What is the historical significance of Marlowe's Edward II?
Edward II ascended to the throne of England in 1307 following the death of his father, King Edward I (Edward Longshanks). Known as Edward of Carnarvon, the second King Edward proved to be a weak ruler who suffered military and political defeats as well as attacks on his personal character.
Though outnumbering his foe by nearly 3-to-1, Edward's army was soundly defeated by the Scottish army under King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn, a major victory in Scotland's fight for independence.
Edward married Isabella, daughter of King Philip IV of France, in order to strengthen the alliance between the two countries. But Edward apparently engaged in homosexual encounters, particularly with Piers Gaveston, who he had made regent. This rumored affair so undermined Edward's authority that Gaveston was murdered under orders by the Earl of Warwick. Edward's marriage was also damaged, and when Queen Isabella was sent to France to negotiate with her family, she remained and joined forces with Roger Mortimer. Together, they invaded England, much to the surprise of her husband the king.
Edward's army failed to rally around him, and the invasion by Mortimer and Queen Isabella gained strength. Edward abandoned London and the city fell to the French invaders in October 1326. Edward was soon captured and imprisoned at Kenilworth Castle.
Escaping execution, Edward instead agreed to abdicate the crown to his 14-year old son, who would become King Edward III. Edward of Carnarvon was murdered while in custody the following April--smothered by a mattress while a hot iron tube was inserted into his anus.