Cultural depictions of Edward II of England

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Fictional portrait of King Edward II of England. The scene on the lower part shows the king being murdered. Ca. 1700 AD

Edward II of England has been portrayed in popular culture a number of times.

Theatre and music[edit]

The most famous fictional account of Edward II's reign is Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II (c. 1592). It depicts Edward's reign as a single narrative, and does not include Bannockburn. It makes reference to Gaveston.

In recent years, several acclaimed productions have been staged in the United Kingdom, although the play is seldom performed in the United States outside of large cities and university towns.

Bertolt Brecht's adaptation of Marlowe's play, The Life of Edward II of England, was written in 1923.

The English composer John McCabe's ballet, Edward II (1994), is also based on the Marlowe play. Edward II appears in Maurice Druon's series of historical novels The Accursed Kings. Actor Christopher Buchholz played him in the 2005 French TV series adaptation of the novels.

The English world music/folk/reggae band Edward the Second and the Red Hot Polkas, formed in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in 1985, took for its original name a punning reference to the supposed manner of Edward's murder in the nearby Berkeley Castle.


Margaret Campbell Barnes' Isabel the Fair, Hilda Lewis' Harlot Queen, Maureen Peters' Isabella, the She-Wolf, and Brenda Honeyman's The Queen and Mortimer all focus on Queen Isabella. Eve Trevaskis' King's Wake starts shortly after the fall of the Despensers and ends with the fall of Roger Mortimer.

Most recently, Susan Higginbotham in The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II looks at the reign and its aftermath through the eyes of Hugh le Despenser's wife, Eleanor de Clare. Medieval mystery novelists P. C. Doherty and Michael Jecks have set a number of their books against the backdrop of Edward II's reign.

Maurice Druon traces the life and death of Edward II in his historical magnum opus "Les Rois Maudits" (The Accursed Kings).

Part of the plot of Ken Follett's novel World Without End revolves around a secret letter that proved that Edward had survived and escaped imprisonment- a letter which was potentially greatly embarrassing to both Isabella and Edward III.

John Crowley's first novel, The Deep, features (in part) a fantasy version of the story of Edward II and his Wars as seen by a strangely sexless visitor from outside the world.

Chris Hunt's novel, Gaveston, published by the Gay Men's Press in 1992, was a novel based on Edward's life, in particular his relationship with Piers Gaveston, though also his subsequent relationships.

British novelist Robert Goddard's 2007 novel Name to a Face discusses the theories and circumstances of Edward II's survival. Within a fictionalized setting, it is speculated that an older Edward II may be the identity a semi-legendary medieval figure known as the Grey Man of Ennor, who travelled England mysteriously curing sufferers of the Black Death in the mid-14th century.

Film and television[edit]

On screen, Edward has been portrayed by:


Edward II is the focus of the BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime The Ruling Passion, by David Pownell, read by David Horovitz. This was broadcast from Monday 27 October to Friday 7 November 2008.