Edward II (1970)
Director: Richard Marquand with Toby Robertson.
Starring: Ian McKellen (King Edward), Timothy West (Young Mortimer), Diane Fletcher (Queen Isabella), James Laurenson (Piers Gaveston), Robert Eddison (Lightborn / Archbishop of Canterbury), Paul Hardwick (Earl of Warwick / Sir John Maltravers), Trevor Martin (Earl of Lancaster / Rice Ap Howell), Andrew Crawford (Old Spencer / Third Poor Man), Bette Bourne (Edmund of Kent), David Calder (Young Spencer), David Strong (Robert Baldock), Michael Spice (Old Mortimer / Sir John of Hainault), Stephen Greif (Earl of Pembroke), Colin Fisher (Earl of Arundel), Richard Morant (Earl of Leicester / Levune).
Edward II deposed and murdered because of his going overboard for his homosexual love Piers Gaveston
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Galveston reads a note he has just received from now King Edward II of England. The note says: My father is deceased. Come and enjoy my kingdom with me.
Here comes the King and the nobles. Galveston has arrived, but keeps out of sight. He remarks that he abhors the Earl of Lancaster. The nobleman Mortimer says that he will have that Gaveston. The Earl of Lancaster also hates Gaveston. The King's brother, Edmund, comes to Edward's defense. But the consensus seems to be about Edward: ". . . either change your mind or look to see the throne, where you should sit, to float in blood and at thy wanton head the glazing head of thy base minion thrown."
Edward says that his only choice is to either die or live with his Gaveston elsewhere. At this moment Gaveston comes forward. They embrace each other and talk about how they each suffered because of their separation. Edward gives a lot of titles to Gaveston, including the excessive king and lord of man. The Bishop of Coventry comes in and asks if that wicked Gaveston has returned? Edward says: "Yes, and he wants to be avenged of he who was the only cause of his exile." Gaveston says plainly that he is going to kill the clergyman. Edward stops him from killing the bishop, but he says that Gaveston can have the man. Gaveston is pleased and shouts: "He shall to prison and there die in bolts." The order is given to take the bishop to the tower.
The Earl of Lancaster says that the villain Gaveston has been made an earl (actually the Earl of Cornwall). Warwick says: "We shall not suffer this." Another clergyman sends word to Rome about what has happened to the poor bishop. The noblemen say they will banish Gaveston once again as before. All the nobles are very eager to sign the document that will banish Gaveston.
Gaveston sits with Edward on the throne. This makes the nobles very angry. They grab Gaveston and take him away. The nobles now demand that Edward sign the banishment document. Edward is forced to concede to the noble and sign the document. Now the document will be published in the streets.
When alone, Edward cries about being forced to banish Gaveston. Gaveston comes in saying: "I hear I am banished." Yes, but Edward soothes him by making him the governor of Ireland. He then tells Gaveston that he will hide him. Gaveston doesn't want to go into hiding. The two men kiss each other passionately. They are interrupted by the entrance of Queen Isabella. Edward calls her a "French strumpet", her being the daughter of the former King of France. The Queen cries feeling very abandoned by her husband.
The nobles comes to see the Queen, who tells them that Edward loves her not and "yet I love him." She wants Gaveston to come back. She wants the banishment repealed. She says that unless Gaveston is brought back, she will remain banished from the court. The nobles are not so sure, but Mortimer says that banishment could be an opportunity for them. After all, some base slave could kill Gaveston. Edward comes in saying that Gaveston is gone. The Queen tells him that the banishment will be repealed. This makes makes Edward very happy and he kisses Isabella. She then has the reluctant nobles bend down on one knee to their king. Edward is very pleased at this show of support and he now rewards his highest nobles. Warwick will be his chief counsel; Pembroke will bear the sword before the king; Mortimer will be commander of the fleet; and Lord Mortimer of Chirk will be the general of the army ready to assail the Scots. Edward now sends Beaumont to retrieve Gaveston from Ireland.
Two servants, Baldock and Spencer, confer on which nobleman Spencer will attach himself to. Spencer says it will be the Earl of Cornwall.
The Queen is very happy thinking everything will now be okay for her. She greets Baldock and then Spencer. She tells Spencer: "Stay you and bear me company."
