Journal Article

The Death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle<sup>*</sup>

Ian Mortimer

in The English Historical Review

Volume 120, issue 489, pages 1175-1214
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online December 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cei329
The Death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle*

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The survival of Edward II after 1327 is widely believed to be implausible. This is partly because his death, funeral and commemorations are so well documented, and partly because of a widespread presumption that royal survival stories are a cultural phenomenon connected to disaffected political factions. However, this article demonstrates fundamental weaknesses in the information structures underlying the documentary evidence for the death. The author examines all the known relevant sources and finds that there is no incontrovertible evidence for the ex-king's death contained within the extant chronicles or – more importantly – within the official records. He demonstrates how news of the death was received by Edward III and circulated in good faith with no check upon the identity of the corpse, thus showing how it was possible for so much evidence for the death to be created and yet for the man still to be alive. Several events which are incompatible with the traditional narrative (such as the earl of Kent's plot) are examined and found to be sustainable, and the most significant objections to the survival narrative are considered. The conclusion is that the story of the ex-king's death was fabricated by Thomas Berkeley on Roger Mortimer's orders for political purposes, and that the ex-king was still alive in 1330. Finally, the correlations of this new independent narrative for the period 1327–30 with the Fieschi letter of c.1336 are noted (although the ex-king's survival and whereabouts after 1330 are outside the scope of this article).

Journal Article.  21861 words. 

Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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