The Pauline annalist, apparently an eyewitness, described Gaveston as “so decked out that he more resembled the god Mars than an ordinary mortal”. The other earls wore cloth-of-gold, as they were entitled to do in the king’s presence (cloth-of-gold is material shot through with gold thread, so sadly, they are unlikely to have much resembled the Bee Gees), but Gaveston wore royal purple, of silk, encrusted with jewels.
Isabella’s uncles Charles of Valois and Louis of Evreux attended the coronation, as did her brother Charles, the future Charles IV, and Edward’s sister Margaret and brother-in-law Jan, the duke and duchess of Brabant. Presumably, his other sisters Elizabeth, countess of Hereford, and Mary, the nun, also attended, as did the mayor, aldermen and citizens of London. Supposedly, a knight called John Bakewell was crushed to death in the great crowd of people in the Abbey.
At the altar, Edward and Isabella both made offerings of gold. During the ceremony, the count of Valois put on Edward’s left buskin (a kind of boot) and left spur, the earl of Pembroke Edward’s right buskin, and Gaveston the right spur – to the anger of many, as these duties were of profound significance, and Edward was publicly placing Gaveston above the rest of the nobility.
Edward swore his oath and was anointed with holy oil on head, hands and chest, then he himself raised his crown from the altar and handed it to Bishop Woodlock, who placed it on Edward’s head. Edward was then escorted to his gilded and painted throne, with the Stone of Scone underneath, which his father had removed from Scotland eleven years earlier. A long line of prelates and barons came to kneel before him and swear (homage and) fealty. Finally, it was Isabella’s turn to be consecrated, crowned and anointed, on the hands only.
Edward and Isabella received the sacrament, and then were escorted back to the palace, Edward carrying the royal verge (his staff of office) in his left hand. Piers Gaveston carried the sword Curtana, which the earl of Lancaster had carried previously in the procession to the Abbey, which caused more mutterings, or rather shouts, of discontent. Edward changed out of his coronation robes and proceeded with all the others to Westminster Hall, where a banquet was to take place. Edward knighted several young men at this time, including his sixteen-year-old nephew the earl of Gloucester.
Gaveston had been responsible for arranging the banquet, and it was a fiasco, either because Gaveston wasn’t much of an organiser or because he was already so resented the cooks, servers etc did their worst, in order to embarrass him. It was long after dark when the banquet finally got underway, and although there was a vast amount of food, it was badly cooked, badly served and close to inedible. (Possibly, the French had expected nothing less of English food.)
Edward had ordered tapestries bearing his own arms, and those of Piers Gaveston, to adorn the walls of the hall, as though Gaveston was his consort and not Isabella. Even by Edward’s standards, this was astonishingly tactless. He then made matters worse by sitting next to Gaveston and ignoring everyone else, including Isabella, talking and laughing with his friend. Isabella’s uncles were, not unreasonably, grievously offended. Although it’s understandable that a man in his twenties would prefer to talk to a friend of his own age than to a twelve-year-old he barely knew, there’s no doubt that Edward’s behaviour was extremely insulting to the French. Whether he intended to be rude, or just didn’t care, is not certain.
After the banquet, the counts of Evreux and Valois returned to France and complained to Isabella’s father Philip IV that Edward II favoured Gaveston’s couch to Isabella’s bed. Isabella herself wrote to her father declaring that her husband was “an entire stranger to my bed”. The chronicler Robert of Reading, who hated Edward, wrote scathingly about “the mad folly of the king of England, who was so overcome with his own wickedness and desire for sinful, forbidden sex, that he banished his royal wife from his side and rejected her sweet embraces.” And Adam Murimuth wrote that Edward “loved an evil male sorcerer [!!] more than he did his wife, a most handsome lady and a very beautiful woman.”
But Isabella was not a ‘woman’, and I for one find it impossible to condemn Edward for ‘rejecting the sweet embraces’ and shunning the bed of a girl not long past her twelfth birthday! I really doubt that Edward intended any offence or insult to Isabella personally, but he could hardly have been less interested in a girl too young to be his wife in anything but name, or of any political use to him.
Parliament met shortly afterwards. Edward’s antics at the coronation had strengthened the already pretty strong opposition to Piers Gaveston; most of the earls, barons and bishops abandoned Edward, and many threatened to make war on him if he didn’t banish Gaveston. Within eight months of his accession, Edward II had brought his country to the brink of civil war over his obsessive love for his Gascon favourite. What happened next, I’ll save for another blog post. 🙂