Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Gaveston's Cross

Oh yes he is!

Zoot Horn mentioned visiting the site of Piers Gaveston's beheading, in Warwickshire, and the plaque's rather disapproving memorial. So I thought I'd post a couple of pictures - not by me.

In the Hollow of this Rock, Was beheaded, On the 1st Day of July, 1312, By Barons lawless as himself, PIERS GAVESTON, Earl of Cornwall; The Minion of a hateful King: In Life and Death, A memorable Instance of Misrule.

Gaveston is one of those figures who divides opinion. To some, he's a scheming politician who supported one of England's worst kings (Edward II, supposedly murdered via the introduction of a red-hot poker up the fundament) and got his just desserts. To others, he's an early martyr to homophobia. He was exiled a few times as power shifted between various court factions, until he was killed by a bunch of barons, having been declared an outlaw - only a few years after acting as Regent in Edward's absence.

It's unclear whether Gaveston was Edward II's lover - it was certainly a strong rumour, but the main objection to him seems to have been his access to, and influence over, this rather weak king. Gaveston seemed to have been a typical toff hearty: he once deserted a war against Scotland to attend a jousting tournament, and may have cheated at another. He also murdered a lot of people in Ireland, but then, so did any Englishman in that country. As a political plotter, he seems to have been Edward's Mandelson: 'a marked tendency towards avarice, nepotism, and especially overweening pride' -  sly, rude, devious, but not as clever as he thought he was.

One of the most interesting examinations of Gaveston's story - though highly partial - is Christopher Marlowe's 1590s play, Edward II, in which both king and Gaveston are portrayed as simpering sodomites, picking up on earlier hints and rumours. Jarman's film of the play is (understandably) a bit more sympathetic.

Interesting character. So here are a couple of questions: where else are the bad guys buried/memorialised, and who should be rehabilitated?


The Plashing Vole said...


Zoot Horn said...

PS - I haven't been there for 10 years, and the monument is made out of Warwickshire limestone, which erodes really quickly (Warwick castle's built on it; it looks like the inside of a crunchy bar when the weather gets to it). It was still upright and all there but looked a damnsight less healthy than the top photo the last time I saw it - and it's in a hollow that's often filled with old beer cans and the remains of fires. Let's put that trip in our early spring sunbeam diaries so we can see it before somebody nicks it for their rockery.

The Plashing Vole said...


Ewarwoowar said...

I've always wanted to go to a) the place in Paris where Morrison and Truffaut are buried and b) the graveyard where Nick Drake is.

The thing is though, I've no idea why. It's a bit mad and morbid, much like that German guy who cuts up dead bodies on TV.

The Plashing Vole said...

I think it's cool.
Nick Drake's presumably somewhere near Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire. There's a station and it's not far from Birmingham.
Never had you down as a Drake fan, Ewar.

Ewarwoowar said...

He struggled with mental illness and insomnia before giving up on life in his late 20s.

I'm 2/3 of the way there, sadly.