Thursday, 23 February 2017

A Tale of 2 History magazines

Over the last few years, there has been a surge in History magazines.  'History Today' is firmly established, and has what I would term more 'academic' articles.  The BBC History magazine is always a good read with a mix of academic and family articles.  The newer titles include 'History Revealed' and 'All About History', that cover popular subjects such as the Tudors and in my opinion give you lots of glossy 'artist impressions' of historical characters and the basic background of people and events.  

BBC History also provides 'specials' - and the latest is on Medieval Kings and Queens.  I was delighted to find an article by Kathryn Warner, (Website Edward II  )featured inside with an excellent article on Isabella, wife and Queen of Edward II.  Those who have read Kathryn's book, 'Isabella, Rebel Queen', will know how meticulous Kathryn's research is, and how hard she has worked to show that Edward and Isabella had a reasonably happy marriage, with Isabella tolerating Edward's favourites, such as Piers Gaveston and Roger Damory, before falling foul of Hugh Despencer.  So many myths were debunked.  So it was a real shame to see another new history magazine, 'The History of the Royals', feature an article on Isabella cast in her role as the she-wolf.  And of course, with that, the old myths are repeated - namely that -

  • Edward gave his wedding presents to Piers Gaveston, thus humiliating Isabella.
  • Isabella 'endured' years of humiliation by her husband and Piers.
  • Edward gave Piers Isabella's lands!
  • Despencer/Edward deprived Isabella of her 4 children.(I know Kathryn is particularly dismayed about this myth).
  • Isabella and Roger Mortimer were lovers - no doubt about it.
  • They met in the Tower of London earlier, and Mortimer escaped.  
  • Edward blamed Mortimer for putting his marriage in jeopardy!  
Worst of all, the article is called 'The Royal Lovers' Conquest'.   Throughout the article, Isabella and Roger Mortimer are presented as lovers.   Their behaviour scandalises  the French and English courts.  The article does not make it clear that this is one interpretation of their relationship, with little supporting evidence, and of course, Mortimer's wife and children fade into the background.    The best thing that can be said about this article?  At the end,  for further reading, is recommended Kathryn's book.  What a shame the author of this article didn't read it first.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

February 1312

February 1312 saw Piers Gaveston reunited with Edward II - and his wife, Margaret de Clare.  Piers was returning from his third exile.  It was his shortest exile - a matter of a couple of months.    There were even rumours he had not left the country at all, and was in fact in hiding.  Was this because he expected Edward to defy his nobles and gain the upper hand and allowing him back as soon as possible?   More likely is the fact that Piers was expecting his first child with his wife Margaret.   It may have been that because of her condition that Margaret could not follow Piers into exile - she had certainly accompanied him when he had been sent to Ireland.   We don't know if the pregnancy was a difficult one, but surely Piers would have wanted to be as close to his wife as possible, so that when she went into labour, he could quickly reach her and see his child.   It would make sense for him to lie low in England.   It's doubtful he would have been safe in France, and Flanders may have just been too far.

Piers and Margaret's daughter was born in mid-January.   Piers was quickly at her side - after meeting up with Edward first, naturally.   Edward had taken Margaret North in late pregnancy.   There must have been a plan in which Edward thought the North would be the safest place for Piers to return.   There was surely great celebrating when Joan Gaveston was born - named for Margaret 's mother, Edward's sister.  Joan would never know her father, for within months of Piers return from his third exile disaster would strike - Piers would fall into the hands of his enemies and face death.   Whether Edward had a genuine plan/idea to ensure the safety of Piers or they both acted recklessly, we'll never know.   However, February 1312 would be a time of celebration for Piers, his wife and Edward.