26 October, 2013

Thomas of Brotherton's wedding, his daughter Margaret and his grandchildren

To clarify right from the start, I don't know when Edward II's half-brother Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, got married, or when his eldest child Margaret was born, but here's some speculation anyway.  :-)  Rather curiously, there is no mention of Thomas's wedding in Edward II's extant accounts, no record of the king attending or sending a gift; nor is there any record of Thomas being fined or otherwise reprimanded for marrying without the king's consent.  Given that Thomas was the son and brother of kings of England and nephew of a king of France (Philip IV), it's remarkable that the date of his wedding is unknown and that his bride, Alice Hailes, daughter of the coroner of Norfolk, came from a very obscure family.

Thomas of Brotherton was born on 1 June 1300 as the eldest of the three children of King Edward I, then aged almost sixty-one (born 17 June 1239), and his second queen Marguerite of France, daughter of Philip III and younger half-sister of Philip IV.  Thomas, who was sixteen years younger than his half-brother Edward II, was followed by a brother Edmund of Woodstock, later earl of Kent (5 August 1301 - 19 March 1330) and a short-lived sister Eleanor (May 1306 - October/November 1311), who was born when their father Edward I was almost sixty-seven.  By way of comparison, Edward I's eldest great-grandchild Hugh, Lord Despenser (d. 1349), son of Eleanor de Clare and Hugh Despenser the Younger, was born in 1308 or 1309: only two or three years between a child and a great-grandchild.  Thomas of Brotherton was seven when his father died on 7 July 1307, and was heir to the English throne from that day until the birth of his nephew, Edward II and Isabella of France's son the future Edward III, on 13 November 1312.  Perhaps by way of consolation, Edward II created his twelve-year-old half-brother earl of Norfolk a month later.  [1]  Thomas was an executor of his mother Queen Marguerite's will after her death on 14 February 1318, and was knighted by Edward II in Newcastle on 15 July 1319.  [2]

Twenty-year-old Thomas was still unmarried on 16 August 1320, when he went to Langley in Hertfordshire to meet the king - recently returned from a trip to France to pay homage to his brother-in-law/Thomas's first cousin Philip V for his French lands - and discuss or ask advice about his marriage.  Edward II told Thomas to come back to him again sometime later at Clarendon and wrote about it to their kinsman Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, who would join him at Clarendon, "because in this matter...we do not wish to hear or do anything without your counsel" (pur ce qe en cele chose...nous ne voloms ouir ne rien faire saunz vostre conseil, my translation).  [3]  King Jaime II of Aragon had proposed his daughter Maria (born 1299), widow of Pedro of Castile, as Thomas's bride, but in August 1321 reported to Edward that Maria had decided to take the veil and that he did not think he would be able to change her mind.  [4]  (Pedro of Castile was the son of Sancho IV and younger brother of Fernando IV and thus Edward II's first cousin once removed via Edward's mother Eleanor of Castile, and was killed at the battle of Vega de Grenada in June 1319.  And it's interesting to see that Maria of Aragon went her own way here, chose her own fate and decided she didn't want to remarry, and that her father didn't force her to obey his will even when it meant allying with a powerful country.)  At the same time, Edward II and Jaime II were involved in negotiations for Edward's son Edward of Windsor, the future Edward III, to marry Violante (born 1310), another of Jaime's daughters, though ultimately nothing came of it; both marriages were proposed by Pierre Galicien, Edward II's treasurer of the Agenais in Gascony, and Vidal Villanova, a councillor of Jaime II.  [5]  Thomas of Brotherton must have been aware of these negotiations for his marriage in Aragon, as he was with Edward at Gloucester on 28 March 1321 when the king sent his envoy to Spain to continue them.  [6]

At some point after the negotiations with Aragon, Thomas married Alice Hailes, daughter of Roger Hailes, coroner of Norfolk.  It was an extraordinary marriage for a man who was, as I said above, son and brother of kings of England and nephew of a king of France, and whose marriage to the king of Aragon's daughter had been proposed and discussed.  Thomas turned twenty-one and thus came of age on 1 June 1321, and perhaps married Alice Hailes shortly after learning that Maria of Aragon was not available that August.  As to why a king's son would want to marry a woman of obscure family, with no lands, wealth or powerful connections, I cannot imagine.  Presumably it must have been a love, or lust, match, but in that case - sorry for being crude - Thomas could merely have taken Alice as his mistress rather than his wife.  However romantic a king's son marrying a woman of his choice so much farther down the social scale might seem to us, to Thomas's contemporaries it must have seemed entirely unaccountable, and deeply foolish.

