This book has it all, treachery, adultery, murder and intrigue. Lord Byron coined the phrase Truth is stranger than Fiction and in the tale of Edward II and Isabella, Byron is spot on!
Prior to reading this book I knew next to nothing about Edward II. My only reference being the movie Braveheart which now I see as a total Hollywood myth.
A few clarifications in reference to the Braveheart myth:
Isabella was not married to Edward II when Edward I was alive. They were betrothed and Edward II would go to France to marry her following his father's death.
Isabella never met William Wallace. William was executed before Isabella and Edward II would marry.
Edward I never pushed Piers Gaveston from the window. Edward I had Gaveston banished to his home land Gascony, forbidding him to ever return to England.
Edward II was not a fopish, feminine man. He was a tall, handsome, strong man who loved the outdoors.
With that out of the way; what I now know about Edward II:
- He was fond of young men.
- He married Isabella and they had four children together. Yes he was the sire of all her children.
- He neglected his duties as King and husband in favor of his current paramour, Piers Gaveston and Hugh le despencer were his favorites. He spent a lavish amount of money, bestowed estates and titles on these young men all at the expense of his subjects.
- He was no military strategist. He hated conflict and war. He had no control in Scotland and the Northern borders were constantly being raided by Robert de Bruce. He lost miserably at Bannockburn.
- He brought the country to the brink of civil war because of his affair with Piers Gaveston and disregarding the advise of the Barons.
- He was a kind man.
- He loved nature and being outdoors.
- He commuted the death penalty for Roger Mortimer the traitor to life imprisonment which he would later regret.
- He loved his children, in particular his son and heir Edward III.
- He was generous to a fault with his friends.
- He abdicated his crown in favor of his son.
- He was betrayed, imprisoned and murdered for his Follies and remains in history as one of the most maligned monarchs of England.
As my followers know Jean Plaidy is one of my all time favorite historical fiction authors and she certainly did not disappoint in The Follies of the King. I was intrigued from page one until the end. It was a great, thought provoking tale. Edward II is my 18th great grand father and I wanted so badly to find some good and redeeming qualities in him. To me Ms. Plaidy has done a masterful job of portraying his character, leaving me with a great deal of love and compassion for this man.