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The University of Southampton

HIST1134 The Murder of Edward II

Module Overview

From 1327 to 1485 three English kings were deposed, one murdered in the Tower of London and one killed in battle. Edward II was the first to be removed and his deposition, murder or possible survival is one of the most important events in English medieval history. It was the first time an English parliament deposed a divinely anointed monarch and it provided the blueprint for the removal of future monarchs. After Edward’s deposition several English kings were removed by popular mandate, channelled through a newly emerging political consciousness. It also ensured that English kingship developed differently to continental monarchy. Successful English kings ruled through parliament, not against it. In order to understand how Edward II was deposed we need to look at aspects of his reign. In particular how he treated the nobility, his military ineptitude and how this fostered discontent. We will then examine how chroniclers of the time treated his reign and his kingship. We also need to consider the development of parliament and how it was used to provide a popular platform, and thus credibility, to the removal of a monarch. Literary characterisations of Edward II will also be explored through such works as Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (available on DVD as a play). Marlowe drew upon Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1587) for most of his information and so we can use both of these records to see how the character of Edward II was treated by later writers. More recently, a theory that Edward II escaped custody and survived as a hermit in Italy has been given a new lease of life. We shall examine this historical argument and the writings of those who oppose it. There is a wealth of historical records and secondary reading now available in translations and online that throw light on Edward’s reign, his murder or possible survival, including the parliament rolls. Through this module you will be introduced to historical sources of various provenances, how historians have used them and have the opportunity to engage with medieval architecture.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • how medieval sources, both narrative and governmental, were produced and how historians interpret them
  • the place of Edward II in English history
  • what constitutes a good king and how English Monarchs ought to rule
  • the wider repercussions of deposing a king and whether this creates an ‘English phenomenon’ in the way future English monarchs have to rule
  • how the reputation of kings is portrayed in literary works and how far this shifts from historical fact
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • read and critically assess the arguments put forward in the secondary literature
  • identify different types of primary source and read them with a critical eye
  • prepare and respond in debate
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • gather and critically analyse information
  • produce oral and written presentations
  • cooperate with other members of the course in group work
  • debate opposing points of view and judge their merits
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • perform basic bibliographical and web searches
  • identify and collate relevant historical sources and produce oral and written reports
  • evaluate modern historical dramas as a means of portraying historical events and characters


Kingship Historical theories Kings as personalities The development of parliament

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • A weekly two-hour class incorporating lecture and seminar elements • Lecturer-led analysis and discussion of sources Learning activities include: • Preparatory reading before each seminar • Participation in group and class discussion • Independent reading of the sources provided and of related secondary works • Short oral presentations on primary sources • Independent research of additional information and source materials Lecture elements will provide you with general knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about a topic, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Haines, R.M (2006). King Edward II: Edward of Caernarfon, His Life, His Reign, and its Aftermath, 1284-1330. 

Maddicott, J.R (2012). The Origins of the English Parliament, 924-1327. 

Tout, T.F. (1914). The Place of the Reign of Edward II in English History. 

Marlowe, Christopher (1973). Edward II. 

Mortimer, I. (2012). Medieval Intrigue: Decoding Royal Conspiracies. 

Maddicott, J.R (1970). Thomas of Lancaster, 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II. 

Doherty, P. (2003). Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II. 

Mortimer, I. (2010). The Greatest Traitor: the Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, Ruler of England 1327- 1330. 

Phillips, J. R. S (1972). Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, 1307-1324: Baronial Politics in the Reign of Edward II. 

Mortimer, I. (2005). The Death of Edward II in Berkeley Castle. English Historical Review. ,120 , pp. 1175-1214.


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal feedback: • You will engage in small group exercises, focusing on specific formative tasks, which will be reviewed in class. • You will be encouraged to discuss preparation for your formal assessment with your tutor. • You will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your work in progress from your tutor. • Guidance and advice in class on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments will be available to you. The formal assessments will promote skills of analysis and critical thinking. They will also reinforce organisational, planning and writing skills.


MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1000 words) 20%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Examination  (1 hours) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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