Click a green square to see the Latin text. Click a blue square to see a commentary note.   


FTER the death of his father, Edward Prince of Wales quickly convened a parliament. First he bade the Scots nobles swear homage to him, which all freely did save for a few who followed Robert Bruce. Then, leaving behind a strong garrison in Scotland, he returned to London. When he had entered the city, he was acclaimed as king with the cheers of all men, and not much later he was crowned at Westminster with much pomp together with his wife Isabelle, the daughter of King Philippe the Fair of France, whom he had married at this same time. This was on February 10 in the year of human salvation 1307, and he was called Edward, the second of that name after William I the Norman. At the beginning of this reign, even if he was prone to levity by nature, he was constrained by the advice of some of his councilors to show a goodly character, and so he began to put on a show of gravity, probity, and modesty. But he could not be kept altogether under control. Rather he gradually began to reveal the petulance and vanity which he had originally embraced in secret, as if in the grip of youthful error. But he subsequently recalled a certain Piers Ganeston, a very polluted fellow whom his father had removed from his company and banished, and as soon has he was returned from his exile Edward made him Earl of Cornwall and governor of the realm. He was so depraved by the company of this man that he openly broke forth with greater vices. For at length, by Piers’ approval and instigation he began to have no respect for his nobles, to have no time for the goodly arts, and to have no concern for the commonwealth, with the result that he quickly gave himself over to delights and a very soft, wanton way of life. And to assist his enthusiasm, Piers (who seemed to be anything but unwilling to infatuate the young man) surrounded him from the beginning with troops of clowns, wastrels, parasites, minstrels, and ever manner of scurvy villain, so that his sovereign would spend his days and nights with these fellows in joking, playing, drinking, and many other dishonorable exercises. What of the fact that, being particularly eager to give a leg up to fellows like himself, he arranged for them to be given great honors? This great evildoing of Piers to the king created such unpopularity that the nobles decided it was no longer tolerable. Therefore, in the hope that the young sovereign’s mind could be changed and the poison, with which his morals were not yet thoroughly imbued, could be removed if only this corrupter were driven way, attacked Piers and drove him into exile in Ireland. The king took this deed in the worst part, and began through threaten chains, torture and death against all and sundry who stood in the way of Piers’ immediate recall to England, he was affected by such a sudden longing for his Piers, the memory of whom could not be removed from his heart. The nobles, thinking these things were not so terrible in practice as in the telling, and confident in their minds that their sovereign would more readily return to himself, and that his friend, likewise fearing for himself, would never be the same old Piers, thought they should offer no further resistance. But they were very mistaken in this opinion. For when Piers had been brought back from exile and returned to England in such a manner that he lost his fear, nothing was more important to him than to lash out at all of them with truculence, and to stimulate and inflame the king’s mind even more vehemently. When the nobles grasped this, they took up arms and gave chase to Piers, and when they caught up with him a few day later not far from Gloucester they butchered him. This was the end of Ganeston, who led a disorderly life. But Edward was so far removed from being deterred from his way of life by Piers’ death for the future, that he even took the most wicked scoundrels into his friendship and made them members of this Privy Council. Among these where the two men named Hugh le Dispenser, father and sons, two notable corrupters of his character, because he was particularly ruled by their advice. Although this thing troubled many men, it tormented Robert Archbishop of Canterbury, who foresaw that either the king himself or the realm would go to perdition. Thinking that some quick remedy needed to be devised for this imminent danger, he called a meeting of the nobility. At this meeting the state of the commonwealth was, as it were, designed anew, and the king was given new counselors who would make the most important decisions. With men’s minds appeased by the intervention of the good prelate, the king promised on his oath that he would observe all the decisions of his Council. But, as the saying goes, he was a blind man groping at a wall. For this youth, heedless of what he had sworn, or of the religious power of an oath, afterwards observed none of his undertakings. Now it was the fourth year of Edward’s reign, the year of salvation 1311, when Robert of Canterbury died in his nineteenth year in office, who strove to the best of his abilities to deserve well both of religion and of the commonwealth. And from this he never swerved, never turned aside his eyes, thus he thought he was obliged to do his duty and consult for the welfare of all men. Walter was substituted in place of the dead Robert, the forty-ninth archbishop. Likewise departed this life William Archbishop of York, whom William Melton succeeded, the forty-second in the series of those prelates. In the selfsame year died Philippe the Fair, King of France, who was succeeded by his elder son Louis le Hutin, King of Navarre.
