1). Good examples are the complaints about the state of Ireland made by the justiciar Geoffrey de Geneville in the mid-1270s and those of the deputy justiciar John Morice in the early 1340s (P.R.O., SC 1/5/96; SC 1/18/12, 13, 16; SC 1/38/108). In a postscript to a letter written early in the reign of Edward I the unidentified author delivered himself of the following cry from the heart: ‘Benedictus auctor pacis altissimus pacificata est terra Hibernie adeo quod in singulis locis eiusdem vigent pax et tranquillitas hiis diebus’ (ibid., SC 1/62/41).

39 Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, pp 65–6.

40 Ibid., pp 62–3, 66. To put matters in a wider perspective, it is important to note that, although the financial resources of Ireland were severely depleted through their use in English wars outside Ireland, Ireland was not uniquely affected in this way. The financial pressures on England itself were also extreme from the 1290s onwards. As already indicated above (n. 21), these pressures had much to do with the political crises in England at the end of the reign of Edward I and were a major cause of the crises during the reign of Edward II: see Prestwich, , War, politics & financeGoogle Scholar; Maddicott, J. R., The English peasantry and the demands of the crown, 1294–1341 (Past & Present Supplement 1, Oxford, 1975)Google Scholar. Severe shortages of money to prosecute the continuing war with Scotland were a feature of most of the reign of Edward II, until after 1322 when the revenues received by the English exchequer from the confiscated lands of the earl of Lancaster and the other participants in the civil war of 1321–2 finally made Edward II financially secure: see Childs, Wendy, ‘Finance and trade under Edward II’ in Taylor, John and Childs, Wendy (eds), Politics and crisis in fourteenth-century England (Gloucester, 1990), pp 1937Google Scholar; Buck, Mark, Politics, finance and the church in the reign of Edward II: Walter Stapeldon, treasurer of England (Cambridge, 1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Fryde, Natalie, The tyranny and fall of Edward II, 1321–1326 (Cambridge, 1979)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. ch. 7. The ‘imperial vision’ of the English kings required that all their dominions should contribute to their financial needs. However, Edward IPs attempt to extend this principle to his other major possession, the duchy of Aquitaine in south-western France, met with little success: see Brown, Elizabeth A. R., ‘Gascon subsidies and the finances of the English dominions, 1315–1324’ in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History VIII (Lincoln, Nebr., 1971), pp 3773, 142–5Google Scholar. The timing of Edward IPs attempt to tax his Gascon subjects was, however, a direct consequence of the Scottish victory over England at Bannockburn in June 1314 and of the Scottish invasion of Ireland in May 1315: ibid., pp 55–62.

41 Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, pp 65–7.

42 Phillips, J. R. S., ‘Documents on the early stages of the Bruce invasion of Ireland, 1315–1316’ in R.I.A. Proc, lxxix (1979), sect. C, pp 249-50Google Scholar. At least eleven of the thirty men written to are known to have replied: ibid., pp 257–65.

43 Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, pp 68–71. The events at Ardscull are described in the reports sent to England in mid-February by Hothum himself and by one of his clerks: see Phillips, ‘Documents’, pp 251–3, 255–7. Hothum says that the battle was fought en dur champ, which might indicate, if taken literally, that the ground was frozen, or that it was an unsuitable place for a battle; a more likely explanation, as my colleague Dr Alan Fletcher, of the Department of Old and Middle English at University College Dublin, has suggested, is that the phrase should be taken as a metaphor for the harshness of battle. On the military situation in Ireland in 1316 see also McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, pp 177–9. On the effects of the famine on Ireland and, more generally, on Britain and north-western Europe see ibid., p. 179; Kershaw, Ian, ‘The great famine and agrarian crisis in England, 1315–1322’ in Past & Present, no. 59 (May 1973), pp 350CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jordan, W.C., The great famine: northern Europe in the early fourteenth century (Princeton, 1996)Google Scholar. This was one of the most serious famines experienced in northern Europe and, like the Irish famine of the 1840s, was remembered for generations afterwards.

44 For a narrative of the remainder of the war see McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, ch. 5. These were the circumstances under which the Remonstrance was composed and sent to the newly elected Pope John XXII in the autumn of 1317. From this point of view, the Remonstrance can be seen almost as an act of desperation, in the hope that the pope might give Edward Bruce and his Irish allies the success which military actions alone had not achieved: see Phillips, ‘Irish Remonstrance of 1317’, pp 112–29.

45 For example, Edmund Butler was created earl of Carrick in September 1315, and John fltz Thomas FitzGerald became earl of Kildare in May 1316: see Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, pp 63, 74–5; idem, ‘Documents’, pp 268–9. The financial value of the lands with which these two new earldoms were endowed, and of the earldom of Louth created in 1319 to reward John de Bermingham’s defeat of Edward Bruce, was less generous than in similar cases in England, but the new earldoms were also endowed with extensive liberties which greatly increased their real value. Although these new earldoms (and those of Ormond and Desmond in 1328 and 1329) in Ireland, where Ulster had hitherto been the only earldom, were created at times when the government in England needed to be sure of support in Ireland, they nonetheless marked a significant change in the policy of the English crown. They also reinforced the separation that was already growing between the noble families of Anglo-Norman Ireland and those of England and the Welsh March: see Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, pp 74–5, 77; idem, ‘The Anglo-Norman nobility’ in Lydon (ed.), English in medieval Ireland, pp 102–4.

46 Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, p. 76.

47 There is evidence that in 1316–17 Edward Bruce was negotiating with native Welsh leaders in the hope of provoking another revolt against English rule. One important figure, Gruffudd Llwyd, seems to have responded and was briefly imprisoned: see Davies, R.R., Conquest, coexistence and change: Wales, 1063–1415 (Oxford, 1987), pp 3878Google Scholar. For the relationship between events in Ireland and those in England and Wales during this critical period see also Smith, J. Beverley, ‘Gruffydd Llwyd and the Celtic alliance’ in Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, xxvi (1976), pp 46378Google Scholar, and idem, ‘Edward II and the allegiance of Wales’ in Welsh Hist, Rev., viii (1976-7), pp 139–71.

48 Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, pp 62–3; idem, ‘Documents’, pp 247, 250–51, 265-6. For a detailed examination of the Scottish raids see Scammell, Jean, ‘Robert I and the north of England’ in E.H.R., lxxiii (1958), pp 385403CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, esp. chs 2–3.

49 Phillips, ‘Mission of John de Hothum’, p. 67.

50 McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, p. 181.

51 Accounts for naval operations in the Irish Sea under the command of John of Athy, 25 Apr. - 24 June 1317 (P.R.O., E 101/531/15).

52 McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, p. 184. Dun may have been from Downpatrick in Ireland.

53 It was small comfort after the disaster of Bannockbufn in 1314.

54 John Taaffe (1306-7); the Dominican friars Walter Jorz (1307-11) and Roland Jorz (1311-22); and Stephen Segrave (1323-33).

55 Watt, Church & two nations, pp 185–6.

56 For the possible authorship of Michael Mac Lochlainn see Phillips, ‘Remonstrance revisited’, pp 17–20, 24–7; and for a critical edition of the Remonstrance see Bower, Scotichronicon, ed. Watt et al., vi, pp xxi-xxv, 384–404, 465–83.

57 Watt, Church & two nations, pp 192–6; idem, ‘Negotiations between Edward II and John XXII concerning Ireland’ in I.H.S., x, no. 37 (Mar. 1956), pp 1–20.

58 This family’s contribution to the history of the medieval Irish church would bear closer examination. For the role of an earlier member of the family, again at a delicate period in Anglo-Irish relations, see Phillips, J. R. S., ‘David MacCarwell and the proposal to purchase English law, c. 1273 - c. 1280’ in Peritia, x (1996), pp 25373CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

59 This is now in the British Library as Add. MS 17920; it is mentioned in Watt, Church & two nations, p. 192, and also in Aubrey Gwynn, Anglo-Irish church life: 14th and 15th centuries (A history of Irish Catholicism, ed. Corish, Patrick J. (Dublin & Sydney, 1968), ii, pt 4), p. 11Google Scholar.

60 Frame, English lordship in Ireland, pp 138–9, citing Chronicon de Lanercost, ed. Stevenson, Joseph (Bannatyne Club, 65, Edinburgh, 1839), pp. 2567Google Scholar, and Chronica Adae Murimuth, ed. Thompson, E.M (Rolls Series, London, 1889), p. 49Google Scholar. Despite the likelihood that Edward II hoped to escape to Ireland, it is astonishing that specialists in English history have declined to take it seriously or to consider the possible consequences of Edward II’s possession of a power base in Ireland.

61 See Fryde, Tyranny & fall of Edward II, ch. 13; Valente, Claire, ‘The deposition and abdication of Edward II’ in E.H.R., cxiii (1998), pp 85281CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

62 Frame, English lordship in Ireland, pp 165–8.

63 These were likely destinations for any crossing of the Irish Sea beginning in the Bristol Channel.

64 Phillips, Aymer de Valence, pp 233–4; Frame, English lordship in Ireland, p. 169.

65 Haines, R.M., The church and politics in fourteenth-century England: the career of Adam Orleton, c. 1275–1345 (Cambridge, 1978), p. 157CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

66 Phillips, Aymer de Valence, pp 261, 268.

67 Frame, English lordship in Ireland, p. 139; see also ibid., pp 174–82. It is also worth suggesting in passing that the famous inauguration in 1327 of Donal MacMurrough, as king of Leinster, the first such inauguration since the twelfth century, may have been an Irish reaction to the events in England, based perhaps on a belief that the deposition of Edward II had removed the legitimacy of English rule in Ireland: see New hist. Ire., ii, 302.

68 Frame, English lordship in Ireland, pp 138–40. The well-informed Lanercost chronicler recorded the fears of Edward II’s opponents that ‘if the king could reach Ireland and gather an army there, he might cross to Scotland and, with the help of the Scots and the Irish, invade England’ (ibid., citing Chron. Lanercost, pp 256–7).

69 He had loyal allies in Wales, especially Gruffudd Llwyd in the north and Rhys ap Gruffudd, ‘who was virtual governor of south-west Wales in the first half of the fourteenth century’ (Davies, Conquest, coexistence & change, pp 409–10, 415-16; see also Griffiths, R. A., The principality of Wales in the later middle ages: the structure and personnel of government, South Wales, 1277–1526 (Cardiff, 1972), pp 99102Google Scholar). Although Gruffudd Llwyd had been suspected of treasonable negotiations with Edward Bruce in 1316–17 and had briefly been imprisoned during the English civil war of 1321–2, his leadership of a Welsh revolt in North Wales had been largely responsible for the defeat of Roger Mortimer and his Marcher allies; meanwhile, Rhys ap Gruffudd had played a similar role against the Marchers in South Wales: see Davies, Conquest, coexistence & change, p. 387; Griffiths, Principality of Wales, p. 99; Phillips, Aymer de Valence, pp 221–2. Events in the autumn of 1326 moved so fast that neither man was able to intervene to save Edward II from capture by his enemies: see Griffiths, Principality of Wales, p. 100; Fryde, Tyranny & fall of Edward II, pp 189–90.

70 One ally was Rhys ap Gruffudd, who fled to Scotland after the fall of Edward II, was involved in September 1327 in an unsuccessful plot to free Edward II from captivity, and then fled once more to Scotland: see Griffiths, Principality of Wales, p. 100; Fryde, Tyranny & fall of Edward II, pp 189–90; McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, p. 240. Another ally was the Scottish earl, Donald of Mar, who had spent most of his life at the English court and had a close personal loyalty to Edward II; he too went to Scotland, where he involved himself in schemes to restore Edward II to his throne, and also accompanied Robert Bruce’s invasion of England in the summer of 1327: see McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, p. 240; Barrow, Robert Bruce, p. 252. A third potential ally may have been none other than Robert Bruce himself (see n. 74).

71 The situation in England was probably far more fluid than the rapid fall of Edward II in the autumn of 1326 would suggest. Although Edward II and Despenser had many enemies, not all of these were certain that exchanging the rule of the king and his favourite for that of Isabella and Mortimer was a good bargain. The hostilities between Henry, earl of Lancaster, and Mortimer in the winter of 1328–9, the execution of Edward II’s half-brother the earl of Kent in March 1330, and Mortimer’s own fall and execution in October-November 1330 show how close England was to a renewed civil war. The persistent rumours that Edward II was still alive and might be restored to his throne only served to stir the pot even more vigorously. See Fryde, Tyranny & fall of Edward II, pp 217–25.

72 Calendar of memoranda rolls (exchequer), Michaelmas 1326 - Michaelmas 1327 (London, 1968), p. 36Google Scholar, no. 212. The sum of £10,000 which John Langton sent by water from Gloucester and which was received at Chepstow by 17 October was probably a part of the overall total of £29,000 rather than an addition to it (Fryde, Tyranny & fall of Edward II, pp 189, 267). The twenty-six barrels, each containing £500 in silver pennies, which were later found among Edward II’s possessions in Despenser’s castle at Caerphilly near Cardiff, were probably the residue of the sum of £29,000: see account of John de Langton, clerk, for the treasure, goods and chattels found at Caerphilly (P.R.O., E 352/120, mm 39, 39v (1 Edw. III)). Langton was the exchequer official who had delivered the £29,000 to Edward II on 20 October.

73 Frame, English lordship in Ireland, pp 139–0. Payment for this visit to Scotland was made on 6 February 1327 when ‘in Ireland . . . the king, both officially and in men’s minds, was still Edward II’ (ibid., p. 140).

