Miniatures of King Edward II, Hugh Despenser and Queen Isabella


These miniature illustrations show two defining moments from the start and end of King Edward II’s turbulent reign (1307–1327). The first depicts Edward’s arranged marriage to Isabella of France. The second reveals the failure of that marriage – and of Edward’s kingship – as Isabella and her army turn against the King, and execute Hugh Despenser the younger.

The marriage between Edward II and Isabella, daughter of Philippe IV of France (f. 295v)

Edward II married Isabella in France on 25 January 1308. The elegant illustration conveys a sense of hope, but the French text reveals that there were tensions caused by Edward’s love for Gaveston even at the start of the marriage.

Gaveston had been exiled by Edward I for exerting too much influence over his son. When Edward I died and Edward II became king, he recalled Gaveston from banishment. Some reports of the wedding suggest that Edward II shunned his young wife, and gave their marriage gifts to Gaveston.

Queen Isabella and her army with the body of Hugh Despenser in the background (f. 316v)

In September 1326, Isabella joined forces with her lover Roger Mortimer and invaded England with an army. They defeated King Edward and captured his new favourite, the younger Hugh Despenser, who was then hung, drawn and quartered.

Some writers suggest that Despenser was disembowelled, others say he was castrated, and his head and body parts sent to different parts of England. Edward was captured, persuaded to resign his crown to his son, and later murdered at Berkeley Castle in September 1327.

Where are these miniatures from?

The miniatures are from the first volume of Recueil des croniques d’Engleterre, an illuminated manuscript containing a chronicle of British history from its mythical origins to the reign of Edward II. Jean de Wavrin (c. 1400–c. 1472–75) compiled the text, which is written in French, from a range of historical writings. In total, Wavrin’s history extended to six huge volumes, ending in the year 1471.


In this transcription the English translation of each line is displayed directly below the transcribed line. The transcribed lines have been numbered for reference purposes.

1. APres le trespas

    AFter the decease

2. du bon roy edou

    of good King Ed-

3. ard Rengna sire

    ward, Reigned Lord

4. Edouard son filz

    Edward, his son,

5. lequel nasqui

    who was born

6. en canarenan.

    in Caernarfon.

7. Cestui roy edouard alla en france

    He, King Edward, went to France

8. et espousa dame ysabel fille du roy

    and married Lady Isabella, daughter of the King

9. de france le xxve iour de Ianuier

    of France (on) the 25th day of January

10. lan de grace mille trois cens et vii.

     (in) the year of grace one thousand three hundred and 7.

11. Et le xxviiie iour de feburier lan

      And (on) the 28th day of February (in) the year

12. apres ensieuuant il fut moult

      after following, he was very

13. solempnellement couronne a VVest

      solemnly crowned at West-

14. monstier par larcheuesque robert

      minster by Archbishop Robert

15. de VVincestre et de cantorbie ou la

      of Winchester and of Canterbury, where the

16. presse fut si grande que sire Iehan

      crowd was so large that Lord John

17. de dakvuelle [sic.] fut murtry en ceste

      de Bakewell was killed in this

18. place. Et puis si tost que le roy e

     place. And then as soon as the King Ed-

19. douard de canarenan fut couronnez

      ward of Caernarfon was crowned,

20. en enffraingnant le commande

      therefore violating the explicit* or-

[* ‘explicit’ corresponds with the first complete word of the next line]

21. ment expres du bon roy son pere Il

     der of the good King his father, He

22. narresta iamais nuit ne iour ta[n]t

      did not ever cease, night nor day, until

23. quil eut enuoye querir pierres de

     that he had sent to fetch Piers de

24. sanaston [sic.] qui estoit alors en gascon

     Gaveston, who was then in Gasco-

25. gne lequel Il ama tant quil lap

      ny, whom He loved so much that he [called(?) him]

In this transcription the English translation of each line is displayed directly below the transcribed line. The transcribed lines have been numbered for reference purposes.

1. Ainsi comme vous aues

    Thus, as you have

2. oy fut celle haulte et

    heard, was this great and

3. hardie emprinse ache

    bold undertaking per-

4. uee et reconquist la royne Yzabel

    formed, and the Queen Isabella regained

5. tout son estat par le confort et con

    her entire estate through the aid and gui-

6. duite du gentil cheualier messire

    dance of the noble knight Lord

7. Iehan de haynnault et ses compai

    John of Hainaut and his asso-

8. gnons et mist a destruction ses en

    ciates, and put to ruin her ene-

9. nemis Et imeismement lui fut liure

    mies, And likewise thereupon was delivered

10. le roy ainsi comme nous auons dit

     the King thus, as we have said

11. ou chappitre precedent dont tous

     in (the) chapter preceding, then all

12. ceulx du pais eurent grant joye.

     those of the country had [i.e. felt] great joy,

13. excepte aucuns qui estoient de la

     excepting any who had been of the

14. partie aux mauuais trahitres des

     party with the evil traitors (the) Des-

15. penssiers. Quant doncques 

     pensers. When thereupon

16. le roy et ledit messire hue despensier

     the King and the said Lord Hugh Despenser

17. furent menes a bristo par messire

     were taken to Bristol by Lord

18. henry de beaumont le roy par le

     Henry de Beaumont, the King, in accordance with the

19. conseil des barons et cheuallier[s]

     counsel of the barons and knights,

20. fut enuoye au chastel de bercler q[ue]

     was sent to the castle of Berkeley, which

21. siet sur la grosse Riuiere de sauerne

     sits upon the mighty River of Severn,

22. Sy fut recommande au seigneur

     So (it) was recommended to the Lord

23. dudit lieu de bercler quil en fist bon[n]e

     of the said location of Berkeley that he should therein be (a) good

24. garde ce quil prommist de faire loy

     guardian, the which he promised to do faith-

25. aument Et vailla on au roy gens

     fully, And attended in to the King men

26. destat entour lui pour le seruir bie[n]

     of state around him, to serve him well

27. et honnestement comme a roy ap

     and properly, as to (a) King is fit-

28. partenoit lesquelz ne le deuoient pas

     ting, the which should not

29. laissier partir hors du pourprins

    allow him* to depart outside of the precincts

[* ‘him’ corresponds with the fourth word of the previous line]

30. de layans. Et messire hues despensier

     of that place. And Lord Hugh Despenser

31. fut deliures amesire thommas VVa

    was delivered to Lord Thomas Wa-

32. gue mareschal de lost. Apres

    ke, Marshal of the army. After

33. ces choses ainsi faittes se party la

    these things thus done, that party (of) the

34. royne et tout son ost pour venir a lon

    Queen and all her army, in order to come to Lon[don(?)]

Full title:
Recueil des croniques d’Engleterre, volume 1
1471–1483, Bruges
Manuscript / Illustration / Image
Jehan de Wavrin
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Royal MS 15 E IV

Full catalogue details

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