Edward I (1239-1307)

The king on this medieval floor tile from Lewes Priory is thought to be Edward I. It certainly resembles other portraits of him, including the one on his Great Seal. 

Edward was Henry III’s eldest son and fought at the Battle of Lewes with his father. He briefly sided with the baronial reform movement but later changed his mind and was reconciled with Henry.

While rebel baron Simon de Montfort was still positioning his troops, Edward charged at his inexperienced left flank, known as ‘the Londoners’ and drove them from the field. Possibly he was taking revenge on them for an attack his mother Queen Eleanor. People in the city had pelted her Thames barge with rubbish and threatened to drown her.

As Edward charged, his soldiers killed some of his own allies who were prisoners of the barons. By the time he and his men returned to the field the battle was lost and he was taken prisoner.

Edward became king in 1272. Unlike his father he was a successful soldier, conquering Wales and surrounding it with castles. However, his attempts to conquer Scotland left England bankrupt and its people unfairly taxed.

Factfile

  • Edward was nicknamed Longshanks because he was so tall.
  • He had a vile temper, throwing his crown on the fire and ripping out handfuls of his son’s hair.
  • He was not interested in comfort: his bed had canvas curtains, fastened with nails.
  • Determined to conquer Scotland but already dying, he asked that his bones be boiled and then carried before the army.
  • The Song of Lewes, a contemporary poem, said he was “treacherous as a leopard”.

The Song of Lewes

More about the battle