Edward I (17 June 1239 – 7 July 1307)
Edward the First, also known as Edward Longshanks, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. He was the first son of Henry III.
In 1259, the Barons rebelled against the King, due to the perceived abuses of King Henry II. Initially Edward supported the Provisions of Oxford which would give greater rights to the Barons. Along with the Magna Carta, the Provisions of Oxford was considered to be the first written English constitution. The provisions of Oxford forced Henry III to accept a new form of government in which power was placed in the hands of a council of twenty-four members, twelve selected by the crown, twelve by the barons.
However, in 1261, Henry III overthrew these provisions and the barons rebelled again. By this time, Edward had reconciled with his father and he helped to defeat the baron rebellion. During the battle of Lewes, Edward was captured by the rebel barons, however, he was able to escape and rejoin the fight.
In 1265, Edward was part of the forces that defeated Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham; this extinguished the rebellion and cemented the rule of Henry III. After the end of the baron rebellion, Edward went on a crusade to the Holy Land, however, the crusade was relatively insignificant and demoralised he returned home to England. By the time he returned to England in 1274, his father Henry III had died, leaving him to be crowned as King at Westminster.
Edward proved an able administrator. He spent his early years as king reforming the law on regulating criminal and property law. He helped strengthen the government and parliament and removed some of the abuses of power and patronage.
However, during this period there were frequent rebellions in Wales against English rule. After the second rebellion of 1282-83, Edward took his army to Wales in order to conquer and pacify Wales once and for all. He was successful militarily and built a series of forts and castles to help strengthen the English position in Wales. This action cemented Wales within the British government.
Later Edward switched his attention to Scotland. He claimed the right to have ultimate power in Scotland. But, led by William Wallace and Robert Bruce, Edward was never able to wipe out Scottish resistance. The Scottish wars continued after his death.
The continual fighting at home and abroad was very expensive leading to a shortage of funds. Edward responded by putting up taxes which proved very unpopular, and Edward had to meet with opposition from those paying taxes.
Edward I was a tall imposing man who cemented the unity of Britain. He played an important role in restoring the power and importance of the King. However, he also helped establish Parliament as a permanent institution, this proved important for the future development of the British state. He also made important changes in law and order. Cementing the use of legal statutes to defend property and the law.
However, he has been criticised for the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290. Also, even by medieval standards, his treatment of the Welsh and Scottish was brutal.
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