a) Which historians have specialised in studying the reign of Edward II ? How have their views developed ?
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b) What are the principal record sources for this reign ? Do they raise any problems of reliability or bias ?
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c) What is the significance of Edward II's Coronation Oath ? How does it differ from earlier Coronation Oaths ? What was the nature and purpose of the Baronial Declaration of 1308?
Caryl Dane ----
Edward II's coronation oath demonstrates the barons' distrust of Edward from the beginning. They compelled their new ruler to accept an addition to his coronation oath in which the king swore that he would observe 'the rightful laws and the customs which the community of the realm shall determine'

The exact interpretation of the oath has led to much debate, in Edward's reign and by later historians, concerning who constituted the 'community of the realm' and how it was to choose or decide.

In the Declaration of 1308 the barons quoted the controversial clause of the coronation oath to reinforce their united demand that Gaveston be exiled - the king they said being bound by his oath to obey their decision.

'The docrine of capacity' declared that homage was not due to the king in person but only to the crown as an institution. The Declaration distinguished between the person and the office of ruler to justify violent opposition to one if it was in the best interests of the other, and stressed the barons' loyalty to the crown.

Edward II: The Pliant King - Harold F.Hutchinson

d) Which barons opposed Edward in 1311 ? What reforms did they propose in the Ordinances of 1311 ? Why did these reforms fail ?
Katie Mooney ----
In 1310 a collection of English barons put forward ideas for reforms to be made by Edward II and the monarchy, these were later were finalized and drafted and became the Ordinances in 1311. The main barons who opposed Edward II were the one who created the Ordinances and were called the Ordainers and included the great and most powerful baronages of England. Two of whom who were the only one to take a strong open stand against the influence of Gaveston were the Earl of Lincoln, who died before they were finalized, and the earl of Gloucester. The Ordainers also included the most powerful of Edward's barons, the earl of Lincoln and also involved there were the earls of Hereford, warwick and to a lesser extent Pembroke. 

The main ideas of reforms put forward by the Ordainers are as follows:

  1. The Banishment of Gaveston and other royal favourites who were seen to hold great influence over the king.
  2. To establish a complete baronial oligarchy as the king's natural advisors 
  3. Barons have to power to control all appointments of chief officials in the government and royal household.
  4. king should not go to war or leave the country without baronial consent.
  5. The 'new' custom, an tax placed upon foreign merchants, should be abolished
The themes which seem present throughout these reforms appear to be that the need was to increase the authority and power of the barons as the king's natural advisors, creating a new government system they could control and in the process lessening the independence of the king. These reforms never really came into success and there are many reasons put forward why they did fail, mainly by the historian J. C Davis,
  1. The relative strength of the king's position. Despite the reforms imposed Edward still held the ultimate authority over the governance of the country. The royal household, from which Edward ran as an alternative form of government, was very strong and he still held the royal seal, which was the only method by which to legitimize the laws created. Due to the households strength and the king's authority, Edward was able to keep relative control, as he could use it to counteract any of the barons decisions. For example, an order from the king was more likely to be obeyed, than the governments order which it went against. Therefore, it can be said Edward was still in control even with the restrictions placed upon him by the barons.
  2. The size of the barons group and its diversity of interest led to an uncoordinated policy of reform. Personal interest to gain power and the jealously against royal favourites often narrowed their view and divided the baronage. The murder of Gaveston led to a split in the barons who wanted reform and also the pacification of the less radical barons, who began to fail to take an interest in reforms. Due to this reason the reform became inconsistent, varied and led to great differences in the baronage.
  3. 3) Though the ordinances called for what type of reforms should be made, it gave no indication of how they would be actually carried out. This led to problems, as though the reforms were defined there was little possible way of carrying them out, therefore in the long term were a failure.
  4. 4) At the time of the ordinances, Edward does not appear to have been communally disliked. This can be seen in the lack of rebellions and civil strife at this time, indicating the Ordinances were more for baronial interests than the community of the realm. J. C Davis says about this "He was not a tyrant, but merely inefficient, hence he did not rouse any deep hostility in the people", therefore as Edward was no disliked, at this time, by his people the barons had little backing for the ordinances to be imposed which not everyone agreed with at the time. It was not until 1322 that this situation began to change and edward became more disliked. 
It seems the failure of the reforms stems from the authority and the respect held by the monarchy and the uncoordination of the barons to uphold the reforms. 

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K.D.Mooney hiu45d@bangor.ac.uk

e) What is meant by the 'Doctrine of Capacities' ? How did the concept develop during the reign of Edward II ? How was it dealt with in the Statute of York of 1322, and what was its general significance in English constitutional history ?
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f) What is the significance of the King's Household during the reign of Edward II ? How was it used by Edward, and why did it become a source of grievance to the barons ?
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g) Why did it become necessary to depose Edward ? What allegations were made against him in the Articles of Accusation of 1307 ? How justified were these accusations ?
Ben White ----
It was necessary to get rid of Edward due to the fact that the nobles did not believe he was fit for kingship. His past times were considered to be unsavoury. He also wanted to go back to a more personal form of kingship, this was linked the fact that the barons did not want to lose the control that they had gained. The major accusations in the articles are as follows
  • the king was to incompetent to govern in person, he also had been controlled and governed by people who had given him poor council which led to the destruction of the church and his people. It was also said that he was not able to understand good and evil or to make any amendment for his actions. 
  • It was said that he was unwilling to listen to good council and use it or to govern in a good way. It was also considered that his pastimes were not those of a good traditional king. It was seen that he also neglected to satisfy the needs of his realm. 
  • It was also said that through poor government he lost the realm of Scotland and other territories and lordship in gascony and Ireland, It was also considered that he lost the friendship of the king of france and many other great men. 
  • They said that he had destroyed the holy church and imprisoned members of that church and brought great distress on others and put noble men to death, imprisonment exile. 
  • He had also not done justice to all as by his oath, and not done so for the sake of his own profit and greed, as well as the profit of his evil councillors. 
  • He was also considered to have stripped his realm and done all he could to ruin the realm and his people.
It can be considered that most of the charges are quite reasonable. However some of them are not, this is case with the territory of Scotland which he did not really lose. The accusations can be seen to make his failings more pronouced. 
h) What changes took place in the organisation of Parliament during this reign ? What powers did it acquire, and how did it exercise them ? What was the role of parliament in the deposition of the king ?
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I) Attempt to justify Edward's policies ? Was his reign a complete failure ? To what extent was he the architect of his own misfortunes ?

Using the relevant volume of ENGLISH HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS find, read and annotate the following documents: SEE BIBLIOGRAPHY SECTIONS:

JSI /20/10/99

School of History and Welsh History - University of Wales Bangor