Edward I

Edward I married his son, Edward II to the princes of France. This marriage would eventually cause his grandson, Edward III to kick off the Hundred Years war.

Edward I (1239–1307), king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine, was born at Westminster on the night of 17–18 June 1239, the eldest son of Henry III (1207–1272) and Eleanor of Provence (c.1223–1291).

Childhood and youth, 1239–1258

A medieval manuscript page showing Edward I
A medieval manuscript page showing Edward I

Widespread delight at the news of Edward's birth was tempered when the king made it known that he expected gifts from his subjects. ‘God gave us this child, but the king is selling him to us’ was one comment (Prestwich, Edward I, 4). The name Edward was chosen by the king, who was devoted to the cult of Edward the Confessor. The boy was soon given his own household, and provided with companions, of whom the most notable was his cousin Henry of Almain (d. 1271), son of Richard, earl of Cornwall (1209–1272). Letters from the king demonstrate a fatherly concern: in 1242 he expressed worry that Edward and the other children had no good wine to drink, and the sheriff of Gloucester was ordered to send him a regular supply of lampreys. Hugh Giffard was the first to be given charge of the young Edward; in 1246 Bartholomew Pecche took his place. There were serious concerns about the boy's health in 1246, 1247, and 1251, but he grew up to be strong and healthy. Little is known of his education, but by seventeen he was skilled enough in arms to take part in a tournament at Blythe. As heir to the throne he was known simply as ‘Dominus Edwardus’, the Lord Edward. There was no question of his being crowned king during his father's lifetime, in the way that Henry II had his eldest son elevated to kingly status in 1170.

In 1254 alarm at the possibility of a Castilian invasion of Gascony led to the plan for Edward's marriage to Eleanor of Castile (1241–1290). Alfonso X was anxious that his son-in-law should receive a substantial endowment of land, and Edward, who was given Gascony, Ireland, the earldom of Chester, major estates in Wales, Bristol, Stamford, and Grantham, gained some measure of independence. Yet it was not until 1256 that orders were given for Edward's seal to replace Henry's in Ireland, and even then the king occasionally countermanded his son's orders. There were more significant disagreements between the king and Edward over policy in Gascony, the former following a policy of reconciliation, the latter giving his firm backing to one faction in Bordeaux, the Soler family. In Wales policies of Anglicization pursued by Edward's officials, notably Geoffrey Langley, provoked rebellion in 1256, and an ineffective royal campaign in the north of the country in the following year. At this period Edward's income was probably in the region of £6000 a year; that this was insufficient is indicated by his sale of the wardship of Robert Ferrers for 6000 marks, and a loan he obtained from the archbishop of Canterbury of £1000.

Politically, from 1254 until 1257, Edward was under the influence of the powerful court faction of the Savoyards, relatives of his mother, Eleanor of Provence, of whom the most notable was Peter of Savoy. In 1258, however, he linked his cause to that of the Lusignans, the Poitevin half-brothers of the king. Stamford and Grantham were handed over to one of them, William de Valence, in return for a loan. Edward planned to make Geoffrey de Lusignan seneschal of Gascony, and his brother Guy keeper of Oléron and the Channel Islands. Given the extreme unpopularity of the Lusignans, this was a dangerous line for Edward to take, and it is not surprising that the veteran chronicler Matthew Paris viewed the prospect of his succeeding one day to the throne with no enthusiasm at all.

The baronial reform movement, 1258–1264

Edward's role in the difficult period of baronial reform and rebellion was understandably ambivalent, for the man who emerged as the most formidable opposition leader was his uncle by marriage, Simon de Montfort. When the crisis first erupted in 1258 Edward initially, with considerable reluctance, swore to accept what should be decided. When a reform scheme was drawn up at the Oxford parliament in May 1258, Edward made his attitude very plain, by giving public support to the Lusignans. Four councillors, John de Balliol, Roger de Mohaut, John de Grey, and Stephen Longespée, were then appointed to curb Edward, the first two being baronial supporters, the latter experienced officials who had served him previously. As the success of the reformers became increasingly apparent, so Edward's attitude softened. He began to build up a new following, which included his cousin Henry of Almain, John, Earl Warenne (d. 1304), Roger Clifford, Roger Leyburn, Hamon L'Estrange, and others, men who were to play very significant roles later in Edward's career. In March 1259 Edward entered into a formal alliance with Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, one of the leading reformers. One possible reason for this is that Edward was anxious to have the support of at least one of those about to negotiate peace terms with the French, for it was important that his interests in Gascony should be safeguarded. In October 1259 an appeal was made directly to Edward and Gloucester by a body calling itself the ‘community of the bachelors of England’. The complaint was that the king had done all he had been asked to do, while the baronial reformers had not acted. Edward's response was that he had been initially reluctant to swear to the oath demanded of him at Oxford, but that he was now ready to stand by it. He was ready, indeed, to die in the cause of the community of the realm. Various interpretations of this incident have been proposed, but it seems likely that Edward was indeed enthusiastic about the cause of reform. On 15 October he issued letters announcing that he had sworn to do all in his power to support Simon de Montfort, and that he was committed to support the baronial enterprise. Montfort, it should be noted, had quarrelled with Gloucester, and was the man most likely to carry influence in the negotiations with the French. Edward may have been motivated by idealistic concepts, but there was hard political sense to his alignments in this difficult period.

From November 1259 until April 1260 Henry III was in France for the peace negotiations. Edward used his father's absence to make a bid for independence, and Henry at least was persuaded that his son was plotting to depose him. Edward was certainly in dispute with the earl of Gloucester. On the king's return to England Henry initially refused to see Edward, but reconciliation was achieved by the earl of Cornwall and the archbishop of Canterbury. Edward and Gloucester's dispute was to be settled by arbitration. Roger Leyburn and Roger Clifford were removed from the respective commands of Bristol and the ‘Three Castles’ (Grosmont, Skenfrith, and Whitecastle) in south Wales to which Edward had appointed them. Edward himself was sent abroad, to take part in tournaments, but returned briefly in the autumn after allegedly failing to distinguish himself. In November he went back to France, and made common cause once more with the Lusignans.

When Edward arrived in England again, in the spring of 1261, it seems probable that he once more briefly changed sides, uniting with Montfort and Gloucester. If so, he was soon brought back to his father's cause, and in July went to Gascony, where he achieved some success in bringing order to an unruly province. Early in 1262 he came back to England, to face a crisis in his own private affairs. Roger Leyburn was accused and found guilty of misappropriating Edward's funds, a move that alienated Edward from the group of young English magnates, headed by Henry of Almain, Earl Warenne, and Roger Clifford, who had provided him with significant backing. To prevent further financial mismanagement Edward handed the bulk of his lands over to his father, receiving in exchange the receipts of the English Jewry for a three-year period. Once again Edward, presumably in some disgrace, was sent away to amuse himself in tournaments in France, and returned to England early in 1263.

A fresh problem faced Edward in the spring of 1263. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd had taken advantage of the confused political situation in England to extend his power in Wales and the marches. Edward led a campaign against him in April and May, but although he had the support of Llywelyn's brother Dafydd ap Gruffudd, the expedition achieved little. In England Henry III's situation deteriorated; Simon de Montfort had left England in 1261, but returned in the spring of 1263, determined to re-establish the baronial reform movement. The death of the earl of Gloucester in 1262 made it easier for him to assert his dominance. Edward was by now staunchly royalist. He went to Bristol, where the conduct of his men caused the townspeople to besiege him in the castle. Only when the bishop of Worcester organized a truce could he escape. Provocatively, he garrisoned Windsor Castle with foreign mercenary knights. Lack of money was a major problem, which he remedied in part by the forcible seizure of funds deposited for safe keeping in the New Temple in London. On 16 July Henry III accepted the baronial terms, but Edward continued to resist. In August he re-established links with his former supporters, notably Henry of Almain, Earl Warenne, and Roger Leyburn, and abandoned his unpopular use of foreign mercenaries. Attempts to reach a settlement in parliament in October failed, and Edward withdrew, seizing Windsor Castle, which his men had surrendered earlier. Lengthy negotiations eventually produced agreement that the dispute between the king and his opponents should be settled by the arbitration of the French king, Louis IX. Edward went with his father to Amiens for the discussions, which in January 1264 predictably yielded a firm justification for the royalist position.

The civil war, 1264–1267

The mise of Amiens was the prelude not to peace, but to civil war. The initial outbreak was in the Welsh marches. At Gloucester Edward displayed his lack of good faith; he forced an entry to the town, but when a relieving force under Robert Ferrers, earl of Derby, appeared, he agreed to a truce. Once Ferrers had departed, Edward ignored the terms of the agreement, and pillaged the town. In April the conflict moved to Northampton, where Edward played a leading role in the assault on the town where Montfort's son Simon had gathered baronial forces. Edward then pursued his quarrel with Ferrers, capturing Tutbury Castle and ravaging the earl's lands. Despite the scale of royalist success, London remained staunchly baronial, and a royal campaign to secure the south-east was countered by the Montfortian forces when they advanced on the royalists encamped at Lewes. Battle was joined on 14 May 1264. Edward, in command of the cavalry on the right, charged the Londoners to great effect, routing them. Unfortunately he did not control his troops effectively, and by the time he had regrouped them after a lengthy pursuit, the main battle was lost. Following negotiations during the night Edward and his cousin Henry of Almain gave themselves up as hostages, not to be released until a final settlement was achieved.

Edward's imprisonment lasted until March 1265. He then agreed to accept the scheme of government introduced by Montfort, and handed over Bristol as a pledge that he would keep his word. Five royal castles were to be transferred to Edward, who would then entrust them to Montfort for five years as a further guarantee. Nor was he fully free; close surveillance was the order of the day. At the end of May he went riding with his escort, and succeeded in making his escape, fleeing from Hereford to Roger Mortimer's castle of Wigmore. He joined forces with the young earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare (d. 1295), who had quarrelled with Simon de Montfort earlier in the year. Men soon flocked to Edward's standard; there was growing alarm at the increasingly autocratic attitude taken by Montfort. The marcher lords were quick to make common cause with Edward, and Earl Warenne and William de Valence rapidly joined him. Worcester fell without a fight, and the Gloucester garrison soon surrendered. Simon de Montfort looked to Llywelyn of Wales for support, and made a formal alliance with him on 19 June. By breaking the bridges across the Severn the royalists cut Montfort off from potential support. Meanwhile the younger Simon de Montfort marched north from his siege of Pevensey to Kenilworth, where he was surprised by Edward's troops who had made a swift night march from Worcester. The elder Montfort marched to Evesham, hoping to join forces with his son. On 4 August battle was joined. Montfort was completely outmanoeuvred before the battle, and the defensive formation of his troops was not strong enough to resist Edward's and Gloucester's men. Montfort and his eldest son, Henry, were killed, along with many of their supporters. The campaign had been a triumph for Edward, though how far he had personally masterminded it is not apparent from the sources.

The battle of Evesham did not mark the conclusion of the civil war. The political mood of the victors was not one of reconciliation, and late in the year Edward campaigned against the younger Simon de Montfort and other rebels who had taken refuge in the Isle of Axholme in Lincolnshire, coming to terms with them at Christmas 1265. A campaign together with Roger Leyburn against the Cinque Ports followed, with success achieved by 25 March. A mopping-up operation in Hampshire saw Edward engage a notable rebel knight, Adam Gurdun, in single combat. The romantic story was that Edward was so impressed with Gurdun's courage that he gave him his lands back, and regarded him with great favour. The reality was that he was given to the queen as a prisoner, and made to buy his lands back at a heavy price.

The major military operation against the rebels was the siege of Kenilworth, though it was not until May 1266 that Edward himself joined the royalist forces engaged in a complex and expensive operation there. Nor does it appear that he played any significant part in the negotiations that led to the promulgation of the dictum of Kenilworth at the end of October. This set out the principles by which former rebels were allowed to repurchase their lands, and was not enough to persuade the Kenilworth garrison to surrender; they held out, cold and hungry, until mid-December. Edward, meanwhile, had gone north to deal with John de Vescy, who had rebelled in protest at the policy of confiscation of lands adopted by the royalists. He had to pay 3700 marks to redeem his lands, but bore Edward no ill will, and became in time one of his most loyal associates. The one remaining problem was the continued resistance of John d'Eyville, which became acute in April 1267 when the earl of Gloucester joined forces with him and marched on London. Gloucester, who had done so much to secure Edward's success in 1265, had received little recognition for his services, and there was a real danger that civil war would break out again on a big scale. Negotiations, however, were successful, and Gloucester left London. The government adopted a more conciliatory line toward the former rebels, and Edward reduced the final rebel redoubt in the Isle of Ely with little difficulty. The summer was dry, making it easy to advance through the fens, and on 11 July the rebels surrendered.

The settlement of England, 1267–1270

Important steps were taken in the autumn of 1267 to secure the royalist position. On 29 September the treaty of Montgomery was agreed with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. The English recognized him as prince of Wales, and as the feudal lord of all other Welsh princes with the sole exception of Maredudd ap Rhys of Ystrad Tywi, who owed homage directly to Henry III. The lands of the Four Cantrefs in the north were conceded to Llywelyn. Edward had earlier handed over important interests in Wales to his brother Edmund (1245–1296), to whom he granted Cardigan and Carmarthen in 1265. Edward therefore had largely abandoned his interests in Wales; although he gave his consent to the treaty of Montgomery, it is hard to imagine that he did so very willingly. In November 1267 the Statute of Marlborough was issued. This lengthy series of legal measures continued in many respects the work of legislative reform begun by the king's opponents in 1259, and in many ways it anticipated the legal reforms of Edward's reign, though it is not clear that he took any part in the debates which must have taken place about the measures.

It is, indeed, difficult to determine what Edward's role was in the years following the pacification of England. In some respects his behaviour did not seem statesmanlike. His relations with the earl of Gloucester remained stormy; the two men were in dispute over the ownership of Bristol, while decisions Edward made in 1269 when hearing disputes between the marcher lords and Llywelyn of Wales antagonized the earl. In 1269 he was involved in the harsh treatment of his former ward Robert Ferrers, earl of Derby. Ferrers was forced to acknowledge a huge debt of £50,000 to Edward's brother Edmund, in return for his release from captivity. Inevitably, the money could not be found, and Edmund acquired the bulk of Ferrers's estates. Edward undoubtedly took a leading part in the discussions in the royal council, but the only measures that can be clearly associated with him were one for the holding of tournaments, and another dealing with debts owed to Jewish moneylenders. He received some major grants, which gave him the custody of London, seven royal castles, and eight counties, but this was presumably in order to pay off the debts he must have incurred in his military operations, rather than as a means of giving him added political authority. The evidence does not suggest that he played a dominant political role in all areas. Until 1268 the papal legate Ottobuono had played a leading role in the affairs of state, and after that Edward's concerns were increasingly directed towards his planned crusade.

Edward had a hard political apprenticeship. He had found it difficult to balance the various pressures that were placed upon him, and it is not surprising that he gained a reputation for unreliability as a result of his various changes of side since 1258. One contemporary saw him as on the one hand a leo, a brave lion, proud and fierce; and on the other as a pard, a leopard, inconsistent and unreliable, a man who made promises when in difficulties and then broke them when it suited him. The ambivalence in his character was very clear in this period of his life; such traits may have been less obvious later, but they did not leave him.

Edward on crusade, 1270–1274

The papal legate Ottobuono was ordered to preach the crusade in the autumn of 1266, as part of a campaign throughout Europe. Louis IX decided to participate, and took the cross with his sons in March 1267. There was little initial support in England, and this was not to be a movement buoyed up by popular enthusiasm. The important step was taken in 1268 at Northampton, when Edward, his brother Edmund, Henry of Almain, Earl Warenne, the earl of Gloucester, William de Valence, and others agreed to go on crusade. It is not obvious why Edward himself took the cross. His father had done so in 1250, and in 1268 Henry III probably still hoped to go to the East. Should he not do so, it was his second son Edmund, not Edward, who was seen by the pope as an acceptable substitute. The papal view was that the situation in England demanded Edward's presence there. Edward, however, was undoubtedly enthusiastic about the crusading cause, and perhaps welcomed the opportunity to leave England and its problems. He may also have felt honour-bound to go: if the king of France's sons were setting out for the East, so should the king of England's.

The core of Edward's expedition was provided by his own household. In July 1270 contracts were made with eighteen men to provide a total of 225 knights. The force was largely composed of men who had fought on the royalist side in the civil war; only for a few former rebels did the crusade provide a means of gaining royal favour. The earl of Gloucester was one opponent of Edward who did take the cross, but he became increasingly reluctant to go. Richard of Cornwall had to negotiate an agreement between him and Edward at the Easter parliament in 1270, which provided that the earl should follow Edward to the East within six months. In the event he did not do so, Welsh attacks on his lands providing him with an excuse. The expedition that set off in the summer of 1270 was, by any standards, a small one. Recruitment for the crusade had not been easy, nor was its financing. Louis IX provided a loan of about £17,500 in 1269, while lengthy discussions in a series of parliaments eventually led to the grant of a tax of a twentieth in 1270.

Edward's forces arrived at the crusading port of Aigues-Mortes on the southern French coast at the end of September 1270, long after the main expedition had departed for Tunis. When Edward's small fleet reached Tunis, it was to discover that the French king had died of dysentery in August, and that his successor was also stricken. Charles of Anjou had entered into negotiations with the Tunisian emir, and reached agreement on 1 November. An indignant Edward had to accept the decision of the crusade leaders to sail for Sicily, with the intention of going on to the East in the spring. He was the only one to stick to the plan, sailing from Sicily early in May 1271, and revictualling his troops in Cyprus. On 9 May he landed at Acre. English sources suggest that had he not arrived, the port would have been lost to the mameluke leader, Baibars, but Arab sources do not suggest that Baibars intended any major assault. When Baibars rode up to the walls, Edward was in no position to take any action against his vastly superior forces. Late in June the English force finally made a sortie, to St Georges-de-Lebeyne, about 15 miles from Acre. Heat and food poisoning took their toll of the troops, and little was achieved. In November a further raid took place under Edward's command, this time with the support of a good many local nobles and members of the military orders. Qaqun, 40 miles from Acre, was the target, and an enemy force of some numbers but little strength was defeated, but the citadel itself was not taken. It was clear that little could be achieved, and in May 1272 Hugues III, king of Cyprus and titular king of Jerusalem, agreed a ten-year truce with Baibars. Edward was angry at this, and remained in the East until 24 September 1272, perhaps in the hope that further military action might be possible. His return to the West may also have been delayed because of the after-effects of the most celebrated incident of his crusade. In June 1272 a Muslim assassin attempted to kill him with a poisoned dagger. Edward kicked him, seized his knife, and slew him; but he was himself wounded in the arm. The master of the Temple provided a remedy, which failed; the wound began to putrefy. Eventually an English doctor cured Edward, by cutting away the decaying flesh. The classic story is, of course, that Eleanor of Castile devotedly sucked the poison from the wound. The same tale is told of Edward's close Savoyard friend Otto de Grandson; neither account has contemporary support.