Thomas of Brotherton and Alice Hailes had three children.  Their only son was Edward, who married Beatrice, one of the youngest of the eight daughters of Roger Mortimer, earl of March, and Joan Geneville, in 1329.  Edward can't have been more than five or six at the time, Beatrice presumably some years older (Roger's imprisonment at the Tower of London in February 1322 and his escape to the Continent in August 1323 necessarily ended his marital relations with Joan, and their twelve children must have been born before his imprisonment).  Edward of Norfolk sadly died as a child in 1334, or perhaps even 1332 or 1333; the date, as with so much else in Thomas of Brotherton's life, is not recorded, but Edward's young widow Beatrice Mortimer had married her second husband Thomas Braose by 2 December 1334.  [7]  There were also two daughters of Thomas and Alice Hailes' marriage: Alice, the younger, and Margaret.  Alice married Sir Edward Montacute (died 1361), youngest son of Edward II's friend Sir William Montacute (died 1319); Edward's elder brother William (died 1344) was earl of Salisbury, and another brother, Simon, was bishop of Worcester and Ely.  Edward Montacute must have been close to twenty years older than Alice, given that his elder brothers Earl William and Bishop Simon were born in 1301 and 1303/04 respectively, and Alice was born in or after 1323 (I don't know, and I don't know if anyone knows, if she was older or younger than her brother Edward).  Alice had in fact been betrothed to the earl of Salisbury's son John, but when he died suddenly, his uncle Edward Montacute was substituted and married her instead.  This was to prove tragic for poor Alice: in the early 1350s her husband beat her so badly she died of her injuries, and, although Alice was the first cousin of Edward III, Montacute suffered no penalty whatsoever for this vile act.  Alice had several children, who died quite young.

The date of birth of Margaret of Norfolk (also known as Margaret Marshal and Margaret of Brotherton), Thomas of Brotherton and Alice Hailes' eldest child, is almost invariably given as c. 1320, but given what I wrote above about the negotiations with Aragon for her father's marriage in 1320/21, that's too early.  A date of birth of 1322 for Margaret would seem about right, probably the year after her parents' marriage.  It can't be pushed back later than 1323 or 1324 as her own first child was born in 1338.  Margaret, niece of Edward II, first cousin of Edward III, married John, Lord Segrave (born 1315), whose father Stephen (died 1325) had been Constable of the Tower of London in August 1323 when Roger Mortimer escaped.  Thomas of Brotherton was granted the wardship and marriage of the twelve-year-old John Segrave on 3 March 1327, early in the regency of Mortimer and Isabella, and, so the entry on the Patent Roll states, "for service to queen Isabella."  [8]  It was logical, therefore, for Thomas to arrange his daughter's marriage to his ward.  The Segraves held reasonably extensive lands but were hardly among the first rank of the nobility, and arranging his daughter's marriage to John seems therefore not to have been a great decision on Thomas of Brotherton's part, which isn't surprising when we look at his life and career and choices in general.  John Segrave died in April 1353, and shortly before 30 May 1354 Margaret married secondly a man far more to her liking and by her own choice, without her cousin Edward III's permission: Walter, Lord Manny or Mauny, a Hainaulter who probably came to England in 1328 with Queen Philippa (of Hainault).

When Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, died on 4 August 1338, his elder daughter Margaret, then aged perhaps sixteen, succeeded as countess of Norfolk in her own right, and also as hereditary Lord or Earl Marshal of England.  With the exception of her four greats granddaughter and heiress Anne Mowbray, who died as a child in 1481, Margaret is the only woman in English history to have held this office.  Richard II, great-grandson of Margaret's uncle Edward II, created her duchess of Norfolk in her own right on 29 September 1397, the first English woman in history to be a duchess in her own right.  (The first English duchess in history was Isabella Beaumont, wife of Henry of Grosmont, made duke of Lancaster in 1351.)  Duchess Margaret died on 24 March 1399, when she must have been in her late seventies, the last surviving of Edward I's grandchildren; her cousin Margaret de Bohun, countess of Devon, who lived till December 1391, was the second longest survivor.

Two of Margaret's six or seven children, both daughters, lived long enough to marry and have children, although Margaret outlived both of them.  One was Anne Manny, born on 24 July 1355, who married John Hastings, earl of Pembroke (born 1347) - grandson of Roger Mortimer and Joan Geneville via their daughter Agnes, and widower of Edward III's daughter Margaret (died 1361) - with whom she had one child, also John Hastings, earl of Pembroke, born in 1372 and killed jousting in 1389.  Although this John was only seventeen when he died, he had been married twice: to the much older Elizabeth of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt and granddaughter of Henry of Grosmont, which marriage was annulled; and secondly to Philippa Mortimer, great-granddaughter of Edward III.  John died childless, and that was the end of the Norfolk-Manny-Hastings line.  It was also the end of the genealogical line of one of my favourite women of the fourteenth century, Juliana Leyburne, who was the paternal grandmother of John Hastings, earl of Pembroke born in 1347.

Margaret of Norfolk's other surviving daughter was her eldest child Elizabeth Segrave, born on 25 October 1338 when Margaret was probably fifteen or sixteen.  Elizabeth married John, Lord Mowbray, born on 25 June 1340, one of the many grandchildren of Edward II's first cousin Henry of Lancaster.  John Mowbray died in his late twenties on crusade near Constantinople, leaving his and Elizabeth's elder son John who died as a teenager, a younger son Thomas born in 1366, and four daughters, one of whom was abbess of Barking.  Thomas Mowbray, heir to the Mowbrays, the Segraves and the earldom/dukedom of Norfolk, was made earl of Nottingham by Richard II in 1386 but perpetually banished from England by him in 1398 following a quarrel with the future Henry IV, and died in Venice the following year.  He had become duke of Norfolk in the meantime on the death of his elderly grandmother Margaret of Norfolk on 24 March 1399.  Thomas married Elizabeth, daughter of the earl of Arundel executed by Richard II in 1397, and his descendants were dukes of Norfolk in the fifteenth century, as Margaret of Norfolk's heirs.  Thomas Mowbray's son and heir John, duke of Norfolk (1392-1432) married in 1412 a woman, Katherine Neville (born c. 1400), who lived long enough to attend her nephew Richard III's coronation in 1483.  It's rather astonishing to me that a man born in Edward III's reign had a daughter-in-law who lived into Richard III's reign.


1) Calendar of Charter Rolls 1300-1326, p. 205.
2) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
3) J.R.S. Phillips,Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II (1972), pp. 190-191, citing The National Archives SC 1/49/49.
4) Pierre Chaplais, English Medieval Diplomatic Practice (1982), part 1, vol. 1, pp. 63-66.
5) Ibid.
6) Alison Marshall, 'Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England: A Study in Early Fourteenth-Century Aristocracy', PhD dissertation, Univ. of Bristol, 2006, p. 78.
7) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1334-1338, p. 62; Brad Verity, 'Love Matches and Contracted Misery: Thomas of Brotherton and his Daughters (Part 1), in Foundations, the Journal of the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy (2006), 2 (2), pp. 91-110 (p. 105).
8) Patent Rolls 1327-1330, p. 23.

18 October, 2013

Appearance of Edward II (2)

I've decided to update this old post a little as I still sometimes see people online claiming that Edward II was some kind of feeble court fop, and wanted to set the record straight (again).

