Heritage > Rulers

Edward I, 1272-1307

Edward was born in 1239. He was married twice. Firstly at a very young age to Eleanor of Castile, who died in 1290, and whom bore him the children: Eleanor, Joan, Henry, Julian, Joan of Acre, Alphonso, Isabel, Margaret, Berengaria, Mary, Alice, Elizabeth, Edward, Beatrice and Blanche. His second wife, Margaret of France, daughter of the King of France, bore him Thomas, Edmund and Eleanor.

Edward was a special child to his father. He was born very late in Henry's life. He was named after the canon, Edward the Confessor, and although his title says Edward I, there were three Edwards previous to him.

It was Henry who arranged for the important marriage of Edward to Eleanor, the half-sister of Alfonso X, King of Castile and Leon. It was an arranged marriage which bore many children and was full of love.

Edward was made Overlord of Ireland, before he became King, and was responsible for Gascony and Wales. He was a typically spoilt adolescent,and liked to spend his time setting up jousting tournaments, in which many lives would be lost at a time. However though he had once recognised the justice of Simon de Montfort's stance against his father, he rallied to help his father.

It was his role as a general that helped quash De Montfort, and after this he became an exemplary figure in the ruling of England. He was his father's Regent and succeeded unchallenged to the throne.

He did not become King until the age of 35 and was devoted to personal and political integrity. He was a devoted ruler of England and developed state relations all around the world. He also fought many wars and used a great deal of the funds of England in these battles. He borrowed heavily from the Jews in England. They were expert currency manipulators.

The King had tried to involve them in more productive occupations, but against all local feeling, and the lack of profit to be attained, the Jews went back to their old vocations. In 1290 Edward expelled the Jews from England. Being unable to borrow money, Edward had to impose high taxes on the local populations, which was of course highly unpopular.

After having defeated and slain the last Welsh Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Edward offered his baby son to the Welsh people as the Prince of Wales, in a symbolic gesture. The Welsh gave the English knowledge of the long bow, one of the most valued weapons before gunpowder, and Edward encouraged its use.

The pacification of the Welsh was not instant, and it took years for the land and power to be delegated in face of harsh resentment.

War with Scotland was causing great problems. It concerned an attempt to reconcile the centre of Scotland from Edinburgh to Scone, the natural but unrecognised seat of Scotland. When Alexander III, King of Scotland died, the crown passed to his three year old grand daughter, Margaret. When Margaret was aged six, Edward arranged for her to be betrothed to his heir Edward, which would have led to a peaceful union of England and Scotland. Margaret died in a ship wreck on the way to her coronation in Scotland, then the succession to the crown was disputed. Edward stepped in to arbitrate and with a balanced Commission took eighteen months to choose John Balliol.

This decision led to a revolt, which Edward managed to overcome. He declared himself King of Scotland and carried the Coronation Stone of Scotland from Scone Palace off to England. It was this that led to the revolt by William Wallace who was eventually defeated by Edward.

In 1306 Robert the Bruce was declared King of the Scots by the Scottish people and in the ensuing war he was at first defeated by Edward. In a later campaign to crush Robert the Bruce Edward died at Burgh by Sands, after being the monarch of England for 35 years.

The War for Wales

Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Gwynedd refused to pay homage to Edward I, he considered himself an equal and the ruler of Wales. Talks took place to avoid all out, but Llywelyn stood his ground and would not accept Edward as his superior. In 1277 Edward declared war on the rebellious Welsh Prince and ordered the construction army to crush his resistance. Wales had never been conquered outright by the Anglo-Norman Kings. The tough warrior tribesmen of Wales had been kept at bay by the Marcher Lords, a breed of fighting men who occupied the lands in close proximity to those ruled by the Welsh princes and chieftains. The opposing armies differed greatly. The Welsh forces consisted mainly of unarmoured irregulars armed with sword, spear or the formidable Welsh longbow. They could move very quickly preferring to ambush their opponents rather than engage in battle. Edward's army contained at least a thousand knights in armour, but most of his followers were infantrymen including crossbowmen and archers. Edward planned to defeat the Welsh Prince in battle or force him into submission by cutting off his food supply. Many welshmen took part in the campaign against Llywelyn, most notably his brother David. Using ships from southern ports Edward captured Anglesey depriving the Welsh of their main supply of food. The English forces had also surrounded the mountainous territories held by Llywelyn who, faced with military destruction or starvation, wisely surrendered. In November 1277 Llywelyn swore allegiance to Edward.

War broke out again in 1282. Dissatisfied with their restricted domains and treatment by English crown officials Llywelyn and his brother David merged forces. They attacked several English castles along the northern coast of Wales and pushed their offensive towards Chester. They were also active in South Wales, striking fear into the hearts of every English supporter in the region. Edward, furious at the breach of his deal with the Welsh leader planned another campaign. Using tactics similar to the previous conflict, Edward's armies moved in on the Welsh from three directions while his ships isolated Anglesey.

A quick victory over the Welsh seemed inevitable, but as talks took place between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rebel princes, the commander of a force of English knights on Anglesey ordered his men to cross the Menai Straits and confront the Welsh. Their leader Luke de Tany had defied Edward's orders not to attack until he had given the command. They were ambushed by the Welsh warriors and slaughtered.

After this small victory the Welsh leaders withdrew from the negotiations and continued raiding the Marcher lands. A swift victory for Edward had been taken away, so he planned to step up his winter campaign. Llywelyn's fight for the independence of Wales ended in December 1282 when he was killed during a skirmish with English knights near the town of Builth in mid-Wales. His body was mutilated, its head sent to London and placed on top of a pole outside the entrance to the Tower of London.

Edward constructed a number of magnificent castles to enforce his control in Wales. Conwy, Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Harlech to mention but a few, remain remarkably well preserved to this day, and are fine examples of the type of construction built during the hey-day of the castle in Britain.

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