Edward returned from the East to southern Italy, where he heard news of the death of his father, Henry III. He did not, as might have been expected, hasten to England for his coronation. His journey through Italy was leisurely; he then made an important visit to Savoy, and engaged in a tournament at Châlons-sur-Marne, which turned more violent than was proper for such an occasion. He did homage for his French lands to Philippe III of France at Paris, where he stayed in late July and early August, and then, instead of directing his journey to England, went to Gascony, where there was serious news of the rebellion of Gaston de Béarn. Not until 2 August 1274 did Edward finally return to England.

Crusading and diplomacy, 1274–1291

Edward undoubtedly enhanced his reputation by taking part in the crusade. He distinguished himself by persisting longer in an obviously futile cause than any of the other leaders who set out in 1270. His diplomatic efforts to win Mongol support failed, his military efforts were mere pinpricks to the mamelukes. The expedition was marked by a curious mixture of over-ambition and a full awareness of the limitations of the resources available. In the military sense Edward showed himself to be suitably cautious; in financial terms he displayed less realism. The crusade had proved an extremely expensive venture. The money raised before the expedition proved sufficient only until Edward arrived at Acre. Thereafter he borrowed funds from Italian merchants and others. The company of the Riccardi of Lucca lent him over £22,000 for the period from his landing in Sicily in 1272 until his return to England. In all, the crusade probably cost £100,000 or more.

Edward hoped to be able to go on crusade once more, and was to take the cross again in 1287. His role in European diplomacy in the first half of his reign was directed at the prevention of conflict, so as to make this possible. The dispute between the Angevins ruling in Naples and the kingdom of Aragon was a major obstacle to the European peace that was needed if a major crusade was to be mounted. Edward hoped to act as a peacemaker in the 1280s in this dispute. In 1283 he even made available his city of Bordeaux as the venue for single combat to settle the issue between Charles of Anjou and Pedro of Aragon, but the engagement never took place. In 1286 Edward was successful in brokering a truce between France and Aragon, and two years later he provided money and hostages to Pedro of Aragon so as to secure the release of the Angevin Charles of Salerno. Edward was a major figure in the European politics of this period, but in the end his peacemaking efforts were in vain. He had planned marriage alliances with Navarre, Aragon, and the Habsburg dynasty, but all failed, and it was only the marriage of his daughter Margaret to the duke of Brabant's heir, John, that was carried through in 1290. Charles of Salerno's release was secured, but at great cost and without securing lasting peace between Aragon and the Angevins. Edward hoped for a grand alliance between the forces of the West and those of the Mongols in the East, but this was too ambitious an idea, and came to naught. The city of Acre fell in 1291, and though Edward still dreamed of going on crusade, nothing came of his hopes.

The government of England, 1274–1290

Edward's first concern on his return to England in 1274 was of course his coronation, which took place on 19 August. There was some dispute with his brother Edmund over the role the latter was entitled to play in his position as steward of England; there was also a problem over the perennial argument between the archbishops of Canterbury and York, which resulted in the latter's exclusion from the ceremony. Otherwise, the coronation went smoothly, with celebrations on a truly exceptional scale.

The coronation over, Edward could give his attentions to the affairs of his realm. The first task, after some changes of personnel, which included the appointment of Edward's close associate Robert Burnell (d. 1292) as chancellor, was to conduct a major inquiry into the state of the realm. On 11 October 1274 commissioners were appointed to inquire into a wide range of matters, the prime purpose being to discover what rights and lands had been lost by the crown. By March of the following year the process of investigation was complete. Only some of the returns, known as the hundred rolls, survive, but they are sufficient to show the immense scale of the inquiry. Jurors often found it hard to know whether or not royal rights had been usurped by magnates; they found it much easier to tell tales about official wrongdoings. The scale of the returns was such that it was hard for the government to make much use of them; the Dunstable annalist cynically commented that no good came of the inquiry. There were no judicial commissions set up to hear the complaints against royal and private officials that were brought up. Yet many of the issues raised in the hundred rolls were the subject of legislation in the first Statute of Westminster, promulgated in the April parliament of 1275, though it is not clear that the clauses of the statute were directly based on the huge mass of material in the hundred rolls.

Edward I's statutes are one of the great achievements of the reign. The sweep of the legislation was extensive, and the majority of the statutes were not dedicated to a single topic, but covered a range of matters. They were not the work of a single legislator, and many clauses had their origins in specific issues that had arisen in the courts. The most important of the statutes were: Westminster I (1275); Gloucester (1278); Mortmain (1279); Acton Burnell (1283); Westminster II (1285); Winchester (1285); Merchants (1285); Quia emptores (1290); and Quo warranto (1290).

Land tenure was one important theme in the legislation. The first clause of Westminster I, De donis conditionalibus, was designed to meet the grievance of those who found that even if they made gifts of lands on precise conditions, these were often flouted. Family settlements were the major issue here. Quia emptores ensured that if feudal tenants disposed of lands the new holder would enter into the same feudal relationship with the lord as the former holder. Much was done to clarify relations between lords and tenants, providing protection for tenants against unjust distraint, and giving lords ways of dealing with recalcitrant tenants. Landlords were provided by Westminster II with new methods of dealing with fraudulent bailiffs. The question of the grant of lands to the church was dealt with in what was perhaps the most political of the statutes, Mortmain. In the course of a dispute with Archbishop Pecham the king forbade the grant of lands to the church without royal licence, a measure that reiterated a clause of the provisions of Westminster of 1259.

The question of debt was the subject of the Statute of Acton Burnell, which was revised in the Statute of Merchants. Merchants were provided with a new mechanism for the registration of debt. If a debt was not paid off promptly, the debtor was threatened with prison, and eventually with handing over his lands to his creditor. The Statute of Winchester dealt with the maintenance of law and order, updating earlier provisions setting out the military equipment all free men should possess (necessary if they were to prevent crime), and making local hundreds responsible for bringing forward indictments. Arrangements were outlined for watch and ward in towns and cities; roads were to be widened, so that there should be no undergrowth nearby in which highway robbers might lurk.

It is impossible that so major a programme of legal change should have been carried out without the active encouragement of the king himself, but evidence for Edward's own involvement in the statutes is hard to find. It is unlikely that he was much concerned in the detailed work of drafting the new measures; that was a task for the experts. Much of the drive for change, however, must have been due to the king, and his experiences of the baronial reform movement of the late 1250s and early 1260s surely help to explain his determination to improve the way in which the law operated.

The church and the bench

The appointment of John Pecham to the see of Canterbury in 1279 was followed by a series of arguments between king and primate. Proposals for ecclesiastical reform set out by Pecham at Reading in 1279 directly attacked royal officials, and threatened royal rights. The archbishop was forced to retreat in parliament in the autumn of that year, but in 1280 a massive list of clerical grievances was presented in parliament. Pecham continued his practice of excommunicating royal officials, and another church council, at Lambeth in 1281, continued the work of reform. Pecham sent a long letter to Edward, stressing the king's obligation to bring English practices into line with the rest of Christendom. Further clerical grievances were put forward in 1285. From the crown's point of view it was claimed that church courts in the see of Norwich had overstepped their proper bounds in over 150 cases. But in the next year Edward issued a conciliatory writ, Circumspecte agatis, ordering Richard of Boyland, the justice active in the bishopric of Norwich, to act with due circumspection towards the clergy. Edward's readiness to compromise was probably because he wanted to avoid trouble while he was abroad in Gascony. In taking this course he displayed statesmanlike good sense.

Edward clearly did not believe that the country could be ruled well in his absence, and his return from Gascony in 1289 was followed by a major purge of judges and officials. The first scandal was that Thomas Weyland, chief justice of the common pleas, had protected two of his men who had committed murder. He was forced out of sanctuary by blockade, and driven into exile. A commission was set up to hear complaints against royal officials, and eventually some 1000 men were charged with a wide range of offences. The greatest to be brought down was Ralph Hengham, chief justice of the king's bench. The fact that Edward accepted fines from most of those convicted won him little favour with the chroniclers. A sad blow to Edward at this time was the death of his beloved queen, Eleanor, on 28 November 1290, and there were other deaths that transformed the character of the administration: those of the treasurer, John Kirkby, in 1290, and the chancellor, Robert Burnell, in 1292. A new generation of officials would dominate the policies of the 1290s, the most difficult decade of Edward's reign.