2. While Edward lived a life of idleness and, incited by the counsels of evil men, made his nobles’ minds all the angrier at himself, Robert King of Scots, hearing that in no wise did he resemble his father, thought the time had come when he could free his nation from servitude. So without any delay he attacked the English garrison, partly routing and scattering them, and partly killing them, including John Comyn, an adherent of the English party. And so at a stroke he took back almost all of Scotland. Seeing this beginning had turned out excellently, he next hurried to the borders of England, filling all with killing and devastation, and encircled the town of Berwick with a siege. But a few days later, when he observed he was making no progress, he voluntarily broke this up. As soon as Edward learned these things, he was inflamed with anger and swore he would destroy the Scottish nation at the first moment possible. At the same time he enthusiastically prepared an army and decked it out most fairly, just as if he were going to celebrate a triumph rather than fight a war. The soldiers wore armor decorated with gold, silver, and gems, the horses had noble bosses and precious horse-clothes. And so, with such forces he set our for Scotland not much later, and made straight for Castle Stirling, which Philip Mowbray, its warden, had so far defended stoutly. There he encamped, and joined battle with Robert. In this battle Edward, as if having no doubt of victory, placed its ranks in such disorder that at the first encounter the English, thrown into confusion, were not only harried by those fighting in front of them, but also received terrible wounds from the supporting troops behind them, because, oppressed by so much killing, they were compelled to seek their safety in flight. The king got back into Yorkshire with a few companions. A number of knights were killed, including Earl Gilbert of Gloucester, Robert Clifford, Giles de Argentine, Pagan Tipstoft, William Marshall, and Reginald Dancort. They say that the dead amounted to about 10,000. Likewise, many nobles were captured, who afterwards redeemed themselves for a great price. Among these was Earl Humfrey of Hereford, and to gain his freedom Isabelle the wife of Robert Bruce, who, as I have said in the preceding Book, was being held captive at London, was let go. Then the king held a parliament at York, where he lingered for a while, in which he first dealt with his nobles about rebuilding the army, being eager to repair the damage it had lately received. And the ensuing summer, which was the year of salvation 1314, was rendered very deadly first by a famine, and then by a plague.
3. Meanwhile the Scots, elated by so great a victory, crossed over to Ireland under the leadership of King Robert’s brother Edward. For when they learned that King Edward had halted in Yorkshire and was rebuilding his army, they decided that, so they might not test the fortune of war, they should not pursue their enemy, but rather fight somewhere else. Therefore when they arrived at Ireland they landed their forces and attacked the island unexpectedly, ravaging far and wide, and sacking villages, castles, and undefended towns everywhere. When the islanders recovered from their panic and had gathered together, they joined themselves to the royal garrison commanded by John Berningham, a brave man, and with their forces thus joined they resisted their enemies’ enterprises as stoutly as they could. Then the two people fought against each other for four years with mutual slaughter, on the one side the Scots struggling to gain control of the island (since, having gained a goodly part already, they had created Edward their king), and the Irish attempting to drive their enemies far away. But in the end the persistence of the islanders prevailed. For since no breathing-space was granted the Scots, but rather they were pressed by continual struggle, at length they were overwhelmed in a single battle when a new draught of soldiers arrived from England. In this battle died their captain Edward, and the rest were partly killed, and partly driven back to the ships they had ready for any emergency, and were driven back into their Scotland. And this was done in the fourth year after the Scots came into Ireland. The English annals state that more than 30,000 enemy and 15,000 islanders died at this time.
4. In the following year John XXII was created Pope. His particular concern was to arrange a peace between the Kings of Scotland and England, for he heard that both sides had long been engaged in this struggle. So he sent two Cardinals who were to go, first, to England, and then to Scotland. When they came to England they dealt with the Scots about peace by means of messengers sent back and forth. And since Robert would not agree to a resolution on fair terms, they continued to Scotland. But before they arrived there Robert, who did not adjudge it beneficial to himself to make peace with the English king at this time, sent soldiers to meet them and forbid their entry into Scotland. But, touched by this insult, the prelates excommunicated the Scots on their own authority and forbade them the sacraments. And, seeing there was nothing more hopeless than a composition with Robert, they returned to the Pope, their task unfinished. This excommunication wounded Robert’s mind, in part because he thought this a personal reproach, and partly because he thought that that the English king had arranged for this blot of shame to be placed on the Scots nation, so men could say it had been banished from the assembly of the pious. Thus excited with anger, he hastened to set siege to the town of Berwick, and when he arrived at the place he promised the townsmen immunity if they would surrender the town within three days. But, should they fail to do this, he pronounced a sentence of death upon them all. The burghers, who understood that King Edward was negligent in tending his affairs, so that they estimated no help was to be expected from him, forthwith surrendered themselves to the King of Scots. Gaining the town, Robert set all the townsmen free, as he had promised, and then he fortified the town with a garrison of his own men, and went home victorious. And yet I have seen some sources maintain that prior to the king’s arrival the town was handed over to James Douglas by the treason of its governor, Peter Spalding. And this does not greatly abhor from the truth, since it is well agreed that at the time this town was by far the best fortified, so much so that a little earlier the King of Scots had attempted to take it by storm, as I have written above. What do we say about the fact that at this time all English affairs turned out badly? For Henry de Beauchamps, a man of great virtue, assembled no mean band of soldiers and invaded Scotland. And after he had done much plundering, he was surrounded by James Douglas and deprived of his booty and a great part of his provisions. The ruinous daring of Gilbert Middleton increased this domestic misfortune. He