Edward I of England

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Edward I Plantagenet.

Edward I (June 17, 1239, Westminster, London, – July 7, 1307, Burgh-on-Sands, nr.Carlisle, Cumberland), popularly known as Longshanks[1], also as "Edward the Lawgiver" or "the English Justinian" because of his legal reforms, and as "Hammer of the Scots",[2] achieved fame as the monarch who conquered Wales and tried to assert his feudal rights over Scotland in numerous wars. He reigned from November 20, 1272, until his death. Edward I is one of the most highly regarded monarchs from the House of Plantagenet, perhaps rivaling only his grandson Edward III Plantagenet. He expelled Jews from his realms.


Edward was the son of King Henry III of England (1206 - 1272), a Plantagenet, and named after Henry's favourite saint, Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon King of England. His mother, the queen consort, was Eleanor of Provence (c1222 - 1291), daughter of Raymond Berenger V Count of Provence by his wife Beatrix, daughter of Thomas 1st Count of Savoy.

Edward's paternal aunt, Princess Joan, had married Alexander II, King of Scots (d.1249); and his sister Margaret married in 1251 Alexander III, King of Scots (d.1286). Another half-sister of Edward's father, his aunt Joan (2)(d.1237), had married Llewellyn ap Ivor (1173-1240), Prince of North Wales.

Edward married twice: (1) October 18, 1254 at the Monastery of Las Huelgas, Spain, Princess Eleanor (c1241 - 1290), daughter of Ferdinand III King of Castile and Leon, by whom he had five children and his heir; (2) September 8, 1299, at Canterbury Cathedral, Princess Margaret (1279 - 1318), daughter of Philip III Capet, King of France,by whom he had two further sons and a daughter.

Early life

Shortly before Edward's first marriage his father had given him Gascony (almost all that remained of the once-vast possessions of the English kings in France - although Henry was, and Edward would become, Duke of Aquitaine), the whole of Ireland (except Dublin and Limerick), Wales, Chester, Bristol, Stamford, Grantham and the Channel Islands.[3]


Although Prince Edward had taken vows for the crusade in 1250 this vow was renewed from the Papal legate, Ottobuono Fieschi, in June 1268, and he left Dover with his wife Eleanor in August 1270 to join his uncle, St.Louis of France, who had crusaded previously, 1249-54. On November 9 he arrived at the crusaders' camp at Carthage, but Louis had died there on August 29. Travelling via Sicily Edward arrived outside Acre on May 9, 1271, where he was to spend 16 months. He relieved that city and had a tower erected; he took Nazareth killing all the inhabitants and led his troops across Mount Carmel to raid the Plain of Sharon; he tried but failed to storm the Mameluk fortress of Qaqun. On June 16, 1272, an Assassin (a group of fanatical Muslims), disguised as a Christian, stole into Edward's chamber at Acre and stabbed him with a poisoned dagger. For the following week it was thought he would die. But his wife Eleanor, who had borne him a daughter, Joan, in Acre, sucked the poison out of the wound and a surgeon cut away the affected flesh. The strong & reslient Edward was back on horseback within a fortnight. On September 22, 1272, he sailed for Sicily, where he spent the winter resting.[4]


King Henry had died on November 16, 1272, while Edward was in Sicily. On Edward's way home, travelling through France, he took part in a tournament organised by the Count of Chalons in Burgundy, an encounter which became known as the "Little Battle of Chalons." The Count singled him out during the encounter, and tried to drag him from his horse. The fighting became serious, but the Burgundians were finally defeated by Edward's thousand knights. After this battle Edward went on to Paris to do homage to King Philip III for the lands he held in Gascony, to where he then retired for a whole year. On August 2, 1274 Edward landed at Dover. On Sunday the 19th Edward and his Queen Eleanor were crowned in Westminster Abbey.[5]

The Jews

King Henry's brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1209-1272), had financed the operations needed to reform the coinage and Henry had mortgaged to him all the Jews in England and Wales; and the vast costs of Prince Edward's crusading enterprise was largely organised by Jewish merchant bankers. However following the crusade Edward realised that in the future he must deal with the Jews, one of the elements which interfered with the nation's social and political structure.[6] In the first Parliament of Edward's reign, which assembled in April 1275, it forbade Jews to practise usury (which was forbidden by The Church), ordering them to live by merchandise instead, and ordained that "each Jew after he is seven years old shall wear a distinguishing mark on his outer garment, that is to say two strips of yellow cloth, six inches long and three inches wide.". Most Jews had immigrated into England from France and Germany, but some came from Spain, Italy, and even from Russia and the Muslim countries. The mediaeval Jew was thought not to fit into the Christian scheme of things, and during the Coronation celebrations of King Richard 1st the Jewish quarter of York was sacked and its inhabitants massacred, and this was followed throughout the country. Edward's legislation was seen as a further attempt to grapple with the Jewish problem. However, Edward proved unable to stop the Jews practising usury which they now carried on in a clandestine manner. In 1278 they were accused of clipping the coinage; six hundred Jews were arrested for this offence and three hundred were hanged in London in April 1279. Finally, in July 1290, King Edward expelled all Jews, about 16,160 people, from the country; the measure was highly popular and a grateful Parliament voted him a substantial grant in aid. This was followed, in 1306, by the expulsion of the Jews from France by King Philip IV, with the seizing of their property and confiscation of any lands they held.[7]


Before the Norman Conquest, Wales had been ruled by a swarm of petty Celtic chieftains owing nominal allegiance to the English Crown. They had regularly plundered the lands astride the English border whenever an opportunity arose. The Norman conquest of Wales changed that with the mutual jealousies of the petty chiefs making it impossible for them to effectively resist. The whole area became known as the Marches of Wales with Norman Lords. The Welsh continued with their skirmishes and minor wars, however, then retreating into Snowdonia. To the thirteenth century Englishman they, like the Irish, were barbarians. In 1247 Llewellyn ap Gruffydd had signed the Treaty of Woodstock agreeing that he held north Wales as a vassal of the King of England. In 1258 Edward assumed the title Prince of Wales, and it became his policy in any case was to try and bring the whole of the British Isles under the rule of the Crown. After Edward's Coronation when Llewellyn refused to attend and do homage, on November 17, 1276, King Edward, as he now was, announced his decision to march against Llewellyn, Prince of Gwynedd in North Wales, as a rebel. He was aided by the Welshmen of Gwent, who later became Edward's valuable allies: it was from them that the English learned how to use the famous long-bow. With the Marcher Lords Edward encircled the apparently impregnable principality of Gwynedd. Llewellyn was quickly defeated, did homage and accepted peace terms.[8]

However, in 1282, Llewellyn's brother David rose up again with a force from north Wales. Llewellyn soon joined him. Edward acted quickly, including applying naval tactics and marching into north Wales with a huge army. In December Llewellyn was killed in a chance encounter with a border force, and the cause of Welsh 'independence' collapsed. His head was taken to the Tower of London and placed upon a stake. David continued his campaigns into 1283 but was hunted down in the Welsh hills. Edward refused to see him and asked his barons to decide his fate. David was hanged, drawn and quartered, and beheaded, the normal penalty for a rebel. On April 25, 1284, Queen Eleanor gave birth to a son in Wales, Edward of Caernarvon, the future King, and in 1301 he was proclaimed Prince of Wales by his father. Edward secured his hold by the erection of eight almost impregnable castles across Wales. A good example is Harlech, where in 1294 a mere 37 men defended it against the entire Welsh army in a new uprising, again defeated by Edward.[9]


The situation between the two kingdoms was very complicated. When William 'The Lion', King of the Scots, who had invaded northern England was captured by the English in 1173, a Latin treaty and settlement was made the following year between King Henry II of England, son of the Empress Matilda (a Princess of Scotland) and William. Although signed at Valognes, it is usually called the "Treaty of Falaise" as King William had been imprisoned in Falaise Castle. In this treaty, Henry is acknowledged as William's "liege lord" (feudal superior) for Scotland and for all William's other lands (.i.e: in Huntingdonshire), and he swore fealty to Henry; likewise William bound the heirs of the Kings of Scots. As a guarantee of this William delivered to Henry the castles of Roxburgh, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Jedburgh, Edinburgh (relinquished to the Scots in 1186) and Stirling to be at his disposal. In 1175 William, with his clergy and barons, did homage to Henry at York.[10]

Some concessions were later made, and Roxburgh & Berwick castles were relinquished by King Richard 'The Lionheart' in 1189. However, William, in a charter dated February 8, 1212, refers to King John of England as "our well-beloved Lord" and states that he and his son & heir Alexander "will maintain faith and fealty, by which we are bound" to the English King. A Bull of Pope Gregory IX to Alexander II, King of Scots, in 1235, urged the King to observe these agreements for homage and fealty and not to rebel against the King of England. Several more treaties of a similar nature followed, notably one 2 years later where the King of Scots relinquished certain age old Scottish claims about the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland etc. On December 26, 1251, Alexander III, King of Scots, married Margaret Plantagenet, Princess of England, and daughter of King Henry III. A long document signed by both Henry and Alexander concerning "the government of our realm" was subsequently signed in Roxburghshire in 1255.[11]

During the Parliament at Westminster in 1278, Alexander III presented himself to King Edward 1st "to become his liege man, and to do homage for himself and for his heirs for the realm of Scotland."[12] Also present was Robert de Brus (1253-1304), Earl of Carrick, who also swore fealty to Edward.[13] The two kings enjoyed harmonious relations until Alexander's unexpected death on March 19, 1286, leaving his granddaughter (and Edward's grand-niece), Margaret Magnusson, Princess of Norway, his 3 year-old heiress. However she died on her way to Scotland on September 26, 1290.

Crown settlement

Following appeals (notably by William Fraser, Bishop of St.Andrews) Edward, who had been in far-off Gascony, travelled north, and a convention of the prelates, nobles, and people of Scotland to settle the succession was held by him "as overlord of the realm of Scotland, which kingdom is held of Edward in-chief"[14] at the castle of Norham-on-Tweed on May 10, 1291. These proceedings were recorded at great length by Master John of Caen, who recorded that they show the complete readiness of the thirteen competitors for the Crown of Scotland to accept any decision of the English King.[15] In the meantime the Guardians of Scotland had resigned their authority and were reappointed on June 13 by Edward, with the addition of 'his man', Brian FitzAlan, Lord of Bedale[16], whose wife Matilda was the sister of one of the competitors, John de Balliol.[17]

The proceedings were conducted in Norman-French,[18] with judicial deliberation, the claims of all the competitors being examined, and finally rejected, except those of John de Balliol, John, 1st Lord Hastings, and Robert de Brus (father of 'The Bruce' who later became King), descended of the three daughters of David, Earl of Huntingdon, grandson of David 1st, King of Scots. De Brus was a generation removed from Balliol & Hastings as it was his father who was a 'Competitor'. On November 17, 1292, in the great hall of the castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Edward awarded the Crown to John de Balliol, as grandson of Margaret, eldest daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon, rejecting the claim of de Brus, as descended from the 2nd daughter, and Hastings from the 3rd daughter. King John, after doing homage to Edward as his overlord[19], following his Coronation at Scone proceeded to administer the government.[20]

Troubles begin

John de Balliol and King Edward soon fell out as John decided he did not wish to be a vassal-king.[21] In June 1294 Edward summoned John to join him with all his forces against Philip IV of France. John ignored this summons and in October 1295 renounced his allegiance to Edward and despatched an army to the Western border of England, which wasted the country as far east as Hexham in the following March, committing terrible cruelties including the massacre of 200 monks at Corbridge-on-Tyne. Edward, aroused, marched north to Wark-on-Tweed where he received the homages of nearly ninety Scots nobles. Shortly after, Edward took Berwick, and then defeated the Scots at Dunbar on April 27, 1296 with great slaughter.[22] Thus closed the reign of Balliol, who delivered up his realm and people, under his Great Seal, at Kincardine on July 2[23], renounced his league with Philip of France, was sent to the Tower of London, and 3 years later went into exile, dying on his French estates in 1313.[24]

Edward in Scotland

Edward now made a triumphal progress through Scotland as undisputed sovereign from May 13th till August 28th. Starting from Roxburgh, near Kelso, he went as far north as Elgin, taking the submissions and homages of the ex-King John, the bishops, barons, and chief men, at various places on his way. On August 28 Edward held a Parliament at Berwick-upon-Tweed, where the assembly present again swore fealty, this famous transaction being recorded in the Ragman Roll, some 2000 names and seals were originally attached but only a fragment remains with some 70 names. Having pacified Scotland Edward went south in September, and in May he proceeded to war in Flanders. However, that month a rising, said to have been instigated by the Bishop of Glasgow and James, the High Steward (later Stewart), took place under William Wallace, in which the Sheriff of Lanark was killed. Wallace, on September 11, 1297, acting as self-proclaimed Guardian in the name of ex-King John, totally defeated an English army led by the Earl of Surrey and High Treasurer Cressingham (who was slain) at Stirling Bridge, with a heavy loss, Surrey retreating to York. Some weeks later the Wallace's 'army' invaded the Borders and burnt Hexham Abbey, news reaching Edward at Ghent.[25]

Edward returned from Europe to England by March 17, 1298, encouraging his forces in Scotland by assurances that he was hastening to join them. After he had wiped off the disgrace of Stirling Bridge and defeated the Scots under Wallace, with great slaughter, at the Battle of Falkirk on July 22, he left a garrison in Stirling Castle and departed by the Western Marches to York. He had commissioned Surrey and other nobles to keep order in Scotland, among them Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick, who was fully in Edward's confidence. Yet within a year, in August 1299, it came as a surprise to find this Anglo-Norman Earl chosen in succession to Sir William Wallace as one of the three Guardians now engaged in a siege of Stirling, which castle surrendered to them in December. Edward appeared not to hold Scotland north of the Forth at this point.[26]

In the midsummer of 1300 Edward and his army of some 6000 men, left Carlisle taking Carlaverock Castle, one of only two castles south of the Forth held by Scots rebels, in July. his army was supplied by a powerful fleet of nearly sixty vessels and manned by nearly 1500 men. In October he granted a truce to the Scots, at the mediation of France, till Whitsunday 1301, during which time he mustered 12,000 foot soldiers at Berwick. On May 7, Edward presented his case concerning his rights to the realm of Scotland to Pope Boniface.[27] In September he took Bothwell, the only other castle south of the Forth in Scots hands, and gave it to Aymar de Valence. By the end of the year he was wintering at Linlithgow, where he forbade desecration of sacred buildings. He ratified a truce with the Scots till St.Andrew's Day 1302, while refusing to acknowledge Balliol as king or the Scots as allies of France. In early February 1302 he left for England, issuing, at Morpeth, Writs to the Earl of Ulster (The Bruce's brother-in-law), and other Irish lords, to provide 11,000 men for service in Scotland. Meanwhile the King of France secretly urged Bruce and Sir John Comyn, the two remaining Guardians, to persevere against Edward on behalf of Balliol. Despite his continual treachery, The Bruce, who had been in periodic rebellion since 1297, continued to stress his allegiance to Edward who acknowledged his protection of Bruce and his vassals in a document dated early in 1302, following which Bruce held a position of considerable trust in Edward's counsels until 1306.[28] For instance, Bruce accepted from Edward the post of Sheriff of Lanark in 1303, the year of Edward's next campaign in Scotland, for which The Bruce proved 1000 men.[29]

On August 23, 1305, Sir William Wallace, who had been betrayed by a fellow Scot and captured, was finally executed at Smithfield in London. Robert The Bruce and ten other Scottish Commissioners attended Parliament at Westminster on September 15th, where with their advice Edward appointed his nephew John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond, his Lieutenant and Warden of Scotland; only two county Sheriffs were not native Scots.

Bruce rebels

However, early in 1306 The Bruce murdered Sir John Comyn, the Guardian, and commenced his own rebellion. Bruce's estates were immediately confiscated. Edward moved north again in June, his son the Prince of Wales preceding him by a few weeks reporting the surrender of Lochmaben Castle on July 13th. Edward besieged and took Kildrummy Castle and amongst the prisoners was Nigel de Brus, the Bruce's brother. He was subsequently executed after a trial. The Bruce suffered two severe reverses, the first at Methven on June 26th and the second at Dalry on August 11th, narrowly escaping capture at both. His wife, daughter and his two sisters were captured by the (Scottish) Earl of Ross and handed over to Edward. Scores of 'traitors' were hanged that year. It appeared that Edward had to a large extent pacified Scotland yet again, although The Bruce was still at large in the western Highlands & Isles, pursued by Lord Lorne, Sir John Menteith, and Edward's navy, but not considered a significant problem. Edward, now infirm, made his way south across the Border to Lancercost Abbey for the winter. On February 9, the men of Galloway under Sir Dougal MacDougal, allied to Edward, totally defeated over 700 Irishmen brought to Scotland by The Bruce's brothers, Thomas and Alexander, at Lochryan. The brothers were executed, their heads being placed on the gates of Carlisle. In the Spring of 1307 The Bruce reappeared, landing by boat in Carrick, later defeating Aymar de Valence at Loudon hill, Ayrshire, on May 10, 1307, although not a decisive defeat.[30]


