94a The Mysterious Death of Edward II

Time to vote? Did Edward die in 1327?

Edwards NemesisNow, traditionally, Edward II is supposed to have died after an unfortunate meeting with a red hot poker. Which had always been my firmly and fondly held belief. 

But ladies and gentlemen,History sleuths,  other views are, in fact, available. So this episode is all about whether Edward was 



A) Murdered in 1327 on the orders of Roger Mortimer 

B) Died but we don't know where or how

C) Edward III killed him, not Mortimer!

D) Escaped and with the active conivance and knowledge of said Mortimer lived incognito for many years as an ex-pat

E) Dunno

Now I realise that it's not easy to do this by podcast – much ink has been spilt after all. But hey – have a go at voting, either here or at the Facebook group.

So, just post a comment below. I'll tot them all up and we'll see which side wins…

94a The Mysterious death of Edward II

 Want to know more? 

You might like to do a bit of research – you may be fascinated. If you are, here are some links to a couple of sites. 

First of all here's a link to the full text of the Fieschi letter – it's not very long and if you are interested it's very interesting. 

Edward II Blog – I

Edward II Blog – II

Edward II Blog – III

Ian Mortimer's site

Or, you might like to just revisit what I have said. In which case, here's the transcript of what I said. 

Download 94a The Mysterious death of Edward II Transcript

Happy sleuthing!

38 thoughts on “94a The Mysterious Death of Edward II

  1. D) Escaped and with the active conivance and knowledge of said Mortimer lived incognito for many years as an ex-pat

  2. I like the conspiricy theory. One question though burns in my mind. Who would die for something they know to be a lie? If any of those on trial for their lives were in a conspiricy they would only have to blow the whistle on the whole thing to get off of a murder charge.
    It seems to me that probably the conspiricy to swap Edward II for another corpse was probably John Maltravers, William Ockley and Thomas Gurney who all fled the country. They probably pulled the wool over the eyes of Mortimer and Berkley. Berkley probably just tried to cover up what he thought to be a murder of an ex King. So Mortimer and Berkley would have been convinced of the reality of the murder and so, thought themselves guilty when put on trial.
    I recon that Edward III was unawares but gradually smelt a right royal rat. Hence his investigations into the matter. These were not so much to bring the murderers to justice but rather to find the truth as to his Father’s whereabouts.
    As for isabella, she was probably thought to be too much of a risk to involve in any plot, even if people close to her knew of a body swap having gone on. Edward III probably kept his suspicions and any facts that he had to his father’s whereabouts a secret from her to save her any more grief. So, when she died she was unaware that the body in the tomb was not that of her husband.
    How about that one?
    By the way, in those sealed up tombs bodies last a long time. Couldn’t someone try to get a DNA sample from the four edwards (I, II, III and the black prince) maybe the mystery of the body in the tomb could be settled once and for all that way.

  3. There aren’t many motives in stories like this one except Money, Sex, Power and saving your own backside.
    Mortimer wanted the ex-king dead so that his position would be more secure (no attempted coups to put the old king back on the throne). He probably also wanted more than the little attention he was probably getting from Isabella. She was his ticket to power but her love for her husband was getting in the way of the more that he wanted.
    Berkley want to please uncle Mortimer and also get a slice of power.
    Edward II wanted to save his life. So, if he was forwarned would most likely have escaped.
    If my theory is correct the henchmen wanted to save their backsides by producing the dead Ed to Berkley, so they covered up the escape and disfigured the convenient corpse enough to fool Berkley.
    Mortimer and Berkley (thinking the body to be that of Ed II – dead Ed you might say) then had the motive to disguise the now obvious murder as a natural death by the funeral arrangements.
    Isabella was out of any loop because she was too much of a loose canon by her deep love for Ed II.
    To me it seems likely that Ed III once he was old enough set out to find the Truth. His motivation being a deep love of his father (even though he was a loser).
    Ed II just wanted to retire in peace.
    What a retirement plan eh!
    Plenty of credible motives there I think!

  4. Maybe however, Ed II did die. He probably mistook the offer of a game of poker with the henchmen as having something to do with cards. I still like my theory though. Much more hollywood I think!

  5. I am by nature deeply compliant, much given to believing and doing what I am told. And so, by and large, I think conspiracy theories are utter rubbish.
    This one is strangely compelling – and indeed worthy of good brother Cadfael! The Earl of Kent DID seem to rumble it. The letter is very actual by a reliable witness. Most of all, Mortimer had a real hold over edward III by so doing. All seems rather incredible at one level but….

  6. D) Escaped and with the active conivance and knowledge of said Mortimer lived incognito for many years as an ex-pat

  7. F) Edward II is immortal, still alive and living happily like a prince in Patagonia, supping on grapes and whatnot. In the 50’s he got bored and became a hip-swaying rock n’ roller by the name of Elvis and continues to make occasional public appearances. Sorry, THoE – that many people can’t keep a secret a secret that long. It must be A.

  8. A…
    The complete answer is that really we do not “know” as this debate proves. So we should fall back on what we “know” and I do not mean by that the facts that we know but that by cultural acceptance, we know that Edward II was murdered with a red-hot poker up the ****. It would be such a shame if it weren’t true, not least because debunking the idea that it was done as some sort of retribution for his homosexuality quietens the homophobes. The theory being that the use of the poker was a useful way of not leaving any outward marks.
    So can’t we just have A because that is our story and be done with it?

  9. It doesn’t help when the major villain of the piece and the historian being reference both have the same name.
    Also, what a coincidence that Thomas Berkley lived in a castle of the same name as him!!!! LOL

  10. There seemed to be too many that saw the body after Mortimer had him killed. I agree that the brutality of the death is over the top but it certainly makes for a great legend and justifies Edward III’s revenge.

  11. But Luke, what about the never ending search for truth?! I do think it’s really interesting how hard it is to shift and change the received history of England. As far as historians are concerned, the red hot poker thing is a myth. It doesn’t really make any sense – why go to all that bother? You are much more likely to leave an accidental mark with e red hot poker than a pillow. But despite all that, it’s still the popular view. It’s a bit the same with Richard I – generations of historians had a go, but basically he’s still the crusading hero…

  12. D – Although I have relished telling the hot poker story over the years, I regrettably must side with the theory that he escaped and lived incognito.

  13. Although I like the thought that Edward got away, I think he was murdered because he was always going to be a threat to the new regime. I am not sure about how he was murdered but smothering seems a little more subtle than the red hot poker story.

  14. Killing God’s annointed king was a very, very serious mortal sin. Edward clearly did have his supporters, despite his bad press in the history books, as he was able to make an escape from Berkeley Castle, even in the official story.
    Story is similar in status to that of Perkin Warbeck.
    Fieschi’s letter is convincing.
    Edward was perhaps a reluctant king, and would welcome a kind of retirement, like his much, much later namesake.
    I vote D.

  15. Loved the podcast, but in the same way that I never believed the JFK conspiracy theories, I don’t believe this one either. I vote A.
    Keep up the good work…..you are the history teacher that I always wanted but never got.

  16. I caught up with this most entertaining episode today. Based solely on the evidence as you presented it (note to future jury members – that is how you are supposed to do it), I vote A.
    I did enjoy the various Elvis related comments above. If the poker thing is true, Ed II will have been more than simply “All Shook Up”, indeed, “Come on baby light my fire” might be the most apt song for that scenario.

  17. You know how elderly spouses often die shortly after their spouses? I think this is because of the absence of routine and the obvious absence of the love of their lives.
    Now imagine being a King one day, then not a King the next day. Despite E II robust health up until this, I believe the heartbreak and stress from this trauma brought about his death, or at least hurt him to such a degree that made him susceptible to illness, always close by at this time in history.
    Was E II, who I believe was an incompetent king, really a threat to Mortimer?
    Plus, I believe the earliest chronicles suggest he died of “broken heart” or grief. He probably lost the will to live or stopped taking care of himself. I don’t believe we need Mortimer to order his death, for E II to die.
    Perhaps I am full of touchy feely emotions and deserve to have my opinion scoffed at by serious historians, but whatever.
    I vote B
    Wonderful podcast by the way, I enjoyed this episode tremendously.

  18. Historians can be a dull old lot can’t they – debunking the red hot poker story has robbed us all of a good line in history gags!
    The evidence is, Charlie, that Edward II did not take his deposition well at all. Dying of a broken heart would be pretty much in character I think.

  19. Even in medieval times, I find it hard to believe Edward II was able to park himself outside the country for a number of years without anyone noticing. That’s like no one in Sheboygan, Wisconsin noticing that Elvis was working in the local 7-11 convenience store years after he faked his own death. 🙂
    My money’s on A. That rascal Mortimer orchestrated the whole thing.

  20. Option B… dull as dishwater, completely without sex appeal, but obviously true. He’s dead. And we can’t agree on much of anything else.

  21. Along with the Elvis comments, don’t forget the words of Jerry Lee Lewis “Goodness! Gracious! Great Balls of Fire!

  22. There is always the Prince of Wales argument. EIII didn’t create his son PoW until the mid 1340s. EII had been created PoW by EI but had not necessarily resigned that title and EIII didn’t recreate it until he knew that his father was dead.

  23. One commenter somewhere did note that Edward II had lots of quiet habits -hedging, ditching, rowing. Everyone thought it terribly in appropriate at the time, but maybe he would have enjoyed not being king? Either way he wasobviously pretty emotional – took it very badly at Kenilworth Castle when he was told. So the borken heart thing’s not daft, I agree

  24. I agree with Chris Roberts and vote D. Killing a king, annointed by God, is a very very serious crime and sin. I can’t believe that they would have been so bent on regicide. Killing a king in battle is different. How many English kings were known to have been murdered? Henry VI comes to mind, but I can’t think of many.

  25. Further to that I would add killing a King sets a precedent that Kings are as disposable as anyone else. A queen would be fearful of this as then they may decide a queen is disposable too.

  26. I believe that in the medieval mind the idea of the punishment matching the crime was popular, so in the case of Edward II a red hot poker in the bum would be seen as just. Of course Edward II had to be killed, so I think there is a good chance the killers would choose the poker. That is why I vote Edward Hotbottoms.

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