was angry at Louis de Beaumont, whom the Pope had made Bishop of Durham at King Edward’s request. For he had lately defeated Henry Standford, captured him and his brother Henry, and placed them in Mitford Castle, nor had he released them before they ransomed themselves for a great sum of money. Puffed up by this, he styled himself Duke of Northumbria and, having joined forces with the Scots, he cruelly wasted the County of Richmond. Annoyed at these evildoings, William Felton and Thomas Heton first besieged Mitford Castle, then took Gilbert together with his confederate Walter Sebie, and sent them to London as captives, where after a little while they paid the price for their crimes. When Edward learned that Berwick had been lost, he went there with a small force and besieged the town. Robert appeared not long thereafter bringing aid to his subjects, and as soon as he approached the place, he encamped and commanded his men to come out in battle array. Now he was marching at the enemy when the English king abandoned the siege and retired into Yorkshire with an uninterrupted flight. Thinking he had nothing to fear since the king had fled, Robert pursued him as far as Durham, and after killing many men he collected much booty on his homeward march. Some historians write that the King of Scots, relying on his garrison at Berwick, entered England by another route and arrived at the river Swale, which flows by the village of Langton, and that in this vicinity he concealed himself under haystacks to deceive the English; and then that he suddenly burst out to confront them and killed 2,000, and this was the thing which recalled Edward from his siege. This was the year of human salvation 1316, the ninth of Edward’s reign.
5. Now the English name was held in contempt by all men because of the misfortune of its prince, who, being devious and headstrong, did nothing that was not foolish. This thing so troubled the nobles that they constantly thought how they could recall this man, who was young but not evil, to his duty, so that, with the le Dispensers removed, he would allow the nobles to be his officers (and he was not unaware that the Privy Council had ordained this long ago). Therefore after a lengthy consultation, they decided they must resort to arms. And so with supreme enthusiasm they elected as their leaders Earls Thomas of Lancaster and Humfrey of Hereford, together with the two Dukes named Roger Mortimer. They immediately snatched up their arms and threw into exile those two men named Hugh le Dispenser, father and son, those evil blots upon the realm, those furies and banes of the commonwealth. This done, they went to the king and explained that it had not been out of hatred, but rather for the sake of the safety of the realm, that they had expelled those two men as if they were a pair of plagues, since as long as they governed the commonwealth could not be safe. And so they asked that he take nothing in bad part. The king, being mild by nature and a man who did not keep his own counsel, but rather heeded the urgings of any man at all, acquiesced in the counsels of his noble, and at the time approved of them well enough. And at a parliament held not much later by his own decree he pronounced the two Hughs to be exiles, and at the same confiscated their goods. These things done, the Earls of Lancaster and Hereford went to Wales to take back some towns which had hitherto been held by the exiles. Since these were well enough fortified, the garrison within refused to surrender them without the command of the two Hughs. Receiving this answer, the earls were now addressing themselves to a siege, for they had readied every manner of military engine. Then Edward, who placed more value on his friendship with the le Dispensers than for the dignity and safety of his realm (for it is hard to break a habit, and to remain unmoved by longing for those men have ingratiated themselves with you by sharing your pleasures), said that he needed not do anything save by his own right, and shuddered at the advice of good men. So he began once more to wish the two Hughes to be the authors of his counsels, the partners of his pleasures, and the partakers of his every thought. Therefore first he secretly advised Hugh the father not to leave the kingdom, but rather to hide himself in the seacoast of Wales. Then he went out with an army and openly summoned both Hughes to himself. In that region the Hughs had many friends, among whom were Earl John of Arundel, Robert Baldock, the Lord Chancellor, and Simon Reading, men of no small usefulness. So they took counsel with these men how they might gain revenge for the nobles’ insult (for they called this an insult, and the sovereign did not want it to go unavenged, since they had sent away the two Hughs, his two instructors in the evil arts, at which they were most proficient). He divided his army in two, retaining one part and commanding the other to go towards Derby under the command of Andrew Hartley, so as to surround the earls. And they in the meantime, after storming nearly all the places which had belonged to the two Hughs, were encamped at Burton, a village on the other side of the river Trent. He himself marched towards Shrewsbury, and then straight on to the next village of Tutbury, which is across the river, so that he might attack the earls from the rear. But when the earls learned by frequent messengers that the king was approaching in a hostile manner, struck by this doubtful evil of the necessity they prepared to flee. At the moment they feared nothing from their sovereign, although they had heard before that he had summoned the two Hughes back to their nation, who were marching towards York with a military escort. But the roads were blocked by Andrews Hartley and they fell into an ambush. Here a great battle was fought. While riding fiercely at his enemy, Earl Humfrey of Hereford was run through by a spear and died. At the loss of so great a captain the rest were crestfallen and took to flight, and as they fled in every direction they were either killed or capture. Among these were Earl Thomas of Lancaster, the two Roger Mortimers, Gilbert Talbot, and Robert Clifford, the son of that man whom I have shown above died in the Scottish war. Likewise the three Williams, Warrenne, Cheney, and Tuchet, John Page, and many other nobles. Nearly all were executed within a few days at various places. After being imprisoned at Pontefract for a number of days Earl Thomas was beheaded. They say that this was a man of supreme integrity and innocence, and because of his holiness he became very famous for his performance of miracles. But on the other hand, many were of the opinion that he was not endowed with such pure morals. It is very difficult to measure a man’s virtue by the verdict of the common man, who is prone to judge little according to truth, and much according to opinion, and to carp at every man, rightly or wrongly. The slaughter of these nobles occurred in the year of salvation 1320, the thirteenth of Edward’s reign.
6. After this victory the king entrusted everything to his Hughs, gave them supreme rule once more, boasted that he had overcome his subjects by a trick, and, in sum, thought he was in heaven. He wrathfully threatned, passed harmful judgments against all men unless they heeded his word, and at the same time he was openly estranged from his wife Isabelle, who gave him sound advice. For their part the nobles, seeing everything now to be full of despair, were plunged into both sorrow and grief. Furthermore, moved by the disgrace of the slaughter of their fellows, they started seeking a suitable time and place to destroy the Hughs, and by this means to restore their sovereign to his sanity. They could not help but hate him and curse him in their every prayer, who was so bent on harming his subjects that he cared not a fig for guarding his own safety. But Edward, although he was thus held in ill repute by all men, strove to enhance his nobles’ hatred and grudge against himself, not to appease it. Like a dunce and a nitwit, he failed to appreciate the danger which was hanging over himself. And so in the following year he went to York and there he held a parliament attended by very few, since all men feared the Hughes. In this parliament King Edward’s son was created Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, then the elder Hugh le Dispenser was made Earl of Winchester, and Andrew Hartley Earl of Carlisle, and this is the reason why the parliament had been convened. Meanwhile Walter Archbishop of Canterbury convened a synod of the clergy at London, in which, after some things had been established for the good condition of the priesthood, at the the king’s request he publicly denounced as impious and excommunicated all those who had persecuted the two Hughs and wrongly sent them into exile, who had later rightly been restored. It is reasonable to imagine that by this pronouncment, both silly and unfair, he brought down God’s wrath on himself and garnered the hatred of the people. At this same time the castle situated at Lewes in Sussex, which had been held by the nobles, was captured by the king when part of the garrison lost its confidence, and all captured within were slain to a man, setting the worst example in human memory.
7. While England was thus suffering from domestic seditions, the Scots were wasting County Durham on one side, and on another the French were vexing Aquitaine with their incursions. But so that they would not be said to break the peace or the treaty, they said they were doing this because Edward had failed to swear homage to King Louis as his beneficiary, since he was the possessor of the principality of Aquitaine and the domain of Ponthieu, when in truth they themselves, being the nation most eager to expand the borders of their rule and recognizing that Edward was unsuccessful in war and, poor in his counsel, was not enjoying concord with his subjects, and twice within a few days had accepted a grave defeat at the hands of the King of Scots, thought the time had come when at length they could deprive the English king of all his possessions in France without much toil or effort. And so under the pretext of extracting an oath from him they went to war as soon as they could. And this was the cause of this war. Now I return to my narrative. Edward, beset by a double evil at the same time, after he had deliberated what had to be done, decided he himself needed to go against the Scots, whom he thought posed the nearer and more imminent danger, to keep them out of his territories. And to restrain the French he sent to Aquitaine his brother Earl Edmund of Kent. Therefore, before very many days had passed, while his enemies were retiring behind their borders, laden down with plunder, he attacked Scotland with no small number of soldier. And because at his first entry he encountered no enemies, he boldly marched many miles farther than he should, when he was suddenly attacked from the rear by the enemies and routed in a trice. Afterwards the Scots, having pursued the fugitives, dealing out death as far as the Norham Castle, suddenly halted and, taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a success, launched an attack on the castle. They gained it on the tenth day of their siege. King Edward, partly provoked by anger, and partly by the ignominy of this shameful flight, repaired his army soon thereafter and quickly began to march against Scotland. Learning of his approach, the Scotsmen routed him before he could invade them. For when he, now less of a stranger to disgrace, was devoting himself to the hunt more than to a commander’s duties in the forest near Blackmoore on the other side of the river Tees, the Scots arrived and he came close to being captured. With the king routed in this way, with the same onrush the Scots came into Yorkshire, and, after they had burnt a number of villages and buildings, they carried home a goodly amount of corn and cattle. The English nobility, of course, grieved for this national misfortune, but they offered no help and tolerated this calamity with more calmness because they thought that, because of it, the jig would more quickly be up for the two Hughs. Forit was their fault that the king daily fought against the enemy with bad success, because of his lack of friends. This was the year of human salvation 1332, the fifteenth of Edward’s reign.