Edward resolved to return north to eliminate The Bruce altogether, and, apparently in better health, he reviewed his cavalry at Carlisle on the Day of Pentecost. However, as his main army again moved north, at Burgh-on-Sands near the Scottish border on June 7, 1307, Edward died. It was said that "no more fortunate event could have happened for The Bruce than Edward's death." His body was sent south where he was interred in Westminster Abbey, the inscription on his tomb stating that he was the "Hammer of the Scots".[31]



  1. Because of his 6 foot 2 inch (188 cm) frame as compared with an average male height of 5 foot 7 inch (170 cm) at the time.
  2. His tombstone, reads Edwardus Primus Scotorum Malleus hic est, 1308. Pactum Serva, Latin for "Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots".
  3. Chancellor, John, The Life & Times of Edward I, BCA, London, 1981, p.30.
  4. Chancellor, 1981, pps:68-80.
  5. Chancellor, 1981, p.86-8.
  6. Chancellor, 1981, pps:48/74/79.
  7. Chancellor, 1981, pps:135-6 and 160-1.
  8. Chancellor, 1981, pps:92-107.
  9. Chancellor, 1981, pps:107-112.
  10. Anderson, William, The Scottish Nation, Edinburgh, 1867, vol.ix, p.643.
  11. Stones, E.L.G., Professor of Mediaeval History, University of Glasgow, editor and translator, Anglo-Scottish Relations 1174 - 1328, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1965, pps:3-75.
  12. Anderson, Alan O., M.A.(Edinburgh), Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers AD500 to 1286, London, 1908, p.383.
  13. Stones, 1965, pps:77-83.
  14. Stones, 1965, pps:108-9 and 113-5.
  15. Bain, Joseph, F.S.A.Scot., The Edwards in Scotland, Edinburgh, 1901, p.22-3.
  16. Barrow, Professor G.W.S., Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, London, 1965, p.49.
  17. Dictionary of National Biography.
  18. Stones, 1965, p.103n.
  19. Stones, 1965, p.127-9.
  20. Bain, 1901,p.24-5.
  21. Stones, 1965, p.141-5.
  22. Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick, and Lord Bruce in England (cr.June 24, 1295), the father of the future King, fought for King Edward at the Battle of Dunbar, 28th April 1296. To Edward he again swore fealty on 25th March and 28th August 1296 at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Stones, 1965, p.137-9.
  23. Stones, 1965, p.147-9.
  24. Bain, 1901, p.26.
  25. Bain, 1901, p.27-30.
  26. Bain, 1901, p.30-1.
  27. Stones, 1965, p.193-219.
  28. Stones, 1965, p.237-9.
  29. Bain, 1901, pps:33-40
  30. Bain, 1901, pps:46-57.
  31. Bain, 1901, p.58-9.


  • Burke, John & John Bernard, The Royal Families of England, Scotland, and Wales, with their descendants, Sovereigns and Subjects by Messrs. John and John Bernard Burke, London, volume 1 (1848) page xxxi, and pedigrees CVIII, CLXIV and CXCII; and volume2 (1851) pedigrees XV, CXVII and CLXIII.
  • Previté-Orton, C.W., Litt.D., F.B.A., A History of Europe from 1198 to 1378, London, 1937, p.442.
  • Richardson, Douglas, Plantagenet Ancestry, Baltimore, Md., 2004, p.16.
  • Burke's Armorie (London 1844) gives the later arms of Henry II as those of the next five kings, including Edward 1st. They are: Gules, three lions passant, guardant, or.