Edward I (Longshanks)

Edward was born on 17 June 1239 at the Palace of Westminster, London. He was the son of King Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence.

Edward suffered much illness during his childhood but still grew into a tall, imposing youth, gaining him the name ‘Longshanks’.

On 1 November 1254, Edward aged fifteen married the thirteen-year-old Eleanor of Castile, half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castile. This was a political marriage to prevent a feared Castilian invasion.

As part of the marriage settlement, Edward received large grants of land in Wales, Ireland and England, however he received little income from them, with most of it continuing to go to his father the king.

Edward had held control of the Duchy of Gascony since 1249, but again he received little income from this, with the income going to the Royal Lieutenant, Simon de Montfort. Edward seemed to be wealthy with the land he possessed, however he was still heavily reliant on the crown.

The Second Barons War started in 1264. The rebel barons led by Simon de Montfort fought leaders loyal to the king, including his son Edward. They first met in battle at Gloucester with Edward capturing Gloucester from the rebel leaders. Following this Edward negotiated a truce with the rebels, which he later broke, leading to battle again at Northampton where Edward captured the city from de Montford’s son, also named Simon. The Battle of Lewes followed this on 14 May 1264 with Edward defeating de Montfort’s forces in London, however other royal forces were defeated and Edward and his long-term friend Henry of Almain were taken prisoner.

Edward was kept prisoner until March 1265, but even after his release he was kept under strict observation. In May 1265, he managed to escape his captors, and join forces with the Duke of Gloucester winning victories at Worcester and Gloucester. He followed this with a final victory at the Battle of Evesham on 4 August 1265, where Simon de Montfort was killed and mutilated.

Edward joined the Eighth Crusade in 1270 along with his brother Edmund and cousin Henry of Almain. While wintering in Sicily, Henry of Almain was killed, however Edward and Edmund continued on their journey, landing at Acre on 9 May 1271.

In November 1271 Edward led a raid on the Palestinian village of Qaqun, but this failed. Following this a 10-year truce was signed between the Christians and Muslims.

In June 1272, an assassination attempt was made against Edward. Although he survived and killed the assassin he was injured by a poisoned dagger and took many months to recover. He finally left Acre on 24 September 1272.

When arriving in Sicily on his return to England, Edward was informed of his father Henry III’s death in 1272.

He returned to England on 2 August 1274 and was crowned King Edward I of England on 19 August 1274.

Reign 1274 – 1307

Edward spent much of his early reign re-establishing royal authority of the crown. There had been many complaints about abuse of royal power during his father’s reign and Edward wanted to regain the support of his people. He replaced many local officials, appointed a new Chancellor, Robert Burnell and created new laws defining the rights of the people and crown.

He reformed the English Parliament, and due to the rise in taxes to support his military campaigns, parliament would meet often.

To consolidate his lands, Edward went to war in 1277 against Welsh leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, husband of Eleanor, Simon de Montfort’s daughter. He had refused to pay homage to Edward and fought against him, however having little support from his own people he finally surrendered to Edward and agreed peace at the Treaty of Aberconwy in 1277.

War broke out again in 1282 when Dafydd ap Gruffudd rose up against England supported by his brother Llywelyn. After they gained some initial military success, things were to change when Llywelyn was killed at the Battle of Orewin Bridge on 11 December. Dafydd ap Gruffudd was captured in June 1283, taken to Shrewsbury and executed.

Further rebellions took place but all were put down and Wales was finally incorporated into England and its laws by the Statute of Rhuddian in 1284. To control the Welsh, Edward undertook a large building project of castles across Wales and then started a further project of creating English settlements in Wales.

Following the death of his wife Eleanor in 1290, Edward remarried in 1299 at age sixty to the seventeen year-old Margaret of France, daughter of King Phillip II of France. A marriage that produced three children.

Although England had been at war with Wales, they had secured peace with Scotland throughout the 1280’s. This was to change following the death of King Alexander III of Scotland and then his heir, his granddaughter Margaret.

Many wanted to claim the crown of Scotland, but until a decision was made, rule was handed over to Edward. Finally, in 1292, John de Balliol was crowned King of Scotland, however Edward still wanted to keep power over Scotland and continued to interfere in their legal affairs. Edward also demanded Scotland provide military service to England to support the war against France, but Scotland chose instead to ally themselves with France.

England rose up against Scotland and John de Balliol was taken to London and imprisoned in the Tower. The Scottish resistance was crushed, but not for long.

Scotland rebelled again under the leadership of William Wallace and he was victorious at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. He continued to fight Edward’s forces, but was defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Again, Wallace rebelled, but he was betrayed by his countrymen and handed over to the English; he was then publicly executed.

Robert the Bruce now took up the mantel to restore Scottish independence, forcing Edward to march north to meet him.

While travelling north, Edward became ill with dysentery while encamped at Burgh by Sands, south of the Scottish border. He died there on 7 July 1307; his body was sent south to lay in state at Waltham Abbey. He was finally buried in Westminster Abbey on 27 October 1307.

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