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Ordinances of 1311

Following his return, Gaveston’s relationship with the major barons became increasingly difficult. He was considered arrogant, and he took to referring to the earls by offensive names, including calling one of their more powerful members the “dog of Warwick”. Henry, 3rd Earl of Leicester and Lancaster and Gaveston’s enemies refused to attend parliament in 1310 because Gaveston would be present. Edward was facing increasing financial problems, owing £22,000 to his Frescobaldi Italian bankers, and facing protests about how he was using his right of prises to acquire supplies for the war in Scotland. His attempts to raise an army for Scotland collapsed and the earls suspended the collection of the new taxes.

The king and parliament met again in February 1310, and the proposed discussions of Scottish policy were replaced by debate of domestic problems. Edward was petitioned to abandon Gaveston as his counsellor and instead adopt the advice of 21 elected barons, termed Ordainers, who would carry out a widespread reform of both the government and the royal household.


Under huge pressure, he agreed to the proposal and the Ordainers were elected, broadly evenly split between reformers and conservatives. While the Ordainers began their plans for reform, Edward and Gaveston took a new army of around 4,700 men to Scotland, where the military situation had continued to deteriorate. Robert the Bruce declined to give battle and the campaign progressed ineffectually over the winter until supplies and money ran out in 1311, forcing Edward to return south.

By now the Ordainers had drawn up their Ordinances for reform and Edward had little political choice but to give way and accept them in October. The Ordinances of 1311 contained clauses limiting the king’s right to go to war or to grant land without parliament’s approval, giving parliament control over the royal administration, abolishing the system of prises, excluding the Frescobaldi bankers, and introducing a system to monitor the adherence to the Ordinances.

In addition, the Ordinances exiled Gaveston once again, this time with instructions that he should not be allowed to live anywhere within Edward’s lands, including Gascony and Ireland, and that he should be stripped of his titles. Edward retreated to his estates at Windsor and Kings Langley; Gaveston left England, possibly for northern France or Flanders.

Death of Gaveston

Tensions between Edward and the barons remained high, and the earls opposed to the king kept their personal armies mobilised late into 1311. By now Edward had become estranged from his cousin, Henry, 3rd Earl of Leicester and Lancaster who was also the Earl of Lincoln, Salisbury and Derby, with an income of around £11,000 a year from his lands, almost double that of the next wealthiest baron. Backed by the earls of Arundel, Gloucester, Hereford, Pembroke and Warwick, Lancaster led a powerful faction in England, but he was not personally interested in practical administration, nor was he a particularly imaginative or effective politician.

Piers Gaveston

Edward responded to the baronial threat by revoking the Ordinances and recalling Gaveston to England, being reunited with him at York in January 1312. The barons were furious and met in London, where Gaveston was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and plans were put in place to capture Gaveston and prevent him from fleeing to Scotland. Edward, Isabella and Gaveston left for Newcastle, pursued by Lancaster and his followers.

Abandoning many of their belongings, the royal party fled by ship and landed at Scarborough, where Gaveston stayed while Edward and Isabella returned to York. After a short siege, Gaveston surrendered to the earls of Pembroke and Surrey, on the promise that he would not be harmed. He had with him a huge collection of gold, silver and gems, probably part of the royal treasury, which he was later accused of having stolen from Edward.

On the way back from the north, Pembroke stopped in the village of Deddington in the Midlands, putting Gaveston under guard there while he went to visit his wife. The Earl of Warwick took this opportunity to seize Gaveston, taking him to Warwick Castle, where the Earl of Lancaster and the rest of his faction assembled on June 18.

After a brief brief trial at Warwick Castle, Gaveston was declared guilty of being a traitor under the terms of the Ordinances and was condemned to death before an assembly of barons, including Warwick, Lancaster, Hereford and Arundel. On June 19, he was taken out on the road towards Kenilworth as far as Blacklow Hill, which was on the Earl of Lancaster’s land. Here, two Welshmen ran him through with a sword and beheaded him. Gaveston’s body was not buried until 1315, when his funeral was held in King’s Langley Priory.