The Coronation of Edward II

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The Coronation of Edward II

Edward II’s coronation was a major fiasco as the nobility deplored Piers Gaveston’s organisational skills. It affected the Anglo-French alliance at the time.

Edward II’s Coronation on 25 February 1308 was badly organised. The ceremony finished late and the royal favourite, Piers Gaveston, caused outrage by upstaging the nobles and even the King himself! Gaveston was also responsible for this monumental blunder!

The King and his Queen, Isabella of France, walked, along a timber pathway laid with blue cloth strewn with herbs, in stately procession from Westminster Hall to the Abbey, as the Barons of the Cinque Ports carried an embroidered canopy over their heads. They entered through the back door to avoid fighting their way through, as the crowds were not controlled properly. One man was trodden to death as the Abbey was overcrowded.

Edward married twelve-year-old Isabella on 25 January—only one month before the Coronation. The marriage was arranged when she was seven years old.

The chief magnates walked ahead carrying the regalia. [1] However Gaveston gave himself the greatest honour—carrying St Edward the Confessor’s crown! (This was usually granted to the highest noble in England, not a mere upstart recently elevated to the peerage.) However, Gaveston’s grubby hands caused considerable offence.

The peers’ wives were invited, for the first time, in the Queen’s honour.

Gaveston wore pearl-encrusted silk robes of imperial purple—a colour reserved for royalty—whilst the other earls wore the traditional cloth of gold.

Only Isabella’s presence prevented the earls striking Gaveston inside the church.

The Bishop of Winchester performed the ceremony, as the Archbishop of Canterbury was in exile.

Edward II took his coronation oath in French, instead of the traditional Latin. He promised to “uphold and defend the righteous laws and customs which the community of the realm shall determine.” [2] He was anointed with holy oil and crowned before the peers paid homage, before Isabella was crowned.

The King and the Queen led the vast congregation back to Westminster Hall for the coronation banquet. They waited until dark when the food was finally served, but it was badly cooked, inedible and ill-served.

The French, including the Queen’s uncles and her brother Charles, were appalled when the King insisted Gaveston sat beside him, instead of the Queen.

Edward’s behaviour confirmed suspicions of a homosexual relationship. Some described Gaveston as “the love of Edward’s life” despite the King’s claims they were like brothers.

The French demanded the tapestries with the Queen’s arms be displayed instead of Gaveston’s. (Two London upholsterers made these especially for this occasion.)

Isabella’s uncles returned to France in disgust and complained to her father, Philip IV, that Edward had insulted her.

Philip IV intervened after his daughter and sister, Margaret (Edward I’s widow), were subjected to further insults. Edward also faced revolts from his nobles, so he sent Gaveston into temporary exile.

Sources:

  1. Doherty, Paul, Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II
  2. Earle, Peter, The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England [edited by Antonia Fraser], Edward II [pp 87-93]
  3. Weir, Alison, Isabella She-Wolf of France, Queen of England
  4. Williamson, David, Kings and Queens of Britain, Edward II [pp 76-77]
  5. [1] Weir, Alison, Isabella, Pimlico [Random House], London, 2006, p 35
  6. [2] Ibid.
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