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EDWARD II. surnamed of CAERNARVON,
HE pleasure which people generally
feel at the acceffion of a new prince, effaces their forrow for the deceased; the faults of the one are known and hated, while the other, from novelty, receives imputed merit. Much, therefore, was expected from the young prince, and all orders haltened to take the oath of allegiance to him. He was now in the twenty-third year of his age, of an agreeable figure, of a mild harmless disposition, and apparently addicted to few vices. But he soon gave symptoms of his unfitness to succeed so great a monarch as his father ; he was rather fond of the enjoyment of his power, than of securing it; and luiled by the Aattery of his courtiers, he thought he had done enough for glory, when he had accepted the crown. Inttead, therefore, of prosecuting the war against Scotland, according to the injunctions he had received from his dying father, he took no steps to check the progress of Bruce, his march into that country be. ing rather a procession of pageantry, than a warlike expedition. Bruce, no longer dreading a great conqueror in the field, boldly issued from his retreats, and even obtained a considerable advantage over Aymer de Valence, who commanded the English forces. Young Edward looked tamely on; and, instead of repressing the enemy, endeavoured to come to an accommodation. The English barons, who had been kept under during the preceding reign, now saw that the sceptre was
fallen into such feeble hands that they A. D.
might re-affert their former indepen1307• dence with impunity.
To confirm the inauspicious conjectures that were already formed of this reign, Edward recalled one of his favourites, who was banished during his father's reign, being accused of corrupting the prince's morals. The name of this much-loved youth was Piers Gavestone, the fon of a Gascon knight, who had been employed in the service of. the late king. This young man foon insinuated himself into the affections of the prince ; and in fact, was adorned with every accomplishment of person and mind, that were capable of creating affection ; but he was utterly deftitute of those qualities of heart and understanding that serve to procure esteem. He was beautiful, witty, brave and active, but then he was vicious, effeminate, debauched and trifling. These were qualities entirely adapted to the taste of the young monarch, and such as he could not think of living without. He therefore took Gavestone into his particular intimacy, and seemed to think no rewards equal to his deserts.
Even before his arrival at court from exile, he endowed him with the whole earldom of Cornwall, which had lately fallen to the
He married him soon after to his own niece, and granted him a sum of two and thirty thousand pounds, which the late king had reserved for the maintenance of one hundred and forty knights, who had undertaken to carry his heart to Jerusalem.
These accumulated favours did not fail to ex. cite the jealousy and indignation of the barons; and Gavestone was no way solicitous to foften their resentment. Intoxicated with his power, he became haughty and over bearing. He treated the Eng. lith nobility, from whom it is probable he received 3
marks of contempt, with scorn and derision. Whenever there was to be a display of pomp or magnificence, Gaveftone was sure to eclipse all others; and he not only mortified his rivals by his superior splendor, but by his superior insolence.
The barons were soon after still more provoked to see this presumptuous favourite appointed guardian of the realm, during a journey the king was obliged to make to Paris, to espouse the princess labella, to whom he had been long since betrothed. They were not remiss, therefore, upon the arrival of this princess, who was imperious and intriguing, to make her of their party, and to direct her ani. mosity against Gaveltone, which to do him juftice, he took little care to avoid. A conspiracy was soon formed against him, at the head of which queen Isabella, and the earl of Lancaster,' a nobleman of great power, were affociated. They bound themselves by oaths to expel Gavestone ; and began to throw off all reverence for the royal authurity, which they saw wholly in the posseffion of this overgrown favourite. At length, the king found himself obliged to submit to their united clamour ;, and he fent Gavestone out of the kingdom, by appointing hiin lord-lieutenant of Ireland. But this compliance was of short duration ; the weak monarch, long habituated to his favourite, could not live without him; and having obtained a dispensation from the pope for his breach of faith, be once more recalled Gavestone, and even went down to Chester to receive him on his first landa ing from Ireland. A parliament was soon after assembled, where the king had influence fufficient to have his late conduct approved ; and this served only to encrease his ridiculous affection, and to render Gavestone ftill more odious. This infatuated creature himself forgetting his past misfortunes, and unmindful of future danger, resumed
his former' oftentation and infolence, and made himself every day fome new enemy.
It was easy to perceive, that a combination of the nobles, while the queen secretly affitted their designs, would be too powerful' against the efforts of a weak king, and a vain favourite. They were resolved upon the fall of Gavestone, even though that of Edward himself should be involved in the same ruin. They foon, therefore, affembled, in a tumultuous parliament, contrary to the king's express command, attended with a numerous retinue of armed followers ; and began their first usurpations, by giving laws to the king. They A. D. 1308. compelled him to sign a commision, March 16. by which the whole
authority of government was to be delegated to twelve persons, to be chosen by themselves. These were to have the government of the kingdom, and the regulation of the king's houfhold. They were to enact ordinances for the good of the state, and the honour of the king, their commission was to continue for six months, and then they were to lay down their authority Many of their ordinances were immediately put in force, and some of them appeared for the advantage of the nation ; such as requiring that the sheriffs should be men of property; and prohibiting the adulteration of the coin; the excluding foreigners from farming the revenues; and the revoking all the late exorbitant grants of the crown. All these the king, who faw himself entirely itript of his power, could very patiently submit to; but when he learned that Gavestone, was to be banilhed for ever from his dominions, he no longer was master of his temper; but removing to York, where he was at a Imall diltance from the immediate terror of the confederated power, he inftantly invited Gavettone back from Flanders, whither the barons had banished him ;
and declaring his punishment and sentence to be illegal, he openly reinstated him in all his former fplendors. This was fufficient to spread
A. D. an alarm over the whole kingdom; all the great barons Aew to arms; the earl. 1312. of Lancaster put himself at the head of this irrefistible confederacy; Guy, earl of Warwick, entered into it with fury; the earl of. Hereford, the earl of Pembroke, and the earl of Warrenne, all embraced the same cause ; whilst the Archbishop of Canterbury brought over the majority of the ecclefiaftics, and consequently of the people.
The unhappy Edward, instead of attempting to make resistance, fought only for safety : ever happy in the company of his favourite, he embarked at Tinmouth, and failed with him to the cattle of Scarborough, where he left Gavestone, as in a place of safety; and then went back to York himfelf, either to raise an army to oppose his enemies; or, by his presence, to allay their animolity. In the mean time, Gavestone was besieged in Scarborough by the earl of Pembroke ; and had the garrison been sufficiently supplied with provifions, that place would have been impregnable. But Gavestone, sensible of the bad condition of the garrisoii, took the earliest opportunity to offer terms of capitulation. He ftipulated, that he thould remain in Pembroke's hands as a prisoner for two months; and that endeavours should be used, in the mean time, for a general accommodation. But Pembroke bad no intention that he should escape fo easily, he ordered him to be conducted to the cattle of Deddington, near Banbury, where, on pretence of other business, he left him with a feeble guard, which the earl of Warwick having notice of, he attacked the castle in which the unfortunate Gavestone was confined, and quickly made himself master of his person.