Here are how fourteenth-century chroniclers described Edward II's appearance:

"Tall and strong, a fine figure of a handsome man."  From the Vita Edwardi Secundi, written during Edward II's reign by a very well-informed royal clerk who must have seen Edward often.  The writer expressed a wish when Edward's son Edward III was born in November 1312 that the boy would grow up to "remind us of the physical strength and comeliness of his father."

"Physically he was one of the strongest men in the realm."  Written some decades later in the Scalacronica by Sir Thomas Gray, whose father of the same name was captured fighting for Edward II at Bannockburn and who later served in the retinue of the Despensers.

"Of a well-formed and handsome person."  A description of Edward aged sixteen at the siege of Caerlaverock in 1300, by a poet who presumably saw him in person.

" A handsome man, strong of body and limb."  Anonimalle, 1330s.

"Elegant, of outstanding strength."  Probably 1330s, from the Bridlington chronicle Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon (Deeds of Edward of Caernarfon).

"Fair of body and great of strength."  From the Polychronicon of c. 1350.

There are no physical descriptions of Edward II which contradict the picture given here, that he was tall, enormously strong and good-looking.  I don't see why there's any reason to doubt that he was indeed tall, enormously strong and good-looking.  The remains of his father Edward I ('Longshanks') were examined in 1774, and he was found to have been six feet two inches.  I'm virtually certain that Edward II was also at least six feet tall.

What do we know otherwise about his appearance?  Sadly there is no detailed description of his hair and eye colour, complexion and so on.  Looking at the illustrations of him below, however, I  think it's reasonable to assume that he had long, wavy or curly fair hair which he wore parted in the middle and framing his face, falling to chin level or thereabouts, perhaps almost to his shoulders.  Later in life, at least, he had a beard.  (Edward II Fact of the Day: his barber in the mid-1320s and probably earlier was called Henry. There's a nice record of the two men playing cross and pile together in 1326; Edward had to borrow five shillings from Henry in order to play, which he later reimbursed.)

Probably Edward II, from a manuscript dating to his time; a king dining alone.

Edward II's effigy at Gloucester Cathedral.

Edward II, from a manuscript of 1326/27.

Edward II, from a manuscript illustration where his father gives him the crown.

I've also written a couple of posts here and here about Edward II's eccentric hobbies and interests, to wit, swimming and rowing, hedging, thatching roofs, digging ditches, shoeing horses and working with wrought iron.  More conventionally, he loved hunting, but not jousting; I don't know of any record where he ever did so, though his son and half-brothers loved it.  I don't know why, but would speculate that as for a long time he was his father's only surviving son and heir, and as jousting killed several noblemen in Edward's childhood - the earl of Surrey's son in 1286, Duke John I of Brabant in 1294, father-in-law of Edward's sister Margaret - his father forbade him from competing on the grounds that it was too dangerous.  What would happen to England if the king's only son were killed?  Disaster.  And then when Edward was older, he'd never be able to compete properly against men who had been practising for many years.  Just speculation, but otherwise it seems odd for Edward not to have enjoyed the universal pastime of men of his class.  His love of eccentric (for the time) hobbies is borne out by chroniclers, Edward's own accounts and the statement at his deposition that his willingness to "give himself up always to improper works and occupations" had led him to neglect the business of running his kingdom.

The one thing you notice about Edward's hobbies is that most of them took place outdoors, and many of them involved manual labour, and an amount of skill and dexterity.  The king spent an entire month out of doors in the autumn of 1315, swimming and rowing with a large group of his subjects.  Combine this love of demanding physical exercise with the descriptions of Edward's enormous strength, above - a strength which seems to have been widely known about in his own lifetime and afterwards - and a picture builds up of what Edward really looked like, the kind of person he really was.  A big tall strong man who enjoyed using his own body, perhaps enjoyed pushing himself to his physical limits, perhaps revelled in his own remarkable physical abilities.  Such a man is the absolute antithesis of the utterly feeble, camp little fop claimed to be 'Edward, prince of Wales' in a certain popular and influential Hollywood film of nearly twenty years ago, no?  And I really do have to wonder where on earth the writer of a book published in 2006 gets the notion that Isabella "had known only the smooth girlish hands of Edward upon her; in their most intimate joining her husband must have fantasized that he was actually making love to Piers Gaveston.  And now this heated warrior [Roger Mortimer] took her, roughly at first, then tenderly.  And he never, ever imagined she was a man."  (Bold mine.)

