Edward II at Berkeley Castle

I couldn’t let poor Edward II’s death anniversary (September 21, 1327) pass without comment (especially with Alianore on blog holiday), but I’m too lazy today to write a special post for the occasion. So here’s how I handle it in The Traitor’s Wife:

“According to Lord Mortimer’s lieutenant, William of Shalford, men in Wales, South Wales and North Wales alike, are plotting to release the old king,” said Sir Thomas Gurney, who along with William Ogle had hurriedly arrived at Berkeley Castle on the evening of September 20. “They are led by Rhys ap Gruffydd. Shalford says that if this plot succeeds it could be the undoing of Mortimer.” He looked toward the direction of the guardhouse and smiled. “Lords Berkeley and Maltravers, you are to acquaint yourself with the contents of this letter and find a suitable remedy to avoid the peril. Well. It’s pretty damned obvious what they have in mind.” Gurney passed the letter to Berkeley and Maltravers, who read it silently.

Maltravers laughed when he finished reading, but Berkeley said, “I’ll have nothing to do with this, nothing.”

“Nothing! The man’s been living in your castle since April, except when you let him escape,” said Gurney.

“I did not let him escape,” snapped Berkeley. “I underestimated the determination of his friends, that is all. Be that as it may, I’ll still have nothing to do with this.” He turned and left the room.

“Well?” said Maltravers. “How?”

“Mortimer says it will have to leave no mark, as people will be expecting to view the body.”

“So chopping his head off is out of the question,” said Ogle cheerfully. “Well, there’s poison.”

“We’d have to find someone to make it up for us,” objected Gurney.


“Strong as he is? He’d have to be knocked cold, and that would leave a bruise.
Bruises around his neck, too.”


“I suppose that’s the only real choice,” admitted Gurney. He shivered and looked at the fire, which was dying. “Can’t Berkeley’s servants make a decent fire?” He took a poker and began prodding the logs with it. He poked too hard, and he had to pull it out of a log with some difficulty. Then he began laughing.

“Are you daft, man?”

“No,” said Gurney, laughing all the harder. “I’ve an idea. A most fitting idea.”


Edward, comfortable and warm on the feather bed Berkeley had so kindly brought him several days before, raised up on his elbow and stared as he heard his cell door being unlocked. He watched as Maltravers, the Gurney fellow who had just arrived at Berkeley, and a number of men he did not know filed in, smiling most peculiarly at him and not bothering to invent any excuse for their being there in the middle of the night. So he had been right; he would soon be free, free with Piers and Hugh and Hugh’s dear old father. His favorite sister, Joan. Adam and Lucy. His mother, his stepmother, his father… His mouth almost crinkled into a smile. No, his father probably wouldn’t be pleased to see him, under the circumstances.

In the torchlight he could now see that the men were carrying some rather
incongruous items. A drinking horn? A table? A cooking spit, glowing red hot? He frowned. Were they going to feed him first? But before he could make any inquiries, he was seized and pushed over on his belly and felt the table, legs in the air, being pressed against his back as someone ripped off his drawers. Then the drinking horn was shoved into his body, then the spit through the horn, and Edward’s screams were echoing through Berkeley Castle. Just as Thomas de Berkeley, lying in his chamber weeping, thought he could not bear to hear them any longer, they died.


Eleanor’s screams that same night of September 21, 1327, woke not only her family, but the guards dozing outside the Beauchamp Tower. Their sleepy fumblings at the door, combined with the howling of Lizzie and John and the barking of the dog, only caused her to scream the harder. It was not until Tom, in the kindliest manner possible, resorted to slapping her briskly across the face that she calmed enough to sit in a chair and sip the wine Gladys carefully gave her.

“Another nightmare about Hugh, my lady?”

“No.” Eleanor took a shuddering breath and stared at Gladys in bewilderment.

“My uncle.”

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