As regnal post-nominal numbers were a Norman (as opposed to Anglo-Saxon) custom, Edward Longshanks is known as Edward I, even though he is the fourth King Edward, following Edward the Elder, Edward the Martyr, and Edward the Confessor.
Edward's first marriage (age 15) was arranged in 1254 by his father and Alfonso X of Castile. Alfonso had insisted that Edward receive grants of land worth 15,000 marks a year and also asked to knight him; Henry had already planned a knighthood ceremony for Edward but conceded. Edward crossed the Channel in June, and was knighted by Alfonso and married to Eleanor of Castile (age 13) on 1 November 1254 in the monastery of Las Huelgas.
Eleanor and Edward would go on to have at least fifteen (possibly sixteen) children, and her death in 1290 affected Edward deeply. He displayed his grief by erecting the Eleanor crosses, one at each place where her funeral cortège stopped for the night. His second marriage, (age 60) at Canterbury on 10 September 1299, to Marguerite of France, (age 17) (known as the "Pearl of France" by her husband's English subjects), the daughter of King Philip III of France (Phillip the Bold) and Maria of Brabant, produced three children.
In 1258, Henry was forced by his barons to accede to the Provisions of Oxford. This, in turn, led to Edward becoming more aligned with the barons and their promised reforms, and on 15 October 1259 he announced that he supported the barons' goals. Shortly afterwards Henry crossed to France for peace negotiations, and Edward took the opportunity to make appointments favouring his allies. An account in Thomas Wykes's chronicle claims Henry learned that Edward was plotting against the throne; Henry, returning to London in the spring of 1260, was eventually reconciled with Edward by Richard of Cornwall's efforts. Henry then forced Edward's allies to give up the castles they had received and Edward's independence was sharply curtailed.
Edward's character greatly contrasted with that of his father, who reigned over England throughout Edward's childhood and consistently tended to favour compromise with his opponents. Edward had already shown himself as an ambitious and impatient man, displaying considerable military prowess in defeating Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, having previously been imprisoned by de Montfort at Wallingford Castle and Kenilworth Castle.
The number of knights and retainers that accompanied Edward on the crusade was quite small. He drew up contracts with 225 knights, and one chronicler estimated that his total force numbered 1000 men. Many of the members of Edward's expedition were close friends and family including his wife Eleanor of Castile, his brother Edmund, and his first cousin Henry of Almain.
The original goal of the crusade was to relieve the beleaguered Christian stronghold of Acre, but Louis had been diverted to Tunis. By the time Edward arrived at Tunis, Louis had died of disease. The majority of the French forces at Tunis thus returned home, but a small number joined Edward who continued to Acre to participate in the Ninth Crusade. After a short stop in Cyprus, Edward arrived in Acre, reportedly with thirteen ships. In 1271, Hugh III of Cyprus arrived with a contingent of knights.
The truce, and an almost fatal wound inflicted by a Muslim assassin, soon forced Edward to return to England. On his return voyage he learned of his father's death. Overall, Edward's crusade was rather insignificant and only gave the city of Acre a reprieve of ten years. However, Edward's reputation was greatly enhanced by his participation and he was hailed by one contemporary English songwriter as a new Richard the Lionheart.
Edward was also largely responsible for the Tower of London in the form we see today, including notably the concentric defences, elaborate entranceways, and the Traitor's Gate. The engineer who redesigned the Tower's moat, Brother John of the Order of St Thomas of Acre, had clearly been recruited in the East.
In 1288 in Gascony in southern France, which at that time was in English hands, the Mongol ambassador to Europe Rabban Bar Sauma met King Edward in attempts to arrange a Franco-Mongol alliance against the Muslims. Edward responded enthusiastically to the embassy, but ultimately proved unable to join a military alliance due to conflict at home, especially with the Welsh and the Scots.
When his contemporaries wished to distinguish him from his earlier royal namesakes, they generally called him 'King Edward, son of King Henry'. Not until the reign of Edward III, when they were forced to distinguish between three consecutive King Edwards, did people begin to speak of Edward 'the First' (some of them, recalling the earlier Anglo-Saxon kings of the same name, would add 'since the Conquest').