The conquest of Wales, 1274–1284

In 1267 Edward had abandoned most of his interests in Wales, but when he returned to England from crusade in 1274 Welsh affairs soon came to the fore. The Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd had taken advantage of the political troubles in England in the 1260s; he failed to appreciate how the situation had changed by the 1270s. He refused to do homage to Edward I, invaded English territory, began building a threatening new castle at Dolforwyn, and planned to marry Simon de Montfort's daughter Eleanor. His own brother Dafydd, and the powerful Welsh magnate Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, found his ambitions unacceptable, and took refuge at the English court. War became unavoidable, and in the autumn of 1276 Edward I decided to act. In the summer of the following year a great royal host, over 15,000 strong, advanced from Chester along the coast of north Wales to Deganwy. Naval support was essential, and ships were used to take English troops to Anglesey, where they reaped the grain harvest, so reducing Llywelyn's capacity to resist. No major fighting took place; Llywelyn appreciated the overwhelming strength of Edward's army, and came to terms in the treaty of Aberconwy. The Four Cantrefs, originally granted to Edward in 1254 but regained by the Welsh in 1267, were handed over to the English. Llywelyn's political authority was severely curtailed; he was in future to receive homage only from the lords of Snowdonia, not of all Wales. A massive war indemnity of £50,000 was imposed, though not in practice collected.

War broke out again in 1282. The imposition of English jurisdiction caused much discontent in Wales. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd had been involved in a complex and humiliating legal dispute over the cantref of Arwystli with his former enemy Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn. Llywelyn's appeal to Welsh law stressed the threat that Edward I presented to the very identity of the Welsh people. Llywelyn's brother Dafydd, ill rewarded by Edward for his part in the first Welsh war, made the first move in 1282, attacking Hawarden Castle on 21 April. Concerted attacks soon came on other English castles. Edward was quick to respond, making plans at a council at Devizes in April. The overall strategy was similar to that of the first Welsh war, with a major royal campaign in the north, and operations on a smaller scale by other commanders in the marches and the south. Logistical planning was on an impressive scale; the king even called on his overseas dominions of Ireland, Gascony, and Ponthieu for aid, and arrangements were made to link Anglesey to the Welsh mainland by a great pontoon bridge. By the autumn of 1282 Llywelyn's heartland of Snowdonia was threatened on all sides, notably by the royal army, which had advanced from Chester, and by a force under Luke de Tany, which had established itself in Anglesey. At this stage Archbishop John Pecham attempted to negotiate a settlement. Luke de Tany, disobeying orders, tried to take advantage of the peace negotiations by advancing across the bridge from Anglesey to the mainland. He was ambushed and killed; his force suffered heavy losses. The setback was no more than that. Edward's determination was hardened, and Llywelyn attempted to break out of the stranglehold in which he had been placed. A bold move into mid-Wales led to disaster. He was lured into a trap at Irfon Bridge, and was killed in battle. The war was continued by his brother Dafydd, but to little real effect. Castell y Bere, the last Welsh stronghold, surrendered in April 1283, and in June Dafydd himself was captured by men of his own nationality and handed over to the English for execution at Shrewsbury as a traitor.

The victory of 1283 was followed by a full-scale English settlement. The Statute of Wales of 1284 extended the English system of administration, and new counties of Flint, Anglesey, Merioneth, and Caernarfon were created with the full institutional complexity of sheriffs, county courts, and coroners, though at the local level of the commote it proved impossible to reconstruct local government on a purely English pattern. Welsh land law was not eradicated, but English criminal law was instituted for all major felonies. The settlement was limited to those areas of Wales under direct royal control, and did not extend to the marcher lordships. It was not therefore comprehensive, but it was statesmanlike. The policy adopted toward the Welsh aristocracy was less admirable. Disinheritance was on a huge scale. Llywelyn's dynasty was destroyed, and other Welsh princely families lost their lands. New lordships were created for Edward's followers, such as Bromfield and Yale for John, Earl Warenne, and Denbigh for the earl of Lincoln.

The consolidation of English rule in Wales, 1284–1295

The conquest was symbolized in physical terms by a most elaborate and ambitious castle-building programme. The first Welsh war had been followed by the building of new castles at Flint, Rhuddlan, Builth, and Aberystwyth; to these were now added Conwy, Caernarfon, and Harlech, with works also taking place at Cricieth. Edward looked to Savoy for expertise in castle building after his first Welsh campaign, perhaps because he did not want to divert his English masons from their work on the Tower of London. The man chiefly responsible for the Welsh castles was James St George; his selection was indicative of Edward's skill in choosing the right man for a job. With him came a number of other Savoyard experts, masons, and carpenters, though the bulk of the workmen were of course recruited in England. Details of window design, of scaffolding structure, and even the measurements of the latrine chutes prove the connection between these castles in Wales and those in Savoy. The castles were not built to a standard pattern; where the site allowed, concentric lines of defence added to the strength of round towers and massive curtain walls. Twin D-shaped towers formed the gatehouses at Rhuddlan, Harlech, and elsewhere. At Conwy and Caernarfon the exigencies of the site demanded not a concentric plan, but an elongated twin bailey. At the latter Master James abandoned his usual style and built a magnificent structure with polygonal towers and dark stripes of masonry decorating the walls. This echoed the Theodosian walls of Constantinople, for Edward, in a romantic gesture, wanted to express in the building a traditional Welsh legend that the father of the emperor Constantine was buried at Caernarfon. Three eagles on the great Eagle tower emphasized imperial ambitions, as well as perhaps providing a further symbol of the link with Savoy.

Along with the castles went new towns. Flint, Aberystwyth, and Rhuddlan were creations after the first Welsh war; Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech after the second. Cricieth and Bere were Anglicized. In the new lordships new boroughs were set up at Holt, Denbigh, and Ruthin. The intention was that these towns should be peopled by Englishmen, brought in on very favourable terms.

Conclusive as the conquest of 1283 had been, rebellion still broke out in 1287 and 1294. In 1287 Rhys ap Maredudd, lord of Dryslwyn, a man who had been loyal to the English in 1277 and 1282, rebelled. He was furious at the way he had been treated by English officials and considered that he had been humiliated, rather than rewarded, by Edward. As in other cases, Edward was very conscious of his own rights, but unsympathetic to the feelings of others; he had rebuked Rhys publicly for taking seisin of lands granted to him before formal investiture had taken place. Rhys's rebellion took place while the king was in Gascony. The regency government had little difficulty in putting it down, capturing Dryslwyn in September, though not its lord. Rhys then took Newcastle Emlyn, but after it fell in January 1288 he was left a fugitive and an outlaw until finally captured and executed in 1292.

Far more serious than Rhys's localized rising was the rebellion of 1294. The imposition of an English-style tax of a fifteenth in 1292, in addition to the generally oppressive English administration, provided the background. The outbreak of war with France provided an obvious opportunity for rebellion. The main leader was Madog ap Llywelyn, a man distantly related to the princely family of Gwynedd. This was a widespread, popular, and national uprising, which took the English completely by surprise. With the exception of Caernarfon, which was only half-completed, the new royal castles held out, but many baronial strongholds fell to a concerted series of assaults. Edward's response was to adopt once more the strategy that had served him so well in the past. The royal army advanced from Chester, while baronial forces operated in south and mid-Wales. Over 30,000 men in all were employed in the various operations. The campaign was not without its problems. Edward himself was for a time besieged in Conwy, with supplies running short during the winter months. But in March 1295 a force under the earl of Warwick defeated Madog and his men at Maes Moydog, near Oswestry, and although Madog himself was not captured in the fight, the rebellion began to collapse. The king was able to go on a triumphant tour of a defeated country. Hostages were taken to England, and heavy fines imposed on Welsh communities. One new castle was built, at Beaumaris in Anglesey. The overall lines of the settlement of 1284 were maintained, though the revolt certainly meant that English officials viewed the Welsh with increased suspicion. ‘Welshmen are Welshmen, and you need to understand them properly’, wrote one in 1296 (Prestwich, Edward I, 231). The rebellion had been a major embarrassment to Edward. It had diverted his attention from the French war at a significant moment, and had cost him some £55,000.

Fiscal reform, 1275–1289

Financial problems at the start of Edward's reign were acute, for there was a heavy debt resulting from the crusading expedition. Major measures were taken in 1275 to put the crown's finances on a secure basis. In the April parliament a customs duty was negotiated of 6s. 8d. on every sack of wool exported. There were some precedents for this. Edward had imposed a levy on imports and exports by foreign merchants in 1266, which was used as a means to repay the Riccardi bankers of Lucca for their loans, but the bankers were undoubtedly anxious for a more secure and lucrative form of repayment. The profitability of a levy of 10s. a sack taken from merchants who had disobeyed an embargo on wool exports to Flanders imposed in 1273, pointed the way forward. The new customs duties agreed in 1275 yielded some £10,000 a year. This was still not sufficient, and in the October parliament of 1275 a tax of a fifteenth, assessed on a valuation of moveable goods, was granted. This was assessed at over £81,000. Measures were also taken to improve the efficiency of the financial organization. New procedures for the exchequer were set out, and three officials were appointed to take charge of royal demesne lands. This was a radical scheme; it foundered upon the resistance of the sheriffs, and was abandoned after three years. The pattern for the future financial structure of Edward's government was largely set in 1275. Customs duties provided good security for loans from Italian bankers, while grants of taxation were an essential supplement to the ordinary revenues of the crown. One missing element was that there was no grant of taxation from the clergy in 1275; that was remedied in 1279, when the province of Canterbury agreed to pay a fifteenth for three years, and in 1280 when the province of York agreed to a tenth for two years. Clerical taxes were a valuable resource throughout the reign.

Reform of the currency was a further part of the overall financial reforms. Edward decided on a recoinage early in 1279. Large numbers of foreign workmen were recruited; provincial mints, long closed, were reopened. The new currency was issued at a slightly lower standard than the old, though since much of the coin in circulation was heavily worn and clipped, the new money was in practice much superior to the old. By 1281 silver to the value of at least £500,000 had been minted, and the mints remained active for the rest of the decade. The reminting was thoroughly successful, although in 1300 it proved necessary to take action against low-quality foreign imitation sterlings that had come into the country in considerable numbers.

War inevitably required additional financial resources, though the first Welsh campaign, in 1277, did not see a request made to the laity for a tax, perhaps because it was too soon after the grant of 1275, and because the expedition was not particularly costly. The second Welsh war, of 1282–3, was a different matter. The Welsh rising came too suddenly for a parliament to be summoned, and initially loans were raised from urban communities, totalling about £16,500. This was not enough, and regional assemblies were called to meet in York and Northampton in January 1283, resulting in the grant of a tax of a thirtieth. The Riccardi played a major role in financing the war, and about £20,000 was collected in forced loans from other Italian companies. The experience of the problems involved in financing the war led to a further attempt to reform exchequer administration. The Statute of Rhuddlan of 1284 simplified bookkeeping, clearing the large number of unrecoverable old debts from the pipe rolls of the exchequer. But an estimate of crown revenue still made depressing reading. As a result commissioners were sent round the country to inquire into debts owed to the crown, and the exchequer court was ordered to limit itself to cases involving the king and his officials. The campaign to recover debts was, of course, unpopular, and it achieved little, though in more general terms the overhaul of the financial administration did result in some clear gains.

Financial problems and taxation, 1290–1307

When Edward returned from Gascony in 1289, he faced new financial problems in England, initially because of the expenses incurred during his stay abroad. In the April parliament of 1290 he obtained permission to levy a feudal aid, a tax to which he was entitled by custom on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Joan to the earl of Gloucester. This, however, was unlikely to raise much money, and the plan was shelved. In its place, knights of the shire were summoned to Westminster for 15 July, to give their consent to a tax of a fifteenth. The contemporary view was clear: the tax was granted in return for the expulsion of the Jews from England in that year. The assessment was over £116,000. In addition, the clergy were asked for taxes, and tenths were duly granted by both provinces. The tax placed Edward in a strong financial position in the early 1290s; the outbreak of war with France in 1294, followed by a major Welsh rebellion in the same year, and a campaign in Scotland in 1296, put a very different complexion on affairs. To make matters more difficult, the Riccardi company, which had played such an important part in the finances of the first part of the reign, with the crown incurring an aggregate debt to it of £392,000 in all, was effectively bankrupted.

Demands for taxes on moveable goods resulted in successive grants in parliament in 1294, 1295, and 1296, though with each tax the level of assessment fell sharply. The attempt to impose a further tax, of an eighth, in 1297, foundered on political opposition, though in the autumn it was replaced by a properly granted ninth. The clergy proved less obliging than the laity. In 1294 a half was demanded from them, by threatening them with outlawry. In 1295 a tenth was granted, but in 1296, at Bury St Edmunds, Archbishop Robert Winchelsey used the papal bull Clericis laicos as a means of postponing an answer to the king's request for a further tax. The bull forbade the payment of taxes by the church to the lay power, a device intended by Pope Boniface VIII to hasten the end of the Anglo-French war. Early in 1297 Edward, faced by Winchelsey's refusal to grant a tax, duly outlawed the clergy, and collected in fines what they would have paid in taxation.

Trade offered further possibilities for raising money. The initial plan in 1294 was for a seizure of all the wool in England; this would then be exported by the crown at a substantial profit. The merchants protested, and a scheme whereby an additional duty of 40s., known as the maltote, was paid on each sack of wool exported, replaced the seizure. In 1297, however, a new seizure of wool was ordered at Easter. This yielded little, and a further order for the taking of 8000 sacks of wool was issued in August. Both additional customs duties and wool seizures, or prises, were abandoned in the autumn following protests. In his final years, Edward had to rely on what had become traditional sources of income. A tax of a fifteenth was granted in 1301, and one of a thirtieth and a twentieth in 1306. It proved possible in 1303 to negotiate an additional duty of 3s. 4d. on each woolsack exported by foreign merchants. Taxes, ostensibly for crusade purposes, were imposed on the clergy by the papacy, and the proceeds shared with the crown. Such resources were not adequate to meet the needs of the crown, heightened as they were by the Scottish war. Loans from the Italian company of the Frescobaldi were of considerable assistance to Edward, but many men owed money by the crown went unpaid. By the end of the reign the debt probably stood at some £200,000.


Gascony was important to Edward, perhaps in part because it was there that he had his first real taste of independent power in 1254–5. He visited it twice, and perhaps three times, in the early 1260s, and it was to Gascony, not England, that he first directed his attention on his return from crusade in 1274. The main reason was to bring the powerful and rebellious magnate Gaston de Béarn to heel. It had been intended that Gaston should accompany Edward on crusade, and the marriage of his daughter to Henry of Almain had been meant to reinforce his links with the English crown. Henry, however, was murdered at Viterbo in 1271, and Gaston refused to appear in court before the English seneschal of Gascony. He refused to do homage to Edward when he arrived in Gascony. Edward acted carefully, following legal forms, but eventually marched against Gaston and forced his surrender. Further legal argument followed; taking advantage of the fact that Gascony was held by the English as a fief from the French king, Gaston appealed to the parlement of Paris. It was not until 1278 that final agreement was reached, after which Gaston caused no further trouble. It may be that the affair gave Edward a false sense of confidence when it came to dealing with Welsh and Scottish leaders later in the reign; they were not to be brought to heel as easily as Gaston de Béarn.

Edward's first visit to Gascony as king saw a major inquiry into the feudal duties owed by the nobility to himself as duke. This was not complete by the time he left for England, but demonstrated his intention of reorganizing and reaffirming his rule. The importance he attached to the duchy was demonstrated by the fact that in 1278 he appointed two of his most important advisers, the Savoyard Otto de Grandson and the chancellor, Robert Burnell, to go there to investigate complaints against the rule of Luke de Tany, the seneschal, who was duly replaced by Jean de Grailly, a Savoyard. In the autumn of 1286 Edward himself returned to Gascony, and the energy with which the problems of the duchy were tackled testifies to the king's own vigour and determination. Feudal obligations in the Agenais were investigated. A series of charters to new towns, or bastides, were issued. The Jews were expelled from the duchy. Lands were purchased for the crown. Finally, in March 1289, near the end of the king's stay, a set of ordinances for the government of the duchy was drawn up at Condom. The duties of the seneschal and of the constable of Bordeaux were clearly laid out; rates of pay for officials were specified. Separate ordinances dealt with the provinces of Saintonge, Périgord, Limousin, Quercy, and the Agenais. The ordinances were specifically Gascon in character. Edward was not attempting to impose a standard administrative system on all his dominions, but there was a strong sense that he was bringing order and method to replace incoherence and individualism. What Edward could not do, however, was to alter the inconvenient situation by which he held Gascony as a fief from the French king. This was to be a major reason for the outbreak of the Anglo-French war in 1294.

The French war, 1293–1303, and marriage to Margaret of France

In the first half of the reign relations with the French monarchy had been reasonably good. Edward had visited Paris in 1279, so that Queen Eleanor might do homage for the county of Ponthieu. At Amiens outstanding differences with the French, notably over the Agenais, were settled. A French request that Edward, who as duke of Aquitaine was a vassal of the French monarchy, should serve in the campaign of 1285 in Aragon created problems, but the failure of the campaign and the death of Philippe III averted crisis. In 1286 Edward did homage to the new king, Philippe IV (r. 1285–1314), at Paris, and good relations were re-established. The war with France that broke out in 1294 was, from Edward's standpoint, unexpected. He was the victim of an aggressive French monarchy, which regarded Edward, in his capacity as duke of Aquitaine, as an overmighty vassal whose subjection to French sovereignty and jurisdiction needed to be emphasized. Philippe was presented with his opportunity by a private naval war, which began in 1293 between English and Norman sailors. The involvement of some Gascons provided the French king with the opportunity to summon Edward to appear before the parlement of Paris. Edmund of Lancaster, Edward's brother, was sent to try to negotiate a settlement. Early in 1294 a secret agreement was reached. Edward was to marry Philippe IV's sister Margaret (1279?–1318). Gascon hostages, fortresses, and towns were to be handed over to the French for a period, and then returned to the English. The summons to the parlement would be withdrawn. The English negotiators were duped. Edward kept his part of the bargain; but the French did not withdraw the summons, and declared Gascony forfeit when Edward failed to appear.

In October 1294 the first English contingents sailed to Gascony, to achieve some success at Bayonne, though none at Bordeaux. Edward's war plans, however, extended much further than campaigning in south-western France. On the advice of Antony (I) Bek, bishop of Durham and a long-standing supporter of the king, an elaborate series of continental alliances was planned, above all with princes in the Low Countries, Germany, and Burgundy. The main assault against Philippe IV would come from the north, not from Gascony. The English schemes prospered at first. Agreement was swiftly reached with the German king, Adolf of Nassau, while the duke of Brabant, Edward's son-in-law, readily accepted English subsidies. The counts of Gueldres and Holland joined the alliance, and the promise of the marriage of his daughter to Edward's son, together with a large subsidy, won over the count of Flanders. In 1295, however, Philippe IV succeeded in detaching the count of Flanders from the alliance, and early in the following year the count of Holland also abandoned Edward's cause. The Welsh rebellion of 1294–5, followed by the Scottish campaign in 1296, meant that the planned English campaign in concert with allies was put off until 1297. Early in that year Edward managed to win the count of Flanders over once again, and in May he added to the alliance an important group of Burgundian nobles. The alliance was at long last ready to act.

The English, meanwhile, had mixed fortunes in Gascony. A substantial expedition sailed early in 1296, led by Edmund of Lancaster, who died in June of that year. In January 1297 the earl of Lincoln suffered a significant defeat at Bellegarde, though in the following summer he was able to conduct a successful raid into French territory. The outcome of the war did not depend on these events, but on Edward's own expedition to Flanders, which eventually sailed on 22 August. By that time his allies had suffered defeat at the battle of Veurne, and the city of Lille had surrendered. The most serious fighting that Edward encountered was that between his own sailors from the Cinque Ports and those of Yarmouth, at the time of disembarkation. The small English army moved first to Bruges, and then to Ghent, but the assistance that had been hoped for from the German king never materialized, and on 9 October a truce was agreed with the French. It took time for Edward to extricate himself from the Low Countries; he faced serious riots early in February 1298 in Ghent, and there were problems in paying off his allies. He eventually returned to England in March 1298 after an ignominious campaign. It took until 1303 to agree a final peace with the French, but Edward's marriage to the French princess Margaret took place in 1299, and there was little danger of further hostilities. For both the English and the French the war had proved expensive and unrewarding. The war account for Gascony alone showed expenses approaching £360,000. The various allies were promised some £250,000, and paid about £165,000. The Flanders campaign probably cost over £50,000.

The Great Cause and the Scottish revolt, 1286–1297

Edward's earliest experience of Scotland had probably been in the autumn of 1266, when he may have travelled to Haddington in Lothian to visit his sister Margaret, the queen of Scots. Relations with Scotland during the first part of the reign were smooth; the thorny issue of the homage due from Alexander III to Edward was settled without much argument in 1278. Problems arose only when Edward tried to take advantage of the dynastic problems that faced Scotland on the death of Alexander in 1286. The latter's heir was his granddaughter, Margaret of Norway, and in 1290 agreement was reached for her to marry Edward's own heir, Edward of Caernarfon. Though it was agreed that Scotland should remain independent of England, Edward's actions once the treaty was agreed suggested that he intended to exercise effective lordship there. His plans were dashed by the death of Margaret in Orkney in the autumn of 1290. The right to the Scottish throne was then disputed between Robert Bruce and John Balliol, and eventually eleven other claimants Edward determined that the dispute should be resolved by himself, as feudal overlord of Scotland. The Scots were not prepared to accept such a claim, but in negotiations at Norham in May and June 1291 Edward obtained sufficient recognition of his rights from the competitors to the throne to be able to act. The hearings were lengthy and complex, with a long adjournment between August 1291 and June 1292. A full record was made by an English notary, John of Caen, though this was not drawn up contemporaneously. The final judgment, in November 1292, went in favour of John Balliol; his was the strongest case in law.

The resolution of the Great Cause, as the dispute to the Scottish throne became known, was followed by determined efforts by Edward to make good his claims to the superior lordship of Scotland. Appeals against judgments made in the court of the guardians of Scotland (who had ruled that kingdom between 1286 and 1292) were quickly heard. In the case of Macduff, the Scottish king himself was summoned to appear before the English parliament, which he did at Michaelmas 1293, thereby acknowledging Edward's rights of lordship. In 1294 Edward summoned King John Balliol and eighteen Scottish magnates to perform feudal service against the French, an unprecedented step. John was a weak monarch, and in 1295 effective power was taken from him by a council of twelve. The French naturally looked to Scotland as an ally against Edward in the Anglo-French war, and early in the next year a treaty was concluded. At the same time Edward was able to use the Macduff case, and King John's refusal to come to court in March 1296, as an excuse for action. At the end of March he invaded, and took Berwick.

The campaign of 1296 was a triumphant success for Edward. The Scots were defeated at Dunbar, and the expedition developed into little more than an unopposed military promenade. Scotland, it appeared, was conquered in twenty-one weeks, and its king removed ignominiously from office. The removal of the coronation stone from Scone to Westminster made it clear that this was a true conquest. The government of the country was, as far as was possible, entrusted to Englishmen. However, the victory had been too easy. In 1297 the Scots revolted. Robert Bruce (later Robert I, king of Scots), grandson of the competitor to the throne, was one of the leaders, but the most effective resistance to the English was provided by William Wallace, a man of knightly not baronial rank, and Andrew Moray. This was a genuinely popular rebellion, and it triumphed in September when an English army under Earl Warenne was defeated at Stirling Bridge.

Victory and settlement in Scotland, 1298–1305

Edward retaliated promptly on his return from Flanders in 1298. A large army, approaching 30,000 strong, was completely victorious on 22 July over the Scottish defensive formations, or schiltroms, at Falkirk, the only major battle fought by the king himself since Evesham. Yet despite this triumph, the English were able to establish only limited control of areas around the castles they held in southern Scotland. No campaign was possible in 1299, for political reasons, and the Scots recovered Stirling Castle after a lengthy siege. In 1300, 1301, and 1303 great English armies marched north under Edward's command, but the Scots would not come to battle. Robert Bruce came over to the English side in the winter of 1301–2, but it was not until early 1304 that the majority of the Scottish leaders surrendered. The capture of Stirling Castle by Edward marked the end of this phase of the war. It appeared once more that conquest had been achieved. Edward deserves some praise for his determination, and his officials credit for the way in which a vast military enterprise had been organized. At the same time, the fact that the Scots had lost the backing of the French when the latter made peace with Edward in 1303 was an important element in the Scottish surrender. In 1305 one of the heroes of Scottish resistance, William Wallace, was finally captured, tried, and executed.

In parliament in 1305 Edward agreed a scheme for the government of Scotland. John of Brittany, the king's young nephew, was to become royal lieutenant, and English officials were given the offices of chancellor and chamberlain. Sheriffs were appointed; naturally, in the important southern part of the country they were to be Englishmen. Pairs of justices, one Englishman and one Scotsman, were nominated, and arrangements were put in hand for a review of Scottish law. The ordinance was limited in its nature, displaying no far-sighted statesmanship. No resolution was proposed to the problems of the many rival claims to land which resulted from the war, and the only indication that thought was given to the long-term future of Scotland is the fact that the country was no longer described as a kingdom, but as a land.

The revival of Scottish resistance, 1305–1307

The settlement did not last. On 10 February 1306 Robert Bruce murdered John Comyn, lord of Badenoch. Like those Welsh princes and nobles who had rebelled against Edward, Robert no doubt felt that he had been inadequately rewarded for the assistance he had given the English king, and he must have judged correctly that he had a real chance of gaining the Scottish throne for himself. Edward was astonished by what had happened, and was not in proper physical shape to respond. Forces under Aymer de Valence and Henry Percy moved into action, followed by a major army under the prince of Wales. Edward himself was ill in the summer of 1306, and moved only slowly northwards. He wintered at Lanercost Priory. The policy he adopted was ferocious. Simon Fraser, a Scot who had formerly been a knight of Edward's household, was savagely executed in London, as were other Scots. Robert I's sister Mary and the countess of Buchan, taken soon after the siege of Kildrummy Castle in September 1306, were imprisoned in cages at Roxburgh and Berwick, in full public view; a cruel and unusual punishment. Edward regarded the war as a rebellion, not as a conflict between equal and independent countries. Robert's cause was at a low ebb over the winter of 1306–7, but by May 1307 separate forces under Aymer de Valence and the earl of Gloucester were defeated in skirmishes, to Edward's fury. The king himself was in no fit state to campaign, though at Whitsun he reviewed troops at Carlisle. He finally set out for Scotland, only to die at Burgh by Sands on 7 July. He had come near to success in Scotland, or so it seemed, in 1304, but the task was beyond his capabilities in both military and political terms. He had not the flexibility of mind to develop appropriate strategies and tactics to deal with the novel style of warfare developed by Wallace and his countrymen, and, for all his experience, he had not learned how to win the support of those he aimed to dominate.

The king and the magnates: manipulating inheritances

Edward I, like all medieval kings, depended greatly on the co-operation of his magnates. He did not, however, achieve this co-operation by means of skilful patronage; rather, his policies have been described as ‘masterful’. His relationship with some great men was consistently good: Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, was a staunch friend and ally, and at a slightly lower level of society he could rely on such men as the Cliffords to provide consistent support in war and in council. His relationship with the earl of Gloucester, however, remained stormy from the 1260s, and the fact that no earls sailed with him for Flanders in 1297 was noted as providing an indication of the nature of the king's rule.

Edward was keen to take advantage of the accidents of family history, manipulating the rules of inheritance in his own interests when he could. He created no new earldoms, and displayed a certain reluctance to permit succession to existing ones. After the death of the countess of Aumale in 1274 the king supported a bogus claimant to the earldom, and then bought him out for a mere £100 a year, so acquiring a major inheritance for the crown. Pressure was put on the widowed countess of Devon to sell her very substantial estates to the crown, disinheriting her rightful heir, Hugh de Courtenay. Finally, in 1293, when she was on her deathbed, she was persuaded to hand over the reversions of the Isle of Wight and other estates to the king in return for £6000. When Edward married his daughter Joan of Acre to the earl of Gloucester in 1290, the earl handed his lands over to the king, receiving them back on terms that effectively disinherited his children by his first marriage, and ensuring that future earls would be members of the royal family. There were similar arrangements made in 1302 when another daughter, Elizabeth, married the young earl of Hereford. In 1306 the childless earl of Norfolk was persuaded to surrender his lands to the crown, and to receive them back on condition that they should be inherited in the strict male line of descent. This meant that their reversion to the crown on his death was virtually inevitable. Another manipulation of the rules of inheritance took place when Alice, daughter of Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, married the king's nephew Thomas of Lancaster in 1294. Once the marriage had taken place, Alice's parents surrendered most of their lands to the king, to be regranted them for life. Arrangements were made to ensure that if Alice had no children, her family estates would go, not to her rightful heirs, but to the crown. The intention of these unscrupulous policies was to provide land for the royal family, not to increase the resources of the crown by building up its landed wealth.

Quo warranto and the Welsh marchers

Edward's manipulation of rights of inheritance affected relatively few families. The assault between 1278 and 1290 on private rights of jurisdiction by means of writs of quo warranto (‘by whose authority’) was more extensive. The hundred rolls inquiry in 1274 showed that often there was real uncertainty over the rights by which magnates exercised jurisdiction. The king first intended to challenge such rights in parliament, but by Easter 1278 it was clear that this method was not working. Other business had caused the postponement of cases. In parliament at Gloucester in 1278 a new procedure was worked out. Those claiming rights to jurisdictional franchises should set out their claims before justices on eyre, while the crown might proceed against them by means of a writ of quo warranto, asking them to justify their claims to exercise jurisdiction. There was much argument in the courts, particularly over claims to tenure by prescriptive right, or tenure from time out of mind. Even if a charter did exist, there might be problems over its interpretation. The campaign did make it clear that the exercise of rights of local jurisdiction was a delegation of royal authority, but there was a lack of proper clarity over what claims were acceptable. Many cases were postponed; few franchises were in practice recovered by the crown. It was perhaps only the ineffectiveness of the campaign that prevented a major confrontation between crown and magnates before 1290. In that year, soon after the king's return from Gascony, matters came to a head. Gilbert of Thornton, one of the most aggressive royal attorneys, was appointed chief justice of the king's bench, and his judgments on previously postponed cases were clear: long tenure of a franchise was not sufficient warrant in the absence of a charter. In parliament at Easter 1290 the matter was angrily discussed, and in May it was settled by the issue of the Statute of Quo warranto. Anyone who could show that he and his ancestors had exercised franchisal rights continuously since 1189 could have them confirmed. The issue was not finally settled, as in 1292 royal attorneys began once again challenging claims just as they had done in the past. In 1294, however, the king abandoned the inquiries, ‘as a favour to his people’ (Prestwich, Edward I, 347), and in acknowledgement of the fact that he needed their support in the French war.

Edward had not extended the quo warranto inquiries into the Welsh marches, no doubt partly because he needed the support of the marchers for his Welsh wars. In 1290, however, he intervened in the affairs of the march in dramatic fashion. A feud was taking place in the southern march between the earls of Gloucester and Hereford, over a castle built by the former in territory claimed by the latter. Hereford, rather than relying on the customary marcher methods of settling disputes by negotiation or by private war, appealed to the king, though when Gloucester refused to cease his raids, Hereford's men retaliated in kind. The case was heard at Abergavenny in 1291, and eventually settled at Westminster in 1292 when the two earls submitted themselves to Edward. Both men were humbled; they forfeited lands and incurred fines. The lands were soon regranted to them, and the fines were not paid, but nevertheless the incident was very significant, as it displayed the way in which Edward was prepared to cut through arguments about traditional rights and privileges. There were other cases concerning the marches. Edmund (I) de Mortimer was sentenced in 1290 to lose his liberty of Wigmore because he had tried and executed a criminal rather than handed him over to a royal official. The liberty was eventually given back to him, but the dent in his pride could not so easily be restored. For obstructing a royal sheriff Theobald de Verdon was sentenced in the same year to lose his liberty of Ewyas Lacy, though he too soon recovered his lands. Such actions directed against members of the most militarily powerful group of magnates demonstrated Edward's toughness and his determination to control the nobility.

Threats and rewards

Threats might well be as effective as persuasion. When a group of magnates, headed by the earl of Arundel, refused to go to fight in Gascony in 1295, the king simply threatened that the exchequer would collect the debts that they owed to the crown, a move that had the desired effect. Yet it was noted by the chronicler Peter Langtoft that Edward did not obtain all the support that he might have had for campaigns, notably those in Wales in 1294–5 and Flanders in 1297, and this he blamed on the king's lack of generosity. Edward, however, did not wholly neglect the arts of patronage. He was generous in his grant of estates in Ireland to his friend Thomas de Clare, who received Thomond in 1276. Otto de Grandson was well rewarded for his loyal service with lands in Ireland and in the Channel Islands. The conclusion of the second Welsh war was marked by major grants to some of the leading English magnates. A substantial redistribution of estates in Scotland took place at Carlisle after the Scottish campaign of 1298, and Edward then adopted a policy of making grants of important Scottish estates before their conquest. Bothwell was promised to Aymer de Valence in 1301, a month before the castle was actually conquered. By 1302 some fifty Englishmen had been granted Scottish lands by Edward I. The king, however, was not notable for his generosity. Even so, he obtained good service from those who were devoted to him.

The crisis of 1297

The immense burden that was imposed on the realm by the wars in Wales, Scotland, and Gascony from 1294 created much resentment among Edward's subjects. Edward attempted to give his policies legitimacy by obtaining parliamentary consent. In 1294 knights of the shire were summoned with full powers (plena potestas) to act on behalf of their communities, and in 1295 the writs used to call knights and burgesses to what was much later termed the Model Parliament employed what became the standard formula for such summonses. In summoning the clergy in the same year the king's clerks used the phrase ‘what touches all should be approved by all’ (‘quod omnes tangit ab omnibus approbetur’; Prestwich, Edward I, 451) . Such devices were not enough. Opposition was first voiced at the Salisbury parliament, which met on 24 February 1297; Roger (IV) Bigod, earl of Norfolk, objected strongly to the king's plans to campaign in Flanders, while sending him and others to fight in Gascony. The issue of military service was an important theme in the growing crisis. A novel form of summons was used to request attendance at a muster in London on 7 May, extending service to all those holding at least £20 worth of land. When the muster took place, Edward asked Bigod, as marshal, and Humphrey (VI) de Bohun, earl of Hereford (d. 1298), as constable, to draw up registers of those who attended, just as if it were a normal feudal occasion. The earls refused and were dismissed. An offer of wages to all those who served with the king, made at the end of July, produced a very limited response; Edward's military plans found few supporters outside the royal household.

Added to the grievances over military services were complaints about taxation, and the prises of wool and other commodities. Prises of foodstuffs were taken by the crown in order to supply armies with victuals; Edward had greatly extended a traditional right to take goods for the use of the royal household, and there was much bitterness at the inevitable corruption that accompanied the process. In July it was even suggested in a very able statement of grievances, the Monstraunces, that the various royal exactions might serve as a precedent for reducing the people to a state of servitude. The complaints at this stage were essentially over the level of royal demands, rather than their unconstitutional nature. In August, however, the demands for a tax of an eighth, and for a further prise of wool, provided the opposition with fresh arguments. The clergy, led by Archbishop Winchelsey, were also bitterly opposed to Edward's actions in 1297, as a result of the way in which he had carried out his threat of outlawry if they did not pay the tax he demanded. Edward, however, achieved a reconciliation of sorts with Winchelsey on 11 July. But a demand on 20 August that the exchequer collect a new harsh levy on the church did nothing to cement this understanding.

The crisis of 1297 was characterized by attempts by both sides to explain their position publicly. On 12 August Edward issued a long letter setting out a justification for his actions. He apologized for burdening his people so heavily, but stressed the need to bring the war to a quick conclusion. When that happened, the grievances of the people would be met. The king's case did not convince many; he sailed for Flanders with a relatively small force, largely recruited from his own household. To leave the country when civil war seemed imminent was a bold step. On the day the king was about to embark, 22 August, Bigod and Bohun appeared at the exchequer to prevent the collection of the tax of an eighth, and of the prise of wool. The news of the defeat in Scotland at Stirling Bridge in September shifted the confused political situation in favour of a settlement. The opposition's demands were almost certainly those set out in a document known as De tallagio, a draft of articles to be added to Magna Carta. Consent was to be obtained for taxes and for prises, the maltote was to be abolished, and those who had refused to campaign in Flanders were to be pardoned. The council, in the king's absence, agreed to grant the Confirmatio cartarum of 10 October. This was not added to Magna Carta, but promised that ‘aids, mises and prises’ would not be taken without common assent. No precedent would be made of the wartime exactions. The maltote was abolished. On 12 October promises were made that everything would be done to persuade the king to abandon the ‘rancour and indignation’ in which he held the earls and their associates. Edward must have been angered by the concessions, which almost certainly went further than he wished, but he had little option other than to confirm the Confirmatio in his own name on 5 November, and to pardon Bigod, Bohun, and their followers.

Reform and recovery, 1298–1307

Edward's reaction when he returned from Flanders in 1298 was to set up a nationwide inquiry into official corruption and malpractice. He was undoubtedly right in seeing such problems as part of the reason for the difficulties he had faced, but the crisis was largely the result of his determination to carry through his military plans come what may. The crisis left a lasting legacy of suspicion. In 1298 there was concern that the king would go back on his promises of the previous year. Then the question of the investigation of the boundaries of the royal forest became a test of his good faith; it was widely suspected that these had been improperly extended. The issue of the statute De finibus levatis in 1299 made it clear that the investigation of the boundaries would not be permitted to curtail royal rights, and when the forest charter was reissued important clauses were omitted. In 1300 Edward agreed to the issue of the Articuli super cartas, detailed provisions that set limits on the use of the courts of household and exchequer, and on the use of the privy seal. Sheriffs were to be elected locally, and a new procedure for the enforcement of Magna Carta, now reissued, was set out. What Edward was not prepared to do was make formal concessions on the issue of military service, as was demanded of him.

Arguments continued in parliament in 1301, when a bill highly critical of the government was submitted by a knight of the shire. Edward had to concede the demands made about the boundaries of the forests, and although no concessions were made on military service, he ceased attempting any innovations in methods of recruitment. The final years of the reign were politically relatively quiescent, even though many of the issues raised in the 1290s were still simmering. In the autumn of 1305 Edward was in a strong enough position to obtain a papal bull revoking the concessions he had made, and in the following year he reversed the disafforestations of 1301. He did not, however, go too far in trying to restore his position, and at the final parliament of the reign, summoned to Carlisle in January 1307, the main controversies were over the exactions of papal tax collectors and other papal demands. There were other problems during these years: the king became involved in a series of disputes in Durham between the bishop, his old friend Antony Bek, and the cathedral priory, which led to the seizure of the bishopric into royal hands on two occasions. Edward also had a dispute with the archbishop of York, Thomas of Corbridge, over the nomination of a royal clerk to a living. The rebuke that the archbishop received was so severe that it was said to have been the cause of his death in September 1304. Edward was a formidable man.

Physique and character

In physical terms Edward was an impressive man, 6 feet 2 inches tall. His curly hair was blond in youth, dark in maturity, and white in old age. He spoke with a slight lisp, but was said to be persuasive and fluent. He possessed all the physical competence appropriate to knighthood. Edward was conventional. All the evidence indicates that he was a faithful and devoted husband to both his wives. His marriage to Eleanor of Castile, in particular, was a notably happy one; Eleanor accompanied her husband wherever possible, even on crusade, and Edward's distress at her death in 1290 was given magnificent visual expression in the famous sequence of Eleanor crosses that marked the places where her body rested on its journey from Harby in Nottinghamshire to Westminster. There were probably fourteen children of the marriage, though only one son, Edward of Caernarfon, the future Edward II, born in 1284, survived the perils of childhood. Five daughters, Eleanor, Joan of Acre, Margaret, Mary of Woodstock, and Elizabeth, also survived into adulthood. With his second wife, Margaret of France, Edward had three children, Thomas of Brotherton, Edmund of Woodstock, and Eleanor.

Edward's religious habits were orthodox, as is demonstrated by his foundation of Vale Royal Abbey in fulfilment of a vow made when shipwreck threatened during a channel crossing in the 1260s. Accounts show that he was a regular attender at chapel services, and that he was a generous giver of alms. Little is known of his literary tastes; the only literary work from which he is known to have quoted is an obscene parody of a chivalric romance. His architectural patronage was more notable. The Eleanor crosses were very significant, as was St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, on which work began in 1292. Edward continued his father's patronage of the painter Walter of Durham, and was probably responsible in the 1290s for extensive additions to the decoration of the Painted Chamber at Westminster.

A record of a bet Edward had with the royal laundress Matilda of Waltham suggests an amiable side to his character; other evidence, such as a payment for the repair of his daughter Elizabeth's coronet after Edward had thrown it into a fire, points to a violent temper. He was a keen huntsman, being particularly fond of falconry and hawking. He was interested in the Arthurian past, and was responsible for the translation of the bodies of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury in 1278. Direct evidence for Edward's views on government is scanty. His arguments lacked sophistication; in 1297 an instruction that his people ‘should do their duty toward their lord with good will, as good and loyal people ought, and are bound to do toward their liege lord in so great and high an affair’ reflects his attitude well (Prestwich, Edward I, 564). The case he put in the same year, that ‘it seems to us that we should be as free as any man to buy wool in our own country’ (ibid., 563), showed a lack of understanding of the objections of those whose wool was being arbitrarily seized by royal officials. A concern that the king should not be dishonoured is a frequent theme in letters that can be closely linked to Edward. A request for the recruitment of the impossibly large number of 60,000 men in 1296 argues that he had little care for administrative detail, while correspondence with the exchequer in 1301 suggests that the king had no detailed understanding of the financial situation, though there is no doubting his overall drive and determination to push his policies through.

Reputation and achievement

Edward and his reign have been subject to varied interpretations. Bishop William Stubbs saw Edward as acting on high constitutional principles; the ‘English Justinian’ was the nineteenth-century vision of him. Twentieth-century commentators have been less kind, with the notable exception of F. M. Powicke, whose treatment of him was very sympathetic. T. F. Tout's detailed work on royal administration brought to light the immense labour of the many clerks who worked to achieve so much under Edward; his overall view of the king was of an autocrat, who used ‘the mass of the people as a check upon his hereditary foes among the greater baronage’ (Tout, Admin. hist., 2.190). G. O. Sayles saw Edward as arbitrary and untrustworthy both as a youth and in his later years, rather than as a man convinced that he should rule according to principles of counsel and consent. K. B. McFarlane emphasized the unreasonableness of Edward's policies towards the higher nobility. Nor, unsurprisingly, has he had a good press from Welsh and Scottish historians.

Nevertheless, Edward's achievements were most impressive. The reconstruction of royal government after the traumas of the 1260s was a major task, and the legislative changes enshrined in a series of statutes were a monumental work. The years up to 1290 were astonishingly productive. Parliament evolved rapidly, both as a mechanism through which the crown could achieve its aims, and as an occasion where petitions could be presented and wrongs corrected. In Europe the king displayed himself as a peacemaker, while his mobilization of massive military resources enabled him to destroy the independent authority of the princes of Gwynedd. Gascony was ruled far more effectively by the English than in the past, in part as a result of the king's two visits to the duchy. Edward was not, however, able to build on his achievements as he would have liked, by leading a successful crusade. Instead, in his later years he was embroiled in war. Conflict with Philippe IV of France from 1294 to 1298, which presaged the Hundred Years' War, proved expensive and frustrating; campaigns against the Scots promised success in 1296, 1298, and 1304, but Edward was never able to subject Scotland as he had done Wales. The demands of war, for manpower, supplies, and money, led to political crisis at home in 1297. The king was opposed by the leading earls, and by Archbishop Winchelsey. The crisis was not easily settled, and arguments continued in the succeeding years. There was no longer the same impetus to reform law and government. Edward's leadership in his final years was characterized by the unreliability that had dogged his reputation as a young man, and that was now combined with inflexibility. In the long term the positive achievements of the reign need to be balanced against the fact that Edward's policies had set England on a long course of war against the Scots.


Edward died at Burgh by Sands, having been intermittently ill for some time. At the end he was suffering from dysentery, and his determination to go north to fight the Scots was misguided; he was in no fit state to travel. His servants came to him at noon on 7 July 1307 to lift him from his bed so that he could eat; he died in their arms. The corpse was brought south, and on 27 October the funeral service took place in Westminster Abbey, conducted by his old friend, and recent adversary, Antony Bek, bishop of Durham.

Michael Prestwich

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