Letter to the editor of ‘The Gloucester Citizen’

Dear Editor,

concerning the article ‘Murder Cold Case‘ by Ben Falconer, which appeared on December 02, 2013;
all of us here at the Auramala Project wish to thank your paper for running a story on the work of the Project and the ‘cold case’ of Edward II. Thanks also to Ben Falconer, the author of the article, for quoting our blog and mentioning its main aims and ambitions.
Regrettably, a small amount of misinformation crept into the article.
The article states that there are believed to be two skeletons in the ‘Italian’ tomb. In truth, the tomb is open and is empty, though a single skull fragment seems to have been found in it when it was opened, sometime around the year 1900.
Mr Falconer’s article also extensively quotes Mr David Smith, Berkely family archivist. Since Mr Falconer did not seek our answer to Mr Smith’s comments directly, before publishing, we wish to reply here. I personally met Mr Smith for a very pleasant lunch at Berkeley in July of this year. We had a lively conversation, and in fact I heard all of the views he expressed to Mr Falconer on that occasion, directly from Mr Smith.
Concerning the idea that virtually everybody believes the Fieschi letter is a forgery, a quick look around internet will tell readers this is highly debatable.
Mr Smith claims that, had the king really lived on after his ‘official death’, news of this would have traveled. But, if Edward II did live (and we do not claim to know the truth, you would need a time-machine to find out for sure) the evidence points to him living out the rest of his days in small monasteries as an anonymous hermit, possibly under the protection of an extremely powerful and well organized family, the Fieschi family of Genoa. Their influence ran very deep at a truly international level, and they had a long-standing association with the Malaspina family, who controlled the area indicated in the Fieschi letter, a valley in the Apennines of the Province of Pavia. Readers should know that this is exactly the same family and the same location chosen to hide another high ranking fugitive from would-be assassins in 1512:  Cardinal Giovanni de Medici, who later became Pope Leo X. Such families, in control of locations like these, were probably able to keep just about anything quiet, if they really wanted to.
Mr Smith continues by stating that the Latin of the Fieschi letter is ‘corrupt’, and that a papal notary like Manuele Fieschi, the purported author of the letter,  would never have used corrupt Latin. However, Medieval Latin was ‘corrupt’ (actually, I prefer the term ‘erratic’)  by its very nature. Auramala Project researchers have examined literally hundreds of papal letters: written, that is, by papal notaries or by the pope himself, from the era of the Fieschi letter. All of them, without exception, use ‘corrupt’ Latin. The Latin of the time was corrupt, everywhere, and that’s all there is to it. Let me give you an example that is close to home for Gloucestershire readers: in October 1330, Thomas, Lord Berkeley, was brought before parliament on charges of being ultimately responsible for Edward II’s well-being on the night he was (supposedly) murdered. He made a statement to parliament in his native tongue, Anglo-norman French, which was written down by the minute-taker in Latin. The minutes record that he said he had “heard nothing of his (Edward II’s) death until this present parliament”. The exact words in the parliament minutes are “nec unquam scivit de morte sua usque in presenti parliamento isto”. The use of ‘sua’ for ‘his’ is incorrect, by the standards of Latin grammar. It should be ‘illius’ or ‘eius’, not ‘sua’. But in Medieval Latin, such questions of form and grammar are largely ignored. Are we to conclude that the medieval English parliamentary rolls are forgeries?
Lastly, Mr Smith goes on to claim that the letter only survives as a copy that was created 30 years after Edward II died. This is partially true, however, the correct window of opportunity for the creation of the copy is from 1339 to 1368, so from 12 to 31 years after the king supposedly died. If the story of his survival were correct, however, it would mean the letter was actually possibly copied while he was still alive, or soon after.
Thank you once again for running the article on theAuramala Project, and for bringing our hard work to the attention of the Gloucestershire public.
Yours sincerely,
Ivan Fowler.

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