Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Execution of a Prince

On the 19th March 1330, Edmund, Duke of Kent (b.1301), the youngest son of King Edward I of England was executed for treason.

The crime which Edmund accused of was that he believed his brother King Edward II, who had died in 1327, was in fact still alive. He was described as being part of a plot to rescue Edward II from Corfe Castle in Dorset. It would appear that Edmund had been convinced by someone that his brother was alive and well, and his wife wrote letters to Edward which were intercepted and used as evidence against Edmund. By writing to his brother, Edmund had performed a treasonous act against the current king, his nephew Edward III, through his disloyalty to him in his offer to help his brother to regain his throne.

The Earl and Countess of Kent, Prince Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake, Baroness Wake of Liddel
Edmund and Margaret

On the 14th March the arrest warrant for Edmund's wife Margaret Wake and their children was issued. Margaret and their three children - Edmund (1326-31), Margaret (1327-52) and Joan (1328-85) - were imprisoned at Salisbury Castle with only two maids to attend on them. It was there that Margaret gave birth to the couple's fourth child, John (d.1352), on the 7th April.

On 16th March, Edmund's confession was read out in Parliament. Edmund offered to walk barefoot from Winchester to London with a rope around his neck as punishment for his actions, however this request was denied.

"The will of this court is that you shall lose both life and limb, and that your heirs shall be disinherited for evermore, save the grace of our lord the king".

On the morning of the 19th of March, Edmund was taken to the scaffold wearing only his shirt. The executioner who had been employed for that day had fled and could not be found. The search to find a replacement executioner took several hours as it was proving impossible to find someone willing to execute a royal prince, especially considering the charges brought against him were viewed by many as nothing more than trumped up charges to rid Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer of a political enemy. The offer was made to all prisoners who had been sentenced to death themselves, that if they were to step forward and perform the execution, they would be granted a royal pardon. A latrine cleaner who was awaiting execution stepped forward and offered to execute the prince in exchange for his own life.

It was this execution which led to King Edward III seizing power from his mother Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, a few weeks shy of his coming of age in October 1330. In the Parliament of November 1330 King Edward passed a Bill posthumously pardoning Prince Edmund of all charges. Which indicates that the truth was that the charges had been fabricated and exaggerated to suit Isabella and Roger's aims. King Edward took on the responsibility of the family that Edmund had left behind; the children were raised at the royal court and Edmund's daughter Joan became a favourite of Edward's queen, Philippa of Hainault.

Through his daughter Joan, Edmund was the grandfather to King Richard II, as well as the ancestor to King Henry VII and all subsequent monarchs of England.

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