Edward II of England (1284 – 1327) was the anti-knight and the opposite of the chivalric ideal, who stood in jarring contrast to his father Edward I, one of England’s greatest monarchs. A weak and flighty king, Edward II raised favorites who misgoverned the kingdom in his name, and compounded the problem by doing little to counter the perception that those favorites were his gay lovers. Poor government and perceived effeteness in a homophobic age were a toxic mix, which earned Edward the contempt of his barons and subjects, and brought him to grief in the end.
Early in his reign, Edward II enraged his barons by making an earl out of Piers Gaveston, a frivolous favorite and his rumored lover. The barons demanded that the king banish Gaveston and assent to a document limiting royal power over appointments and finances. Edward caved in and banished Gaveston, but soon thereafter allowed him to return, only for the exasperated barons to seize and execute the royal favorite.
In 1314, Edward led an army into Scotland, but was decisively defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn, losing at a stroke all the hard-won gains his father had made with years of great effort and expense to assert English control of Scotland. Humiliated, he was unable to resist his magnates when they formed a baronial committee that sidelined the king and ruled the realm. It lasted until Edward found another favorite and rumored lover, Hugh Despenser, and raised him. As with Gaveston, the barons demanded that Edward banish Despenser, but this time the king fought back, and with the Despenser family’s support, defeated the barons and regained his authority in 1322.
However, his public displays of affection for Hugh Despenser humiliated and alienated Edward’s queen, Isabella. While on a diplomatic mission to Paris in 1325, she became the mistress of Roger Mortimer, an exiled baronial opponent of the king. In 1326, the couple invaded England, executed the Despensers, deposed Edward II, and replaced him with his 14 year old son, who was crowned Edward III in January, 1327, with Mortimer as regent.
That April, Mortimer heard of plots to rescue the deposed king, so had him relocated to a more secure site, and reports of fresh plots to free Edward caused Mortimer to order him moved to various locations during the spring and summer of 1327. Eventually, the fear that one of the numerous plots might finally succeed led Mortimer to decide on ending the problem once and for all, and putting Edward II beyond rescue, by having him killed.
Not wishing to leave marks of murder on the body, and contemptuous of Edward and his perceived effeminacy and homosexuality, his killers did him in by holding him down and shoving a red hot poker up his rectum to burn his bowels from the inside. Another version has it that a tube was first inserted in his rectum, then a red hot metal bolt was dropped down the tube into his bowels.