And this book pretends to be non-fiction.  The mind boggles.  There is so much wrong there I don't even know where to start.  As we've seen in this post, if ever a human being is vanishingly unlikely to have had 'smooth girlish hands', it's Edward II, and this portrayal owes everything to stereotypes relating to sexuality and nothing at all to reality.  It derives from the same mentality as the statement in a 2005 book that Roger Mortimer "was everything that Edward II was not: strong, manly, unequivocally heterosexual, virile, courageous, audacious and decisive."  Here, yet again, we see Roger Mortimer presented on minimal evidence as the anti-Edward II, as though the two men existed not as complex human beings but as cardboard cutouts fit only to be squeezed into false, silly, meaningless, contrived - not to mention highly offensive - dichotomies like this.  We do not and cannot know that Edward did not enjoy making love with Isabella, or even, for that matter, that Roger did.  How on earth can anyone write a book in the twenty-first century and say that Edward II was not strong?  And what do 'manly' and 'virile' really mean anyway?  Let's face it, they're two words only ever applied to straight men, or men assumed to be straight.  Edward II fathered children with two women, was hugely strong, far more so than Roger Mortimer, it seems safe to assume, yet no-one ever calls him 'manly and virile' because, it seems safe to assume, he wasn't straight.  Always interesting to see how some writers allow their prejudices and outdated assumptions to colour their narrative.  The makers of the Hollywood film did the same thing, of course, turning Edward into a caricature, and so have many novels, even when it flies in the face of a wealth of historical evidence to the contrary.  Shame on you all, perpetuators of cruel stereotypes.

11 October, 2013

Edward II and Isabella in Fiction

Here's a list of novels about Edward II and Isabella of France, and my (entirely subjective, of course) opinions of them.  See also the very full list of Edward II fiction on Susan Higginbotham's website.

Highly recommended

- Susan Higginbotham's The Traitor's Wife (2005), a novel about Edward II's niece Eleanor de Clare.  A brilliantly-researched, thorough and dramatic account of Edward's reign seen from the perspective of the woman who arguably was closest to him, by a writer who knows Edward's era inside out.

- Brenda Honeyman's The King's Minions (1974) and its sequel The Queen and Mortimer (also 1974).  My reviews are here and here.  Fantastic pair of novels about Edward and Isabella, full of insight and compassion, packing a lot of story, superb characterisation and good humour into a few pages.  The first one especially is just gorgeous, the most beautiful, erotic and sympathetic telling of Edward II and Piers Gaveston's love story it's ever been my pleasure to read.  Sadly, both novels are long out of print and extremely difficult to find these days.  I live in hope that they'll be reissued some day soon.

- Ivan Fowler's Towards Auramala, a very recent novel, which explores Edward II's survival past 1327 and his secret afterlife in Italy.  Ivan also runs a website on the same theme, well worth a read.  I was thrilled to see my beloved Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster make an appearance in the novel, and he's written very well and convincingly; the scene where he pauses before diving into a lake to save a drowning man so that the ladies present can look at and admire his excellent figure - that's so Henry! - literally made me cry with laughter.  Edward III's good friend William Montacute, earl of Salisbury, also appears as a character, which pleased me a lot.  I'm not really taken with Ivan's depiction of Edward II, who too often comes across as so naive and innocent he's implausibly simple, but his memories of his beloved Piers Gaveston, dead for so long, and his relationships with the people he meets in Italy are beautifully done and moving.  Overall the novel is a terrific exploration of what might have happened to Edward after 1327, and is based on very solid research.


- Margaret Campbell Barnes' Isabel the Fair (1957).  Pretty good account of Isabella's life; both she and Edward are fairly sympathetic characters, and the historical accuracy is good for a novel written more than half a century ago.

