The fall of Edward II: Failures in kingship and masculinity, the letter of Manuel Fieschi and the cult of resurrected celebrities


Edward II is a monarch whose name is almost synonymous with scandal and failure, and the infamous tale of his murder by red-hot poker at Berkeley Castle is one that looms over the bloody history of English royalty. The theories and historiography surrounding his political errors, his sexuality, the nature of his death and even the date of his death have changed continually since the end of his reign in 1327, both to further changing political agendas and to explore new historical narratives. In this paper, medieval gender norms and concepts of masculinity are used to scrutinise the failure of Edward’s reign, and highlight their role in its doom. In the late 19th century, a letter penned by Italian cleric Manuel Fieschi and addressed to Edward III further complicated Edward II’s history. Fieschi claimed that the deposed king escaped his doom in 1327 and went on to tour Europe on a pilgrimage to famous shrines and holy places. This letter is analysed and its likelihood of truth assessed through relevant historiography by multiple historical experts on the topic. This analysis establishes that this adventurous tale of Edward’s escape is almost certainly untrue. However, the narrative does present us with an interesting example of a trope found throughout history of notable people, widely accepted as deceased, secretly living out their lives away from the public eye. The conspiratorial-style narrative of monarchs and famous people living on in secret has its repetitive nature demonstrated through a number of varied examples, both monastic and within popular culture. This narrative is a common theme in the folklore of many cultures and the idea of resurrection is deeply rooted in religious ideologies. In this paper, this theme is explored through comparative research and analysis of individual cases. It is demonstrated that individuals are more or less likely to accept these deviated narratives depending on their general acceptance of conspiratorial ideas and establishment cover-ups. However, this trope is also examined in a different way, one of hopeful belief in a better outcome for those in the public eye.


Regicide; conspiracies; royal imposters; medieval kingship; medieval masculinity; medieval gender; medieval homosexuality; Plantagenet dynasty; martyrdom; canonisation.

How to Cite

McAdam, K., (2017) “The fall of Edward II: Failures in kingship and masculinity, the letter of Manuel Fieschi and the cult of resurrected celebrities”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 3(1). doi:


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Katie McAdam





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