Edward II (1991)





Director:     Derek Jarman

Starring:     Steven Waddington (Edward II),  Tilda Swinton (the Queen Isabella),  Kevin Collins (jailor),  Andrew Tiernan (Piers Gaveston),  John Lynch (Spencer),  Dudley Sutton (Bishop of Winchester),  Jerome Flynn (Kent),  Jody Graber (the boy Prince Edward),  Nigel Terry (Mortimer),  Annie Lennox (singer).

Country:    British film

BBC theatre production

anti-gay bias ruins the rule of Edward II



Spoiler Warning:     below is a summary of the entire film.

Gaveston lies on the floor.  A young fellow comes along and takes a note from Gaveston.  The message is from Edward II, King of England, and it says that his father is now deceased and Gaveston should come and "share this kingdom with your dearest friend."  Gaveston is delighted to be the favorite of the king.  He will have influence.  Meanwhile, two guys are making out in the bed that Gaveston is sitting on.  They say they are sailors.  Gaveston tells the two to get out.   He tells his friend that he wants intelligent, sensitive people around him, not sailors. 

Gaveston is greeted by Edward.  They kiss.  The two go to church to confront the clergyman, the Bishop of Winchester, who helped exile Gaveston.  The clergyman asks:  has that wicked Gaveston returned?  He tells Gaveston he must go back to France.  Gaveston responds:  "I will be revenged on him for my exile."  He fantasizes about the clergyman being in prison.  There Gaveston forces the fellow to give him a blow job.  (not shown)  Gaveston now orders that the clergyman be sent to the tower.  The roughed up clergyman says:  "For this offense, be thou cursed of God."  Gaveston and his friends just laugh at the man. 

Sitting on the throne, Edward and Gaveston kiss. 

The Queen tries to kiss Edward, but he moves his head away from her lips.  She tries to have him feel her breasets, but Edward won't touch her.  She gives up and flops on the bed.  Edward smashes his forehead in a wall so hard it bleeds.  

Edward and Gaveston flirt with each other.  Edward gives Gaveston a number of very excessive sounding titles.  At this time, Edward's brother and Edward's son come into the room.  The brother says that these titles far exceed the worth of Gaveston. 

Mortimer in military attire says:  "Oh, wicked king!  Accursed Gaveston!  . . . we will not suffer this!"  The Queen and Mortimer talk about the base born Gaveston.  Later Mortimer is with two hookers.  He says to them:  "This Edward is the ruin of the realm."  The two women kiss after Mortimer gets up.  Mortimer says:  "Away I say with hateful Galveston." 

The Queen, the sister of the King of France, is with her son, who puts on a woman's hat.  She has been crying.  The ministers feels sorry for the woman. 

Edward suddenly sees a lot of beagles coming into the room.  They are accompanied by the ministers (both men and women) who have come to scorn the King.  Edward tells them:  "I will have Gaveston."  Edward wonders if these people are going to assassinate him. 

The Queen speaks with Mortimer and says she is going to the forest for she can't stand this matter with Gaveston.  She asks:  "Is it not queer that he is thus bewitched?"  Mortimer says that Gaveston is drawing the treasury dry with his excessive spending.

Gaveston stops the Queen and pushes her up against a wall.  She stands absolutely still as Gaveston starts to nuzzle the side of her face.  The Queen seems to be turned on by this and she tries to kiss Gaveston on the lips.  He pulls away and just cruelly laughs at her. 

Mortimer has all the ministers sign the official document that will lead to Gaveston's exile.  Everyone is more than eager to sign. 

The king's son sees naked men, including his father and Gaveston, acting like they are in a rugby match all clustered together pushing this way and that way. 

The ministers scorn Edward and Gaveston again.  They show Edward a document to send Gaveston into exile.  Edward shouts in protest:  "Depose me!"  Gaveston tears up the document.  The ministers make it clear that they expect Edward to sign the declaration of exile for Gaveston.  They say that Galveston has wasted the substance of the treasury and has hindered the minister ". . . so shall he be cast out to stay beyond our boundaries, retuning only at forfeit of his life."

Edward tells Gaveston goodbye for Gaveston is, indeed, banished.  The two men dance and kiss.  Gaveston walks through a gauntlet of clergymen as each spits on him.  Edward says alone:  "If I be King, not one of them shall live."  He cries that Gaveston is gone.  He mourns his cherished friend.  Meanwhile, Gaveston shouts outs his frustrations in the pouring rain.  Edward goes to the Queen and calls her a "foul strumpet" and urges her to go fawn over Mortimer, as he tells the Queen "touch me not". 

After Edward leaves, the Queen falls to her knees.  She says:  "I love none, but him."  The Queen sees herself as abandoned by her King and husband.  She starts thinking of how to win him back and tells herself that she must "entreat" him.  She says she must find a way to bring Gaveston back or else she "will be forever miserable". 

The Queen and Mortimer talk.  She says that the King loves her not.  She then tells Mortimer to call Galveston home again.  She goes on asking the key question:  "Do you not wish Gaveston was dead?"  Mortimer explains the plan to the ministers, but he also says they will use the knife on Gaveston.  The ministers agree with the plan.  The Queen tells Edward that Gaveston will be coming back.  She asks him:  "Will you love me then?"  Edward waxes eloquent saying let this be a second marriage between him and her. 

Edward greets Gaveston with a string quartet behind him.  The Queen kisses Mortimer passionately.  The ministers shun Gaveston when he comes in.  Edward asks:  "Will none of you salute my Gaveston?"  The ministers mock Edward by using one of the titles he bestowed on Gaveston:  "Welcome to the King and Lord of man."  Gaveston is furious and starts madly insulting the ministers. Mortimer rushes up to him and stabs him in the gut.  The Queen says to Mortimer:  "Furious Mortimer, what hast thou done?"  Edward swears revenge on the plotters. 

Gaveston is patched up.  Edward comes to see him and says:  "Oh, Gaveston has no friend but me."  He goes on to tell Gaveston that Mortimer has grown so brave and bold that to his face Mortimer threatens the crown with civil war.  Gaveston tells Edward to put the man in the tower.  Edward says the problem is that the people love him so.  Edward now meets Gaveston's friend, Spencer, and the King says he will make the fellow an earl or a lord. 

Edward's brother warns him that Gaveston will be his end.  The King slaps his brother for "being an enemy of Gaveston".  This makes the brother very angry and he goes to the Queen and Mortimer to join the conspiracy.  At first, they are wary of the brother thinking he may be a spy for Edward.  But after questioning him more, the two come to trust the one.  The brother says:  "Don't touch the King, but do not spare Gaveston and his friends."

Edward is very worried that they are coming after him and that Mortimer and his men will slay Gaveston.  Gaveston tells the King that despite all their efforts, they still haven't killed him.  But soon, the military and the police capture Gaveston.  They really give him a beating.  Then one of the policemen puts his baton in front of Gaveston's neck and strangles him to death.

Edward is distraught.  Spencers tells him not to suffer, but strike off his enemies' heads.  Edward likes the idea and says:  "Now we shall draw our swords. . . . I will have heads and lives for him (Gaveston) . . ."  He refers to the traitorous Mortimer and:  "You villains that have slain my Gaveston."

Edward stirs up trouble for the Queen and Mortimer.  There are large protests by lesbians and gay men against how badly they are treated.  One sign says:  "Stop violence against lesbians and gays."  Another sign says:  "Gay desire is not a crime." 

Edward's men have captured the policeman who killed Gaveston.  The policeman stays defiant and shouts at Edward:  "Tyrant!"  For that Edwards stabs the man in the gut.  He then fades back into the darkness of a corner.  Later Edward and Spencer take a bucket bath to wash the blood off them.  Edward's brother sees them and woes the fact that they have taken action "to slaughter noble men and cherish flatterers."

Mortimer and the Queen are concerned that the brother of the King is having guilt feelings calling himself a vile wretch, bearing arms against his brother and his King.  The army kills Edward's friends, except for Spencer.  They take Edward prisoner.  They put the King on a litter, but Edwards says:  "Lay me in a hearse or to the gates of hell convey me hence."

Mortimer tortures Spencer personally.  Poor Spencer is strangled to death. 

Mortimer and the Queen are in bed together like any married couple.  The Queen tells him:  "Be thou persuaded that I love thee well."  Mortimer responds:  "We will rule the world."

The Queen has chosen an assassin to kill Edward.  She almost kisses the assassin on the lips, but not quite.  She gives him a lock of her hair to show to Edward to carry her goodwill to him. 

The assassin gives Edward the lock of hair.  Edward has been imprisoned for 10 days now and has been given only bread and water.  He complains that his mind has been made distempered and his body numbed. 

A family portrait is made with Mortimer, Edward's brother and son and the Queen. 

Mortimer tortures Edward's brother, asking him:  "Did you attempt his rescue?"  The nephew protests:  "He is my uncle."  Mortimer responds;  "He is your enemy."  The Queen comes over to uncle and bites his neck so hard that the bleeding finishes off the tortured man.  She then tells her son:  "Uncle is a traitor.  Think not on him."  Now the Queen and Mortimer race to the throne.  Both of them sit on the throne at the same time.

Edward is fearful and says:  "If I sleep, I'll never wake."  His son finds his crown and puts it around his own neck.  Edward asks the assassin:  "Where's my crown?"  The man doesn't know, but he does tell the King that he won't spill any of Edward's blood.  Edward remembers his times with Gaveston.  He has a dream of the assassin sticking a red hot poker up his rectum and him screaming as loud as he can. 

Edward awakens and tells the assassin about the dream.  To reassure Edward, the assassin throws the poker he carries with him into the water.  He then kisses the king on the lips. 

Edward's son has his mother the Queen and Mortimer her lover imprisoned.  He dances on top of their cage while wearing ear rings and women's shoes. 

The gay demonstrators are very sad.

Edward says:  "death ends all and I can die but once,.  Come death and with thy fingers close my eyes . . ."


Based on a 1592 Christopher Marlowe play, this good film deals with the fall of Edward II.  The King is gay and rejects his queen for a male named Gaveston.  This historical drama is about the dangers of gay-bashing. This is done by Jarman by looking at the life of the 14th century gay King Edward and judging the situation with today's more tolerant view of gays.  As a moral exercise, it's valid to do this.  But from an historical basis, the method is not as successful.  But Jarman certainly gets across the point that gays then and now are very discriminated against.  And, yes, it was not fair to treat the King of England this way just because he was gay.

In a way, the whole story is a tragedy.  The Queen suffers, the King suffers, their son suffers, the friends of Edward suffer and the nation suffers from all the hate and prejudice.  (Of course, knowing the violent history of monarchies, it's not surprising that violence broke out.  In traditional monarchies there are always plots to depose the King or Queen.)  Certainly from today's standards, things would have been different, yes, but the situation would still present problems even if it happened today.  Hopefully, today the future monarch's sexual orientation would be known, so everyone could act fairly, respecting the civil rights of gays and the kind of situation faced by Edward II would not arise.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.   



Historical Background:


1307-27 -- Edward II was weak and inept, dominated by his favorites and by his French queen.

1311 -- He faced baronial opposition. The barons virtually reenacted the Provisions of Oxford of 1258.

1314 --  Robert the Bruce of Scotland makes a comeback.

1314 -- Edward II loses Scotland to Bruce at the 2-day battle of Bannockburn. 4,000 English and Welsh die. Reunification would be delayed until 1603. For 22 years, the Scots terrorize northern England.

1315 -- Edward the Bruce lands in Ireland in order to open a second front against England. Year long siege at the castle at Carrik Furgus. But famine breaks out and the Scots don't care who they get their supplies from and who they have to kill. The Scots begin to look like an army of occupation. Finally leave. But this certainly slows down English settlement in Ireland and shows the Irish that England is not invincible, arousing voices of Irish independence.

The War of Nations was that it strengthened Parliament.

Edward II was killed by order of his wife, some say with a hot poker up his rectum. But it does show the English that the common people have to be taken into account, just as the rebels had touted a partnership between ruler and common man. 


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)