- Chris Hunt's Gaveston (1992).  My review is here.  Sexually explicit, and despite the excessively purple prose, a very well-written account of Edward II's life narrated by the king in the first person.  I got exasperated by the slow-moving middle section, and finished the novel frankly exasperated with Edward himself for being so selfish, but still, it's a detailed and accurate telling of Edward's life, or rather, his love life.

- The She-Wolf by Pamela Bennetts (1975); see my review here.  The action in this one takes place between 1325 and 1330, and features a highly unlikeable, even deranged, Isabella and a rather more sympathetic, albeit totally incompetent, Edward.

- The Lion of Mortimer by Juliet Dymoke (1979), which I reviewed here.  Confusing title as the main characters are Edward II's friend William Montacute and his son of the same name, but overall a short and competent account of Edward's reign and its aftermath, and well worth a read if you're interested in the era.

- Harlot Queen by Hilda Lewis (1970).  Awful title and my copy has an awful cover (you can see it here), and melodramatically over-written, but despite myself I rather like this one, even though Edward II runs away at Bannockburn (nooooo, he didn't!), which makes Isabella despise him as a coward and his stepmother Marguerite of France, annoyingly called 'Madam Queen Margaret' throughout, declare "If the dead know aught he [Edward I] is shamed this day!"  I like it basically because of the ending; it's one of the very few Edward II novels which follow the notion that he didn't die at Berkeley Castle, which makes a pleasant and refreshing change from endless fictional accounts of a red-hot poker.  Without wanting to give too much of the story away to anyone who might want to read the novel - it was reissued a few years ago and is also easily available on Kindle - the last scene really moved me and felt emotionally satisfying and like real closure, and I'd love to think something similar actually happened.

- Alice by Sandra Wilson (1976), a romance where the (fictional) heroine Alice de Longmore falls in love with Piers Gaveston.  Well, who wouldn't, say I.  My hero Stephen Dunheved also features as a character, so that's two reasons to love it.  A downside is the description of Edward II as having a "strange womanish air" despite also being "a giant, strong and muscular," though overall he's pretty likeable.  A very nice story; I really enjoyed this one.

- The Lord of Misrule (1972) and its sequel King's Wake (1977) by Eve Trevaskis; the first one opens in 1300 and features Piers Gaveston as a major character, and the second begins shortly before Edward II's forced abdication, at Christmas 1326.  I'm afraid I can't say much about either novel at the moment as it's a few years since I read them and I really can't remember much about what happens in them.  Sarah Johnson at Reading the Past wrote a review of Lord of Misrule back in 2006.

- A Brittle Glory by Jean Evans (1977).  I can't remember this one much either, except that it's narrated in the first person by Edward II's Fool Robert Withstaff - who was a real person - and that I enjoyed it.

- The Follies of the King by Jean Plaidy (1980).  A typical Plaidy, competently told story, well-researched, characterisation minimal, and the usual red-hot poker.

- Cashelmara by Susan Howatch (1974), Edward II's story transplanted to nineteenth-century Ireland, with Piers Gaveston renamed Derry Stranahan and Roger Mortimer Maxwell Drummond; and Gaveston by Stephanie Merritt (2002), narrated in the present day by Gaby Harvey (i.e. Margaret de Clare), who falls in love with the glamorous academic Professor Piers Gaveston and later discovers his real relationship with her uncle Edward.  I really enjoyed both 'updates' of the story.

Not my cup of tea

- David Pownall's The Ruling Passion (2008), which I reviewed here, achieves something I always thought was impossible and makes the story of Edward II and Piers Gaveston really, really boring, so boring, in fact, that after I'd read a few chapters staring at a bare wall began to seem preferable to reading any more.  It has Edward and Isabella having to consummate their marriage while being spied on by a heavily-breathing dwarf, and in another scene has Edward being 'noisily buggered' by Piers Gaveston, which is possibly even less sexy than it sounds.  The main character is not in fact Edward or Piers, but the invented and also deeply boring William Wild, the Irishman.  It's very, very talky, and despite the title, has no passion whatsoever.  Actually, on the passionometer, it'd clock in at about minus 286.

- Paul Doherty's Death of a King (1982), the novel which - grrrrrrr - invented the theory that Edward II was not the father of Edward III, and made Roger Mortimer his real father, which of course is entirely impossible, despite being enthusiastically taken up as a theory by various other novelists.  The novel is wildly historically inaccurate, as all of Doherty's Edward II/Isabella novels and even his non-fictional book about them are, but has more credibility than it deserves, given that Doherty has a doctorate from Oxford about Isabella.  It's an interesting read, as a clerk of Edward III sets out to discover the truth about Edward II's fate in 1327 and ends up putting himself in danger as he gets too close to finding out what really happened, but the characterisation lets it down: both Isabella and particularly her son Edward III are weirdly portrayed as evil, raving psychopaths prepared to kill just about anyone.

- Paul Doherty's Mathilde of Westminster novels; my review of the third and so far final one is here.  (Did you know that Isabella of France was really, really, amazingly beautiful and sexy and desirable?  You certainly will when you've read these novels.)  As crime novels the series works, more or less, but as always Doherty abandons any pretence to historical accuracy, though his author's notes claim otherwise.  There's also his Prince of Darkness, one of his Hugh Corbett series, set in 1301 and featuring Piers Gaveston and a very precocious Edward of Caernarfon, who despite being only seventeen had discarded a mistress two years previously and is now desperate for her to die, for reasons that are never made clear.

- The Vows of the Peacock by Alice Walworth Graham (1955), reviewed here.  Narrated by the earl of Warwick's daughter Elisabeth Beauchamp, mysteriously much older than she was in real life.  Very slow, not too bad a read and by all means give it a try if you come across a copy, but don't go out of your way to find it.

- Janet Kilbourne's 1975 Where Nobles Tread, featuring the fictional characters Eleanor 'Nell' Stanton and William Darcy and the real-life Edward II, Isabella, Piers Gaveston and so on.  Nell becomes Piers' mistress, though Piers shares Edward II's bed with as much enthusiasm as he does Nell's.  Edward is much given to "drunken, rutting orgies" and Isabella calls him a 'pig' to his face, though she's hardly any better herself, taking lovers with wild abandon.  No-one seems to notice or care.  Isabella tries to seduce Our Hero William, who of course turns her down because he has far too much integrity to take advantage of the seductive little minx.  The novel is splendidly awful, full of stuff like "The Gascon eyes of Piers Gaveston blazed in a drunken wrath as he swayed slightly. 'Nell,' he gritted, 'are you coming?'...".  In fact, Piers 'grits' with alarming frequency.  It can't be healthy.  The author has a strange allergy to the word 'said', so that the characters grit, pout, croak, hiss, huff, bawl suddenly, retort bitterly, and ooze words, but rarely 'say' anything.  (To be fair, the author was only seventeen when she wrote it.)

No, thank you

- N. Gemini Sasson's Isabeau and its sequel The King Must Die, self-published in 2010 and 2012.  Isabeau is a very modern novel which follows all the usual tedious and inaccurate Victim!Isabella tropes that we see so often nowadays, and of course we have Shrieking Gay Edward II and One-Dimensionally Nasty Hugh Despenser.  Edward, who was described by fourteenth-century chroniclers as "one of the strongest men of his realm" and "fair of body and great of strength" here is "frail and defenceless"; the king who fought on the front line at Bannockburn and had his horse killed underneath him is said to have fled from the battle "because the sight of blood made him queasy" and to have been too "cowardly" to hit Isabella (errrrr, what?).  As with numerous other novels about Edward II and Isabella (Felber, Campbell Barnes and so on), Isabeau opens with a scene where Edward is not particularly interested in twelve-year-old Isabella at their wedding in January 1308, and evidently the reader is supposed to feel great sympathy for her and baffled annoyance with Edward for failing to acknowledge her amazing beauty and appeal, rather than thinking 'But surely it's normal and indeed preferable for a man in his twenties not to be sexually attracted to a pre-pubescent he's only just met and is having to marry for political reasons?'.  There are some scenes I found really unpleasant, such as the one where Isabella's young children are literally torn from her arms on Edward's orders - this never happened - and one near the beginning where Edward "snivels," which is entirely typical of the way he's depicted throughout.  Of course he does.  He's a lover of men.  Unpleasant stereotypes and clichés of how gay men are supposed to behave and feel such as this are what lazy writers use in place of actual characterisation.  Does the very manly and hetero Roger Mortimer "snivel" in the novel?  I think you know the answer to that one.

