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King Edward I of England

Paternal 22nd Great Grandfather

One of my 22nd Great-Grandfathers (yes, you have more than 1!) was King Edward I of England, also known as "Longshanks" due to his height (he was 6'2", very tall for the times) and "The Hammer of the Scots" due to his tough stance on Scotland, bringing the country under English rule.

Edward I was a temperamental man with a fierce temper. The king's personality, combined with his great height made him an intimidating figure. He was known to instill fear in those who met him, and one individual, the Dean of St. Paul's, apparently dropped dead when he met with the king to complain about the high taxes.


Although Edward was not loved by his subjects, he was greatly respected by them. Edward I was one of the great warrior kings, leading his men into battle against his enemies. This was the period when kings were not simply figure heads, they were soldiers.

Edward was born on June 17th or 18th, 1239, at the Palace of Westminster. He was the son of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence. At the age of 15, Henry III arranged a marriage between Edward and Eleanor, the half-sister of King Alfonso X of Castille. This marriage was arranged in an effort to stave off the possible invasion of England by the Kingdom of Castille.

Edward and Eleanor were married on November 1, 1254 at the Abbey of Santa Maria la Real de Las Hueigas in Castille. Edward and Eleanor had at least 14 children (possibly 16) with 5 daughters surviving to adulthood, and only 1 son to survived to adulthood and outlived Edward (Edward II, my 21st great-grandfather). Eleanor was Edward's first wife. When Eleanor died, it effected Edward deeply. Unlike many arranged marriages, Edward and Eleanor loved each other. Edward erected 12 crosses in his wife's memory, 1 at each stop of her funeral procession.

Edward's second wife was Marguerite de France (by coincidence, my 22nd great-grandmother through another paternal lineage). With Marguerite, the couple had 2 sons and a daughter. The sons lived to adulthood but their daughter died at age 5.

Edward I did not always see eye-to-eye with his father, King Henry III. Edward would often disregard his father's instructions or political leanings, and take matters into his own hands. This behavior caused friction between the king and the prince, and also raised concerns with his contemporaries about Edward's suitability to one day rule England. Henry was even concerned that Edward may arrange a coup against him as Edward had supported issues that his father did not. Independent political thoughts by Edward created a chasm between him and his father, King Henry III. 

In 1263, King Henry sent Edward on a campaign against Llywelyn ap Gruffud, Prince of of Wales, in Wales. The campaign yielded little positive results for Edward. Around the same time that Edward was fighting the Prince of Wales, Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester, returned to England after having earlier left due to his failed attempt to depose the king. Montfort's return to England was at the request of some of the barons who had previously supported him and who wanted King Henry III to pass reforms that would favor them greatly.

Edward returned to England from Wales around this time and took control of the situation; King Henry III has seemed about to agree to the baron's demands before Edward intervened. Although Edward often disagreed with his father, Edward felt a sense of obligation to protect his family and his father's royal rights as King of England. Edward gathered his supporters and retook control of Windsor Castle, which had been held by the rebels.

King Louis IX was brought in to arbitrate the war between the rebels and the royalists, ruling mostly in favor of the royalists. This set the seeds for future conflict which began in 1254 in what was called the Second Barons' War. Civil war was upon England once again.

Numerous battles ensued between Montfort's supports and troops loyal to the king. During the Battle of Lewes, in which Edward and his troops were engaged, the rebels defeated the royalists, resulting in Edward's capture (as well as that of his cousin, Henry of Aimain). Edward remained in custody until March, 1265 when he was released but kept under close observation. On May 28th, Edward managed to evade his custodians and escaped and met up with the 7th Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare, a recent defector from the rebels.

By this time Montfort's support was dwindling. Montfort aligned himself with Llywelyn (Prince of Wales), but Edward and the royalists were quickly gaining ground. Montfort and Llywelyn began moving east to join forces with Montfort's son. Edward made a surprise attack and took Kenilworth Castle and the younger Montfort was captured and quartered. 

Edward's forces met with Montfort & Lleweyn's in a great battle on August 4, 1265. Known as the Battle of Evesham, Edward's forces greatly outnumbered Montfort's. Having lost the decisive battle, Montfort was killed and his body mutilated in the field. However, the death of Montfort did not stop the war and Edward continued to battle the rebels.

Peace was finally negotiated between the two factions the following year and the civil war ended.

Edward took part in the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land, an attempt to help the Christians in Jerusalem defeat the Muslims. The Crusade did not yield the results that Edward had hoped for, and the King of Jerusalem, Hugh III of Cyprus, signed a 10 year truce with the Muslims. 

Edward abandoned his campaign and made his way back to Sicily. Upon arriving in Sicily, Edward learned that his father had died on November 12, 1272. Edward was saddened by the news of this father's death, but he did not hurry back to England. Instead, Edward took an overland route through Italy and France, stopping to meet with Pope Gregory X during his journey. It was not until August 2, 1274 that Edward returned to England.

On August 19, 1274, Edward was crowned King Edward I of England. 

In 1276, war was declared with Wales after years of conflict between the 2 countries. The initial war ended in a negotiated peace in November, 1277, but war again broke out in 1282. This time the English were victorious and the Welsh leaders had been executed. Between 1277 and more so after 1283, Edward began to settle English citizens in Wales. The English settlers were place in new towns, and the Welsh natives were banned from living there. Castles and other fortifications were built in Wales as an attempt by the English to control the population.

This was not the end to the conflicts that Edward was involved in during his reign. War with France, involvement in affairs in Europe and more battles engaged the king. One of the most significant problems occurred near the end of Edward's life when an uprising occurred in Scotland when Robert The Bruce (another great-grandfather of this author), took control of the Scottish crown when he murdered John Comyn, his chief rival to the crown, on February 10, 1306. Robert The Bruce, along with William Wallace and other supporters wanted the English out of Scotland and a return to Scottish independence.

King Edward I treated this not as a war, but as a suppression of a rebellion. Although he did not engage in the battles himself, his son, the Prince of Wales, and other high ranking military men were given command of the English troops. When the English were able to regain some of their territory, Bruce went into hiding. Edward took revenge against Bruce by hunting down his family members and allies, executing some while imprisoning others in a brutal manner. Some of the captives, such as Bruce's sister, were imprisoned in a cage for years.

Edward's brutal treatment of Bruce's supporters did not act as a deterrent to the Scots, however. Instead, this treatment of their fellow countrymen served as a rallying call and support for Robert The Bruce.

Edward decided to head north toward Scotland himself in May, 1307. Bruce had been gathering men since February and in May had defeated the English at the Battle of Loudon Hill. This prompted Edward to become personally involved, but on his way to Scotland he became ill with dysentery. On July 6th he camped just south of the Scottish border, and when his servants checked on him the next morning, he died in their arms. Edward had reigned for the better part of 35 years.

The warrior king died en route to battle, but not in battle. Instead he was felled by a disease which today we can easily treat, but which was often fatal in Edward's time. 

King Edward I's legacy is significant, not necessarily for his reign, but for the amazing number of his famous and infamous descendants. This author is but one of a vast number of people who can trace their lineage back to King Edward I of England. The number of historically significant descendants of this king is striking - politicians, authors, actors, singers - the list is endless...and amazing.

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