Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Edward II

It's difficult to get an idea of the personality of any medieval figure, firstly because the records are scanty and secondly because they're mostly propaganda- written by enemies or friends- and this is particularly true in the case of kings- where passions ran high and political actions had to be lauded, excused or vilified. Edward II was deposed and came to an ugly end and therefore comes down to us as weak and irresponsible. His enemies said he was gay (though that's not the word they used) which was a slur in that age but stirs our sympathies now. Given that it was meant as a slur it may not even be true. It is probably safe to say that he loved his friends- who were often low-born- better than he loved the aristocratic war lords who thought they should have come first in his affections.

His tomb in Gloucester Cathedral is a beautiful thing- one of the great masterpieces of English medieval art. It was commissioned by his son- Edward III- who clearly thought he was worth it.

In its original state it was painted and gilded and studded with imitation jewels. Time has bleached it but left it otherwise undamaged. Its presence in the Cathedral- which was then an Abbey- may have saved the building from destruction at the Reformation. Henry VIII was unsentimental when it came to sacerdotal monuments but royal ones were different; it would have set a bad precedent to have demolished the tomb of a king.

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