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Monarchy Rules: A Look at Edward I

The future King Edward I of England was born at the Palace of Westminster on the night of 17-18 June 1239 as the son of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence. He was a rather precarious child and he fell ill in 1246, 1247 and 1251. Despite this, he grew to be quite tall, earning him the epithet “Longshanks”. He grew to be 6 feet 2 inches, or 1.88 m.

In 1254 a political match was arranged for Edward as the English feared a Castilian invasion of the English province of Gascony. On 1 November 1254 Edward married Eleanor of Castile, who was the half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castile. He and Eleanor had at least fourteen, but perhaps as many as sixteen children. Of these only 1 son and five daughters survived to adulthood.

Public domain via wikimedia commons

Public domain via Wikimedia commons

The years 1264-1276 were blighted with the conflict known as the Second Barons’ War in which baronial forces, led by Simon de Montfort, fought against forces still loyal to the King. After the Battle of Lewes on 14 May 1264 Edward and Henry of Almain, his cousin, were given up as hostages to Simon de Montfort. He remained a hostage until March the following year and finally managed to escape on 28 May. After this support for Simon de Montfort dwindled. He was killed and mutilated on the field of the Battle of Evesham on 4 August 1265. Though the war was not over, Edward’s focus shifted to his coming crusade.

He took the crusader’s cross in a ceremony on 24 June 1268, together with his brother Edmund and Henry of Almain. King Louis IX of France was to be the leader of the crusade and he also provided a loan of around £17,500. This was not sufficient, however, and the rest was raised through a tax on the laity. On 20 August Edward sailed from Dover, probably with around 1000 men. The group was diverted to Tunis, where the French were struck with an epidemic, which also took the life of King Louis IX. The crusade was postponed until the next spring. Edward continued alone and he arrived at Acre on 9 May 1271. He arrived during a difficult situation and was even struck with a dagger by a would-be assassin. He would not leave Acre until 24 September and when he arrived in Sicily, he was informed that his father had died on 16 November 1272. He did not hurry home, as the situation in England was relatively stable and his health was still weak from the dagger attack.

He finally arrived in England on 2 August 1274 and was crowned on 19 August. The early years of his reign saw the conquest of Wales by England. In 1301 his young son, the future Edward II, was the first English prince to be invested with the title Prince of Wales.

Though Edward never went on crusade again, he always intended to do so. In 1291 Acre, the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land, was captured. Another devastating blow had come in 1290. Eleanor of Castile had died on 28 November 1290. Though it had been a political marriage, they had been in love and Edward had remained faithful to her throughout their marriage. He was deeply affected by her death and erected the so-called Eleanor Crosses on the 12 places where her funeral cortège stopped for the night. By 1294 it was agreed that Edward should remarry to King Philip IV of France’s half-sister Margaret. The outbreak of yet another war delayed the marriage until 1299. They had two sons in quick succession, and a daughter who did not live to adulthood.

In 1290 the Kingdom of Scotland was left without an obvious heir, which led to a succession dispute known as the Great Cause. Scottish magnates requested that Edward conduct the proceedings and administer the outcome when as many of fourteen claimants put forward their claims to the throne. A decision was made in favour of John Balliol on 17 November 1292. After after this, Edward asserted authority over Scotland and eventually the Scots allied themselves with France and launched on unsuccessful attack on Carlisle. In response, Edward invaded England and confiscated the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish coronation stone. John Balliol was deposed and placed in the Tower of London and Englishmen were installed to run the country. In 1306 Robert the Bruce murdered his rival claimant John Comyn and on 25 March he had himself crowned as King of Scots. He moved to restore Scottish independence. Edward responded by taken several relatives of Robert the Bruce captive. His sister Mary was hung in a cage outside Roxburgh for four years. Isabella MacDuff, who had crowned him, was hung in a cage outside of Berwick castle for four years. His younger brother Neil was executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered. These actions only grew the support for Robert the Bruce.

In February 1307 Edward was moving north towards Robert the Bruce when he developed dysentery and his condition quickly deteriorated. He died on 7 July 1307. He was succeeded by his son from his marriage, now King Edward II. He was buried in Westminster Abbey 27 October 1307.


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