- Edith Felber's Queen of Shadows: A Novel of Isabella, Wife of Edward II (2006), which would be more accurately titled A novel of an invented Welshwoman called Gwenith who tediously spends half the novel mooning around trying to kill Edward II because his father hurt her family, which is really bizarre if you think about it.  See my review and comments here, here and here.  Shadows is full of awful inaccuracies and is another novel, grrrrrr, which has Edward II not being the real father of Edward III, who appears - though it's never made clear - to have been fathered instead by an unidentified Scotsman when Edward II 'abandoned' Isabella in Scotland (as for when and how that is meant to have happened, your guess is as good as mine).  I did rather like the character of Edward in this one, however; Felber does have talent as a writer and, unlike Sasson and others, doesn't go down the lazy and offensive route of using Edward's sexuality and caricatures of gay men as a cheap and easy way of creating reader sympathy for Isabella.

- Brandy Purdy's self-published The Confession of Piers Gaveston (2007).  My review is here.  It has a few really good reviews online, but I found it laughably awful, with the characterisation of Edward II evidently taken straight out of The Big Book Of Horrible Gay Caricatures and Piers Gaveston written as a low-born prostitute.  A prostitute.  Piers Gaveston, a prostitute.  Words fail me.

- Maurice Druon's 1959 The She-Wolf of France, La Louve de France in the French original; part of his Les Rois Maudits/The Accursed Kings series.  I utterly loathed it, with its dreadful characterisation and silly, entirely implausible dialogue (see here).  Druon's series has tons of fans, however, some of whom have commented or emailed me to complain about my review.  Haha, tough!

- Bannok Burn, part of the series about Robert Bruce by Charles Randolph Bruce and Carolyn Hale Bruce.  I read as much of it as I could stand, which wasn't much, because the dialogue is the worst I've ever read, Isabella of France inexplicably can't speak even the most basic French correctly ('mon dames'??) and Roger Mortimer is Edward III's real father.  Too, too dreadful to contemplate.  Here's an all too typical example of the awful writing:

"Better that, than hiein' south as you did when you heard Black Douglas was lurkin' in Douglasdale," gainsaid Percy. "Did ye fear his father's ghost was guidin' the young whoreson's hands for your throat?"
"Cease this bickerin'!" shouted the king, standing and throwing his hands in the air.



There are plenty of other novels which feature Edward II as a background or minor character, or which are set in his reign, such as David Pilling's Folville's Law; Steven McKay's Wolf's Head; Michael Jecks' long historical crime fiction series; Elizabeth Ashworth's An Honourable Estate, to name but a few.  Also a few romance novels: Virginia Henley's Infamous and Notorious, which should however be given the widest berth possible unless you enjoy seeing gay men constantly derided and disdained as perverted and disgusting; Mary Reed McCall's excellent and highly recommended Templar series; books by Melissa Mayhue, Annelise Kamada, Madeline Hunter, Isolde Martyn, and the very enjoyable The Lion and the Leopard by Mary Ellen Johnson, featuring an invented character who is Edward II's illegitimate half-brother.

And finally, other novels which feature Edward II as a character, which I haven't found time to read properly yet:

- The Queen's Tale by D.L. Birmingham
- Alesia de Lacy by J.G. Ruddock
- Woman into Wolf by Terry Tucker
- Letter from Poitou by Michael J. Eardley
- A Secret Chronicle by Jane Lane (whose main character is Edward II's daughter Joan of the Tower, queen of Scotland).