Over recent years here has been a lot of discussion regarding the possible survival of Edward III‘s father, Edward II, beyond his supposed 1327 death date. The fact no one was able to find his death certificate seems to support these claims – Queen Isabelle brushed them off, saying that it was ‘somewhere in the [filing] cabinet’, but this just doesn’t seem to ring true.
There is also a letter; the Fieschi Letter.
Manuele Fieschi (d. 1349) was a Genoese priest who became Bishop of Vercelli. He wrote his letter while in Avignon in 1337, telling the story of Edward II’s escape from Berkeley Castle and subsequent journey, via Corfe Castle and Ireland, to obscurity on the Continent.
In addition, diplomatic documents seem to back up the Fieschi letter, purporting to claim that Edward III met with his father in Koblenz in 1338.
The story goes that while Edward was in Koblenz to be installed as Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire he met someone called William le Galeys, or William the Welshman, who claimed to be the king’s father.
You can imagine how dubious Edward must have been. After all, he had buried his father on the back of the fact he was dead. He’d even had to order the execution of his uncle, Edmund Earl of Kent, for trying to free his already-dead brother from Corfe Castle in 1330.
But what if it was someone else who was claiming to be the king’s father?
I was watching a wonderful documentary on the History Channel the other night – no, sorry, for some strange reason it was actually broadcast on Film 4. I thought that strange at the time, but got so engrossed in the documentary that it didn’t matter. The documentary was all about Scotland’s history and its struggles with England during the late 1200s.
A Professor Melvin Gibson argued that although Edward II – then Prince of Wales – was married to Isabelle of France, he was not the father of his eldest son. Isabelle was seduced by the marvellously charismatic William Wallace. Wallace was the Guardian of Scotland; still a Scottish national hero. Isabelle and Wallace had a wondrous love affair which was only cut short by Wallace’s ‘apparent’ execution for treason in London, ordered by Edward I (just for clarity, Edward I is the father of Edward II and grandfather of Edward III – and great-grandfather of Edward the Black Prince).
At first I was derisory of Professor Gibson’s premise. There are a couple of issues with it, such as the supposed age of Isabelle of France – but then, what woman doesn’t lie about her age and try to take 10 years off whenever she can? And then there was the fact that, surely, William Wallace was even more dead than Edward II?
After all Edward II had a little accident with a poker.
Wallace, on the other hand, was hung, drawn and quartered with his head displayed on a pike afterwards. But was he?
I watched the documentary again and noticed that one fact didn’t agree with the historical record. According to Professor Gibson William Wallace was, about, what 5ft 4in?
And yet the man executed by Edward I’s henchmen was described of being of ‘uncommon height’. Of course, this could mean uncommonly short, but another commentator described him as a ‘giant’ and yet another as ‘7ft’.
So I can only conclude – seeing as the evidence points that way – the man executed by Edward I’s minions was not, in fact, William Wallace but a stunt double. Stunt doubles were used very rarely, according to the documentary, as most actors – sorry – historical heroes tended to do their own stunts.
However, it seems that Wallace wasn’t keen on the beheading scene of his execution, so he chose one of his fans to take part in this part of his life – and fled to the Continent, parting from Isabelle with the oft-used phrase; ‘I’ll be back’.
So, now we have 2 possible survivors of horrific deaths – and 2 possible fathers for Edward III. Having finished watching the documentary I decided to go back over the evidence.
I stopped at the name of Edward’s father, the one he was using in Koblenz; William le Galeys. This has been translated as William the Welshman and, seeing as Edward II was born in Caernarvon, it was obviously deciphered as referring to him. However, there is one problem with this assumption.
Edward II’s name was not William – and Edward II was not Welsh. As the Duke of Wellington is famously quoted as saying ‘just because you are born in a stable, it does not make you a horse’.
And this is when I had my ‘lightbulb moment’.
William le Galeys sounds an awful lot like William Wallace, if you say it fast enough. This was obviously a mis-transcription, much like the fact that we have spent 2 millennia calling Boudicca, the Queen of the Iceni, Boadicea.
So, William Wallace was, in fact, the man who walked into the audience chamber of Edward III in Koblenz and said to the king, in a rather breathy voice:
“Edward, I am your father.”
Jeff R Sun is now going to sit in the back garden and relax, before deciding which historical myth to dispel next.
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Sources: Braveheart by Professor Melvin Gibson; Star Wars Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back by Dr Vader; Wikipedia; The Life and Times of Edward III by Paul Johnson; Terminator by Arnold Schwarzenegger; Monarchy, a novel by Dr David Snarkey; Wellington by Lady Elizabeth Longford
Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia