Edward II,surnamed the Martyr, king of the Anglo-Saxons, son and successor of Edgar, born about 962, ascended the throne in 975, and was murdered in 978. His stepmother Elfrida raised a faction in favor of her own son Ethel-red, who was but seven years of age. Ecclesiastical parties took opposite sides, the married clergy who had been ejected in the preceding reign regarding Elfrida as their patroness and supporting the pretensions of Ethelred, and the monastic followers of St. Dunstan maintaining the claim of Edward. A civil war had already begun, when at a general meeting of the witenagemote Edward, after much opposition, was formally accepted as king. The strife among the clergy still divided the kingdom, and the party opposed to St. Dunstan plotted the murder of the young monarch. He was stabbed in the back at Corfe castle, the residence of his stepmother, as he was drinking a cup of mead on horseback, and sinking from his seat was dragged away by his horse. Ethelred II. succeeded him.
Edward II,king of England, son and successor of the preceding, born in Carnarvon, April 25, 1284, ascended the throne in 1307, and was murdered Sept. 21, 1327. From his childhood he had lived in close intimacy with Piers de Gaveston, the son of a gentleman of Guienne, who was at length banished from the kingdom as a corrupter of the prince. Edward I. on his deathbed forbade his son under pain of his paternal malediction to allow the vicious favorite to return; yet the first act of the new king was to recall Gaveston, whom he created earl of Cornwall and married to his own niece, and to the scandal of the whole kingdom appointed him regent while himself went to France to marry the princess Isabella. A formidable league under the earl of Lancaster drove Gaveston into exile; but he was appointed lieutenant of Ireland by his royal friend. He returned soon after, when an army raised by confederate powerful barons and commanded by the earl of Lancaster pursued him to the north; he was besieged at Scarborough, captured, and put to death at Warwick, June 19, 1312. Edward then turned his attention to the revolted Scots. At the head of an immense army he crossed the frontier, but after losing the battle of Ban-nockburn (1314) fled from the kingdom with a body of Scottish cavalry at his heels.
In 1321 he was again defeated at Blackmoor, and pursued to the walls of York. The public discontent was increased by the honors which the king bestowed upon Hugh le De-spenser, a new favorite, and an armed insurrection of the barons under the earls of Lancaster and Hereford caused the Despensers to be banished; but on their return Lancaster was seized and put to death. In 1323 Edward negotiated a truce for 13 years with Scotland. The triumph of the Despensers was complete, hut the partiality of the king for his favorites alienated not only his subjects but his queen. To arrange some differences between her husband and her brother she went to France, where she found a great number of English fugitives, the friends of Lancaster, the most considerable and potent of whom was the young Roger Mortimer. A domestic rebellion supported by a foreign invasion was projected, and in September, 1326, the queen with a foreign force of 3,000 men, led by Mortimer and John of Hainaut, landed on the coast of Suffolk. The most powerful nobles and prelates hastened to meet her, and Edward, having in vain appealed to the citizens for support, retreated to the marches of Wales. The queen pursued him, and he was captured at Neath abbey, Glamorganshire, and sent to the castle of Kenilworth. The favorite Despen-ser was taken at the same time and hanged.
The parliament being assembled, by the influence of Isabella and Mortimer, it was resolved, in January, 1327, that the reign of Edward of Carnarvon had ceased. While imprisoned in Berkeley castle under the charge of ruffians employed by Mortimer, Edward II. was found dead in his bed in the morning after shrieks had been heard from his apartment, and his distorted features betrayed the agony in which he had expired. It is said that his bowels were burned out with a hot iron.