Saturday, 14 April 2012

So what happened at the coronation banquet?

In my previous post, I looked at the coronation of Edward II and Piers, oops, I mean Isabella.   Piers had played an important role in the coronation, and it seems he had been in charge of the banquet that followed the coronation.   Isabella’s family included her uncles, Charles de Valois and Louis d’Evreux, as well as her brother, the future Charles IV.  Wearing royal purple seems to have upset many there, even if it did make Piers look like the god Mars.  The rest of the nobles ‘made do’ with cloth of gold.  Also offensive were the tapestries on show.    These had been specially made for the banquet, by the upholsterers John Engayne and John le Tapyter and cost £5.  They showed the emblems of England – Edward’s – and those of the Earl of Cornwall – Piers.  Doubtless the emblems of Isabella were displayed somewhere.    What totally out-raged Isabella’s family was the fact that Edward preferred to share Pier’s couch rather than Isabella’s.  They were disgusted and humiliated.  No doubt they encouraged Isabella, who was only 12, to feel likewise.  If, as Pierre Chaplais says, Edward was showing to the court, and the French in particular, that Piers was his ‘adopted brother’, why should they be out-raged?    Edward choosing to share his ‘brother’s couch’ could not have caused such offence.    It’s my opinion that Edward and Piers chose to show all those present, English and French, the exact nature of their relationship – that they were lovers, and that any marriage and alliances were secondary to them.    Edward would have wanted Piers to share in his special day, and no doubt Piers would have wanted to show all how important he was to Edward.   It might have been tactless,  and unchivalrous towards Isabella – but surely the French must have had some idea of the relationship between Edward and Piers, and marriage to a 12-year-old wasn’t going to change it.  There would be no deceit or denial for Isabella and her family. 

If only the chroniclers had detailed the exact behaviour of Edward and Piers!  Instead, all we are told is that Piers was very arrogant – and maybe it was his intention, to show no marriage alliance would come between him and Edward – and that one of the nobles was furious at the behaviour of Edward and Piers and ‘allegedly’ swore to kill Piers.  Added to that, the food didn’t taste very nice and some of it was burnt, although I’m sure this didn’t upset those present as much as Piers and Edward’s behaviour.   The Vita says ‘now for the first time nearly all the earls and barons of England rose against Piers Gaveston’ as a result of what happened at the banquet.  Maybe the English nobles had been bidding their time, waiting for a chance to attack Piers, and the complaints of the French gave them the excuse they wanted.   They may have been genuinely out-raged by Piers and Edward’s antics – whatever they did in private was acceptable, but flaunting it in front of the court, and Edward’s new bride and her family was just too much.  Or maybe Piers had grown far too proud.   If Edward and Piers were lovers, surely the nobles would not expect the 12 year-old Isabella to ‘change’ her husband’s nature?   And if they did believe this was possible, then surely they must have already tried to do this by exposing him to various court beauties.   But they knew the king had an illegitimate son, Adam, and that doing his duty would not be a problem for Edward.   In my opinion, it must have been how Edward and Piers had acted at the banquet,  and the nobles felt that Edward had not only humiliated Isabella and her family, but themselves and the dignity of the crown of England.   And I haven’t even started on Edward 'giving' all the wedding presents to Piers!

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
Helen Castor - 'She-Wolves'


Kathryn Warner said...

Great post! Love this bit especially 'the coronation of Edward II and Piers, oops, I mean Isabella', mwhahaha! :) :)

Anerje said...

Thanks - I'm sure Ed and Piers looked on it as 'their' coronation:>