Saturday, 28 March 2015

BBC History magazine - Ian Mortimer's response to Kathryn's book....

Kathryn Warner's marvellous Edward II book was re-viewed previously in BBC History magazine, and the reviewer, Professor Nicholas Vincent responded to Kathryn's work on the possible survival of Edward was 'entirely speculative'.    In the April edition of the magazine, historian Ian Mortimer has written a superb response to the review, praising Kathryn's research and telling us to look at the contemporary evidence rather than the later evidence by certain academics ( though obviously not those who think Edward spent his entire reign making out with Piers).

Mortimer wrote a terrific book, 'Medieval Intrigue' in which he challenges those academics who will not even consider the likely survival of Edward II, when there is plenty of contemporary evidence.  It's ironic in the week when Richard III was re-buried was all pomp and ceremony, where we've had Ricardians on TV protesting his innocence blaming Shakespeare for his tarnished reputation, a work of fiction, where there is plenty of contemporary evidence to condemn him,  and yet certain academics rely on chroniclers writing well after the death of Edward as their sources, and won't consider the contemporary evidence.

If only Shakespeare had written such a superb play about Edward II as he did with his pantomime villain Richard, we may well have had The Edward II Society fighting to find out his true story.  Richard has a lot to thank Shakespeare for;).

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Lost Chronicle' of Ralph of the 'Splendid Sunne'.

This post was inspired by a recent post on Kathryn Warner's brilliant Edward II website - Edward II makes out.....   Now, having read Kathryn's thoroughly re-searched new book on Edward II, I was amazed that she had over-looked chronicles and eminent professors who seemed to have access to documents not available anywhere else which prove that Edward II never had sexual relations with THAT woman, ie, his wife, and that he spent his reign 'making out' with Piers.

  So I did a little research and found the 'lost' chronicle of Ralph and the 'Splendid Sun' - and yes, here was the missing evidence!  Here are some quotes from it.

On Piers being made his squire, Prince Edward immediately 'ceased all princely activities and made out constantly with his new squire Piers'.

On the knighting of the Prince and Piers, 'the ceremony was delayed, on account of said Prince Edward making out with Piers'.

Here we have the evidence again - when Edward Ist lost his temper  when the Prince asked his father for Ponthieu for Piers.   'The Prince was loathe to continually make out with Piers in Langley, and asked his father for Ponthieu where they might make out in the sunshine'.   When the old king asked his son if he and Piers acted as brothers, 'the prince replieth - come on Pa, we make out whenever we get the chance!'.  No wonder Piers was banished.

On Piers being made Earl of Cornwall, Ralph tells us 'the new King, liking Cornwall and it's magnificent castle, made Piers the Earl, and said how he couldn't wait to make out with Piers in the castle, hopefully with some role-play as King Arthur and Sir Lancelot.  However, the new Earl demandeth that he playeth the role of King Arthur, and such was the king's lust to make out, he agreed'.

Here we have the news that Piers was left as regent while Edward II went to France to marry Isabella.  On his return, Edward leapt from his ship, crashed through the waves 'and to the shock of all around, began to make out in the surf with Piers'.  And at last we have the truth about what went on at the Coronation banquet.   The food was indeed inedible,  'it burnt to a said crisp, for none could start as the king was late, too busy making out the Earl of Cornwall'.  Far from being upset, Isabella breathed a sigh of relief  ' forsooth I am grateful to the handsome Piers, as I am only but 12 years of age.  He may make out with Piers as oft as he wishes, otherwise, he may appear a said pervert'.

And so it goes on - 'the king loveth to thatch ye old roof, and invite up Piers onto the roof to make out',  'the king liketh nothing better than to make out with Piers after a good day's ditch digging' and the king spent his time with the common people 'except when he made out with the said Piers, who demanded to make out only in luxury'.

According to Ralph, to save the king's blushes, Thomas of Lancaster omitted from the Ordinances 'the king must stop making out with Piers Gaveston non-stop - give someone else a chance'.  So now we know the real reason why Piers was banished!

So far, this is all I have been able to find.  I shall keep on researching this fascinating topic;)

Saturday, 7 March 2015

What did Piers Gaveston look like?

How any times have I asked myself that question?  I find it incredibly frustrating that there is no physical description of Piers in his lifetime anywhere!  We're told about his arrogance, vanity, military skills, wit, gracefulness and good manners - but nothing about his physical appearance.   Undoubtedly, Edward II must surely have had a portrait/painting of him commissioned - possibly inter-grated into a mural or painting onto a wall of a palace.  Paintings from the time of Edward II are often crude in their portrayal.  Take this contemporary painting of Edward II.

At least we can see Edward had blonde hair and have some idea of his size and body shape.  Even a painting of Piers like this would tell us the same information - his hair colour and build.  Any paintings of Piers must have been destroyed after Edward's 'death' (or disappearance).  Either white-washed over of completely destroyed.  Of course, the best likeness for Piers would come from his tomb effigy - something else which frustrates me.
It's extraordinary that his father's tomb still has his effigy - even if it is in quite poor condition.  Edward II, however, would have ensured that Piers' tomb would have had a fine effigy, and when you see the effigy of the tomb of Edward II himself, it's clear that the artists of the time put more effort into 3D representations  than they did into paintings.

Of course Edward II was a king, and his son wanted a fitting tomb and effigy for his father.  But just look at the detail that has gone into the curl in the hair and the beard, as well as the serene expression on the king's face.  The writing on the face was carved by mischievous schoolboys in the 1800's - basically, graffiti.  Would Edward II himself commissioned such a fine effigy of Piers?  It seems more than likely that he did.  Although his father, Edward I, has no fine effigy on his tomb, Edward II was short of money when he ascended the throne, and there was little love lost between father and son anyway.  It was recorded that Edward held an elaborate funeral for Piers,  He spent a great deal of money on the tomb, and surely he would have had an effigy.   

Although we have no contemporary images of Piers, many Victorian artists reproduced what I call romanticised versions of what they thought historical personalities looked like.  So we have haunting portraits of Lady Jane Grey and the 'Princes in the Tower', and then we have this painting of Edward and Piers.

This painting is by the artist Marcus Stone, and was painted in 1872.  We don't even get to see Piers' face!  Just a highly amused Edward II, and undoubtedly a disapproving Queen Isabella and courtiers - and the back of Piers' head!  If only Piers' effigy was not destroyed, but lies somewhere, either underground, or wrongly thought of as someone else.

Btw, the BBC will be showing their new drama series Poldark on Sunday evening - with Kyle Soller playing Francis Poldark - Soller was the actor I saw playing Piers' at the National Theatre.