8. Meanwhile Edmund arrived in Aquitaine, but because had been ill-handled by storms, he made his appearance later than his fellow-countrymen had suspected, and now the French occupied the greater part of Aquitaine. When Edward learned of this, so that for the sake of helping his subjects he could deal with his enemy in any way possible, at the beginning of the following year he sent his sister Isabelle to her brother Charles the Fair, who had succeeded Louis Hutin as King of France, as a meaning of putting an end to their controversies. Charles gladly gave his sister an audience, and promised he would return all towns taken from the King of England if only Edward would swear the traditional oath. Isabelle informed her husband of her brother’s response, and urged that he show his due faith by taking the oath. Hearing this news from his wife, Edward sent to France his son Edward, a boy of twelve years, whom he had lately made Prince of Wales and Duke of Aquitaine, as I have written above. He swore the customary oath and the treaty was renewed, and he received back all of Aquitaine, having given full satisfaction.
9. While the King of France was thus placated, a nefarious treason arose at home. Since his frequent ill successes against the Scots had now convinced Edward that he should fear the fortune of war and at length seek peace, he gave Earl Andrew of Carlisle the task of dealing with the King of Scots about concord in some good way. At the order of the king, he set off for Scotland and dealt with King Robert, but about war rather than peace. For either because he despaired of Edward’s affairs, for whom everything at home and abroad was hateful, and attributed this evil to Edward’s negligence, or because he naturally delighted in nothing more than cheats and frauds, he entered into an agreement with the Scottish king about when and where a trap should be set for Edward, and so that their mutual trust might be shored up Robert bound Andrew to him by a new kinship, betrothing to him his sister, who was choice and handsome beyond all other women. Their scheme having been devised in this way, the king was informed of this treason, although nobody knows by whom: it is that difficult to keep everybody in the dark about what you are doing, no matter how hard you try, and this is especially true of treason, which walks on a thousand feet and, wherever it goes, leaves a thousand footprints behind itself by which it can easily be caught out. And so when Andrew returned to Carlisle, by royal command he was taken by the soldiers wintering there, immediately convicted, and executed. Thus Andrew built the gallows on which he was later hanged. But the matter was otherwise. For some historians (and I am not ashamed to agree with them) say that Andrew, moved by his nation’s evils, made peace with the King of Scots, an honorable one at that, and required the local prefects to swear to abide by it. But inasmuch as he did this without the king’s bidding and that of the Hughs, he was marked down as a traitor and died an ill death, being a man who in any event received this punishment for his many other crimes. Thus the evildoer is never safe, that which the proverbial allegory teaches us clearly: If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make by bed in Hell, behold, thou art there. Would that a plaque bearing this prophetic line were put up in the sight of many men, who, relying on authority, give a fig for nothing! I return to my topic. The King of Scots grew wearied of the troubles and tediums of war, and so took the initiative in asking for peace, and Edward granted him a thirteen years’ truce. And after he was thus reconciled to the English king for the time being, Pope John forgave this long-recalcitrant man for his sins, and removed his ban of excommunication and reckoned all his nation among the number of the pious. This was the year of human salvation 1323, and the sixteenth of Edward’s reign. I should not omit this, that at the same time good care was taken for learning. For Henry de Stanton, a knight who abounded in riches, decided to spend his fortune on the use and commodity of good intellects, so they might serve the honor and usefulness of the nation. And so in that same year this generous man began to build a hall at Cambridge, in which a little later he founded a college of students of the goodly arts, dedicating this work to St. Michael the Archangel, which today is very fruitful in the cultivation of the goodly arts. In the selfsame year Edward held a parliament at London, and had all those adjudged enemies of their country who had stood with the Earls of Hereford and Lancaster, angry that a little before one of the two men named Roger Mortimer had secretly made his escape from the Tower of London. Likewise, since at that time many men were being daily visited with various punishments thanks to the cruelty of the Hughs, and it was a bitter sight to see the bodies of the condemned hanging from so-called gibbets and serving as food for the birds, in the same parliament it was provided that the bodies of hanged men would be cut down and buried immediately, a law that is still observed.