One of King Edward's early moves was the conquest of Wales. Under the 1267 Treaty of Montgomery, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd had extended Welsh territories southwards into what had been the lands of the English Marcher Lords and obtained English royal recognition of his title of Prince of Wales, although he still owed homage to the English monarch as overlord. Llywelyn repeatedly refused to pay homage to Edward in 1274–76 due to the fact that Edward had broken the treaty by welcoming Llywelyn's brother Dafydd and keeping him under his protection (at the time Dafydd was an enemy of Llywelyn). Edward then raised a huge army, almost half of which was made up of Welshmen who were jealous of Llywelyn, and launched his first campaign against the Welsh prince in 1276–1277. After this campaign, Llywelyn was forced to pay homage to Edward and was stripped of all but a rump of territory in Gwynedd. But Edward allowed Llywelyn to retain the title of Prince of Wales, and eventually allowed him to marry Eleanor de Montfort, daughter of the late Earl Simon who he had recently captured using pirates that were under his pay.
Llywelyn's younger brother, Dafydd (who had previously been an ally of the English) started another rebellion in 1282, and was soon joined by his brother and many other Welshmen in a war of national liberation. Edward was caught off guard by this revolt but responded quickly and decisively, vowing to remove the Welsh monarchy forever. The English suffered a row of defeats- the army of the earl of Gloucester was ambushed and destroyed in the south, and in the north at the menai where a large English force that was attempting to cross from Anglesey to mainland Wales was destroyed by the army of the princes of Gwynedd. The Welsh resistance suddenly halted however when Llywelyn was killed in an obscure battle with English forces (led by some of the Welsh marcher lords) in December 1282. Snowdonia was occupied the following spring and at length Dafydd ap Gruffudd was captured and taken to Shrewsbury, where he was tried and executed for treason. To consolidate his conquest, Edward began construction of a string of massive stone castles encircling the principality, of which the most celebrated are Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech. The Welsh wars however damaged the English treasury due to the money spent on new troops and new castles to be built, and it was this that brought the downfall of Edward in his campaign in Scotland.
The Principality of Wales was incorporated into England under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 and, in 1301, Edward invested his eldest son, Edward of Caernarfon, as Prince of Wales. Since that time, with the exception of Edward III, the eldest sons of all English monarchs have borne this title.
In 1289, after his return from a lengthy stay in his duchy of Gascony, Edward turned his attentions to Scotland. He had planned to marry his son and heir Edward, to the heiress Margaret, the Maid of Norway, but when Margaret died with no clear successor, the Scottish Guardians invited Edward's arbitration, to prevent the country from descending into civil war. But before the process got underway, and to the surprise and consternation of many of Scots, Edward insisted that he must be recognized as overlord of Scotland. Eventually, after weeks of English machination and intimidation, this precondition was accepted, with the proviso that Edward's overlordship would only be temporary.
His overlordship acknowledged, Edward proceeded to hear the great case (or Great Cause, a term first recorded in the 18th century) to decide who had the best right to be the new Scottish king. Proceedings took place at Berwick upon Tweed. After lengthy debates and adjournments, Edward ruled in favour of John Balliol in November 1292. Balliol was enthroned at Scone on 30 November 1292.
In the weeks after this decision, however, Edward revealed that he had no intention of dropping his claim to be Scotland's superior lord. Balliol was forced to seal documents freeing Edward from his earlier promises. Soon the new Scottish king found himself being overruled from Westminster, and even summoned there on the appeal of his own Scottish subjects.
When, in 1294, Edward also demanded Scottish military service against France, it was the final straw. In 1295 the Scots concluded a treaty with France and readied themselves for war with England.
The war began in March 1296 when the Scots crossed the border and tried, unsuccessfully, to take Carlisle. Days later Edward's massive army struck into Scotland and demanded the surrender of Berwick. When this was refused the English attacked, killing most of the citizens-although the extent of the massacre is a source of contention; with postulated civilian death figures ranging from 7000 to 60000, dependent on the source.
