Edward I (June 17/18, 1239 – July 7, 1307), also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots (Latin: Malleus Scotorum), was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward.
Edward I, King of England and Lord of Ireland
On the night of June 17–18 1239, Edward was born at the Palace of Westminster to King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, the second daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence (1198–1245) and Beatrice of Savoy (1198–1267), the daughter of Thomas I of Savoy and his wife Margaret of Geneva.
Edward is an Anglo-Saxon name, and was not commonly given among the aristocracy of England after the Norman conquest, but Henry was devoted to the veneration of Edward the Confessor, and decided to name his firstborn son after the saint.
Edward was involved from an early age in the political intrigues of his father’s reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons’ War.
After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and defeated the baronial leader Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Within two years the rebellion was extinguished and, with England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. He was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey.
Edward spent much of his reign reforming royal administration and common law. Through an extensive legal inquiry, he investigated the tenure of various feudal liberties, while the law was reformed through a series of statutes regulating criminal and property law. Increasingly, however, Edward’s attention was drawn towards military affairs. After suppressing a minor rebellion in Wales in 1276–77, Edward responded to a second rebellion in 1282–83 with a full-scale war of conquest.
After a successful campaign, he subjected Wales to English rule, built a series of castles and towns in the countryside and settled them with English people. Next, his efforts were directed towards the Kingdom of Scotland. Initially invited to arbitrate a succession dispute, Edward claimed feudal suzerainty over Scotland.
The war that followed continued after Edward’s death, even though the English seemed victorious at several points. Simultaneously, Edward found himself at war with France (a Scottish ally) after King Philippe IV of France had confiscated the Duchy of Gascony, which until then had been held in personal union with the Kingdom of England. Although Edward recovered his duchy, this conflict relieved English military pressure against Scotland.
At the same time there were problems at home. In the mid-1290s, extensive military campaigns required high levels of taxation, and Edward met with both lay and ecclesiastical opposition. These crises were initially averted, but issues remained unsettled. When the King died in 1307, he left to his son Edward II an ongoing war with Scotland and many financial and political problems.
Edward I was a tall man (6’2″) for his era, hence the nickname “Longshanks”. He was temperamental, and this, along with his height, made him an intimidating man, and he often instilled fear in his contemporaries. Nevertheless, he held the respect of his subjects for the way he embodied the medieval ideal of kingship, as a soldier, an administrator and a man of faith.
Modern historians are divided on their assessment of Edward: while some have praised him for his contribution to the law and administration, others have criticised him for his uncompromising attitude towards his nobility. Currently, Edward I is credited with many accomplishments during his reign, including restoring royal authority after the reign of Henry III, establishing Parliament as a permanent institution and thereby also a functional system for raising taxes, and reforming the law through statutes.
At the same time, he is also often criticised for other actions, such as his brutal conduct towards the Welsh and Scots, and issuing the Edict of Expulsion in 1290, by which the Jews were expelled from England. The Edict remained in effect for the rest of the Middle Ages, and it was over 350 years until it was formally overturned under Oliver Cromwell in 1657.
In 1254, English fears of a Castilian invasion of the English province of Gascony induced King Henry to arrange a politically expedient marriage between fifteen-year-old Edward and thirteen-year-old Eleanor of Castile. She was the half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castile and the daughter of King Fernando III of Castile and Joan, Countess of Ponthieu. Her Castilian name, Leonor, became Alienor or Alianor in England, and Eleanor in modern English. She was named after her paternal great-grandmother, Eleanor of England. Edward and Eleanor were married on November 1, 1254 in the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas in Castile.
By his first wife Eleanor of Castile, Edward had at least fourteen children, perhaps as many as sixteen. Of these, five daughters survived into adulthood, but only one son outlived his father, King Edward II (1307–1327).
Eleanor of Castile had died on November 28, 1290. The couple loved each other and like his father, Edward was very devoted to his wife and was faithful to her throughout their married lives — a rarity among monarchs of the time. He was deeply affected by her death. He displayed his grief by erecting twelve so-called Eleanor crosses, one at each place where her funeral cortège stopped for the night. As part of the peace accord between England and France in 1294, it was agreed that Edward should marry Philippe IV’s half-sister Marguerite, but the marriage was delayed by the outbreak of war.
Marguerite of France (c. 1279-1318) was a daughter of Philippe III of France and Maria of Brabant. Edward was then 60 years old, at least 40 years older than his 20 year old bride. The wedding took place at Canterbury on September 10 1299. Marguerite was never crowned due to financial constraints, being the first uncrowned queen since the Conquest. This in no way lessened her dignity as the king’s wife, however, for she used the royal title in her letters and documents, and appeared publicly wearing a crown even though she had not received one during a formal rite of investiture.
By Margaret of France, Edward had two sons, both of whom lived to become adults, and a daughter who died as a child. The Hailes Abbey chronicle indicates that John Botetourt may have been Edward’s illegitimate son; however, the claim is unsubstantiated.
Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent (August 5, 1301 – March 19, 1330) of Arundel Castle in Sussex, was the sixth son of King Edward I of England by his second wife Margaret of France and was thus a younger half-brother of King Edward II. Edmund still remained loyal to his brother, and in 1321 he was created Earl of Kent. He played an important part in Edward’s administration, acting both as diplomat and military commander, and in 1321–22 helped suppress a rebellion against the King.
In 1326, Edmund joined a rebellion led by Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer, whereby King Edward II was deposed. Edmund failed to get along with the new administration, his nephew King Edward III, and in 1330 he was caught planning a new rebellion, and was executed.
Note on the Regnal Number of Edward Longshanks.
Whoever began numbering the kings and queen of England ignored centuries of royal tradition and began numbering the monarchs from the time of the Norman Conquest. There were kings of England for a few centuries prior to the year 1066. The name most effected by this tradition was Edward.
The use of ordinal numbers had not come into common usage during the reign of Edward Longshanks, he was simply known as King Edward or King Edward Longshanks. It wasn’t until the successive reigns of his son and grandson, also named Edward, that Edward Longshanks became known as Edward I. But this was not accurate for there were three Anglo-Saxon kings named Edward prior to the Norman conquest. Therefore, Edward I was in reality the fourth King of England by that name and should have been called King Edward IV. This means that the most recent King Edward, Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, was in reality King Edward XI.