9. After this, at the beginning of springtime, when the king understood his son Edward had sworn homage to Charles, in accordance with custom, and that peace had been made and he had recovered what had been lost, he promptly summoned his wife Isabelle home. Receiving the message, either because she was detained by her brother, whose patience had now run out (as is reasonable to believe) and now revealed he could accomplish nothing with her husband by his authority or friendship, or because she was reluctant to return so she would not have to witness everything at home being thrown into confusion by the Hughs, which she even thought most hideous to hear about, or perhaps because, after the manner of women, she did everything slowly, she purposefully delayed her homecoming throughout the entire summer, excusing herself by giving various reasons for her delay in letters, all written in the same tenor. But so that she would not fall under suspicion with her husband Edward, she began to send home individually a number of the men she had brought with her to France. But because of this the king was very irate at Charles, by whose counsel he thought the woman was being governed, and so he arranged with Pope Johnto write a letter rebuking the French king and admonishing him to send his sister to her husband, together with their son. Learning of this and troubled of mind, the queen decided she must return to England. Here my authors disagree. Some say that Isabella hurried back to England to return into her husband’s good graces. In others we read that she was irate both at her husband and the two Hughs, and decided to return to foment popular rioting as a means of avenging the insult she had received, and this, as soon became evident from the sequel, is the most true. For since this exceedingly prudent woman understood that the Hughs had excluded, separated, and segregated all good men from the Privy Council and from the commonwealth, and in their place had introduced their creatures, I mean their dependant clients, what hope could she put in her husband, who was willing to listen to the Hughs but to nobody else, or in her own counsel, since she had been adjudged an enemy and held in contempt and loathing by Edward? Meanwhile Walter Stapleton Bishop of Exeter, who thus far had been in France with the queen, furtively fled to the king in England and revealed all of Isabelle’s counsels and enterprises. The queen, having by now assembled no mean force of soldiers, including English exiles, and particularly Roger Mortimer, consummately skilled in warfare, that was commanded by Jean Annonay, brother of the Count of Annonay. She sailed to England with her son Edward, where they arrived on September 25. This is all I have to say about Isabelle’s departure and return based on the English annals. But some other historians of those times have written otherwise about the matter, recording that Isabelle, offended by the insults of the Hughs and her husband, secretly fled to her brother Charles in France, together with her son Edward, Earl Edmund of Kent, and Roger Mortimer, but that the Hughs so dealt with Charles that he was so far removed from assisting his sister with his resources that he even banished her from his kingdom, and that afterwards, at the persuasion of Count Robert of Arras, secretly fled from her brother to Count Guillaume of Annonay, and thus came home escorted by his brother Jean, summoned by the majority of the English nobility. But whatever the situation was, it is agreed that she landed her ships at that part of the island they call Suffolk, facing east, from where there is a straight road to London. After Isabella landed on this coast, in order to refresh her followers from their exertions she went to Orwell, a populous village, because the road to London went from there. And when the report of her arrival spread throughout the kingdom, it is incredible to tell how many lords snatched up their arms and joined the queen’s party in a trice, so much so that they already regarded, acclaimed, and did their duty to Prince Edward as their king, praising him to the skies with their cheers, and openly attacking his father with their outcries, insults, and curses.
11. In those days Edward was at London, and when he learned that his wife had appeared, together with their son, and that great flocks of nobles and commoners were joining them, first he strengthened the city with a garrison, over which he placed Walter Bishop of Exeter. Then, acting on the advice of his Hughes, he fearfully hastened towards Wales with a small number of soldiers. When he arrived at Bristol,m he fortified the town with a garrison, and put the elder Hugh in charge of guarding the place. With the younger Hugh he went into Wales and betook himself to the seacoast. Meanwhile, wherever he went he gave instructions to the governors of his places about all things, so they would not be caught unprepared. Edward especially wanted to betake himself to the place where he estimated the Welsh would be most loyal to himself, and it was in his mind that they would spare neither their efforts nor their peril for the sake of avenging this disgrace of their king. Or he might quickly cross over to Ireland, if the situation so demanded, to make his escape. Or, if nothing else, he might take refuge in some mountain or impenetrable marsh. Oh human affairs, always changing into their opposites! Like a beast the king sought lurking-places, he who while he ruled refused to understand that this was something that could easily overwhelm a sleeping ruler, but could lift up, enhance, and ornament a wakeful one. Meanwhile the Londoners, the victims of greater indignities at the hands of both the Hughs because the king was wont to spend most of his time there, although some of them had previously lacked the counsel, some the opportunity, and some the courage to avenge these insults, yet none was lacking in the will, and so when they finally saw the queen was approaching, in a meeting convened by Lord Mayor Hamon Chickwell, they voted to follow her. They unanimously took up arms, and first arrested Walter Bishop of Exeter, who had governed the city, having quickly driven out the garrison together with a number of other supporters of the king. They dragged them to a market-place and cut off their heads. Then they stormed and despoiled the Tower, dismissed all its warders, either killed the royal servants or stripped them of office, and robbed them of their goods. Next they chose friends of the queen and Prince Edward as new governors. These things accomplished, they sent three leading men of the city to Queen Isabelle as ambassadors, who were to inform her of what had been done in the city, and promise to obey her commands. Learning of this, and also of the king’s flight to Wales, the queen broke off her intended journey and went to Oxford. While she lingered there a little while, people came flocking from all sides, helping her with their support and congratulating her on her safety. To these men Adam Bishop of Hereford, whom King Edward had heavily fined a little before because he was said to be a fomenter of sedition, delivered a sermon in which he declared that the queen with her son had come back to England and persecuted the Hughs for this sole reason, that the state of the realm might be repaired and improved, and since they had come close to the end of this tyranny by the foulest of men, and of their dangers, they should calmly endure the little remaining labor involved in hunting down their enemies. They should expect everything from the queen’s victory and liberality, for she had the greatest love for her nation, and was doing everything with an eye to its advantage. When he had said these things, all men shouted out together that they would most gladly do everything she commanded. This done, the queen, now surrounded by a great band of armed men, departed Oxford and immediately went to Gloucester, then to Bristol. When they heard of her arrival, the elder Hugh, who was in command of the town, made ready to defend himself, exercised foresight, was everywhere at once. But when they approached, his adversaries surrounded the town and moved up ladders and other machines of war, with which they either climbed the walls or tore them down. On the same day Hugh was captured by a raging mob and dragged a considerable length outside the city, tied to a horse’s tail, and then put to death by hanging. His body was torn apart by the rabble, and his severed head mounted on a pole and carried to Winchester so that the townsmen might see it and surrender the quicker, as indeed they promptly did. These were followed by the other nearby cities of Salisbury, Wells, and Bath, and then by the cities of all England, who sent embassies to the queen, commending themselves and all their fortunes into her faith and power. After she saw that nearly all nobles and cities had freely come into her power, and that nothing further remained but for Edward, afflicted by some catastrophe, at length to learn to be wise, she went to Hereford with all her army. Here, after a lengthy discussion, the responsibility for arresting Edward was given to Earl Henry of Lancaster, the brother of the great Thomas, and to Rhys ap Howell, a Welshman, and with a choice band of soldiers they straightway went in pursuit of the king.
12. While these things were transpiring, Edward, who was pricked with the greatest stings of anxiety and regret as he brooded on his situation day and night, yet found no time for devising a satisfactory cure, heard the news of the defection of nearly all his followers. Equally irate and panic-stricken, for a time he hung in suspense. Now he thought it most timely to attempt an escape, now to gather a band of Welshmen and go against his enemies. But in the end, because was afraid and thought nothing so calamitous that it might not befall himself, he decided to conceal himself in some fortified place and wait there until his friends could help him with their effort and arms. Therefore under cover of night, with a few of his friends, he was carried on a skiff along the Severn to the town of Bridgenorth and secretly retired to the castle which is excellently situated there. Meanwhile Lancaster arrived with Rhys, searching for Edward’s hiding-place. And it took little effort for them to find it. For some Welshmen who had been bribed were ready to show them the place where the dispirited king was keeping himself. Therefore, having learned of this place, they came to the castle and took it at their first assault without any struggle. Here Edward was finally captured, together with the younger Hugh, Robert Baldoc and Simon Reading, and, brought to the castle at Kenilworth, was placed in custody. This business speedily concluded, the earl and Rhys returned to the queen, who had not yet moved from Hereford, bringing with them some captives. She was all the happier because everything had been pacified without bloodshed. Then at the command of Roger Mortimer, who was in charge of the government by order of the Privy Council, a parliament was convened, wherein Hugh and Simon were condemned of treason. With great shame they were dragged throughout the city and, after suffering terrible agonies, they were publicly executed. A few days Earl John of Arundell, the single most devoted follower of the le Dispensers, had suffered the same punishment as they did. Such was the ending of the lives of the two Hughes and their followers. As the saying goes, their whole cart fell apart as soon as the little wooden peg was broken, that is to say, as soon as they were deprived of the royal protection upon which they relied as they rashly abused their power and authority. Their ending can serve as a warning to those who are most inhumane and unjust because they enjoy great influence with princes, and who do everything according to their whim, heedless of how precarious it is to rely on another man’s power. Robert the Chancellor, after suffering many disgraces, was let go by Adam Bishop of Hereford, who had for some time kept him in custody at the bidding of the nobles. But the Londoners seized him out of Adams’ hands by violence and he was put in jail once more along with the thieves, where he fell into such depression that he died a few days later.
13. These things thus done, the queen set out for London, together with her son Edward. She made her progress nobly and happily, so as to increase her popularity. For from the beginning of her journey she would ride through the centers of towns and villages in the manner of someone celebrating a triumphant, and wherever she went the people, rejoicing that the tyranny of the Hughs had been swept way, would give her lavish feasts which served as the occasions for great congratulation, and all men’s minds were inspired to rejoice. But the Londoners received their newly-arrived queen with the most splendid pomp of all, and did so with a will since they were swept away by an equal joy both for her arrival and for that of Prince Edward, whom amidst their cheering they acclaimed as king. But although the queen put on a happy face, she felt no pleasure in her mind, because it had come about that she was compelled to rejoice that her husband had suddenly fallen from such high estate, having been endowed with such wealth, having enjoyed such powers. But, as I said, for the sake of avoiding unpopularity she concealed her sorrow as much as she could And the very first day after she and all the nobles in her train had come to London a parliament was convened and they discussed the ordering of the realm. First of all, everyone voted that Edward should be deposed by decree of parliament and, next, that his son should be created king. But so that the harshness of this judgment be removed and Edward’s dignity maintained, it seemed the best course to discover whether he would be willing to abdicate voluntarily, before being replaced by his son. And so ambassadors were sent to Edward, with their principal being John Hotham Bishop of Ely. They informed him that the nobles were very eager that he would consent to place himself in the power of the parliament, and hand the throne over to his son Edward. Unless he did so, it was the decision of all men that they would select as their king some one man whom fortune offered. Having heard the ambassadors, Edward could not restrain his tears. Now he saw the maxim proven by his own example, that nothing is more piteous than a happy man transformed into a wretch. But, gathering himself, he submitted to the decree, replying that he had fallen into this sad state thanks to his own errors, and so bore this with less hardship. First, he regretted he had earned public hatred, and second, he was eternally indebted to the nobility because they had chosen to overlook the injuries inflicted on them and embraced his son Edward with such favor that they desired him for their king. And so, that he might satisfy them, since it could not be helped, he was now abdicating the realm and its government. He finally added that he begged the nobles to have mercy on him in his affliction. There was general rejoicing that the nobles were now free to choose another king. And so in a parliament held at Westminster on January 29 of the year of salvation 1325 Edward, the son of Edward II, being fourteen years of age, was made king under the name of Edward III, and Walter Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated him in the traditional way. Since he was not of age to perform royal duties, he was given these men in particular as his tutors, Earl Edmund of Kent, Earl Henry of Lancaster, and Roger Mortimer, because they were deemed men of singular virtue. Then a very rich dowry was assigned to his mother Isabelle, so she might live her life with honor. Finally, the task of keeping Edward in custody after he had thus been cast down was assigned to Thomas or Maurice (I find both names written) Berkeley and John Mautravers, honorable knights. At the beginning of springtime these men removed Edward, secretly and by night, from Kenilworth Castle to Berkeley, and kept him under custody in the very strong castle there. This castle is nearly halfway along the road from Bristol to Gloucester, about a mile this side of the Severn.
14. While Edward was kept here, there were not lacking men who lamented his misfortune, and openly accused the nobles of high treason and King Edward and Isabelle of impiety since, as some Greek historian observes, pity always attends on the unfortunate, and unpopularity on those in power, and the conquered seems to have suffered the injury, and the victor to have inflicted it. And so a number of nobles under the leadership of Earl Edmund of Kent began in their secret meetings and conversations to plot about freeing Edward, since they blamed his misfortune on his ill-wishers. When Isabelle and his other tutors found out about this, they thought it unsafe to punish the authors of this conspiracy at the very start of young Edward’s reign, and only thought it timely to deprive their enemies of the opportunity of doing the deed. So they commanded his guardians that Edward should constantly be moved hither and thither, so that no man might know for sure where he was. They, obeying, moved the unhappy sovereign from Berkeley to Corse, and then to other places by night journeys, always wearying him, until at last they brought him back to Berkeley as secretly as they could. While Edward was imprisoned here, his wife Isabelle very often wrote letters of greeting to him, telling him she regretted she could not visit him because the nobles forbade her. This filled his wardens with such suspicion that they forthwith began to think of murdering him. For they had treated him so cruelly that they feared lest the king, overcome by love for his father and his mother’s urgings, might free him, and then make it his first order of business to punish them. So after a few days they murdered the man, and after committed this evil deed they fled to France. But it is not easily ascertained what manner of death Edward suffered. The rumor went abroad that while he was at his stool he had a spit run up his rectum in the forty-third year of his life, the nineteenth year of his reign, which was the year of human salvation 1326. With no funeral pomp his body was transferred to the monastery of St. Peter at Gloucester, where the Benedictine monks gave it burial. He fathered four children, Edward, who, as I have shown, was made king in his lifetime; John of Heltham, named from the place where he was born; Eleanor, who died before coming to nubile age; and Joan, who later married David King of Scots. He was of about average height, strong of body, and enjoyed good health. He was also not lacking in mental powers, which he could have put to some honest use, had he disowned those who egged him on to bad practices, something his associates least permitted him to do. Thus from the very beginning you must have a care whom you allow into your friendship and familiarity, since it is necessary that you come to resemble those with whom you associate. As the Greek proverb has it, if you live next door to a lame man, you will learn to limp. At one point he began to admire the study of letters, which, as I have said, he himself could not attain to and sample, and he founded the college at Oxford they call Oriel, and St. Mary’s Hall, so that learning might be cultivated in these establishments, just as today these two colleges are filled with all the goodly arts.

Go to Book XIX