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Edward I Plantaganet ( 1239 - 1307 )  Category ( Royalty ) [suggest a correction]

King Edward I of EnglandKing Edward I of England is a standout among British royalty. Born in London in 1239 to King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, he was physically imposing, standing at approximately six feet, two inches, at a time when the average man was less than five feet, seven inches. Because of his height and long legs, he was nicknamed "Longshanks." He is also called "Edward the Lawgiver" or the "English Justinian," since he supported the development and reform of English law, which led to what many consider the first English constitution. He is often best remembered for his enduring and devoted marriage to Eleanor of Castile. The couple married when Edward was fifteen and Eleanor, thirteen. It was a love match that lasted nearly forty years. They had a total of sixteen children, several of whom survived to adulthood. When Eleanor died in 1290, Edward was grief-stricken and ordered elaborate stone crosses be built at every stop made by her funeral cortège..

Young Edward was often at odds with his father’s idea of government. While still heir he worked to encourage reform and a codification of English law. Also, unlike his father (who preferred diplomacy and compromise), Edward had a good head for military strategy and frequently achieved success on the field of war. In 1266 Edward and Eleanor participated in the Eight Crusade, traveling to Tunis and Acre. He was also interested in architecture and is responsible for the appearance of the Tower of London and Traitor’s Gate as they stand today. One of his darker legacies was his persecution of English Jews. In 1290 Edward’s Edict of Expulsion formally removed all Jews from England, with their money and property confiscated and conveniently turned over to Edward’s government.

Part of the difficulty of the relationship between Edward and his father had to do with the fact that Henry III was particularly long-lived for his time. Edward did not become king until 1272, when he was nearly forty years old. He is well known in popular culture today as the English king who stood in opposition to Scotland's call for independence. The chaotic period of strife and intrigue is portrayed – though mostly inaccurately – in the 1995 Hollywood film, Braveheart. Edward’s achieved a great – though temporary -- victory against the Scots, with Scottish leader William Wallace being executed after his defeat against the English at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298.

Edward’s later life was one of personal sadness and difficulty. While he did remarry at age sixty, he never fully recovered from the loss of his beloved Eleanor. His heir, Edward II proved unsuitable for the responsibilities that come with kingship. He was never able to completely conquer Scotland and died in 1307 on his way to once again wage war against Robert the Bruce. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Image: Statue of Edward I from York Minster.

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