Deydras was said to uncannily resemble Edward II, shown here in a contemporary picture.
|Other names||John of Powderham|
|Known for||A royal pretender|
By 1318, Edward II of England was increasingly unpopular in England as a result of his style of government and his defeats while fighting Robert the Bruce of Scotland. Opposition was growing to his rule, when a young clerk in Oxford, John Deydras, also known as John of Powderham, issued claims that he was in fact the rightful heir to the throne.
Deydras' claims and execution
Deydras arrived at Beaumont Palace in Oxford in early 1318, and claimed it for his own. He was, he said, really the King of England, and observers noted that he closely resembled Edward, being tall and good-looking. Unlike the king, Deydras, however, was missing an ear. Deydras explained that as a baby, the royal servant charged to look after him had allowed him to be attacked by a sow while he was playing in the castle courtyard, which had bitten off his ear. Knowing that she would have been severely punished by the King, she had replaced him with a carter's baby, who had then grown up to become Edward II, while Deydras had been given to the carter to be brought up in poverty. This explained, said Deydras, Edward's style of government and his strange dislike of martial activities - notoriously, Edward enjoyed many rustic, lower class pursuits such as ditch digging and farming. Deydras offered to fight Edward in single combat for the throne. Rumours began to spread across England.
Deydras was finally arrested and brought to Edward at Northampton. Deydras insulted the king, again offered to fight him in single combat and repeated his claims about Edward's parentage, resulting in a trial for sedition. Deydras confessed during the trial to having made up his story, blaming his pet cat which he claimed was the devil in disguise, who had led him astray one day while he was walking across Christchurch Meadows. Found guilty, both he and his cat were hanged and Deydras' body burnt.
Today Deydras is believed to have been mentally ill; his story is not believed to have been true. Modern historians cite the case of Deydras as an example of the growing unhappiness with Edward II's rule during the period, and the protracted case appears to have deeply affected Isabella of France, Edward's wife, who felt humiliated by the event.
- Doherty, p.61.
- Weir, p.117.
- Doherty, p.60.
- Weir, p.118.
- Doherty, Paul. (2003) Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II. London: Robinson.
- Weir, Alison. (2006) Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England. London: Pimlico.