71 Enter the Leopard

We sort of get back to the political narrative this week, but only sort of. We discuss the young prince, Edward, who will be one of England's most famous kings at some point and is already an important political player, and we bring ourselves back up to date with the relevance of the provisions of Oxford


71 Enter the Leopard


Edward I and the Factions of 1258-1263

Edward was born in 1239 and like any king in waiting immediately became the focus of court factions. In his case, his formidable mother Eleanor of Provence and her Savoyard cousins, particularly Peter of Savoy,  made sure they were in control of the key posts around him.

Edward 1stAs an adult, Edward would be 6' 2" – we know that because his body was exhumed and measured in the 18th Century. And he had the ambition to match; as a 14 year old, he was already lord of Gascony, and already suffering the first rebellion against his rule. But it was his father who went to suppress the rebellion leaving his son behind. Edward was not happy, as Matthew Paris records: 

'The boy stood crying and sobbing on the shore, and would not depart as long as he could see the swelling sails of the ships’

By 1258, Edward was doing his best to escape the cloying control of his father and mother, argued constantly with his father. He built his own affinity of young men from the marches such as Roger Leybourne and Roger Clifford, and wandered around with an outrageously large household of 200 knights. During this period he was drawn towards the dreaded Lusignan, much to his mother's horror. 

But the events of 1258 ruined that plan, as the Lusignans were vanished; and for a time Edward Arms of Simon de Montfort seems to have become a genuine reformer. For a time, he is drawn into alliance with Simon de Montfort. But in the end, blood would out – and when it came to the showdown at the battle of Lewes, Edward would be at his father's side.

Early reputation and the Song of Lewes

By the time of his death, Edward's reputation was as the great chivalric king. But this had not always been the case; his twisting and turning and changing faction during the 1250's and 1260's gave him a reputation as an untrustworthy young man. 

This is reflected in the Song of Lewes, a fascinating contemporary document probably written by a monk. The document spends most of its time advancing the Barons' arguments as to why a king was subject to law; but there are snippets about the battle and Edward. in the extract below, the author reflects the prince's far from perfect reputation: 

Whereunto shall the noble Edward be compared? Perhaps he will be rightly called a leopard. If we divide the name it becomes lion and pard; lion, because we saw that he was not slow to attack the strongest places, fearing the onslaught of none, with the boldest valour making a raid amidst the castles, and wherever he goes succeeding as it were at his wish, as though like Alexander he would speedily subdue the whole world, if Fortune's moving wheel would stand still for ever…

 A lion by pride and fierceness, he is by inconstancy and changeableness a pard, changing his word and promise, cloaking himself by pleasant speech. When he is in a strait he promises whatever you wish, but as soon as he has escaped he renounces his promise. Let Gloucester be witness, where, when free from his difficulty, he at once revoked what he had sworn. The treachery or falsehood whereby he is advanced he calls prudence; the way whereby he arrives whither he will, crooked though it be, is regarded as straight; wrong gives him pleasure and is called right ; whatever he likes he says is lawful, and he thinks that he is released from law, as though he were greater than the King.

One thought on “71 Enter the Leopard

  1. It’s funny that you had a Douglas Adams reference in there this week, because the first thing I thought when I saw the title of episode 71 was “Beware of the Leopard”.
    As for future episode ideas, it would be interesting to have a little contrast every now and then between the kings in real life, and the kings as depicted by Shakespeare. I bought a remaindered John Julius Norwich book once called “Shakespeares Kings”, and like any other Norwich books I’ve read, quite enjoyed it.

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