Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. — George Orwell

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Death of Edward II

After Bruce's victory at Bannockburn, Edward lavished all his favours upon two noblemen, the Despensers, father and son. The barons had no objection to the old man, but they soon became displeased with the younger, who was as insolent and worthless as Gaveston. So many lands and so much power were granted to the Despensers by the weak Edward, that the barons, led by Lancaster, again revolted. But, helped by the Despensers, Edward defied them, until, suddenly changing his mind, he yielded to them and banished his new favourites.

The Despensers were no sooner gone, however, than Edward planned to break his promises; and before long the two exiled noblemen were back at court, the most determined of the barons imprisoned, and Lancaster and twenty-eight other knights beheaded.

One of the captives, a baron named Mortimer, succeeded in escaping from the Tower in a daring way. After drugging his guards, he got out of his dungeon, and, finding his way into the kitchen, he climbed up its wide chimney. Once on the roof, he lowered himself by means of a rope ladder, and, gaining the river, embarked in a boat that was awaiting him. Protected by the darkness, Mortimer managed to board a vessel, which took him over to France. There he lived for some time, congratulating himself upon his escape from prison and death; for he had been sentenced a short time before his flight.

The King of France had repeatedly summoned Edward to come over and do homage to him for his French possessions; but Edward said he could not leave England, on account of his troubles with the barons. Instead he sent his wife Isabella and his eldest son to the French court, to present his excuses and make a treaty with the king.

Isabella, who was a Frenchwoman by birth, signed a treaty which gave all the advantage to the French. Besides that, she made the escaped prisoner Mortimer her favourite. In obedience to his suggestion, she even wrote to the king that she would not come back unless he sent the Despensers away. But as the king retained his favourites, she and Mortimer finally joined the angry barons in England, and entered London at the head of an army.

The Londoners warmly welcomed Isabella, but the king fled with his favourites. All the rebels he had sent to the Tower were released, and, joining the queen's army, besieged the city of Bristol. Here the elder Despenser had taken refuge, and when they took him, although he was a man of ninety years, they hanged him most cruelly and tore his dead body to pieces.

The younger Despenser fell into their hands soon after, and the barons avenged themselves for all the harm he had done them by crowning him with nettles and hanging him on a gallows fifty feet high.

Edward, deprived of his dearest friends, now wandered about from place to place, and finally surrendered to his enemies. They took him to Kenilworth, where they kept him a prisoner, while the queen called Parliament and proposed that he should give up his crown to his son. The barons welcomed this proposal, and forced poor King Edward to sign his abdication. The next day, Edward, the second Prince of Wales, began his reign as Edward III.

Edward of Carnarvon, who had reigned nineteen and a half years, was kept a prisoner and treated very unkindly by the barons, although his jailers pitied him. Taken from castle to castle, and deprived of all comforts, the king was once forced, we are told, to make his toilet out in the open fields. When the men brought him dirty water from a neighbouring ditch to shave with, the tears poured down his cheeks.

"See," he cried, "nature supplies the clean warm water which you would fain deny your captive king!"

After many wanderings, Edward was cruelly murdered in Berkeley Castle, by Mortimer's and Isabella's orders.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee