The Hunt for the King 3) Reception of the Fieschi Letter

Reception of the Feischi Letter

An excellent, no-nonsense review of the reception of the Fieschi Letter is contained in Seymour Phillips’ biography Edward II (2010), and at page 585 we find a summary of the most important recent theories on the Letter, before Seymour Phillips continues to note his own feelings from page 589 onwards.

To summarise: Cuttino and Lyman (Where is Edward II? 1978) found the Letter impressive, but doubtful in its details concerning Italy. Doherty (Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II 2003) feels that Edward II may have survived, but that the Letter tells an untrue story, concocted by Manuele Fieschi in order to blackmail Edward III into recommending him for church benefices in England and abroad (this appears immediately implausible to scholars of the Fieschi family, as members of this family demonstrably did not need to resort to extravagant blackmail ruses in order to obtain church benefices). Haines (King Edward II, his Life, his Reign and its Aftermath 2003), who believes Edward II did die in 1327 at Berkeley, proposes an interesting theory that the Letter was created in an attempt to sanitize and sanctify the memory of Edward II (this seems to me a highly plausible medieval motivation for such a document, but does not explain why it was a secret, as one would expect such an operation to require the maximum level of circulation and exposure possible). Ian Mortimer (Medieval Intrigue, 2010) is the first English scholar to seriously look into the Fieschi family, its power structure and its operations, and concludes that the Letter is pretty much the literal truth. He feels that the Letter veils the fact that the wanderings of Edward II described in the closing section were, in reality, under the guidance/protection/custody of members of the Fieschi family. Seymour Phillips willingly takes much of Mortimer’s research into serious consideration, but interprets the evidence put forward by Mortimer as signifying that the Fieschis may have been guiding/protecting/holding an imposter, not Edward II himself.

A symbolic image of research at home: my kids have grown accustomed to their toy cars being used as bookmarks!
A symbolic image of research at home: my kids have grown accustomed to their toy cars being used as bookmarks!

The Auramala Project has taken the work of Ian Mortimer and Seymour Phillips as a starting point from which to move on to new horizons, informed and encouraged by the work of Kathryn Warner.

At this juncture, I want to repeat the basic concept at the heart of our research approach: all of the research conducted on the Letter and on the death/survival of Edward II is detective work, sleuthing, hypothesis, wherever it goes beyond the bounds of the texts and physical aspects of the documents that describe these events to us, across hundreds of years. This is not to say that the work of professional historians is to be dismissed as hypothesis disguised as fact. Well-informed opinion is a rare and precious thing in a world so full of uninformed opinion. However, let us never forget that it is opinion.

This is true, of course, of the work of the Auramala Project, too.

2 thoughts on “The Hunt for the King 3) Reception of the Fieschi Letter

  1. Liking this so far. I’ve read all the Ian Mortimer material and have discussed it a little with him so I am fascinated to see where you end up with this.

    1. Thank you, Little Angelic Rose. It’s great to get your feedback. The issue is so complicated that it’s tacking a long time to arrange our thoughts and organize the findings, and of course the research itself is an ongoing process…. But keep checking the blog and little by little, we’ll discuss everything we’ve found! Thanks for the interest!

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