Edward awaits the arrival of Gaveston with bated breath. Edmund tells his brother that the nobles are not reconciled to Gaveston. The King says: "They love me not, who hate my Gaveston." Gaveston arrives in an ecstatic mood. Edward greets him warmly. He turns to his nobles who shun Gaveston and says: "Will none of you salute my Gaveston?" The nobles poke fun at Edward and Gaveston, each nobleman calling Gaveston one of his many high titles conferred on him by Edward. The Queen is also not pleased with Edward's infatuation with Gaveston.
Mortimer suddenly stabs Gaveston. Edward is shocked and upset. He tells his brother Edmund: "'Tis war that must abate these barons' pride." The nobles pledge, that if Gaveston survives, they will kill the man.
Mortimer learns that his uncle, Lord Mortimer, has been captured in Scotland and is being held for ransom. The nephew demands that the king will pay the ransom, since he was take prisoner in his wars. Edward comes in. Mortimer speaks to him saying: ". . and you shall ransom him, or else." Edmund protests to Mortimer: "Mortimer, you will not threaten him!" Mortimer says that because of all the gifts Edward gave to Gaveston, they "have drawn thy treasure dry and made thee weak." The Earl of Lancaster tells Edward: "Look for rebellion. Look to be deposed." The King's many troubles in foreign affairs, include: his garrisons are driven out of France; "the wild O'Neill, with swarms of Irish kerns, lives uncontrolled within the English pale"; and the Scots "are unto the walls of York". They chastise Edward for only going into the field once and then the men looked foolish wearing garish robes rather than armor.
Edmund warns Edward that because of Gaveston the nobles threaten with wars. He urges Edward to banish Gaveston forever. Edward becomes very angry and shouts at Edmund: "Traitor, out of my sight!" He now goes to check on Gaveston "who has no friend but me." Gaveston is with Baldock and Spencer and asks Edward to let Spencer wait upon him. Edward now says that he will marry Gaveston to his niece. The King brags: "The headstrong barons shall not limit me."
Edmund is very mad at Edward and now decides to join the cause of the nobles.
Gaveston tells Edward that he must flee for the earls are rising up against him. The nobles themselves are ready to revolt. Edward insults the Queen by telling her that her lover is Mortimer.
Mortimer and the head nobles arrive at court, but the king is gone. They asks the Queen where Gaveston went and she tells them that he has gone to Scarborough by boat. The nobles get a boat to chase after Gaveston.
The Queen is about ready to give up completely on Edward. She thinks about going back with their son to France. Her one hope is that Gaveston will be killed.
Gaveston is captured. Lancaster tells the nobles to hang him on a bough. This move is countered by the arrival of Arundel who tells the men that Edward wants to see Gaveston before he dies. Pembroke says he will take Gaveston to Edward and he promises that he will bring Gaveston back to the nobles. So the nobles let Pembroke take Gaveston to Edward. Warwick, however, has his own plans for Gaveston. He and his men ambush Pembroke's men and demand that they give Gaveston to him. They let Warwick have Gaveston and then Warwick's soldiers kill him.
Spencer wants Edward to get tough with the nobles. He tells him: "Strike off their heads and let them preach on poles." The Earl of Wiltshire, the father of Spencer, arrives with 400 men to fight alongside Edward. Edward is very grateful to Spencer and his father.
The Queen arrives with bad news. Her brother, Lord Valois, King of France hath taken Normandy, because Edward hath been so slack in homage to France. The king can only think of Gaveston. Isabella prepares to go to France, while Edward says nothing.
Arundel arrives with more news: "Gaveston is dead!" Warwick and his men ambushed them. And they cut off Gaveston's head. Edward cries and falls on the floor. Later he shouts: "I will have heads and lives for him. . . you villains that have slain my Gaveston." He now makes Spencer Earl of Gloucester and Lord Chamberlain. A note arrives for the King. The nobles tell him to get rid of Spencer and then they will be decent to Edward. In answer to the nobles, Edward passionately kisses Spencer. He then says he is coming after the rebels.
The two forces meet in combat. For a short while Mortimer fights directly with the King. Edward's troops start to retreat, but Edward rallies them and they go on to victory. Warwick, Lancaster and Mortimer are all captured. Edward sends them to the tower. He wants speedy executions for the rebels.
Spencer survives the fighting. Edward sends Levune to France with English gold. He figures this will spoil any chance the Queen has of successfully complaining to the French king about Edward.
