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Edward I: Best of Kings, Worst of Kings?

Warmongering anti-semite, or constitutionalist and family man? Marc Morris takes a fresh look at the career of Edward I, whose reputation has suffered a roller-coaster ride over the centuries.

 

Europe; the victor of Crécy and the founder of the Order of the Garter was at that time regarded as a feckless and irresponsible warmonger.

 

Scotland. Moreover, the first Edward, unlike the third, could be held up as man possessed of strong moral fibre, uxorious to an almost Victorian degree, the father of no less than fifteen with his first wife, Eleanor of Castile, in whose memory he erected the celebrated Eleanor Crosses.

 

There was more to recommend Edward I, however, besides his martial and marital virtues. What endeared him most to observers at the turn of the nineteenth century were his roles as lawgiver and constitution-builder. It was in the 1870s that William Stubbs, one of the founding fathers of history as a modern academic subject at Oxford, had first published his Constitutional History of England, in which he argued that it was under Edward’s firm guiding hand that that most cherished of English institutions – Parliament – had attained its definitive form; so much so that he dubbed the not-especially-noteworthy assembly of 1295 ‘the Model Parliament’.

 

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