Monday, 9 April 2012

The Coronation of Edward II

The coronation of Edward II took place on Sunday, February 25th, 1308.  The king had just returned from France on February 7th, where he had married the 12 year old Isabella, daughter of the king of France.  He had left his kingdom in what he considered safe hands – Piers Gaveston had been left as Regent.  It seems this had been unopposed by the nobles.  Now the coronation loomed.

 It was obvious Edward wanted Piers to play a major role.  Invitations had been sent out on January 18th, and the Coronation was due to take place on February 18th.  It was delayed until February 25th. The St. Paul’s annalist speculates that this may have been due to attempts by the English and French nobles to oust Piers from a primary role in the ceremony, and refers to him and Edward as ‘two kings reigning in one kingdom, one in name and the other in deed’.  It’s ridiculous to think that either the English or French nobles honestly expected Edward to be passionately in love with his 12 year-old bride.  So why did they object to Piers playing a central role?  If, as Chaplais puts forward, Edward and Piers behaved as ‘adopted’ brothers, why should they care?  Piers had been accepted as Earl of Cornwall at the start of Edward’s reign, been married to Edward’s niece, Margaret de Clare and acted as regent.  So why the furore over Piers taking a primary role at the coronation?  In my opinion, the French nobles had become aware that the relationship between Edward and Piers was more than ‘adopted’ brothers, it  was in fact sexual.  Perhaps the fact that the king’s male lover was to play a primary role caused them to stir up trouble with the English nobles.   If Edward had had a mistress, she no doubt would have been hidden away from court and as a female played no part in the coronation.   As far as Edward was concerned, there would be nothing more pleasing than to have Piers play an important role in the ceremony.   Piers may have wanted the French to be in no doubt of his importance to Edward, and may have acted in an arrogant way.  OK, I concede he must surely have!  Seymour Phillips in his biography of Edward II compares the chroniclers to the tabloids of today, and that there began a ‘feeding frenzy’ of tales about Piers from this time – his arrogance, stealing from the royal treasury and sending money to Gascony – all of which were inaccurate.   It seems the delay for the Coronation may have been caused by the nobles seeking to curb Edward’s excessive reliance on Piers and Edward promised to address this at a later parliament.  However, Edward got his way and Piers took on a primary role in the ceremony.   Dressed in royal purple and pearls, the St Paul’s Annalist describes him as "so decked out that he more resembled the god Mars than an ordinary mortal".  I LOVE this description of Piers! 

So, apart from looking like the god Mars, what role did Piers play in the coronation?  He was given the task of carrying the crown of St Edward, and later taking possession of the Curtana sword – the sword of St Edward, which had been carried by the king’s cousin, the Earl of Lancaster.  Piers then fastened the spur on the king’s left foot.  Philip IV’s brother, Charles de Valois, fastened the right spur.  It must have been Edward’s idea that Piers be given these things to do, and no doubt, Piers was honoured and only too keen.

If what happened at the ceremony outraged both French and English nobles, it got worse at the banquet.  That will be the subject of my next post.

Sources –

Chaplais – Piers Gaveston, Edward II’s Adoptive brother

Hamilton – Piers Gaveston – Politics and Patronage in the reign of Edward II

Seymour Phillips – Edward II


Kathryn Warner said...

Great post! I really love that description of Piers too. :-) It's interesting why the French in general and Philip IV in particular hated Piers so much - I'm sure you're right about the reason! Looking forward to the banquet post. :)

Gabriele C. said...

So the French started it all, lol? After all I read about a good deal of the English nobles hating Piers, I was surprised they obvioulsy thought he would make a capable enough regent no matter his birth. Looks like things detoriated only after the coronation.

Anerje said...

Kathryn, Gabriele - it just makes me question what exactly was going on at court when, not so much Isabella, but her family and the French nobles arrived. No-one could honestly expect Edward to be devoted to a 12 year-old girl - but maybe the way Edward and Piers behaved was just 'too much', so to speak:>