74 Ibid., p. 140.

75 McNamee, Wars of the Bruces, pp 239–42, 244–5; Barrow, Robert Bruce, pp 252–5.

76 Fryde, Tyranny & fall of Edward II, p. 202. The conjunction of this plot with the Scottish invasion of England and the fact that it came soon after an attempt in July 1327, which had almost succeeded in releasing Edward II, made it a very serious threat to the new regime. It was most unlikely that Edward would be left alive. See Tout, T. F., ‘The captivity and death of Edward of Carnarvon’ in The collected papers of Thomas Frederick Tout (3 vols, Manchester, 1932-4), iii, 145-90, esp. pp 155-66Google Scholar. The text of the legal record (5 Edw. III) which contains details of Rhys ap Gruffudd’s conspiracy is printed ibid., iii, 184–9. For the career of Rhys ap Gruffudd see also above, nn 69–70.

77 The classic account of Edward II’s imprisonment is still Tout, ‘Captivity & death of Edward of Carnarvon’. Edward died on 21 September. The desperate nature of the situation is vividly conveyed in a surviving letter from Edward III to the earl of Hereford, telling him how the news of his father’s death had been brought on 23 September during the night (de deinz la nuyt); the king also reported that he had heard that the Scots were about to invade England with the intention of conquest (P.R.O., DL 10/253 (Duchy of Lancaster royal charters): Lincoln, 24 Sept. 1327).

78 For discussions of the rumours of Edward II’s escape and survival, which persisted long after 1327, see Tout, ‘Captivity & death of Edward of Carnarvon’; Cuttino & Lynam, ‘Where is Edward II?’; and Haines, R. M., ‘Edwardus redivivus: the ‘afterlife’ of Edward of Caernarvon’ in Bristol & Gloucestershire Arch. Soc. Trans., cxiv (1996), pp 6586Google Scholar.

79 Archives départementales de l’Hérault, Series G. 1123, f. 86r (Cartulaire de Maguelone, Register A). Thanks to a research grant from the Faculty of Arts at University College Dublin, I had the opportunity to examine this document and its surrounding material in the summer of 1997.The letter is preserved in the middle of an unrelated collection of charters concerning the bishop’s property rights in the small town of Cournoncerral, also near Montpellier. It is undated, but there are reasons for assigning it to the years 1336–8. The letter has been known since its discovery in the nineteenth century by Alexandre Germain, professor of history at the University of Montpellier. He announced his discovery to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres in Paris on 21 September 1877 (the anniversary of Edward II’s death); the document was published by the local scholarly body, the Société Archéologique de Montpellier, in 1878 as ‘Lettre de Manuel Fiesque concernant les dernières années du roi d’Angleterre Edouard II’, and republished in Mémoires de la Société Archéologique de Montpellier, vii (1881), pp 109–27. It has since been referred to many times, most recently in Cuttino & Lynam, ‘Where is Edward II?’, and Haines, Edwardus redivivus For a recent transcription of the Latin text of the letter and a good translation see Cuttino & Lynam, ‘Where is Edward II?’, pp 537–8, 526-7.

80 The problems raised by the Fieschi letter are extraordinarily complex and confusing. The best surveys of the evidence at present are those by Cuttino and Lynam (‘Where is Edward II?’), who seem inclined to accept the truth of the story, and Haines (‘Edwardus redivivus’), who takes a sceptical view, as I do myself. I have little doubt that the body which was buried with great ceremony in St Peter’s abbey, Gloucester, in December 1327 and over which a magnificent tomb was erected a few years later was that of Edward II. The man whom Fieschi met was almost certainly an impostor.

81 By coincidence the events of Eco’s The name of the rose are set in 1327, the year of Edward II’s ‘escape’. By further coincidence, Brother William of Baskerville, the fictional hero of the novel, is supposed earlier to have been in Ireland to examine the Alice Kyteler affair. Not surprisingly, the story of Edward II’s exile at Melazzo and S. Alberto di Butrio is well known in Italy. It was publicised in a paper by Nigra, Costantino, ‘Uno degli Edoardi in Italia: favola o storia?’ in Nuova Antologia: Revista di Lettere, Scienze ed Arti, 4th ser., xcii (1901), pp 40325Google Scholar, and by Benedetti, Anna in her short monograph, Edoardo II d’Inghilterra all’abbazia di S. Alberto di Butrio (Palermo, 1924)Google Scholar. There are plaques to commemorate Edward II’s ‘presence’ at Melazzo, and another at S. Alberto di Butrio, marking the supposed ‘tomb’ of Edward II. The website (now deleted) for the castle of Melazzo stated as a fact that Edward II stayed there between 1330 and 1333; the former abbey of S. Alberto has been occupied by a modern religious community since 1899, while the local tourist website records the tradition that Edward II had also been there as a hermit.

This is a revised version of my presidential address, delivered to the Irish Historical Society on 9 December 1997. I have also taken the opportunity to incorporate some material from another paper, ‘The Anglo-Scottish wars and Edward Bruce’s invasion of Ireland, 1315–1318’, which I gave to the Military History Society of Ireland on 8 January 1998.

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