Piers Gaveston 1st Earl of Cornwall 1284 – 1312
Gaveston was assigned to the royal household of Edward first’s son in 1300. At this time the future king was known as Edward of Caernarfon, Prince of Wales.
Both Edward and Gaveston were still in their teens at the time. Gaveston was the son of a knight from the English ruled territory of Gascony. Edward I viewed Gaveston as an ideal role model for his heir, it was said he was “charming, graceful, and agile” among other qualities. He was well versed in military matters where Edward was more interested in the arts than going to war. With this in mind, it wasn’t surprising that Edward I was thinking Gaveston would influence his son positively.
However, Edward I soon recognised the friendship between Gaveston and Edward II being a little more than a simple friendship, thus he sent Piers into exile, only returning a few months later on the death of the king. Clearly the relationship was hard to hide.
It is said that on the Coronation of Edward II at Westminster Abbey he kept looking behind him at Gaveston, to the annoyance of nobles present.
Soon after this, Edward made Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, in which was one of the highest titles possible at that time. Additionally, he arranged a marriage for Gaveston to Edward II’s niece, Margaret de Clare, this resulted in upset of Edward II’s enemies.
Edward II himself married his twelve year old bride in January 1308, which was common at this point in history to have such a young bride, not consummating the marriage for a few years.
On a side note, the future Edward III, Edward II’s first child was born on 13 November 1312.
Gaveston was forced into exile another twice, the final time in 1311 he returned back to England a year later. Sadly, the second time he was hunted down by a group named the Magnates and held prisoner at Warwick Castle.
In the early morning of 19 June, 1312, Gaveston was taken from Warwick Castle and escorted to the nearby Blacklow Hill to be executed. One man ran a sword through his body whilst another cut off his head.
Although some films depict his homosexual relationship with Edward II the main reason of his exiles and later death, most historians believe it was more political and less homophobic as Edward II treated everyone with contempt, including Queen Isabella, his wife. In Edward II’s eyes, Gaveston could do no wrong. In the eyes of some nobles, Gaveston was always to blame for the government’s mistakes with wars and continuously upsetting the nobles.
In retrospect, most historians believe because Edward II went on to seek revenge for Gaveston’s death, causing almost two decades of turbulence, mutiny and civil war was ultimately his own demise.