After Berwick, and the defeat of the Scots by an English army at the Battle of Dunbar (1296), Edward proceeded north, taking Edinburgh and travelling as far north as Elgin - farther, as one contemporary noted, than any earlier English king. On his return south he confiscated the Stone of Destiny and carted it from Perth to Westminster Abbey. Balliol, deprived of his crown, the royal regalia ripped from his tabard (hence his nickname, Toom Tabard) was imprisoned in the Tower of London for three years (later he was transferred to papal custody, and at length allowed to return to his ancestral estates in France). All freeholders in Scotland were required to swear an oath of homage to Edward, and he ruled Scotland like a province through English viceroys.
Opposition sprang up (see Wars of Scottish Independence), and Edward executed the focus of discontent, William Wallace, on 23 August 1305, having earlier defeated him at the Battle of Falkirk (1298), where it is claimed that Edward bribed the cavalry in Wallace's army to defect and leave the battle, allowing Edward's archers to fire into the Scottish spear formations without the risk of being hit by his cavalry. Although he won the battle, Edward lost many men in the battle and was forced to retreat back to England.
Edward was known to be fond of falconry and horse riding. The names of some of his horses are recorded in royal rolls: Lyard, his war horse; Ferrault his hunting horse; and his favourite, Bayard. At the Siege of Berwick, Edward is said to have led the assault personally, using Bayard to leap over the earthen defences of the city.
Edward's later life was fraught with difficulty, as he lost his beloved first wife Eleanor and his heir failed to develop the expected kingly character.
Edward's plan to conquer Scotland ultimately failed. In 1307 he died at Burgh-by-Sands, Cumberland on the Scottish border, while on his way to wage another campaign against the Scots under the leadership of Robert the Bruce. According to a later chronicler tradition, Edward asked to have his bones carried on future military campaigns in Scotland. More credible and contemporary writers reported that the king's last request was to have his heart taken to the Holy Land. All that is certain is that Edward was buried in Westminster Abbey in a plain black marble tomb, which in later years was painted with the words Edwardus Primus Scottorum malleus hic est, pactum serva, (Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots. Keep Troth.. Although in their present form these words were added in the sixteenth century, they may well date from soon after his death.
On 2 January 1774, the Society of Antiquaries opened the coffin and discovered that his body had been perfectly preserved for 467 years. His body was measured to be 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) Hence the nickname "Longshanks" meaning Long legs.
After returning from the crusade in 1274, a major inquiry into local malpractice and alienation of royal rights took place. The result was the Hundred Rolls of 1275, a detailed document reflecting the waning power of the Crown. It was also the allegations that emerged from the inquiry which led to the first of the series of codes of law issued during the reign of Edward I. In 1275, the first Statute of Westminster was issued correcting many specific problems in the Hundred Rolls. Similar codes of law continued to be issued until the death of Edward's close adviser Robert Burnell in 1292.
Edward's personal treasure, valued at over a year's worth of the kingdom's tax revenue, was stolen by Richard of Pudlicott in 1306, leading to one of the largest criminal trials of the period.
By the Edict of Expulsion of 1290, Edward formally expelled all Jews from England. The motive for this expulsion was first and foremost financial - in almost every case, all their money and property was confiscated. They did not return until the Seventeenth Century, when Oliver Cromwell invited them to come back.
Edward, after his return from a three year stay on the Continent, was around £100,000 in debt. Such a large sum - around four times his normal annual income - could only come from a grant of parliamentary taxation. It seems that parliament was persuaded to vote for this tax, as had been the case on several earlier occasions in Edward's reign.
Edward is unflatteringly depicted in several novels with a contemporary setting, including:
The subjection of Wales and its people and their staunch resistance was commemorated in a poem, The Bards of Wales, by the Hungarian poet János Arany in 1857 as a way of encoded resistance to the suppressive politics of the time.
Edward is portrayed by Patrick McGoohan as a hard-hearted tyrant in the 1995 film Braveheart. He was also played by Brian Blessed in the 1996 film The Bruce, by Michael Rennie in The Black Rose (1950, based on the novel by Thomas B. Costain), and by Donald Sumpter in Heist (2008).
Children of Edward and Marguerite: