Chivalric Love or True Bromance? Did Edward II Have a Secret Husband?
Ah, medieval England – a time of knights in shining armor, ladies in distress, and... bromances? While Arthur had his Lancelot (just good friends), it was King Edward II and his closest confidant, Piers Gaveston, who kept the court gossip mills running overtime. The two shared a bond so intense that it left historians (and juicy medieval tabloids, had they existed) speculating: Were they just BFFs or something more?
Edward II ascended the throne in 1307, but long before that, he had struck a close friendship with Piers Gaveston. Gaveston, originally from Gascony in France, was exiled by Edward's father, King Edward I, because of their deepening relationship. But like a scene from a blockbuster movie, the moment Edward became king, he called his buddy back, even bestowing upon him the title of the Earl of Cornwall.
It's no secret the two shared an inseparable bond. Edward's lavish gifts and the special attention he showered upon Gaveston raised more than a few aristocratic eyebrows. Medieval chroniclers, never ones to pass up a juicy story, noted the "excessive" fondness Edward had for Gaveston. Some even dubbed Gaveston the "King's minion." And no, they weren't talking about the cute, yellow, banana-loving variety.
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Modern depiction of Edward II and Piers Gaveston. ( Suburbanbeatnik/ Deviant Art)
The nobility's discomfort wasn't just because of Edward's close bond with Gaveston. It was also due to Gaveston's audacity and flamboyance. He sported flashy clothes and was often accused of leading the young king astray. It's one thing to be ‘best buds’ with the king, but quite another to flaunt it!
But was their relationship a passionate romance or a deep-seated bromance? Contemporary records from their time were coy, hinting at an "intense affection" but never directly labelling it as romantic. Some historians speculate that their relationship might've been a product of chivalric love, a sort of intense platonic bond common among knights of the period.
Yet, other historians like Pierre Chaplais argue that the two might've shared a romantic relationship, citing Edward's extreme reactions to Gaveston's troubles as evidence. When Gaveston was captured and executed by disgruntled nobles in 1312, Edward was devastated. Not only did he mourn deeply, but he also pursued revenge against those responsible. That's not just friendship – that's intense friendship.
But whether they were lovers or just incredibly close friends, the world may never know for sure. Like many historical relationships, the exact nature of their bond is shrouded in mystery, open to interpretation, and perhaps, a little embellishment.
In any case, Edward II and Piers Gaveston's relationship serves as a reminder that history isn't just about battles and treaties. It's also about human connections, friendships, and the occasional court scandal to spice things up. So, the next time you and your best friend are dubbed "inseparable," just remember – you're in royal company!
Top image: The painting ‘Edward II and his Favourite, Piers Gaveston’ (1872) by Marcus Stone. Source: Public Domain
By Gary Manners
Barber, Malcolm (2004). The Two Cities: Medieval Europe, 1050–1320. London: Routledge.
Chaplais, Pierre (1966). Piers Gaveston: Edward II's Adoptive Brother. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Doherty, P.C. (2003). Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II. London: Robinson.
Phillips, Seymour (2011). Edward II. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Prestwich, Michael (1988). Edward I. London: Methuen London Ltd.