Mortimer escapes. He goes to France with Edmund. Meanwhile, Edward goes over his long list of English nobles that will be executed in different locations throughout England. He receives a letter from Levune saying that the Queen, her son, the King's brother Edmund and Mortimer all have gone to Flanders and plan battle anew with England. Edward shouts to his people: "Come friends, to Bristol there to make us strong."
The Queen and Mortimer's forces are back on English soil. And this time Edward loses the battle. Edward says he will flee to Ireland, there to fight on, but he is easily dissuaded from this choice.
Edmund worries that Mortimer will kill the King. The Queen and Mortimer kiss, while they conspire with each other. Edmund asks them what are they going to do with Edward? Mortimer answers that this will be up to Parliament and the realm. Mortimer turns to the Queen and tells her: "I like not this relenting mood in Edmund."
Edward did try to get to Ireland, but he never made it because of severe storms on the seas. Spencer and Baldock are arrested for high treason. Edward will eventually be sent to Killingworth. Mortimer wants the heads of Spencer and Baldock.
The messenger Leicester comes to see Edward. He asks if Edward will yield his crown? He indicates he will, but he has a hard time actually turning over the crown to Leicester. Leicester says, since he won't give up the crown, they will leave. Edward tells a friend to call them back. They come back and still Edward holds on to his crown. He finally gives it up. He is now told that he is to be taken away by order of the Queen to go to Berkeley.
Mortimer tells the Queen that Edward is in captivity. He suggests that he himself become her son's protector and her son becomes the king. They kiss. The crown is brought to the Queen by the Bishop of Winchester. Mortimer asks what the Queen wants to do about Edward. She says that she and her son won't be safe wile Edward is alive. So Mortimer now calls in Matrevis and Gurney. He tells them that Berkeley will give Edward over to them.
Edmund and Prince Edward come in. The Prince clearly does not like Mortimer. So Mortimer pulls him by the the hair out of the room. Edmund is going to try to rescue Edward from Killingworth.
Matrevis and Gurney treat the king roughly per their instructions. Edward still talks of his Gaveston. Edmund tries to rescue Edward, but he is caught and stabbed in the gut. Now Mortimer tells Lightborn to come to him. Lightborn is to kill Edward. (After that Lightborn will be killed by Matrevis and Gurney.) Mortimer smiles and says: "I am protector now."
Prince Edward goes through the coronation ceremony and is crowned. Edmund is brought in as a captive. Mortimer says it's off with his head. The new King Edward is upset because he can't seem to save Uncle Kent. He shies away from the Queen. The nobles now turn their backs to Mortimer.
The assassin Lightborn arrives. He goes down into the sewers where Edward is held. The place smells terrible. Edward asks who is there? When he sees Lightborn, he becomes fearful despite Lightborn telling Edward that he shouldn't mistrust him. He tells him to lie down and rest. Edward has not slept for ten days, but now he falls asleep. Lightborn slaps him to wake him up. Edward asks Lightborn why has he come and Lightborn now says: "To rid thee of thy life." He has Matrevis and Gurney hold Edward down, while he puts a red-hot poker up Edward's rectum. After that is done, Lightborn himself is killed.
King Edward says that Mortimer murdered his father. He has proof. Gurney has provided him a letter written by Mortimer to have the former king killed. The Queen pleads for mercy for Mortimer, but Mortimer says he will not plead to a boy for his life. The King commits his mother to the tower. Mortimer's head is brought back so the King can see it. They then bring in the body of Edward II.
Compared to Derek Jarman's version of the life of Edward II, this film is a little more rounded presentation of the king's life. It's more rounded in that it discusses other things that just the homosexuality of Edward II and his lover Gaveston. Jarman's cutting out these other parts, such as foreign affairs, maek the execution of Edward II much more terrible. Edward II was going have to go anyway. He was so bad as a ruler and his enemies were growing each day because of his misrule. Of course, homophobia played a part in Edward's demise, but a heterosexual male as blinded with frivolities as Edward, would probably have been executed too. It seemed that Edward II could only think of love, sex and frivolity. A country can't be governed effectively by such a man.
Ian McKellan is a great actor, but in the two movies about Edward II, I preferred Steven Waddington as Edward II (in the one by director Derek Jarman). And I preferred Tilda Swinton as Queen Isabella in Jarman's version because she was much sexier than Diane Fletcher in the Marquand production.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
Return To Main Page
Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)